Doctor Who: Possessed
By Neil Davies
Like two tears coursing down a cheek, they descended from the heavens. One was a small pulsing sapphire with a fiery iridescent outer skin and a dull compacted solid core, the other was an elongated emerald that narrowed to a sharp point at the front and managed to be both lumpy and smooth at the same time. Clearly in pursuit of the first object it was five times larger and had about it the aspect of a predatory bird.
As they swept down through the night sky towards a large community, it was possible to detect that their glow was far brighter than any coming from the myriad lights below. They were clearly from a different place, and whatever chase they were involved in had taken them over unimaginable distances and through incalculable manoeuvres. Now, however, their deadly game was almost over for there was about their aerial dance a feeling of closure.
Nobody seeing them would know quite what they were looking at, as these two astral intruders were unlike anything that normally invaded the sky over the city. Shooting down at breathtaking speed they banked and twisted, the smaller trying desperately to escape the larger in one last forlorn sequence of dizzying leaps and pirouettes. But the hunter was relentless, it matched every twist and turn in a fierce determination to make its kill.
Within the top apartment of a tall modern residential block Cheryl was oblivious to the drama outside as she sat staring at her wide screen TV and munching her third bag of popcorn, supposedly a low calorie brand. The show she was watching was one of those tacky discussion forums, and the subject that night was one close to her heart. However she wasn't enjoying it and reason for this was the tone and opinion of the rather pompous white bearded man who was hogging the camera at that moment, he was really getting up her nose with his doctrinaire opinions and the way he sneered at the views of other people he hadn't even met.
"There is," he declared loftily as though he was the font of all wisdom of the subject. "Absolutely no proof whatsoever in the existence of these so called craft, they are the sad delusions of woefully misguided people whose lives are so empty of real stimulation that they must invent wild stories about alien visitors coming here in glowing chariots."
As the man paused to laugh at his own irony, Cheryl shoved more popcorn in her mouth and chewed furiously. One nugget fell in her lap, and picking it up she threw it at the bearded sceptic. Bouncing off the screen where his nose was, it fell to the carpet. Oblivious the man went on,
"My organisation has put up a sum of one million pounds to the first person who can proof conclusively that our world is being visited by extraterrestrials. I am totally confident that the reward will never be claimed that I would like to say on live TV this evening that should anyone produce one of these little green men, they can also have my house in the country."
As the audience roared with amusement, Cheryl threw another nugget of candy at the screen and muttered a rude word under her breath.
"Further more," said the heavily jowled debunker but he never got to complete the sentence, for in that instant the screen broke up into a storm of distortion and his face was ripped apart to be scattered somewhere else.
With a curse Cheryl reached for the remote, and it was as she was doing this that she saw something in the mirror on her stereo - it was a small blue light and a larger green light and they were looming towards her. As the mirror was partially aimed at the window behind her she spun around and her jaw sagged. The two lights were real, they were outside in the sky, and they were shooting towards the top of the apartment block. The blue one was going to hit first and Cheryl dropped her bag of candy as the light expanded in her vision into a cobalt coloured bubble with an oblong box rotating in the centre. It was making a sound to and she just about make this out as a raucous, groaning symphony.
There was no time to get out of the way, for even if she ran at top speed there were only seconds before impact and the whole building would probably explode. She was going to die right here and now, her life was over and it had barely begun she inwardly screamed at the unfairness of it.
But as the blue object struck a strange thing happened, instead of smashing the building apart it passed right through the window, wall, curtains and sofa without harming any of them. Like a ghost it even past through Cheryl with no real effect, and for a moment she was sharing the same space as the blue box. As it rotated around her she felt the most incredible surge of energy, she was also able to make out a few details about its construction.
It had two doors on one side with tiny tinted windows near the top below there were some words, she couldn't make them out but she could swear they were in English. The box had a flashing lamp on top and the whole structure reminded her of something old-fashioned, something not seen in public for a very long time but which had been on the history channel only last week, a programme to do with the police.
Then the blue ghost flew away from her, through the TV and out through the inner wall as it past right through the upper story of the building. Cheryl expected the green object to do the same thing but it didn't, for at the last moment it lifted its nose and flew over the building. As it did she got a pretty good look at it. It was a sleek, three sided, an almost kite-like object with a rough back divided into striated lumps and a smooth belly like polished glass. Running across the nose were a necklace of portals, and over the spine was a dorsal fin like a shark. There were markings along both sides, but these were not in English they were more like pictograms.
The noise from the green craft was a piercing hum, and like the craft itself this note was hostile and predatory. It's chasing the blue thing she thought it's flying after it for some reason and means to catch it.
Mind in a spin Cheryl forgot all about her TV show, and all about her babysitting duties and as for her homework - well that could wait. Dashing to the apartment entrance she yanked it open, ran down the hall to the stairs and flew down these four at a time moving with impressive speed for one of her girth. Heart pounding and mouth dry she knew what she had seen, not one but two UFOs and they were totally real even if one of them had been insubstantial.
Reaching the forecourt outside she could see both objects dipping down low as if their hectic flight was almost over, where they going to land?
Her cheap second-hand car was parked lose by, it didn't take much time to get in it and rev the engine then she was taking off at a gallop. She couldn't miss this for it was the vindication of all her beliefs and hopes. There were actually tears in her eyes as she raced down one road after another, ignoring all speed restrictions and taking corners on two wheels. Luckily traffic was light, and there were no cops around.
The space people had come at last, they were here in her home town and she wanted to be the first to greet them with a message she had written and rewritten a hundred times then consigned to memory. How did it go now - oh yes she remembered and she began to recite it as she increased speed, pushing her mini to the limits of its endurance. This was so much more interesting than some dreary TV show full of debunkers and dickheads, wait until she told her friends in sky watch-south.
Very soon she found herself in a remote and rundown area well off the beaten track and home to junkyards, car body shops, portakabins and a host of boarded up ex shops long ago abandoned to rust and rats.
The two ships were slowing down she noticed and amazingly the blue one had come to halt in midair over a deserted building once used for the repair of buses. It just hung there rotating at a slight angle as if it had run out of steam and was waiting for the inevitable end to this mad dash. She thought it might have run out of power at first then the idea occurred that it had somehow selected this place and time to conclude matters.
Also coming to a halt a few meters away the hunter repositioning its nose to face the other vehicle. Then to Cheryl's horror and fascination it ejected a stream of red sparks that formed themselves into vast blood red spears that homed in on their target, when these struck their target there was a blinding explosion of brilliant blue and crimson that seemed to scorch the entire skyline.
The box was ripped into thousands of fragments and each of these was splintered by unbelievable forces into smaller pieces then particles and finally a fine blue dust that slowly descended over the repair shop in a widening plume not unlike a shroud. As the first dust motes touched the roof Cheryl saw tiny winking circles appear all over the slates, and the dust seemed to be passing through solid matter as if penetrating the building, within seconds it was completely gone.
Wow she thought total destruction the blue thing had been pulverised and then made to bury itself. Wait a minute though how could an insubstantial ghost be blown up, and what had it been blown up by? The red sparks were unlike anything she'd ever seen before, as there had been something rather ethereal about them to. Where these UFOs real solid objects in a three dimensional sense, or something more complex about them as if they could surf realities?
Cruising over the repair shop the hunter sank down on the other side of it as if landing, and indeed a green glow could be seen radiating into the sky from that area. Not wanting to go near it Cheryl stayed on the dark side of the shop, parking her mini she abandoned it and sprinted as fast as her corpulent frame would allow to a rotting timber door that couldn't have kept out a determined cat. It didn't take many tugs to wrench this apart and squeezing through the gap she entered a world of dark, dank, smelly neglect.
The air was rank with petrol and diesel fumes, and as her eyes adjusted strange shapes loomed up at her in the form of ramps, chains, gutted old engines and the empty rusting shells of long dead buses. Why she'd come into this dump she didn't really know as there was nothing to see, and the blue box had been totally obliterated. Why then did she feel that there was more to this event than what she'd witnessed, and that there would be a sequel to the ruthless execution of one alien interloper by another?
A discordant noise drew her past a raised ramp to a line of old tyres easing through these she reached a sliding door that felt disgustingly cold and greasy. Fumbling around until she found a handle she tugged on this, but the door refused to budge; it probably hadn't been moved in ages but there was no doubt that the sound was coming from behind this and in the gap under it she saw a flash of sapphire radiation that at first was a weak flicker but soon became a more vigorous strobe.
In the large square chamber beyond the sliding door something unbelievable was occurring - the fine blue dust that had dispersed in the night sky was filtering through the brickwork causing small circular flashes to pulsate through the bricks, the blue dust had been absorbed by the chamber as if sucked there by some process of osmosis, then it had become excited and charged with a mysterious purpose. Gradually but with increasing speed the dust was drawn to a point in the centre of the room, and as this happened the dust fragments congealed together to create small fragments of larger matter, pieces of a jigsaw and incredibly that jigsaw began to reassemble itself as the raucous cacophony grew in pitch from a muted string of pulses to a vibrant, victorious finale.
With one final orgasmic inrush the billions of scattered pieces smashed together to form an oblong box that was whole and complete and with a conclusive throb the regeneration ended with a single flash from the lamp on top.
One second later the sliding door was wrenched open by a red-faced Cheryl, and as she staggered into the room she came to a halt to let out a sob of amazement. Her blue ghost hadn't been destroyed after all, it was here and it was fine. Why did that make her so happy, why did she feel vindicated even more in her beliefs? She didn't know but with extreme caution she approached the blue box and read the now clear legend on its doors with widening eyes.
Yes it was English all right, written in a rather dated style. The whole object was an anachronism from some long forgotten decade, but why would a UFO assume such a shape? Confused by this she moved to the twin doors and reaching out she almost touched them - almost. For as her fingers came to within an inch of them, the doors made a clunking sound as if some mechanism built into them were reacting to her presence. The sound changed to a flurry of pops and whirs, there was a grating screech and then three final clunks and the left side door opened inwards a few centimetres with a rusty creek like a vampire's coffin lid.
Was something coming out or was she meant to go inside? Cheryl waited for several long heart-wrenching seconds, but nobody came out and nothing moved. The box made no further sounds and the interior was dark, it was a black void even more obsidian than the gloom around her.
Normally she would have fled, after all she had a cosy apartment and the Sci Fi channel to keep her amused plus she was meant to be looking after a ten-month old baby. But a compulsion beyond rational understanding drew her to the open door, made her push it further ajar and then step over the threshold.
Cheryl wasn't sure what to expect - extraordinary special effects of some sort, a powerful force field or maybe a booming god-like voice but none of these things were in evidence as she walked into the dark void. There was an awful lot of this dark void far too much she felt so such a small box. How big had it been - not much more than a few meters, about the size of her employer's pantry? Yet as she took more steps she did not come to its back wall, and when she stretched out her arms sideways she couldn't feel its other walls either.
Looking back she saw that the repair shop was getting further away, its brick wall was…no this was crazy she had to be hallucinating. This was a small box like a sentry hut or a toilet cubicle at college, it was tiny and cramped and she should be able to measure its inner dimensions with almost no effort.
Not knowing why she didn't leave at that point she kept going, if for no other reason than to try and understand this mystery. Cheryl wasn't sure quite when the gloom began to lighten, maybe this had begun the second she entered and her mind only became aware of it when her eyes detected the change. But the dark was drawing back and in its place was defuse yellow light that seemed to be coming from all around her as if produced by the very air.
There was a great deal of this light and it was filling an impossible amount of space, it seemed to stretch in every direction until many meters away from her it hit three walls or what she assumed were walls. They were not the brick walls of the repair shop either, but shinning and light coloured with a stylised facia that composed interlinked rings in columns and lines.
Taking only one more step Cheryl bumped into something that came up as high as her stomach. Looking down she saw what looked like an inverted mushroom with the cap underneath and the stalk facing up. The cap was a many sided metal computer with a diverse array of display screens and touch sensitive devices. The stalk was a thick, transparent column that threaded its way through the centre of the computer and seemed to contain a forest of tiny bulbs and prisms.
Cheryl didn't touch anything but suddenly her face appeared on several of the screens in various sizes from minute to expanded. On another screen she saw the face of the bearded UFO debunker, his speech muted but self-assurance unflappable. The biggest screen held an image of the green hunter ship, to her horror it opened fire and once again she witnessed the annihilation of the blue box this time in slow motion.
A hum came from the computer, and it was almost a contented sound. Rows of rainbow lights flashed near her hands and several needles jumped from left to right, overhead came another noise and it was an angry chatter in some undecipherable jargon. Why did she feel that this was from the enemy ship, that it was intercepted verbal traffic? The voices were harsh and staccato - they created a sort of grating, menacing chorus of threats and boasts.
When they cut off a horizontal white sarcophagus detached itself from the right side wall and extruded into plain view, it was seven feet long and about four feet high with an unmarked, bland skin identical to that of the walls here. It reminded Cheryl of a coffin and the idea was reinforced by a crest on the lid, under which were a series of numbers that might have been dates of birth and death.
Easing over to the coffin she made herself touch it and was shocked by its warmth, weren't places of rest meant to be chilly? By now she had come to two conclusions about the place she was in, she had decided that it was some kind of UFO and she was fairly sure now that the crew were either dead or had jumped ship before the attack in some way.
There was clearly no one here, nor any evidence that anybody had been here recently such as clothing, food, books or traces of blood. The whole place was sterile and oddly detached from reality. It was very high-tech, but it didn't tell her much and she certainly wasn't going to touch any of the instruments.
Her hand moved to the lid of the coffin, had one of the crew died during flight if so maybe they'd been taking him home for burial? She was very curious to know what the aliens looked like, even if there was physical damage. Would this body be something like the corpse in the Roswell autopsy footage? Gripping the edge of the lid she tried to move it, but the thing was stuck fast. It was either screwed down or magnetised, she couldn't be sure but whatever method had been used she wasn't going to beat it with her hands. If she could find some type of lever she might have more success, and it was as she had turned away that the lid just vanished just melted from existence to non-existence.
Within lay a figure wrapped in a bright blue sheet of some reflective, satin-like material that completely covered the body from head to foot. Unseen by Cheryl an arm emerged from under this and a hand flexed, its movement was slow but determined and crawling up over the lip of the coffin it sought out her nearby wrist.
Cheryl couldn't stop herself from screaming, nor could she break free from the powerful grip. It was a man's hand, and it looked human in fact it looked totally normal and not at alien. The fact that it had seized her and was holding on made her feel threatened, she had to get free of it but hurting it in some way, maybe if she bit or scratched it or hit it with something, was there a weapon she could use?
What stopped her was the man's voice plaintiff and raw with emotion, it cried out to her with desperate need. "Help me," it said with a slightly hoarse croak. "Please, help me."
Alan and Tess had been driving back to the station after a hoax call when he saw the strange green light near to a deserted building where buses had once been repaired. Needing to assuage a growing sense of boredom and frustration he swung the panda onto a narrow side road and pointed directly ahead. Seeing the light Tess frowned, she didn't know what it was by its vivacity and unusual nature made it worth checking out. Like Alan she faced a long shift and needed something to break the monotony, certainly hoax calls weren't going to do it.
The two young constables hadn't bee in the force long but were already wondering if it was the right career choice? Alan was thinking he might have been better off in the army with his older brother, and Tess had a law degree that could get her into any solicitor's office. Police work was very dull at the bottom, hours and hours of nothing happening then a few minutes of isolated craziness that could cost you your life.
"It's getting brighter," she said and Alan nodded his agreement. The green light, whatever it was, seemed to be building in candescence so that it was totally bathing the repair shop and surrounding waste ground. This was a favourite area for winos and junkies but Alan couldn't see any of that human debris around tonight, nor could he come up with a rational explanation for the green light and he loved a mystery.
"It doesn't look like a fire," he said. "It's almost neon, but who'd set up a neon display around here?"
"Rave?" Tess offered, but no it couldn't be that as there was no noise and no kids.
The conking out of the panda engine was a nasty shock, the car just died on Alan with every display going dark and carried by momentum the two PCs found themselves stranded just shy of a path leading to the repair shop. All attempts to revive the engine proved futile so Tess touched her personal radio gave the car number and asked for assistance. The lack of any discernable reply was jolting.
Alan tried his radio with the same negative result. Frowning he got out of the car and squinted into the light, "You know I think I can see seeing something, there's a shape."
Coming over Tess touched his arm and pointed at the repair shop, not all the windows were boarded over and through them torch light flashed as various beams cut a swathe through the gloom. This made Alan's mind up for him, "I'm going to check this out."
"It's a deserted building," Tess objected.
"Not all that deserted from the look of it - coming?"
Not wanting to stick around in a useless car with no radio she sighed and nodded, he was right there might be something of interest here and if there was it wouldn't harm either of their careers.
They were about halfway between the building and the panda when the green glow flared, seeming to swell. Something spat from it that forced both PCs to crouch low in the weed infested grass as a terrifying blob of blood red plasma flew over them, zeroed in on the car and…
Neither of them could believe it, the explosion was magnesium vivid and Semtex-like but there was no bang not so much as a pop. The panda just turned into a ball of expanding orange fury and vaporised before their eyes, wiped from existence. My god Alan thought, it's some kind of military weapon. The only good thing was that he and Goodwin hadn't been in the car at the time, although now they were stranded in the middle of nowhere.
"We need back up Alan, an armed response unit. We can't handle this on our own, they must be terrorists of some kind"
He tried to stay calm logically they should withdraw; get out of here on foot and find a public call box. But he couldn't take his eyes off the building and the shadowy figures inside. Who were they and what was going on here?
"You get out of here Tess, find a phone and bring help."
Her grip on his arm was painful, and what are you going to do it said; nothing stupid I hope?
"I'm going in there," he told her.
"No, you could be killed. You've seen the kind of firepower they've got."
He knew it was a hell of a risk, but that's why he'd joined the force to find excitement and challenge not fill in forms and nick kids playing truant.
"I just want to find out what's happening here."
A dozen counter arguments filled Tess's mind, but she knew that voicing them would be a waste of time. Alan's single mindedness was one of his strengths, and it would make him a good copper one-day if he got out of this alive. So she didn't bleat at him to see sense she said, "I'll stay here."
Opening his mouth to object he recognised in her a stubborn determination to have her own way, it was why he liked her so much and why she was going places in the job. "Suit yourself," he accepted. "I'll be as quick as I can."
Good luck she thought, but she wasn't naff enough to say it.
Keeping low he made it to the same door that earlier Cheryl had torn her way through, there was no need for him damage it anymore and he snaked inside with his extendable truncheon held ready for use, a flimsy weapon he realised but it was all he had.
The hand gripping Cheryl relaxed, it opened and wriggled its fingers then it gestured at the console and taking a look she saw a small attachment shaped like a green peg with a narrow glass tube extending from it. Clearly the man needed this so she went and fetched it, handing it over and hoping it wasn't some alien weapon.
Inverting the peg the man placed the glass tube to his breastbone and squeezed. The tube glowed brilliant yellow and the man's body arched as if in pain, Cheryl heard a low buzzing noise and was sure something passed into the man from the peg, as if he'd given himself an injection of light.
As the tube dulled he relaxed and gave out a long sigh of relief, "thank you."
You're welcome she thought, and now I'm getting out of here. Two things prevented her escape, one was the flipping open of the coffin side allowing the man to swing his legs out and sit up. She saw that he was wearing some kind of blue monk's habit, with his head and face obscured by the cowl. The other thing that kept where she was where a set of internal doors that had silently closed behind her sealing off the box interior. She was trapped in here with this stranger, a man whose identity she had no way of guessing.
For a moment he just sat there gathering his strength, then carefully he stood up and took an experimental step. Was he going to keel over on her, he looked none too stable? He took another step and a third and with each one he regained more of his natural vigour, reaching the console he used it to lean on. He was slim and tall but other than that nothing was immediately obvious other than his voice, it had sounded young and English with no accent just a slightly academic intonation like one of her tutors.
She wanted to ask him what was going on but a slow groan escaped his lips, and she soon saw why. One of the TV screens showed the interior of the repair shop, and the arrival of a policeman. On another screen Cheryl saw beams of light bisecting the place, but they belonged to someone or something else. For a derelict building the place had suddenly become a hive of activity and interest.
"The police may be able to help," she said nervously.
The man responded, "I think it more likely he's going to need my help."
Moving around until she was facing the monk-like stranger she tried to see the face inside the cowl, "I saw this box destroyed, blown to pieces."
She wasn't sure, but were those a pair of eyes gleaming within the confines of the hood? Not answering her he moved his hands over touch sensitive pads, and to her surprise the console configuration began to change. New controls appeared out of nowhere, old ones were sucked from existence. The VDUs altered from square to oval and on their screens she saw a higher definition.
"I hoped they'd give up," the man said wearily. "When I destroyed myself."
Blinking in bewilderment she tried to take in what she'd just heard, but it was beyond her. "Who are they exactly?"
PC Alan Vincent came into sharper focus, "More than a match for British law." Stiffening, the man reached under the console to find a small cubby hole, and from this he took a small object that reminded her of a palm pilot.
"What is your name?" He asked.
"Cheryl Edwards." She did not give her middle name of Miranda as she thought it appallingly naff.
"Well Cheryl Edwards I'd like you to stay here while I see what I can do for the constable."
She thought about that, and it might be safer in this place than outside. On the other hand did she really want to play it safe was it really her style?
"You're going outside?"
"Well I can't do much for him here, and he really is out of his depth."
She made up her mind, lifted her chin and gave him an answer.
The wide silver beam flashed towards Alan, forcing him to cringe back behind a gutted engine. Illuminating the engine the beam splintered around it and then swung away to the right to pan over a wall festooned with hooks on which overalls might once have been hung. Alan heard something and he assumed it came from the torch owner it was an odd clicking noise like the innards of a complex mechanism. Oddly he couldn't hear any breathing, nor was he aware of the man's footsteps.
Shifting over to a stack of tyres he peered through a gap in them and saw a bulk gliding slowly across the inspection pit. It was either a very big guy or the man was carrying some kind of heavy kit, because the shape was all wrong - it was top heavy and way too wide with lots of strange angles. The torch beam seemed to be coming from the man's stomach, and on his head was a small vivid red lamp.
Behind Alan was a window, through this a shape moved. It was bulbous and rather too wide for a human head peering out from it were two sickly yellow orbs with elliptical pupils reminiscent of a cat or a lizard. Vapour was exhaled onto the grime-smeared glass, and instantly the pane shattered down its entire length.
Instantly Alan dropped to the floor in a tight ball of fear and shock! Glancing up at the window he saw it bulge inwards, but instead of breaking it stretched like plastic as though its constituency had been radically altered, and the thing pushing it from outside was a…
Quickly he squirmed away from the window and hurried to an empty chassis, crawling under this he rested on his stomach. He could feel his heart thudding against the concrete floor and he wanted to be sick, at least Tess wasn't here he had to be grateful for that. A sound over on the right made him glance that way, he saw a dark mass moving in his direction from the other side of the inspection pit.
These were not terrorists or drug dealers, he knew that now beyond any possible doubt. As the mass approached he considered his options. He couldn't go back the way he'd come because that meant passing the window, so he could either find another way out or stay where he was now. If he didn't move they might not see him said the frightened little boy in his head, on the other hand he couldn't just stay cowering on a floor all night in this filthy dump.
Thud - something struck the top of the chassis, it was hard and heavy and Alan almost cried out with shock. Was it the thing coming through the window, maybe it had seen him and was coming after him? Creeping along on his belly he made it to the far end of the chassis, glad of its size. Emerging he looked up and at first he didn't see anything, so he assumed he was safe.
A vivid red bulb he hadn't seen was focused on him from two meters away and when Alan tried to rise to his feet something long and sharp pricked him on the back of the neck, the scream was ripped from his throat because the barb had gone right into his spine and mushroomed outwards to rip through soft tissue.
Yanked back of balance he was dragged towards the red bulb, and as he came close to it he saw what it belonged to and a second scream escaped his lips.
Dear God no, this couldn't be real!
A second red bulb floated up behind him, and Alan felt another barb pierce his cheek just above the mouth. Due to mind numbing panic and the drugs entering his system he was unaware of two further barbs piercing his chin and stomach.
The man had frozen in his tracks and lifted his left arm so Cheryl stopped to and listened, there could be no doubt what those sounds were. The two of them had just emerged from his blue box, and he had taken great pains to lock the door with an odd crescent shaped key. She found it strange that an alien would need to lock the entrance to his ship with a simple key, especially after all the high-tech equipment she'd seen inside. And why had he brought a palm pilot with him instead of a gun, unless the pilot had a combat application?
"It's too late," he said.
"Shall we go back inside then?"
She hoped he would say yes as she was scared out here, those screams had been awful and the poor copper who'd made them sounded like he was dying in some gross and totally disgusting way.
"If only it were that simple."
"Couldn't you just take off?"
Lifting a hand to his mouth, or what she assumed was his mouth the man paused for several long seconds then looked down at his palm pilot. Coming to a decision he said softly, "I've made several mistakes this time, but one thing I am certain of is that escaping isn't an option. I must take the fight to them, I must seize back the initiative."
And how she thought are you going to do that? More to the point, what role am I going to play in this strategy?
With these questions still buzzing around in her head she followed him to the sliding door, this still lay open and popping his head through he scanned the terrain outside. There was a lot of activity around the inspection pit, various flashing lights and clicking noises. Leading her to the right he began to skirt around it, keeping to good cover and making not a sound.
If only I could see you she thought, if only I knew what you looked like and what you were called. But something suddenly drove all these thoughts from her mind, it made her stomach turn over and caused her knees to buckle.
From the inspection pit came a voice, it sounded human but amplified in some way. It had a curious rattle and managed to be both menacing and plaintiff. It said, "We know you're here, there's no escape!"
At once Cheryl felt herself tugged down behind something greasy that stank of diesel, the mystery man by her side had gone very tense and he looking at his pilot. She noticed that the display on this kept shifting and blurring as though it had a liquid or slightly unreal quality.
Then the strange voice came again from the pit, "We are using a human host and there is another human outside, if you continue to evade us they will die and then there is the young female with you."
Cheryl's stomach tightened at this announcement, how did they know about her? The term ‘young female' was unpleasantly inhuman it was how vivisectionists talked about some doomed animal about to have its skull removed.
The hooded man seemed to slump, bowing his head as if in thought he didn't seem in much of a hurry to do anything.
The next sound from the pit was an agonized, drawn out, guttural scream made sharper by the electronic amplification used. It was so awful that she covered her ears and squeezed both eyes closed to try and blot it out of course this didn't work. Her companion tapped her on the bicep, "Come on let's keep moving."
Eyes popping open she gazed at him in disbelief, "You can't just leave that poor man, how can you not be moved by that sound?"
"Cheryl, he's already dead or as good as."
"And the person outside?"
"Not our problem."
"And me?" She asked accusingly, angered by his cavalier attitude to human life. Did he care at all for anyone other than himself?
He moved taking her with him but they'd only gone three steps when a fierce burst of red sparks erupted from the pit to shoot across the gulf between it and the two fugitives. Cheryl could have died in that instant as she was frozen in place by blind panic, but the man shoved her to the ground and covered her body with his just in time. The pulse flew over them to strike another target, and the flash was an iridescent orange fire tree of melting brick and plastic.
"Crawl on your stomach," Cheryl was told in a whisper. "When I tell you."
"We have to get back to your ship."
"No we have to reach theirs." He replied with a new dynamism. Was he insane, go to the enemy ship? That cliché about the lion's den filtered through her confused thoughts.
"All right, now." And he began to crawl like a lizard, all the time moving around the outer edge of the repair shop. It was a strange way to travel loping on all fours with your belly to the ground, and it reminded her of games she'd played as a kid.
A second blast from the pit made them both freeze, but it was well wide of the mark and hit the spot where they'd been seconds earlier turning this into a bonfire.
"Keep going Cheryl!"
He was making a better job of it then her and waited for her to catch up, several lopes later she was with him behind some dusty axels. She could see where they were heading for, it was a hatch that led outside and beyond it was a strong green corona. Hang on she thought even if they reached the enemy ship it was bound to be sealed, guarded or even rigged with some complex alien burglar alarm; that included a death ray or some toxic gas.
Cheryl came to a decision, if she was going to follow this man she needed to know something. "Who are you? If I'm going into the jaws of death I think I have a right to know."
"Not now," came the blunt refusal.
"Yes now!" She shot back at him, but he drew away from her. He wasn't fast enough though and snatching the hood she yanked it back to expose his face.
She would never forget what she saw then for as long as she lived, which probably wasn't going to be much more than a few minutes anyway.
He had no eyes none at all, where his eyes should have been where two yawning orbits and from these blazed twin beams of golden dazzling light that seemed to come from some place deep inside him.
His features were scarred and lumpy, somehow distorted and unfinished. There were burns to both cheeks and the lips were black as though toasted. He had thick shaggy brown hair combed back and somehow lifeless. The whole effect was one of catastrophic damage that his body had tried to repair, but had only partially succeeded in doing so.
Quickly the hood was drawn back into place, no words were spoken as she was too stunned and he seemed to be distracted. What the hell was he, and how could he live in that state? Was he any better than the things in the pit, because he appeared just as inhuman?
"You shouldn't have done that," he told her but with more angst than anger.
"What happened to you, how did you get like that?"
"They did something to me and my body reacted, now please no more questions we don't have time for detailed discussion."
With a shaking hand he raised the pilot and aimed it at the hatch that led outside, she saw information scroll up onto the small screen in the form of symbols shaped like trees.
"We can make it," he croaked. Cheryl still couldn't speak, she wasn't sure she was going anywhere with him. What made up her mind was movement in the pit, a rising and emerging of bodies. Squinting she made out a man, it was the police constable only now he was connected to something else by wires and cables that punctured his skull and torso making him look like a grotesque living puppet. His face was utterly white, while his eyes were black. His movements were wooden and jerky, and his breaths came in slow rasps. But it was the thing manipulating him that held her gaze, good grief it was hideous.
It was either a machine or a complicated life support suit for some living thing. Top heavy and a curious amalgam of cubes, cones and black scaffolding it moved by virtue of four crab-like metallic legs the main body was an industrial strength grey canister topped by a turret that could swivel 360 degrees, blazing from the turret was a single red bulb.
Strange though her companion was, this hulking tank-like apparition was much worse. The human puppet - who was clearly an extension of the other thing and its voice piece - spoke again. "Very well you leave us no choice, observe."
A burst of electricity or some intense power throbbed from the hulk into the man and before Cheryl's eyes police constable Alan Patrick burst into flames as his body cooked and melted, blackening and dissolving with spasmodic twitches into a skeleton from which the meat and fat ran off in sizzling gobs.
She turned away as the rank smell of cooking flesh filled the air accompanied by a last terrible scream it was an awful death.
"Come on Cheryl," the hooded man pleaded. In his voice now was a poignant and agonized sense of loss. Wiping her face she nodded, there was no going back. The man said, "There is a way to beat them, I think I know what it is now but it involves putting our own lives on the line."
She didn't say a word but the look on her face was enough. Yes these things had to be beaten, and made to pay for what they'd done. They were utterly evil and placed no value on human life at all, given half a chance they'd kill her without a moment's hesitation and that meant she had only one option, to help this strange deformed man do whatever it was he planned to do.
She watched him move to the hatch and tentatively open it, the green glow rushed in to bathe him emerald but there was nothing more hostile. "Now's our chance, they used a lot of energy to…" He didn't say it he didn't have to.
Joining him she peered out into the green glow, through it she could make out the elongated shape of the hunter. It lay on its belly about fifteen meters from the hatch, but she couldn't see a way into it.
"Won't they be able to see us?"
He hoisted the pilot, "Not while we have this."
"What is it?"
"A combination of shield and lock pick, amongst other things."
"So the thing in the pit can't see us either?"
He nodded and eased through the hatch, even when outside he kept his body hunched over and so did she. Outside of the repair shop she felt exposed, there was no cover between them and the hunter and if it opened fire they would die instantly. The only protection they had was his small box.
"It's very different from your ship," she muttered nervously realising she was stating the obvious.
"In more ways than one," he told her. "This is a military craft, mine has no weapons although they both travel through time."
That startled her she had expected space travel of course but not time travel. "Are you from the future?"
"Sometimes," came the unhelpful answer.
"From the same planet as them?"
"Good grief no," he appeared to be waving his pilot in the air as though searching for something.
"You look human, sort of, but they don't from what I can tell."
"The Vendredi aren't even remotely humanoid, I'd describe them but I don't want to put you off anymore."
He began to move, telling her that the way in was to the rear of the ship, and this meant a rather longer walk than she'd hoped for but at least nobody was shooting at them.
"How many of these things will be in there?"
"Only a skeleton crew will have come out of hibernation to hunt me down. The Vendredi have a curious life cycle that involves five periods of metamorphosis, and for each they must pupate. Aha, this looks like it."
She couldn't see anything different, the portion of the ship they'd reached was the same as the rest of it. Adjusting some controls on his pilot, the man aimed this at the hull and the low musical note oscillated in her ears. A portion of the green hull lightened into a yellow diamond that was about two meters high and the same across at extremis.
"Is that a door?"
"An aperture, what I've done is thin the outer field to allow us to pass through."
"And the crew won't know?"
"Not if I've done this properly."
Cheryl looked around she could make a run for it now if she wanted. She could dash off into the night and regain her mini, with any luck she'd be back in the apartment block chewing popcorn within twenty minutes. As if sensing her mood the man turned to her, "I'd like you to come." He said by way of a request.
"Why do you need me?"
"I could tell you but I don't think you'd like it."
"What exactly are you planning to do, I mean obviously you're going to sabotage the ship in some way?"
"Well it's a little more complex than that, I don't want the Vendredi stranded here for obvious reasons." She could almost feel him willing her to say yes like a little boy eager to open his Christmas presents before midnight. If she was honest she was dying to see inside the hunter, if only to compare it to his blue box. That had been weird enough, but she felt sure that this craft was going to be even stranger.
Tess couldn't wait any longer Alan was way overdue so it was time to take some action. The idea of leaving had a strong appeal and her survival instinct was all for the discretionary approach, but what would that say about her as a copper? How would she justify running out on a colleague, especially one who had acted so bravely? Unhappily she crept over to the repair shop, intending to use the same way in as Cheryl and Alan, what stopped her was a movement to her right.
Peering into the gloom she made out a figure stood near a window peering through it, the figure was tall and rather fat, the bulge made her think of a pregnant woman, but what woman in that state would be out here so late? As her torch had been lost in the panda she moved towards the figure, sensing her it turned and moved into a shaft of moonlight.
Tess screamed at once and she kept screaming as the thing walked up to her with its swollen head and elliptical eyes, she only stopped when it closed its talons around her throat.
Hot as a greenhouse and just as stale, the ship embraced Cheryl who found herself in a large round tunnel not unlike the interior of a blood vessel. The walls were moving in and out slightly and from small nodules growing out of them moisture emerged. Whereas the blue box had been clearly a complex machine, this ship was more like a living organic entity that had been grown. The only artificial thing about it was the lighting, this came from small round globes fitted to the ceiling but even these had a root structure. "Why is it so hot?" She asked, "and the air is foul."
"The Vendredi don't entertain much," was his only reply.
"Is the ship alive?"
"It's more of a host actually, the Vendredi capture and tame them. It's quite aware of us but it won't do anything unless told to."
"So your palm pilot masks us from the crew and not the ship?"
"Palm pilot?" He repeated with a degree of indignation, as though she'd denigrated a vital tool.
"Well what is it then?"
Hoisting his prize he said, "My tracker can perform about one thousand functions, and that's just on the lowest setting. To call it a palm pilot is like comparing Concorde to a byplane."
"Touchy," she responded.
"With this device I can…" Containing himself the man gave a sigh, and she felt sure that his dark lips were smiling. Ahead of them a thick membrane yawned open to expose a vast round sac, at least this was how she thought of it. The skin of the sac was heavily veined, and most of the veins fed into upright red cocoons, each of which was three meters in height and heavily swollen with living content, she lost count at twenty.
Cheryl was sure she could see movement in some of the cocoons nearest the floor a sort of desperate, squirming struggle like the first stages of attempted freedom. Caterpillars to butterflies she mused, only in this case the change was hardly for the better. Not sure she wanted to amongst them she hung back. The man came to a halt and looked at her, "It's all right, they won't be emerging for a while yet and they aren't aware of us."
She wondered how he could be sure, but overcoming her aversion with an effort she joined him in the round chamber. Swinging to the left he pointed to a thick black artery running along the length of the floor, and something occurred to her.
"How come you know your way around inside here, have you broken in before?"
"I haven't broken in but I did break out once, you see I was a prisoner aboard this ship for a while."
"Is that something to do with what happened to your face?"
Going over to the artery he squatted down, "In a sense yes, you see a parasite was placed inside my body and there were some very nasty side-effects."
She looked around and felt her blood run cold, "One of these things?"
"In larval form, yes." From the tracker a needle extended and this was used to pierce the artery to a depth of two inches, there was no violent out rush of liquid as she'd expected in fact there wasn't even an ooze, but the tracker itself began to flash all sorts of bright colours from crimson to lime to turquoise.
Its owner took something from within his habit that looked like a five-sided ring breaking this into its five constituent parts he began slotting these into the tracker's sides and back. Cheryl thought of asking what he was doing, but doubted she'd understand the explanation anyway.
"Why was a parasite put into your body?"
"The Vendredi wanted two things, control of me and control of my ship. You could say they fancied an inside job."
"But it didn't work?"
"It partially worked."
"Is that why you put yourself into that coffin thing?"
Standing up and taking two steps back he next removed a slim, telescopic instrument with a bulbous head, adjusted something on its base, aimed this at the tracker and squeezed. A sharply discordant note filled the air, and her amazement the tracker changed shape morphing into a complex array with a spherical core and five legs or thin pipes digging into the membrane of the chamber.
"Surely," Cheryl said. "Someone will find that and remove it."
"Just because you and I can see my newly reconstituted tracker doesn't mean that the crew can. Right, I think that will do for here. Our next port of call is the helm, and that is to be found," he swung around 180 degrees. "This way," approaching a portion of membrane he reached out with both hands, seized the skin and pulled violently. She was shocked when the fresh tore down the middle, splattering her habit with globules of green ink but the next chamber they entered was even more surprising.
The square metal room was clearly metallic and artificial and a stark contrast to the pulsing organic matter seen so far. It was like they'd entered a totally different ship, although it was plain to see that in the metal walls was a complex network of capillaries. A nasty jolt was the hulking, top-heavy suit in one corner as it was the same as the thing seen in the pit that had killed the policeman.
"It's empty," her guide said.
"How can you tell?"
"It isn't trying to kill us."
"Do the Vendredi need to wear suits while on earth?"
"Not really, they could tolerate your atmosphere for a few hours but battle armour is part of their racial psyche."
Moving to a freestanding installation in the centre of the room, he began tinkering with various instruments and she wondered why there was no one in duty here? If this was the helm shouldn't there be a pilot or technicians or a guard of some kind?
"Who flies this ship?" She asked.
"In a sense it flies itself, which is both a strength and a weakness. In one way it frees up the crew to do other things."
"Like, hibernate?" She remarked.
"Yes, but it's also a vulnerability."
Maybe she thought, but in her experience nothing was ever this easy. "The parasite they put in you, where is it now?"
Pausing he looked up holding two wires, "That's one of the reasons I'm here."
"It's still inside you?"
"There's a residual trace, yes."
If that was the case then couldn't the larva or whatever become active again? Touching the two wires together he caused a terminal to light up and a panel to slide open, going to this he used his fingers to work a touch sensitive keypad. "This won't take much longer."
"Are you setting the self-destruct?" She needed to know this in case they got stuck here for any reason.
"The Vendredi don't believe in suicide, to die in battle is fine but to take ones life is against their religion."
"So what precisely are you doing?"
Closing the panel he stepped back with a degree of self-satisfied pride, and that was when the empty suit reached out with its prehensile arm and grabbed him around the neck. The red bulb on the head, which had been dull, illuminated and the hulk ground into motion. He tried to wrench free but it was impossible against the robotic strength of the suit, and when the grip tightened he let out a choking gasp.
There wasn't time for Cheryl to anything other than blanch, before two other figures entered the room. One was a young policewoman with an odd metallic collar that seemed welded to her neck, and a revolting creature devoid of hair, ears or clothing. It looked both soft and yet tough at the same time with a fawn-coloured skin that appeared artificial as though it had been sprayed on. The eyes were pus yellow with elliptical pupils, and the mouth was a three-sectioned aperture with sharp hooks bulging from each flap. The fingers were unusually long and looked more like muscular tendrils than digits, the feet were flat and round with a sucker-like quality they didn't seem to have distinctive toes. The stomach had a swollen quality almost like a beer belly or a pregnancy.
Neither Tess nor the alien made any move to approach Cheryl, perhaps sensing that she was no threat and could be dealt with later.
"Remove your hood Doctor," Tess instructed in the same amplified voice that her late colleague had used. Held painfully the man in the habit did not comply, so going over to him Tess did it herself to expose the glowing eyes and lumpy, half-finished face.
"A forced regeneration," she said. "But only half-completed."
"Fifty-fifty," the prisoner objected. "I'm a glass full kind of chap." The robot claw holding his neck relaxed, it did not release him but it did at least permit him to breathe properly and speak without croaking.
"We knew you'd come back here, after all what else could you do with our seed in your bloodstream?"
Cheryl was curious as to why the aliens had possessed a human being and were speaking through here rather than communicating directly? They seemed to enjoy possessing and infecting other life forms, altering and adjusting them in various ways.
"Your seed is dying," said the Doctor.
"Your appearance would indicate otherwise, and your actions are those of a desperate man." Tess appeared to be mocking him, "Only an infusion of time lord DNA would complete the regeneration and excise our seed."
"Actually I'm half-human so human DNA would do the job just as well."
Cheryl flinched, half-human? He hadn't told her that, just why had he brought her here in the first place? Did he have it in mind to take some of her tissue, and if so how much? Tess said,
"Such a pity you won't be in receipt of either, in fact we will be accelerating the Vendredi helix in your DNA thus completing the task we began before you so rudely left us."
The hulking suit dragged the Doctor over to the rip in the membrane he'd made and forced him through it back into the hibernation chamber Cheryl was waved to follow by Tess who followed her. The alien didn't go with them, instead it went over to the installation the Doctor had been tinkering with to try and undo his work.
With a sharp ripping sound and a sickening out rush of birth fluid one of the cocoons erupted to discharge a large mass with an umbilical chord that was quickly severely with a downward stroke permitting the occupant to step clear and begin the process of instantly drying its body by raising its temperature. This alien was quite different to the pot bellied fawn skinned creature, and if anything appeared more menacing.
Its body was a series of overlapping layers like wings curled around a bat, but the head was that of a preying mantis with two bulging red eyes. The mouth was a proboscis and from this came a rasping, whistling sound that soon resolved itself into English. It was fascinating how the Vendredi changed throughout their life cycle, how different each phase of the cycle was and Cheryl wondered what the final stage could be or was she seeing it now?
The mantis said, "The evolution of our race has been one of absorption and adaptation and now we are ready to progress to the next level in our long journey. Parasitism is a common and useful route to trans species perfection, but in you Doctor I feel sure we will reach our zenith. The seed within your body is one of my offspring, and I am proud to be the parent of this biogenetic advance."
Drawing in a deep breath the Doctor patted his own middle, "Sex without consent is bad enough but infestation without consultation is just beyond belief. I can't of course be a willing participant in your biogenetic advance."
From the mantis came a sharp fluting noise that might have been a sign of amusement or irritation or both, certainly the creature moved nearer to the time lord and extended one of its wicked looking claws, a vicious three-fingered affair with needle like extrusions.
"Your participation is vital whether you will it or not, it is our will that counts here."
Suddenly the fawn-coloured alien appeared to make a series of humming notes. Although Cheryl had no idea what they meant, the general tone was one of alarm. The mantis nodded its head and gave a rasp, "It seems you have interfered with the metabolism of our host-ship, it is having a severe allergic reaction and releasing hormones hostile to our function. An attempt by us to correct this has induced a shock trauma and vital areas have gone into coma."
"More than a touch of indigestion by the sound of it," the Doctor quipped.
"Whatever you have done you will undo, at once."
"Certainly once the parasite has been removed from my body, and once Cheryl and I are free from your clutches."
The claw holding the Doctor's neck tightened painfully and Tess moved towards Cheryl with an expression of hostile disdain. Trying to avoid her the teenager took several backward steps, but this only took her as far as the membranous wall whereupon she kicked the Doctor's contraption. Not only did this fizz and spark, but she found herself magnetised to it by her right shoe.
A violent convulsive lurch past through the black artery then the walls of the chamber began to throb and twitch, a russet vapour was discharged which caused both the mantis and Tess to rear back with alarm. Released by the suit, the Doctor ran over to his device and freed Cheryl with his bulbous headed slim tool.
"I'm sorry," she said.
"How do we get out of here?"
"When lost, ask a constable." He grabbed Tess by the arm and pulled her to him, she responded by lashing out but as her hand struck his face something incredibly grotesque happened - hand and cheek seemed to merge together.
Tess's green eyes widened in horror and outrage, then they slowly faded into dull black pits. The Doctor's glowing orbs shrank and reformed into a pair of green eyes, these rapidly sparkled into a fierce intelligent blue. The rest of his face also altered, losing its lumpy, scarred, unnatural appearance to smooth and remould into an aspect with sharp, distinct features and more natural skin with a clear complexion.
When hand and face separated The Doctor looked human, but Tess was the one appeared like a corpse she appeared wizened and gaunt like a corpse in the advanced stages of decomposition.
"We need to leave," the Doctor said, now a handsome man in his thirties with high cheekbones, a sensuous mouth and long flowing hair. "Help us."
The mantis swung in his direction, now it had three claws and all of them were reaching out in his direction. What prevented the attack from succeeding was the floor, as it suddenly bulged upwards to create a wave of tissue that threw the aliens back.
Tess - now little more than an automaton - walked stiffly to a round flap of tissue and touched a nerve strand. The flap flew aside and Cheryl saw the bus repair shop.
"Get out," the Doctor told her, she did not bother to argue. Reaching up he used his screwdriver to unlock the collar around Tess's neck.
"I'm sorry," he said as this dropped away and she collapsed in a lifeless heap. Flinging himself out of the ship he pulled Cheryl to her feet and dragged her away, she thought the craft was going to explode or fold in on itself or have some kind of fit. Instead it took off, rising high into the air over the repair shop. Rotating 270 degrees until it faced east, it projected a wide circular beam to a point in the air. The night sky seemed to split open and draw back like a stage curtain, beyond it was a brilliant silver-gold vortex of light and it was the most beautiful thing she'd ever seen.
With a convulsive lurch the Vendredi ship spat into this and was embraced by the vortex, which drew it along. The rip in the sky closed one moment later, with no sign it had ever been there.
"Bon voyage," the Doctor called.
"Where have they gone?"
"I've no idea, I mean where does anaphylactic shock take you when your dimension surfing with your eyes closed?"
Not sure she understood any part of that answer, she didn't press the point. The Vendredi were gone and so it seemed was their seed. The man before her now was quite good looking he seemed normal although she knew that he wasn't. He just as alien as the Vendredi, he just didn't look alien.
"I should get back to the apartment," she said.
"Should you?" He enquired with a raised eyebrow that made him look roguish.
"I'm supposed to be babysitting."
"Is the baby asleep?"
"It was when I ran out."
"And when will its parents be returning?"
"Tomorrow." Cheryl said.
"Well tomorrow can be a long time in coming," he said with a twinkle in his new blue eyes.
"Doctor, what do you mean?"