Warcry of Hallatern
Vardek stood on the observation deck. He was alone. His fellow steerage passengers had gone to dinner in the third class saloon, tucked away well below decks.
Suddenly, a pain shot through his mind. His vision clouded. An electronic sound screamed in his ears. It took him a few seconds to realize what it was. His quest had gone on so long that he was starting to forget.
The computer had activated the first stage alarm signal - which meant that time was running short. The initial burst of the Warcry had indicated that the Kreilen was emerging from suspended animation. Now finally, it was beginning the slow process of revivification.
The sound cut off as abruptly as it had begun. It had not lasted long enough to obtain an adequate location fix. He thought it might be somewhere aft, perhaps amidst the first class cabins. It was a place to start looking.
He made his way towards the exit, pausing as a voice boomed from the public address speakers throughout the ship. "Attention, all passengers." It was a synthesized voice, generated by the ship's flight computer. "The ship will jump to hyperspace in two minutes. There will be a brief period of disorientation. Passengers may experience dizziness and nausea. Medical attention will be available."
It was a standard announcement made before a hyperjump - Vardek had
heard it many times before. He could remember when hyperspace travel was a
very primitive affair - the passengers had to be confined to their seats,
wearing protective goggles and coveralls. After hundreds of years, ships
were more sophisticated, with force fields to protect the passengers from
the harmful effects of the space/time warp, and life aboard could go on as
Wearing his dress uniform, Captain Berlitz surveyed the bridge. He was not on watch. The Greyshadow was under the command of Second Officer Paluzzi, a dark haired, dark eyed woman in her early thirties. Berlitz had merely stopped by on his way to dinner to oversee the jump to hyperspace - always a difficult moment in the voyage.
Under the Captain's eye, Paluzzi turned to Baigent, the fifth officer, who manned a console before the huge observation window. "Status?"
"All power levels running to optimum, sir," said Baigent. He had sandy hair, and wore a thin downy beard, probably in an attempt to make himself look older and more distinguished. He'd been trying for promotion recently, but he was unlikely to receive it for a while. His last assessment had been poor. Berlitz didn't think he was committed enough for a command officer's position. Given the chance, he would transfer Baigent to another ship, but he doubted anyone would take him.
"Run final checks on warp shielding," ordered Paluzzi.
"All shields within operational parameters."
Paluzzi went to the navigational computer, and punched up a holographic display. "Hyperspace trajectory plotted and confirmed," she announced. She glanced up at Berlitz, as if seeking confirmation.
"The bridge is yours, Krau Paluzzi," said the Captain quietly.
"Aye, sir." Paluzzi turned to the fifth officer. "Switch to hyperspace trajectory. Initiate jump sequence."
"Course laid in, sir," reported Baigent. "Hyperjump in twenty seconds and counting."
"Issue final passenger warning."
Baigent pressed a control on his console. Far off, the synthesized voice of the computer could just be discerned over the public address speakers.
Then the Greyshadow jumped.
Berlitz reached for the frame of the door, and gripped it tightly to brace himself. He felt his ears popping, and a sudden wrenching sensation on his innards, as if his stomach was being sucked into his mouth.
Then everything was back to normal. He straightened his dress tunic and turned to his second officer. "Carry on, Krau Paluzzi. I'll be in the dining saloon if anything crops up."
"Very good, sir."
Baines gulped his whisky straight down. It was the best way he knew of dealing with a hyperspace jump. He savoured the sensation as the liquid burnt the back of his throat. It wasn't real whisky, just a synthetic substitute - to import the real thing from Earth would have cost an arm and a leg - but the effect was much the same. He half suspected that the alcohol content had been reduced however.
The effects of the hyperjump lasted but a few seconds. Baines took a deep breath, and started to relax. He hated space travel. He looked around for the stewardess, and signalled for another drink. He was seated in the reception lounge outside the first class dining saloon, the same room where the transmat platform was situated.
His glass was refilled and he started to sip at the contents. A voice spoke beside him. "Drowning your sorrows?"
Baines looked up. Johann Ryder, his former pupil, was standing next to him. "Do you mind if I join you?" he asked.
"Not at all," said Baines. "Shall I get you a drink?"
"No, thank you." Ryder sat down. "I've been looking forward to discussing archaeology with you, sir."
"Well, I'm happy to do so," said Baines. "Where would you like to begin?"
"Tell me some more about your recent dig on Canaxxa," Ryder suggested. He suddenly fixed Baines with a piercing gaze. "I'd be interested to hear more about what you found."
Baines could not maintain eye contact with him. For a terrible moment, he thought that Ryder was talking about the body in his ore container - a body he believed to be the remains of a Kreilen from the days of the Hallatern empire.
But that was impossible. He'd told no one except Trau Brolan. Even the Canaxxan workers who had handled the cylinder hadn't seen inside it.
Smiling nervously, Baines said, "There were a number of arrow heads, and also some pottery. Rather fascinating pieces, actually. The full dating analysis has yet to be completed, but by comparison with reliably dated Canaxxan artifacts I was able to estimate their age at around three to four thousand years. It's interesting to see how they fit into the development of Canaxxan culture - that's modern culture of course, the primitive society. There are few traces of the former technological civilization left."
"Is that a fact?" said Ryder, with something like bitterness in his tone. A moment later he was normal again. "And all these finds went to a museum, did they?"
"As I said," replied Baines, eyeing him suspiciously. Just what was Ryder hinting at? Did he know something he shouldn't?
Glancing up, Baines saw Alicia Newstead entering the lounge. She was wearing a stunning blue dress that would have cost the annual revenue of a developing planet. She caught sight of him, and came over.
"Hectol," she smiled, "there you are."
Baines glanced at Ryder, but the young man had fallen silent - it seemed that all discussion of archaeology was curtailed for the moment.
"Aren't you going to introduce me?" asked Alicia.
"I'm sorry," said Baines. "This is Johann Ryder. He's another of my former students."
"Really? You didn't tell me you were holding a class reunion."
Turning to Ryder, Baines said, "This is Krau Newstead. She's an executive-"
"Yes, I know," Ryder interrupted. "Krau Newstead is well known on Androzani."
"I wouldn't say that," Alicia replied lightly. She was well aware that she had made a name for herself in the business world, but she saw little point in boasting of her achievement. It was simply a fact. She gazed shrewdly at Johann Ryder. There was something not quite right about him, she decided. Something in his manner when he addressed her. She couldn't decide what it was.
Across the room, she noticed the entrance of Captain Berlitz. He stopped to talk to a couple of the passengers, a young dark haired woman in a yellow evening gown - a very stylish ruffled tunic and flowing skirt affair - and an older man, with long brown hair, and not even an attempt to fashion it into a pigtail, wearing the most bizarre garments Alicia had ever seen - a shabby old suit, straight out of an ancient Earth history book.
At that moment, the door to the dining saloon was opened by a steward. Captain Berlitz stood back to allow the passengers to enter. Baines stood and offered his arm to Alicia, and they went in together.
The dining saloon was decorated with finely detailed alabaster, and wooden carvings. There were six tables, although only two had been set for dinner. Captain Berlitz presided over one and Third Officer Conrad over the other.
Alicia and Baines were both seated on the Captain's Table, along with the man and woman she'd seen talking with Berlitz earlier. Alicia had no idea who they were, which was odd considering that she was usually kept well informed about traffic to and from Canaxxa - especially as only a select few ever needed to visit the planet in the first place.
Glancing across at Conrad's table, she observed that three passengers had been seated there. One was a Federation trade attaché, whose visit she knew about. He was on a whistle stop tour of various large commercial enterprises, and had only arrived on Canaxxa last night for a quick look at the mining operation. Sensibly, he had elected to remain for no longer than was necessary - he hadn't even had time to check into the Hilton Hotel. His administrative staff were also aboard, although travelling second class.
The other two were the couple Alicia had seen earlier on the observation deck, who were also completely unknown to her. What was going on here? Had Canaxxa suddenly become a tourist resort?
The brown haired man in the mediaeval suit was talking to Captain Berlitz, discussing some technical aspect of the ship. Alicia caught mention of the calibration of the hyperdrive engines, warp stresses on the hull and so forth. The young woman however didn't appear particularly interested in such matters.
Baines suddenly looked up at Alicia. "Where did young Ryder go?" he asked.
Alicia glanced round the dining saloon. There was no sign of Johann Ryder. "He came in right after us, didn't he?" she said.
"He can't have done."
Alicia shrugged. It was going to be a day of mysteries, it seemed. She decided to start with the most important - what exactly her boss was up to, and how Baines was involved.
"So, Hectol," she began, "you never told me. What was in that big container of yours?"
Baines hesitated for a moment, looking at her intently. "Ore samples," he said. "I'm taking them back to the Academius Stolaris."
"Really?" said Alicia. Well, at least he and Morrissey had got their stories straight - not that she'd expected anything else. "It's strange for an archaeologist to be conducting a geological survey."
Baines shook his head. "I'm just doing a favour for Trau Brolan, that's all. He asked me to collect the samples."
"And how does Trau Morrissey fit into all this?"
"My boss, Rupert Morrissey. Apparently, he's the one who arranged your export documents at short notice."
Baines was becoming increasingly flustered by the questioning. "Really," he spluttered, "I've no idea what you're talking about. Trau Brolan asked me to transport these samples, and I'm doing so. That's all there is to it."
"And Trau Morrissey?" Alicia persisted.
"I don't know. The Conglomerate supports the Academius, doesn't it? Maybe he was doing Trau Brolan a favour as well."
Alicia glanced round, and saw that Captain Berlitz and their two fellow diners were watching the exchange with interest. It wasn't wise to pursue Baines further on the matter - but she had at least confirmed that something suspicious was going on. Baines was clearly hiding something.
"Yes, I expect you're right," Alicia said calmly. "I'm sorry, Hectol. I'm just nosy, that's all. It seemed rather strange that you'd transport cargo in your stateroom, but if it's a favour for Trau Brolan, I can see why you'd want to devote your personal care to it. Don't let's fall out over it."
"No, of course not," Baines replied.
Alicia smiled, and decided to change the subject. The more she pryed, the more reticent Baines would become, and she'd find out nothing that way.
She turned to the man sitting on her right, the stranger with the long brown hair. "Forgive me," she said, "but I don't think we've been introduced. Since we're to be fellow travellers, it seems only proper."
The man raised an eyebrow. "Does it?" he replied. Then he smiled. "I'm the Doctor."
"Really?" Alicia muttered, with just a hint of irritation. She couldn't decide whether the fellow was being deliberately obtuse. "Doctor who?"
The stranger winced slightly. "Well, if you must," he murmured. Then a moment later, he looked up brightly. "Smith. Doctor John Smith."
Alicia looked at him closely. She would have put his age at around forty five. His face bore several lines and crow's feet, and yet it was as if a blaze of vitality shone in his blue eyes, making him seem younger than he looked. Then again, his mannerisms and demeanour reminded her of a much older, wiser man. It was just impossible to get the measure of him.
"And this is my ward, Rhonwen Jones," he said, indicating the dark haired young woman sitting opposite him.
A few pleasantries were exchanged, and then the Doctor turned to Baines. "You're an archaeologist?" he asked.
"That's right," said Baines.
"Then you've been conducting a dig on Canaxxa?"
"Yes, indeed. I was excavating the remains of an ancient settlement." Baines described his many discoveries of arrow heads and pottery. Alicia managed to stifle a yawn. To her archaeology was a dead subject. She noticed that Rhonwen only appeared to be half listening, but the Doctor was lapping it up.
"That's very interesting," he said. "Do you think I could see some of your discoveries?"
"Only if you go back to Canaxxa," replied Baines, with a puzzled expression. "They're in a museum there."
"You're not taking anything back to the Academius, then?"
Baines seemed to shift uneasily in his seat. "I'm hardly in a position to," he said indignantly.
Alicia decided to come to his rescue. "There's a cultural export ban in place on Canaxxa," she explained.
Baines smiled at her in relief. She flashed him a quick smile back. She thought that his reaction to the Doctor's question was interesting however. Was that what he was up to? Smuggling archaeological finds off Canaxxa? It could explain why Morrissey had rushed the export documents through - although she couldn't see what profit there would be in it.
"An export ban," said the Doctor thoughtfully. "Ah yes, I see."
"I'm surprised you didn't know about it," Alicia said. "How long were you on Canaxxa?"
"Barely long enough to get my bearings, really."
"We just dropped in," added Rhonwen helpfully.
"What exactly are you a doctor of?" Alicia asked.
The Doctor frowned. "It's difficult to know where to begin."
"From your interest," said Baines, "I might have thought you were an archaeologist as well."
"In a manner of speaking, I suppose I am."
"The Doctor's an historian," explained Rhonwen.
"Amongst other things," the Doctor added.
Perrenelle felt her husband's hand touch her arm. She looked up from her roast duckling - synthetic of course - and regarded him. "What is it?" she asked.
"Over there," Nicolas muttered, with an almost imperceptible nod of his head.
Perrenelle turned to look across the room. She wasn't sure exactly what she was supposed to be looking at. Nicolas was indicating the Captain's Table. At its head, resplendent in his white dress tunic, sat the Captain, a grey haired man of about fifty, with a heavily lined face. The other diners were well dressed, the sort she would expect in first class. She wasn't sure what her husband was trying to show her.
"Look," insisted Nicolas. "Sitting on the Captain's left."
Perrenelle's eyes fell upon a man with long brown hair. She couldn't see his face clearly because he was half turned away from her. What struck her most was the man's clothing. A old tweed suit, straight out of Earth's Edwardian era - which was fifteen hundred years ago. She could still vaguely remember that time and its fashions.
"It's him," said Nicolas. "It has to be."
"Do you know that man?" asked Perrenelle.
"It's the Doctor."
Perrenelle turned to look again, but she only had a partial view of the man's face. "It can't be," she protested. "Not after two thousand years."
"Well, we've lived for two thousand years," said Nicolas. "Why shouldn't he have? The Doctor was the greatest adept I ever encountered. Remember, if it had not been for him, we would never have discovered the Elixir."
Perrenelle took a deep breath. "Even if it is him, what would he be doing here?"
"I don't know," Nicolas muttered. "Unless he knows of our quest. He could be here to find us."
"To help us?"
"It was him who gave me the crystal in the first place. And do you recall what he said, the last day we saw him."
"That one day we would meet again," Perrenelle replied. "I stopped believing that after the first fifty years."
"But all the time it was true."
Perrenelle nodded her head uncertainly. There was no doubting Nicolas's conviction that the Doctor had returned. But she was not so sure. It had been twenty centuries, she couldn't remember all that clearly what the Doctor looked like. "What are you going to do?" she asked. "Should you go and talk to him?"
"Maybe not," said Nicolas. "If the Doctor is here to help, he will
surely contact us. We cannot hurry a man of his power."
After the port had been passed round, the diners moved off towards the reception lounge. Alicia hoped to get Baines on his own, to ply him with a few drinks and a few questions.
But at the door, she was stopped by the voice of Captain Berlitz. "Krau Newstead, I wonder if I might have a word?"
Alicia watched as Baines disappeared through the door on the far side of the lounge. She turned resignedly to the Captain. He waited as the rest of the passengers cleared the dining saloon, nodding politely to the Doctor and Rhonwen, and to those from Conrad's table.
"What can I do for you, Captain?" asked Alicia.
"Krau Newstead," Berlitz began, "these sealed orders."
"Really, they're nothing to do with me."
"I'm not sure that I can carry them out. It's all completely irregular."
"You'll have to take it up with Trau Morrissey," said Alicia patiently. "I'm just the messenger."
Berlitz didn't seem to be listening. "I can't believe he'd even suggest such a thing. It contravenes more shipping regulations than I can think of. I mean, the ship has a flight plan registered with Androzani Control. We're only supposed to deviate in the direst of emergencies."
Alicia's eyes widened in surprise. "You mean Trau Morrissey wants you to change course?" she asked.
"Yes, he wants us to bypass Androzani and rendezvous with a ship called the Panther."
"The transfer of personnel and cargo. Specifically, Trau Baines and his assistant, and their ore samples."
Alicia raised an eyebrow nonchalantly, whilst she frantically thought over this intelligence. The Panther was Trau Morrissey's personal transport - a perk of his position. Clearly, he was planning to collect Baines and the mysterious cylinder covertly, avoiding the immigration and customs controls on Androzani. There was only one possible explanation. Morrissey and Baines were involved in some kind of smuggling racket. Alicia didn't know what they were smuggling, but the answer had to lie inside the ore container.
"I really don't know what to suggest, Captain," she said.
"Then you know nothing about this?" asked Berlitz.
"I'm as surprised as you are."
"I don't know what I should do," Berlitz muttered.
"As master of the Greyshadow," said Alicia, "only you can make any decision about her flight plan."
"Yes." Berlitz could see disciplinary action looming if he disobeyed
Morrissey's orders. On the other hand, an industrial tribunal would be sure
to exonerate him. He had the shipping regulations on his side. With a
satisfied grunt, he nodded. "Thank you for your time, Krau Newstead."
Closing the cabin door behind him, the Doctor tugged at his tie to loosen it. He looked at himself in the mirror, and for a moment didn't recognize his reflexion. Strangely enough, although he'd worn this form for more than sixty years in a projected state, a new body still took some getting used to.
Behind him, Rhonwen sat down in an armchair. The stiff, ruffled tunic of her dress was very uncomfortable - the things people would do for fashion. She felt very overdressed. The last time she'd worn anything so formal was the Freshers' Ball at the LSE. Thinking about that brought up a memory of Douglas Shelley and his frightening demise, which was painful for her.
She shuddered, and caught her breath. To take her mind off it, she spoke to the Doctor. "We haven't had much success so far, have we?"
"Haven't we?" murmured the Doctor, turning to face her. "I thought I got on very well with Trau Baines. And my lamb in mint sauce was excellent - you could almost believe it was the real thing. What did you have?"
"The sirloin," replied Rhonwen automatically. She caught herself. "That's not what I meant," she said sharply.
The Doctor shrugged. "Well, perhaps the ice cream was a little below the standard I would have expected."
"We haven't got any nearer to finding the Kreilen," Rhonwen said patiently. "Which was the point of our being here."
The Doctor reached into his pocket and took out a strange device. It was a red cylinder, mounted on a large disc, with a black dial set in one end. "I've been monitoring the situation."
"What's that?" Rhonwen asked.
"It's an etheric beam locator. You see, the Kreilen has emerged from its suspended state. Now it has to go through a long revivification process."
"What does that entail?"
"At the moment," explained the Doctor, "the Kreilen's mind is sluggish and only controls the basic motor functions. But it will experience periods of lucidity, when the brain starts to function on the higher levels. Now at first, these periods will be very short - but as the process continues, the Kreilen will remain fully conscious for longer. Until finally the process is complete, and it's conscious all the time. And then we'll be in trouble."
"Look," began Rhonwen, "I don't really understand what all the fuss is about. You said the Kreilen was some kind of warrior - but there's just one. And there must be several hundred people on board this ship. The crew must have guns. Have far can one Kreilen get?"
"If it revives fully," said the Doctor slowly, "it could easily destroy everyone on board. And if the ship gets to Androzani, it could wipe out all life on the planet."
"All by itself?"
"Its very purpose is to destroy any alien lifeform it encounters."
"But even so, how can it kill everyone on Androzani?"
The Doctor took a deep breath, and slowly ran his hand through his hair. "Because of the most terrible creation of Hallatern's geneticists," he said. "A neurovirus."
"The Kreilen has the ability to generate a neurovirus. There are very few species in the Galaxy that are immune to it. It travels on etheric beams, and invades the body through the nerve endings."
"But what does it do?" asked Rhonwen.
"It rewrites the brain's software. Effectively, it carries the killing instinct and inculcated xenophobia of the Kreilen, and imposes them on the affected brain. Anyone who's come into contact with the virus turns into a mindless killer. And the virus is incubated within their body, and projected on to the next victim, ad infinitum. The Kreilen doesn't have to kill anyone itself. If the virus is unleashed, the people of Androzani will kill each other."
Rhonwen didn't know what to say. "That's horrible," she whispered, but she knew how lame it sounded.
The Doctor tried to give her a reassuring smile. "Fortunately, the virus is usually dormant until the Kreilen has fully revived," he said. "So there should still be time."
Rhonwen nodded. "If the Kreilen's only conscious for short periods," she asked, "what does it do the rest of the time?"
"That's when it's most vulnerable," said the Doctor. "It'll seek a hiding place - probably somewhere dark, secluded and warm. A space or compartment near the ship's reactor perhaps. If we don't turn up anything soon, we may have to search the engine room." He held up the red cylinder. "But I think we'll have more success with this."
"Well, how does it work?"
"In its moments of lucidity, the Kreilen will experience an increase in mental activity. A lot of extraneous telepathic signals will be broadcast. The Kreilen's mental traffic travels in the form of etheric beams. Which is where the locator comes in."
He slipped the device back in his pocket. "Just before dinner, I picked up an etheric transmission. I couldn't get a precise fix, but it came from nearby. Possibly one of the first class staterooms."
"That's still a lot of rooms to search," said Rhonwen.
"Well, there are a couple of ideas I want to try first," the Doctor replied. "But I'll need your help."
"What do you want me to do?"
"Tomorrow morning, I need to search Trau Baines's stateroom."
"Well," said the Doctor, "I overheard him talking with Krau Newstead about an ore container he's brought on board. He didn't want to say much about it, and he was quite nervous when I first asked about what he had found on Canaxxa."
"You mean, you think he's got the Kreilen?"
"I won't know until I've had a look. You'll have to distract him."
"How?" Rhonwen asked.
"Oh, just talk to him about archaeology. He's the sort of man who loves
Stifling a yawn, Morrissey slipped out of bed. A prickly pain stung his eyes whenever he tried to open them. He went to the mirror, and looked blearily at his reflexion. He did not look his best.
His guest room at the Academius Stolaris was plain and functional. He hadn't planned to stay very long - he couldn't afford to spend too much time away from his office on Androzani Major - but with the imminent arrival of the Kreilen, he couldn't leave just yet.
Assuming the Kreilen got here at all. Of all ships, it had to be on the Greyshadow. God, what a mess! He hoped to cover all eventualities, but there was so much that could go wrong.
There was nothing he could do about it now. First he had to attend to the business of the day. He opened up his portable computer terminal. It was linked directly to the Sirius Conglomerate's commercial network. As he did every day, he had to check the markets. There were a number of stock options he was keeping an eye on.
As the terminal collated the data, Morrissey attended to his toilet and started to dress, glancing occasionally at the screen. He was relieved to see that the Usurian Bank remained stable. The recent embezzlement scandal had looked potentially disastrous, but it seemed to have blown over now. Since he laundered most of his unofficial earnings through the Usurian Bank, its well being was essential for his continued security. He had set up a number of shell companies on Usurius, so he needed their economy to stay buoyant - at least for a few more days.
He noted irritably that the value of shares in the Sirius Conglomerate's armaments companies was rising steadily - he didn't expect much else these days. The Daleks had strengthened their military presence on the Draconian border, and the Federation was building up its own forces in consequence. Some pundits were predicting that the Daleks would launch another invasion attempt, and the Federation wanted to be ready for it. Which was fine, except that it put Morrissey in a very tricky situation. He was facing a financial disaster, the loss of his extensive holdings in the Sirius Conglomerate, and possibly criminal charges for fraud and insider dealing. He didn't relish being in such a position. It had forced him to take drastic action.
As he continued to check the stock market, Morrissey found himself filled with dread. The value of shares in the Canaxxan Mining Corporation - a subsidiary of the Sirius Conglomerate of course - was dropping through the floor. The duralinium mined on Canaxxa was essential for the production of arms and spaceships - the trouble on the Dalek border should have ensured that minerals were as profitable as munitions.
He was wide awake now. There was only one explanation for such a price
drop, and at that moment, it was the worst news he could possibly receive.
Alicia padded cautiously along the corridor, looking for Baines's stateroom. She'd got the number from the purser first thing this morning - the pull of her executive position in the Conglomerate secured a lot of favours.
She had slept only fitfully, her mind too occupied to allow her to rest. She had to know what Morrissey and Baines were up to. She had decided to try a little detective work, and sneak a look at the mysterious ore container.
A steward was coming towards her along the corridor. Alicia kept her eyes facing straight ahead. She didn't want to look too shifty. Her own stateroom wasn't on this deck, and the steward would be expected to know his own charges. Consequently, he might realize that she was out of place.
But the steward passed her, with just a polite word of greeting. Alicia muttered an acknowledgement, and his footsteps disappeared behind her.
Arriving at Baines's stateroom, she gave a knock on the door. There was no response. She had assumed the archaeologist would be at breakfast, but there was some chance that he would still be around. After another knock elicited no answer, Alicia decided it was safe to open the door.
She took out her master datakey. All Conglomerate property, including this ship, used standard data locks. Her position gave her access to many areas that might otherwise be thought secure - only the offices of board members were off limits to her. Baines's cabin had a very low security rating.
Inside, the stateroom was quite untidy. Baines's evening wear was lying casually draped over the back of a chair. It would get quite badly creased if it wasn't hung up soon. She remembered with a smile that Baines had never been very tidy - his rooms at Androzani University had usually been a mess.
The ore container was not in this room. Alicia quickly opened the connecting door, and slipped through into the adjoining stateroom. Here she found the metal cylinder sitting incongruously in the middle of the floor.
A quick examination told her it was locked, doubtless with Baines's personal datakey. Well, that was that. Whereas the Conglomerate's Security Division had expert locksmiths upon whom she could call, she was acting for herself now and had no idea how to open the cylinder.
She heard the door of the adjoining stateroom open, and Baines's voice calling: "Quincey? Is that you?"
Alicia looked around for somewhere to hide. The furniture had been pushed to the sides of the cabin, and there was no cover. Before she could do anything, Baines appeared in the connecting doorway.
"What are you doing in here?" he began cheerily. He broke off when he realized he was addressing her, and not his assistant. "Alicia. What do you want?"
"I was looking for you, Hectol," Alicia explained, smiling sweetly. "I wondered if you might want breakfast. You weren't next door, so I thought you might be in here."
Fixing her with a suspicious glare, Baines said, "Well, I've had breakfast. You can join me for coffee if you like." He ushered her towards the door. Anything to get her away from the container. He was not convinced by her explanation. He'd never known Alicia to be dishonest with him, but he didn't want to take any chances with his discovery. Besides, she was a businesswoman now - most capitalists in his experience had had their ethics surgically removed.
As they got out into the corridor, Baines was struck by a sudden thought. "You didn't run across Quincey, did you?" he asked. "He was supposed to meet me after breakfast."
"I haven't seen him," Alicia replied.
Vardek detached himself from shadow as Baines and Alicia walked past. His understanding of the class structure of the Sirian colonies told him that he must be careful in this first class area. Though he had tidied his hair, his own attire marked him clearly as a steerage passenger. If anyone saw him, they would instantly know he did not belong.
His search had proved fruitless. The etheric signals of the reviving Kreilen had come from this part of the ship, but pinpointing its exact location was impossible. He considered trying to break into every nearby stateroom, but he was likely to be discovered and restrained - in which case he would be unable to complete his mission. He could not allow that.
But now he was in luck. He had recognized the man who had just passed him. The computer scanned the image from his memory. There was no doubt. The short, balding man had been one of those with the metal cylinder at the flight terminal - the cylinder that had contained the Kreilen.
Vardek moved towards the room from which Baines had emerged.
The coffee lounge was one of several first class amenities aboard the Greyshadow. It was deserted when Alicia and Baines entered - on a ship with so few first class passengers, it was hardly surprising that the facilities were under utilized.
They sat at one of the vacant tables. The lounge was tastefully decorated in pastel shades, and artificial ivy climbed on wooden trellises. A steward arrived to take their order for coffee.
"Now then, Hectol," Alicia began, "why are you being so cagey about that ore container?"
"I thought we'd cleared that up last night," said Baines. "You seem to be terribly interested in my property."
"Look," Alicia replied, in a conciliatory tone, "I didn't mean anything. It's just unusual for Trau Morrissey to do anything without telling me, so I was intrigued. I'm sure you're not trying to hide anything in there." If she could get Baines to drop his guard slightly, to admit the barest detail, she would at least have some information to act on.
"It just contains some ore samples," said Baines. "I honestly know nothing more than that. There's no need for you to worry about it."
"Perhaps I could have a look at them."
Baines raised both his eyebrows in some surprise. "You're a businesswoman, not a geologist."
"I do have some other areas of interest," Alicia pointed out. "And I am Trau Morrissey's assistant. Anything that interests him, interests me."
Baines had just opened his mouth to protest further, when he caught sight of a figure entering the lounge. It was the Doctor's ward, the rather pretty girl they'd met at dinner last night. She had a broad regional accent - he was unfamiliar with Terran dialects, but thought perhaps it was Welsh. "Krau Jones," he called. "How do you do this morning?"
She started to move towards them, and bade them a good morning. Baines got to his feet, and said, "Would you care to join us, my dear?"
Alicia watched as he courteously held out a chair for Rhonwen. She slipped into it with a word of thanks. The pleasantries over, Baines sat down once more.
Rhonwen's presence annoyed Alicia - it meant she couldn't continue with her gentle probing of Baines. Not that he was giving anything away.
"Is Trau Smith not with you?" she asked.
"Sorry?" said Rhonwen, looking a bit nonplussed.
"The Doctor," said Alicia. "Your guardian."
"Oh yes," Rhonwen replied, with an embarrassed smile. "He said he had
some work to do."
Glancing back along the corridor, the Doctor checked that there was no one about. Satisfied that he was unobserved, he tried the door of Baines's stateroom. Surprisingly, he found it unlocked.
The room had clearly not been used as accommodation. The bed was not made up, the furniture was pushed back to the walls, and there was no trace of human occupation. The only thing that indicated anyone had been here was the large metal cylinder sitting in the middle of the floor.
The Doctor hoped that it was something worth investigating. He'd been intrigued since Krau Newstead had mentioned the container at dinner last night, and particularly by the way that Baines had avoided talking about it. He was very secretive about what he was doing transporting ore samples.
Since he'd had nothing much to go on, the Doctor had found himself theorizing. Who was it who'd said it was a capital mistake to theorize without data? He couldn't remember - it would come back to him. That axiom was not necessarily true. He had often solved mysteries on hunches and guesswork.
So, he was guessing now. If a Kreilen had landed on Canaxxa, and somehow become buried, it might have remained dormant for many years - millennia even. Baines was an archaeologist, so he could have unearthed it. The etheric beam locator had placed the Kreilen's signal somewhere in this part of the ship, which at least gave some grounds for his suspicions.
Moving further into the room, the Doctor was suddenly aware of a movement behind him. He spun round, but it was too late. A man darted out from behind the door. He lashed out his hand, which caught the Doctor in the chest with tremendous force. The breath knocked out of him, the Doctor staggered back against the ore container.
The stranger tried to make it to the door. Despite the wincing pain in his chest, the Doctor was able to leap forward and grab hold of his coat. The man spun round, his coat half pulled off in the Doctor's grip. He struck at the Doctor's arms with a swift chopping action, which caused the Doctor to let go of the coat with a cry of pain. Then the intruder delivered a hefty punch to his stomach.
The Doctor fell against a writing table. He could scarcely believe the strength of his attacker, which he estimated to be equal to that of at least ten men. From his clothes, he appeared to be a steerage passenger. His hair was black, and closely shorn in a severe, almost military style. He appeared to be in his late thirties, his face bearing a few lines - but there was something in his eyes that suggested far greater age, as if he was labouring under the weight of many years.
The Doctor managed to grab hold of his legs in an improvised rugby tackle, and unbalanced him. The man came crashing to the ground, but this did nothing to halt him. He drew back his foot and kicked the Doctor squarely in the chest. It was like being trampled by an elephant.
Already the attacker was scrambling to his feet. He turned around, and picked the Doctor up by the lapels of his jacket as though he were made of feathers. Then he slammed the Doctor hard against the wall of the stateroom.
Yelling in pain, the Doctor stretched out his hand, trying to find anything that he could use as a weapon. His fingers closed around a metal object. He picked it up, and swung it at the stranger's head. Then he saw that it was an expensive mock antique table lamp, the shades made of frosted glass. He hoped the Captain would forgive such an unorthodox use of the ship's fittings.
The glass shattered against his assailant's temple, and cut a gash in his forehead. For just a moment, the Doctor caught a glimpse of something glinting beneath the skin - a metal plate perhaps. He had no time to contemplate it. The blow to the head had caused his attacker to loosen his grip. The Doctor was able to slip free, and darted into the centre of the room.
Then the stranger turned, and joined both his hands together. He swung the combined force of both arms straight into the Doctor's stomach, and then up into his chest. The Doctor was knocked right back over the cylinder, and slumped heavily to the floor on the other side.
A darkness seemed to be enveloping him. He thought that he could just hear footsteps leaving the room, but the comfort of unconsciousness was already beckoning.