AND THE IMAGE OF THE FENDAHL.
By TERRANCE d.i.c.kS.
1 The Skull
A man was hurrying through the woods. Dusk was falling, and the road was dark and lonely. Wakening owls hooted mournfully in the shadowy tree-tops. The hiker was near the end of his day's travel. He thought longingly of the crowded bar of some village pub, of pints of beer and cheese rolls, of lights and tobacco smoke and the babble of conversation.He kept thinking someone was following him.It was ridiculous, of course. Every time he looked over his shoulder the lane behind him was quite empty. But somehow the sensation persisted. He could feel something, some presence, some threat, looming up behind him. An old verse began running through his head. How did it go? 'Like one that walks a lonely road 'Like one that walks a lonely road And dares not turn his head Because he knows a frightful fiend Doth close behind him tread...'Something like that, anyway. 'A frightful fiend...' Trying to put the rhyme out of his mind, the walker hurried on his way.Professor Adam Colby glared at the skull.The skull, despite its blankly shadowed eye-sockets, seemed to glare right back at him.Colby sighed. He was a handsome, rather elegant young man, neat and cat-like, whose languid manner concealed a brilliant brain. 'Well, don't just sit there, Eustace. Say something.'The skull, of course, said nothing. Enthroned on its gleaming metal stand, it dominated the clutter of chemical flasks, bunsen burners, slide rules, callipers and clip-boards that surrounded it.Colby scowled. The skull represented a triumph, a challenge and an enigma, and his laboured student joke of christening it Eustace did nothing to relieve the problem.The skull was an impossibility.Not that you could tell by looking at it. A human skull, well-developed brain-case, obviously of great antiquity. Fine cracks and hair-lines across the yellowing bone of its surface showed that it had been painstakingly reconstructed from various different-sized fragments.Colby sighed theatrically, attracting the attention of the young woman peering through a microscope at the nearby workbench. She was in her late twenties, dark-haired, and even in a plain white lab coat and slacks, strikingly attractive. Her name was Thea Ransome. In her own way she was almost as distinguished a scientist as Colby himself.She looked at Colby and smiled. 'Why don't you just publish? Announce your discovery of Eustace to the world and be done with it?''Why should anyone believe me?' asked Colby plaintively. 'I found him - and I don't!''Are you questioning my technical competence?''Of course not. The volcanic sediment in which the skull was embedded was twelve million years old.' Colby gave her a mock bow. 'I accept without reservation the results of your excellent pota.s.sium-argon test. What I don't accept is that Eustace here managed to get himself buried under a volcano at least eight million years before he could have existed!'Thea shrugged. Her job was the dating of the most ancient objects by the most advanced scientific methods. Fitting the results into the accepted theories was someone else's problem.The lab door was flung open and Max Stael appeared, looking round the untidy laboratory with distaste, like a Prussian Officer on the parade ground. His stiff Germanic good looks reflected his stiff Germanic character. His lab coat was crisp and gleaming white. 'Professor Colby, Doctor Fendleman is waiting for the corrected co-ordinates.'Lazily Colby stretched out his arm, fished a clip-board from the cluttered bench and held it out. 'There you go.'Stael took the clip-board, tucked it under his arm, gave a brisk nod, and turned to leave.'Come on, Maxie,' said Colby encouragingly. 'End the day with a smile.'Max Stael stared blankly at him for a moment. Then his rather woodenly handsome features twitched briefly, and he turned and left the laboratory.Colby winked at Thea, rose and stretched. 'Think I'll call it a day. Coming, Thea?''I just want to finish this - shan't be long.'Colby gave a farewell nod to the skull and drifted off. Thea returned to her microscope.It was almost dark now and the walker increased his pace, looking uneasily around at the gathering shadows. He began to whistle to keep up his spirits, a ragged uneven version of some ragtime tune. The owls seemed to accompany him with a mocking, hooted chorus.His sense of oppression, the feeling of being somehow pursued was stronger than ever now. The night-wind rustled eerily through the trees as he hurried on.Stael went along an oak-panelled corridor in the rear wing of Fetch Priory. The atmosphere was cold and dank, as if this part of the enormous old building was seldom used. He marched up to a heavy oak door, produced a formidable-looking set of keys, unlocked the door and went into the room beyond.The big old-fashioned room had been converted into an incredibly complex electronic laboratory, its walls lined with banks of controls. This was the home of the Time Scanner, Doctor Fendleman's supreme achievement, and as yet a closely-guarded secret from all but one of his colleagues. The apparatus gave out a steady electronic tick.The left-hand bank controlled and monitored power input, the right directional co-ordinates. The huge central bank running across the entire rear wall was the control console for the Time Displacement Sweep. There was a large vision-screen at its centre, a number of smaller monitor-screens at each side.Fendleman was busy with the computer controls, a wiry intense-looking man, sharp-faced, with a thin moustache. Nothing particularly impressive about him - but he was one of the richest and most powerful men in the world. Fendleman Electronics was a multi-national giant that had outstripped all its compet.i.tors, an industrial complex so vast that it virtually ran itself - leaving Fendleman free to pursue his twin hobbies of archaeology and electronic research.He looked up as Stael came into the room. 'Ah, good, there you are Max.' Stael handed him the co-ordinates, and he studied them for a moment. 'Yes, excellent. We, are ready to begin. Phase one power please.'Stael moved to the power console. 'Phase one power.' A steadily rising electronic hum filled the cellar.'Phase two power.''Phase two power,' said Stael obediently. The hum became a high-pitched, vibrating whine. Stael winced, rubbed a hand over his eyes, shook his head as if to clear it, and then returned his attention to the console.Alone in the laboratory on the floor above, Thea Ransome winced, and rubbed her forehead. Her eyes fell on the skull, and were held by it. There was something very strange about the skull. It seemed to be glowing glowing ... She moved over to take a closer look. ... She moved over to take a closer look.'Switching to main computer control,' said Fendleman. There was a chattering beep of computer sound, which just as suddenly cut out.'Activating full power run-up sequence - now!'The whine of power rose higher. The lights in the cellar flickered and dimmed.The lights in Professor Colby's laboratory dimmed too. For a moment Thea glanced up at them. Then she returned to her absorbed study of the skull.It was quite definitely glowing now, and as the glow became brighter, all expression and vitality faded from Thea's features. It was as though the skull were absorbing her very being. Her face became blank, her eyes glazed, like a high priestess enraptured by some ancient ritual... She seemed to absorb the skull and yet to become part of it...Worried by the ever-approaching darkness, the hiker stopped, fished a heavy torch from his rucksack and waved it around. The white beam picked out trees and bushes, nothing else. Yet somehow the hiker knew there was something hunting him. He began to run, blundering from the path, crashing panic-stricken through the bushes.From somewhere close behind him there came a strange, slurred dragging sound, as something slithered after him... He stumbled on blindly. Then suddenly his legs refused to obey him. 'I can't move...' he babbled. ' I can't move my legs I can't move my legs ...' ...'The dragging sound came closer.Thea Ransome could see nothing, feel nothing but the skull, as its glow rose to a fierce intensity. The power-hum of Fendleman's equipment had penetrated the laboratory now, and in Thea's mind another sound mingled with it. A slurred dragging sound...The hiker stared upwards in helpless fascination. There was a hissing, hungry sound as the thing swooped down. He fell back, dropping his torch, and gave one last terrible death-cry as the life-force was sucked out of him.The hiker's dying scream echoed through Thea Ransome's mind. The glow of the skull faded, and she fainted, falling from the stool.In Fendleman's laboratory the electronic scream rose a notch higher and then steadied. 'Running at full power, Doctor Fendleman.''Excellent. We can begin the Time Scan.' Fendleman's long white hands moved over the controls. 'Commencing scan. Programme one...'Somewhere in the s.p.a.ce Time continuum there was a police box that was not a police box at all. Inside its impossibly-large control room, a tall, casually dressed man with bright blue eyes and a crop of curly hair was studying the electronic innards of what appeared to be some kind of robot dog. A dark-haired girl in a brief animal-skin costume looked on disapprovingly. 'Professor Marius will not be pleased.'The robot dog was called K9. In reality a mobile self-powered computer with defensive capabilities, K9 had been presented to the Doctor by his creator and first owner, Professor Marius. The automaton had developed some mysterious ailment, and the Doctor was trying to a.s.sess the damage. 'Nasty,' he muttered, shaking his head. 'Very nasty.''Will he be all right?' asked Leela anxiously. She was fond of K9.'Ssh! I don't know yet.' The Doctor concluded his examination. ' It It will be perfectly all right. will be perfectly all right. It It just has a little corrosion in its circuits.' just has a little corrosion in its circuits.''I can call K9 "he" if I want to! After all, you call the TARDIS "she".''Never!''Yes you do, I've heard you - you called it she just a moment ago.'Ignoring her the Doctor went on with his examination.'And another thing. It is quite clear to me that you cannot really control this old machine.'The Doctor was shocked. 'What did you say, Leela? No, I heard what you said!''Then why ask?''Leela, I understand the TARDIS perfectly. There's not a single part of her that I haven't adjusted or repaired at some time or another.''Well, don't cry about it!' said Leela mockingly.The Doctor stood up. 'What is more,' he said with dignity, 'I am in complete and constant control of her - 'The soothing hum coming from the console changed to a high-pitched note of distress, and the TARDIS gave a sudden lurch.Leela grabbed the edge of the console. 'What's happening?'The Doctor was studying dials on the console. 'We seem to be being dragged towards a Relative Continuum Displacement Zone.''A what?''A hole in Time!''What's going to happen to us?''I wish I knew!' yelled the Doctor. 'I just wish I knew. We're completely out of control!'
2 Dead Man in the Wood
The TARDIS seemed to be spinning and twisting and falling all at the same time as if caught in some temporal whirlpool.Leela clung desperately to the console. 'Can we break free, Doctor?'The Doctor was clawing his way round the console, stabbing frantically at the controls. 'I don't know. It all depends on this misunderstood, uncontrollable old old machine of mine.' machine of mine.'Leela bowed to the juddering centre column of the TARDIS, as if to some powerful idol. 'I'm sorry - I meant no disrespect!'Slowly the sickening spinning began to lessen. 'She's turning!' shouted the Doctor. 'We're coming out of it!'Encouraged by the success of her prayer, Leela bowed again. 'Forgive me, I was wrong to be disrespectful.'The TARDIS steadied herself still more, and quite suddenly things were back to normal. The Doctor laughed exultantly, and patted the console. 'TARDIS, you are wonderful wonderful !' !'The console gave a pleased electronic burble. Leela stared at it in awe. 'You didn't tell me! Can she really understand every word we say?''Well, yes in a way. She generates a low-intensity telepathic field. Obviously your primitive thought patterns appeal to her.'Leela wasn't sure if this was a compliment or not. 'They do?''Yes, you see - ' the Doctor broke off. 'That's odd.''What is, my thought patterns?''The turbulence must have upset the instruments. I can't get any proper readings.''What does that mean?''It means I can't calculate our co-ordinates! We'll just have to follow the Time Scanner back to its source.''To destroy it?' suggested Leela eagerly. She wasn't even sure what a Time Scanner was, but it had obviously put them in some danger. Leela was a great believer in paying off old scores.'We'll certainly have to stop it being used,' said the Doctor thoughtfully. 'If we don't it will cause a direct continuum implosion.''What will that do?''Destroy the planet it's operating from!''Do we know which one it is yet?'The Doctor was brooding over the controls. 'That's what I'm trying to find out. It's partly guesswork, of course, but if my estimations are correct - oh no!''What is it?''Not that one!''Not what one?''Not there there !' !'Leela was jumping up and down with impatience. 'Not where?' she shrieked.'Earth!' said the Doctor, with gloomy relish.Leela couldn't understand why the Doctor was so upset. She'd always believed Earth was one of his favourite planets. Perhaps the attraction had worn off when he'd been exiled there by the Time Lords. But he'd still liked it enough to take her to visit a Victorian Music Hall. Leela shuddered, remembering what that had led to...The Doctor was looking severely at her. 'Your ancestors, Leela, have a talent for self destruction which is little short of genius.'Leela's temper flared up. 'Now listen, Doctor, I do not like the way you keep talking about my my ancestors...' ancestors...'The Doctor grinned. 'I like your outfit.'Baffled but pleased, Leela said, 'Thank you.''It's a pleasure,' said the Doctor politely, and went back to his calculations.Leela felt she'd been outsmarted - but she couldn't quite work out how...The kitchen of Fetch Priory was a large stone-flagged room which seemed to dwarf the newly-installed modern sink and cooker. It was a room which demanded an immense cast-iron cooking-range shining with blacklead, rows of gleaming copper pots and pans, and the legions of cooks and maids it took to run such a place, and make life comfortable for the gentry upstairs.But there were no resident servants at the Priory these days, just a local cook who came in to prepare the evening meal. Fendleman could have afforded all the servants he wanted. But when he had taken the place over for his Research Centre, Fendleman had decided that living-in servants, who might gossip or even be bribed by some spying compet.i.tor, would be too great a risk. The scientists who worked at the Priory were paid the highest salaries in the field - but they had to make their own beds and cook some of their own meals all the same.Thea Ransome was sitting at the big wooden table flicking through the paper, huddled over a mug of coffee she'd had to make herself. Fendleman and Max Stael came into the kitchen. They looked tired but triumphant.'Ah, Thea,' said Fendleman vaguely. 'You're feeling all right again?'Thea had recovered to find herself on the laboratory floor, late last evening. She had gone rather dazedly to bed, but had awakened next morning, feeling perfectly normal. 'Yes, I'm fine now, thanks. I still don't remember what happened. Must have spent too long peering into that microscope.' She stared with mock-severity at Stael. 'I do remember one thing though, Max. It was your turn to cook the breakfast!'Stael returned her look with his usual impa.s.sivity. Thea sighed. There was no fun in teasing Max, he was totally without a sense of humour.Fendleman said, 'I'm sorry, you must blame me for that. We have only just finished, we worked all night you know.' He rubbed his hands. 'And the results! I think the results will amaze even our sceptical friend Colby.' He looked round the kitchen. 'Where is he by the way?'Thea looked up from her paper. 'Out exercising Leakey.' Leakey was Adam Colby's dog, a scruffy old Labrador. His name was partly a tribute to the famous anthropologist, partly a reference to an unfortunate habit of occasionally forgetting his house-training.At this precise moment Colby was not so much exercising Leakey as looking for him. Leakey loved to explore, and his first action when taken,for a walk was to disappear in quest of some exciting smell. The rest of the walk was spent looking for him and persuading him to come back home.Colby stood in the middle of the woods shouting patiently, 'Leakey! Come on Leakey, time to go home. Here, boy! Here!'He heard a whine coming from a clump of bushes. 'Come on Leakey? What have you got boy? Found another bone?'When he pushed his way through the bushes, Colby saw that Leakey had found not a bone but a body. A huddled shape lay face-down on the ground. Leakey was nosing around it, whining uneasily. Colby knelt to examine the body, feeling for a pulse in the neck. There was nothing. The man was clearly quite dead, and had been for some time. Curiously there was no sign of rigor mortis, the stiffening that comes after death. Instead, the body felt oddly soft and shapeless beneath his hands. Colby noticed something else - a strange mark on the back of the man's neck. He turned the body over, and recoiled.The dead man's face was horribly twisted - eyes bulging in pure terror. Colby wondered what horror had put such a terrible look on the dead man's face.Fendleman and Stael had finished breakfast by now, and were sitting over coffee in the kitchen.Fendleman took a sip of coffee. 'Do not misunderstand me, Thea, I have the greatest respect for Adam Colby. His methodology cannot be faulted. The entire excavation was brilliant, and the reconstruction of the skull was first cla.s.s work - I doubt if anyone else could have done it.'Thea poured herself another cup of coffee. 'The evolutionary implications seem to worry him rather. He says he just can't accept them.'Fendleman's eyes twinkled as if at some private joke. 'And you, Thea. Can you accept them?''Chronology is my field, Doctor Fendleman. I'm just a technician, not a palaeontologist.'Colby burst into the kitchen, Leakey at his heels. 'There's a corpse at the edge of the wood!'There was a brief, stunned silence. Fendleman rose slowly to his feet. 'What kind of a corpse?''A dead one of course,' said Colby impatiently. 'What other kind is there?''Is it male? Female?''Male.''Do we know him?' asked Thea.Colby shook his head, still pale and shaken by the memory of what he had seen. 'Well, I don't, never saw him before. On some kind of walking holiday by the look of him. Boots and a rucksack and all that...''How did he die?' asked Fendleman patiently. 'Are there any signs of violence?''Not exactly, though there was a mark on his neck...' Colby shook, remembering the dead man's face. 'But by the look of him - well, he didn't die easily.''It is never easy to die,' said Stael enigmatically.'Well, thank you for that pearl of wisdom, Max,' said Colby satirically. 'I'm off to call the police.'Fendleman's voice stopped him at the door. 'Just a moment, Adam. We must consider this very carefully.''What's to consider? There's a body out there. We can't just leave it - or are you breeding vultures in that secret laboratory of yours?'This was an old grievance. Everyone knew Fendleman had some kind of electronics laboratory hidden away in the rear wing. So far he had refused to let anyone but Stael inside, or even to discuss the kind of work he was doing there - though he wasn't above dropping a variety of tantalising hints.Fendleman took the taunt with dignified calm. 'Please, Adam! There is no need for discourtesy.'Colby threw himself into a chair. 'Oh, I'm sorry. I suppose it must be shock.' His face clouded. 'He looked awful - absolutely awful - poor chap. He must have been utterly terrified when he died.''Now listen to me, Colby. You know that wood is supposed to be haunted? Can you imagine what would happen if there were news of a mysterious death?'Colby stared blankly at him. It was Thea who realised the fear in Fendleman's mind. 'There'd be a certain amount of publicity, I suppose...''There would be a circus! That wood attracts enough local lunatics as it is, without advertising for more.'There was a silence. Everyone knew that Fendleman was talking about Witchcraft and Black Magic. The village near the Priory was isolated and inbred, and there were strong rumours that the cult of the Old Ways still survived. Max Stael had even made a study of it - the occult was a hobby of his. He had discovered that Fetch Wood had always had an evil reputation. There were stories of mysterious ceremonies held in its groves at midnight, of chanting, cowled figures circling around secret altars... There was even a village witch - who also happened to be the Priory cook.Colby said slowly, 'Even so, I don't see we've much alternative...'Fendleman leaned across the table. 'Adam, our work here is at a critical stage. Your discovery of the skull is one of the most important milestones in human development. Your work will seriously affect the way man views himself. We cannot be interrupted at this moment of destiny.''Yes, but - 'Fendleman produced his strongest argument. 'And besides - we wouldn't want your n.o.bel prize to be jeopardised by an unfortunate coincidence. Now would we?'Thea looked hard at him. 'Just what are you suggesting, Doctor Fendleman?''I am not suggesting anything, yet. When Adam has recovered he can show me the body, and we can decide what to do.' He paused. 'Perhaps we can arrange for the body to be discovered somewhere else.'Thea was shocked. 'That's illegal!'Fendleman shrugged. 'A harmless deception.'She turned to Colby. 'Adam, you can't...'Colby was looking thoughtful. For all his languid manner he was a fiercely ambitious man, and Fendleman's remark about the n.o.bel prize had had its effect. 'It probably wouldn't make much difference, I suppose... I mean the poor chap is dead now...''Exactly,' said Fendleman heartily. 'Exactly! We'll work something out, eh Adam?' He ushered Colby out of the room, nodding to Stael to follow them.Colby went on ahead and Fendleman took Stael to one side. 'Get on to London. Tell Hartman I want a Security Team here within two hours. Tell him I want the best men we have, and I want them armed.' Stael nodded and moved away. Fendleman stopped him. 'Oh, and one other thing. I want you to do a full post-mortem on that body. We've got to find out how that man died...'
3 Time Scan
The centre column came slowly to rest, as the TARDIS landed. The Doctor touched a control, and the door swung open.'Earth?' asked Leela cautiously.'Earth!''The place of the Time Scan?''Yes - well, more or less. I haven't quite got it pinpointed, but it's definitely round here - somewhere.'Leela checked the knife at her belt. 'Come on then.'The Doctor jammed his floppy hat on his head, and wound an incredibly long scarf round his neck. 'The one who leads says "Come on!"'Leela stared at him.'Come on!' said the Doctor, and strode from the TARDIS. With an exasperated sigh, Leela followed.They found themselves in a field at the edge of a wood. It was a sunny summer morning and the TARDIS was surrounded by a herd of curious cows.The Doctor raised his hat. 'Good morning! Which one of you ladies happens to be using a Time Scanner?'The cows looked at him with large brown eyes. One of them mooed gently.Leela gave the Doctor a sceptical look. 'This doesn't seem like the right place for a Time Scanner, Doctor.''Well, I did say more or less.' The Doctor surveyed the peaceful rural scene. 'Though I must admit, this place does look rather less than more. You know, I really don't think these cows know anything about a Time Scanner.' He drew a deep breath. 'Still never mind, it's a beautiful day, and the exercise will do us good. Come on!'He set off through the wood.When Stael came into the laboratory, Fendleman was studying a computer print-out with absorbed attention. 'Look, it is all here, Stael, if only we can interpret it. If we can get a visual representation of this, then we will see the living owner of that skull!'Stael glanced at the print-out. There were other things on his mind. 'I have completed the post mortem on the body found in the wood.''And?''I cannot find the cause of death. There is a small blister on the back of the neck, close to the base of the skull, but that could not have killed him.''Natural causes then?'Stael shook his head. 'I do not think so. There is something - strange.''Well?'Stael paused, collecting his thoughts. 'The outward signs are that the man died very recently. His watch is still working, he has yesterday's newspaper in his pocket, the coffee in the thermos in his pack was still hot, the mud on his boots - ''Yes, yes,' interrupted Fendleman impatiently. 'Get on with it!''The body is decomposing.''Already?' Fendleman's voice was shocked.'It's happening almost as you watch.''And the cause?''I don't know... It's as if all the energy has been removed. All the binding force is gone, and all that's left is a husk.'Fendleman was silent for a moment, considering. He looked at Stael, the same thought in both their minds. The Time Scanner was a totally new piece of equipment, which produced disturbances in the fabric of Time itself. They had always known that there was a danger that its use might produce side effects. It seemed horribly likely that the death of the man in the wood was one of them.'Very well,' said Fendleman decisively. 'Are the security team in place?''Yes.''Good. You will dispose of the body, Max. No one must know of this. No one at all.'Stael nodded and went out of the laboratory. Fendleman sat staring into s.p.a.ce for a moment. He was breaking the law, but that didn't matter; he was rich enough to get away with it. The work was too important to be endangered. Even the sacrifice of an innocent life was not too high a price.Satisfied he had come to the right decision, Fendleman returned to work.The Doctor lay stretched out on a gra.s.sy bank, by the side of a country lane, his hat over his eyes. He was dozing peacefully.The walk through the wood had produced no sign of a Time Scanner, or even of any building that might contain one. Eventually they'd come to this lane cutting through the forest and the Doctor had decided it was time for a little rest.Leela, too restless to settle, had been keen to go off and do a little scouting around, and the Doctor had decided to let her go, warning her to stay out of sight. After all, he thought, she couldn't get into much trouble in the peaceful English countryside.There was a soft call. 'Doctor? Doctor!' The Doctor opened his eyes and realised that he should have known better. Leela could find trouble anywhere.Leela was standing over him. Beside her was a middle-aged man in farm-worker's clothing, holding an old bike. He was standing very still, probably because Leela had her knife at his throat. 'I have captured one of their warriors,' said Leela proudly. 'He came silently on this machine, and he is armed.'The Doctor saw the old-fashioned bill-hook strapped to the bicycle-frame. He sat up and gave the terrified labourer a friendly smile. 'You must have been sent by Providence!'Slowly the man shook his head. 'No, I were sent by the Council. To trim the hedges and cut the verges.' He spoke with a thick country accent.'Your Council should choose its warriors more carefully,' said Leela scornfully. 'Any child of the Sevateem could have taken you.'The farm labourer was balding and burly, with a look of sly, peasant-cunning. 'Escaped from somewhere, has she? If you're her Doctor, you didn't ought.to let her wander round loose with that knife. She could do someone a damage.'The Doctor said. 'You can put the knife away, Leela. I think the natives are friendly.''He wasn't hunting us then?''No!' The Doctor fished a crumpled paper bag out of his pocket and turned to the labourer. 'Have a jelly-baby?'The man took the jelly-baby, nodding thoughtfully. 'You've both escaped from somewhere, haven't you?''Frequently!' said the Doctor cheerfully. 'Now then, what's your name?''Moss. Ted Moss.''And where are you from?''From Fetchborough village, about a mile away.''Fetchborough?' repeated the Doctor thoughtfully. 'Fetchborough...'Suddenly he whispered, 'Tell me about the ghosts!'Moss stiffened, and his hand went to something hidden beneath his shirt. 'Ghosts? Don't know what you mean. Nothing like that round 'ere.''He is lying, Doctor,' said Leela confidently. She had no idea of the point of the Doctor's questions, but the man's movement and breathing had betrayed him. Leela had an instinctive understanding of what the Doctor called 'body language', the way a person's movements reveal his true thoughts.The Doctor was thinking hard. If there was a Time Scanner in the area, it was presumably being maintained and operated by scientists. And in a rural community, scientists would stand out... 'Tell me about the strangers, then.'There was an immediate response. 'Strangers? Reckon you mean Fendleman and that new lot moved into Fetch Priory?''Yes, that's exactly who I mean. Where did he come from do you know?'Moss's fears were overcome by his love of a good slanderous, gossip. He lowered his voice confidentially. 'Well, that Fendleman's a foreigner, isn't he?' Moss produced this information as if it was sure proof of something sinister. 'Calls himself some kind of scientist. Businessman too. They do say he's one of the richest men in the world. Though you wouldn't think so to look at him, scruffy devil. They say he made his money in electronics. Don't seem likely though, do it? I mean, he ain't j.a.panese...' Moss looked cautiously around and whispered, 'Some of his people dig up bodies!''Grave robbers?' asked Leela.'Archaeologists, more likely,' said the Doctor. 'Where is this Fetch Priory, Mr Moss?''Far side of the village.''And it's haunted, of course?''Yes, but it's the wood more than the Priory that's - ' Moss broke off, and again his hand went to the good-luck charm hidden under his shirt.The Doctor lowered his voice to a sinister whisper. 'Don't worry, Mr Moss. We won't tell a soul - living or dead. Come on, Leela.'The Doctor and Leela moved away, and Ted Moss stood clutching his bicycle staring after them. Thoughtfully, he began munching his jelly-baby.Harry Mitch.e.l.l glared furiously at the old country woman confronting him in the Priory kitchen. She was stout, shapeless and red-faced, with straggly grey hair, and a wrinkled face like a winter-preserved apple. She was clutching an old shopping basket and she was in a towering rage.Mitch.e.l.l drew a deep breath, and struggled to keep his own temper. 'Just relax and stay here Granny. We'll get it sorted out.''Don't 'ee tell me what to do in my own kitchen!' roared the old lady furiously.'This isn't your kitchen, Grandma!''And I baint your grandma,' shouted the old lady, her country accent becoming thicker with anger. 'So don't 'ee Grandma me!'Colby and Thea came in at that moment, and were astonished to see their cook engaged in a furious row with a uniformed security man with a rifle slung over his shoulder.'What's going on?' demanded Colby.The old lady swung round. 'This feller tried to stop me coming to the house!'Colby looked at Mitch.e.l.l. 'This is Mrs Tyler, our cook. She lives in the gatehouse cottage. Who are you?'Mitch.e.l.l drew a deep breath. 'My name's Mitch.e.l.l, and I'm the Security Team Leader. The house and grounds are under restriction. My instructions are no one gets in or out without clearance. This loony old trout seems to think she's an exception.''Loony old trout?' shouted Granny Tyler. Swinging her shopping basket like a club she aimed a wild blow at the security man.More amused than alarmed, Colby moved hastily between them. 'Gently, Mrs T! Remember your varicose veins!'Mitch.e.l.l jumped back. 'I've had it with you, you old stoat. Any more trouble and I'll have you outside and set the dog on you.'Colby and Thea both sprang to the old lady's defence, both speaking almost at once. 'Now just a minute,' snapped Colby. And, 'You can't talk to her like that,' began Thea.Suddenly calm again, Mrs Tyler shook her head. 'Don't 'ee mind him, my lovelies.' Her voice had taken on a soft, crooning quality and her bright eyes were fixed on Mitch.e.l.l's face. 'He'll be sorry, sooner or later. Later or sooner he'll regret.'Mitch.e.l.l stood completely still as if transfixed. He had shrugged off threats from some of the toughest villains in London. Yet somehow the old woman's voice gave him a sudden pang of fear.Granny Tyler's voice returned to normal, and the look of eerie brightness faded from her eyes. 'I'm agoin' now. You can tell Doctor Fendleman I'll come back when that one is gone, and not before. I don't hold with the likes of him.'She dumped the shopping basket on the table and moved towards the door, stopping for a moment to fix Mitch.e.l.l with that unnerving stare. 'There 'int a dog born that'd go for me, boy. They got more sense than some people!' And with that she was gone.Mitch.e.l.l gave a rather uneasy laugh. 'Now I know why they used to burn witches!''Cheaper than oil I expect,' said Colby lightly. 'I don't know who you are friend, but I hope you can cook!''I told you who I am.''Then all that stuff about restrictions... You really meant it?''That's right.''You said no one could get in or out without permission,' said Thea. 'Does that apply to us?''Yes, Miss Ransome.''But that's ridiculous!''Whose authorisation?' asked Colby.'If I were you, sir, I should talk to Doctor Fendleman.''I think I will. You stay here, Thea, I'll go.'Colby marched briskly along the oak-panelled corridor until he came to Fendleman's laboratory. He rapped then tried the door. To his surprise it was unlocked and he went inside. 'Now see here, Doctor Fendleman...' Colby broke off in astonishment at the complex array of electronic equipment all around him. He stood looking around, listening to the remorseless electronic ticking of the Time Scanner.Suddenly Fendleman appeared. 'You are impressed?'Colby jumped, and turned round, making an attempt to recover his usual coolness. 'Oh, I don't know. I always say, if you've seen one jukebox, you've seen 'em all.' He gestured around him. ' This This is archaeology?' is archaeology?'Fendleman took him by the arm and led him to the Time Scanner. 'This, Adam, is the ultimate archaeology. It was data from the Time Scanner which led me to choose the excavation site in Kenya. Once I had pinpointed the exacted location of the skull, you had reconstructed it, and Thea had dated it, then the real work of the Scanner could begin.''And that is?''To enable us to look back through Time itself!'
4 Horror at the Priory
The Doctor lay down in a clump of bushes, at the edge of the woods surrounding Fetch Priory. Leela had gone ahead to scout out the approach to the main gate. She enjoyed that sort of thing so much he felt it was a pity to deprive her.There was the faintest of rustlings, and suddenly Leela was by his side again, her eyes shining with excitement.'There is an armed guard at the main gates, Doctor. But do not worry. I will go and kill him for you!'She drew her knife, and began to slither away. The Doctor grabbed her arm. 'Oh no you won't! Here, let me see.'The Doctor wriggled after Leela. Soon he was close enough to see the ma.s.sive iron gates of the Priory. As Leela had said, an armed security guard was on patrol, with a savage-looking dog on a leash.'Shall I kill him?' hissed Leela.'No!''Why not?'Well, it would upset the dog, wouldn't it? Really, Leela, you must stop going round attacking people. You'll get us in trouble.''Do not fear, Doctor. I will protect you.'' You'll You'll protect me! Hah! We'll forget the front gate, Leela, and circle round the back.' The Doctor moved away. After a last regretful look at the unsuspecting guard, Leela followed. protect me! Hah! We'll forget the front gate, Leela, and circle round the back.' The Doctor moved away. After a last regretful look at the unsuspecting guard, Leela followed.Adam Colby was striding agitatedly up and down his laboratory. 'I tell you, Thea, Fendleman's as crazy as a bedbug. He actually believes he can see into the past with that electronic fruit-machine!'Thea sat perched on a lab stool, looking as beautiful and as composed as ever. 'Did he demonstrate it?''Well of course he didn't demonstrate it! How could he? I mean, it's just a load of electronic garbage. He thinks because he can pervert the law of the land, he can do the same for the laws of science!''It's late for you to start being self-righteous about the law of the land, isn't it?'Colby nodded miserably. After his initial protest, he had allowed himself to be persuaded to go along with Fendleman's decision to dispose of the body in the woods, and say nothing to anyone. 'Yes, I suppose it is.''Did Fendleman give any reason for not demonstrating this Time Scanner?''Apparently it only works after dark!''Minimising solar disruption?'Colby stared at her. 'You're not taking all this nonsense seriously?''Fendleman's no fool when it comes to electronics. He's one of the authentic geniuses working in the field - or he was, until he developed this interest in archaeology.''Until he flipped his lid, you mean!' Colby opened the door. 'Come on, Thea, let's go and cook ourselves some supper.'The Doctor dropped down from the top of the wall and a moment later, Leela landed cat-like beside him. It had been an easy climb. The wall was old and crumbling and there were plenty of foot-holds. He peered through the gathering dusk, getting his bearings. The Priory wall enclosed the edge of the woods, and although the trees and bushes were thinning here, there was still plenty of cover. A low ground mist was rising, and the trees had an eerie quality in the half-light, like shrouded figures, waiting. The Doctor shivered; he was letting his imagination run away with him. 'Come on, Leela, the house must be over there.' They moved away.After supper, Thea rose silently from the table, and drifted away un.o.bserved. There was a strange feeling in her mind, a feeling there was something she had to do...She walked quietly along the gloomy oak-panelled corridors of the Priory until she came to Fendleman's laboratory, opened the door and went inside.Inside the laboratory she stood still for a moment, listening to the faint whirr of the equipment, and the steady electronic ticking of the Time Scanner.She had never been in this laboratory before, but moving as if in a trance she went across to the Time Scanner and switched it on.There was a rising hum of power...In Colby's darkened laboratory the skull stood on its metal column, staring into the darkness with empty eye-sockets.At the precise moment that the Time Scanner was switched on, the skull began to glow, faintly at first and then more brightly...The Doctor stood looking thoughtfully at Fetch Priory. The old grey building loomed like a castle in the darkness.A few yards behind him, Leela heard a rustle of movement. Drawing her knife, she vanished in a patch of shadow. The rustle came again, and a hooded figure moved past her, heading in the opposite direction. Instinctively, Leela followed.The Doctor whispered. 'We'll go and look for some kind of back entrance. Now whatever happens, Leela, stick close to me, do you understand? Leela?' The Doctor looked round, and realised he was talking to himself. 'She's done it again!' he muttered indignantly.Blank-faced, as if in a trance, Thea stood before the Time Scanner, staring straight ahead. Moving as if by itself, her hand reached out and increased the power.The electronic hum rose higher.Leela tracked her quarry clear across the Priory grounds, to a thatched cottage which stood just inside the wall, not far from the main gates. She watched as the hooded figure slipped inside, then moved cautiously after it.She wasn't sure what she hoped to find. But the figure had been moving stealthily, determined not to be seen, and Leela had followed it as instinctively as a cat follows a mouse. She moved up to the cottage door.Inside the cottage the hooded man was waiting. As experienced in the woods as Leela herself, he had soon realised he was being followed. Now he had led his hunter into a trap. He lifted down the shotgun that hung over the fireplace, took two cartridges from a box on the mantelpiece, and loaded the gun.As the cottage door creaked open, he raised the gun and fired both barrels at point-blank range...The Doctor decided to head for the Priory, hoping that he and Leela would eventually converge. As he got nearer to the building, he became aware of a strange sensation, a mounting sense of unease. There was a sound, very faint, on the edge of his consciousness, something not quite real. But it was there... A slurred, dragging sound... The feeling of strangeness, the vague unformed panic grew with alarming speed. Suddenly the Doctor realised that he could not, quite literally could not move. His legs refused to obey the command of his brain.He heard the sound of the distant shot, and instinctively tried to move towards it, but he was paralysed.Eyes fixed and staring, the Doctor stood motionless in the misty wood.The dragging sound was still there, and there was something else. A hissing, gobbling hungry hungry sound... sound...It was coming closer...
5 The Fendahleen
The Doctor drew a very deep breath and held it for a moment. He let it out, relaxing his body, emptying his mind of fear and panic. He began to sway gently to and fro...Fiercely he whispered, 'Legs! Come on legs!' He took a few, jerky, stumbling steps. But they were taking him towards towards the unknown horror in the bushes. the unknown horror in the bushes.'No, no, not that way - this way!' The Doctor swung stiffly round and began an awkward stumbling run. 'That's it, legs. Run! Left, right, left, right!' Moving like a wooden-jointed marionette, the Doctor stumbled towards safety.Ted Moss threw back the hood of his old grey duffle-coat and stood peering at the half-open door, listening hard. Was his tracker dead? He'd fired both barrels at close range, but he'd heard no cry, and there'd been no sound of a fall.Quickly Moss broke the gun, took out the used cartridges and reloaded with two more from the box. Raising the gun he moved cautiously to the open door and looked outside, holding the gun before him.Leela was standing flattened against the wall, just to the right of the door. As the shotgun barrel appeared she sprang, grabbing the gun barrel, forcing it upwards, shoving Moss backwards into the cottage, wrestling the weapon from his grip in one smooth movement.Moss staggered backwards across the room. An armchair hit the back of his legs and he collapsed into it. He looked up to Leela standing over him, aiming the shotgun.'That shot will be your last,' said Leela grimly.'I didn't know it were you,' moaned Moss.'Well, you know now!' Leela's finger tightened on the trigger. She had always believed the only good enemy was a dead one.'You was trespa.s.sing,' babbled Moss.From somewhere behind Leela a soft country voice said. 'So were you, Ted Moss. Now, put the gun down, Miss.' Something hard and metallic jabbed her in the small of the back.Leela stood very still.'I said put the gun down!''Kill me, and your friend dies too!'Moss went white. 'She's a nutter she is, Jack. She means it!'The unseen Jack chuckled. 'He 'ent no friend of mine. So that's a chance I'm prepared to take. The gun, Miss.'Leela lowered the gun and turned. Swiftly the man behind her took the gun, handing her something in return. Leela looked down and saw she was holding a wooden stick with a curved handle and a metal-tipped end - the 'gun' that had been pressed against her back. Angrily she threw it down.The man who had tricked her broke open the gun, unloaded it, propped it in a corner, and turned to face her. He was a young man, quite small, with a cheerful open face that had a rather mischievous quality about it. He wore an old green anorak, and a battered felt hat, like an upside-down flower pot. 'Now then, perhaps you'll explain what you were doing in my gran's cottage - both both of you.' of you.'In Colby's lab the skull was glowing more brightly now.Colby himself was hurrying along the corridor, in search of Thea. Worried by her sudden disappearance after supper, he had searched the Priory for her without success. Now he was heading for the one remaining possibility - Fendleman's laboratory. He could hear the throbbing of the scanner as he approached. Maybe Fendleman was demonstrating one of his lunatic experiments for her.To his surprise the door was unlocked. He opened it - and saw Thea, before the Time Scanner. 'Thea, what are you doing? Fendleman will go barmy, or barmier, anyway if he sees you...'Thea didn't seem to hear him. She sat before the Scanner in a trance, face blank, wide eyes staring straight ahead. Colby touched her shoulder, shook her gently. 'Thea? What's wrong?'Thea continued to stare with vacant eyes. For her only the Time Scanner held any meaning.In the kitchen, Mitch.e.l.l put down his paper, swigged the last of his coffee, and decided reluctantly that it was time to go out and check the night patrols. Half of them would be having a quiet kip under some tree if he didn't keep an eye on them.His attention was caught by a strange sound from outside. A kind of dragging, shuffling... And there was something else mixed up in it, a sort of hissing, sucking, sound, with a chillingly hungry quality...Mitch.e.l.l stood up - and found he couldn't move. His legs simply refused to obey.The door burst open, and his face distorted in fear at the horror in front of him.Mitch.e.l.l screamed - and died.Colby was frantically switching off the scanner. As the electronic whining died away, he heard a long echoing scream, from the direction of the kitchen. 'Thea, wake up!' he shouted. 'We've got to get out of here.'Thea opened her eyes. 'Adam? What is it?' She looked round. 'What am I doing in here?''Didn't you hear that scream? It came from the kitchen.''What? What scream? What are you talking about?''Never mind!' He grabbed her arm and dragged her from the laboratory.In the kitchen, they found the door to the yard standing wide open, and the dead body of Mitch.e.l.l crumpled face down beside the table. Colby went over to look at it, and then recoiled. 'It's that chap Mitch.e.l.l. Look at his face!'Thea looked down at the dead man's face. It was frozen in an expression of unbelieving horror. She knelt beside the body. 'There seems to be some kind of blister on his neck. Could be a birthmark, I suppose,' she said casually.(The tall figure of the Doctor appeared in the doorway, unseen for the moment by the others.)'How can you be so dispa.s.sionate,' burst out Colby. 'The man's dead dead , Thea!' , Thea!'Thea stood up, stared curiously at him - and crumpled to the floor. Colby went to lift her up, but the Doctor snapped, 'No! Don't touch her.'Colby swung round, astonished.The Doctor looked sombrely down at Mitch.e.l.l's body. 'How many deaths have there been?''Two... Now look - 'The Doctor took Colby's arm, pulled him to one side, nodding down at Thea. 'No. You You look!' look!'There was a halo of light surrounding Thea's body, and in the air just above it, a shape was appearing. It was broad and flat, rather like a giant tape-worm, the fore-portion reared up like a cobra about to strike. The creature faded and vanished. Colby was shaken. 'What was it?''Well, I'm not sure - but it looked like an embryo Fendahleen to me...''Embryo what?''Fendahleen. A creature from the legends of my own world. Supposed to have perished when the fifth planet broke up.''Do you know what you're talking about?''You saw it. If it's survived twelve million years the energy-reserves must be enormous.'Colby looked sharply at him, thinking of Thea's mysteriously impossible dating of the skull in his laboratory. 'Why did you say twelve twelve million?' million?''What? Well, around twelve million. That's when the fifth planet broke up.''What does all this mean?'The Doctor plunged his hands deep into his pockets, and stared down at Mitch.e.l.l's body. 'There are four thousand million people on your planet and, if I'm right, within a year, there'll only be one left alive. Just one.'Colby stared at him, sceptical but strangely impressed by the Doctor's quietly matter-of-fact tones. 'What are you - some kind of Armageddon pedlar? A wandering prophet of doom?''Who's in charge round here?''I am,' said another voice. Colby turned and saw Fendleman. He was covering the Doctor with a huge old-fashioned revolver. Stael and two uniformed security men were crowding the doorway behind him.The Doctor whirled round. 'Ah, Doctor Fendleman I presume?' He paused for a second. 'Is that really your name, Fendleman?' Before Fendleman could answer, the Doctor was rattling on. 'Now listen, I want you to do two things. Dismantle your Time Scanner, and run some tests on Miss Thea here. Start with an X-ray of her skull...'Thea was recovering by now and Stael a.s.sisted her to her feet. Her eyes widened at the Doctor's remark and she looked curiously at him. Fendleman raised the revolver. 'I will give the orders here.' He motioned to the security men. 'Lock him up in the storeroom.'The security men came forward and took the Doctor by the arms. 'Is this the way you treat all your house guests?' he asked indignantly.'Only the uninvited ones, whom I suspect of murder. Take him away!'As the Doctor was bustled out, Stael rose from his examination of Mitch.e.l.l's body. 'It is just as before - the same mark on the neck...''This is a terrible thing,' muttered Fendleman. 'Terrible.'Colby took Thea's arm and led her to the door. 'This time I will will call the police,' he announced defiantly. 'Come on, Thea.' call the police,' he announced defiantly. 'Come on, Thea.'Fendleman called after him, 'As you wish, Adam. But how will you explain why you did not call them the time before?'Colby didn't reply.Stael said quietly. 'Doctor Fendleman, the process of decomposition - it is much faster, this time...'Ignoring the Doctor's protests, the security men bustled him down a short pa.s.sage which ended in a heavy oak-panelled door. They opened it, shoved him inside, slammed the door shut, locked it and went away.The Doctor yelled after them. 'Tell Fendleman there isn't time for all this!'The footsteps died away. The Doctor looked round. He was in a tiny, windowless, square room, lined with shelves. Crates and boxes were stacked against the wall.The Doctor sighed. It wasn't as if he wasn't used to being locked up. Sometimes it seemed the inevitable first step wherever he appeared. He usually managed to find his way out of captivity somehow or other. But the most terrible fears had been raised in the Doctor's mind, and if they were correct, every minute, every second, counted desperately. He felt like yelling, kicking at the door.Forcing himself to be patient, he fished out his sonic screwdriver and set to work on the lock.Jack Tyler sat sprawled out in an armchair, listening in pop-eyed astonishment as Leela stumbled to the end of her story. 'That do seem a bit far-fetched,' he said mildly.'There 'ent a word of truth in it, that's why,' grumbled Ted Moss. He was hovering behind Leela, keeping guard on her.Jack gave him a scornful look. 'How would you know, Ted Moss? You wouldn't know the truth if you tripped over it.'Leela said calmly. 'Why should I lie to you?''Fear?' suggested Jack.'Does it seem to you that I am afraid?''You ought to be!' growled Moss.Leela ignored him. 'Well?'Moss gave her a shove. 'I said you ought to be!'Leela swung round and jabbed him casually in the solar plexus with her elbow. He fell gasping into a chair.'I must go now,' she said calmly.'Here just a minute,' called Jack.Leela swung to face him, poised for attack.Jack grinned disarmingly at her. 'Please?'Leela hesitated. Jack Tyler went over to the chair, heaved Moss out of it by the scruff of his neck and gave him a shove towards the door. 'You! On your way!''I want to see Mother Tyler.''Well, Mrs Mrs Tyler, don't want to see you.' Tyler, don't want to see you.''Where is she?''I dunno. Out somewhere.''Well, she's got summat for me. I paid good money for it.''Then you'll get your money back. Now get out.' Jack advanced menacingly. 'I said out!'Moss stopped in the doorway and glared at Leela. 'I'll see you again - and when I do I'll settle with you.''Get some practice first!'Jack grinned, and shut the door behind Moss. 'Nasty bit of work, Ted Moss. Him and some others from the village - well, I'm not sure exactly, but they do say they've formed a Coven. You know, Black Magic and that. The thing is, I'm afraid my old gran's mixed up in it. I mean, she's a good old girl really - but she were brought up in the Old Ways, see?'For once Leela did see. Magic was still a familiar part of her mental world - despite all the Doctor's efforts. 'You mean the ancient magic of your tribe?''That's right. The old superst.i.tions and that. You heard him call her "Mother Tyler"? Well, that 'ent because he likes her. That's from the Old Religion.' Jack Tyler frowned.'Look, there's somethin' nasty going on round here. Do you know what it is? Have you and this Doctor bloke been sent to sort it out?'Leela struggled to remember what the Doctor had told her. 'The Doctor came to stop the use of a... Time Scan.''And what's one of them when it's at home?''He says it will cause a direct continuum explo - no, im im plosion!' plosion!'Jack gave an admiring laugh. 'You don't half tell some whoppers, don't you?''Whoppers?''Never mind. What about this Doctor of yours, do you reckon he'd help us?''I'm sure he would.''What's he like then?'Leela smiled. How could you describe someone as complicated as the Doctor? 'He is very difficult sometimes - but he has great knowledge. And a kind of - gentleness...'The Doctor took a flying kick at a box, sending it hurtling across the room. So far the simple lock had resisted all his efforts. The trouble was, it was too simple, thought the Doctor gloomily. A new triple-security electronic lock he'd have had disconnected in no time. But the old-fashioned metal contraption was too big and clumsy to respond to the sonic screwdriver. The Doctor gave the door a hearty kick. There was a tinkle of shattered metal, and it swung open. He must have weakened some vital part of the lock after all, and the kick had done the rest.The Doctor hurried from the storeroom, hoping he wasn't too late.Colby was marching up and down his laboratory. 'I should have gone to the police right away!''Then why didn't you?'He gave a rueful grin, 'I've always been ambitious, Thea. That's a fault in anyone, and particularly in a scientist. When Fendleman offered me unlimited funds, I jumped at the chance. I owe him a great deal. When he asked for the body to be moved - well, it seemed so unimportant. But now, with Mitch.e.l.l dead...''That's right, Adam, Mitch.e.l.l's dead. So why don't you stop dithering and phone the police?''Right!' With a gesture of decision, Colby s.n.a.t.c.hed up the phone. He listened for a moment, his face puzzled. 'There's no line. It's disconnected.''Disconnected?''Yes, as in cut off.''Adam, please can't you be serious for one moment?''I am serious. We're surrounded by guards, beset by wandering lunatics, and we've got a pair of corpses on our hands. On top of all that, the telephone appears to be very dead. We're trapped!'A strange look came into Thea's eyes, 'It must have been planned!''By Fendleman?''No, not by by Fendleman. But he's part of it. Doing what was planned Fendleman. But he's part of it. Doing what was planned for for him. Don't you see... planned him. Don't you see... planned for for him... that would fit... it would explain...' him... that would fit... it would explain...''Explain what?' asked Colby uneasily.'You haven't asked me whose whose plan it is. Ask me, Adam, ask me. plan it is. Ask me, Adam, ask me. Ask me who planned it. Ask me who planned it. ' ''Stop it, Thea! Stop it!'Thea stared wildly at him. 'I did. Don't you understand? I did! I did! ' '
6 The Coven
A little later, Thea Ransome sat pale and silent at the kitchen table, while Adam Colby raged about the room shouting at Fendleman. Stael stood silent in the background, listening.Colby had decided to say nothing about Thea's outburst, putting it down to hysteria caused by the strain of the evening's strange events. But his feelings of unease remained, and they made the reproaches he heaped on Fendleman all the more violent. 'You must think my head zips up at the back!' he bellowed.Fendleman remained infuriatingly calm. 'Be reasonable, Adam. Why should I disconnect the telephones?''For the same reason you've got the place surrounded by armed thugs!''And what reason is that?''Because you're mad mad , Fendleman!' Colby stopped short, as if realising that the charge made in the heat of his anger might actually be true. 'You're mad!' , Fendleman!' Colby stopped short, as if realising that the charge made in the heat of his anger might actually be true. 'You're mad!'Fendleman was toying idly with the big revolver, which still lay on the table before him. Smiling oddly, he picked it up. 'In that case, you are hardly behaving in a manner conducive to your own safety. I should be humoured, surely? Sit down, Adam.'Colby sat.Fendleman smiled, and pushed the revolver aside.'I believe that the skull you have reconstructed is of extra-terrestrial origin.'Colby laughed. 'An alien s.p.a.ce traveller! Yes, of course. Hence the guards. You're afraid the next-of-kin will come to claim the remains. Expecting an attack by little green men from Venus, are we?'Fendleman too became angry. 'Don't talk like a fool, Colby. You are not a fool!''No I'm not. That skull is human, a skull like yours or mine. h.o.m.o sapiens, modern man.''Exactly! And it is also twelve million years old. Millions of years older than the earliest of man's known ancestors. Suppose it is the skull of one of the unknown unknown ancestors of Man?' ancestors of Man?'Despite himself, Colby was caught up in the astonishing concept. 'If that's true... then we're all all aliens.. aliens..Jack Tyler and Leela, discussed the strange events around Fetch Priory for some time, without getting any further. Since Leela hadn't really understood the Doctor's explanations, Jack found it hard to understand hers.At last he said, 'Well, let's go then, find this Doctor of yours. Perhaps he can sort it all out and make some sense of it all - if he's half as clever as you say he is...'Suddenly Jack tensed. He looked warningly at Leela, but she too had heard movement outside the door. Jack moved towards it, still talking in the same loud, cheerful voice. 'Yeah, if he's as clever as you say he is he ought to be able to sort it out - ' He flung open the door in mid sentence. The considerable bulk of Granny Tyler tumbled into his arms. Her eyes were wide and staring, her face twisted with fear, her mouth open in a soundless scream.The Doctor was moving cautiously along the corridor, when he heard voices coming from a half-open door. Incurably curious as always, he crept close enough to listen.Tall and imposing in his crisp, white lab coat, Stael looked down at the cringing figure of Ted Moss. 'You should not have come here. There are security guards everywhere.''But I had to warn you... Besides, those guards are all town lads. Not hard getting past them in the woods at night.''It was a stupid risk. Fendleman is suspicious and uneasy. Why do you think he sent for the security team?''I had to warn you about the Doctor,' said Moss stubbornly.(In the corridor, the Doctor raised his eyebrows, surprised to find himself figuring in the conversation. He edged nearer to the door.)'There's a bloke calls himself the Doctor,' Moss was saying. 'Tall feller with curly hair. Got a girl working with him. I told them_ about this place - I didn't realise at the time, see. I tried to stop the girl, after. They know all about us! They're investigators. Come to investigate us, very likely.'Stael listened to this confused babble with cold disdain, 'Whoever and whatever they are, I shall deal with them. Now go, quickly.'(As the two men moved towards the door, the Doctor slipped away.)Stael paused in the doorway. 'Are all our friends prepared?''They're just waiting for the word.''Make sure that all are ready. When the time comes, we must be twelve.'Moss's voice became a kind of chant. 'You do lead the Coven now, but we know the Old Ways. Thirteen be the number.''A place must be left for the one that kills,' said Stael.'It's circ.u.mstantial,' said Colby weakly. 'It's all circ.u.mstantial.'Fendleman leaned forward. 'It is the only logical explanation, Adam. Man did not evolve on Earth!'Thea Ransome sat silent, listening to the fierce debate between the two men. She felt odd, somehow detached. The old-fashioned stone-flagged kitchen seemed a strange setting for a discussion of the origins of Man.Fendleman was talking quickly now, his long-suppressed theories pouring out of him in a flood. 'I am convinced that my theory is correct, Adam.' He paused impressively. 'There is something else that I have not told you. With the Time Scanner I have traced what I now believe to be the moment of death of this alien traveller. There was, at that moment, an enormous in-pouring of energy, the like of which I have never seen before.'Fendleman's eyes were shining, his voice throbbing with conviction. 'This is what first attracted my attention. An in-pouring of energy, a concentration of power, as though to store.' Fendleman sat back, 'Now, I asked myself, where where would this energy be stored - and would this energy be stored - and why why ? These questions I could not answer - until I X-rayed the skull.' ? These questions I could not answer - until I X-rayed the skull.''You X-rayed the skull?' asked Colby incredulously. 'When?'Fendleman hesitated. 'Stael and I have been doing tests in secret for some time.''Oh thanks!'Fendleman put a hand on his arm. 'No, no, Adam, you have a right to be angry. I should have told you all this before. But I wanted to be certain. Besides, from the very beginning I have had a feeling that this was so important that it must be kept completely secret.' He sighed heavily. 'Now we have these murders to contend with - and this mysterious intruder...'Colby was struck by a sudden thought. ' He He said something about X-rays, didn't he? Wanted us to X-ray Thea's skull!' said something about X-rays, didn't he? Wanted us to X-ray Thea's skull!'Thea stood up. 'Will you excuse me, both of you. I'm feeling a bit tired. I think I'd better go and lie down.''You are looking a little pale, my dear,' said Fendleman absently. 'Perhaps you have been working too hard. I will ask Stael to look in on you later.'Thea nodded. Stael was the only one amongst them with a medical qualification in addition to his other degrees.As Thea left the kitchen, Fendleman said, 'It is obvious this intruder came to spy on us.''Well, yes,' said Colby dubiously. There had been something very convincing about the Doctor. 'When. you X-rayed the skull - what did you find?' Fendleman rose. 'Come. I will show you.'A blanket wrapped round her shuddering old body, Mrs Tyler sat huddled into her favourite armchair. Her grandson Jack was perched on the arm, and she was clutching his hand with a vice-like grip, and staring straight ahead of her, at some unseen horror in her mind.Leela was trying to force some brandy into her mouth. 'Here, drink this, old woman. It will warm you.'But Mrs Tyler would make no attempt to swallow, and the brandy trickled from the spoon out of the side of her mouth.Jack Tyler wiped it away with his handkerchief. 'Gran? Gran, what happened?''Do not ask her that,' whispered Leela. 'It is because she does not want to remember what has happened that she is like this.' She leaned forward and stroked Mrs Tyler's forehead, and spoke in a low, crooning voice. 'You are safe now, safe. I will let nothing hurt you. Nothing can hurt you...'The old woman began to mutter. 'I seen it... in my mind. Dark... great... it called me... in my mind. It called me...' Her voice rose in terror. 'It were hungry... hungry for my soul...''What does it mean?' whispered Jack.Leela shook her head. 'The Doctor will know.''Nothing left...' said Mrs Tyler suddenly. 'There'll be no life left...'Leela stood up. 'I must find the Doctor.''Help me,' moaned the old lady pitifully. 'Help me...'Jack Tyler gave Leela an anguished look. 'Stay with her,' ordered Leela, and disappeared into the darkness.As she left, she heard Granny Tyler's voice. ' It were hungry for my soul... It were hungry for my soul... ' 'Fendleman held the X-ray plate to the light of the wall viewer. 'There? Do you see it?'Colby studied the plate. 'Well, it looks looks like a pentagram, I agree.
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