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UNITCI5UNIT


The charring of Corporal Parker's body was unmistakeable: definitely the same weapon that had killed Clive Morley.

Completing his cursory examination of the body, Harry Sullivan sat back on his haunches, trying to decide what on Earth he should do now. His orders had seemed simple enough when the Brigadier relayed them this morning: talk to the visiting CI5 agents and try to find out why a man they'd been investigating had ended up out here on this farm, shot dead by a group of stranded and very elusive aliens…but without revealing the existence of said aliens.

Avoiding that revelation was growing harder by the minute, circumstances being what they were. Maybe bringing the agents out here to the farm had been a mistake, but it had seemed safe enough when they asked to see the location; the area had been searched thoroughly, after all, and then the aliens' mysterious transmission – presumed to be some kind of distress signal or homing beacon – had shown up miles away, seeming to confirm that they'd abandoned this site. If they'd ever been here longer than it took to pass through, that was, for which there was no evidence either way.

Hindsight suggested that perhaps a place that had already been searched might be considered the safest place to hide. It was too late to worry about that now, though, spilt milk, and all that.

"Are you satisfied now?" Bodie appeared at his side, gun in hand, looking irate. "He's dead, nothing you can do for him – get back behind cover."

He was right. Harry straightened up, rather stiffly as fresh bruises protested…and then froze as he caught a flash of movement out of the corner of his eye.

"What?" Bodie had noticed his reaction and was instantly alert.

It was an alien, standing at the entrance to a nearby stable block, staring back at them in what, loath though Harry was to project human emotions onto alien features, looked remarkably like alarm. It was humanoid, but there the similarity with mankind ended – it resembled nothing so much as a bipedal fox or weasel, in fact, with its sharp, pointed furry face and enormous ears.

So much for keeping the aliens secret. A sharp intake of breath alongside him told Harry that Bodie had also seen the creature.

For a frozen moment all was still, and then an awful lot seemed to happen all at once. Bodie gasped, "What the hell is that," his gun arm automatically rising to shooting position, while simultaneously across the yard Harry heard the alien shout "they're here, they're armed, we're seen," raising a gun of its own, while a second alien came running, also armed and bringing its weapon to bear on them…

"Don't shoot, don't shoot!" His reaction was gut instinct, pushing Bodie's gun arm down and ignoring his indignant protest, because a handgun against a weapon that had brought a building down struck him as little more than a really quick way to commit suicide, while holding up his own empty hand to the aliens in a placatory gesture. "Don't shoot," he called for good measure across the yard to Doyle, who'd taken a few steps around the side of the barn to see what was going on.

For another frozen moment, all Harry could hear was the pounding of his own heart. It wasn't the first time he'd encountered aliens and it wasn't even the first time he'd found himself in the hot seat, as it were, right on the front line with no one better qualified anywhere in the offing to take the lead, but he wasn't sure that experience would help him here. At least no one had fired yet. He tried to keep his body between Bodie and the aliens, all of whom had lowered their weapons slightly but remained tense, fingers on triggers, ready to start firing at any moment.

"Don't shoot," he called to the aliens again. "We're not going to hurt you. Let's all try to stay calm, eh. Just…lower your weapons. Please."

"What the hell are they?" Bodie hissed at him, eyes flashing with fury.

A few explanations were definitely in order, now that the cat was so well and truly out of the bag, but now was not the time.

"Have you come to make more demands, human?" one of the aliens snarled through a mouthful of needle-sharp teeth. "Our answer has not changed!"

Harry didn't like the sound of that. "What demands?"

"What?" Bodie snapped.

"We told those before, we tell you now: we will give nothing to you," the alien growled. "If our crewman is not returned, then we will retake him by force, if we have to shoot every human in this land!" It raised its gun once more as it spoke, as if to illustrate its point, and Bodie reacted by raising his gun, too. Harry pushed it away again.

"Don't shoot," he repeated, putting as much authority into his voice as he could muster. "No one needs to shoot anyone."

"They shot at us before," Bodie furiously retorted.

"Well then, let's not give them an excuse to cut us down now," Harry urgently argued. "You've seen what those weapons of theirs can do – do you really think yours is any match for them?" He turned to face the aliens again, called out, "Why don't you tell us about your missing crewman, what happened to him?"

"Who's missing? What are you talking about?" Bodie growled into his ear from just behind his shoulder.

"You know what happened," the alien snarled.

"I don't," Harry assured him. "Whoever you encountered before, that wasn't us. Tell us what happened. Perhaps we can help."

"Help? Help who, why? Sullivan!" Bodie pulled at his shoulder – the sore one, of course – and glared at him. "What's going on? What are you talking about?"

Harry might not be the first to admit that he could be a little slow on the uptake at times, but it was something he was aware of; he'd certainly been told often enough. Staring into the confused, angry face of the CI5 agent, it gradually dawned on him that there was some kind of communication deficit going on here.

"You don't understand them."

"Understand what? That creature? It's not speaking English!" Bodie was almost incandescent with rage and confusion. "What the hell is it?"

The alien seemed to be thinking along much the same lines. "How do you communicate with us?" it called across in tones of deep suspicion. "You have no translation device."

Harry was, frankly, flabbergasted – and wasn't quite sure how he could even begin to explain. It was something that he hadn't realised until this moment that he'd come to take for granted, being able to communicate with aliens. He was aware, though, that it had come about as a result of that fateful day he'd agreed to set foot in the Doctor's TARDIS and ended up taking a whirlwind tour through time and space. He had a vague idea that the Doctor had once explained it as a kind of translation matrix installed by the TARDIS in the heads of anyone who travelled in her, although how that allowed aliens to likewise understand him was another matter entirely and something he'd never understood – or even questioned. Ridiculous though such blind acceptance seemed, now that he came to think about it, he'd never really given it any thought. He hadn't even, really, realised that it was an ability he still had, now that he was back on Earth; until now he hadn't encountered any aliens since his return.

He looked back and fore between Bodie and the aliens – and Doyle, who was cautiously edging closer – and shrugged helplessly. "I'm not sure that would be terribly easy to explain," he stammered. It also wasn't the point. "Look, I know you're stranded," he called to the aliens. "If we all put down our guns and talk, we might be able to sort something out."

"What?" Bodie snapped. "Are you mad?"

Harry was prepared, at this point, to concede that he might well be. Times like this he found he rather missed the Doctor, who was a useful sort of chap to have around in these situations. Still, the Doctor wasn't here, Harry was, and he was anxious not to see this devolve into a bloodbath.

"Our mothership is on its way," the alien shouted. "If our crewman is not returned before it arrives, we will lay waste to this land!"

Crikey, this really was going to turn into a bloodbath if they weren't careful. "There's no need for that," Harry hastily replied, anxiety levels rising rapidly.

"No need for what?" Bodie demanded. Harry ignored him, for now – the threats the aliens were making had to take priority.

"Look, I'm a doctor; my colleagues here are officers of the law. If you tell us what happened, I promise we'll do everything in our power to find your missing crewman."

"Find who?" Bodie fiercely asked, then turned to a wide-eyed Doyle, who'd sidled very cautiously up to them, gun holstered and empty hands held up in a suitably non-threatening gesture; he'd evidently not wanted to spook the aliens and get shot in transit. "Are you getting this?"

Doyle stared at the aliens. "Are those costumes – really good costumes – or are they what I think they are?"

"They're not human, are they?" Bodie shook his head and snorted in disbelief. "God. Is this for real?" He seemed a little calmer now, but that simply meant the culture shock was setting in; Harry remembered only too well how it felt, the disorientation of discovering that the universe was so much bigger than you'd ever dreamed.

Doyle huffed a wry little chuckle that was just this side of hysteria. "I had a knock on the head, mate. What's your excuse?" To Harry he asked, "What are they saying?"

"That one of their crewmen is missing, possibly abducted," Harry quickly related. "And it seems someone has been making some kind of demands – your man Morley's associates, perhaps. They seem quite riled up about it."

"Enough of this," the more belligerent of the aliens shouted. It raised its gun and gestured at Harry with it. "You wish to talk? Then you will come to us and talk, away from those others."

Oh. Harry's heart sank. He hadn't bargained on a suggestion like that. Except that a suggestion made at gunpoint wasn't really a suggestion, was it?

"What is it?" Doyle asked. "What did it say?"

"They want me to go over there and talk to them privately."

"What?" Doyle looked alarmed.

"No, no way." Bodie moved to physically insert himself between Harry and the aliens, who bristled angrily. "You are not handing yourself over to those things."

Harry didn't much like the thought of it himself, but was trying very hard not to panic because, looking again at the aliens and those deadly weapons they were brandishing, he knew that their options were severely limited here. "I'm not sure we have much choice in the matter."

"You go over there and we've got an instant hostage situation on our hands," Bodie argued, still standing in his way. "They've already killed two men, at least."

"That we know of," Doyle added.

"I haven't forgotten." Harry had met Corporal Parker's wife; someone was going to have to tell her that he was dead. But they were already prisoners, in effect, standing here in the open with those weapons trained on them. And there was more at stake than just their three lives. "Look, they say they've a ship on the way to collect them – if their crewman is still missing when it arrives, this could get a whole lot worse than it already is," he urgently explained. "Those things they're waving are just handguns – can you imagine what all-out war would be like against the heavy artillery that goes with them? But if I talk to them, find out more, maybe we can still resolve this peacefully."

"Do you want to talk?" the alien shouted. "Or should we shoot you all where you stand?"

"Don't shoot," Harry hastily called. "I'll come. I'm coming."

"I don't like it," Doyle argued.

"Neither do I," admitted Harry. "But I can communicate with them. You can't."

Bodie narrowed his eyes suspiciously. "Yes and how is that, exactly?" he asked.

Harry sighed. "I will explain…" Well, it might not be as easy as all that. "I will try to explain everything. Later. But I'm going to have to talk to them first. I'm sorry."

With that, he stepped around Bodie and walked over to the aliens.


UNITUNITUNIT


"…and make sure they don't come back until they've got some news for me," the Brigadier snapped as he strode back into UNIT HQ, issuing brusque commands as he walked. "I don't care what it takes – they're to go over that whole area with a fine tooth comb. Something was sending that transmission and I want it found, whatever it is."

"Yes, sir," Benton agreed, following close at his shoulder.

"We've lost too much time on this as it is." It had been three days now. Three days of false starts and no positive developments. He was starting to seriously consider using that space-time telegraph again to get the Doctor back here to help solve the mystery…but no. No. He'd resented being summoned last time so much that he might not even show up this time, capricious as he'd always been, and this could hardly be described as the kind of world in peril situation he'd left the device for, not yet, at any rate. No, the Doctor was gone. They were going to have to solve this one on their own.

"Yes, sir," Benton agreed again. "I'll see what I can do to chivvy them along."

"Sir John Sudbury has been on the phone for you, sir," Corporal Bell announced as the Brigadier paused before her desk in the ante-room outside his office, tucking his swagger stick under his arm. "He'd like you to call him back with an update."

"There's nothing to update," he grumbled. "Complete wild goose chase. Again. Anything else?"

"Yes, sir." Bell looked rather worried. "Lieutenant Sullivan took the CI5 agents out to see the farm where that body was found."

The Brigadier nodded. "Yes, we're trying to establish if there was any link between the dead man and our elusive alien visitors." That corpse was the only lead they had, so far, other than those wretched abortive signals that kept showing up and then winking out again, leaving no trace of what had sent them. Whatever had come down in that crashed alien vessel, it was certainly stealthy. It had been wandering around the countryside for three days now without leaving a trace of its movements, not a single reported sighting.

"Yes, sir," said Bell. "Only they left quite some time ago now and they've not returned; there's been no contact. And Corporal Parker hasn't checked in either."

The Brigadier frowned at that, various possible scenarios suggesting themselves at once, none of which were good. Parker and Sullivan were good men, it would be a damned shame to lose either of them – and the last thing he wanted was to have to inform CI5 if something had happened to their agents. "Mr Benton," he instructed, turning to the sergeant-major. "Take a team out there and find out what's going on."


CI5CI5CI5


"Well, I'm not going to be the one to say the word," said Doyle, shifting position to avoid something scratchy that was possibly a thistle. The ground was still slightly damp from yesterday's rain, but they'd sat down on it anyway to wait for whatever might happen next, a few feet from the body of the UNIT guard, still sprawled nearby among the weeds as a reminder of what was at stake here: lives. Their lives and who knew how many more, potentially. Just now, though, it had all gone very quiet, since Sullivan had disappeared into the old stable block with those…creatures.

"Aliens," said Bodie, his tone flatter than flat. "That's what we're talking about. Right?"

Spoken out loud like that, it sounded ridiculous. It was ridiculous. Doyle snorted his disbelief of how this day was turning out and shook his head in mute denial of what they'd seen. Except that one of the creatures was still lurking at the entrance to the tumbledown stable block, gun in hand, its existence impossible to deny.

"Remember this morning, when Cowley was chewing us out over Morley giving us the slip?" he ruefully remarked. It seemed like a lifetime ago. The whole world had been turned on its head since then.

"Yeah. Good times," Bodie sighed.

"Simpler times," Doyle morosely reflected. He couldn't bring himself to think about the enormity of what they'd encountered, what it meant – his mind reeled every time he tried and he was having a hard enough time thinking straight as it was. Better to stay focused on the immediate situation, here and now. "How long has it been?"

Bodie glanced at his watch. "Six minutes."

It felt longer.

"How's the head?" Bodie eyed him appraisingly.

"Still attached." He felt a bit foggy, still, if he was honest, but that was nothing new, nothing to write home about, and at least the headache had died down to a dull throb now. Could be worse.

Bodie kept glancing over toward the vehicles. "If we could make it to the car…" he mused.

Doyle shook his head, felt that dull throb sharpen to a stab as a warning not to move too violently just yet. "With Mr Sunshine over there watching our every move? No chance. Besides, even if we made it, they've still got Sullivan in there, haven't they? I don't fancy explaining to UNIT why we ran away and left their medical officer behind with a bunch of trigger-happy..." it was no good, he was going to have to say the word, "aliens."

"Like I said: instant hostage situation," Bodie growled. "And we let it happen."

"Well, yeah, but it was already a hostage situation, wasn't it," Doyle pointed out. "They had us outgunned." Still did, come to that. It was unsettling, just sitting here while that thing lurked nearby with its weapon on display, waiting for someone else to resolve the situation – or not, as the case might be. That wasn't how they usually operated, not if they could help it. But this wasn't a CI5 job, that much was now crystal clear. They were way out of their depth on this. "Tell you what, though," he added. "He wasn't surprised, was he? About the aliens. He wasn't expecting them to be here, but he knew they were out there."

The look on Bodie's face suggested that he'd been thinking along much the same lines. "Explains a lot, doesn't it? All those crackpot stories about UNIT and UFOs…"

"Turn out to be God's own truth," Doyle finished for him with a sigh. Who'd ever have believed it? He certainly wouldn't have, as little as an hour ago.

Bodie rolled his eyes. "No wonder everything they do gets 'top secret' stamped all over it."

"And that's another thing," Doyle realised. "We're on the other side of that line, now, aren't we – the other side of the classification." He thought about the implications of that for a moment and shuddered. "Cowley," he declared, "Is going to skin us alive."

"I think I'd rather face the aliens," Bodie snorted.


UNITCI5UNIT


"Help me with Corporal Parker, please," was the first thing Sullivan said when he came dashing back at a jog. The change of pace was sudden and startling after the stillness that had followed his departure into the stable block with the aliens.

Bodie was at alert and on his feet at once, while Doyle, slightly slower to start moving, voiced the obvious question: "What's happening?"

Sullivan was already pulling at the corpse of the UNIT guard. "They're letting us go, but there isn't much time," he anxiously replied. "Help me, please. I don't want to leave him here."

Under normal circumstances, the body should be left where it was until a forensic team had been out to give the scene the once over. These weren't normal circumstances. Bodie helped him lift the body and carry it toward the Land Rover, keeping a sharp eye out for the alien creatures, reluctant to let them out of his sight, not trusting them not to start shooting again. They were still lurking over by the stables, watching with weapons in hand: the two they'd seen before and a third, who must have been inside the whole time. He'd seen a lot, in his time, things most men wouldn't dream of, but nothing like this, nothing remotely like those creatures. It sent a shiver down his spine, knowing they were behind him where he could no longer see as his path veered toward the vehicles.

As they moved, Sullivan talked, as he'd promised he would: fast and urgent. "A few days ago," he began, "a small spacecraft crashed to Earth, a few miles from here."

"Hey, I saw that on the news," Doyle interjected. "They said it was a meteorite."

"It was a spacecraft," said Sullivan. "UNIT investigated, but found no trace of any occupants. There was no way of telling if they'd survived the crash and gone to ground someplace – or bailed out somewhere up there in space, before the vessel came down."

He sounded completely matter of fact about it, as if crashed alien spaceships were the most normal thing in the world. Maybe for UNIT they were.

"These are not your first aliens, are they?" Bodie wryly observed, adjusting his grip on the corpse before it could slip out of his hands. The dead lad was heavier than he looked.

"No," Sullivan ruefully confirmed. "No, these are not my first aliens."

"But where does Morley come into it? And this farm?" Doyle asked, hurrying slightly ahead to open the rear door of the UNIT Land Rover for them. "This wasn't the crash site, you said."

Sullivan shook his head. "No, that was because of the signal, you see."

Bodie didn't see. "Signal?"

"Yes, well, you see, we're not entirely sure what it is – some kind of distress call or homing signal, perhaps," Sullivan rather vaguely explained as they began to manhandle the cold, stiff corpse into the back of the vehicle. It was easier said than done. "But we couldn't be entirely sure it was even connected, although it seemed likely. It's been picked up a few times now, always from a different location, but there's never been anything there when we get a team out to investigate. Or anyone, for that matter – they seem to have kept very much on the move. Obviously didn't want to be found."

Bodie took a moment to sort through this rather muddled account. "And this was one of those locations?"

"Yes. The only difference between this site and the others –"

"Was Clive Morley," Bodie finished for him. It was all starting to make a certain amount of sense, in an unreal kind of way.

"That's right." Sullivan pulled a tarp over the corpse. "And since he was definitely killed by an alien weapon, well, that was a clear indication that something did come down with the ship and survived the crash, and…well: now we've seen them, now we know."

Bodie slammed the Land Rover's rear door shut. "So what did they say?" he asked.

"That we don't have much time." Sullivan looked worriedly over toward the creatures, which were still clustered near the stables, brandishing their weapons. "Look, we should go – I'll explain the rest when we get back to HQ."

"UNIT HQ, you mean?"

"Yes." Sullivan raised an eyebrow, quizzical. "You're not going to deny that this is a UNIT case?"

Bodie pictured Cowley's face if they tried to explain to him what they'd seen today. It was a thought more horrible than the aliens. "No, this is a UNIT job, all right," he reluctantly conceded, glancing at Doyle, who gave a little shrug by way of agreement.

Sullivan opened the driver's door. "But we'll still need your help pinning down the connection with Morley – more now than ever, in fact."

Yeah, that sounded about right – no getting away from this job, even if it did belong to UNIT rather than CI5.

"What about them?" Doyle jerked his head toward the creatures.

Sullivan looked worried again. "Well, they've promised to stay put – for now. So long as they aren't disturbed. They won't hesitate to defend themselves if they feel threatened, I'm sure, but for now…I don't know what else we can do. Quite frankly, we have bigger fish to fry."

And that seemed to be that; in the circumstances, they had no choice but to take his word for it. Bodie headed for his car, Doyle at his shoulder, casting one last glance toward the alien creatures. Still there, still real, still made his skin crawl. He got into the car and pulled off, not allowing himself to look back.

They made it about two miles down the road before they ran into a small convoy of UNIT vehicles come looking for them. Bodie pulled the handbrake on and sat back to watch as Sullivan jumped out of the Land Rover just up ahead to hold an animated conversation with the soldier heading the convoy, then wound the window down as he jogged back to update them. Their would-be escort were to be posted as guards around the perimeter of the farm, under strict instructions not to engage with the aliens in any way, thus limiting the likelihood of anyone accidentally encountering the creatures and getting their head blown off. He then scurried back to the Land Rover and they were away again.

Bodie looked at Doyle. "We're in it now, aren't we?"

Doyle rolled his eyes. "Up to our necks, mate."


CI5UNITCI5


"Ow." Doyle winced under Sullivan's stinging ministrations as the doctor busily cleaned up his head wound.

"They say they were a survey team, operating out of a larger deep-space exploration vessel," Sullivan was explaining to his superior, Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, as he worked, ignoring Doyle's fidgeting. UNIT's sick bay wasn't the most obvious place to carry out a de-briefing, but Doyle had had similar sessions in the med room back at CI5 headquarters in his time, so maybe CI5 and UNIT weren't that different after all. "Their ship apparently developed a fault, so they headed for the nearest habitable planet to await rescue – Earth. They just barely made it."

"Just our luck, eh." Lethbridge-Stewart rolled his eyes in a manner that George Cowley would have been proud of, although in most regards he was more or less the polar opposite of the CI5 Controller. Every inch the military gent with his neat little moustache, straight-backed posture and cut-glass accent, he'd looked askance at Doyle and Bodie's casual and now rather grubby attire when they were introduced to him, albeit only for about two seconds – and in fairness, Sullivan's dishevelled appearance had been received in much the same way – before switching his attention to more important matters, such as the fact that they'd been present for an encounter with the aliens. Cowley would have been incensed at the breach of secrecy; Lethbridge-Stewart, on the other hand, had taken it with remarkable equanimity, calmly observing that their fully informed assistance was sure to prove useful and he'd make sure to square it with their superior.

"Well, quite, sir," Sullivan agreed. "They claim that their intention was to avoid any contact with the natives – meaning us, obviously – but then in the confusion following the crash landing, one of their crewmen went missing. And now they're threatening to tear the land apart if we don't return him."

"Situation normal, then," the Brigadier grimly remarked and Doyle wondered just how often this kind of thing happened, in that case – and how they managed to keep a lid on it, every time. Even bearing in mind the top secret classification, that was some impressive covering up. How long had this kind of thing been going on, then, unknown to the general public, and even to other security services?

"And they believe he was abducted by Clive Morley and his associates?" Bodie was leaning forward in his chair to listen intently. To look at him, you'd think he was talking about a bog-standard, everyday investigation, rather than this outer space nonsense…but then he glanced sideways at Doyle with a tiny lift of the eyebrows that clearly expressed his incredulity at the situation they found themselves in.

"Well, at first, they say, they didn't know what had happened to him. They conducted a search; he has some kind of communications device, apparently, so they tried signalling for him – those would have been the transmissions we picked up, sir." Sullivan was still addressing his account primarily to his commanding officer. "Some, anyway; they've also been signalling their mothership. Then he – the chap who went missing, that is – made contact to arrange a rendezvous at that farm, but it was a pair of humans who turned up in his place. They had with them his communicator and translation device – they only had one of those aboard the ship, it seems, and he had it with him when he disappeared, so the others have been sort of stuck, really, without one."

"And these humans who met with the aliens, they made demands?" the Brigadier asked, frowning thoughtfully. He didn't question Sullivan's ability to communicate with the aliens without a translation device, whatever one of those might be. There was a story there, Doyle was sure: a story no one seemed inclined to share.

"They want weapons," Sullivan baldly stated, turning to wash his hands again having finished working on Doyle's head; Doyle instinctively lifted a hand to feel the neat little dressing. "The missing Drashk –"

"Drashk?"

"That's what they call themselves, sir," said Sullivan, turning on a tap to half-fill a glass with water. "The missing Drashk was apparently carrying a firearm similar to those held by the ones we met, which his captors now have possession of. I think you mentioned that Morley had links with arms dealers?" He turned to Doyle for confirmation.

Doyle nodded. "Morley was fairly small fry himself, but he was connected to some much bigger fish. If they've got hold of one of those weapons…" He wasn't sure which was worse: the aliens threatening to blow them all up or the thought of Eddie Stanton or someone else of his ilk in possession of an alien gun capable of knocking walls down.

"Well, the humans apparently demanded an exchange," said Sullivan, offering Doyle the glass of water and a couple of pills, which he accepted because the headache wasn't shifting, and although not too bad it was starting to get wearing and he needed to stay sharp, concussion or no. "More weapons in exchange for the alien. The Drashk refused, things turned ugly and Morley was killed in the crossfire. The other man escaped."

"And Corporal Parker?" asked the fifth man in the room, who'd stayed quiet up till now – a tall, stolid sergeant-major who'd been introduced as Benton.

Sullivan looked grim. "I rather got the impression they'd spooked each other. The Drashk weren't expecting anyone to be at the farm still, Parker wasn't expecting them to return, they couldn't communicate…"

"And things got ugly again?" Doyle sourly finished for him, setting the glass of water aside.

"So they claim," Sullivan carefully agreed.

"Do you believe them?" the Brigadier asked.

Sullivan thought about it for a moment, and then nodded. "Yes, sir, I do. I believe them when they say they had no hostile intentions when their ship came down. However I also believe that they won't hesitate to carry out their threats if their missing crewman isn't returned to them soon. Their mothership will arrive to collect them within a matter of hours, they say. If he isn't found by then, we could be in a lot of trouble."

"Did you mention," Doyle asked, "That their crewman is not being held in any official capacity? That he's fallen in with a bunch of crooks and we might need a bit more time to track him down than they're giving us, now we know what's going on?"

"I did," said Sullivan, wearing a rueful expression. "However, the Drashk are of the opinion that our failure to control our criminal underclass is not their problem. They might have a point, but that doesn't help us now."

"How would they have known?" Benton piped up again, looking thoughtful. "These crooks – Morley and his chums – how would they have known about the aliens, to find and capture one?"

That was a good question, Doyle thought. "Well, they couldn't have, could they?" he mused. "Had to be a coincidence: right place right time."

"So the next question is," Bodie added, "What were they doing in the right place at the right time to stumble over that thing?"

"Which rather brings us back around to square one, doesn't it?" the Brigadier crisply observed. "That's the question we were hoping you could answer when we agreed to liaise with you. Clive Morley was under investigation by CI5. We now know the reason he was out at Elderbrook Farm yesterday – blackmail. But that wasn't why CI5 had him under observation. So perhaps you can tell us: what was he involved in that could have brought him into contact with our crashed aliens? And where might he have taken the creature once he'd found it?"

Also very good questions. Unfortunately they weren't questions Doyle knew the answers to off the top of his head. "Our investigation was in the very early stages," he admitted. "I wish we had more information for you, I really do, but we don't."

"Morley was under investigation," the Brigadier repeated. "There must have been a reason for that."

"There was," Bodie agreed. "But we weren't privy to it, not the details, anyway. We can find you your answers, but it's going to take some digging."

"The clock is ticking," said the Brigadier, looking grim.


UNITCI5UNIT


"This is the crash site, here." Benton indicated a location that had already been marked out on a map and Bodie leaned in to get a closer look.

Time being of the essence, they'd split up to cover more ground: Bodie working with Sergeant-Major Benton to narrow down what Morley might have been doing to bring him into contact with the crashed aliens in the first place, while Doyle was off with Sullivan, working other lines of enquiry. It made sense, he knew, from where Lethbridge-Stewart was standing, to split them up to follow up as many leads as possible in the time available and to make best use of their specialised expertise, since this enquiry was now on their turf, so to speak…but he never felt entirely comfortable, working with a stranger instead of his partner.

Whether by accident or design, it seemed that the Drashk had managed to crash in quite a quiet area, away from any main roads or population centres.

"What's this?" Bodie pointed out a structure of some kind that was indicated on the map quite close to the crash site. Not a farm, something else. It was the closest structure to the crash site, so chances were that if anyone had been close enough to hear the crash and investigate they'd have come from there.

Benton took a look. "It's a private air strip – belongs to a small flying club."

So, non-residential, probably all kinds of people coming and going at odd times, little or no pattern to their movement, private aircraft in and out…there was a lot of potential there for misuse of the criminal variety. If Morley and his mates had been anywhere in the vicinity of the crash, and it was now known that they had been, they'd have been at the flying club; Bodie would lay money on it. "Got a membership list?"

"Yes, I'll dig it out for you." Benton picked up a file and rifled through it, pulled out a sheet of paper. "We've already conducted background checks on all the members; nothing came up."

But when UNIT checked the place and its members out, it would have only been a routine background check in passing; they'd had no reason to suspect anyone there was actually involved in any way. They knew different now and that warranted going over the details again, in more depth. Bodie scanned the list. None of the names jumped out at him. "I'll run them past CI5 records," he suggested. "You never know, there might be something there that wouldn't show up on a police check."

"Be our guest."

"Did this flying club have anything on their books for that evening?"

Benton shook his head. "They'd been open earlier in the day – well, weekends are a busy time for them. But it was all over by the time the ship came down. The place would have been locked up tight – and was, when we searched the area."

"We'll need the names of everyone who was there that day – not just members, anyone else they might have had with them," said Bodie. Another thought occurred. "The members and their guests wouldn't be the only ones with access to the site, though, would they? What about staff – janitors, groundsmen, that kind of thing?"

A light came on in Benton's eyes. "I'll find out."


CI5UNITCI5


"I've just been on the blower to my HQ," Doyle announced as Sullivan rejoined him after being given a quick once over by one of his medical assistants, since he couldn't very well doctor himself.

"What did they say?"

"Well, it was my boss I spoke to," said Doyle, "Mr Cowley, and most of what he said I'd rather not repeat, tell you the truth. He's not happy." And that was the understatement of the century, right there. "But he did mention that Clive Morley's car has been found, burnt out. Forensics are going over it now. And there are some surveillance reports we should take a look at, but we'll have to make a stop on the way. Come on, we can take Bodie's car."

"He won't mind?" Sullivan's expression was quizzical.

"No, he will," Doyle cheerfully replied. He was starting to feel better now – the pills had kicked in, making it easier to think, and it was surprising what a difference it made. "But I told him we were taking it and he didn't say no. Come on."

As they headed for the car park, they passed the pretty corporal who appeared to be the Brigadier's assistant, or something – Bell, her name was. Doyle made sure to flash his most charming smile at her as they passed. Well, you never knew your luck, even if the world might be ending sometime soon.

"So where are we going?" Sullivan asked as they got into the car.

"Clive Morley had a sister, name of Jean – Jean Lennox, these days," Doyle told him. Visiting that sister had been second on his and Bodie's list of things to do today, before they got sidetracked by events at the farm. Still, they were only a few hours late. "They had a bit of a love-hate relationship, by all accounts, so if they were on the outs just lately she won't know anything, but on the other hand if they were having a good spell, he might have told her something. I dunno, it's worth having a chat with her, anyway."


UNITCI5UNIT


As he put the phone down, Bodie was already running through more options in his head, checking off actions taken and weighing up other possibilities. What hadn't they thought of yet that might make the difference on this case?

"How are you getting on, Mr Bodie?" the clipped, precise tones of the Brigadier asked from somewhere behind him, cutting across his train of thought.

As a rule, Bodie generally asked not to be addressed as 'Mr', but he let it slide on this occasion. "Putting out a few feelers," he said as he turned to face UNIT's commanding officer, "About that missing gun. Finding the creature is the priority, I know, but I don't like the idea of a weapon like that hitting the open market." The damage just that one gun could cause didn't bear thinking about. Whoever had it could make their fortune, selling it to the highest bidder – if they hadn't already. But if something like that came onto the open market, it was going to be noticed, talked about, and that might give them a sliver of the chance they needed to track it down.

"Neither do I, I can assure you," the Brigadier agreed. "Good thinking. This needs to be contained and that means finding the weapon as well as the creature."

It was almost like being back in the army, working on this here at UNIT, surrounded by uniforms, regulation and formality, so different from the more casual approach of CI5; it was surprising how easy it was to slide back into that military mindset, as comfortable as he'd become with CI5's informality. "My people are still going over the attendance list from the flying club," Bodie continued, automatically adopting a formal stance almost before he'd even noticed he was doing it. "They all look legit so far, but something might still show up."

The Brigadier nodded. "I've alerted Space Control and Jodrell Bank to be on the look-out," he said. "So with any luck we should at least get some warning when the Drashk ship makes its approach."

"Very good, sir." Bodie glanced toward the door as Benton hurried back in. "Any joy?"

"The manager at Ellesmore Flying Club is a Mr Dennis Randall – he's on the member's list we've already checked out," Benton reported. "He employs a cleaning lady from the local village, a Mrs Doreen Finch, and a groundskeeper, also from the village, a Mr Cyril Haggett. They've both got clean records, only it seems Haggett has a bit of a dicky back, so it's his son who does most of the work these days, but that's strictly unofficial. Randall wasn't keen to admit it."

That sounded promising. "Unofficial because…?" Bodie immediately asked.

"Unofficial because the members wouldn't like it if they knew. The lad's got a criminal record," said Benton with a grin. "Did a spell for aggravated robbery a while back."

Now that was more like it. "Well then," said Bodie. "Let's go have a little chat with young Master Haggett, find out if he's got anything interesting to tell us. Only we'll have to take one of your vehicles," he added, "Doyle's run off with mine."


CI5UNITCI5


Doyle slung himself back into the car and grabbed the radio. "Four-five to base, four-five to base."

"Receiving you, four-five." The operator sounded bright and perky.

"Hallo, Julie," Doyle greeted her as Sullivan opened the passenger door and joined him in the car. "Listen, I've just been having a little chat with Clive Morley's sister. She reckons if we want to know what her brother was up to over the weekend, we should talk to a bloke called Kenny Wilson. We're on our way round there now. Do us a favour and pull all the files for when we bring him in."

"Roger that, four-five. We'll have them ready for you."

"Ta, love." He stowed the radio and released the handbrake, pulled out into the early afternoon traffic.

"So you want to take this man Wilson in for questioning immediately?" Sullivan enquired.

"Well, we could play it softly, keep him under observation for a bit first, see what he does, where he goes, but from what you said earlier, we don't have time for that today," Doyle confirmed. "We're going to have to pull him in and get him talking, pronto."

"Fair enough," Sullivan nodded. "You're the expert."

Speaking of expertise….

Doyle glanced sideways at Sullivan as they drove. "Mind if I ask you a question?"

"Of course, go ahead."

"You can talk to the aliens." It was a statement, fact; Doyle had seen it with his own eyes. He was still having a bit of trouble with the idea of there being aliens in the first place, if he stopped and let himself think about it, but it was hard to deny the evidence of his own eyes.

In an instant, Sullivan's expression went from open and affable to cautious and guarded. "Yes," he agreed.

"Now, I was standing right next to you and all I heard was growling and snarling," Doyle told him, spinning the wheel to turn a corner. "But you heard words; you could understand what they were saying, right? And they understood you, an' all."

"That's right." He still looked wary, as if he could see where this was heading and was nervous about it.

"But I don't get the impression they could understand anyone else speaking English – that's how your lad Parker got himself killed, isn't it? Could they understand me or Bodie?"

Sullivan was silent for a moment, but then said, "I don't think so, no."

"Right." Doyle braked as they came up behind a queue of traffic waiting at a red light. "So my question is: how does that work, then? How is it that you can communicate with them, when no one else can?"

"We don't actually know that no one else can," Sullivan argued. "Only that no one else who's seen them so far has been able to."

Doyle shook his head. "Oh, come on. That's just splitting hairs." Green light and off again. "You could talk to them. Bodie and I couldn't; Corporal Parker couldn't. But you could. How?"

Sullivan sighed and rubbed at his head in consternation. "I've already told you," he said at length.

"No you haven't."

"I did. I said it wasn't easy to explain. That's the truth."

"Try," Doyle pressed.

Sullivan stared straight ahead, deep in thought. "I don't really understand it myself," he said at last. "I suppose you might call it a parting gift from a friend."

Talk about cryptic. "That's not an explanation," Doyle protested.

"It's the only explanation I have, I'm afraid."

It was clear that Doyle wasn't going to get anything else out of him on this subject. He dropped it, unsatisfied, and drove in silence for a few streets, eyes fixed on the road ahead while Sullivan stared quietly out of the window.

They weren't far from Wilson's address now. So the next question was going to be: would he come quietly or kick up a fuss? If Doyle had Bodie with him, it wouldn't really matter either way, but he didn't, he was with Sullivan, who might be able to communicate with aliens but was otherwise a relatively unknown quantity still. He seemed all right, even if he did talk a bit like someone's granddad at times, but there was no telling how he would or wouldn't handle himself if it got rough, and he wasn't carrying a weapon.

They'd better hope Wilson came quietly, then.

Doyle pulled up outside the crumbling concrete block that Kenny Wilson called home. "Right then," he said. "Let's see what this bloke's got to say for himself."

Continue to Part 3

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