The Brigadier let out his breath in a long sigh. 'All right, Corporal Bell.' He looked at the Chinese girl who was standing in front of his desk, quivering with anger.
'Yes, Captain, what can I do for you?'
It occurred to Mike Yates, as he brought forward a chair, that in her off-duty moments, if she ever had any, Captain Chin Lee of the Chinese People's Army would be a remarkably attractive girl. She was still in her mid-twenties, and the high-cheekboned face with its huge dark eyes was undeniably beautiful. But the face was marred by an almost permanent scowl of angry indignation.
Ignoring the chair, the girl stood stiffly at attention.
'Brigadier! An outrage has been committed against the Chinese People's Delegation. As you are in charge of the security arrangements, I hold you directly responsible.'
It was the accusing tone that was so objectionable, decided the Brigadier. That and the almost hysterical a.s.sumption that every every delay, difficulty or set-back, any least thing that displeased the touchy Chinese Delegation was the result of a carefully planned Western Imperialist Conspiracy. 'What is it now, Captain Chin Lee?' delay, difficulty or set-back, any least thing that displeased the touchy Chinese Delegation was the result of a carefully planned Western Imperialist Conspiracy. 'What is it now, Captain Chin Lee?'
'Important State doc.u.ments have been stolen from General Cheng Teik's suite.'
'That's impossible,' said Mike Yates immediately.
'There's a twenty-four hour guard on all the delegates'
'Nevertheless, the theft has occurred. Your guards are inefficient. Probably they take bribes.'
' That is an insulting suggestion! That is an insulting suggestion! ' The Brigadier spoke with such fury that even Chin Lee looked alarmed. With an effort he controlled himself. 'Very well, Captain, leave it with me. We shall look into the matter immediately.' ' The Brigadier spoke with such fury that even Chin Lee looked alarmed. With an effort he controlled himself. 'Very well, Captain, leave it with me. We shall look into the matter immediately.'
'I must warn you Brigadier that this incident puts the success of this Peace Conference in grave jeopardy. We suspect the American Imperialists of this crime.'
'Naturally,' said the Brigadier drily. His voice hardened.
'I a.s.sure you that every effort will be made to locate the missing papers and to find and punish whoever is responsible.'
'If there is any further trouble, our Delegation will withdraw from this conference.' With this parting shot, Captain Chin Lee turned and marched out of the office.
Gloomily, the Brigadier watched her go. 'More trouble!'
'Mmm,' said Mike Yates thoughtfully. 'Pity. She's quite a dolly.'
Catching the Brigadier's eye, Mike returned hurriedly to his duties.
Filled with a virtuous glow that came from the knowledge of having done her duty, Captain Chin Lee strode out of UNIT HQ and stood for a moment on the steps, looking out at the pleasant London square. Children were playing in the garden in the centre. The sounds of their laughter drifted across to her.
Suddenly she became aware that there was something else she had to do. Something else...
Her official limousine was parked outside the building, and the chauffeur leaped forward to open the door for her.
Blank-faced, Chin Lee walked straight past him, crossed the road and walked through the little garden.
At a secluded spot on the far side she paused beside a wire litter bin and took a sheaf of important-looking papers from inside her tunic. The papers bore the seal of the Chinese Delegation. Producing a big, old-fashioned cigarette lighter from her tunic pocket, Captain Chin Lee set fire to the papers, holding them up by one corner.
A strange electronic pulsing filled her mind, and she fingered the metal disc high on her neck, hidden by her hair... Only when the yellow flames were licking at her fingers did she drop the remnants of the papers into the bin and turn away.
As she walked back to her car, her face was calm and placid. Already it was as if the incident had completely faded from her mind.
The throbbing of the Keller Machine was dying away as Jo Grant, the Doctor, Professor Kettering and the Prison Governor hurried into the Process Chamber.
The Doctor turned angrily to Kettering. 'Do you still insist this Process is working normally?'
'Of course it is,' said Kettering defensively. 'I mean, you've just seen Barnham, haven't you?'
The Doctor nodded, but it was clear from his expression that he was far from convinced.
'Look here,' continued Kettering. 'Emil Keller himself installed the machine here. I worked very closely with him.
I know every facet of the process.'
The Doctor stared gloomily down at the console. 'I don't like it, Governor, I never did.'
'Don't like what?'
'Interfering with the powers of the mind. It's a dangerous business.'
Kettering said furiously, 'All this is hardly your concern, Doctor.'
'Professor Kettering, it is everyone's concern!'
They were interrupted by the entrance of Doctor Summers, looking, if possible, even more worried than usual.
The Governor turned to him with relief. 'Ah, Doctor Summers! Any news for us?'
Summers nodded. 'I've got the post-mortem report here.' Fussily he looked through a sheaf of papers. 'The deceased's name was Arthur Linwood, he was a medical student in his final year...'
'Yes, yes,' interrupted the Doctor. 'But what did he die of?'
Kettering gave a sigh of relief. 'There you are then. The strain of watching the Process was too much for him.'
Doctor Summers said slowly, 'But he didn't have a weak heart, Professor Kettering.'
'Anything unusual in his medical history?' asked the Doctor.
Summers nodded. 'I called his Teaching Hospital.
There was just one thing... Apparently he suffered from a morbid fear of certain animals. When he was working in the laboratory, he was absolutely terrified of '
'Rats?' suggested the Doctor.
Summers looked at him in surprise. 'Yes.'
'And those scratch marks on his neck and face could they have been made by rats?'
'Yes, they could.'
'There are no rats in this room,' said the Governor indignantly. 'None in the entire prison, come to that.'
Summers looked up from the report. 'But all the indications are that he was attacked by a horde of them
and the shock killed him.'
'You must be mistaken,' said Kettering impatiently.
The Doctor said gently, 'But Linwood is dead.'
'Because of heart failure.'
'No. Because of this Machine.'
'I tell you the man's death had nothing to do with the Machine. If you were any sort of a scientist, my dear chap, you'd understand.'
For a moment, Jo thought the Doctor was going to explode.
'If I were a scientist? Let me inform you, sir, that I am a scientist, and have been for many thousand '
Realising that this claim was unlikely to increase his credibility, the Doctor bit off his own words. 'Jo!' he called, and turned and stalked from the room.
'The man's mad,' said Kettering dismissively.
Jo Grant paused in the doorway. 'On the contrary, he happens to be a genius. I wish you'd listen to him, Governor.' She followed the Doctor from the room.
Doctor Summers was thoroughly bemused. 'What do you think we ought to do?'
'I think you'd better give that Machine a thorough check, Professor Kettering,' said the Governor firmly.
'Yes, of course, Governor. But I a.s.sure you, there's no cause for anxiety.'
'All the same better safe than sorry, eh?'
With this undeniable if unoriginal sentiment the Governor left the Chamber. Doctor Summers hurried after him.
Left alone with the Machine, Professor Kettering stared uneasily at it for a moment, and then began checking the readings on the console.
The Machine hummed a little, and the dial on its base quivered...
All was bustle and activity in UNIT's outer office. Mike Yates was sticking pins into a giant wall map of Southern England, talking into the telephone at the same time.
Corporal Bell was on the phone as well. She looked up as the Brigadier entered the room. 'Call for you, sir.'
'Thank you, Corporal Bell. I'll take it in my office.'
As he went through to the inner office, the Brigadier heard Mike Yates saying impatiently, 'I'll give you the final security schedules just as soon as I've cleared them with the Brigadier. I'll be phoning you back within the next hour...'
Clearly, Yates hadn't lost any time in getting to grips with the nerve-gas Missile problem, thought the Brigadier approvingly.
He went into his office and picked up the phone.
'Lethbridge-Stewart... Yes, I see. You're sure? Very well, continue the search.' The Brigadier paused for a moment, then pressed a buzzer.
A moment later, Mike Yates bustled in, 'Sir?'
The Brigadier nodded towards a chair. 'Sit down.' Mike sat down and the Brigadier continued: 'Still no trace of Chin Lee's missing papers. Our people have turned the whole place inside out. No gaps in the security system either. It wouldn't surprise me if she took the papers herself, just to cause me trouble.'
Corporal Bell put her head round the door. 'Excuse me, sir, Captain Chin Lee's on the phone.'
The Brigadier groaned.
Tactfully, Corporal Bell went on, 'Do you want me to say you're not '
He shook his head impatiently. 'No, no, I'll speak to her.'
Corporal Bell disappeared. The Brigadier looked gloomily at Mike Yates. 'I wonder what she's complaining of this time?' The red phone buzzed, and the Brigadier picked it up. 'Good afternoon, Captain Chin Lee. How can I help ' The Brigadier broke off, an expression of sudden concern on his face. 'Yes... yes, I see. Don't touch anything.
I'll be over at once.' He slammed down the phone and jumped to his feet.
Mike Yates rose too. 'More stolen papers, sir?'
The Brigadier flicked the switch on his intercom. 'Get my car ready. Right away!' He turned to Mike. 'We've got real trouble now, Captain Yates. The Chinese delegate is dead!'
The Inferno Professor Kettering was checking on the Keller Machine as far as he was able, which wasn't, in fact, very far.
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