There was a piercing scream and two terrified female technicians ran across the control room, pa.s.sing right in front of camera. Wakefield winced. He signalled and the engineer cut transmission.
General Carrington was quite clear about what was happening. Drawing his revolver he shouted, 'They're here! We're being invaded!'
As if to prove the truth of his words, two s.p.a.ce-suited figures came stalking across the control room towards him.
With a scream of terror, Carrington emptied his automatic at them, without effect.
'Security Patrols!' shrieked Carrington.
Uniformed figures flooded into the room. But they were not Carrington's MPs but UNIT troops, the Doctor and Liz in their midst. The two astronauts came to a halt and stood waiting impa.s.sively.
The Brigadier marched up to the terrified Carrington, revolver in hand. 'It's over, General Carrington. This place is now in my hands. I've released my men.'
Carrington stared wildly at him. 'But I've got to make this broadcast. It's a matter of world survival!'
'I'm sorry, General. It's my duty to place you under arrest.'
Carrington stared at him in incomprehension. 'Under arrest?'
Carrington looked round. The control room was full of silent people, and they were all staring at him.
'If you'll go with my sergeant, sir?' said the Brigadier quietly. 'Benton!'
As the Brigadier took the empty automatic from Carrington's hand, Benton stepped forward and saluted smartly. The military courtesy seemed to rea.s.sure the General. He took, hat, gloves and swagger stick from the top of a nearby console. He slipped on the gloves, put on the hat and adjusted it carefully, tucked the cane under his arm, then drew himself up to attention.
'The Sergeant will look after you, sir,' said the Brigadier.
Carrington nodded and moved away. Benton followed close behind him. He paused as he came up to the Doctor and Liz, staring earnestly into the Doctor's face.
Somehow it seemed very important to Carrington that the Doctor at least should understand him. 'I had to do what I did, Doctor. It was my moral duty. You do understand?'
'Yes, General,' said the Doctor gently. 'I understand.'
Satisfied, Carrington marched away.
The Doctor noticed the third astronaut who was still strapped in his chair, awaiting the never-to-be made broadcast, a broadcast which might well have been the last in the history of Earth, since the insult to the alien amba.s.sador would not have been forgiven.
Released, the third alien amba.s.sador came to stand beside his two fellows.
Cornish, freed from custody by UNIT troops, came hurrying up to the Doctor. 'Just the man I was looking for,'
said the Doctor happily. 'Now, first of all, we must send a message to the alien vessel a.s.suring them their amba.s.sadors are safe and well.'
There was only one thing on Cornish's mind. 'Doctor, where are my three astronauts?'
The Doctor gave him a look of mild surprise. 'My dear chap, I keep telling you, they're still up there. They're quite well and comfortable if a bit confused! What we must do now is make an exchange, you see. We'll send their three amba.s.sadors back up in Recovery Seven, and they'll send down our three astronauts!'
'What about the fuel problem?'
The Doctor patted him on the shoulder. 'Simple, use pure M3 variant. They won't be worried about g-force.'
Looking a little bemused, Cornish sat down in his command chair. 'This is Control,' he said. 'Get me the fuel bay.'
'Well, goodbye Mister Cornish,' said the Doctor cheerfully. 'I've got a lot of work to do in my own laboratory.'
Cornish shook hands. 'But Doctor, I'll need your help to communicate with these amba.s.sadors.'
The Doctor waved towards Liz. 'Well, here's Miss Shaw, she's much more practical than I am.'
Liz gave him an indignant glare. The Doctor beamed at her, gave a general nod of farewell and turned to go.
Already his mind was buzzing with speculation. That odd little incident when Liz had been caught in the time field. What if the trouble was with the dematerialisation circuit and not the time vector generator...
On his way out, the Doctor came up to the three silently waiting alien amba.s.sadors, and paused for a moment. The Brigadier was standing beside them, not quite sure what to do with them, but determined not to let them out of his sight.
The Doctor nodded. 'Goodbye, Brigadier.'
'Goodbye, Doctor and thank you.'
The Doctor hesitated a moment longer. After all, it was, in its way, an historic moment, the first formal contact between humans and an intelligent alien species. Not that the contact was likely to be the beginning of a beautiful friends.h.i.+p, thought the Doctor. After the fright they'd given each other the two species would probably keep well apart. The galaxy was big enough for both of them, after all.
Still, here were the three alien amba.s.sadors, and the Doctor couldn't help thinking some little gesture was called for, some diplomatic phrase.
He held out his hand to say goodbye, then withdrew it hurriedly. 'Well, goodbye gentlemen,' he said a little awkwardly. 'Er, have a nice trip!'
Giving the three alien amba.s.sadors a friendly nod, the Doctor went on his way.
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