Warcry of Hallatern
The Lonely Hunter
Morrissey slumped back in his chair. The Academius's terrace restaurant contained only a couple of people eating breakfast. He didn't feel hungry himself. The news bulletin, broadcast on the restaurant's public holographic projector, had robbed him of his appetite.
No one else had taken any notice of the news - it was happening on a distant planet, and meant nothing to them. Morrissey wondered what the reaction of the Sirius Conglomerate's board to the news from Canaxxa would be. They would doubtless be congratulating themselves on their strategem.
Morrissey really couldn't care less what happened there, as long as his own plan came to fruition first. But things had happened too fast on Canaxxa - now it looked as if the board would be the victors.
A voice spoke at his shoulder. "It is bad news."
He turned to look up at Trau Brolan. "I didn't know you were there. Did you see the bulletin?"
"No," replied Brolan. "The news was reported to me second hand. What do you think will happen?"
Morrissey shrugged. He had to maintain the act. "We have known for some time that the Canaxxan rebels are armed - where they get their weapons from, God only knows. Their attacks so far have been small scale terrorism. We didn't expect this."
"I understand several miners have been killed."
"Blowing up a mine tends to do that," Morrissey commented.
"Well," said Brolan, "I came to tell you. There is an urgent, private message for you. You can take it in my office, if you wish. I have no need of it this morning."
Morrissey got to his feet. "A message. From whom?"
"The chairman and chief executive of the Sirius Conglomerate."
"So you see, Krau Jones," said Baines, "modern archaeology is turning more and more to restoring lost heritage to its place of origin. The museum with its collection of artifacts gathered from across the Galaxy is becoming a thing of the past. The cultural export ban on Canaxxa merely places an official sanction on a practice which is now quite common."
"Yes," said Rhonwen. She glanced at Krau Newstead, who wore an expression of pained boredom. It was clear that she had heard Baines's opinions many times before.
"But," Rhonwen continued, "surely the purpose of a museum is to bring culture to people who would otherwise be ignorant of it."
"Indeed. And the Canaxxans are woefully ignorant of their past. Never mind the rumours of a technological civilization once flourishing there, they know little of even the last few millennia. The archaeological finds I have made, and the museum financed by the Sirius Conglomerate, will help to restore their cultural identity."
"But won't museums on Androzani suffer as a result of this new policy? Or the Academius Stolaris?"
Baines shrugged. "There is a certain satisfaction in bringing back rare artifacts and putting them on display," he admitted, "but that's a thing of the past now. With modern data storage techniques and holographic projections, we can bring archaeology to a mass audience without the need to move artifacts from where they belong."
He looked up to see Johann Ryder standing beside the table, having just approached. Baines smiled up at him. "My dear Trau Ryder," he said. "How are you?"
"Fine, thank you, sir," Ryder replied. "I'm sorry, I hope I'm not intruding."
"Not at all. You met Krau Newstead last night, didn't you? We were just talking about archaeology. In fact, since you have expressed an interest, perhaps this is an ideal time for you to join us."
Baines introduced Rhonwen, and Ryder took his place at the table.
"Now," the archaeologist resumed, "as I was saying to Krau Jones-"
He was interrupted by Alicia rising to her feet. "Sorry, Hectol," she said insincerely. "I'd love to stay and hear more, but I've got things to do. I'll see you later, no doubt." With a few polite words to Johann Ryder and Rhonwen, she made her way towards the exit.
Baines frowned. He was a little disappointed that Alicia wouldn't stay, although of course he had discussed archaeology with her many times in the past. She did have a qualification in the subject, after all. There were other reasons why he desired her company, but he really didn't know how she would feel about that now.
Turning back to Ryder and Rhonwen, he said, "The Academius Stolaris is committed to preserving cultural heritage in its place of origin. Other museums have followed suit, although it isn't yet a totally widespread..." His voice trailed off. He suddenly realized what had happened. Alicia had waited for him to get talking on his favourite subject, and then sneaked away. Right now, she was probably stealing down to his stateroom to have a look inside the ore container.
Baines jumped to his feet in alarm. He mumbled some words of apology, and then started off in the direction Alicia had taken.
Johann Ryder turned to Rhonwen, and shrugged. "Scholars," he said. "They always seem to be a little preoccupied."
Rhonwen thought about the Doctor, and smiled. "You can say that again."
"So," asked Ryder, "was this your first trip to Canaxxa?"
"Er, yes." Rhonwen was caught unawares by the question. She had been too concerned about Baines rushing off. Had she distracted him long enough for the Doctor to do what he had to? She also wondered a little about Ryder's manner - his question seemed genuine enough, but she couldn't help thinking there was something vaguely menacing about him.
"Your first time away from Earth?"
"Oh, no," said Rhonwen. "I've travelled quite extensively."
The Doctor slowly opened his eyes. He took a few deep breaths, and felt each time an aching pain in his rib cage. He tried to stand up, but immediately thought better of it. Instead, he felt around with his hands until he had located the side of Baines's ore container. He grabbed hold of it and hauled himself up.
Standing, he leant against the cylinder and tried to recover the wind that had been knocked out of him. He wasn't entirely sure who his attacker had been, but he had some suspicions.
"Trau Smith," said a voice from the doorway. "What are you doing here?"
Looking up, he saw Alicia Newstead standing there, regarding him suspiciously. The Doctor was about to say something in reply, but pain shot through his chest and made him wince.
At this, a note of concern entered Alicia's voice. "Are you all right?"
"Just about," the Doctor replied.
The Doctor waved his hand towards the door. "I was just passing by," he began, "and I found someone in here, tampering with this container. The atmospheric seals appear to have been damaged."
Alicia raised her eyebrows in surprise. At that moment, Baines appeared just behind her, anger flashing in his eyes. "I should have realized you'd come back here," he said to her accusingly. Then he saw the Doctor as well, and looked between him and Alicia as if demanding an explanation. "So you're both in this together. I'd thought better of you, Doctor."
Alicia threw up her hands in exasperation. "For God's sake, Hectol," she admonished, "stop jumping to conclusions. You've got it all wrong. Trau Smith here has just surprised an intruder trying to break into your precious container."
"What?" exclaimed Baines. "Are you sure about this?"
"Quite sure," said the Doctor, "and I've got the bruises to prove it."
"Do you know who this intruder was?" asked Alicia.
"No," the Doctor replied. "Third class by the look of him."
"Probably just a common thief, then. Perhaps he can be apprehended. We should alert the purser."
"No!" snapped Baines. "There's no need to involve the crew. If the thief got away empty handed, there's no harm done."
"What about Trau Smith taking a beating?" demanded Alicia. But her concern was a mere pretence. She smiled to herself. She had half suspected that Baines wouldn't want to make an official complaint - that might draw the attention of the crew to whatever secret he had inside his ore container.
"I can overlook my personal discomfort," the Doctor said. "But I want to see what's inside the container."
"I'm afraid that isn't possible," said Baines quickly.
The Doctor shrugged. A mistake, he realized, as another sharp pain shot through him. "Fine," he murmured. "I'll just go and tell the Captain you've brought a dangerous cargo aboard the ship. I shouldn't think he'll be too pleased."
"You can't do that," protested Baines.
"Then open it." The Doctor spoke harshly, and with an air of total authority.
Alicia had no idea what the Doctor was up to, but he seemed sure of what he was saying. At least for the moment, their objectives seemed to coincide. "Hectol," she said softly, "I think perhaps he's right."
Still Baines hesitated. He was breaking the cultural export ban by taking the Kreilen off Canaxxa - but despite what he'd told Rhonwen, the Academius Stolaris was the best place to study it. His goal was the advancement of knowledge, so he felt he was in the right. But Federation law would view it differently.
Alicia turned abruptly to the Doctor. "All right, Trau Smith, you'd better fetch the Captain."
"No," said Baines. He sighed in resignation. "All right, I'll open it. But I must swear you both to secrecy."
"You can trust me," the Doctor said. "I want this to remain very quiet."
"The same applies to me, Hectol," Alicia interjected hastily.
Baines regarded her suspiciously. He couldn't shake off the feeling that she was up to something. Even the Doctor he was unsure of. Something in his manner made him seem sincere, but that did not account for his determination to see inside the ore container.
Baines reached into his tunic pocket and took out his wallet. He opened it, and then looked up in alarm. "I don't seem to have my datakey."
"Where was it?" asked the Doctor.
"Well, it was in my wallet, but it's gone."
"Never mind," said the Doctor. He delved into his own pockets and extracted a long thin metal rod, strangely shaped at one end, which he inserted into the lock. He twiddled the tool about for a couple of seconds, and the lock calmly disengaged.
"Where did you learn to do that?" asked Alicia.
"Someone I once shared a cell with taught me," the Doctor murmured. He flung open the lid of the cylinder, and looked down at the contents. "Not what I expected."
Alicia moved forward to peer inside. "Oh, God!" she exclaimed.
Baines's jaw dropped open in disbelief. He stared into the cylinder for a long moment, unable to tear his eyes away. Eventually, he found his voice. "It's Quincey. What's he doing in there?"
"Very little," said the Doctor, as he made a quick visual examination of
the body. "He's been dead for at least twelve hours."
Reaching the third class observation deck, Vardek staggered up to one of the metal benches and clutched it hard. His head was swimming, and he found it hard to maintain his balance. His mind was awash with extraneous data. He could no longer assimilate it or analyse it. It was no more than noise, a thousand voices chattering in his head.
He realized what had happened. During his fight, the skin of his temple had been torn open. The kaprihal crystal that formed the interface between the computer and his natural neural pathways had been knocked out. It should have been tightly fixed in its socket - it must have become slowly dislodged during the millennia his search had lasted.
Without it, he could not read the computer data properly. It spewed into his mind at a phenomenal rate, garbled and completely incomprehensible. It overwhelmed his consciousness. Surely the chatter would drive him mad.
And worse still, his mission was in jeopardy. He could not function with
his brain in this condition. He could not even focus his eyes properly.
Dimly he was aware of people looking at him. He turned and lurched away
towards the nearest opening. He had to find some dark, quiet place to hide
himself away. Perhaps if he were calm enough, he might make some sense out
of his mental traffic - enough to work out what he should do next.
Alicia glanced again at Quincey's naked body, bundled up awkwardly inside the ore container. Red marks around his throat suggested he had been strangled. The stiff posture indicated that rigor mortis had set in. Doubled up like that, the body was unmoving, as if it had been cast in stone. It seemed so undignified. "How did he get inside?" she wondered.
"Well, it's obvious," said the Doctor. "Whoever killed him locked him in the container."
"But who killed him?" Alicia persisted.
"Whoever was in the container to begin with."
"Tell her, Baines," the Doctor commanded.
The archaeologist wrung his hands wretchedly. "It isn't possible," he stammered.
"What is going on?" Alicia demanded.
The Doctor scratched the back of his head absent mindedly. "Well, let me see. On one of his digs, Baines turned up some humanoid remains. Not just a few bones, but a whole body."
"A skeleton?" suggested Alicia.
"No, a body. Flesh and blood, skin, hair, everything. How old did you estimate it to be, Baines?"
Shaking his head, Baines said, "At least five thousand years. Given its position in the soil, beneath ancient Canaxxan relics. Of course we can only date Canaxxan culture back that far - legend suggests that it is older still."
"This is ridiculous," snapped Alicia. "If it was five thousand years old, there wouldn't be anything but bone left - if that."
The Doctor raised an eyebrow, and looked at Baines, as if inviting an explanation. It was not forthcoming.
Taking a deep breath, the Doctor asked, "Are you familiar with the legends of Hallatern?"
"The ancient empire on Sirius Five?" Alicia replied. "My boss, Trau Morrissey, is something of an amateur historian. He's mentioned it to me a few times. What does that have to do with it?"
"Hallatern used genetically engineered warriors to conquer other worlds."
"The Kreilens, yes." Alicia drew a sharp breath. "Are you suggesting that Hectol found one of them?"
"Well, Canaxxa would be a good place to look. There used to be an advanced civilization there once - it was totally destroyed by the Kreilens, leaving just the primitive culture found there today. That would be more like nine thousand years ago."
"That is unfounded myth," said Baines, "totally unsubstantiated by archaeological evidence."
"I shouldn't think there would be a lot left after the Kreilens had done their work," the Doctor remarked. "Civilizations can vanish without trace. Look at Earth - a few hundred years ago, most people would still have denied the existence of the Silurian civilization, or of Atlantis - both of which we now know to have existed, and to have reached an advanced stage of development. It's quite conceivable for Canaxxa's civilization to have been so utterly destroyed that nothing of archaeological value was produced there for another four millennia."
"That's all very interesting, Doctor," said Alicia, "but it doesn't answer my question."
"Hallatern had mastered the arts of genetic manipulation - they conquered the ageing process. A Kreilen could place itself into a form of suspended animation."
Turning to Baines, Alicia adopted a gentle, persuasive tone. "Well, Hectol?"
Baines looked down at the floor. "It's my belief that what I found was a Kreilen, yes. Obviously it needed detailed study, and I thought the Academius was the best place to do that."
Suddenly, Alicia found it all very clear. No wonder Morrissey was helping with the recovery of the Kreilen. If its secrets could be unlocked, there were advances in genetics and possibly military technology that could be worth a fortune. "Well," she observed, "now someone's stolen your discovery and killed your assistant in the process."
"No, I don't think so," said the Doctor. "This lock hasn't been forced, and I'm fairly certain that it hasn't been picked before either."
"How can you tell?" asked Baines.
"There isn't enough scoring or stress on the datakey contacts," the Doctor replied casually. "A practised eye can spot it instantly. Now, apart from you, who would have had access to the datakey?"
"Only Quincey," said Baines. "He knew where I kept it."
"Did he know what was inside the cylinder?"
"No, I told him it contained ore samples."
"Well, the atmospheric seals are ruptured," the Doctor mused. "If Quincey caused that damage, he might have taken the key, and opened the container to check the samples were unaffected. And then it killed him."
"What did?" snapped Alicia. "All right, I can accept that a Kreilen might still be intact after thousands of years. But are you suggesting it's still alive?"
"Yes," said the Doctor. "It's been in suspended animation all this time. Baines, where did you find it?"
"In a swamp," replied Baines bemusedly.
The Doctor frowned, and started talking as if to himself. "Then it would have made a soft landing. Its travel shell would have dissolved by now, of course. If it was buried, it would have activated the suspended animation process as an automatic response. It's possible that the chemical composition of the marshy ground helped to preserve it."
"Doctor," said Baines, "like Alicia, I'm incredulous. You can't seriously be saying that a nine thousand year old man came back to life and throttled my assistant."
"Yes, I can. And it took his clothes and locked him inside the container. If anyone else had killed Quincey, why would they have taken his clothes?"
"Assuming you're right," said Alicia, "what do we do?"
The Doctor took out his etheric beam locator, and studied the dial. "Nothing," he said. "It's dormant again. That gives us some time."
"Time for what?" asked Baines.
"We must find it. We'll split up. We can cover more ground that way. It'll be somewhere on the lower decks - somewhere dark and warm. You could try near the engine room. What does it look like? Young and fit?"
"Yes. About twenty five years old. Short dark hair. Quite a handsome face."
To her surprise, Alicia found herself believing the Doctor. Certainly his explanation gave a plausible motive for Morrissey's involvement. And he seemed so sure of what he said. What she didn't yet understand was his own angle - what had all this to do with him? Who was he and where had he come from? "What do we do if we find it?" she asked.
"Come and fetch me," said the Doctor. "It's very dangerous, believe me. Don't try to apprehend it."
They moved towards the door. The Doctor caught sight of something glinting on the floor. He bent down to pick up a smooth rectangular slab of stone. Or maybe it was crystal. It seemed to have a depth visible beneath its surface. So, his guess about his assailant had been right after all.
"What have you got there, Doctor?" asked Baines.
"Nothing important," said the Doctor, slipping it into his pocket.
"Let's go." He glanced at his watch. "If we don't find anything, I suggest
we meet back here in a couple of hours."
Morrissey reached for the remote control on Brolan's desk, and activated the holographic projector. After a few moments, a sphere of light appeared in the centre of the room, in which was formed the three dimensional image of Marie Needleman, the chief executive of the Sirius Conglomerate.
She was a hard faced, middle aged woman, her hair drawn back into a severe bun. Lines were deeply etched in her face. She was standing beside a glass tank, feeding the exotic fish that swam inside. She always seemed to be feeding her fish, thought Morrissey.
After a few moments, she looked up. "Trau Morrissey, I'll come straight to the point. You have heard the latest news from Canaxxa?"
Morrissey nodded. "The markets have been hit badly."
"I'm aware of that," Needleman snapped. "I wish to discuss the Conglomerate's policy in this matter." She was an efficient and ruthless businesswoman. It was hard to believe that she had been born into poverty, the daughter of an itinerant construction worker.
"I think our position is clear," said Morrissey.
"This is an open channel, Trau Morrissey."
"The destruction of the Tralcan mine is a major setback to our operations on Canaxxa. The latest ore production estimates are predicting a thirty per cent drop."
"It will be hard to meet demand," Morrissey commented.
"Precisely," said Needleman. She turned her attention back to her fish, but continued speaking to him. "The Federation is unhappy about this development. There is, I understand, considerable tension on the Draconian-Dalek border at the moment."
"The Federation war machine can scarcely afford to lose their supply of duralinium."
"The Federation Council is anxious that the terrorist groups on Canaxxa be stopped. Unfortunately, their intelligence agents have been unable to trace the arms dealers who are supplying them."
"Unfortunate," said Morrissey.
"Of course," Needleman went on, "the Federation's primary concern is for the safety of its citizens who are working in the mines and the Conglomerate's offices there. The taking of hostages would be the terrorists' next logical step, and naturally the Federation wishes to prevent that before it can happen. Direct action has therefore been sanctioned at the highest level."
"Federation forces have been put on alert," said Needleman. "However, I have managed to talk them into waiting for the time being. I would prefer that the Conglomerate itself handled this. It's in our own interest to sort this out quickly and quietly."
"What do you suggest?" asked Morrissey.
"You are to take the Panther and leave at once for Canaxxa. On the way, rendezvous with the Greyshadow."
"She'll be on hyperdrive."
"We shall use our hypercomm relay to get a message to her," replied Needleman. "The captain will bring her back to normal space. On the Greyshadow, you will meet with Krau Newstead and get her report on the situation. Then you will continue to Canaxxa, and take command of the Conglomerate's troops there."
She was sticking to the plan as agreed - of course, thought Morrissey, she could not foresee the problem that would shortly beset the Greyshadow's voyage. "What if our troops are attacked by the Canaxxan rebels?" he asked.
"If we are unable to handle the situation, the Federation troops will move in and secure the planet."
"A regrettable set of circumstances," said Krau Needleman, feigning
sadness quite well. "But we are left with little choice."
"So," asked Johann Ryder, "how did you enjoy your trip to Canaxxa?"
Rhonwen shrugged. "I really wasn't there for very long. I didn't get to see much of it." She was beginning to regret agreeing to take coffee with him. All he seemed to want was to interrogate her about her supposed visit to Canaxxa.
"You are not connected with the mining operation, then?" Ryder persisted.
"The archaeological expedition?"
"No," said Rhonwen. "I was just passing through."
She didn't know what to make of him. Most of the time, he seemed quite agreeable - witty, intelligent, with a wide knowledge of art and science and history. But despite these conversational gifts, he always managed to steer the talk back to the subject of Canaxxa. And whenever he asked about it, a subtle change seemed to come over him, as if it was personally important to him to know her reasons for going there.
"Then you didn't see much of the planet?" he asked.
"Hardly anything at all."
Ryder frowned. "Canaxxa is a beautiful place," he said softly. "It is slowly being ruined - eaten away by the cancer of exploitation. Mines appear like wounds in the surface, burrowing deep into Canaxxa's soul."
There was a genuine sense of fondness when he spoke of Canaxxa, and a mixture of sadness and anger at the planet's plight. It touched something in Rhonwen's heart - the part of her which sympathized with Welsh nationalists who condemned her country's pandering to English tourists. "You must like it very much," she said.
Ryder rewarded her with a gentle smile. "It has not been the same since the Sirius Conglomerate started mining there. They rob Canaxxa of its wealth and its heritage."
"I thought there was an export ban," Rhonwen replied.
Ryder gave a hollow laugh. "Oh, they build a museum and put a few pots in it - and say they are restoring the culture of Canaxxa to its people."
"Well, aren't they? Trau Baines seems very determined to leave a planet's heritage where it belongs."
A strange look came into Ryder's eyes, of suspicion and accusation. "Does he practise what he preaches?" he asked rhetorically. Then he smiled wistfully. "I'm sorry, I must sound a dreadful bore. The situation on Canaxxa has interested me just lately. The Canaxxan people have been fighting back - making terrorist attacks on the intruders."
"I didn't know that," said Rhonwen.
"They have been mostly small scale - just a few firebombs. But things are starting to happen now. A mine has been destroyed. That will hurt the Sirius Conglomerate badly. It is the first blow for freedom."
Rhonwen raised her eyebrows - Ryder was beginning to sound like the worst kind of nationalist, those who tried to set fire to holiday hotels. "Whose side are you on?" she asked.
Ryder fixed her with a stare, in which burned a light of fierce
determination. Fanaticism, perhaps? "I'm on the side of truth, Krau Jones,"
The Doctor made his way down the third class staircase. It was stark and functional, simple metalwork painted white, a far cry from the sumptious interior of first class. Although there was a lift available for the steerage passengers, a sign proclaimed it was out of order.
He passed a few people on the stairs, mostly mining engineers on their way back to Androzani. A few of them glanced at him curiously, but no one said anything.
Reaching a landing, the Doctor drew into a secluded corner and took out
his etheric beam locator. There was still no signal from the Kreilen. He
wasn't sure if that was good news or not. He adjusted the setting on the
locator, and the dial went off the scale. There was a source of excessive
telepathic signals located quite nearby.
Clutching his head, Vardek collapsed to his knees. He tried to force his head against the wall of the corridor. Maybe the pressure would help to cut out some of the noise. It was no good. Pain flooded through his brain like the rush of a river.
And then he was standing on the banks of a river. The waters flowed and bubbled beneath him, as they swept over the rapids of Talaq. Shimmering jarel fish leapt out of the water. It was one of his favourite spots. It was said to be one of the most beautiful places on Hallatern, but he had never travelled widely enough to know whether that was true.
Vardek slumped forward. Emotion started to wash over him. Without the computer controls working, his memories threatened to overwhelm him. He did not need this now. He could not carry out his mission surrounded by a flood of nostalgia.
His mission. It was such a difficult decision. He often came to Talaq to be by himself, to enjoy the beauty that nature had wrought here. In the last few days, he had spent many hours just sitting by the water's edge, thinking. Sometimes a jarel would leap out and try to take a bite out of him, but he swatted it away.
It was an important assignment he was being offered. But it meant total sacrifice. Hallatern felt its responsibility to the Galaxy was to hunt down and destroy the last of the Kreilens - but the men who went on the missions would most likely not be coming back.
There was Janifil to think about. How would she react? She would attempt to dissuade him of course. Vardek did not know how to tell her that he had already made his decision.
The beauty of Hallatern's countryside flooded over him. He tried to absorb it, since this was the last he would be seeing of it. He wanted to ensure he took it with him.
A face appeared, hovering over him. He knew that it was Janifil, trying to remonstrate with him. Do not leave me, she pleaded. It was too late. The computer had already been plugged into his brain. In a matter of days, he would not be able to remember her at all.
Suddenly, both his arms were gripped. They were pulled away from his head. Vardek looked up at Janifil. You have to let me go, he said. Hallatern is depending on me.
It was not Janafil. Vardek managed to scramble through the mental confusion to form some image. It was the man he had attacked earlier today. Vardek tried to struggle, but he could not find the energy in his present condition.
"All right," said the Doctor soothingly, crouching beside him. "I don't know if you can hear me. Just relax. I'll have you right as rain in a jiff." Well, as right as a man with a computer stuck into his brain can be, he thought.
Carefully, he peeled back the flap of skin that hung loosely on Vardek's forehead. Behind it was a small cavity, just the right shape for the rectangular crystal he had found on the floor of Baines's stateroom. The Doctor fitted the crystal carefully inside. The connexions had become a little worn, which was not surprising after eight thousand years.
Taking a metal probe from his pocket, the Doctor made some adjustments. When he was confident that the crystal was fitted securely, he pulled the flap of skin back into place. "It should take a couple of minutes for the computer to regain control," he said.
Vardek found his head clearing. He looked up at the Doctor in confusion. "Why did you help me?"
"I'm not one to bear a grudge," the Doctor said. "Besides, I suspect we have more in common than you realize."
Putting his hand to his head, Vardek touched the area beneath which the crystal had been inserted. There was no sign of a join of course - the artificial skin had sealed up perfectly. A sudden realization struck him, and he looked at the Doctor. "How can you have done this?" he asked.
"It's a perfectly straightforward operation," the Doctor shrugged.
"But how can you understand kaprihal technology?"
"Well, I read a lot," said the Doctor dismissively. "Hallatern mastered organo-crystal mechanisms thousands of years ago. Of course, you did steal the technology from the Quinnista originally, didn't you?"
Vardek had no explanation for this man's extraordinary knowledge. He had met no one for millennia who knew of Hallatern as anything more than a legend. "What is your purpose?" he asked.
"The same as yours, I imagine," replied the Doctor. "To find and neutralize the Kreilen."
Again he displayed knowledge that he should not possess. Vardek did not know what to think. For once, the computer could not suggest a course of action. "Who are you?" he asked.
"I'm the Doctor."
"What do you want of me?"
"We should pool our resources," the Doctor said. "We can help each other."
The computer suggested killing him. Anyone who had such detailed knowledge of the mission had to be perceived as a threat. Yet Vardek was not so sure. After all, the Doctor had replaced his kaprihal crystal, which did not imply hostility. The sense of doubt was strong enough to override the computer's analysis. But still he needed time to make a proper assessment. "I will consider it," he said.
The Doctor seemed to accept this. "All right," he nodded. "You can find
me when you've made up your mind." He got to his feet. "But don't leave it
too long. There isn't a lot of time left."
Alicia entered her stateroom, and sat down at the writing desk. She had looked around a few of the corridors near the third class cabins, before stopping. She needed to think.
Baines had found a Kreilen, and Morrissey had helped him smuggle it off Canaxxa. Clearly Morrissey intended to make a fortune from the secrets that could be discovered from an examination of the Kreilen's body. She suspected that her boss was doing this without reference to the Conglomerate's board. Certainly, Alicia knew that had she come across such a godsend, she wouldn't want to share it with Marie Needleman.
No, Morrissey planned to make a profit on the side. What he didn't yet realize was that the situation had changed. Now that she knew what was going on, Alicia was determined that she would share in his good fortune.
There was a knock at the door. "Come in," Alicia said, looking up.
The door opened to reveal the first class steward, Escott. "Excuse me, Krau Newstead," he began, "but the Captain sends his compliments. He would like to see you on the bridge."
"What's it about?"
"I understand there's an urgent message for you."
Baines padded along the corridor, keeping to the shadows. He hadn't seen any crewmen, but he didn't want to take any chances. It would be rather hard to explain his presence here. First class passengers didn't come into this part of the ship.
He had passed down through third class and was heading for the bow. There, he knew, were the cargo holds. If he were hiding out, that was where he would choose - tucked away in some dark corner between the huge ore tanks.
He came to a large bulkhead door, and pressed the control to open it. Fortunately, it had not been locked. Beyond was a dimly lit chamber, filled with row upon row of storage tanks. Now that he was here, he didn't fancy searching the area, especially in such poor light. It would take far too long. Besides, if the Doctor was right, and the Kreilen were still alive, it could attack and kill him down here, and no one would be any the wiser.
With that thought, Baines stopped himself. The Kreilen couldn't possibly be alive. It had simply been stolen. Maybe the Doctor did have something to do with it - why else would he have organized this wild goose chase? Somehow, back there in the cabin, the Doctor had convinced him that he was speaking the truth - but it was just too fantastic to believe.
Baines reached into his pocket and removed his argonite lined sample box. He opened it, to reveal the smooth stone cube nestling safely inside. Baines heaved a sigh of relief. At least he still had this discovery. He had no idea what it was, but he was intrigued by the way it possessed the depths of a crystal, whilst yet being solid stone. He was certain that it contained some power.
Quickly, he shut it away in the argonite box once more and returned it
to his pocket.
Nicolas suddenly opened his eyes, and sat bolt upright on the bed. Perrenelle turned from the writing table, and looked at him in concern. He was supposed to be taking a nap. "What is it?" she asked.
"I can sense it," said Nicolas.
"Yes." Hurriedly, he got up from the bed, and started to move towards the door. Then he stopped and moved back into the centre of the room. He sat down at the writing table beside his wife, and pressed his hands to his temples. "It's gone again," he said angrily.
Perrenelle placed a hand gently upon his arm. "At least we know for certain that it's on board," she said soothingly.
"Yes," agreed Nicolas. Suddenly, he looked up and a flicker of excitement crossed his face. "Yes, you're right. It was a very strong sensation. I think it must be very close to where we are now. Perhaps I could try dowsing for it again."
He reached into his pocket for the plumb bob.
Captain Berlitz looked up as Alicia walked onto the bridge. "Krau Newstead," he began.
"I believe there's a message for me?" said Alicia.
"Yes," replied Berlitz. He seemed to be annoyed about something. "I don't appreciate the ship's priority channels being given over to such uses."
"I don't understand."
"The hypercomm receiver is a massive drain on the ship's power. It's only supposed to be used in an emergency."
Alicia smiled placatingly. "I'm sure there's a perfectly good reason for any unorthodox procedures," she said.
"Oh, there is," snarled Berlitz. "It's for the convenience of the Sirius Conglomerate. I get a message through from Krau Needleman herself, telling me to drop back into normal space and rendezvous with Trau Morrissey's ship. We could have lost artificial gravity with the power it took to pick up that message in hyperspace."
"I'm very sorry," said Alicia, trying to sound sincere. "I wonder why Trau Morrissey could be coming here." Surely it couldn't be to collect the Kreilen? Getting the ship out of hyperspace like this was far too conspicuous - and besides Krau Needleman was involved, and Morrissey was unlikely to have shared the secret with her.
"Well, of course," said Berlitz, "we're cut off from normal news broadcasts in hyperspace. But from information just received, it would appear that the terrorists on Canaxxa have destroyed one of your mines."
Alicia's eyes widened. "That is unfortunate," she lied. So, the plan was coming to fruition.
"You can take your message in my office," the Captain said. "It's the
next door down the corridor."
Lunch was a far less formal affair than dinner. There was no dressing up, no drinks in the reception lounge beforehand. Even the seating arrangements were informal - you sat where you could find a space.
Rhonwen looked up from a cold meat salad, and glanced around the dining saloon. The only other diners were a well dressed couple, who had been on the other table last night, and one of the ship's officers, a dark haired woman.
The Doctor came through the door with Baines. Seeing her, they approached the table and sat down.
"I don't know what could have happened to Alicia," Baines was saying.
"I'm sure she'll turn up," the Doctor replied.
"If we can trust her," Baines muttered.
The Doctor didn't say anything - he knew enough about the business practices of the Sirius Conglomerate to know Baines had some grounds for his suspicions.
A steward arrived then, and handed them menu cards. After studying his for a few moments, Baines looked up. "I'm sorry, Doctor, I'm just not very hungry. This business has taken away my appetite. I thought we were on the verge of a major archaeological discovery - we might have learnt the truth about the Hallatern legends. Now, it looks like that opportunity has been lost."
The Doctor's face set in grim determination. "There's more at stake here than your professional reputation. The Kreilen is dangerous. And it's bound to become active again before too long."
"Look," began Baines, "I'm sure you're an expert in your own field - history, isn't it? But how can you stick to this ridiculous story?"
"Because I'm an historian, that's why," snapped the Doctor.
"It's simply too fantastic to believe. It's much more likely that the body has been stolen."
Irritation flared in the Doctor's eyes. One thing he couldn't bear was a closed mind. "Tell me how someone could have stolen a dead body, and carried it through the corridors of this ship without drawing attention to himself."
Baines opened his mouth, but found he had no answer.
"Whereas," continued the Doctor, "if it was alive, and dressed in your assistant's clothes, who would pay it any notice? It would just be one more passenger."
Placing the menu card down on the table, Baines got slowly to his feet. "I can't eat," he said. "I've got to think." He turned and made his way to the door.
The Doctor rubbed his chin thoughtfully, and stared at the table top.
Rhonwen didn't like interrupting his thoughts, but she was bursting with questions. "You didn't find the Kreilen, then?"
The Doctor turned to face her. "Baines had it all right," he said. "But I was too late - it's on the loose somewhere aboard this ship."
"Is it dangerous?" Rhonwen asked anxiously.
"Yes, but not if we can find it in time. I met someone today who'll be able to help us."
The Doctor smiled enigmatically. "A man from Hallatern," he said.
Perrenelle took another sip of her tea - camomile, almost as good as the real thing. She watched the Doctor on the other side of the room, talking to a pretty, dark haired girl.
Beside her, Nicolas could barely take his eyes from the Doctor. He had hardly touched his lunch. Perrenelle didn't like to see him this way - after two thousand years, he had developed a calm and relaxed attitude to life. Now the sudden reappearance of the Doctor had put him on edge.
"Just go and talk to him," she suggested.
"I cannot," said Nicolas. "If he wants to help me, he will do it of his own accord."
"He can't if he doesn't know you're here."
"He must know," Nicolas replied, with certainty. "An adept like the Doctor must see everything around him."
"Maybe he knows where the crystal is," said Perrenelle.
"It is not unlikely," said Nicolas. "And if he chooses to reveal that
information, it will be to our advantage. But we cannot force his hand."
In the Captain's office, a cramped little space situated behind the bridge, Alicia activated the holographic projector. The lights in the room dipped somewhat, as if emphasizing Berlitz's complaints about the power consumption. Even the hologram that appeared was fuzzy and distorted.
Alicia recognized Trau Morrissey's face through a haze of swirling static. "Krau Newstead," he said, his tone brusque and efficient. "I just wanted to alert you. I am about to come out and meet you."
"The Captain is not very happy," Alicia replied.
"So I gather. That is not my concern. Have you been appraised of the situation on Canaxxa?"
"I have heard the basic facts," said Alicia. "Is this an open channel?"
"Yes," Morrissey replied. He paused for a moment, and then returned to an air of official concern. "There have been several fatalities and casualties as a result of the terrorist attack on the Tralcan mine. The Federation is rightly concerned about the fate of its citizens."
"Troops are preparing to land on Canaxxa and impose peace. However, the Conglomerate has first been given the opportunity to try and salvage the situation. I shall be leading the company troops on Canaxxa."
"What help do you need from me?" asked Alicia.
"I have been told to meet you and gain your opinion of the situation on Canaxxa. There are also some documents I might need to help me."
Morrissey's manner softened momentarily. "How are you?" he asked.
"I'm well," replied Alicia, unused to her superior showing such concern for her well being.
"And Trau Baines? How is he?"
"He seems fine." Now she understood - he was checking up on his smuggling operation.
"Good, good." Morrissey seemed momentarily preoccupied, then his abrupt manner returned. "I shall see you in a day or so." He turned away as if to terminate the transmission.
"Trau Morrissey?" Alicia began.
Alicia took a deep breath and exhaled quickly. "There's some information I need," she said, smiling apologetically. "I wonder if you can run a security scan. My terminal access is limited in hyperspace."
"Give me the details."
"I want a check on any references to a Doctor John Smith. An historian - from Earth, I think."
A puzzled frown seemed to pass over Morrissey's features. Alicia couldn't be sure - the picture definition wasn't clear enough. "Why do you wish to know?" he asked.
"He's one of my fellow passengers," Alicia explained. "I'm just curious about him. It may be nothing."
Morrissey nodded. "All right. Leave it with me."
Pouring herself another cup of coffee, Rhonwen glanced at the Doctor. He was sitting across the coffee table from her, gazing distractedly into space. They were the only people in the coffee lounge this afternoon.
As she watched, the Doctor removed the red cylinder of the etheric beam locator from his pocket, and toyed with it lightly in his hands. He glanced at the dial, and thrust it into his pocket again.
"Nothing?" Rhonwen asked.
The Doctor frowned, and tapped the table top huffily. "We could search this ship for days and not find the Kreilen," he said. "It's a hopeless task. The only thing to do is wait for its brain activity to register on the locator. Then I might be able to home in on it."
"I thought you said it would become lucid every few hours?"
"I did," the Doctor replied. "But I haven't been picking up any traces of it. It doesn't seem to be following the usual revivification cycle of a Kreilen."
Rhonwen shrugged. "Well, maybe after nine thousand years it's worn out a bit," she suggested lamely.
"Maybe," the Doctor said, obviously not lending the theory much credence. Rhonwen hated it when he became like this. Most of the time, he was a bundle of enthusiastic energy - but when things didn't go his way, he could be so petulant.
She looked up to see Johann Ryder entering the lounge. He started to approach their table, but hovered a little uncertainly when he saw the Doctor. Rhonwen smiled up at him. The mood the Doctor was in, she would have welcomed anyone's company. Besides, she found Ryder's honesty and idealism rather appealing.
"Krau Jones," he said, "I was hoping to see you."
Ryder said nothing, but glanced at the Doctor.
"Oh, this is my guardian," Rhonwen explained. "The Doctor."
"I see. I'm pleased to meet you, sir."
The Doctor nodded absently, and gave a little grunt in reply.
"Don't mind him," Rhonwen said. "Why don't you sit down? Coffee?"
As Ryder seated himself, she reached for the silver coffee pot on the table.
"Yes, thank you," Ryder acknowledged. He took the cup she gave him, and inhaled of the aroma.
"What did you want to see me about?" Rhonwen asked.
Ryder smiled self deprecatingly. "I feel I owe you an apology. I think I rather lectured you this morning. You must have thought I was blaming you for the exploitation of Canaxxa."
Rhonwen shook her head. "It's all right," she murmured. "In some ways, it's nice to meet someone so obviously committed to his beliefs."
There was a sudden exclamation from across the table. The Doctor was staring at his etheric beam locator in some satisfaction. He sprang to his feet, stuffing the instrument back in his pocket.
"Doctor?" began Rhonwen.
He practically ignored her, and rushed towards the door. But on the threshold, he turned and fixed her with a suddenly commanding gaze. "Stay here," he warned. Then he was gone.
"What was that about?" asked Ryder.
"The Doctor's always got something on his mind," Rhonwen replied. She
continued gazing worriedly at the door through which he had departed. If
the Kreilen was truly as dangerous as he said, she hoped he knew what he
Baines sat gazing into his cube of stone. Again, it displayed all the properties of a crystal, seemingly inviting him to gaze into its hidden depths. It was almost as if some sort of light glowed within, drawing him nearer. He might almost swear that it was calling to him.
His attention was diverted by a noise from outside in the corridor. He shook his head slightly to regain his concentration. The stone was just a blank, solid cube once more.
Baines looked round towards the source of the sound. After a moment, he realized that someone was knocking on the door. "Just a moment," he called. Quickly, he placed the stone cube back inside the argonite lined box. The knocking from the door was repeated, louder and harder. It was more of a steady repeated thud, as if someone was trying to batter the door down.
Slightly panicked, Baines looked around the stateroom. His eyes fell upon the bed. He lifted up the edge of the valance and pushed his sample box underneath, to rest in shadow against the far wall. That would keep it hidden until he saw who was banging so impatiently on his door.
The knocking had now become a pounding. Feeling angry at the impertinence, Baines crossed to the door and threw it open. "Now look here," he began.
He didn't say anything else. Standing in the doorway was a tall and powerful figure. For a split second, he thought it was Quincey - then he realized that was because the newcomer was wearing Quincey's clothes. He was in his mid twenties, with close cropped dark hair.
It took a few moments for Baines to realize that he was looking at the body he had dug up - the Kreilen that should have been dead. In those moments, it reached out and grabbed the surprised Baines tightly around the throat.
The Kreilen forced its way into the room, pushing the struggling Baines before it. As it continued to apply pressure to his throat, Baines felt himself growing weaker. His struggles ceased. He was dimly aware of the Kreilen knocking shut the door behind it, before everything went black.