Warcry of Hallatern
Paluzzi forced her way onto the boat deck, pushing through the crowd of passengers that swarmed around her. She tried to move them aside, to get herself into a more central position. Behind her, Mitchum and the others were also besieged with pleas and enquiries. The damage to the hull, the sounds of gunfire, and the obvious wounds that she and her men bore were all generating thousands of questions.
She tried to raise her voice, to call for quiet. She could answer their questions as she was getting them aboard the lifeboats.
She could not make herself heard. She raised her gun and let off a few rounds into the air. A startled silence started to fall over the crowd. "All right," Paluzzi called, "listen carefully. We are going to put you off in the lifeboats. This is just a precaution. I want everybody to wait calmly until he's directed to one of the boats. You'll all get off safely, so there's no need for panic. If you stay calm and do as you're told, everything will go much more smoothly."
As soon as she finished talking, another barrage of questions exploded from the crowd. Paluzzi turned away, forcing her way through the press of passengers, and found Mitchum. "How's your arm?" she shouted.
"Good enough," he replied. "What about you?"
"I can wait for treatment. Until we're safely off this tub." She signalled to some of the crewmen nearby. "Start getting the boats uncovered."
As they moved off to comply, Paluzzi felt Mitchum grip her arm. He drew her close, to speak in her ear. "You know who those men back in the corridor were, don't you?"
"Conglomerate security," she nodded.
"What does it mean?"
"I don't know. But I've got a feeling that someone's been using us."
Rounding a corner, Alicia came across a shape in the corridor ahead. She took a firm hold of her pistol, and cautiously approached. It was the hunched, dejected figure of a man, kneeling on the floor as if in an attitude of prayer. Slowly, he lifted his head to look up at her.
It was Vardek. Alicia stopped moving, and stood still, watching him. She didn't know how he would react. If he made any threatening move towards her, she knew she ought to open fire. She couldn't afford to take chances with her own life. But she didn't know if she could pull the trigger. It wasn't squeamishness - simply that saw him as a potential source of wealth.
She said, "Can you hear me?"
Vardek slowly nodded. He made no other movement, but fixed his eyes firmly upon her. They were empty eyes, devoid of any sort of feeling. Alicia found herself shivering at the sight of them.
"I've got a gun," she said. "I don't want to have to use it, so don't give me cause to. I know you're not well, but I want to help you."
Vardek looked at her for a long moment, then drew in a long breath, sounding like the hiss of a snake that was preparing to strike. "Help me?" he replied. "How can you help me?"
Damn it, her palms were sweating. Alicia felt the gun starting to slip from her grip. She held it as tightly as she could, but she was scared out of her wits by this pathetic little figure before her. She could scarcely believe it of herself. But she knew it wasn't Vardek who frightened her, but the terrible threat of infection he represented.
"The Sirius Conglomerate can guarantee you excellent medical care," she said. "This virus you've got can probably be treated in this day and age. And if not, we can call upon the top experts in medical research. We can find a cure."
"There is no cure," whispered Vardek.
"Maybe not originally. But I assure you, we will do everything to find one."
Vardek started to stir. Alicia raised the gun to cover him. He staggered up onto his feet, slowly and sluggishly, as if the gentle pull of gravity was far too much for him to cope with. "Why?" he said.
"Why would you do this? I mean nothing to you."
"That's not true," said Alicia. "You've got a lot to offer."
Vardek began to walk towards her. She held her pistol on him, but she let him come closer. There was some life back in his face, some trace of understanding. Maybe she'd got through to him. If she turned out to be wrong, it was no trouble to shoot him through the chest. At this range she could hardly miss.
Screwing up his eyes, Vardek forced himself to concentrate. He found it hard to see Alicia as anything except a potential target, an enemy of Hallatern who had to be destroyed. But her words had penetrated even the unreasoning hatred of the neurovirus. He said slowly, "Can you really help me?"
"Of course," Alicia replied soothingly. "I'm empowered to speak on behalf of the Sirius Conglomerate. I assure you that we will give you the best care money can buy. We will handle all your medical fees. It seems a fair exchange."
"Exchange?" Vardek repeated leadenly. His vision was clouding - all he could see was someone to kill. The fact that she was armed was irrelevant. He had to preserve Hallatern's glory, whatever the risk to himself.
"A mere trifle," said Alicia. "We will take care of you. In return, we just want to investigate some of the more unusual things about you. Your long lifespan, for instance, and the virus which has affected you. It will just mean taking a few samples. Of course, we'll have to insist on copyrighting your DNA structure, but that won't affect you personally."
Vardek couldn't see her any more. His vision was filled with a white haze, a killing frenzy. Alicia was trying to exploit Hallatern, to steal the riches of his world. It could not be permitted. Hallatern had to be preserved. All her enemies must be killed.
He lunged towards Alicia. She screamed in panic, and fired her pistol. The bullet ripped into Vardek's chest and out through his back, but he kept coming. He grabbed her arm, and smashed her wrist against the wall. Alicia let go of the gun, and it fell to the deck.
Vardek clamped his hand around Alicia's throat, and squeezed tightly. He
pushed her off her feet, and fell with her, bringing her down hard onto the
floor. Keeping his grip tight around her neck, he banged her head again and
again against the cold, hard metal of the deck.
The body of Captain Berlitz lay awkwardly on the floor, twisted and broken. MacBride found it hard to take his eyes from it. "We didn't want bloodshed," he said quietly. He felt hot tears starting to prick at his eyes.
"It's hardly my fault," replied Morrissey casually. "You'll have to put it down to the loyalty of my guards - they clearly misinterpreted his actions as threatening."
"How can this further our cause?"
Morrissey sighed heavily. He glanced at the control panels, almost absent mindedly. "If the ship is as badly damaged as the Captain intimated," he said calmly, "we don't have time to argue about this. I understand you have allowed Krau Newstead to evade your custody. Well, that can't be helped. As long as her files are safe."
Shuffling nervously, MacBride glanced at him. "It's gone a bit wrong," he mumbled. "Apparently Krau Newstead was able to destroy the files."
Spinning round angrily, Morrissey snapped, "You fool! The whole plan hinged on acquiring the files intact." He could see his world falling apart around him. Desperation had driven him into this venture. The threat of financial deprivation had allied him to these Canaxxans, hoping that their dedication would bring the plan off successfully.
MacBride exchanged a glance with Mendelssohn. "I'm not sure that we want to go on with the plan. I never thought it would be like this." He looked again at the body of the Captain.
"You can't turn back now," said Morrissey. His mind was racing through contingency plans. He needed to raise some major capital fast, to keep his head above water. One thing sprang obviously to mind. He glared at MacBride persuasively and went on, "You'll be declared a terrorist. They don't let you off just because the hijack went wrong, you know."
It was true of course, thought MacBride. He was already involved up to his neck. He wished Ryder was still alive. Without his leadership, MacBride felt woefully insecure. Ryder had known what he was doing - he would never have let things get so out of hand.
Taking a deep breath, MacBride said, "Very well, we go on. We still have the hostages to bargain with."
"Do you really think the Federation will worry about them? What's more important - a few lives or the supply of duralinium for the war machine?" Morrissey shook his head dismissively. "Only definite proof of improper practices would have any effect."
"So what can we do?"
Morrissey took a deep breath. He knew precisely what he had to do now. As his grandmother had always said, there was little point in crying over spilt milk - a strange phrase she had picked up from watching too many holovid costume dramas. "Trau Baines, the archaeologist," he said. "He brought a cargo aboard. Where is it?"
MacBride glanced again at Mendelssohn, and hesitantly replied, "I don't understand. Of what possible relevance is that?"
"It is of supreme relevance. In fact, you might say it's the only thing that matters now."
"I just don't see what that can do to help my world. I really think we should get everybody aboard your ship and get away from here. We can disappear into Sirian society, to regroup and form a new plan. There's nothing more we can do here."
"MacBride!" snapped Morrissey. "I am trying to salvage some degree of success from the disaster you've made here. Now, do as I say."
Shaking his head in confusion, MacBride muttered, "All right." He felt completely lost, as if with Morrissey's arrival the cause of freeing Canaxxa from oppression had ceased to mean anything. "I don't know about any cargo. All I know is that Baines is dead. According to Krau Newstead, he found some alien creature buried on Canaxxa - but it was still alive, and it killed him."
Morrissey looked at him, disbelief mixing with thrilled anticipation. Good God! If the Kreilen was still alive after eight thousand years, then the legends were true. This was longevity on a scale he'd never dreamed possible. If the secret could be found, his financial worries were over. For ever.
"Apparently, Ryder was killed by the same thing," MacBride went on. "Krau Newstead said it had got loose and was roaming the ship."
"What did you do about it?" asked Morrissey.
"Nothing. With the hijack about to happen, I didn't want to alarm the Captain - in case he imposed a total security clampdown."
"Krau Newstead and the Doctor were looking for the alien," explained MacBride. "I decided to leave them to it. I thought it would keep them occupied."
"Doctor?" repeated Morrissey. "What Doctor?"
"One of the passengers. Trau Smith. Apparently, he's some sort of undercover investigator."
That name again, thought Morrissey. Surely it couldn't be the same man? But still an investigator - investigating what? The Conglomerate's unorthodox business practices, or perhaps his own shady dealings? Whatever, the presence of an investigator spelt trouble. And then there was Krau Newstead's own involvement. It sounded as if she knew all about the Kreilen, which meant she was probably after making some money out of it herself. There was no time to lose. "This alien," he demanded. "What would they do with it, if they found it?"
"I don't know," said MacBride. "I gave Krau Newstead the use of the isolation ward in sick bay. To keep the bodies safe, and avoid a panic. I suppose they'd take it there."
"Then that's where we'll go."
Morrissey looked across at the wretched figure of Third Officer Conrad, still bound on the floor, under the carbines of the Conglomerate soldiers. His eyes stared fixedly at the gun muzzles, a sort of dazed fear written across his face. Seeing the Captain shot down in front of him had done his nerves no good at all. "Bring him," Morrissey said.
One of the soldiers grabbed Conrad by the arms and pulled him upright. The young officer started to whimper pathetically, and sank heavily to his knees once more. The soldier held his arm tightly, but Conrad was just a dead weight, seemingly incapable of movement.
Morrissey shrugged. "Just finish him," he said, and turned towards the door.
The soldier casually put a bullet through Conrad's head, spattering blood across the deck. Then he stepped over the body, and moved with the others to follow Morrissey.
MacBride hung back with Mendelssohn. He was alarmed to discover that he was shaking.
"What's happening?" whispered Mendelssohn, horrified.
"I don't know," said MacBride. "But I think we've made a very big
A crumpled shape clad in pastel blue fabric lay sprawled on the floor, like a discarded rag doll. The Doctor stopped, and crouched down to examine the body.
He slowly turned Alicia over. There was no doubt that she was dead. He wasn't sure whether her neck had been broken first, or whether the life had been throttled out of her. Then again, the blow to her head that had broken her skull might have been responsible.
Whatever the answer, it was certain that her killer had been thorough, continuing with his attack even after Alicia's life had been extinguished. It was the sort of ferocious violence he'd expect from a Kreilen - and it was clear that, to all intents and purposes, a Kreilen was what Vardek had become.
The Doctor took out his etheric beam locator, now attached to the kaprihal crystal. Nothing was registering.
Looking around, he noted that there was blood on the floor. Most of it came from Alicia's head wound, but there were also a few drips that led off along the corridor. He noticed Alicia's gun lying on the floor. Picking it up, he sniffed the barrel. It had clearly been fired recently.
Obviously, Alicia had managed to shoot Vardek before he killed her, and
probably wounded him quite badly. The drops of blood provided a trail of
sorts to follow. The Doctor scrambled to his feet, and set off along the
Making her way forward, Rhonwen found herself filled with dark thoughts. Her abrupt parting from the Doctor had not inspired optimism. She hoped he was just being overcautious, because there was no way she could believe she'd never see him again. No matter what situation he was in, the Doctor would surely find a way out. It was strange, but she had come to believe this implicitly. It was just six weeks since the Doctor had ceased to be her eccentric history lecturer, and become a time traveller from Gallifrey - and yet already this certainty dominated her thinking. While the Doctor was around, there was always hope.
Rhonwen continued on her way to the boat deck. She didn't know why, for she had no intention of getting aboard a lifeboat. But at least this way she kept herself occupied. And besides, when the Doctor came back, that was where he'd come to look for her.
Stopping at one of the corridor intersections, Rhonwen pressed the control and opened the door. Then she became aware of movement in the corridor ahead. She quickly looked up, and caught sight of a small group of men moving towards the intersection. There were a couple of the ship's officers, and some men in black combat suits - some sort of soldiers presumably. And leading them was a handsome, important looking man, in a smart Sirian tunic. Rhonwen was sure she'd seen him somewhere before.
Quickly, she ducked back behind the edge of the door frame. She didn't think anyone had seen her. There had been no shouts, nor the sound of feet running towards her. But any minute now, they would come through the doorway and discover her. She looked around. Perhaps she could hide in one of the service alcoves.
But the nearest was about thirty yards back down the corridor. She wasn't sure if she could make it in time. From the corridor ahead, through the open door, she could hear raised voices.
"Now, just wait," one was saying, the voice sounding angry and upset at the same time. "Before we do anything more, we want to know what's going on."
"You mean you need to ask," came the reply, smoothly spoken. "Surely you haven't forgotten the cause of Canaxxa, MacBride?"
"No, but you have. I've just seen two men gunned down in cold blood. The hijack's been a failure, but instead of evacuating us, you're after Trau Baines's alien. You're up to something, and I want to know what."
As she listened, Rhonwen took in the implications. Someone was here to find the Kreilen. She thought of the handsome, well dressed man, and suddenly put a name to the face. Trau Morrissey of the Sirius Conglomerate. He was Krau Newstead's boss. He'd been at the Academius Stolaris. And now he was here.
She remembered what the Doctor had said about greed and the arms race. The Kreilen was worth a fortune if it fell into the wrong hands. With a start, Rhonwen realized what was happening. Morrissey had come here to seize the Kreilen. Maybe he was even behind the whole hijacking attempt. That would enable him to steal the Kreilen without anyone on Androzani knowing about it.
The argument behind her still appeared to be raging. Hopefully, they'd be too occupied to look through the door and see her creeping off along the corridor.
The Doctor had told her how dangerous the Kreilen was - even dead, it
contained terrible genetic secrets that should be allowed to perish. If the
Doctor had been here, Rhonwen was sure he would do everything to prevent
Morrissey getting his greedy hands on it. It was clear what she had to do.
She started to make her way back towards the sick bay, padding softly but
quickly, and keeping herself pressed as far back against the wall as she
"What exactly is your problem, MacBride?" Morrissey demanded.
"Just tell me," MacBride said patiently, "what you're hoping to achieve here. We have failed in our attempt to prove the Conglomerate's malpractice, I grant that. But there must be other things we can do to further the fight for Canaxxa. Instead, you waste time with this discovery of Baines's."
"Waste?" laughed Morrissey. "Probably the greatest archaeological find of the millennium - and you call it a waste of time."
"I don't see how it can help Canaxxa."
Morrissey clenched and unclenched his left fist. MacBride was becoming a nuisance. If he'd done his part right, then there would be no need for this. The evidence would have been unleashed onto an unsuspecting finanical market, the damage done, and Morrissey could have been away from here before the Canaxxans realized just how he had used them. "Look," he said, "you botched up the hijack. You can hardly complain that I'm trying to make it worth my while."
MacBride stared at him. "You mean, you're not trying to help us?"
Exasperated, Morrissey shrugged. He'd had enough of this game. He didn't need these Canaxxans any more, and they had become a hindrance. "You can't even manage to help yourselves," he said tauntingly. "Why do you expect me to do it for you?"
MacBride felt anger boiling inside him. "But without the evidence, what will happen to Canaxxa?"
"What was always going to happen. The Federation needs the duralinium to fuel the armament programme on the Dalek border. The Canaxxan natives have been holding up the mining with their trifling little terrorist attacks. Well, the Federation won't stand for it. The use of military force will be sanctioned, the planet will be subjugated and the mining operation will be concluded swiftly and efficiently."
"No!" shouted MacBride. "No, I have to prevent this at all costs."
"Well, good luck," said Morrissey sarcastically. "This was on the cards from the start. The Sirius Conglomerate supplied the terrorists with their arms, you know, just to bring about this result. These government restrictions and cultural guidelines - they just stand in the way of progress. The Federation Council would have realized that eventually, and lifted the restrictions - but the Conglomerate hates inefficiency, so they gave the process of law a helping hand." He smiled at MacBride. "You never had a hope of stopping the mining."
"Then why did you help us?"
"Well, I wanted Krau Newstead's files made public. The truth would probably force Krau Needleman to resign, and share prices in all the Conglomerate's subsidiaries would have dropped - at least for a short time. My continued financial well being depended on manipulating the market in such a manner."
"You've used us!" MacBride shouted. He looked at Mendelssohn, who was just as angry as he was. Their cause had been perverted to serve Morrissey's base greed. MacBride felt the desire to rip Morrissey apart with his bare hands, but he knew he wouldn't get very far with Morrissey's highly trained and trigger happy soldiers guarding him.
"That's business," Morrissey said. "The incriminating evidence had to come from a source outside the Conglomerate. I could hardly reveal it myself, especially as I hoped to gain from it. I'd be investigated for insider dealing, and all my assets would be frozen. So I needed someone to do it for me, and Ryder was so easy to fool."
Mendelssohn suddenly lunged forward with a scream of rage, the barrel of his gun aimed at Morrissey's stomach. But before he could pull the trigger, one of the black clad soldiers shot him several times through the head. Mendelssohn's body was thrown limply back against the corridor wall.
Taking advantage of the confusion, MacBride turned and ran. He didn't know what he was going to do. Just that he had to get away from Morrissey.
The soldiers turned and fired after him, bullets screaming along the corridor and ricocheting from the walls. Morrissey shook his head. "Leave him," he said. "He doesn't matter now." He turned to the leading soldier. "Do you understand the layout of this kind of freighter?"
"More or less," the soldier shrugged.
"All right. You'd better lead the way. Let's see if we can find this isolation ward."
As they set off along the corridor, Morrissey took a communicator from
his pocket. There was only one option open to him now. He needed to ensure
he covered his tracks. He used the communicator to speak to Lieutenant
Pierce, who was leading the rest of his troops elsewhere on the ship.
"Pierce, this is Morrissey. Implement contingency plan kappa."
"Understood." Pierce replaced his communicator on its belt clip. He looked up at Tyler, who was tending the wounds of the petty officer Krau Newstead had shot. She still had a couple of quartermasters with her, but most of the men were Pierce's own troops. That would make it easier.
"What's contingency plan kappa?" asked Tyler. They had moved forward into third class, and had encountered nobody since their firefight with Paluzzi's loyal crew members. The Conglomerate troops had been a little over zealous in that engagement, Tyler thought, but there was little she could do about it. Now Paluzzi and her men had moved forward, onto the boat deck, and Tyler was quite happy for them to stay there. They weren't in the way of MacBride or Trau Morrissey, so they were out of danger. More importantly, they could supervise the safe evacuation of the passengers, which pleased Tyler because it wasn't the Canaxxans' desire that anyone should die unnecessarily. She herself and her compatriots would board Morrissey's ship shortly, unhindered by any opposition, and make their escape.
"It means we're getting ready to leave," Pierce explained. "We have to tie up the loose ends."
"What do you mean?"
Pierce casually lifted his gun, and shot Tyler through the brain. Her body was snapped back, dead before it even hit the wall, an expression of surprise fixed on her face. The two quartermasters were stunned, but quick to react, raising their carbines to retaliate. But even as they did so, a hail of bullets from Pierce's men cut them down where they stood.
The Lieutenant put a final bullet through the petty officer's skull. He had been too weak to do much anyway.
Turning to one of the soldiers, Pierce said, "Corporal, take three men and find the officers' lounge. Some of the crew are being held hostage there. Make sure there are no survivors."
The Corporal nodded, and selected three men to accompany him. They ran off along the corridor.
"Right," Pierce said to his remaining troops. "Let's get forward to the
boat deck, and take care of business. The boss doesn't want to leave any
The door refused to open. A computer voice started to intone a warning about the depressurized compartment beyond. Vardek slumped to his knees, and cried out in despair. Didn't it know he wanted to die? Why couldn't it just open the door and let him get on with it?
He collapsed at the foot of the door, and pounded uselessly at the metal with his fist. Death was all he wanted. But not his own - the death of the enemies of Hallatern. His vision was starting to cloud over again. He was the instrument of death. He must destroy those who opposed the glory of Hallatern.
But he was too weak to get up again. His strength had left him. It was
lying in spattered pools of blood, extending back along the corridor. He
made a supreme effort to stand, but it was no good. And yet he had to kill,
kill for Hallatern.
A blaze of light flared up inside the kaprihal crystal. It was crystal now, almost transparent as it filled with neural energy. It only appeared to be a stone when it was dormant.
The Doctor looked at the dial on his etheric beam locator, calibrated to
the energy of the crystal. His objective was straight ahead, through the
next few corridor intersections. The trail of blood led in the same
Paluzzi watched as the passengers passed through the open hatches into the lifeboats. She had ordered all the boats uncovered, and placed a man on each hatchway, to ensure the boarding was conducted in an orderly fashion. The crowd swelled around the hatches, but apart from a bit of pushing the evacuation proceeded in a fairly calm manner. As yet, there was no immediate danger of pressure loss in this section. They had an hour or so before they needed to start worrying.
Despite her grim determination not to yield to her injuries, she'd had a quartermaster attend her with a first aid kit. He'd cleaned out her gunshot wound, bandaged her shoulder, and banged her full of antibiotics. She still didn't have much feeling in her shoulder, but at least the risk of gangrene had been reduced. Another bandage was wrapped around her sprained wrist.
Near her, she saw the Flamels board one of the lifeboats. Some of the steerage passengers were looking at them askance, as if they felt the presence of first class passengers would deny them their chance of evacuation. After all, the first class lifeboats were located on the aft boat deck, which could no longer be reached. Paluzzi hoped there wouldn't be any trouble. The days of showing preferential treatment to first class had long gone. In fact, there were enough boats on this deck to safely evacuate everyone on the ship - the provision of a separate boat deck for first and second class was merely an exercise in snobbery. There was space enough here for the Flamels, and for anyone else who turned up.
Mitchum stood at the door to the corridor, looking back along it. Suddenly, he raised his carbine and started shooting. Paluzzi ran to join him, bringing up her own weapon ready to bear. She crouched beside Mitchum in a good firing position.
The black suited figures of Conglomerate security troops had appeared at the end of the corridor, visible through the door at the next corridor intersection. Mitchum had reacted quickly, keeping them pinned down behind that doorway. Several of Paluzzi's men ran to assist, and joined in the firefight.
"We can't hold them there indefinitely," Mitchum said.
"We have to get the passengers off," replied Paluzzi. She looked around her, seeking solutions. There were only two conventional ways off the boat deck, this door at the aft end, and another at the forward end. There were also a couple of service ducts.
She said, "If we can get the pressure bulkhead in place for this last section, that would give us all the protection we need. They'd need a tank to get through that."
"How would you do that?" asked Mitchum, not looking up from his gun sight as he fired back along the corridor. "The power distribution system is wrecked. You'd have to crank it by hand."
"All right. If I took two men through the service ducting above the corridor, we could find the manual controls and slide it into place. You'd have to hold them off until then."
"We could probably manage it," said Mitchum. "But you'd need to close the bulkheads right through all the decks - otherwise, they could come through below us, and enter by the forward door."
"Well, let's hope they don't think of that," said Paluzzi. "At least not in the next hour or so. That's my way back."
"I suppose they'll have to pull out eventually to get back to their own ship."
"That's right. But you'd better post guards on the forward door, just in case." Letting her gun hang on its shoulder strap, Paluzzi stood up. She glanced at the grille covering the entrance to the service duct, and took a deep breath. "I'm going to the bridge."
"What?" shouted Mitchum in confusion, caught unawares by her sudden announcement. "What the hell for?"
"I have to get the log recorder. Or at least try. It is standard procedure to preserve the ship's log."
"Only if there's no personal risk involved."
"Well, I have to take this risk," Paluzzi snapped. "Our employers are trying to kill us - now, someone's been mucking us around, and the log will hold evidence against them. I owe it to the Captain and the passengers."
Mitchum nodded, and concentrated upon firing at the troops at the far end of the corridor.
Turning away, Paluzzi called forward a couple of men to accompany her.
She moved back towards the service duct.
MacBride stood alone on the bridge. Alone, except for the bodies of the Captain and Conrad that lay on the floor like broken toys. MacBride sat down cross legged on the floor. He took out his pistol, and laid it carefully on the deck before him.
He felt strangely calmed. He had been callously used by Trau Morrissey. But that was the lot of the Canaxxan. It was cruelly ironic, but it gave him a bond to the homeworld upon which he had never set foot. Like Canaxxa, he had been exploited for the financial gain of others.
When Ryder had come to him five months ago, full of hope, it had appeared as if everything would be all right. Ryder had met a mysterious benefactor, one who agreed with the Canaxxan cause, and was prepared to help it. He could not be seen to act openly, but he could put the Canaxxans in a position to help themselves.
How strange that they had never wondered just why Morrissey was so prepared to help them. As an executive in the Sirius Conglomerate, he had a lot to lose from the cessation of mining on Canaxxa. But Ryder had convinced himself that the time had come, and the others were unable to argue with him. As the legitimate heir to the Canaxxan throne, his wishes had to be obeyed.
MacBride looked at the body of Captain Berlitz. "I'm sorry, sir," he said quietly. "I had hoped you would understand, when the truth was made known. But you've become as much of a victim as me."
He picked up his pistol, and let off the safety catch. There was only one course open to him now. He couldn't leave aboard the Panther - not now Morrissey wanted him dead. And he couldn't get off in a lifeboat without Paluzzi placing him under arrest, in which case he'd be in prison for the rest of his life. He was also likely to be interrogated for the names of other Canaxxans secretly living among the Sirian colonies.
He couldn't allow that to happen. His brothers had to remain safely hidden, for there would come another time when they could move to regain Canaxxa. They had to be left in peace, to work towards that day.
It was better that he died here. MacBride put the gun to his head. He found himself humming an old Canaxxan folk tune, seeking solace in it. The simple melody touched him in his very soul, sending shivers through him and bringing tears to his eyes. Death meant nothing to him, for in a sense he had never been alive. He was just an empty shell whilst his people lived in exile. His heart was on Canaxxa, and always had been.
Smiling, he pulled the trigger.
Emerging into the next corridor section, the Doctor found a huddled shape at the foot of the door. The etheric beam locator was silent, the kaprihal crystal dark and like stone. He hoped that was a good omen.
A warning light flashing above the door warned that the next compartment had depressurized. The Doctor's keen ears could detect cries of pain from the walls, as the metal was strained by the desire to explode out into the vacuum.
He didn't have much time. He hoped he wouldn't need much.
The huddled figure raised its head, and looked up at him. Crouching down beside Vardek, the Doctor said, "Are you all right?"
His eyes looking straight through the Doctor, Vardek nodded his head. He didn't seem to be all right, the Doctor thought. There was no expression in his face at all, nothing that spoke of his personality. Even with the computer controlling his emotions, there ought to be something of the individual there.
"I have to get you out of here," the Doctor said. "It isn't safe."
Again, Vardek nodded. A flicker of emotion crossed his face - pain, confusion, gratitude, fear, all together. And then hatred. Pure, unreasoning hatred.
Seeing it, the Doctor tried to jump to his feet. It was too late. Vardek smacked him hard in the chest, and knocked him over onto his back. Then he launched himself at the Doctor in a murderous rage.
The Doctor flailed his arms uselessly, but he could not fight off his assailant. Vardek's hands locked tightly around his throat. As he was pushed back, the Doctor's etheric beam locator fell from his hand and clattered across the deck. The kaprihal crystal came loose from it, and sat there, shining brilliantly with an inner light.
Vardek stared at it. He slowly removed his hands from the Doctor's throat, and sat back, seemingly transfixed by the light.
The Doctor sat up, gratefully rubbing his throat. He could start breathing again. Possessing a respiratory bypass system was a useful attribute, but it was murder on the skin pores to absorb oxygen directly from the air. He much preferred to use his lungs - it didn't require any special effort.
Vardek had calmed considerably, staring into the stone. One look at his face told the Doctor that the old Vardek had returned - the spirit of the Kreilen had been temporarily exorcized. He hadn't been expecting the kaprihal crystal to have an almost religious effect - otherwise, he'd have waved it under Vardek's nose the moment he'd arrived.
The light was fading from the stone now, which indicated that Vardek had overcome the neurovirus for the moment. He looked up. "I'm sorry, Doctor," he said. "I wasn't myself."
"Evidently," the Doctor replied. "What made you stop?"
"I'm not sure. I suddenly saw the energy blazing in the crystal, and felt the same energy burning in me. It enabled me to focus my mind, to divorce my own consciousness from the conflicting patterns created by the neurovirus." He took a deep breath. "I'm all right now."
"For how long?"
"Indefinitely, I hope," said Vardek carefully. He screwed his face up, as if he were beset by pain.
The Doctor looked at him in concern. Vardek seemed to be in control for the moment, which meant he could turn to more pressing concerns. The wall of the compartment was starting to slowly buckle, and bulge outwards. Mere minutes were left before it gave way completely.
Suddenly, Vardek started to laugh. It was a gentle sound, that might accompany the memory of more pleasant times - certainly not the reaction the Doctor had expected from him.
Vardek said, "The neural energy generated by the virus is flooding the computer interface. The computer's control of my thoughts has been cut off." He laughed to himself again. "It means my feelings and my memories are being set free. It's ironic that it took a neuroviral infection to do this. Maybe it's not such a bad thing after all."
"Listen," said the Doctor urgently. "We have to get away from here. This compartment won't last much longer."
"Don't you understand?" said Vardek. "I came here to die. I want to die. My mission is over. This is the way it has to be."
"But I can help you. My medical degree is a few hundred years out of date, I'll admit, but I ought to be able to do something about the virus."
"The virus is incurable." Vardek sighed heavily, and softly laughed once more. "I am resigned to my fate."
"Don't talk like that," the Doctor admonished him. "Life's too precious to simply throw it away. Let me help you. If we can cure the neurovirus, you can go on with your life." He tried to think of some inducement that would persuade Vardek. "I can take you back to Hallatern. Wouldn't you want to visit your homeworld again?"
"It's a dead world now," said Vardek sadly. "What is there to go back to? A museum?"
Which rather deflated that argument, thought the Doctor. Vardek was quite right. There was nothing for him on Sirius Five as it was today. And he couldn't return Vardek to Hallatern as it had been eight thousand years ago - there was too great a danger of creating a temporal paradox and damaging the fabric of Time - the sort of thing the Time Lords didn't approve of.
"I'm not discontent," said Vardek. "The loss of the computer control is a good thing. It means that in these last few moments, I can keep my memories in mind, and know who I really am - not this empty shell of a man, whose mission was his life. By concentrating on my memories, I can hold the neurovirus at bay. I won't succumb to the killing frenzy again, not in the short time remaining. And there is no danger of the infection spreading."
"What do you mean?" asked the Doctor.
"Didn't you know?" Vardek smiled. "When I was converted for my mission, the geneticists built in a number of safety features. They couldn't give me immunity to the virus - that's impossible - but they did increase my resistance to its effects. And more importantly, the infection can go no further. My pituitary gland has been modified - it produces a chemical reagent that neutralizes the violent reaction caused by the neurovirus. The energy necessary to pass the virus on cannot be generated within my body. So, I may be infected, but I'm not a carrier. I'm the one and only victim."
The Doctor shook his head slowly. All his concern over the spread of the virus, his fears that Rhonwen might have been infected, had been for nothing. Aside from the murderous hatred it inspired in Vardek, the virus had been robbed of its effect. And Vardek seemed even to have conquered that.
Reaching out, the Doctor picked up his etheric beam locator and the cube of kaprihal crystal. Vardek did not object as he slipped it away in his jacket pocket.
Slowly, the Doctor stood up. He looked again at the wall, and saw the stress being exerted on the metal. He would have to beat his retreat very soon. But something in him made it impossible to move. He didn't like the idea of leaving Vardek here to die, when the virus could possibly be purged from his system, or at least kept under control. Whereas many of Hallatern's scientific secrets had never been rediscovered, in certain areas medical science had advanced tremendously.
Vardek's desire was just to give up, and giving up was something the Doctor didn't approve of. Where there was life, there was always hope.
"There's just one thing you can do for me," Vardek said.
Vardek reached up to his temple, and pulled back the flap of artificial skin that covered the socket for the rectangular slab of kaprihal, the energy interface for the computer that kept his personality in check. He prized the crystal free and held it out to the Doctor. "Take this. I won't need it any more."
"Won't your mind be flooded with extraneous information?" the Doctor asked.
"That's what I want," said Vardek. "My memories. At least I'll be myself when I die. Besides, the crystal is useless now."
"I tried to run a destruct programme. That reconfigures the energy patterns in the interface - it floods raw neural energy through the computer and through my brain. The computer control would break down. Eventually the increased energy flow would burn out the synapses."
"It sounds painful," the Doctor commented.
"It doesn't last long. Brain activity soon comes to a standstill, and then one has nothing more to worry about." Vardek laughed. "But the neurovirus has overloaded the system. The energy patterns are so confused, it seems I can't even commit suicide of my own volition. But, considering my current situation, it hardly seems to matter." He gestured at the wall beside him, as it bowed outwards. "You'd better go now," he added.
"If you're sure," replied the Doctor. There didn't seem to be anything more he could say.
Vardek did not reply. The sound of the Doctor's voice had drifted away
into the vague distance, somewhere over the next hill. All he could hear
now was the water rushing over the rapids. And the gentle murmur of singing
from Janifil as she sat beside him and gently stroked his hair. In his
heart, Vardek had never left this spot. He wished he never had in reality.
Pulling open the door of the cryogenic freezer, Rhonwen gazed into its depths. In the narrow space, wreathed in swirling mist, lay the shape of a body. In the dim light that seeped through the opening, she could just discern some of the details of its face. The skin was black and withered, and broken in places, exposing the skull beneath. She would barely recognize the handsome features of the young man who had tried to throttle the life out of her, were not the outline of his fine bone structure still visible.
Rhonwen felt sick. She reached out one hand to touch the Kreilen on the shoulder. She grimaced, and a terrible shudder shook her body. An involuntary cry of horror escaped her lips, and she snatched her hand away. She couldn't bear to touch the Kreilen. It wasn't so much the fact that it had killed Baines and Ryder, and tried to kill her - now the Kreilen itself was dead, and feeling its cold, shrivelled flesh beneath her fingers filled her with dread.
But she couldn't let Trau Morrissey find it. He would exploit its secrets, and turn the neurovirus into a terrible weapon for his own profit. And she knew she had to prevent that at all costs. Steeling herself, Rhonwen reached out for the Kreilen again. At first, she could manage just the slightest touch, as if the contact burnt her fingers. A feeling of nausea swelled uncontrollably in the pit of her stomach, rising up towards her throat. Her head swam sickeningly.
She managed to take hold of the Kreilen under its shoulders, just long enough to pull it out from the freezer. As the body emerged into the light, she saw the incision the Doctor had made across its forehead. The crown of the head sagged and flopped inwards, for the Doctor had cut away some of the skull to examine the brain. Rhonwen let go, and screamed, putting her hands to her mouth. She was shaking like a leaf, and staggered back until she bumped against the bed on which the autopsy had been conducted.
The Kreilen's head lolled back, over the edge of the freezer's hatch. Rhonwen turned her face away, and let out a little horrified sob. Every instinct in her told her to run, to get away from this awful place. But that would leave the Kreilen here for Trau Morrissey to simply help himself. If she did that, she'd be letting the Doctor down.
That thought helped Rhonwen find the strength she needed. She screwed up her eyes, only half glancing at the Kreilen as she took hold of it once more. At least if she didn't look at it, she could try to keep her nausea under control - except that the feel of its flesh was enough to unsettle her stomach.
Another tug, and the Kreilen came free from the freezer and fell unceremoniously to the floor. Rhonwen looked around the isolation ward for somewhere to hide it. Beneath the work bench on the far wall was a small metal grille, about three feet square - some sort of air vent. She looked down at the shape lying at her feet. Bending, she picked up the Kreilen's legs and started to drag it across the floor. It was still wearing Quincey's trousers, so she didn't have to touch the bare flesh. It made the gruesome task slightly less unpalatable.
At the work bench, she let go of the Kreilen and crouched down to examine the grille. There was some sort of hollow space behind it, which dropped away almost vertically into the depths of the ship. Rhonwen pulled at the grille, and was relieved when it came free without much effort. Then she took hold of the Kreilen once more, and tried to drag it to the opening. With a bit of pushing, it would just fit through - and then either lodge in the metal shaft, or fall right down to the bottom. In either case, it would make it harder for Morrissey to find it.
She gritted her teeth as she moved the Kreilen the last few inches, relieved that her task would soon be over. She managed to get its head through the shaft opening, and tried to force its shoulders to follow. She was interrupted by something cold and hard touching her shoulder. Slowly, Rhonwen turned her head.
She found herself looking into the gaping mouth of a carbine barrel. It was held by a man clad in plain black combat fatigues. Rhonwen looked fearfully up into his face. She saw dark eyes, a broken nose, a scar down one cheek - and a cruel smile that played across his thin lips. He shook his head, and said, "I wouldn't do that if I were you."