Balazar nodded. 'There's nowhere else for it to go.' The hatchway was smeared with some kind of vegetable guck.
Peri looked at it dubiously. 'Talk about a tradesman's entrance...'
Glitz and Dibber came round the corner, laser cannons in their hands, covering the little group. 'Well, well,' said Glitz amiably.
'Glitz and Dibber,' said Peri. 'I wondered where you two had got to!'
'Where's your friend the Doctor?' asked Glitz.
'In the Castle,' said Peri.
Glitz gave Dibber a look. 'Didn't hang about, did he?'
'I'm worried about him, said Peri.
'So am I,' said Glitz.
Peri pointed to the hatch. 'Merdeen and Balazar think we can get into the Castle through this hatch.'
Glitz waved her onwards with his laser-cannon. 'Go on, then!'
Reluctantly Peri started to clamber through...
The Big Bang The Doctor took an anguished look at the shuddering console. 'It may only be a matter of minutes, Drathro.
Can't I make you see sense?'
'It is finished, Doctor.'
'Look,' said the Doctor desperately. 'It's not just this planet. n.o.body knows what a black-light explosion can do, there's never been one.'
'There will be one soon.'
'Some people think it might set off a chain reaction which would roll on till all matter in the galaxy is exhausted. Is that what you want?'
'It is no longer of concern to me, Doctor.'
'Others believe an explosion of black light would cause dimensional transference - and that would threaten the stability of the entire universe!' The Doctor was shouting now.
Drathro ignored him. He was studying a monitor with a warning light flashing above it.
The monitor showed a group of figures emerging into a food storage tank, its walls still dripping with green vegetable slime. They moved across it and climbed into an enormous tube, that gave pa.s.sage to the next chamber.
'Intruders in the food-production machinery,' rumbled Drathro.
The Doctor stared at the monitor. 'That's Peri! And Merdeen, and Dibber and Glitz. What on earth are they up to?'
Drathro at least had no doubts. 'So that was your intention, Doctor.'
'To distract me, while your friends attacked.' Drathro moved to a sub console and began setting controls.
Suddenly the Doctor realized what he was doing. The robot was about to set the food-processing machinery into operation - with Peri and the others still inside.
'You can't do that,' shouted the Doctor.
He hurled himself on the robot in a vain attempt to drag it away. Drathro sent him flying across the control room with a casual swat.
Then the robot touched a control...
Suddenly the door at the end of the giant tube slid closed.
From the other end an enormous whirling blade, its circ.u.mference exactly that of the tunnel, began sliding towards them. With a sick feeling, Peri realized that the tube was a kind of giant blender in which vegetables of all kinds were reduced to the green slime they'd seen on the walls. Now something very similar was going to happen to them...
Suddenly heat rays began bombarding the interior of the tube. The vegetables weren't just minced, and shredded, they were cooked as well!
The enormous blade came nearer and nearer, reducing the s.p.a.ce in which they could stand...
The Doctor staggered to his feet. He staggered to the monitor and saw what was happening to his friends.
'No!' he shouted again, and made a second, equally futile attempt to distract the robot.
Once again it smashed him aside, and he lay half-stunned.
Inside the tube they had very little time.
'What are we going to do?' yelled Peri. 'If we're not ground to death, we'll be fried!'
'Stand back,' grunted Dibber.
With a mighty effort he raised his laser-cannon, and blasted the side clean out of the tube.
Balazar, who had elected to stay behind as look-out, was peering into the hatch.
'What's happening?' he yelled.
He heard a series of explosions - and suddenly an enormous ball of green vegetable gunk shot from the hatchway, covering him from head to foot in green slime...
Dibber stumbled though the smoking hole in the wall into Drathro's control room. Immediately the robot smashed the laser cannon from his hands.
Glitz, who came next, dropped his weapon at once. 'We come in peace,' he said unconvincingly.
Peri and Merdeen staggered in after them.
'Are you all right, Doctor?' said Peri.
The Doctor got stiffly to his feet. 'For the moment,' he said grimly, his eyes on the still-vibrating black-light console. 'Though not for long, I fear!'
Drathro surveyed his prisoners. 'I could kill you all now, but there is no necessity. We are waiting for something the Doctor tells me is quite unique - a black-light explosion.'
'Do something, Dibber,' groaned Glitz.
The Doctor said, 'I've been trying to convince this mobile junk heap here that none of this needs happen - if he'd let me shut the system down.'
'Seems eminently sensible to me,' said Glitz.
Ah, but he won't listen to anything sensible,' said the Doctor bitterly. 'He needs black light to function, you see, so he sees no reason why the rest of us should survive. That is your narrowly egotistical little view, isn't it, Drathro?'
'If I am doomed, you are all doomed,' said the robot implacably.
The black-light console was juddering as if it would shake loose from the control-room floor, its lights flashing wildly.
It couldn't last much longer, thought the Doctor.
'Now, look here, wait a minute,' said Glitz. 'I mean, if it's only black light you want Drathro, we've got plenty of that, haven't we, Dibber?'
Dibber was a bit slow picking up his cue. 'We do?'
'On the ship,' said Glitz desperately. 'On the ship, Dibber.'
'Oh, black light,' said Dibber. 'Yeah, we got so much of that sometimes you can hardly see.'
'There is black light on your ship?' said Drathro eagerly.
Glitz's story was patently unconvincing, yet the robot grasped at it like a sick man promised a miracle cure. He wanted, needed to believe them.
'As my friend says,' said Dibber smoothly, 'we've got more black light than we know what to do with. So what I suggest is, you come with us and we'll, er, fix you up.'
'Why?' asked Drathro, suddenly suspicious.
'Well, I hate to see a good-looking robot like you go to waste,' said Glitz. 'Tell you what else we can do for you.
We can drop you off in the Constellation of Andromeda.
How about that?'
'It is possible?' asked Drathro eagerly.
Not only life, but a return home, thought the Doctor.
Glitz was quite a con man when he got going. Now for the sting.
'Of course,' said Glitz casually, 'you'd have to bring all the secrets. They'd expect that. You'll have to bring them back.'
'How far is your ship?' asked Drathro.
'Oh, right outside really,' said Glitz vaguely. 'No distance at all.'
'I could function for a short distance.'
'Of course you could,' said Glitz encouragingly.
'I accept your offer,' said Drathro. 'I will fetch the secrets.'
He pointed to Glitz's gun. 'Take that, and tie these others up.'
The robot disappeared into a small inner chamber.
'Well done,' said the Doctor and headed for the black-light console.
Dibber barred his way, laser-gun in hand. 'Sorry, Doc.
You heard what he said.'
By the time the robot emerged with a flat metal case in its metal hand, Peri and Merdeen were securely bound, and Glitz was just finishing lashing the Doctor to a nearby console.
'Don't be a fool,' said the Doctor.
'Slip knot, Doctor,' whispered Glitz. 'Best I can do for you!'
'Strange how low cunning succeeds where intelligence fails,' said the Doctor.
'Don't knock low cunning, Doc,' said Glitz. 'You're still here, aren't you?'
« Previous My Bookmarks Chapters Next»