AND THE PLANET OF THE SPIDERS.
By Terrance d.i.c.ks.
The Mystery of the Crystal.
Night falls suddenly in the rain forests of the upper Amazon. One moment, the little clearing was bathed in greenish gloom by the light filtering through the dense carpet of the tree-tops overhead; the next it was plunged into darkness.The Indian porters were busily setting up the little encampment. Soon the tents were up, and a campfire blazing. The explorer came out of his tent, and watched the Indians going about their work, unpacking supplies and preparing the evening meal. Everything seemed normal: they had carried out this routine a hundred times before. But somehow the atmosphere was thick with fear and menace. Suddenly the men stopped work, huddled together, and began to whisper amongst themselves. The explorer thought of the heavy revolver packed somewhere at the bottom of his luggage. Then he shook his head. He wasn't going to turn against everything he'd always believed. His business was saving lives, not destroying them,His wife came from inside the tent and joined him. She seemed tiny, almost child-like, beside his lanky form. He put out an arm and drew her to his side. She nodded towards the little group of Indians. 'They're still on the warpath, then?'He nodded his head. 'You're telling me, love. You could cut the atmosphere with a machete.'They stood for a moment, listening to the low voices of the Indians. Then the old man who was their recognised leader detached himself from the others and came towards the tent.The explorer's wife looked on as the old Indian stood before them. He was speaking in a guttural, urgent voice. She had never mastered the Indian speech, but she could easily guess what he was saying. She heard her husband reply. Languages came easily to him, and he was fluent in all the Indian dialects. Perhaps it was something to do with being Welsh, she thought. After that, other languages must seem simple.She listened intently to the voices of the two men. It was funny how much you could understand, even without knowing a word of the language. She heard the old Indian's voice, stern and insistent; then her husband's protesting, persuading. A further burst of staccato syllables from the Indian a sweeping gesture at the blackness of the surrounding jungle that could only be a threat. Her husband again, resigned, placatory, rea.s.suring.The Indian peered keenly at him, black eyes impa.s.sive under the fringe of black hair. He gave a final satisfied grunt, and strode across the clearing. She could hear him talking to the others in a low voice. After a moment the porters started working again. She felt her husband's hand on her elbow, and he led her back inside the tent.'Listen, love,' he began.She interrupted him. 'Don't tell me it's the crystal again, isn't it?'He nodded. ''Fraid so after that last accident at the river crossing, they're convinced it's bad luck. They've given us an ultimatum. It goes or they go.''But that was just an ordinary little accident.''We've had too many little accidents. They mean what they say.''Surely they wouldn't just leave us here?''It could be worse than that. They know they shouldn't abandon us they'd be in trouble with the Government if we complained. So they'd probably decide it was safer to cover their tracks.''How?'He took a deep breath. 'These people used to be head hunters not too long ago. They might prefer to make sure we weren't in a position to complain about them kill us and disappear into the jungle.'She sank down on the rickety camp bed. 'What did you say to them?''Well, first of all, they wanted me to throw the thing away.''No... I won't do it!' Her voice was fierce.He raised his hand placatingly. 'Hang on I managed to convince him that the safest thing would be to send it away. Back to where it came from, right out of their land. We'll reach one of the river trading posts day after tomorrow. You can pack it up and send it off in the mail boat. Honestly it's the only way.'She nodded, accepting the situation. 'O.K. I'll make up the parcel now.'He gave her a pat on the shoulder and left the tent to supervise the porters, relieved that his wife had taken it so well. He knew how attached she was to this souvenir of her old friends and her former life.The girl sitting on the bed sighed, and reached for the little rucksack in which she carried her personal possessions. From the bottom of it she fished a small bundle. She unwrapped it and revealed the cause of all the trouble: a many-faceted blue stone a sort of crystal. At first, it seemed dull and opaque. Then, as you looked at it, something-strange happened. Little blue fires seemed to spring up deep inside it, and the crystal began to glow...She closed her eyes for a moment, and then re-wrapped the stone. She'd better send a letter with the parcel. She fished in the rucksack again, and produced a leather writing case and a ball-point pen.Josephine Jones, formerly Jo Grant, one-time member of UNIT, one-time a.s.sistant to that mysterious individual known only as the Doctor, propped the case on her knee, and began to write....Many thousands of miles away, another ex-member of UNIT crouched motionless in a darkened cellar. From his hiding place at the top of the steps, he was watching a little group of robed figures, sitting cross-legged in a circle around an intricately drawn symbol. Candles stuck into old wine bottles illuminated the weird scene with a flickering yellow light.The men in the circle were chanting in low guttural voices, accompanying themselves with the regular clash of cymbals. They swayed to and fro as if hypnotised.The watching man shivered in the darkness. An atmosphere of brooding evil filled the cellar, and it was growing stronger. In the centre of the chanting circle a shape shape was beginning to form... Near the watcher's face, a spider's web suddenly vibrated with life as the spider ran quickly to its centre. The watcher leaned forward for a better view and the silky, sticky strands of the web brushed his face. He shuddered away from their touch and jumped back, knocking over a wine bottle at his feet. just as the chanting was rising to a peak, the bottle rolled down the steps, and smashed on the floor with an appalling crash. was beginning to form... Near the watcher's face, a spider's web suddenly vibrated with life as the spider ran quickly to its centre. The watcher leaned forward for a better view and the silky, sticky strands of the web brushed his face. He shuddered away from their touch and jumped back, knocking over a wine bottle at his feet. just as the chanting was rising to a peak, the bottle rolled down the steps, and smashed on the floor with an appalling crash.The chanting stopped dead. The robed figures sprang to their feet. Some of them ran to the head of the stairs but the watcher was gone.Outside, in the gardens of the big old country house, Mike Yates, formerly Captain Yates, one-time member of UNIT, one-time a.s.sistant to Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, ran through the darkness towards his car. He was more frightened than he had ever been in his life.The little group in the cellar had been thrown into a panic. They gathered round their leader, a middle-aged man with haggard, bitter features. His name was Lupton.He was talking angrily to a younger, weak-faced man called Barnes, who had been sitting nearest the door. 'You're sure you didn't see anything?'Barnes shook his head. 'It was the wind, it must have been. Blew open the cellar door, knocked the bottle over...' His voice tailed off, unconvincing even to himself.'Listen,' said Lupton suddenly. 'What's that?' They heard the harsh roar of an engine going away into the distance. 'A sports car,' said Lupton menacingly. 'There's only one sports car here it belongs to our new friend, Mr. Yates.'
1 The Menace at the Monastery
Brigadier Alastair Lethbridge-Stewart, head of the British section of UNIT, the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce, huddled deeper in his seat and hoped no one would recognise him. Not that he was engaged in some secret espionage mission; he was very much off-duty. On the other hand, you couldn't exactly say he was enjoying himself either. Why on earth he'd let the Doctor drag him to this tatty little music hall... The Brigadier shot a sideways glance at his companion. Elegant as always, in ruffled shirt with velvet smoking jacket, the Doctor was leaning forward with evident enjoyment.On stage, a little man in a baggy check suit and a red nose was clutching a hand mike, leaning forward and talking very fast, as if afraid that the audience would make off before he could deliver his jokes. No one could blame them if they did, thought the Brigadier bitterly.''Ere's a good one, 'eard this, 'eard this?' said the little man rapidly. 'Archimedes, you've 'eard of Archimedes, 'course you 'ave, well, when he jumped out of the bath and ran down the street with nothing on, he didn't shout "Eureka!" he shouted, "I'm a streaker!"' The Brigadier groaned inwardly and threw the chuckling Doctor a glance of bitter reproach.Things didn't improve much in the next hour. Act followed act, all of them pretty dreadful. The Brigadier perked up a little at the appearance of 'Fatima, exotic dancer of the Orient'. She wasn't very oriental, but she was certainly exotic, young, pretty and extremely agile.The Doctor glanced at the Brigadier to see if this was any more to his taste. The Brigadier was leaning forward, chin in hand, an expression of intense concentration on his face. When the dance ended, and Fatima and her remaining veils undulated from the stage, the Doctor said, 'You seemed to enjoy that all right.''Very fit, that girl,' said the Brigadier solemnly. 'Extraordinary muscular control. Must adapt some of those movements as exercises for the men.'The Doctor looked at him open-mouthed. 'They'd take some adapting! Surely you can't be...'The Brigadier's mouth twitched under his moustache, and the Doctor realised that he was making one of his rare jokes. For once the Brigadier was pulling his his leg. The Doctor grinned appreciatively, and pointed a long finger at the programme on his lap. 'This is what we leg. The Doctor grinned appreciatively, and pointed a long finger at the programme on his lap. 'This is what we really really came for.' came for.'The Brigadier peered at the programme. 'Professor Hubert Clegg,' he read. 'Mind Reader Extraordinary.'Driving back to UNIT H.Q. half an hour later, the Brigadier still didn't feel much the wiser. The Doctor had watched Professor Clegg's act in enraptured silence, and he jumped up from his seat as soon as it was over even though this was only the end of the first half of the show. He had stopped at the box office to leave a note for Professor Clegg before they left.The Brigadier looked at the Doctor, who was slumped in the pa.s.senger seat deep in thought.'I suppose you're feeling pretty disappointed, Doctor?''Why should I be?''Your Professor Clegg didn't that performance convince you he's a fake?''On the contrary it convinced me that he's a very powerful clairvoyant.''But that act of his was sheer trickery, Doctor,' protested the Brigadier. 'Simple word-code with his a.s.sistant. Spotted it straight away!'The Doctor smiled. 'Oh, I know that. Now why should a man with the powers he has use cheap tricks?'The Brigadier was exasperated. 'How do you know he's got got any powers?' any powers?''Vibrations,' said the Doctor mysteriously. 'Couldn't you feel them?''Frankly, no.'The Doctor rubbed his chin thoughtfully. 'I've asked Professor Clegg to visit UNIT tomorrow morning. Perhaps I can persuade him to give you a little demonstration of his real powers...'Even the Doctor didn't realise that his interest in Professor Clegg was to be the prelude to the most dangerous adventure of his life.Sarah Jane Smith flicked through her magazine for the tenth time, realised she wasn't taking in a single word, and threw it on the seat. She looked out of the window. The little local diesel was chugging steadily along through a very pretty rural landscape, the rolling fields stretching away on all sides. 'Very picturesque,' she thought, 'but I really shouldn't be here at all. I'm supposed to be in London, researching a story on gra.s.s-roots resistance to property speculators for that magazine.' Although Sarah was technically a free-lance, the magazine was by far her most regular source of work, and it wouldn't do to offend them. If Mike Yates hadn't sounded so desperate over the telephone...It wasn't even as if she knew him all that well. They'd met during the time when London was being terrorised by prehistoric monsters brought back from the past. Yates, at this time still the Brigadier's trusted No. 2, had been tense and withdrawn. Naturally enough since, as they'd later discovered, he'd been won over to the other side and was secretly working against them. When the whole affair was finally over, Captain Yates had been diplomatically invalided out of UNIT. The official story was that he'd had some kind of nervous breakdown. No one had seen or heard of him for ages. Now here he was, popping up with some crazy story about murky goings-on in a Tibetan monastery deep in the English countryside. 'Perhaps he really has has had a nervous breakdown.' she thought to herself, as the train jolted slowly on its way. had a nervous breakdown.' she thought to herself, as the train jolted slowly on its way.At that very moment, Sarah's visit was the subject of a heated argument between the man called Lupton, and a Tibetan monk whose name was Cho-Je. 'A woman journalist!' Lupton was saying angrily. 'We don't want her here.'Cho-Je's ivory-coloured face broke into a thousand tiny, smiling wrinkles. 'We cannot shut out the world entirely, my brother,' he said in his clipped yet sing-song voice.'That's why I came came here to get away from the world,' said Lupton angrily. 'So did the others.' here to get away from the world,' said Lupton angrily. 'So did the others.'Again Cho-Je smiled. 'One day you will learn to walk in solitude amidst all the bustle of the world.''It's not too late to stop her coming.''Oh but it is,' said Cho-Je placidly. 'Mr. Yates has already gone to meet her at the station.'Lupton frowned. 'Yates? Did he suggest this visit?' Cho-Je nodded. 'He knows the young lady, I believe. He brought her request to me.'A few minutes later, Lupton was talking to Barnes in the corridor. 'How can it be coincidence?' he was saying angrily. 'He's bringing her here because he suspects something.'Barnes looked frightened. 'We'll have to stop for a while.''Stop now? Just when we're on the point of breaking through? You felt the power in that circle last night 'Lupton broke off as Tommy, the monastery handyman, shambled along the corridor. Tommy was a hulking, slow-witted youth, usually described as simple by his fellow villagers. He had worked at the monastery ever since it opened. Tommy was fiercely devoted to Cho-Je and his fellow monks perhaps because they treated him with exactly the same quiet courtesy that they extended to everyone else.Tommy beamed at the two men and held out a ma.s.sive hand. In his palm lay a rather crumpled daisy. 'Look, pretty,' he said.'Go and get on with your work,' said Lupton impatiently.Tommy was indignant. 'Finished weeding. Look, Lupton, pretty flower.'Lupton's temper snapped and he gave Tommy a savage shove. Tommy, taken by surprise, stumbled backwards and fell over his own feet. Lupton gripped Barnes by the arm and dragged him away. 'We must get the others together. There isn't much time.'The two men disappeared down the corridor. Tommy picked himself up, groping for his precious flower, which had been squashed flat in his fall. 'Poor pretty,' he said. His face crumpled, and he began to cry.As Mike Yates's little sports car bounced along the narrow country lane, Sarah raised her voice above the snarl of the engine. 'Let me see if I've got this straight, Mike. After you, er, left UNIT, you heard about this meditation centre, opened by these two Tibetans. You thought it might help you to get yourself sorted out, so you came down here. Now you're convinced that a group of your fellow students are up to something but you're not sure what?'Yates nodded. 'All sounds pretty thin, doesn't it? Maybe I shouldn't have bothered you.''Those men in the cellar,' said Sarah thoughtfully. 'Couldn't they just be doing some kind of special meditation?''Then why keep it so secret? Besides, the atmosphere atmosphere in that cellar it was thick with evil. You could in that cellar it was thick with evil. You could feel feel it. I'm sure UNIT ought to know about it.' it. I'm sure UNIT ought to know about it.'Sarah shrugged. 'So tell the Brigadier!''You think he'd believe me with my record?'(In the cellar of the monastery, the circle of chanting figures was once more a.s.sembled. Their voices rose and fell in a guttural chant. Lupton's face was a mask of concentration. He narrowed his eyes. He could see see the little car speeding along the narrow lane. 'Now,' he muttered hoa.r.s.ely. 'Now...') the little car speeding along the narrow lane. 'Now,' he muttered hoa.r.s.ely. 'Now...')Sarah frowned and shook her head. A sudden sense of oppression, of dread, was coming over her. She felt a sudden irrational impulse to beg Mike to turn back. She told herself not to be silly and said, 'So you want me to take a look around, and then report to the Brig for you?'Yates nodded. She could read the appeal in his eyes. Sarah said dubiously, 'Well, all right, Mike. But I'll need quite a bit of convincing before I go to the Brig with some daft story about mad monks...'(In the cellar the chanting rose to a peak. 'Now!' said Lupton fiercely. 'Now!')The sports car was tearing down a country lane. Although still narrow, the lane ran in a straight line for a mile ahead of them. It was now completely empty, and Mike had instinctively put his foot down.The tractor just couldn't couldn't have been there. The lane was empty; there were no turnings or gates. Yet suddenly it have been there. The lane was empty; there were no turnings or gates. Yet suddenly it was was there, its huge red bulk blocking the entire lane as, they rushed towards it. there, its huge red bulk blocking the entire lane as, they rushed towards it.Mike wrenched the wheel round and shot the sports car through a gap in the hedge. They burst through into a field, the car skidded round in a huge arc, back through a second gap, and on to the road again. With a shrieking of brakes, it skidded to a halt.Mike Yates sat very still, gripping the wheel so hard that it hurt his hands. He drew a deep breath and turned to Sarah. She was looking over her shoulder, back at the tractor but there was was no tractor. It had vanished, as impossibly as it had appeared. The lane was empty. no tractor. It had vanished, as impossibly as it had appeared. The lane was empty.Sarah said shakily, 'You saw it too, Mike?''The tractor? Yes, of course.'Sarah's face was grim. 'All right, Mike. I'm convinced. Let's visit this monastery of yours.'
2 The Deadly Experiment
Off-stage, Professor Clegg looked shabby, and rather insignificant. The 'artistic' bow-tie was faded, the black velvet smoking jacket long past its former elegance. But the Professor held himself upright, and did his best to put a good face on things. He swept off his battered hat with a flourish, and said jauntily, 'Gentlemen! A very great pleasure to meet you.'The Brigadier nodded a little stiffly, but the Doctor replied with equally formal courtesy 'Professor Clegg! It was extremely kind of you to come.'Once the social preliminaries were over, the Professor felt rather at a loss. 'As a matter of fact, I'm not sure why I have have come. Your message come. Your message was was a little ambiguous.' He looked at the Brigadier's uniformed figure, and hazarded a guess. 'You want me to do my act for you? A regimental guest night, perhaps? I do quite a deal of cabaret work.' a little ambiguous.' He looked at the Brigadier's uniformed figure, and hazarded a guess. 'You want me to do my act for you? A regimental guest night, perhaps? I do quite a deal of cabaret work.''Good lord, no!' said the Brigadier hastily. Then, realising he'd been a little too hasty for politeness, he added, 'Clever stuff mind you, but not really my cup of tea.'The Doctor cut in hurriedly, 'As a matter of fact, Professor, I asked you to come here because I'm doing a little research into E.S.P.''That's extra sensory perception, you know,' said the Brigadier helpfully.Clegg smiled. 'Oh yes. As a matter of fact, I do know.'The Brigadier looked a little deflated. 'Well, I didn't. Not till the Doctor explained.'The Doctor gave Clegg a rea.s.suring smile. 'You see, I'm trying to cover the whole field psychometry, clairvoyance, telepathy, and so on. I very much hope you can help me, Professor.'Clegg began to look frightened. He edged nervously towards the door. 'I'm sorry, I'm afraid I can't. You see, to begin with, I'm not a professor at all. That's just for stage purposes. And as for my act...''All a lot of tricks, eh?' said the Brigadier knowingly. 'Word-code with your a.s.sistant, that sort of thing?'Clegg nodded dumbly. The Brigadier shot the Doctor an 'I told you so' look. The Doctor said gently, 'Don't worry, Professor Clegg, your secret in safe with me your real secret, that is.' He paused for a moment, and said deliberately, 'I shall tell no one that you really do do have super-normal powers.' have super-normal powers.'Clegg seemed to deflate, like a punctured balloon. He reeled as if about to faint, and sank down gratefully into a chair pushed forward by the Brigadier.'It's true, isn't it?' said the Doctor.Clegg nodded. 'It's happening more and more,' he whispered. 'I don't want want it. I was quite happy just as a performer. Now I seem to be developing this power. I hate it. The things I can do! They frighten me.' it. I was quite happy just as a performer. Now I seem to be developing this power. I hate it. The things I can do! They frighten me.''Do?' said the Doctor keenly. 'Do you mean teleportation?''Well, no. But psychokinesis, yes.'Despite his newly-acquired knowledge of the paranormal, the Brigadier was now out of his depth. He shot the Doctor an enquiring glance. 'Psycho what?''Psychokinesis,' said the Doctor impatiently. 'Moving objects by the power of the mind. Professor-Mr.-Clegg, do you think we might have a demonstration?'Clegg looked dubious. 'Well...' he said unenthusiastically.The Doctor gave him a most charming smile. 'Please try. It would be of the greatest a.s.sistance to me.'Clegg braced himself, then nodded. 'Very well.' He glanced round the laboratory. The Doctor and the Brigadier had been having coffee just before his arrival, and the tray with the coffee things still stood on one of the laboratory benches. Clegg stared at it fixedly and with a frown of concentration. The Doctor and the Brigadier followed the direction of his gaze. Suddenly, the tray rose a few feet into the air. It hovered uncertainly for a moment and floated into the middle of the room. Then Clegg gasped, 'I can't... I can't...' He rubbed his hand across his eyes and the tray crashed to the ground.The Brigadier jumped. 'Jolly impressive,' he said a little nervously. 'You ought to use that in your act.'Clegg rounded on him fiercely. 'And lose my sanity? It would be a poor exchange.' The little man was white and sweating, his face drained with effort.The Doctor put a rea.s.suring hand on his shoulder. 'Mr. Clegg, your powers are perfectly normal. They lie dormant in everyone.'Clegg sighed. 'If only I could believe that. I feel such a a freak.''Help me in my experiments,' said the Doctor urgently. 'We can learn more about your powers, help you to control them. We can find others like you, so that you won't be so alone... 'Clegg looked up at him, new hope in his eyes. 'If you can do that, Doctor,' he said eagerly, 'you'll make my life worth living again. Of course I'll help you as much as I can.''Splendid!' said the Doctor. 'We'll get started right away, shall we?' Before Clegg could reply, the Doctor wheeled forward a trolley bearing a load of intimidating electronic equipment: The main feature was a metallic helmet, rather like an ultra-modern ladies' hairdrier. It was supported by an extensible arm, and linked to a series of dials. Briskly the Doctor whisked the contraption behind Clegg's chair and popped the helmet on his head.The Brigadier looked on in total bafflement.'What is all that stuff, Doctor?''Oh, I've designed one or two bits of equipment,' the Doctor explained airily. 'This is my improved version of the electro-encephalograph. It'll measure his brainwaves as we carry out the tests.' He turned to Clegg, who was cowering nervously under the helmet. 'Shall we try a little simple psychometry? Perhaps you'd lend Mr. Clegg your watch, Brigadier?'If the Brigadier had any doubts about Clegg's powers, they were finally disposed of in the next few minutes. Holding the watch in his hands, Clegg closed his eyes and said slowly, 'This watch was given to you a few years ago... somewhere by the sea. Brighton, was it? A young lady called Doris... 'Very embarra.s.sed by this reminder of his days as a gay young subaltern, the Brigadier almost s.n.a.t.c.hed the watch back. 'All true!' he said hurriedly. 'Absolutely spot on.' He shot the Doctor an appealing glance. 'Surely you've got enough, Doctor?'The Doctor chuckled. 'A little too much, eh, Alastair?' He made further adjustments to the electronic jumble on the trolley, this time linking the metal helmet to a little screen, rather like a mini TV set. 'This is my IRIS machine, Mr. Clegg. Image Reproduction Integrating System. It will translate your thoughts into pictures on this screen. Now, try this.'The Doctor handed Clegg a strange device. It was shaped like a very slim torch, with numerous mysterious attachments. This was the Doctor's trusty sonic screwdriver, a multi-purpose tool that had been his companion on many adventures.Clegg held the little device in his hands. A flood of terrifying images rushed into his mind. On the little TV screen patterns began to swirl... The head of a terrifying monster swam up, roaring ferociously, gnashing row upon row of jagged teeth. Clegg gasped and let go of the sonic screwdriver. The Doctor reached out a long arm and caught the screwdriver as it dropped from the man's fingers. Clegg gasped. 'That thing... what was it?''A Drashig!' said the Doctor happily. 'The most ferocious omnivore in the cosmos. Don't worry, Mr. Clegg, you're doing very well. But perhaps we'd better find you a less alarming subject...'As if on cue, Sergeant Benton entered the laboratory. He was carrying a small parcel. He saluted the Brigadier, and then looked with interest at the figure of Clegg sitting under the metal helmet. 'Going in for a bit of hairdressing, Doctor?' he asked amiably. Catching the Brigadier's warning frown, he went on hurriedly, 'Parcel just arrived, sir. Thought it might be urgent.''For the Doctor, or for me?' snapped the Brigadier.'For all of us, sir, in a way. It's addressed to the Doctor, or or Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, or Captain Yates, or Sergeant Benton!' Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, or Captain Yates, or Sergeant Benton!'The Doctor was making further adjustments to the tangle of his electronic equipment. 'Open it!' he suggested. Then he straightened up. 'No, wait a moment.' He took the parcel from Benton and handed it to Clegg.'See what you can do with this, my dear chap.'Clegg took the parcel and turned it over and over in his hands. On the IRIS screen the image of a strange, alien landscape began to form.'This has come a long way,' said Clegg slowly. 'From beyond the stars... a meteorite... no it's a gemstone... a blue jewel!''Of course!' said the Doctor. He took the parcel from Clegg and tore off the wrappings to reveal a battered cardboard box. He lifted the lid and found a folded letter. Beneath it, resting in a bed of cotton wool, lay the blue crystal from Metebelis Three.Jo's parcel had arrived.
Sarah Jane Smith was beginning to wonder if she had been wasting her time after all. Shortly after the mysteriously vanishing tractor had so nearly caused the crash, Mike Yates had driven her to a big old country mansion set in rambling, overgrown grounds. He had introduced her to a beaming little monk called Cho-Je, who had discoursed to her at some lengths on such subjects as 'the fullness of the void' and 'the emptiness of the ten thousand things'. Sarah hadn't understood a word of it, and had said so. With an infectious giggle, Cho-Je had said delightedly, 'Quite right! The Dharma that can be spoken is no true Dharma!' and had packed her off with Mike Yates for a tour of the meditation centre.Mike had shown her the big hushed library, with its rows upon rows of esoteric books. She had visited the simple meditation rooms, where little groups of men sat cross-legged, sometimes in complete silence, and sometimes chanting softly. 'What are they meditating about?' she had asked.Mike had given her a pitying look. 'Not about about anything. They're just... meditating. It's an exercise in awareness!' anything. They're just... meditating. It's an exercise in awareness!'Having apparently seen everything there was to see, Mike was now leading her along a corridor at the back of the house. He looked at his watch. 'Come on. Time we hid ourselves in the cellar.''Good,' said Sarah, hoping they were at last reaching the purpose of her visit. Certainly, she'd seen nothing sinister so far. Indeed, the child-like happiness of Cho-Je had impressed her enormously, though she was as far as ever from grasping how he'd attained it.They turned a corner and ran slap into two men. The one in front, a middle-aged man, was wearing a shabby sports coat. He had a haggard, bitter face. A younger, weak-looking man hovered behind him. Sarah shivered involuntarily. Could these be their unknown enemies?Lupton gave them a thin smile. 'Good afternoon, my brother.' He raised his eyebrows enquiringly at Sarah. Suddenly Yates found himself on the defensive.'This is Miss Smith,' he said. 'From a London magazine. Sarah, meet Mr. Lupton and Mr. Barnes.'Lupton nodded condescendingly. 'Cho-Je told me you were coming. I trust you have had a pleasant visit?'Sarah decided she didn't care for Mr. Lupton. She didn't like his appearance, or his manner. 'Yes thank you,' she said. Then she added in a deliberately challenging tone, 'After a very bad start.'Lupton gave her a look of supercilious enquiry that verged on a sneer. 'Indeed?''We had an accident,' Sarah went on. 'We were nearly killed.''You were lucky to escape,' said Lupton coldly. 'The roads round here can be very very dangerous for visitors. Very dangerous indeed.' The threatening tone was unmistakable. 'Won't you have a cup of tea before you go?' dangerous for visitors. Very dangerous indeed.' The threatening tone was unmistakable. 'Won't you have a cup of tea before you go?'Yates grabbed Sarah by the arm. 'I'm afraid Miss Smith has to leave now, or she'll miss her train back to London.'Sarah refused to budge. 'Nonsense, there's plenty of time.''I rather think you must have misread the time-table,' said Yates firmly. He took Sarah's arm and almost dragged her away.Lupton watched them go. He smiled bitterly. 'You know, Barnes, I don't think we'll have any more trouble. That girl could have been dangerous but our friend Mr. Yates is scared out of his wits. Call the others we carry on as planned.'Barnes nodded and hurried off.In Mike Yates' car, Sarah was protesting vigorously. 'You say you want me to see for myself, then we just take off. What's going on?'Mike started the engine and drove slowly out of the front gates.'Look, Sarah, Lupton knew knew you were coming down. He must have been responsible for that tractor hallucination.' you were coming down. He must have been responsible for that tractor hallucination.'Sarah looked at him in exasperation. 'I'm sure he was. But why should we let him scare us off?''We're letting him think think he's scared us off,' Yates corrected her. 'Now we double back on foot.' he's scared us off,' Yates corrected her. 'Now we double back on foot.'Sarah grinned. 'Ah, the fiendish cunning of the man!' she said admiringly.Yates turned left and left again, cut off the engine, and coasted down the lane that ran round the back of the house. The car drew up silently, close to the high wall that surrounded the grounds. Yates stepped on to the bonnet, and climbed on to the top of the wall. He extended a helping hand to Sarah so that she could follow him. They dropped down inside the grounds, and Yates led her through a tangle of shrubbery to a back window. He clambered through, and Sarah followed him.As she struggled through the little window and into the corridor, the shadow of a hulking form fell over her. She gasped, but Yates squeezed her arm rea.s.suringly. 'Hullo, Tommy,' he said. Sarah saw a ma.s.sive young man in old corduroys and a s.h.a.ggy roll-neck sweater. For all his size and obvious strength, his round blue eyes held the simple curiosity of a child.'Why you climbing in window?' he grunted.Yates looked at him in consternation. Tommy was quite unpredictable. He might well raise a hullaballoo that would wreck everything.'Playing a game?' asked Tommy.Yates nodded. 'That's right, Tommy. Just a game!''Tommy likes games. I'll play too.' He looked at them hopefully. Mike gave Sarah a despairing glance.'The thing is, Tommy,' said Sarah confidingly, 'the name of the game is "Secrets". It's a secret that we're here. You won't tell anyone, will you?'Tommy shook his head. His eye was attracted by the sparkle of Sarah's brooch. He reached out to touch it, and Sarah said gently, 'Would you like it?' Tommy nodded eagerly, and Sarah took off the brooch and handed it to him. Delighted, Tommy grabbed it from her, and wandered off down the corridor, totally absorbed in his new prize.'A shameless display of feminine wiles!' said Mike. 'Come on.'As they approached the cellar, they could hear the sound of low, rhythmic chanting. Mike opened the heavy wooden door, took Sarah's arm and guided her into the darkness. Just inside was the little landing where he had hidden before. She gasped as something brushed across her face. 'Ugh! It's thick with spiders' webs!''Sssh!' said Mike urgently. Cautiously they peered round the turn of the wall.A circle of robed figures was seated round an ornate symbol, a sort of silken poster which lay flat on the cellar floor. She whispered in Mike's ear. 'What's that they're sitting round?''It's called a mandala a device for focussing their concentration.'In the gloom of the cellar, Sarah could see Lupton leading the chanting, with Barnes beside him. She had seen most of the other men in her tour round the monastery. The chanting was quickening its pace now, building up a strange sense of foreboding. Sarah blinked. An unearthly glow was spreading from the mandala in the centre of the circle. A sense of dread began to flood over her. Something evil was happening in the cellar, something she didn't want to see. She felt an urge to run, but the chanting held her in a hypnotic spell.At exactly this time, the Doctor was finishing the letter that had come with the parcel. He was reading it out to the Brigadier and Sergeant Benton. '... and the Indian porters are saying it's bad medicine like it it goes or goes or they they go!' The Doctor frowned, reflecting that neither Jo's grammar nor her handwriting had improved since she left UNIT. He struggled to make out the hastily scrawled final paragraph. 'So, Doctor, if you're away on a cheap day trip to Mars or something, perhaps you could look after it for me; or you, Brigadier, if you're whooping it up in Geneva; or what about you, my lovely Sergeant Benton?' go!' The Doctor frowned, reflecting that neither Jo's grammar nor her handwriting had improved since she left UNIT. He struggled to make out the hastily scrawled final paragraph. 'So, Doctor, if you're away on a cheap day trip to Mars or something, perhaps you could look after it for me; or you, Brigadier, if you're whooping it up in Geneva; or what about you, my lovely Sergeant Benton?'Benton, who had been suppressing a grin at the reference to his two superiors, blushed beneath his tan. The Brigadier's lips twitched under his moustache, and the Doctor puzzled over the last sentence...All three had forgotten Clegg, who, during the reading of the long and rambling letter, had been sitting meekly underneath the metal helmet. They hadn't noticed when he had reached out and picked up the crystal, peering curiously into its blue depths.Suddenly Clegg went rigid. He felt some tremendously powerful force flooding into the room, a force that was somehow working through through the blue crystal in his hands. the blue crystal in his hands.'Must go now or I'll miss the next cleft stick to civilisation,' the Doctor read slowly. Suddenly an invisible force swept through the room. The letter was plucked from the Doctor's hand and swept up to the ceiling as if caught in a powerful up-draught. It was followed by almost everything else portable in the laboratory. Chairs, tables, equipment, all swirled up in the air in a mad whirlpool. The Doctor, Brigadier and Benton were flung across the room. Clegg sat in his chair, motionless in the swirling chaos around him.The mad whirlpool of objects suddenly stopped. Things crashed to the floor, many of them smashing. The Doctor looked round. The laboratory was a shambles. Benton and the Brigadier were staggering to their feet. The Doctor looked at Clegg, still sitting in his chair. 'Mr. Clegg, are you alright?'There was no reply. The Doctor came closer. The little man was hunched forward in his chair, gazing into the crystal. His face held an expression of unutterable horror. He was quite dead.In the cellar of the monastery, the chanting reached a climax. Sarah was gripping Mike's arm hard enough to bruise it, though neither one of them was aware of the fact. The strange glow around the mandala seemed to condense and solidify. A shape was forming. Sarah blinked again, trying not to believe her eyes. But it was there there , it was true. Crouching on the mandala was an enormous spider... , it was true. Crouching on the mandala was an enormous spider...
3 The Coming of the Spider
For a moment, the Spider crouched motionless on the mandala. Lupton and his circle were paralysed with terror. One man leaped to his feet and ran for the steps. A strand of almost invisible white light snaked out from the Spider's body. As it touched the fleeing man, he convulsed and dropped to the floor.The Spider seemed to swing to and fro, as if scanning the circle of men. No one dared to move. Lupton sat frozen with the others, struggling to regain control of his will. The forbidden books that he had stolen from Cho-Je's library had warned that misuse of the Rituals of Power could summon up demons. In his eagerness for wealth and success, he had ignored the warnings. Now it seemed that he was to pay the price of his rashness. He searched his mind desperately for one of the Incantations of Banishment. Finally, he a.s.sembled the words in his mind. Moistening his lips he managed to croak out an incantation that should have sent the creature back from whence it came. It had absolutely no effect. Instead, Lupton felt an icy tendril of thought reaching out to touch his mind. Then the Spider spoke to him. Not out loud, of course, but inside his head. Her voice somehow Lupton knew that the creature was female was clear, sweet and icily evil...'Lupton! I have come to give you the power you seek. Why do you try to send me away? Turn around.'Wincing from the alien intruder in his mind, Lupton didn't move. The Spider spoke again, her voice sharp and commanding. 'Turn around, I say.'Slowly Lupton turned his back. To their horror, those in the circle saw the Spider quiver for a moment and then spring at Lupton's back. For a moment it seemed to cling between his shoulder blades, then it vanished.Lupton stood stooped for a moment. Then he straightened up and turned round. His voice was calm and authoritative. 'All of you go back to your rooms. You will say nothing of what has happened here.'Barnes indicated the man crumpled at the foot of the cellar steps. 'What about him? Is he dead?'Lupton shook his head. 'He is simply unconscious. Take him to his room. He will wake soon and remember nothing.'Obedient to the authority in Lupton's voice, some of the little group began to lift the body.Meanwhile, Mike Yates and Sarah were hurrying along the corridor. 'Hadn't you better come away with me?' Sarah was asking.Mike shook his head. 'It's better if you go by yourself. I'll stay and keep an eye on things here. You let the Doctor and the Brigadier know what's going on.''But, Mike I don't know know what's going on.' what's going on.'They reached the window by which they had entered, and Mike opened it so Sarah could climb out. 'Just tell them everything you saw.''What are you going to do?''I'm going to try and see the Abbot, tell him all about it. Now, off you go! Here take my car.' He handed her the keys.Sarah saw he was determined. 'All right, Mike, I'm going. Take care of yourself.'She disappeared out of the window, and Mike closed it behind her.For a moment he hesitated, wondering what to do next. Should he tackle the Abbot right away? No, better wait. Lupton and his lot might still be on the prowl. Just before bedtime when everything was quiet, that would be the best time... Suddenly he heard voices' coming towards him Lupton and Barnes! Hurriedly, Mike made off in the opposite direction.Barnes was still desperately trying to get some kind of sense out of his friend and leader. Lupton seemed full of a vast, unshakable confidence. He talked airily of the, most grandiose plans, of wealth and power unlimited, in the tones of one who held the world in the palm of his. hand.Barnes was a good deal less happy. 'But that spider,' he persisted. 'What was it? One of those Tibetan demons the books warned us about?'Lupton smiled. 'No doubt our friend Cho-Je would say that. But he would be wrong.''Where did it go?''My dear Barnes, it didn't go anywhere. It's still here!''You can feel it on your back?''Not on my back. In my mind. I can hear it speak to! me.'Inside Lupton's head, the icy voice said, 'This man is stupid send him away.'Barnes saw Lupton's eyes close in concentration, and asked, 'Was it speaking to you then? What did it say?''It said you looked tired. You should go to your room and rest. That's what I'm going to do.'Lupton patted Barnes on the shoulder and urged him towards the stairs. 'Now don't worry. I know know what I'm doing...' what I'm doing...'
Later that same evening, Benton moved slowly about the laboratory, setting things back in place. The Doctor was sitting on a stool, gazing bleakly into the distance. Benton understood that the death of the Professor had hit him hard.The Brigadier came in and said briskly, 'Packed off that police chappy at last. According to the post mortem, it was a natural death. Poor chap had a weak heart.''Perhaps he did,' said the Doctor grimly, 'but I'm still responsible, you know. I gave him the crystal to look at and something he saw while he was holding it gave him such a shock that his heart gave out. It killed him.''The same something that turned the place upside down,' said Benton.The Doctor nodded. 'A tremendous explosion of psychokinetic force... Wait a moment there's just a chance...'The Brigadier felt very irritated by all this mystery. 'A chance of what what , Doctor?' , Doctor?'The Doctor was busily sorting out his tangle of electronic equipment, now back on its trolley. 'He was still attached to the IRIS machine when he died. It should have recorded his thoughts for us if it hasn't been shaken up too badly.' The Doctor turned the machine on and adjusted the controls. It gave out a high-pitched electronic noise, like a tape being wound backwards at high speed. The Doctor twiddled a bit more, and blurred pictures began to form on the little screen. The Brigadier peered over the Doctor's shoulder, trying to make sense of the distorted shapes: shapes with round furry bodies, and many legs. 'Bless my soul,' said the Brigadier, 'looks like a lot of...''Spiders!' said the Doctor. 'Now why should the crystal have made the poor chap think of spiders?' He stood brooding for a moment, then said decisively, 'Only one thing to do I shall have to look into the crystal for myself.'Benton and the Brigadier both started to protest.'Far too dangerous,' snapped the Brigadier.'Let me have a go,' said Benton.The Doctor ignored them. 'Don't you see? A man's dead, and I'm responsible. The least I can do is find out what happened, and why.' He reached for the crystal and then paused 'There is is one thing you could do for me, Sergeant Benton. I'd just love another cup of your excellent coffee.' one thing you could do for me, Sergeant Benton. I'd just love another cup of your excellent coffee.'With a worried glance at the Brigadier, Benton hurried from the laboratory. The Doctor picked up the blue crystal and put it on the bench before him. Climbing back on to his stool, he rested his elbows on the bench, his chin in his hands, and gazed into the crystal's shimmering blue depths. The Brigadier looked on uneasily, pacing about the laboratory. The Doctor sat motionless. The silence stretched on and on until the Brigadier couldn't stand the suspense any longer. He cleared his throat noisily. 'Any luck, Doctor?'No answer. The Brigadier came closer, and peered at the Doctor cautiously. He was still hunched over the crystal. He wasn't moving. As far as the Brigadier could see, he wasn't even breathing breathing . Blue flames seemed to dance and flicker in the heart of the blue jewel... . Blue flames seemed to dance and flicker in the heart of the blue jewel...
Lupton lay day-dreaming on his bed, hands behind his head. His mind was full of the wealth and power that would soon be his. How How exactly this was to come about he was not quite sure. But it exactly this was to come about he was not quite sure. But it would would happen. The Spider had promised. Suddenly an agonising mental pang jerked him into full consciousness. He spoke to the unseen being in his mind. 'What is it?' happen. The Spider had promised. Suddenly an agonising mental pang jerked him into full consciousness. He spoke to the unseen being in his mind. 'What is it?''The crystal. I can feel feel it. Concentrate, Lupton. Concentrate!' it. Concentrate, Lupton. Concentrate!''What crystal?'The cold voice vibrated with urgency. 'That is why I have come. To find the crystal and get it back. It will give us power. The power we both seek. Concentrate!'Lupton's face twisted with effort as the Spider joined her mind to his.'I see a man,' he said slowly. 'A man gazing into a blue jewel... A man they call the Doctor...'
'Doctor!' said the Brigadier urgently. Then again, louder, 'Doctor!' The Doctor didn't so much as twitch. Benton hurried in with a tray holding three steaming coffee mugs. He put the tray down on the bench, close to the Doctor.'Here we are, Doctor coffee up.''No use talking to him him ,' said the Brigadier. 'Looks as if we've got an emergency on our hands. d.a.m.n silly thing to do, said so all along. I'd better get the Medical Officer.' He picked up the internal phone, dialled, and said, 'Dr Sweetman get over here to the laboratory right away ' ,' said the Brigadier. 'Looks as if we've got an emergency on our hands. d.a.m.n silly thing to do, said so all along. I'd better get the Medical Officer.' He picked up the internal phone, dialled, and said, 'Dr Sweetman get over here to the laboratory right away ''Sir look!' whispered Benton urgently.A wisp of steam from one of the coffee mugs was floating up under the Doctor's nose. And the nose was twitching! Suddenly, the Doctor blinked, reached for a coffee mug, took a long swig and said, 'Delicious! You know, Sergeant Benton, next to Mrs. Samuel Pepys, you make the best cup of coffee I've ever tasted.' He took another swig.The Brigadier snapped into the phone. 'Never mind, Dr Sweetman, the emergency seems to be over.' He slammed the receiver down and said, 'Now, Doctor, never mind the dratted coffee, what about the crystal? Did you see spiders, too?'The Doctor shook his head. He rose, stretched and went over to the window.'When I was young,' he said, as if continuing a previous conversation, 'an old hermit lived half-way up a mountain behind our house. It was from him that I first learnt to look into my own mind.'The Brigadier seemed singularly unimpressed by this reminiscence. 'What did you see in the crystal, Doctor?''That's what I'm trying to tell tell you. I saw the face of my old teacher.' The Doctor turned, and his voice was very serious. 'Do you know, Brigadier, I've got a feeling I'm about to be faced with the worst threat, the greatest danger, of my entire life. It was as if that old hermit was reaching out across the years to help me...' you. I saw the face of my old teacher.' The Doctor turned, and his voice was very serious. 'Do you know, Brigadier, I've got a feeling I'm about to be faced with the worst threat, the greatest danger, of my entire life. It was as if that old hermit was reaching out across the years to help me...'
Outside the door of the Abbot's private suite, Mike Yates was arguing with Cho-Je and finding it a hopeless task. 'See K'anpo Rimpoche?' The little monk was scandalised. 'No, no, of course course not. You know our Abbot is in seclusion. He sees no one.' not. You know our Abbot is in seclusion. He sees no one.''But it's very important,' Yates protested.'Nothing is important, Mr. Yates, except to strive,' Cho-Je giggled disconcertingly, 'for enlightment, that is. As for this spider demon you think you have seen, many strange things will appear to you in meditation. You must what is the word salute them and walk on. Go to bed, Mr. Yates!'Cho-Je smiled benignly and disappeared down the corridor. As soon as the little monk was out of sight, Yates reached determinedly for the Abbot's door. A ma.s.sive form loomed up behind him, and a huge hairy paw grasped his wrist. It was Tommy.'Cho-Je say go to bed, Yates.''Listen, Tommy, I've got got to talk to K'anpo.' to talk to K'anpo.''K'anpo Tommy's friend. He like to be alone. Go to bed. I fetch Cho-Je or I hit you.'Tommy raised an enormous fist, and Yates stepped back. 'All right, Tommy.'The fist was lowered and Tommy looked pleased. 'Good. I don't like to hit you.' He settled his huge shoulders against the Abbot's door, obviously a fixture for the night.Yates sighed and walked away. There didn't seem to be very much he could do. Cho-Je wouldn't listen, and he'd never reach the Abbot without clobbering Tommy, which seemed a bit extreme even if he could manage it. Deciding to live to fight another day, Yates headed for his room, hoping Sarah would have better luck in convincing the Doctor. As he started up the main stair-case, he met Lupton coming down.Yates looked at him curiously. Lupton seemed in a state of exaltation. His eyes were glittering.'Time for all good little boys to go to bed, eh, Mr. Yates?''What about you?''Just a little const.i.tutional. Goodnight, Mr. Yates.'Mike Yates climbed the stairs to bed, and Lupton walked out of the front door. As he made for his car, he could still hear the cold clear voice inside his head. 'Hurry, Lupton, we must find the man with the crystal. We must find him and take it from him!''Suppose he doesn't want to part with it?'The Spider's voice was matter of fact. 'Nothing matters except the crystal. If the Doctor resists us, you must kill him.'
4 The Chase for the Crystal
When Sarah called on the Doctor early next morning, she found him hard at work in his laboratory. On one of the benches, he had rigged up a riot of wires and condensers, connected at one end to a little monitor screen, and at the other to the blue crystal from Metebelis Three.Thinking over the baffling events of the previous day, the Doctor had realised first that the crystal was somehow at the centre of things, and second that he didn't know nearly enough about it. He'd taken the crystal from Metebelis to study it, having searched carefully for a jewel with exactly the right characteristics. But although he had sometimes made use of the crystal's strange powers, he had never really investigated it properly. On a sudden impulse, he had given it to Jo Grant for her wedding present, she had taken it to South America, and then he'd forgotten all about it.Now, eager to make up for lost time, the Doctor was subjecting the crystal to a full electronic a.n.a.lysis, with the aid of one of his own inimitable lash-ups of improvised scientific equipment.Eagerly, Sarah poured out the whole story of her trip to the monastery. The Doctor appeared to be listening keenly, nodding his head intelligently from time to time, and encouraging her to continue with occasional 'ums' and 'ahs'. She came to the end of her story, and looked at him expectantly. 'Fascinating!' he said. 'Absolutely fascinating!'Sarah smiled, pleased that the Doctor didn't think she'd been wasting his time. The Doctor looked up at her and said solemnly, 'The crystal lattice is absolutely balanced, right and left.'Sarah groaned, realising he hadn't heard a single word of her story. The Doctor looked at her, puzzled because she didn't seem to share his pleasure. 'It's a scientific pun,' he explained. 'Coherent thought!''Doctor! What about about this man Lupton? What about this giant spider that jumped on his back and vanished?' this man Lupton? What about this giant spider that jumped on his back and vanished?'The Doctor stared vacantly at her for a moment and then said thoughtfully:'It's probably a.n.a.lagous to the laser...' He bent over his apparatus and adjusted controls. Blue sparks flickered round the crystal, and a complicated pattern of wave-traces flickered across the screen.Sarah glared at his back, tempted to crown him with one of his own bunsen burners. Suddenly, the Doctor looked up at her and said urgently, 'Spiders? Did you say spiders?? Giant Giant spiders?' spiders?'Sarah nodded weakly.The Doctor came up to her and put his hands on her shoulders, his face very grave. 'Now, Sarah,' he said solemnly, 'I want you to tell me the whole story, right from the beginning.'Sarah sighed, and started all over again. 'Well, I got this call from Mike Yates he was down at this meditation centre place...'Corporal Hodges, Unit Transport Section, gave the Doctor's new car a wipe with a damp cloth, and stepped back to admire his work. He always enjoyed looking after the Doctor's personal transport. Like the Doctor himself, it had character. First there had been Bessie, the old Edwardian roadster with the amazing turn of speed. Now there was this new car. Well, you couldn't exactly call it a car car . More like a cross between a flying saucer and a hovercraft. . More like a cross between a flying saucer and a hovercraft.Reflected in the gleaming surface of the vehicle, Hodges saw someone coming towards him. It was a stranger, a middle-aged man in a shabby sports jacket.'He's got a nerve,' thought Hodges, 'walking in as if he owned the place.'Although UNIT was a semi-secret organisation, Hodges nevertheless wasn't particularly alarmed or surprised. No attempt had been made to disguise the fact that the H.Q. was a military establishment of some some kind. Getting into the outer areas was comparatively easy. Access to the inner security area was impossible unless you had the right credentials. kind. Getting into the outer areas was comparatively easy. Access to the inner security area was impossible unless you had the right credentials.Hodges straightened up as the man approached. 'Can I help you, sir?'The man stopped. 'I'm looking for the Doctor.''Dr Sweetman, sir? The Medical Officer?'The man paused. It seemed almost as if he were listening to some inner voice.'No... ' he said slowly, 'the other Doctor.''Ah, the Scientific Adviser.' That explained it, thought Hodges. All sorts of weird people turned up to see the Doctor. 'You'll find him through that door over there, sir. Turn left and left again when you get inside.'The man nodded his thanks and moved away. Hodges said, 'Excuse me, sir!'The man stopped. He glared at Hodges impatiently. 'Well?''Could I see your pa.s.s please, sir?''Pa.s.s?''Can't go into the Central buildings without a pa.s.s. Didn't they give you one at the main gate?''Oh yes. Yes, of course.' The man reached for his pocket. Suddenly he stretched out his hand in a curious pointing gesture. A thread of fire snaked from his finger-tips, and blasted Hodges into unconsciousness. Lupton turned and ran for the door into the main building.'So you see,' the Doctor was saying, 'poor Professor Clegg saw spiders before he died, and you saw spiders at the monastery. There must must be a connection. And it be a connection. And it has has to be this crystal!' to be this crystal!'Sarah looked at the blue gem, sitting incongruously amongst the tangle of electronic equipment. 'Where did it come from anyway?''I brought it back some time ago, from a planet called Metebelis Three.'Briefly, the Doctor told Sarah the history of the jewel, and of its strange power to affect the mind.'You mean it could, well, drive someone mad?''Just the opposite. It clears the mind, and amplifies its powers.''But it could could be used for evil purposes?' be used for evil purposes?''Oh yes. If the minds using it were motivated by evil...'Sarah shivered. 'The minds of the giant spiders on Metebelis Three?''That's just it,' said the Doctor. 'There aren't any.'In the corridors nearby, Lupton moved cautiously on his way. 'Nearer,' said the voice of the Spider inside his head. 'We are getting closer we are almost there.' Following its directions, Lupton came nearer and nearer to the Doctor's laboratory. Suddenly, a big man in army uniform came round the corner and stood in front of him.'Excuse me, sir, you're in a security area. May I see your pa.s.s?'Lupton ignored him, and went on. Sergeant Benton was outraged. Automatically, he drew his revolver. 'Halt, or I fire!' Lupton swung round and stretched out his hand. Benton was slammed to the ground by what felt like a ma.s.sive electric shock, and Lupton ran on.'Land squids with great hairy tentacles,' the Doctor said. 'Giant snakes, an eagle the size of a house... but no spiders. In fact, no really intelligent life at all.' The Doctor rubbed his chin. 'Wait a minute, though there could be a time difference!'As an old friend of the Doctor, Sarah took the concept of time travel for granted. 'You mean the spiders come from an earlier period than the time of your visit?''That's right. Or a later one.'Unseen by the Doctor or Sarah, a face appeared at the gla.s.s part.i.tion dividing the laboratory from the corridor. It was Lupton. He could see the crystal glowing on the laboratory bench. It was almost within his grasp.'It's there,' he whispered. 'A blue crystal. It must must be the one!' be the one!''Concentrate!' said the Spider's voice inside his head. 'You must concentrate.'The Doctor and Sarah were looking at the crystal too. 'Let's a.s.sume there are are intelligent giant spiders on Metebelis Three,' said the Doctor matter-of-factly. 'Then why is there all this activity? Unless...' intelligent giant spiders on Metebelis Three,' said the Doctor matter-of-factly. 'Then why is there all this activity? Unless...''Unless what?''Unless,' said the Doctor slowly, 'they want the crystal back...'As he spoke, the crystal vanished before their eyes.In fact, it hadn't travelled very far. It was resting in the palm of Lupton's hand just a few feet away, s.n.a.t.c.hed there by the Spider's power of teleportation. Lupton was looking at it in incredulous triumph, when Benton staggered round the corner.Thanks to his size and strength, he had recovered from the Spider's blast far quicker than most men could have done. But he was still a little shaky. Quickly, Lupton shoved him aside, and hurried past. Benton took a wild shot, but missed by several yards. He was just about to set off in pursuit when the Doctor and Sarah shot out of the laboratory. The Doctor grabbed him by the shoulder, steadying him. 'What happened, old chap?''Some bloke stranger,' gasped Benton. 'He's got your crystal! Come on.'All three set off in pursuit.Lupton ran back through the door by which he had entered the building. He was half-way across the car-park and heading for the gate by the time the Doctor, Sarah and Benton reached the same door. To the Doctor's delight, he saw the Brigadier turn in through the gate. The Doctor cupped his hands and bellowed, Brigadier! Stop that man!'Confused but willing, the Brigadier drew his revolver and yelled, 'Halt!'He fired a warning shot over Lupton's head. Lupton skidded to a stop. He turned to go back, only to see the Doctor, Benton and Sarah heading towards him.Automatically, he raised his hand, expecting the Spider to give him the power to blast them down. But the voice inside his head said, 'No! They are too many and too distant. We must must escape.' escape.'Lupton looked round wildly. The big car park was full of army vehicles of all kinds; landrovers, motor-bikes, a staff car, even a little one-man helicopter. The nearest, and the fastest-looking, was a low, almost circular vehicle which resembled an ultra-modern racing car. Lupton sprinted to it, pulled back the entrance hatch, and jumped in.The Doctor, to his vast indignation, saw his pride and joy, his new experimental car, being driven out of the gates. The Brigadier had to jump aside as the strange-looking vehicle whizzed past him. Automatically he raised his revolver to shoot at the tyres, and then realised that the blessed thing hadn't got any tyres! The Doctor said in an anguished voice, 'Don't shoot, Brigadier, you'll damage my new car!'Sarah and Benton came speeding up to the gate in Bessie. The Doctor glanced round the car-park. He indicated the little helicopter. 'You three get after him in Bessie. I'll spot him from the air and guide you.'The little group broke up. The Doctor ran for the helicopter, and the Brigadier with a crisp, 'Move over, Benton,' got behind the wheel of Bessie. The little roadster shot off after Lupton.The Doctor swung his long legs into the c.o.c.kpit of the little helicopter. Looking like a large, unwieldy dragon-fly, it took off with a shattering roar, and was soon climbing steeply over the UNIT car-park.The Doctor looked down at the countryside beneath, the roads spread out like a map. He soon spotted his stolen car, and the bright yellow shape of Bessie in hot pursuit. From the Doctor's vantage point it was clear that the newer vehicle was slowly drawing ahead. Poor old Bessie just hadn't got the power. The Doctor flipped the switch of his intercom. 'Hullo, Brigadier, is this thing working? Can you hear me?'The Brigadier's voice crackled back. 'Loud and clear, Doctor. We're on his tail.''Yes, but he's getting away from you. Take the next right fork and you'll be able to cut him off.'A Police Panda car was tucked into the side of the little country lane. The driver was having a quiet doze before returning to the hurly-burly of the main road. Suddenly he jerked awake as two very odd-looking vehicles flashed past. He grabbed his radio-mike, too shaken to observe correct procedure. 'Listen, there's a sort of silver hovercraft being chased by an old crock. They're both doing about ninety!' The policeman instinctively ducked, as something whirred over his head, then added to his message. 'And there's a little tiny helicopter after 'em both. I'm in pursuit. Over.'The flat voice of the base radio operator droned in reply, 'Thank you, X-ray Tango. Your message is timed at ' Suddenly the voice broke off, became human. 'Oy! What What did you say?' But the policeman was too busy driving to reply. did you say?' But the policeman was too busy driving to reply.The Brigadier took the next right fork, as the Doctor had suggested, but Lupton's extra speed was just too much for them. The silvery shape whizzed past their bonnet before they could cut him off. The Brigadier cursed, muttered an apology to Sarah who was clinging petrified to Benton's arm swung the car round, and set off again after Lupton. By now their quarry was out of sight, but soon the Doctor's voice crackled in their ears. 'He's about half a mile in front of you. He's turned off to the left.'The chase went on. For all her old-fashioned appearance, Bessie was capable of an amazing turn of speed. But the Doctor's newest creation, with its more powerful engine and streamlined shape, was just too much for her. Thanks to the Doctor's spotting from overhead, they never entirely lost lost heir quarry, but it was getting increasingly obvious that they didn't have very much chance of heir quarry, but it was getting increasingly obvious that they didn't have very much chance of catching catching him either. him either.Lupton, crouched behind the padded wheel of the Doctor's car, soon made the connection between the maddening
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