The fireball ripped into the atmosphere somewhere above the Pacific. It was seen by both civilian and military observers in both California and Nevada. It either burned up or crashed in western Colorado.
The Air Force sent jets after it, but found nothing. It was written off as a meteorite and only a few scientists remembered it, testing the upper atmosphere for dust particles or gaseous traces of the object.
* * * * *
A rather short, dapper man stepped into Del Floria's. He slipped out of his jacket and gave the man the pre-arranged hand signal. Then he calmly stepped in to a changing booth and flicked the hook on the back wall. It swiftly and silently swung open. An attractive young woman sat at a control panel inside. On either side of her stood young men, guns drawn.
"I am William Burns," he said, and opened the wallet he had in his hand. The two U.N.C.L.E. men saw the green card inside.
"Mr. Burns," one of the men said respectfully, "Mr. Waverly is expecting you. We will have to search you, sir."
The THRUSH man set his briefcase down and spread his arms. "I understand perfectly," he told them.
* * * * *
U.N.C.L.E.'s two top agents sat in Waverly's office. The three men were listening as the Thrush agent related a story that was even frightening Thrush.
"It began when the meteor landed practically in our laps. It was at an outpost in western Colorado. It wasn't quite a soft landing, but it didn't create a crater. Reports came that the crew had rapidly concealed the location before the Air Force got there. For the next two weeks we got several reports. The most exciting one was that they found what looked like a door. Then of unsuccessful attempts to gain entrance. Finally a successful report - they had opened it up.
"We had experts sent in to study the thing, and for the next three days we received reports with exuberant scientists telling others that it was like nothing they had ever seen before. Then no report came the next day. On the following day the radio was turned on and someone kept saying
'Mayday, Mayday'." Burns paused for a moment to look at the three men, then continued.
"A squad was sent in to find out what was going on. A young scientist was at the field; she kept babbling about body snatchers. The men moved into the outpost and found many bodies laying around. Near the alien ship they ran into the rest of the personnel. The outpost's men were advancing on our agents with drawn guns. After a warning, the squad opened fire and several of the others fell. Most of them tried to rise.
Then the survivors opened fire on the team.
"It was during this encounter the leader gave the order to fall back. They took the scientist and flew out. We have not heard anything since then. That was six days ago. Aerial surveys indicate that activity is going on, but not anything we can decipher."
When he finished speaking, Burns folded his hands, looking expectantly at the three U.N.C.L.E. men.
Waverly cleared his throat. "And what did this young woman, the scientist, have to say?"
Burns nodded to the question and replied. "Dr. Jamison was in a state of exhaustion. She had to be sedated by the medic. When she woke up at the local satrapy she told them about how some people had begun acting strangely. Mostly the lower workers. Nobody noticed it; everyone was too excited about getting into the craft. That is, until people started dying. Fifteen people were killed that first night. Most of the rest were killed the next day.
"Jamison and two others hid after the first bodies showed up. The others had gone to the radio. Apparently only one had made it. We suspect that he had been injured as well. Jamison agreed to go out to the air field to warn our men."
Burns handed some photos to Waverly.
"These are the only photos that Jamison managed to salvage."
Waverly glanced through them, tossed them onto the revolving table that served as his desk and spun them to Solo and Kuryakin. He got up and stepped over to his computer/communication console and punched in a code.
"These are very interesting, Mr. Waverly," Illya told his chief.
"Indeed," Waverly was reading the printout.
"Do you want us to go to Colorado?" Napoleon asked.
"You, Mr. Solo, will go to the base camp with two other agents," Waverly replied. "Mr. Kuryakin, you will fly to London."
"London, sir?" Illya asked, puzzled to be going so far out of the way.
"Yes, you will be meeting with this man." He laid a thin packet on the table and sent it to the Russian. "Then both of you will be joining Mr. Solo in Colorado."
Illya picked up the envelope. Inside was a photo of a military man and a dossier on a Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart. He was in his mid-forties and looked like a proper soldier.
"Is that all, Mr. Waverly?" Napoleon asked.
"Yes. Good day, gentlemen,:" Waverly paused and glanced up, "and good luck."
"Thank you, sir," the two agents said together and escorted the Thrush man out.
* * * * *
Illya looked around the laboratory. He had been brought here instead of an office, and told that the Brigadier would be with him shortly. The equipment was partially packed. He knew that U.N.I.T. was being shut down by the U.N. due partially to funding cuts. In spite of the equipment scattered over the rest of the room, there was one corner that was oddly empty. Most of the tools looked like strange cannibalizations of things that Illya recognized. He picked up one that had been created by the fusing together of three other things.
Then the Brigadier arrived. "Mr. Kuryakin?" Lethbridge-Stewart asked in his clipped British accent.
"I asked for you to be brought here, because my office is in chaos. This was our Scientific Advisor's laboratory and I've been trying to get it packed. I don't believe he's coming back for his things."
"Isn't that a bit odd for a scientist?" Illya asked. He had a strong science background himself and an intense interest in it.
"Not for the Doctor," the Brigadier replied. "Now tell me what this is about?"
Illya told him all they had learned about the UFO from both Thrush and what their own sources had shown.
The Brigadier listened intently. When Illya finished he frowned and shook his head.
"I wish the Doctor were here," he muttered. Then he walked over to one of the strangest machines in the room. "I used this only once," he told Illya. "The Doctor said to use it only in an emergency. I think this rates." Then he frowned again. "I only hope it still works; the last time the Doctor was here, he wasn't very happy with Col. Faraday. I do hope he didn't disconnect it."
With that, he flicked a switch. Although Illya didn't see a power line, the machine began to hum. The Brigadier, after asking for the co-ordinates for the site, keyed a message into it. Then he turned back to Illya.
"The machine will continue to function, if the Doctor hasn't disconnected his receiver, until he triggers it on his end. We might as well go to whatever site you have selected in
Colorado. If the Doctor shows up, that's where he'll be."
Illya shook his head. "What kind of doctor is this man?" he asked, completely puzzled.
The Brigadier smiled slightly. "I used to wonder myself," he told him, "but it doesn't do any good; he'll baffle you each and every time."
* * * * *
The TARDIS. lurched drunkenly in the Vortex. The Doctor clung to the edge of the console while K9 rolled down and the coat stand fell on top of him.
"Master?" he asked in a pert voice.
"I know, K9," he said through gritted teeth, "we are getting closer."
The machine righted itself abruptly and on the console a stream of paper began to feed out with a soft chatter.
"What's this?" the Doctor asked and walked around to it. "The Brigadier," a rather fond smile touched his lips, "I wonder what he wants?" He read the printout as it emerged.
"Master?" K9 asked again.
"Yes?" The Doctor glanced at the robot dog then leapt over to him. "I'm sorry, K9," he said as he righted the coat stand and untangled the scarf, draping that around his neck.
"It looks like my old friend the Brigadier has a problem," he said as he read through the rest of the tape, then ripped it off as it began to repeat itself. With a flick he shut off the machine.
Still looking at it he walked over to see if the TARDIS. had the co-ordinates for the location of the Vortex disturbance. He frowned at them.
"The location, Master?" K9 asked. Although the computer dog had a remarkable intelligence, it could not see the top of the console and had to link into it if it were to know what the readings said.
"Earth, again," the Doctor replied, then he read through the Brigadier's report. A bright smile lit his face. "Let's try this," he said and quickly set the Brigadier's co-ordinates in, having adjusted them in his head.
He pulled the final switch and the column slowed to a halt. "Let's see how we did," he suggested and turned on the viewing screen. It opened to reveal a group of men standing off about fifty feet, guns at ready.
"Not U.N.I.T. troops," the Doctor mused. "What do you think?"
"Probability of hostility 73.4%," K9 replied.
The Doctor frowned down at the robot. "You think so? This is Earth." He stepped over to the console and opened the door.
"You ever been to Earth before?" he asked conversationally.
"Of course not," the Doctor said consolingly. "Well, if the Brigadier needs me, he should be right along."
He opened the door and heard the rifles being cocked. He shut it again without going out.
"Probability of hostility increased to 94.7%," the robot dog
* * * * *
"94.7%? I've faced worse odds," the Doctor said off- handedly, and stepped outside. A cold wind whipped down the mountains above them and his long scarf fluttered in response. A particularly violent gust yanked his hat off. Deftly he caught it in his left hand and shoved it in a pocket.
A handsome man stepped forward, a pistol ready in his right hand, but not directly aimed at him. The Doctor smiled reassuringly.
"Who are you?" the man demanded.
"I am the Doctor. You haven't seen the Brigadier, have you?"
"No, Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart. He asked me to meet him here." The Doctor was enjoying this exchange.
"I am Napoleon Solo of the United Network Command for Law and Enforcement. Who are you?"
"I see," the Doctor replied. "I'm the Doctor. I am, or was anyway, U.N.I.T.'s scientific advisor. You do know U.N.I.T., don't you?"
There was a blank look on Napoleon's face. "United Nations..."
"...Intelligence Taskforce," Napoleon finished for him. "I know it. But how in the world did you get here? And what's the police box for?"
The Doctor opened his mouth to explain when the door opened and K9 glided out. "Master, aerial vehicle approaching."
"And what is that?" Napoleon asked, pointing at the strange metal object.
"This is K9, my dog. Aren't you, K9?"
"Affirmative," the robot answered cheerfully.
Before Napoleon could ask another question his communicator chirped. He touched it to silence it.
"A call for me?" the Doctor asked.
Ignoring him, Napoleon pulled it out with his left hand and thumbed it on. "This is Solo."
"Napoleon," came the faraway voice of his partner, "This is going to sound strange, but if a blue police call box arrives, it's on our side."
Napoleon glanced at the call box, then at the Doctor. "I wish you'd told me sooner," he told the Russian.
He heard a yelp in the background, then a strange voice with a British accent came on. "Is the occupant unharmed?"
"That's the Brigadier," the Doctor grinned. He stepped forward and took the communicator from Napoleon's hand. The agent looked heavenward for sympathy and sighed. "How are you, Alistair?"
"Good to hear you, Doctor. We should be there in ten minutes. Have Mr. Solo fill you in on what has been happening."
The Doctor looked at Napoleon, who had put his gun away.
The men behind him had begun to relax as well. "I TOLD you it was for me," he said, and at the beleaguered expression this elicited, he added, "Fill me in?"
"Follow me," Napoleon sighed again, and turned to a stand of pre-fab huts.
"Heel, K9," the doctor ordered, and strode after Solo. The robot dog bumped after him across the landscape.
* * * * *
By the time the hoverjet landed, Napoleon Solo already knew he didn't like this "Doctor". While he had tried to explain what was going on, the Doctor had wandered through the room, glancing at the reports, flipping through the photos,
interrupting him to offer him a jelly baby, and generally appearing to be inattentive. However, whenever Napoleon stopped, he always looked up and told him to go on.
At the sound of the jet, the Doctor dashed to the window to watch it land. He grinned and looked at Napoleon. "To bad they never gave the Brigadier a toy like that. I would have enjoyed it."
Napoleon wondered what he meant.
The UNCLE agent joined him to watch as guards escorted the two men to the cabin.
After introductions, Napoleon told them he was planning to lead in a group of agents to see if they couldn't get to the space craft.
"How many were you going in with?" the Doctor asked.
The Doctor shook his head. "That's too many. The men at the outpost will only start shooting again. Three is a better number. You, Illya here, and myself."
"This is ridiculous!" Napoleon shouted. "I'm in charge of this operation."
The Doctor just smiled. "Very well," he said solemnly. "Then you stay here with the Brigadier, and Illya and I shall go." With that he called his robot and left the hut.
Napoleon stared after him, then turned to the Brigadier. A slight smile played on the officer's lips that he quickly hid with a cough.
"Can you make him see reason?" Napoleon asked.
The Brigadier cleared his throat. "I'm afraid that the Doctor is the only expert on earth on alien life forms."
"Why do you say that?" Illya asked.
"Simply because the Doctor IS an alien life form."
There was an extended silence during which Illya got up and gazed out the window.
"What about the dog?" Illya finally asked.
The Brigadier shrugged. "I don't know. That's new. But he's still the same irritating Doctor he used to be. I assume he picked up, or made the robot somewhere on his travels."
"And he travels in that police box?"
"I saw it appear out of nowhere," Napoleon interjected.
"Yes, he travels in the box..." The Brigadier paused, then said, "I've been for a trip in it myself."
They turned and looked at him in surprise.
"It was...quite an experience," the Brigadier told them. "I never understood why Sarah...uh, Miss Smith always seemed to enjoy going with him."
"When was the last time you saw him?" Napoleon asked.
"Scotland, several years ago. Perhaps you recall the North Sea oil derrick disasters?
Illya nodded. "I seem to remember something in London that was connected, monster in the Thames...I passed that off as altered pictures."
"Unfortunately, there were too many tourists. We couldn't stop the publicity that time," the Brigadier said, looking rather annoyed.
Illya shook his head and excused himself. Napoleon knew his partner was going to join the Doctor. Solo turned his attention back to the Brigadier. He had better learn all there was to know about this irritating Doctor.
* * * * *
Illya found the Doctor standing by a jeep. He was talking to a sullen Thrush mechanic.
"Then this would get us to that other outpost."
"It should," the mechanic told the tall man.
The Doctor had tossed the two long ends of the scarf up over one shoulder to keep them out of the oil on the ground. He almost leaned over the Thrush man. He glanced up and spotted Illya.
"Ah, good to see you. I want to speak with you." He walked over to Illya, who turned and walked out into the field with him. "Interesting problem here. A definite 'us' and 'them' situation. Would you please explain it to me?"
"It is not easy," Illya started. "Thrush is an international crime organization, whose goal is to rule the world. UNCLE is the major force attempting to thwart them. So on the rare occasion that they need our help--and it benefits both of us--(like now) the lower level workers still feel uneasy working with the 'enemy'."
"That's very interesting," the Doctor said thoughtfully when Illya finished. "Don't you think so, K9?"
"Affirmative," the robot agreed.
By this time they had arrived at the Doctor's box. Illya studied it while the Doctor pulled a chain from around his neck.
"Just give me a moment," he told Illya, and popped inside. Before Illya had time to react, he popped back out again.
"What was that for?" Illya asked.
"Just wanted to set the HADs," the Doctor replied. "Thought I'd just reset the co-ordinates for the other camp. If anyone tries to damage my TARDIS, it'll be all right now."
"What are 'Hads'?"
"Hostile Action Devices. I don't think much of the politics here. Ought to use some safeguards. You do think the Brig. will be all right here, since you say these Thrush people are unfriendly?"
"Yes. We have two other U.N.C.L.E. agents here to look after him."
"Good, good. Still, I think perhaps Mr. Solo should stay as well. He isn't going to accept my leadership. What does he know about alien spacecraft, anyway?" the Doctor asked, looking wide-eyed at Illya.
Illya opened his mouth to say something, then closed it. He tried again. "Nothing."
A smile lit the Doctor's face. "There, you see? I think the two of us should go in."
"And me, Master?" K9 asked, sounding almost disappointed.
The Doctor leaned over and petted the "dog"'s metal head. "I've already thought about that, K9. We'll get you there somehow."
The tall antenna wagged and the eardishs turned happily.
* * * * *
"Fly him in?" Napoleon asked in disbelief.
"Certainly," the Doctor agreed. "We'll have him inside crates of food that a helicopter will drop at the runway. Then, after the men check them out, he'll break out and join us at the craft."
"K9 will be most useful once we get in the ship. His sensors are more sensitive that ears and eyes. Besides," the Doctor paused and looked down fondly at the robot, "he has a logical mind. If I know what the logical thing to do is, I can figure out the correct one from that."
"Negative, Master," the dog disagreed.
"Thank you very much!" he said to K9. Then, still sounding less than pleased with his metal pet, he muttered, "Well, what do YOU know about it? You're only a robot dog."
"Affirmative, Master," the machine replied, seemingly unaware that the Doctor had just insulted him.
"Meanwhile," the Doctor went on, "Illya and I will take a jeep overland."
"What about the rest of us?" Napoleon asked.
"You will be backup. If we run into trouble, then Illya will break out that toy...ah...communicator," the Doctor corrected himself, "and call you in."
"But..." Solo started to object.
"Napoleon," Illya interrupted. "In a group there can only be one Leader. The Doctor knows more about the subject. Let his decision stand."
Napoleon obviously didn't like this, but acquiesced to his friend's logic. Noting Napoleon's color, the Brigadier chimed in, about-facing subjects, "Where do you think it's from?"
"Brigadier," the Doctor turned to him, "What is the remarkable thing about this spaceship?" He handed a photo to the military man, who looked it over. The picture depicted what appeared to be just one of the many large boulders, but for the door in it.
"It wasn't burned in the landing?" he ventured.
"No. Many species have advanced to the point that such crude landings are unnecessary. What is remarkable about this is craft, is that if it had landed nearer the camp, it would have looked like one of the cabins."
"You mean..." the Brig. looked excited."Of course. It has a chameleon device -- one that works. And only one race HAS such a device."
"Is it the Master?" the officer asked.
"No. The Master is dead," the Doctor stated firmly.
"Are you sure? We've thought that before," the Brigadier reminded him.
"I saw him die," he said angrily, then continued in calmer tones. "Anyway, he was over-pushing his last regeneration; there wasn't much left of him."
"But I thought that other Time Lords had non-interference ingrained in them."
"Phah," the Doctor said in disgust. "I have been learning that more and more often those Time Lords only give lip service to non-interference. If the danger is great enough, then one of them will do something. Remember Omega?"
"I...I thought the ...two of you.,..took care of him,:" the Brigadier sputtered.
With bewildered expressions, the two U.N.C.L.E. agents listened to the friendly debate. Neither interrupted, though both were highly curious.
"I did. But the Time Lords themselves forced me to break their own First Law to do so, and I have found out -- or been involved in -- several experiences since then that they have either interfered in, or directed me to meddle with! Time looping the fifth planet to conceal its history," he finished more in an angry mutter under his breath than as a comment in the argument.
"But that is another TARDIS," the Brigadier argued, pointing at the photo.
"Yes. yes!" the Doctor agreed. "The Time Lord in it is another renegade -- one I don't know at this time -- and obviously up to no good."
"Do you know what to do about it?" Napoleon asked, ever practical.
The Doctor sighed and sat down on the edge of a table. "Not really. Time Lords are a tough and wily race." He gave a half laugh. "For all I know, one of them could have decided to assassinate the president of Gallifrey and place himself in that position. It could all be a trap."
"For whom?" the Brigadier. asked. "Why would he come to Earth to assassinate the ...the president of Gallifrey?"
The Doctor shrugged. "Brigadier, to be quite honest with you, I took a chance coming here. I was trying to track down a serious disturbance in the Vortex. That track led to Earth, and that whoever is in that TARDIS out there wants me, probably dead."
"But why?" the officer asked.
"WHY doesn't so much matter now. If I tried to leave now, people would die, and the person in that TARDIS knows I will not allow it. I have to go in.
* * * * *
The pair lay on a ledge overlooking the outpost. They had covered about half the distance from where they had left the jeep and the camp.
"Our "care package" has arrived," the Doctor told Illya.
"Good. Did you see the sentries?"
"No. And that's very bad." The Doctor turned his spyglass toward the edges of the camp.
"It is?" Illya asked, puzzled. He'd been expecting guards.
"Yes. That means he's phasing out hypnotic controls."
"You seem to know an awful lot about this person when you say you don't know who it is."
"I am expecting Time Lord techniques. And the hypnotism of an unethical Time Lord can insure a great deal of mind control."
"Mind control?" Illya echoed, a bit worried.
"Time Lords are slightly telepathic, though most hardly ever do more than use it as their gift for languages. But evil ones, such as the Master, can use it to assert their wills on people, controlling them. However, this removes any sort of initiative, as you might expect. Thus, very bad sentries."
"Ah," Illya responded, not at all sure he understood how the Doctor had arrived at this conclusion, but he was unwilling to have another go at it. He asked a more important question. "Can they hypnotise anyone?"
"No. If they catch someone unawares, then it is easier, but a strong-willed person, aware of what can happen, should be all right."
"I wish you had told me sooner," Illya murmured grimly. UNCLE agents could withstand amazing amounts of torturous grilling, even when drugged, but that was under 'normal' circumstances, he thought. With these alien... 'Time Lords,' who knew?
The Doctor heard the doubt in the Russian's voice, even though he'd paid only marginal attention to the actual words. "Oh, you'll be fine, Illya," he grinned at him. "If I'd been the least worried about it, I'd have said something."
"I appreciate your trust in me," the agent smiled.
"Not at all."
"You know, Doctor," Illya said thoughtfully after some seconds, "you never did answer the Brigadier's question. Why would a Time Lord come all the way to Earth to assassinate the
president of Galli...Gallifrey?"
"Oh," the Doctor frowned. He lowered his brass spyglass and looked uncomfortable. "You see, since the Brigadier last saw me, I have become the President, though I don't remember much of it. I left the planet under Chancellor Borusa's care, but even so, I am still the president. And until I resign, retire..or die...no one else can be in that place of power."
"If it's so dangerous, why didn't you resign?"
The Doctor scratched his head, then laid a finger alongside his nose thoughtfully. "It's hard to explain," he said, finally. "If I retire or resign, then I need to submit a list of names to the Council of Time Lords. Unfortunately, the only person I know of that is capable of doing the job is Chancellor Borusa, and he and I discovered why chancellors are never allowed to be President."
"Then you are one of those 'tough and wily' Time Lords," Illya smiled.
"I thought you knew," the Doctor said.
"Then why is it you don't know anyone else to nominate?"
"I have been away for a long time," he said. "A very long time," he added softly to himself, though Illya didn't miss it. "I am a renegade myself. I've been off Gallifrey since my youth, and for a Time Lord, that is a very long time indeed!"
"But you can't be that old. You don't look more than -- what -- forty?"
The Doctor glanced down along his length stretched out on the ledge. "Thank you," he told him, "but I am in my fourth regeneration, and I am 755 years old."
Illya gave him an appraising stare, then shook his head slowly. "I think, perhaps, things are finally getting clearer," he said at last. "How many regenerations does a Time Lord get?"
"Usually twelve, sometimes one or two more, or less. Of course, if one dies unprepared, then that's it. One's dead."
"And how long will a Time Lord live if he leads a simple life?"
The Doctor's answer came so casually Illya had to look at his face to know he meant it. "Oh, six to ten thousand years."
Illya started, then said, "Then you aren't doing very well, are you?"
The Doctor shook his head, then smiled broadly. "But I'm not leading a 'simple' dull life, either." He rose to his feet and brushed himself off. "Shall we go?" he asked, as he stuffed his spyglass back into one of his many pockets.
"Into the camp?" Illya asked as he got to his feet.
"Why not?" the Doctor shrugged. "Never get any answers without talking to people."
They returned to the steep mountain, following a faint path down the side. They had walked almost an hour on the twisting switchback trail when the Doctor rounded a rocky outcropping and came nose to nozzle with a Thrush gun. He stopped in his tracks and Illya ran into him, being unable to see past his large frame.
Together they watched as the sentry's finger tightened on the trigger...
* * * * *
"Don't shoot!" a man barked from behind the sentry.
The pair breathed as the finger loosened. A man in a green uniform walked up and stood next to the guard. "Who are you?" he demanded. The Doctor brightened; questions he could handle. But as he opened his mouth to speak, the man snapped, "Never mind. Bring them along," he ordered, and swung around down the path.
The guard stepped aside to let them pass, and then followed them.
Illya was nervous, but the Doctor seemed to be enjoying himself! The Russian supposed that might be one difference between being short-lived and being a Time Lord.
After Illya was disarmed (and it was discovered the Doctor -- as usual -- was unarmed), the pair was told to empty their pockets.
Illya pulled his few things out, then watched in amused amazement as a yo-yo, an apple core, and a hat followed the spyglass out of one pocket. The Doctor kept up a running banter as he emptied first one, then another and another pocket. Illya lost track of which pocket he had emptied after the Doctor found ten pockets in his coat alone. One seemed full of strange rocks, another had a scroll. The Doctor explained some, others he didn't, just dumping them on the table.
Finally he sighed, a bit wearily. "I suppose I really should empty my pockets a bit more often."
Illya just shook his head. The really amazing thing was that the Doctor's pockets had never even bulged, in spite of all the stuff that had come out of them.
Then they were taken to the captain who turned out to be the man who had prevented their early demise. Illya was rather surprised to find that his "special" gun hadn't attracted the Thrush man's interest. And after the man had heard the Doctor's story about a plane in trouble and seemingly bought it, he knew something was very wrong.
Captain Van Brandt listened to the Doctor politely, then informed both Illya and the Doctor that they were trespassing on a secret government project, and would be prisoners until they could be evacuated. Just before they were ushered out, Van Brandt told them the Commander would probably wish to see them later. Then they were taken to a cabin and locked inside. The Doctor glanced around then shoved his hands in his pockets. Appearing totally unconcerned, he stretched out on one of the cots. Illya, however, prowled around the room, checking the boarded up windows, the too-tiny air vent near the ceiling over his cot, the lock on the door...finally he sat down on his cot. But he didn't relax.
"It should be easy enough to get out," he told the Time Lord.
"I wasn't worried about it," the Doctor replied. Illya was about to remark that he'd noticed, when the Doctor pulled his right hand out of his coat pocket. In it he held a long silvery cylinder and a whistle.
"I thought you emptied your pockets!" Illya exclaimed.
"Yes. I emptied them, and when I do it I keep things I will need. This," he pointed at the whistle, "will call K9. This," he pointed to the other object, "will unlock the door."
"It will?" Illya had never seen a lock pick like that.
"It's a sonic screwdriver. About the only thing that will stop it is a wooden bar or too simple a lock. That one," he nodded toward the door, "Is fairly simple, but my screwdriver will shake up the small metal parts inside and open it for us."
"Impressive," Illya acknowledged. "What are you waiting for?"
"Mmmm. You don't think anything will happen before then?"
"Nothing final; things are still in the early stages. Besides, I'd like to meet the Commander."
"And what if that is the person who wants you dead?"
The Doctor shrugged. "I'll try and talk him out of it."
"At least you do that well," Illya said.
The Doctor bristled, then calmed. "I do, don't I?"
* * * * *
Three guards came for the Doctor, rudely instructing Illya to stay. The Time Lord grinned broadly and waved at Illya as though he were going on a picnic, not being called before an enemy, possibly to breathe his last.
He wasn't surprised when the guards took him to the strange TARDIS rather than another cabin. All the time he chatted to the silent men who only seemed partially aware of him. He was soon shoved into the control room and found himself facing Van Brandt's drawn gun.
"The Commander will see you now, Doctor," he smiled.
"Oh, good. I have been looking forward to this," the Doctor replied, grinning and looking around.
"Ssso have I, Doctor, ssso have I," came a thin, raspy voice.
The Doctor spun. There in the doorway was a small figure in protective clothing.
The Doctor framed a question with his lips, but could not find a voice with which to ask it.
"Yesss, Doctor, it isss me," the Master hissed and limped forward.
"Commander?" Van Brandt asked.
"You have done well, Captain," the Master told him.
"You're dead," the Doctor finally found his voice and its tone was decidedly indignant. "I saw you fall."
"Yesss, Doctor, but I did not fall far, and I had absssorbed enough energy to ssstrengthen thisss travesssty of a body. But not for long, Doctor." The Master broke into a gruesome chuckle.
For the first time, the Doctor was worried.
"Bring him," the Master ordered. He turned and limped into his machine. Two guards grabbed the Doctor's arms, forcing him to follow. The captain and the last man trailed after them.
* * * * *
The Master's TARDIS was as twisted as the Master's mind. The halls turned, doubled back, and some corridors had side pockets which the Doctor could see ended, inexplicably, for no reason. But still, the mad Time Lord led them on assuredly.
Suddenly the Master opened a door and ushered the others in, though his mock politeness drew no reaction whatsoever from the Doctor.
The room was filled with electrical equipment, and in its open center were placed two platforms, each large enough for a human form. One had straps. The Doctor looked up. Directly above the platforms, suspended from the ceiling, were two clear, hollow body-shaped pieces of equipment.
"Well, well. And what have you made now?" the Doctor asked calmly. He was very worried, for he had a theory cooking, but he knew it irritated the Master that he did not show any fear.
"Thisss, Doctor, isss one of the technological 'miraclesss' of all..." he paused and chuckled at some private joke, "Timesss. Thisss will allow me to sssteal all your livesss. All of your remaining regenerationsss will be mine, Doctor, and then you will die." The master's soft, mad laughter, followed this claim, and fear raced through the Doctor's system as he struggled to break free for the hands that held him. Time Lords are not only long-lived, and 'a hardy race', they are somewhat stronger than their size would account for. The other two guards came to their companion's aid, and it took all four to force the Doctor down to the platform. They tightened the straps on his limbs, and once finished, they stepped back. The Doctor looked over and saw the Master lying down on the twin platform.
"Now, Doctor, my revenge for your interference isss near completion. You will give me the way to make the Time Lordsss and the universsse pay for what you have done to me!" The awful laughter filled the room.
The Doctor frowned in self-disgust as he realized he'd walked into this trap with his eyes wide open. In a moment, those same eyes grew even wider as he watched the clear shells descend slowly toward them...
* * * * *
Long before the guards had come to escort the Doctor away, the Time Lord had pressed K9's whistle upon Illya. As soon as the door had shut between them, Illya used it.
In about five minutes he heard a soft thud outside, then the door was blasted open."Master?"
"Is he dead, K9?" Illya asked, nodding at the prone guard as he
lifted the gun from the body.
"Negative, stunned. Where is my Master?"
"They took him away. Can you sense him?"
"Negative. Assume he is behind shielding. There is a TARDIS -- not Master's -- nearby. Logical place to hide Master is there."
"Then we'll go there, but first I need to retrieve my equipment."
"I shall meet you there," K9 informed him briskly, and turned to leave.
"Good." Illya knew where the TARDIS was, having observed the workers from his ledge above the outpost.
Illya skirted a few guards on his way to the cabin. It was unlocked, so Illya slipped inside and gathered up his things. He looked at the pile the Doctor had removed from his clothing and shook his head one final time, sighing. Quickly then, he found a bag, dumped its contents, and raked the Doctor's paraphernalia into it. He swung it over his shoulder and peeked out the door. Still no guards.
On his way to the TARDIS, however, Illya had to use two sleep darts to stop as many guards. K9 was waiting for him, as the robot had promised, just inside the strange craft's door. The room inside was far too impossibly large to fit inside the rock, but Illya didn't waste time questioning it. It was, after all, alien.
"Hurry, friend," K9 told him, and rolled to another door that was ajar.
Illya opened it and allowed the dog to move ahead of him.
"Please make haste," K9 repeated.
"Just hurry yourself," Illya muttered. And the robot did, rolling down the labyrinthine corridors, hesitating only briefly at junctions. Then, seemingly scenting -- or in some mechanically equivalent way -- sensing his master, he would charge full ahead, with Illya finding himself hard put to keep up.
In minutes, K9 halted before a room. The door to it stood slightly open.
Inside, Illya could see four men standing near an odd arrangement of machinery. On one of two platforms behind them, Illya took in the Doctor's predicament. The tall Time Lord struggled fiercely against restraining straps, while on the other platform, totally covered by clothing of a bulky design and dark color, lay a second figure. Illya's eyes travelled to the ceiling, from which were lowering two strange objects, each clear and shaped like a man. He felt a sinking feeling. Here was the Doctor's enemy, certainly.
Illya pulled up the Thrush rifle and shot Van Brandt. As the other men dove for cover, Illya triggered the rapid-fire mechanism and sprayed bullets into the banks of computers around the room. Sparks flashed and the two clear shells coming down from the ceiling whirred to a stop, only six inches from their destinations.
Illya pulled out a knife and dashed into the room, K9 close behind. Swiftly Illya reached under the cover and slashed the straps that held the Doctor down. he caught a movement out of the corner of his eye and whirled. Two of the three guards lay in heaps on the floor, and K9 somehow looked a trifle smug. Atop the other platform, the other person was fighting to free himself, but he seemed slightly hampered by a lame leg and a withered arm.
"Ahem," the Doctor said. Illya glanced at him, and saw impatience in the Time Lord's expression. "Would you mind?" his expression seemed to say. The Russian, in reply, poked the butt of the Thrush gun under the shell and levered it off the Doctor, then finished cutting him completely free.
"Am I glad to see you," the Doctor said thankfully. He rolled off the platform and looked for one long moment at the being on the other platform. "Come on, let's get out of here," he said in a strained voice. "Heel, K9," he barked as they darted out the door.
Once they got back to the control room, the Doctor slid to a halt. "Go on outside, Illya," he told the UNCLE agent.
"What are you going to do?" Illya asked from the doorway.
"I'm going to see if I can't immobilize this TARDIS," he replied.
He pulled his screwdriver out and dropped under the console.
"Keep watch, K9," he ordered from under the controls. He checked first one panel, then a second.
"Ah, ha!" he exclaimed, and reached in to remove the dematerialization circuit.
"Master," K9 said, "I detect a life-form. One corresponding to a Time Lo--"
The Doctor touched the part and received a massive charge of energy. With a cry of agony, he jerked his hand free. He saw a red haze for a moment, and tried to scramble to his feet before blackness claimed him.
"Master?" K9 asked and rolled to the Doctor.
"K...K...ni..." the Doctor sighed and reached out for the robot.
"Master?" K9 asked again. Then his sensors indicated that the
Doctor was unconscious. The robot dog rolled over to cover the door where he sensed the Illya & Doctor enemy would be coming from...
* * * * *
Even from outside the craft, Illya heard the cry of pain.
"Doctor?" he asked, and slinking closer to the door, shoving his clip of bullets in and tensing his muscles to jump the Time Lord's attacker, if need be. But there was no one else in the room when he peered inside. The Doctor was stretched out full length on the floor, and K9 seemed preoccupied with the far door. Suddenly he understood why. The door was opening.
The figure he had seen on the platform like the Doctor's was finally free, and shuffling through that door. A small tube extended from K9's "nose" and fired a red beam of light, but the figure did not stop. Illya supplemented K9's fire with three shots squeezed off in quick succession. The man staggered back and fell, more from the effect of the bullets striking him than from penetration, Illya thought, as he could see no blood. The protective hood slid off. The face was ravaged almost beyond anything recognizable as human. Lidless, bloodshot eyes stared out of the rotting face. His mouth pulled in a skull-like grin. But then, if this...person...in the protective clothing were a Time Lord like the Doctor, then who knew? Maybe Time Lords didn't have blood?
Illya was a good agent because he could think on his feet. He wasted no time while wondering, but reached down and caught the Doctor's arm and dragged him out of the TARDIS.
The Doctor's body was not only larger than his, however, but heavier than it had a right to be. It wasn't an easy task, and the Master was struggling to regain upright posture.
"Come on, K9!" he yelled.
"Affirmative." The robot rolled after him, backward.
The suited figure finally stood up more or less straight, but Illya had the Doctor out the door.
"Come on," he hissed, pulling off another shot at the enemy, then sinking one into the open panel under the central column. He heard K9 go past him as sparks rained out of the opening. An anguished cry broke from the man, and he threw himself down under the console. Illya didn't stop to see what else the person did. He turned his attention to the Doctor.
A grimace of pain was reflected on the awakening Doctor's face, and he stuck his fingers in his mouth. "Oh," he gasped, "that hurts. Shocking," he murmured to himself.
"Come on. The others will have heard my shots," Illya told him.
"Shots..." the Doctor sounded foggy. He gave his head one hard shake and then grabbed it with his free hand. "You fired off a gun in a TARDIS?!" he asked through his fingers.
"Yes." Illya helped the Doctor to his feet, then they both held their breath for a long moment, listening to the camp, straining to hear any noises which would indicate the camp's guards had been alerted. But the only sound at all came from within the wounded ship, various snaps and crackles from the damaged console.
"Why don't they come?" Illya wondered aloud.
"You did say you fired inside the TARDIS?" the Doctor asked. It seemed to Illya that the Time Lord was rapidly becoming more clear-headed. He nodded in reply."Then the sound was probably too muffled by the standard TARDIS shielding to clue them in."
They were both startled just then by a particularly loud pop from inside the TARDIS. Suddenly an eager look crossed the Doctor's face. He put a finger to his lips and leaned over to the little Russian. "Let's just see what's going on in there, shall we?" he whispered. Illya looked up at his face, finding the broad grin and wide-eyed expression once again in view. He smiled, shook his head and sighed, bemused by the indefatigable alien, then nodded again.
The pair peered into the open door. The man was working frantically at the sparking, smoking console. Electrical displays sizzled around him, even coursing over his warped body from time to time, but he paid them no mind. Perhaps his clothing protected him, or perhaps the energy even fed him in some way, not harming him, but in fact strengthening him, Illya thought.
"What did you do?" the Doctor whispered.
"I shot it," Illya replied softly.
The Doctor clamped down a smile. "that'll do it a lot of good," he said dryly.
Illya's only answer was a shrug.
The man took his gloved hands from the console. As though he had known all along they were there, he turned to them.
"You think you're going to ssstop me, Doctor?" he asked in his strained, hissing voice.
"Well," the Doctor straightened and allowed himself to be seen in the door. So long as the other's hands were empty, he didn't seem too worried. He smiled politely. "I do have to try. Surely you can see that, yes?"
In keeping with the Doctor's mock politeness, the man loosed his soft, wicked chuckle. "But not today, Doctor, not today. I have a rather...pressing engagement." And with that cryptic remark, he broke into a full laugh. Before the doctor could notice, his questing hand had found the door control and activated it. "We will meet again, Doctor." The veneer of civility fell from his face, and his voice turned hateful, ugly. As the door swung shut in Illya's and the Doctor's faces, they could hear the madman's voice rising in pitch. "Then, Doctor, you and your human friendsss will pay -- dearly they will pay!"
Illya made to open the door, but the Doctor restrained him.
"No. Once a T.A.R.D.I.S. door is commanded to shut, that's it. You would be crushed." His last word was followed by the very final-sounding chuff of air pushed out by the closing door. That was closely followed by a labored groaning noise, the like of which Illya had never before heard. He jumped back from the boulder, thinking it would lift off, fearing burning from the craft in spite of what the Doctor had told him before. He watched from behind another rock, and gasped in surprise as the huge boulder vanished.
The Doctor stuck his fingers in his mouth again. Illya looked at him standing nonchalantly there, as though something impossible hadn't just occurred before their eyes. But no explanation was forthcoming, so at last, in mild exasperation, Illya finally spoke up.
"'Well' what?" The Doctor seemed puzzled.
"'What' indeed, Doctor! Where did that thing go?" He handed the whistle back to the Doctor.
"Oh. That what." He lapsed in to a distracted silence again.
"Mmmm? Oh! into the Vortex," he replied, after he had pulled his fingers out again. And that explanation would have to suffice, it seemed, for he said nothing else about it. Instead, he held his fingers down to K9. "How are they?" he inquired of the robot.
"Second degree burns, Master."
"Better call your friends," the Doctor suggested, and slumped down next to Illya's refuge boulder. He took the end of his scarf in his good hand and held it next to his face. He stuck the injured members in his mouth again.
"What are you going to do?" Illya asked, pulling out his communicator.
"Think," was the Doctor's muffled reply.
After Illya had contacted Napoleon, he sat down to study the tall alien in the strong moonlight.It was rather disconcerting to Illya to see him like this. He appeared to be an ordinary man, if one ignored the wild hair and strange attire. But at the moment, he looked for all the world like a sulking child, fingers in mouth, security blanket comforting his cheek. His wide eyes stared into space without blinking for minutes on end.
Finally, the Doctor took his fingers out of his mouth again.
"What do you suppose that Thrush will do when they learn the threat is over?"
The question caught Illya plucking a bit of strawy grass from the ground. He stopped and glanced at the place where the ship had been. "Well, if they follow form, they'll attack us as soon as they know they safely can."
"Ah..." the Doctor nodded, still staring into the night.
To break the stillness, Illya asked a question he'd been saving.
"Doctor, how is it that...that TARDIS thing...could be larger on the inside? I know the boulder wasn't that large."
It was the Time Lord's turn to shrug. "TARDISes are dimensionally transcendent," he said off-handedly, as if that made everything perfectly clear. Illya was beginning to see that the Doctor would always give those sort of "explanations" if allowed to do so. He realized that even though he was a scientist in his own right, probably the full explanation would be over his head. Still, he thought he grasped the rudiments of the idea, and determined to impress the laconic alien. He spoke slowly.
"I see...then what we have here is only the...door...to the ship...the rest...exists in another plane of space?"
The Doctor sat up very straight. "Quite right!" he said, and stared right at Illya, his eyes intense. "You would make an excellent companion--would you like to travel with me?" Illya thought the look in his eyes was the most eager one he had ever seen. He looked up at the stars, a thought rising in his mind, a sense of wonder creeping into his thoughts... But he stopped and shook his head, smiling.
"No, thank you. I have a job I'm needed at, here."
The Doctor sagged back down to the rock once more. "I see," he said, sounding very disappointed. Then he laughed. "Wouldn't you know? The one I asked won't go."
About the same time they heard the hoverjet, there came a whining, groaning sound of a TARDIS materializing again. Illya leapt to his feet, "Special" aimed at the spot from where the noise emanated. But the big gray boulder didn't appear. Instead, in the space it had vacated, the blue call box faded into view. Illya lowered his gun.
"Just the thing," the Doctor exclaimed. "Now I can go after him." He sprang to his feet and dashed to the machine, carefully taking his key off his neck, being mindful of his burned hand.
"But, what's this?" he asked of no one in particular after he had inserted the key. His fingers had come away from the door sooty.
Illya gave a grim little smile. "I believe the truce is over," he said, looking at the darkened fingers.
"Of course. Glad I remembered to set the HADs." He turned to implore Illya once more with a sad expression. "Are you sure you won't come?" he added in a flying change in subjects.
"Sorry, no." Illya took an involuntary step backward.
The noise of the hoverjet was alerting the Thrush outpost. Around them they could hear the bewildered shouts of men coming to their senses, the Master's control having finally begun to wear off.
"Well, goodbye, Illya. Come on, K9." Illya was just coming to realize that he would never see the alien again, and was somewhat surprised by his perfunctory manner. The door the blue TARDIS was closing in his face. But then it opened again, and the Doctor's head poked out, haloed by a brilliant light from within. "Tell the Brigadier goodbye for me, will you? I'd really like to hang about, but I do need to find that Time Lord and stop him."
"I'll tell him," Illya promised, then as the door was closing again, he glanced down and saw the bag he'd brought along. "Doctor!" he shouted above the rising racket from the ship. At first he thought he hadn't been heard, but the sounds faded away, and the TARDIS settled into solidity again.
Once again the door cracked, and the mop of curly hair poked out. "Mmmm? Changed your mind, have you? Well, come along. The Master will be light-years and several dimensions away by now, I expect." He stepped back to give the Russian room to enter, and Illya could see a control room similar to the other Time Lord's, but somehow cheerier, for all it was so sparsely furnished.
But Illya shook his head, and handed him the bag. The Doctor beamed when he realized what it held. "Thank you so much. I hadn't thought to see my spyglass again. I should hate to lose it, really. It was a gift from Columbo, you know."
"Who is Columbo?"
"Why, Chris Columbo, of course -- ah -- I forget. You probably know him as Columbus. Strange, how names get changed through the centuries...anyway, he gave it to me as a token of his deep appreciation. I...did him a slight favor. Told him he was headed in the wrong direction. He never would have found the North American continent the way he was sailing. Of course, it wasn't really his fault. There was that dreadful fog - quite obliterated the stars and the sun, so naturally..."
Illya broke the monologue with a polite cough. He nodded at the door, from which could be heard the sound of guns spatting at one another. "I really must be going, Doctor," he said.
"Yes. Yes, of course., Well, don't just stand there, Illya. You really must be going! Try to learn not to dawdle!"
And with that, he hustled the agent from the TARDIS, which groaned into nonexistence. After the noise and ado was gone, Illya just stood there for a moment, wondering if it hadn't all been somebody's bad dream. Then he shook his head and sped to the landing field. He beat the Thrush agents to the jet, holding them back with a barrage of fire from his now reloaded "special," He had literally come out of left field, so they weren't expecting him. That element of surprise enabled him to get aboard safely, scrabbling up the already lifting stairs and pulling them up after himself. Inside, he faced a worried Brigadier.
"Where's the Doctor?" he asked.
"He went after the other when his TARDIS arrived," Illya replied. The crease between the Brigadier's eyes vanished, but he looked disappointed.
"He did say to tell you goodbye," Illya added, noting the man's expression.
At this, the Brigadier brightened.
"What happened to the other one?" Napoleon shouted over the rising roar of the engines.
"I damaged his machine, but I'm afraid he still managed to take off. Napoleon, Thrush has called off the truce."
"I figured as much," the older agent told him dryly.
Illya settled back into his seat to think about a being that claimed to have met the Italian discoverer of America. Could the Doctor have been having a little joke with him? He stared at the paling moon through the hoverjet's side window. It had been a long, long night.
The jet reached flight altitude and banked, streaking toward the spreading dawn.