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A Spy Unmasked

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"Sir David." Kate Stewart held out her hand, reminding herself that she was the scientific head of UNIT, and no longer the little girl who'd taken refuge from her parents' divorce in Eastwards with Attenborough. "An honour to meet you."

"And you, of course," the naturalist replied politely.

"Now, I understand you have something you would like our opinion on."

"Quite right. Recently, I was working with a team filming penguins in the South Atlantic. In order to get close to the birds without disturbing them, they used miniature cameras hidden in imitation penguins, which could be controlled remotely." He aimed a remote control at the wall screen. "One of them captured this footage."

The screen lit up, showing — in excellent colour and definition — a windswept, rocky island. Penguins in their hundreds were shuffling this way and that, across the sparse turf. Now and again one waddled up to the camera, gave it a brief glance —

"And what's your game?" a New York accent demanded.

A penguin, in appearance no different from any of the others on the island, peered into the lens, tapped it with a flipper, and shuffled off to the right of the screen. A moment later, it — presumably the same bird — appeared from the left.

"Back of the head's OK, so you're no spoonhead," it said, in the same voice. "So who're you working for? Justice Department?" It cocked its head to one side, then the other. "You gotta cop's eyes, anyway. That dumb stare and the way you leave your beak hanging open... but why'd anyone want to send a Teselecta out here?" With a wave of a flipper the penguin indicated the beach. "These guys don't look like what you'd call war criminals, do they?"

It paused, perhaps waiting to see if the camera answered.

"Maybe you're not a cop," it said, having received no answer. "But you've been around them. I know your sort. They reckon if they keep schtum the law can't touch them. Problem for you is, I'm not the law."

The camera tipped backwards; there was a brief jolt, and a burst of static. Nothing but sky could now be seen in its field of vision.

"Let's have a look at you, then," the voice said. "Ah. This looks like an access panel. If I can just get these screws undone..."

With flippers? Kate found herself thinking.

On the soundtrack, a strange rubbing noise, as if balloons were bumping against each other. Then an undeniable click of metal against metal.

"Gotcha," the voice said presently. The penguin appeared in frame, towering over the camera. One flipper now seemed to end in a screwdriver blade; the other was somehow contriving to hold a roughly square panel, covered on one side with white feathers.

"Too much metal," it said, waving the panel for emphasis. "So you ain't no Nestene. And a Dalek duplicate would've ventilated me by now. That leaves..."

The screwdriver-tipped flipper pointed at the camera. "Kraals. That's your game, isn't it? The Kraals sent you to spy out the land, pick up the gossip. They're probably listening to me right now. Well, hear this. This island's under my protection. You try anything funny, your fleet's gonna get blown outta the sky before they get within a hundred miles. Got that?"

The flipper reached out to the screen. The image froze, then disintegrated in a blur of pixels. Sir David aimed his remote at the screen once more, switching it off.

"When the camera was recovered the following day, it had been completely dismantled," he said. "Dismantled very professionally, too, I might add."

"Which a penguin couldn't have done," Kate said.

"Certainly not. Even among the great apes, I feel only orangutans and humans would have been capable of it — and there were, of course, none of either on the island at the time. That is how the matter stands."

"I see." Kate checked her tablet computer. "I'll look into the names this creature mentioned, but I don't think there's any cause for urgent action. By the sound of things, he's one of the good guys." She set the tablet down. "Sir David, might I ask... how did you come to know of UNIT?"

"UNIT and I have collaborated before, in your father's time."

Kate tapped at her tablet again, and stared at the resulting list of documents. "So you did. I never knew... I hope the result was successful."

"You can watch it, if you like. There should be a copy in the Black Archive." Sir David permitted himself a quiet smile. "It remains the definitive documentary on the Himalayan Yeti, even if I do say so myself."