Warcry of Hallatern
A Waiting Game
"I suppose," said Johann Ryder, "you must think me very strange."
"No," replied Rhonwen, putting down her coffee cup. "Why?"
"Well, all this concern for the natural beauty of a planet. It must seem out of place in the modern world. Society is more concerned about technology and warfare and market forces."
Rhonwen thought his opinions were rather familiar. Besides the concerns of Welsh nationalists, she had known plenty of hippy radicals back in London. She hadn't necessarily shared their views, but she thought some of them had a point.
"You must have spent a lot of time on Canaxxa," she said.
"Some," replied Ryder. "Perhaps not as much as I would have liked."
"Why did you go there in the first place? If you're not a miner or an archaeologist, there can't be much there for you."
"I am an amateur archaeologist of sorts," said Ryder. "As a matter of fact, I studied under Trau Baines for a while. But by profession, I'm a sociologist. I've been conducting a study of the Canaxxan people, and the effect on their society of the mining operations."
"Is there an effect?" asked Rhonwen.
"Yes. A severe one. The influence of the miners has polluted the cultural identity of the Canaxxans. Sirian clothes and consumer goods have found their way to Canaxxa - and many people have adopted these trappings, feeling that it makes them more advanced. Whereas really they are betraying their heritage, seeking to emulate something they are not."
"Well," said Rhonwen, "surely it's progress. They're aspiring towards the advanced society of the Sirian colonies, and seeking to improve themselves."
Ryder shook his head. "Social development doesn't work like that. The Canaxxans will not become like the Sirians by mimicking them. Their culture seems to be primitive on the surface, yet at one time theirs was an advanced society. More of their ancient culture has survived than most outsiders realize. In time, it will manifest itself. The Canaxxan society will start to grow, to regain its past glory. But that rebirth will only be stilted by the influence of outside elements."
"You must have made a very thorough study," Rhonwen replied. "How long were you there?"
Ryder glanced at his watch. "I'm sorry, Krau Jones," he said. "I've forgotten the time. I have to see someone." He stood up. "Perhaps we can talk later? Drinks before dinner? Or a stroll on the observation deck?"
Somewhat surprised by the wave of disappointment that had suddenly swept
over her, Rhonwen smiled. "Why not?"
Alicia made her way back towards first class, thinking over her recent conversation with Morrissey. Things were starting to happen on Canaxxa. That was no surprise - indeed, it had been planned for. But she hadn't expected that Morrissey would handle the matter in person.
Now he was coming here, to confer with her and collect the damaging documents. Morrissey had not mentioned the Kreilen of course, but Alicia couldn't help wondering whether that was on his agenda as well. He might be planning to take the Kreilen aboard his own ship - in which case he'd be in for a surprise.
Alicia approached the door of Baines's stateroom. She still didn't know where the archaeologist's interest lay. The Baines she remembered would be seeking knowledge, hoping that a study of the Kreilen would unravel the mysteries of the past.
But that had been ten years ago, and her view of him had been coloured by a misguided infatuation. Things were different now. She had changed much over a decade. Baines might have too - these days, he could well be interested in financial gain.
Alicia knocked on the door, and waited for a reply. Either Morrissey was duping Baines, or they had done a deal. It didn't matter. The Kreilen was worth a fortune. Now that she knew about it, Alicia was determined to have her cut. Which meant she needed to keep an eye on Baines and Morrissey over the next few days.
There was no reply from Baines's cabin. Alicia knocked again. Still nothing. Then she noticed that the door was not properly shut. She pushed gently to open it, and peered inside.
The first thing that struck her was the disorder in the stateroom. The wardrobe and chest of drawers had been ransacked, their contents strewn all over the floor. The chairs and tables had been pushed around, overturned or broken. And lying face down on the ground, covered with loose sheets of paper, was a body.
Alicia rushed into the room, and knelt beside it. "Hectol!" she cried. She couldn't find any sign of life.
She got slowly to her feet, and put her hand to her mouth. She'd scarcely thought about Baines since leaving him ten years ago, and now suddenly it felt as if the bottom had dropped out of her world. Why couldn't she be more professional about this?
Sensing a presence behind her, Alicia spun round in alarm. The Doctor was standing in the doorway. Alicia quickly wiped away the tear that was forming in the corner of her eye. She couldn't demonstrate any form of weakness. She had an image to maintain.
"What's happened?" the Doctor asked.
"I just found him," Alicia said.
The Doctor moved into the room, and knelt to examine the body. Alicia watched as he turned it over. "Is he dead?" she asked.
"Yes," replied the Doctor matter of factly. "Strangled by the look of it." He indicated the red marks of fingertips that were imprinted on Baines's neck.
"Who could have done it?"
"The Kreilen." The Doctor got to his feet, and reached into his pocket. He took out his etheric beam locator and studied the display.
"How can you be sure?" Alicia asked.
"Because I monitored its mental energy - it's the only real way to locate it. That's what led me here. Too late to do anything, unfortunately."
"Well, can you track it now?"
The Doctor peered intently at the locator, and shook his head. "No. It's dropped right off the scale. It just doesn't make sense."
"There's nothing for hours, then suddenly a sharp peak - now nothing again." The Doctor dropped the etheric beam locator into his pocket. "The revivification cycle of a Kreilen should be a series of peaks and troughs, gradually becoming more frequent. This is completely outside the normal pattern."
"What does that mean?" Alicia asked.
"I don't know," said the Doctor. "But it's killed again. From now on, we can only expect things to get worse. We've got to find it quickly."
"How?" Alicia demanded.
"Ah," the Doctor murmured. "I was hoping you wouldn't ask that."
Ryder paused at a corridor intersection, and looked all around him. There was no one in sight, which was a relief. If he was caught now, he'd risk giving the whole game away.
Certain that he was unobserved, he slipped down a gloomy side corridor, lit only by hazy pools of light from small lamps set in the ceiling. At the end of the corridor, he stopped at a door marked Emergency Water Reclamation.
He tapped on the door four times, then paused for a moment and tapped twice more. After a few seconds, the door slowly opened. A face peered out. It was a dark haired young man called Noblecourt, the ship's assistant engineer. He scrutinized Ryder, then looked back along the service corridor to check there was no one else about. Satisfied, he ushered Ryder quickly through the door.
Inside was a cramped space, filled mostly by the pipes and vessels of the water filters. Into every available nook and cranny had been packed twenty men and women, all of them members of the ship's crew. There were a few officers, like Noblecourt, but the others were quartermasters, maintenance crew and stewards. To get them all serving aboard the Greyshadow had taken some string pulling, but their benefactor had all the right connexions.
Ryder said, "Are we ready?"
Noblecourt nodded. "We're all set to begin."
"Tomorrow then." Ryder turned towards the figure who stood in shadow beside the door. "You have to do your part."
"Don't worry. I can take the bridge before Berlitz realizes what's happening."
Ryder nodded in grim satisfaction. "This will be better than we hoped. Not only Krau Newstead, but the Federation trade attaché. His presence will guarantee the maximum publicity for the cause. The Federation will have to listen to us."
The man in the shadows stepped forward. The murky light that slanted across his face revealed the features of First Officer MacBride. "Only if you can get the evidence," he said.
"That's no problem," replied Ryder. "I know where Krau Newstead's cabin is. I'll steal the papers when she's at dinner tonight - then we'll have all the proof we need of the Sirius Conglomerate's criminal exploitation of Canaxxa."
He looked around the little group of conspirators, most of them just silhouettes in the dim light. "Return to your quarters now," he said. "Go on shift as usual - we move at the appointed time. And remember, we do this for the sake of Canaxxa - to restore her glory."
There were murmurs of affirmation from the others. They were bound
together by their cause and their beliefs, and their oath to serve Ryder
faithfully and ensure his restoration.
The Doctor placed Baines's body on the bed, and pulled the sheet over it. "He should be all right there for a while," he said.
"So what do we do now?" asked Alicia.
The Doctor sighed. "I think you should dress for dinner, don't you?"
"But the Kreilen," Alicia insisted. "We have to find it, remember." With Morrissey on his way, she had to ensure she got her hands on it before he did. Then she'd be in a position to strike a deal with him.
"Well," said the Doctor, "it would mean a proper search of the ship. More than we could do alone."
"What do you suggest?"
"Enlisting the help of the crew."
"I don't think that's a very good idea," said Alicia. As far as she was concerned, the fewer people who knew about this the better.
"I would agree with you," replied the Doctor. "But any systematic search will eventually take us into restricted sections of the ship. Suspicions will be raised. Questions will be asked. I know, it happens to me all the time."
Alicia thought for a moment. "Perhaps I can come up with a compromise," she suggested.
"The first officer, MacBride. He and I seem to have hit it off. I think
I could persuade him to offer some discreet assistance."
Packing the last of his clothes, Morrissey shut the lid of his travelling case. He took one last look around the smooth white walls of his guest room. He wouldn't be sorry to see the back of this place. It lacked the creature comforts to which he was accustomed back on Androzani.
The door opened unbidden, and Brolan's head appeared around it. "Ah, there you are," he exclaimed. "I just came to tell you, your ship is about to enter orbit. She should be in transmat position in about fifteen minutes."
"Good," said Morrissey. He picked up his case. "Then I'll say goodbye."
Brolan stood to one side, allowing him to leave the room, then followed him into the corridor. They started to walk towards the transmat room.
"I must say," began Brolan, "I'm a little concerned about your rushing off like this. I thought it was your intention to collect the Kreilen straight off the Greyshadow? I can anticipate Trau Baines having some problems with customs otherwise."
"Yes," replied Morrissey. "I'm hoping to take care of that. Fortunately, I shall be meeting the Greyshadow on the way. If I'm unable to work out some arrangement for transporting the Kreilen then, I'll have it transferred to the Panther."
Brolan frowned. "There would surely be some delay in bringing it back here, especially since you have to travel to Canaxxa."
"Nothing's decided yet," said Morrissey. "I may not have to go to Canaxxa at all." Not if the hijack goes as planned, he thought. Once Krau Needleman's machinations were exposed, everything would fall into place.
They arrived at the transmat room. A single operator stood at the control console, monitoring the position of the Panther. He reported that she was lining herself up on the navigational beacon - it would take a few more minutes.
Morrissey turned to Brolan. "Tell me something," he said casually. "That man who was here the other day, Trau Smith. What happened to him?"
Brolan shrugged. "I really don't know. He isn't here any longer. I expect he took a shuttle back to Androzani."
"Don't you know?"
"I don't keep a rigorous check on people going in and out," said Brolan. "According to my records, he hadn't booked passage, but he could easily have arranged it with the shuttle's pilot. They're always half empty."
"Why would he go rushing off like that?" asked Morrissey.
"His niece wasn't very well. In fact, I was there when she collapsed."
Morrissey grunted. The story sounded plausible, he supposed. He had been clutching at straws anyway. Smith's sudden departure, and Krau Newstead's request for information about someone of the same name had made a tenuous connexion in his mind. But it seemed unlikely that Krau Newstead was referring to the same person. No one could get from Sirius Five to Canaxxa in so short a time.
The Panther reported that she was holding position for transmat. Morrissey stepped onto the platform, and bade farewell to Brolan. "I hope to see you again soon," he added.
"I hope so too," said Brolan.
Ryder paused at the entrance to the observation deck. Rhonwen was already there, sitting on one of the plush Regency sofas. She was dressed for dinner, wearing a splendid Sirian frock. Ryder stood in the doorway for a moment, watching her. She hadn't yet seen him.
He hadn't been expecting to meet anyone like her on this trip - and though he really couldn't afford the distraction, especially not at this time, he couldn't help but indulge his desire to get to know her better. He approached her and smiled. "Krau Jones," he began, "I hope I didn't keep you waiting. I'm afraid I was held up."
Rhonwen stood up. "It's all right," she replied. "I haven't been here long. Besides, I've nothing better to do." It was true. She hadn't seen the Doctor since he'd gone rushing off this afternoon, and his mood had been pretty sulky all day. But even so, she would have taken Ryder up on his offer. She was fascinated by the strength of conviction he displayed when talking about Canaxxa's plight. And she had to admit, he fascinated her in other ways too. It was silly really. She and the Doctor would be leaving as soon as he sorted out the Kreilen. She couldn't afford to get herself involved in a romantic entanglement - there was no future in it.
She realized that she was staring at Ryder and saying nothing. Desiring to make small talk, she looked around the observation deck. The glass dome was completely opaque, so she could see nothing outside the ship. She said, "There isn't a lot to observe."
Ryder regarded her curiously. "Well, no. The windows are always blacked out on a ship in hyperspace. I understand that the space/time warp produces some interesting effects that aren't considered good for the eyes - or the brain." He frowned. "Surely you must have travelled through hyperspace before?"
Rhonwen gave a nervous laugh. "I've never been on a ship like this, though."
"Ah." Some of the poorer cargo ships carried passengers on the side, against the shipping regulations - and it would be quite usual for a ship like that not to even bother with windows. The explanation was simple enough - although Ryder wondered why Rhonwen and her guardian would need to sneak around on unauthorized flights. "So," he asked, "I don't think you said. What were you doing on Canaxxa?"
"You seem very concerned about my movements," Rhonwen said, in a sudden squall of anger.
Ryder looked down at the floor. He had to rid himself of his foolish suspicions. He wouldn't get anywhere if he accused her of exploiting Canaxxa every few minutes. Raising his hands placatingly, he said, "I'm sorry if I've offended you. You're quite correct, of course. I've no right to pry. Do try and forgive me. My concern for Canaxxa's plight sometimes blinds me - I see evil intentions in everyone."
Rhonwen smiled. Ryder was opinionated, even aggressive in his beliefs, and jumped to conclusions - but she couldn't bring herself to dislike even that about him. "I'll forgive you," she said softly. "Why don't you tell me some more about Canaxxa's problems? Is there a practical solution?"
"It's hard to say," Ryder replied. "The terrorism adopted by some Canaxxan natives is clearly a practical response to their situation - whether it is a solution remains to be seen. The danger is that the Galactic Federation will not stomach such violence, and will move to suppress the Canaxxans. The Sirius Conglomerate can afford to suffer some damage and casualties in the meantime."
"So what would you do?"
"The Federation must be convinced to safeguard Canaxxa and its culture. Of course, commercial realities make that unlikely. But we must try."
A figure appeared on the far side of the observation deck. Rhonwen looked over to see Escott, the first class steward, hovering a little uncertainly. Seeing that he had her attention, he cleared his throat. "Excuse me, madam. Dinner is about to be served in the first class saloon."
"Thank you," Rhonwen said.
She turned back to Ryder. "Shall we continue this conversation over dinner?"
Ryder looked away a little nervously, and said, "I don't actually feel very hungry. Go on without me. I'll give dinner a miss." He turned towards the exit.
"Will I see you later?" Rhonwen asked. She found herself eagerly anticipating the event.
Pausing momentarily, Ryder turned back to regard her. "Yes," he said, "I would like that." Then, without another word, he was gone.
Rhonwen watched him depart, and then walked over to the waiting steward. "He didn't take dinner last night either," she said, half to herself.
"Well, he wouldn't," Escott interjected.
"He isn't a first class passenger, madam," the steward explained. "Trau
Ryder is in second class. They come up here occasionally. You know, to see
how their betters live. They're not supposed to, but we tend not to do
anything about it. As long as they don't cause any trouble. If they tried
actually eating in the dining saloon, that would be overstepping the
His mind focused once more, Vardek moved determinedly along the corridor. His meeting with the Doctor was still uppermost in his thoughts. He could not decide what to make of it, nor what to do about it.
But whatever he decided, one thing was clear. His mission had not altered. If the Doctor truly wished to see the Kreilen neutralized, he would not object to Vardek pursuing his goal.
Reaching a door, Vardek stopped. Behind it lay the communications centre, according to the deck plan displayed outside the purser's office.
Vardek reached into his pocket, and removed a thin metal cylinder, with a grip at one end. It was a simple weapon, but it was effective.
He pushed open the door. Two officers were seated before the communications consoles, an older man and a younger woman. They were talking to one another, clearly with no work to do. That was unsurprising - communications were severely curtailed on a ship in hyperspace.
They looked round as Vardek entered. He did not give them time to react, but activated his weapon. The end of the cylinder glowed briefly, and the two officers slumped back in their seats. A quick burst of neural energy would knock them out for a while, but there would be no permanent effect.
Vardek turned his attention to the communications equipment. His purpose was clear. He wanted the ship to be entirely isolated, cut off from outside and unable to summon help. That would give him the right conditions to destroy the Kreilen - and more importantly, should the neurovirus be unleashed, it would be contained here with little chance of spreading off the ship.
Adjusting the setting on his weapon, Vardek poured raw energy into the
consoles. Under such an onslaught, the equipment began to overload,
showering angry sparks into the room.
Perrenelle sipped at her wine, and looked across the reception lounge to where the Doctor was sitting alone. She sensed Nicolas standing beside her, his eyes fixed on the same man.
"Go and speak to him," Perrenelle urged.
Nicolas hesitated. She could tell that he wanted to approach the Doctor, but he was stilled by a sense of reverence. "We must wait for him to show his hand," he said.
"No," Perrenelle insisted. "The Doctor is playing some sort of waiting game. That is his prerogative. But we no longer have to play by his rules."
"One does not trifle with a man like that."
"The Doctor may have been a powerful adept. But that was two thousand years ago. Now, you are as great an adept as he was - better, perhaps. You would approach him as an equal."
Nicolas took a deep breath, and put his wine glass down on the table. "All right," he said. "All right. But I'll let him lead the conversation. I have no right to ask anything of him."
He walked over to where the Doctor was sitting and shuffled his feet nervously. "Do you mind if I sit down?" he asked uncertainly.
The Doctor looked up, and peered at him intently. "Well well," he murmured. "Nicolas Flamel."
Sighing with heartfelt relief, Nicolas slipped into the chair opposite him. "Doctor," he began, "I don't know what to say. You said that we would meet again - I always believed it, but somehow I didn't think it would be now. Like this."
"I'm rather surprised to see you," the Doctor replied.
Nicolas's face fell. "Then you haven't come to find me? I just assumed you wished to assist in my quest."
The Doctor raised his eyebrows. "Well, perhaps I still can. What quest would that be?"
Nicolas stared down at the table. "I thought you would know," he muttered. "I don't understand." He looked up to see a young woman standing beside them, the dark haired girl who had been with the Doctor earlier. "I can't talk to you now," he said. Quickly, he got up and hurried away.
Rhonwen looked quizzically at the Doctor. "Who was that?"
"Just someone I met once," the Doctor replied vaguely. He got to his feet. People were starting to go in to dinner. "Come on."
Rhonwen took his arm, and they moved towards the door of the dining saloon. "You haven't found the Kreilen, then?" Rhonwen asked quietly.
"No," said the Doctor. "Its behaviour is completely atypical."
"What are you going to do?"
"I'll think of something."
"What about your man from Hallatern?" Rhonwen didn't understand how a man from a world that died millennia ago could be walking around now, but she took the Doctor's word for it.
The Doctor shushed her gently, aware that the other diners might overhear their conversation. He nodded politely to Alicia as they sat down at the Captain's Table.
"Well?" Rhonwen insisted.
"We didn't get off to a good start," the Doctor murmured. "But I did him a good turn. He might be more amenable now."
He started on the first course, and thought over his meeting with Vardek. It was recorded history that Hallatern had sent selected warriors to scour the Galaxy for the last of the Kreilens, genetically altered, their ageing processes slowed to a crawl - there was no knowing how long the quest would take. Even so, it came as a surprise to find that one such man was still alive.
Not that the years hadn't taken their toll on Vardek. The easy way his kaprihal crystal had been dislodged was witness to that. He might have suffered a complete neural overload if the Doctor hadn't got to him in time.
Suddenly, it all became clear - crystal clear, even. The Doctor dropped his soup spoon, and it clattered into the bowl, splashing soup onto the tablecloth.
"I'm so sorry," he said, aware that everyone was watching him. "I'm a little hyperspace sick, I think. I'll retire." He smiled apologetically, and stood up.
As he moved towards the door, Rhonwen got up to follow him. "I can't
take him anywhere," she said. "I'd better see if he's all right. Do excuse
Ryder pushed open the door of Krau Newstead's stateroom. The master datakey provided by MacBride had opened the lock easily enough. He slipped inside the room, and shut the door behind him.
Krau Newstead clearly liked order - the room was very tidy. All her things were put away neatly. There was little to even show that the room was currently occupied.
Ryder espied her valise sitting on top of the writing table. He examined it quickly. The lock could easily be forced. After a few moments, he had the valise open, and was sifting through the contents. There were a few personal items, several financial reports, a portable computer terminal, and a plastic case containing several data storage blocks.
Carefully, he lifted the first of the tiny transparent pyramids out of the case. He flipped open the computer terminal, and inserted the storage block into the reader. Within seconds, the data he had accessed was scrolling across the screen.
Everything was here. Ryder opened his eyes wide in disbelief. The full extent of the Sirius Conglomerate's business on Canaxxa was revealed in these files. Even he couldn't believe quite how wide their scope was. But this was the proof, the absolute proof to convince the Federation of what was going on.
He removed the data block, and switched the computer off. Replacing the pyramidal shape with the others, he closed the storage case and slipped it into his pocket.
There was a sound from behind him. Ryder spun round. He realized then that he had forgotten to lock the door behind him. He had assumed Krau Newstead would still be at dinner. If he was discovered now, the whole scheme could be blown apart.
It wasn't Krau Newstead who stood in the doorway. It was a young man, perhaps a couple of years younger than Ryder. He was dressed in a smart Sirian tunic, and had close cropped black hair.
"Who are you?" Ryder demanded. Perhaps he could bluff his way out of this - something told him that this newcomer didn't belong here any more than he did.
The man came into the room, pushing the door shut behind him. He walked towards Ryder with a calm, unerringly even tread.
"What do you want?" Ryder asked.
The stranger gave no answer. He extended his arms, reaching for Ryder, and grabbed him firmly by the tunic. Ryder tried to free himself, but his struggles were to no avail. He was forced back against the edge of the writing table. He lashed out with his feet, managing to kick his assailant hard in the pit of the stomach. But there was seemingly no effect.
The intruder suddenly dashed Ryder to one side, slamming his head into the wall. A crashing pain started to spread through his head, followed by a strange sort of dullness. He was vaguely aware of a trickle of liquid down the side of his face, but that didn't seem to matter any more.
The next thing Ryder knew, he was lying slumped on the floor. The
stranger was crouching over him. Ryder saw him raise his hands, and then
felt blows starting to pound his body, each bringing a torrent of pain,
until he seemed to drift away into darkness.
The Doctor rushed along the corridor towards the first class staterooms. Rhonwen struggled to keep up with his long strides, her progress impeded by the ruffled skirt of her evening gown.
"Doctor," she called. "Where are you going?"
"You should have stayed in the dining saloon," he said.
"You shouldn't say no to a good meal."
Suddenly a buzzing sound came from his jacket pocket. The Doctor pulled out his etheric beam locator, and studied it intently. "The Kreilen's active again," he announced. "Up ahead somewhere."
The buzzing stopped as abruptly as it had begun. The Doctor looked at the detector for a moment, and then stuffed it back into his pocket in frustration. "A sudden peak, and then it dies away again," he muttered. "Still, at least now I know why."
"Why what?" asked Rhonwen.
"Why the Kreilen hasn't been following its usual revivification cycle. I should have realized long before this. Very stupid of me." He set off along the corridor once more.
After a few moments, he stopped outside Baines's cabin. He opened the door with Baines's datakey, which he had taken from the archaeologist's corpse earlier.
They went inside. Rhonwen looked around at the mess in the room. Then her eyes fell upon the bed, where a sheet covered the shape of a body. She went towards it. "Who's this?" she asked.
"Baines," said the Doctor absent mindedly. "I wouldn't lift up the sheet if I were you." He started to search the room, picking up the debris that lay around. He sifted through the pieces of broken furniture.
"Is he dead?" Rhonwen asked.
"Yes. The Kreilen killed him." The Doctor went to the wardrobe, and started sorting through all the clothing that had been thrown onto the floor. "It has to be here somewhere. It's what the Kreilen was looking for when it killed him." He stood up and thrust his hands into his jacket pockets angrily. It was no use. The disarray indicated that the Kreilen had already thoroughly searched the room.
"What are you looking for?" said Rhonwen, tearing her eyes away from the form of Baines's body.
The Doctor ran his hands through his hair. "The ancient Hallats mastered the art of genetic manipulation. They used a kind of crystal called kaprihal - it's something they appropriated from the Quinnista, a race that once conquered Hallatern. Basically, kaprihal focuses energy - any kind of energy. Nuclear, electrostatic, mental energy, whatever. The life energy that a Kreilen would need to live unchanging for thousands of years was programmed into a kaprihal crystal, which was joined to the Kreilen's brain."
"It's incredible," said Rhonwen.
"It is rather elegant," the Doctor admitted. "For a first attempt, that is. Anyway, it suddenly occurred to me that the Kreilen must have lost its crystal - either it was dislodged whilst it was buried, or Baines removed it. I'm not sure. But it explains why the Kreilen is behaving so erratically. Without the crystal, it's literally living on borrowed time. It only activates itself for short periods, to try and find the crystal. Baines could have had the crystal here when he was killed - the Kreilen would have been able to home in on it."
"How do you know it didn't find it?"
"No, that's impossible," said the Doctor. "The Kreilen's behaviour is still far too unusual. It obviously made a thorough search, so Baines must have hidden it well. Presumably in some shielded container."
"A lead casket or something?" asked Rhonwen.
"More likely duralinium or argonite," the Doctor replied. "I just can't see where it could be hidden."
Rhonwen looked around the room. The wardrobe and the drawers had been turned out. Baines's cases had all been emptied onto the floor. The bathroom door was wrenched open, and she could see a pile of towels and toiletries lying on the floor. The Kreilen's search had been intense. She tried to think where she would have hidden something. "Have you looked under the bed?" she asked.
"What?" the Doctor muttered.
"Under the bed. That's where I always hid things when I was a girl. Of course, my mother usually found them."
"Well then, it's the first place anyone would look."
"Except a Kreilen never had a mother, did it?" Rhonwen replied.
"It was never a child," said the Doctor. He fell to the floor beside the bed, and reached around underneath with his hand. A moment later, he drew forth a slim rectangular case.
Standing up, he carefully opened it. Nestling inside was a smooth cube
of kaprihal cystal, one moment as opaque and solid as stone, the next
seemingly clear and radiant as glass.
Nicolas looked up from his dessert, and stared into space. He closed his eyes, and took a deep breath.
"What is it?" asked Perrenelle.
"The crystal," said Nicolas.
"You're sensing it?"
Perrenelle had already witnessed the Doctor's abrupt departure from the dining saloon. She wondered whether something important were going to happen.
"It's gone now," said Nicolas. He realized that he was holding his dessert spoon in mid air, fully laden with fruit salad. He slowly replaced it in the dish.
"Do you think the Doctor's got anything to do with it?" Perrenelle asked.
"I don't know." He put his hand to his head, and sighed. "But I sense
something momentous. Final, even. I think this time we may find it."
The Doctor shut the lid over the crystal cube. He didn't want the Kreilen to detect it straight away.
"Is that it?" Rhonwen enquired, although his expression already told her the answer.
"Yes," the Doctor murmured appreciatively. "Well done."
"What are you going to do with it?"
"Keep it shut away for now. This is the bait I need to trap the Kreilen." He slipped the case into his pocket. "I'll need to get some things from the TARDIS."
"What can I do to help?" asked Rhonwen.
"Go back to the cabin and wait," said the Doctor.
"Now, wait a minute," Rhonwen began. It seemed as if the Doctor was deliberately leaving her out - and he'd never have found the crystal without her help.
"Listen," the Doctor said gently. "The Kreilen is very dangerous. I'm
not happy about meeting it myself. I'm going to rig up a neural feedback
loop, and hopefully overload its brain. Without the kaprihal crystal, it
should be susceptible to a sudden influx of energy. If it doesn't work -
well, I don't like to think what might happen."
Vardek moved cautiously into the first class section. Fortunately, there appeared to be no one about. All the first class passengers would still be at dinner. He wouldn't be put in the position of having to explain his presence here.
His reflexes swift, enhanced by the computer, he slipped into an alcove. He watched as the Doctor emerged from a stateroom with a dark haired young woman. They walked off in different directions. Vardek realized that not everyone was predictable. The Doctor clearly had his own agenda. It was a mistake to become too complacent.
Vardek waited until the corridor was clear before emerging. The room the Doctor had just left was where the Kreilen had originally been stored. It was no longer there - Vardek had been back to check.
He turned from side to side, attempting to scan the corridor. His reason for coming here was to find the Kreilen - he had registered a surge in its mental energy, at about the time he had been sabotaging the communications room. It had not lasted long enough to pinpoint its source, but he had narrowed it down to somewhere in first class.
He could detect nothing now. The chances were that the Kreilen was long gone.
Moving along the corridor, Vardek's eye was caught by a stateroom door slightly ajar. He stopped, and gently pushed it open a fraction. His eyes pierced the gloom with infra-red enhancement, and saw a body lying on the floor. Maybe he had found the place.
He went inside, and crouched to examine the body. It was a young man with fine, blond hair. Vardek recalled seeing him a few times at the flight terminal and aboard the ship, but he knew nothing about him. He was certainly dead.
The man's pockets had been turned out. A number of small data storage blocks had been scattered around the room.
Vardek got to his feet. He waited for the computer to provide him with options, but there weren't any - the Kreilen seemed to be one step ahead of him all the way. After eight thousand years of anticipating their encounter, Vardek suddenly found that he didn't have any idea how to actually trap the Kreilen.
He came to a decision. It was time to take up an offer of assistance. He
stooped to pick up the body, and hauled it over his shoulder.
Brolan looked up from his desk, and smiled disarmingly. "That, gentlemen, is the situation," he concluded.
He ran his eyes over the little group assembled in his office. Two physicists, an archaeologist, a geologist and an art historian - with the exception of Baines and Quincey, the entire research staff of the Academius Stolaris. They were taking the news rather badly, displaying surprise mixed with anger. Brolan had expected that.
"I don't understand," said one of the physicists, a middle aged man, with unkempt grey hair and a crumpled tunic. He spread his hands in confusion. "It's all so sudden. Surely we should have more notification."
"I'm sorry about that," Brolan replied lightly, picking a loose thread from his sleeve. "But the fact remains, the Academius will be closing down the day after tomorrow. As you're no doubt aware, we have failed to establish ourselves as a place of learning. And beyond our value as a tourist attraction, the purpose of the Academius is now being questioned. Our backers are thinking seriously of withdrawing our funding."
A nice touch, that, Brolan thought. If any of them checked with the public relations office of the Sirius Conglomerate, they would find out that the grant was indeed up for review. Morrissey had arranged it, to provide a plausible cover story.
The geologist got to her feet. "Now look, Trau Brolan," she began, "we've all got important research projects under way at the moment. You can't just expect us to leave off in the middle of them."
"I'm as much a victim of this as you," Brolan said reasonably. "You don't think I want to shut the Academius down, do you? It's to save the establishment that I'm taking this step. I shall be entering into emergency negotiations with our backers, to see what can be done to preserve the Academius. In the meantime, I've managed to arrange for your research grants to be transferred to accounts on Androzani Major. You'll be able to continue with your work - perhaps not in entirely ideal circumstances, but that's the best I can do."
Her argument out of steam, the geologist sat down once more.
Surveying the group, Brolan could see they were starting to accept the ruling. He'd done well, painting himself as a victim of corporate policy. And as long as they were still receiving their funding, they wouldn't mind relocating to Androzani for the time being.
Tomorrow, thought Brolan, he'd get the tourists to leave. And after
them, the technicians, the clerical staff, the cleaners. In two days, he
would have everyone cleared out of the Academius. When the Kreilen finally
got here, no one would be around to know anything about it.
The Doctor stood back to admire his handiwork. Around the door of Baines's stateroom he had rigged several neural energy projectors, cannibalized from parts of the TARDIS telepathic circuits.
He hoped they would be sufficient at least to stun the Kreilen. With its kaprihal crystal in place, it would be able to absorb such energy and feed upon it. Without the crystal, its brain waves would already be unstable - the introduction of additional mental energy ought to, in effect, fuse its neural pathways.
The Doctor picked up the overturned writing table, and set it upright in the centre of the room. On it, he placed the argonite lined sample box. He opened the lid to expose the kaprihal crystal, and then slipped into a corner to one side of the door. As a final touch, he reached out and turned off the light.
In the darkness, the Doctor waited. In his hand, he held a small control unit, to trigger the neural projectors as soon as the Kreilen entered the room. The crystal would surely draw it.
He waited for around an hour, keeping himself alert all the time. Fortunately, he was blessed with great powers of concentration, and able to keep himself completely focused on the task in hand.
The tiniest sound from the door alerted the Doctor's attention. He had deliberately left the door unlocked - he didn't wish to discourage the Kreilen.
The door opened. The Doctor saw a figure start to enter the room. It was too dark to make out any detail - the ship was on simulated night time now, so only the dullest of glimmers came from the corridor, offering little illumination of the intruder. The Kreilen seemed of average height and build - its strength, like Vardek's, would not be apparent from the external appearance.
As it stepped across the threshold, the Doctor triggered his control device. He could sense the build up of neural energy from the projectors.
But it had no obvious effect upon the Kreilen. The figure came into the room unhindered. It walked towards the table, apparently able to see the kaprihal crystal even in the dark. The Doctor could just make out a hand extending to pick it up.
Then suddenly the figure stopped, standing bolt upright. The Doctor knew then that he had been detected. Some finely honed instinct of the Kreilen's had sensed his presence. It spun round to face him, and started to move towards him.
Moving quickly, the Doctor darted to one side. He managed to make it to the door before the Kreilen could reach for him. He wasn't actually sure what to do next, but getting himself out of immediate danger seemed a good idea.
A voice called, "Doctor, wait!"
Stopping in his tracks, the Doctor turned back. He peered into the gloom of the stateroom - the figure was not making any aggessive moves towards him.
Reaching out, the Doctor turned on the light - and the round face of Nicolas Flamel was revealed. The Doctor let out the breath he had been holding.
"I didn't mean to startle you," Nicolas said apologetically.
The Doctor smiled. "That's all right. I thought you were someone else."
"I see," muttered Nicolas, who didn't really understand.
Moving back into the room, the Doctor asked, "What are you doing here?"
"Well," said Nicolas, a little shamefacedly, "I came looking for that." He pointed to the cube of kaprihal on the table.
"The crystal?" replied the Doctor.
"Of course. Back in the fourteenth century, we called it the Philosopher's Stone."
"So you did." The Doctor went to the table, and picked up the crystal. He shut it inside the argonite lined box, which he put away in his pocket. "What do you want with it?"
"I'm hoping to reverse my condition," said Nicolas. "Immortality seems a good idea at first, but after two thousand years, it begins to lose its attraction."
The Doctor nodded. There were very few people who could cope with extended lifespans. "Do you think you can do it?" he asked.
"I don't know," said Nicolas. "But the crystal gave me the power to transmute metals, and gave me the Elixir of Life. I have studied much since then. I would hope to be able to produce a substance that could undo my immortality. But I need your help."
"Well, on a prosaic level, I need the Philosopher's Stone to seek the reversing agent."
The Doctor sank into thought for a few moments - he didn't like to admit it, but Flamel's appearance had rather hit him for six. "At the moment," he said, "I actually need the crystal for something else."
Nicolas's heart fell. He had assumed that the Doctor was here to help him - perhaps he had grown too arrogant and self-important in the last two thousand years.
"Look," said the Doctor, who could see his disappointment. "There are
things we need to talk about. Let's go to the lounge."
Alicia sat numbly on the end of her bed. She wanted to go to sleep, but her mind refused to relax. Alone, she no longer needed to maintain an image of imperturbability. She gave in to grief, and wept for Hectol Baines.
She had never imagined the voyage would turn out this way. When she'd learnt that Baines would be aboard, she had keenly anticipated meeting him again. After ten years apart, surely they'd be able to forget the animosity that had characterized their parting, and just be friends. And it might have been that way, but for the existence of the Kreilen filling them both with dark suspicions of the other.
Even so, she wasn't prepared for Baines's death. Beneath her mask of cool self assurance, she had become a naive university student again, drawn to a man twice her age. It was as if the last ten years had never occurred. She forgot the dissatisfaction, the arguments, the final angry decision to break it off. She forgot the ruthlessness with which she had entered the business world, and the successful career she had pursued. She lay back on the bed, and cried as if something precious had been torn from her.
With grief came a feeling of unease. She sensed that there was something wrong about her stateroom - as though there were an intruder in the room with her. She could feel it almost tangibly. But looking around, she could see nothing unusual. Everything was just where she had left it. If there was a strange presence in the room, it was the shadow cast by Baines's death. It was regret and lost hope.
She couldn't go on like this. Alicia crawled beneath the sheets, but she
knew she wouldn't be able to sleep well. Still, it was better that she
should experience the pain now, privately, and hopefully get over the worst
of it. In the morning, she had to resume her normal cool persona.
Constanzia Paluzzi was not a happy woman - she'd just been on the point of relinquishing the bridge to First Officer MacBride, when an urgent message had come from the communications room. Apparently, they were experiencing a massive technical problem.
Legally speaking, the Greyshadow was the responsibility of MacBride until the Captain took the bridge after breakfast, and any difficulty that arose was his to deal with. But he'd asked her to have a look at this little problem on her way to bed.
Paluzzi expected to merely order the communications officers to repair whatever was damaged, and then retire to her cabin. She was not prepared for the sight that met her in the communications room.
All the control panels and monitors had been wrecked. Circuits had been burnt out, fibre optics had melted, screens were cracked. She might have believed there had been an explosion and fire in here. She realized that she was unlikely to see her bed for a few hours at least.
She lifted her personal communicator. "Bridge, Paluzzi here."
"MacBride," came the reply. "What's the situation?"
"You'd better get down here," said Paluzzi. "And you'd better wake the Captain."