Doctor Who_ The Eleventh Tiger Part 38

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Then Ian had come to the rescue and the tide of battle had turned.

'I've only seen that look once before,' Vicki said. 'It was Barbara, when Ian was hurt.'

Logan's lips thinned. 'I don't know what you mean.'

Chesterton made a count and discovered they had lost six men to the warriors. He felt empty inside, and unable to mourn their loss yet. He knew he would later, but for now he just wanted the night to be over. At least they were all together again.

Though his limbs felt quivery and his back ached, he forced himself to join Ian in examining the map Fei-Hung and Logan had found. 'It looks simple enough,' he said. 'If they haven't added any extra protection on top we can blast through this part here. We've got enough dynamite for that.'



'Good,' Ian said. 'Master Wong, do you think you can find this place?'

Kei-Ying inclined his head. 'Easily.'

Major Chesterton straightened and put some authority back into his voice. 'Right. Logan, Kei-Ying and I will go and put a leak in this tunnel. Ian, I presume you'll be going after Barbara and the Doctor.'

Yes.'

'I'll go with you,' Fei-Hung said.

Ian sent a questioning glance to Kei-Ying, who nodded.

'Anderson,' the major continued. 'Get everyone else out of here. Take the furthest building you can find in the encamp-ment outside, and hold it until the rest of us join you.'

'Aye, sir.'

Fei-Hung led Ian deeper into the mausoleum, moving as fast as possible but looking out for more warriors.

'Are you sure you know where we're going?' Ian asked.

'The emperor's burial chamber is at the exact centre of the mausoleum, according to the plans we found. The Doctor said the centre is where everything will happen, so I think it's the best place to look.'

Ian grinned as best he could considering that he was almost out of breath just trying to keep up with the teenager.

'You'd make a great scientist.'

'Healing is a science.'

Anderson had at first been glad of his assignment to escort Vicki and the remaining soldiers back to the surface and safety. It wasn't that he was a coward, or wanted to run away, but Megan did deserve to see her father again.

Maybe it was time to buy himself out of the army and go home. He could join the police in Glasgow. They were always on the lookout for ex-army types, especially sergeants. Then he could mix with all the riff-raff he liked - and crack a few heads and make a profit - and still see his family at night.

Then they emerged from the cave on to the hillside, and Anderson wished he had stayed underground.

The land was a morass of mud and half-buried warriors.

Some of the warriors had freed themselves and were forming up into battle lines and marching formations, while others were chasing down the Black Flag guards and killing them, apparently for practice.

Anderson breathed out every curse word he knew. 'We'll have to try to sneak past them.'

'But what about the others when they come out?' Vicki asked.

'They're not stupid,' Anderson said. 'Not that stupid, anyway.'

'Run,' Chesterton said, and lit the fuse for the explosives he, Kei-Ying and Logan had set. The corridor they were in was totally nondescript, without any of the characteristic murals decorating it, but Kei-Ying was adamant that this was the place.

Chesterton pelted back the way they had come, unsure whether his lungs or legs were burning with the most pain.

When the explosion came it was deafening and almost threw him off his stride. He pushed himself along the wall until he recovered his balance and kept running. He didn't know how much water was being released, and had no desire to become a fish at this stage in his life.

Behind him, as his hearing recovered, he heard a sound like a babbling brook.

The water wasn't blasting through the tunnels under high pressure, or pushing down doors or walls, but it was flowing quite rapidly. It sloshed along the floor, seeking out doorways to spread through and scrolls to soak into.

In the burial chamber, a warrior was holding the Doctor by his upper arms. The column of light was blazing now, and Barbara thought she could almost see images or patterns in the light stream. They weren't faces, but forms - amorphous and indistinct.

Whatever was occupying the abbot's body - she knew it wasn't Qin any more - lifted Barbara over one of the mercury rivers and pushed her towards the light. 'Our dominion must be ruled well, with experience, Doctor,' it was saying.

'Experience?' the Doctor uttered in horror.

'It is fitting,' the sepulchral, and slightly maudlin voice boomed. 'We allowed Qin to be activated because the world did not become ours four hundred years ago. Your influence has been, and will be, great upon this world. We would have it be our influence.'

Barbara realised then what it meant. 'Doctor, I think it wants to possess us, and use us as puppets, like Qin.'

'That is exactly what it wants.'

The warrior started pushing the Doctor forward. Barbara could see him trying to resist, but without effect. Meanwhile, the being that had usurped Qin's body was pushing her closer to the light.

'Step into the light, Traveller. Be part of our light.'

The body of the abbot, so recently vacated by Qin, tried to push Barbara into the column of light at the centre of the sarcophagus. She remembered the Doctor's move from his fight with Jiang and twisted, slipping neatly out of his grasp.

The abbot wobbled slightly and nearly stepped in the scaled-down river. Nearly, but not quite. Barbara ran, noticing as she went that the quicksilver was being flushed away, and that most of the model rivers were now running with water.

The abbot's cadaver stretched out a hand for a lightning blast. To keep out of the water he had to keep going higher up the island on which Qin's sarcophagus stood.

Then three men stepped into her view. Gao, his whole head glowing, began to reach out. Behind him, Fei-Hung launched himself into a flying leap at his back, and behind Fei-Hung, Ian - blessed, wonderful Ian - broke into a determined grin.

Ian's hand was stretched out behind him and snapped forward suddenly, propelling a piece of broken stone at what he probably thought was Qin. Qin's hand flashed up and took the blow on the wrist. He swayed backwards for a moment, then steadied himself. His foot was less than an inch above the wet ground on the island.

The alien intelligence that was in charge of Qin made his face smile. The corners of his lips were dragged upwards, bearing no relation to the rest of his face, and his foot began to move back towards dry ground.

Then, just for an instant, the light faded from his eyes and the smile became more genuine. Barbara locked eyes with him and saw not the solar glow of alien energy, but the fierceness of a tiger that knows it is at the top of the food chain. It was the look of a man refusing to give up his country, his people or his throne to anyone, least of all a foreign invader.

Then the burning projection of light was back, but too late.

Qin's foot was already stamping down, slapping into the waterlogged ground with a decisive smack.

Blackness exploded into every corner of the mausoleum complex with a thunderclap more astonishing than anything the gods themselves could set off, knocking everyone to the ground.

Outside, Anderson's men were doing their best to dodge and evade the warriors. Some hand-to-hand skirmishing was going on, and a couple of the men were firing the rifles intended for the warriors at them, but it was a losing battle.

Man after man was turning and fleeing, and even Vicki was smashing the hands of warriors with a rifle butt.

Then, suddenly, the column of light popped and disappeared, like a soap bubble bursting, and the warriors froze. A few rifle-butt thuds sounded, then stopped. Every one of the warriors was still and lifeless, a harmless statue once more.

'He did it,' Vicki said. 'The Doctor must have done it again.'

6.

The rain whooshed through the leaves, hissing like a nest of snakes and turning the ground at the foot of the hillside into mud that would bog down any approaching horse.

This didn't impede the man who was making his way to the glow of the bandits' fire in the cave mouth. He was a monk in tight leggings and loose robes, one shoulder bare. He was approaching middle age, but his body was still firm and there was little sign of a developing paunch. Though his head was shaved, his small chin was covered with wisps of grey beard.

Nature was all around him, soaking into his robes, filling his lungs and caressing his feet as he moved. He felt he was part of it, and so in tune with the world around him, rather than stepping over or through it.

Two other monks followed him through the trees. One - Yen - was slight, with an angular face and glittering eyes under straight brows. Yeung's torso was almost triangular, rising from a narrow waist to impossibly wide shoulders. His shoulders, chest and upper arms were huge, muscles upon muscles, and his squarish head rose from those mountainous shoulders with hardly any sign of a neck in between.

'Abbot, look,' Yeung said pointing. The abbot looked and made out the shapes of soaked horses above them, a short walk from the cave.

'It's them,' the abbot said. 'They will have taken their booty into shelter. Come.'

He led the other two monks up to the side of the cave, taking care not to disturb the horses or let his feet squelch in the mud.

The abbot stepped into the cave and immediately took up a fighting stance against the inevitable defence the nine thieves would put up.

Nothing happened; the cave was empty. Baffled, the abbot beckoned the other two monks to join him.

'Where are they?' the thinner monk asked.

'I don't know. Perhaps there's another exit from this cave.

Did you see anyone out in the storm making for the horses?'

Both monks shook their heads. The abbot's eyes fell on several pouches and saddlebags. 'There are the valuables they took from the caravan. At least they can be returned.'

He grimaced. It rankled him to let the thieves go unpunished.

They should have been taken back to the city for trial.

Recovering the stolen goods was as important, though, and it would have to suffice.

He was reaching for the nearest pouch, his fingers almost touching the leather strap, when an awe-struck wordless sound reached his ears. It echoed slightly, as if from afar. He looked around and saw only darkness before him. The darkness of a tunnel leading down, deeper into the hill.

Nodding silently to his colleagues, the abbot started down the tunnel. He moved without a sound, and so took the three men coming up it by surprise. A couple of quick knee strikes and punches felled the first two, but the third man, almost as big as Yeung, had time to draw a weapon. Yen's staff darted out over the abbot's shoulder, the end driving straight into the giant's forehead. The man crashed to the ground, his shout of pain cut off as soon as it began. The torch he was carrying bounced down the steps into the open area below, but did not go out.

The abbot would have preferred there to be no sound to alert the bandits, but it didn't matter too much. They would be no match for men who had been trained in fighting since they were old enough to walk.

The tunnel opened into a larger chamber where the fallen torch burnt on the floor, next to its owner. He was still alive, moaning faintly, but was out of the fight.

Yen and Yeung followed the abbot out on to the flagstones of a large cave. Shadows hinted at huge pillars, barely visible in the light of various torches. The abbot wasn't interested in the cave, but in the nine - now six - men who had entered it before he arrived.

The fugitive bandits were arrayed before him. They looked unsettled, but not frightened or angry.

The abbot stepped forward, casual but alert. 'Bandits! Give yourselves up now, and I will see that you are not executed.'

He hoped they would see sense. Life was better than death, no matter what.

One man, clearly the leader of the bandits, stepped slightly forward. He was of average height, dressed in clothes that were probably new when his father was a boy. A patch covered his left eye and his right hand rested loosely on the hilt of a sword in his belt. He drew it, revealing it to be a curved sabre that glinted like the grin of a madman in the torchlight.

'You're outnumbered, monk,' he said. 'Leave now and I'll let you keep the same number of limbs as you had when you came in.'

The abbot had hoped he wouldn't have to harm the bandits any further, but they were free men, as he was, and free to make their own choices. There was no need to discuss the matter further. Instead, a flick of his foot sent the fallen torch spinning towards the leader's face. The leader cut it aside with his sword.

Firelight waved and spun, causing shadows and darkness to tumble, as a couple of bandits used their torches as weapons to swing at the monks. Yen was fighting the leader, but a couple of other bandits blocked the abbot's approach to him.

He dispatched them easily, sending their agonised bodies tumbling into the darkness with several broken bones each.

He could feel their forearms crack against his fists, as if he were punching through thin panels or decorative shutters.

Even their screams couldn't quite hide the repulsive sounds of bones breaking.

It had been their choice, the abbot reminded himself. Then he was at the bandit leader's shoulder, and the man was turned away from him trying to recover his breath. The abbot didn't want to give him the chance to get back into the fight.

He lashed out with his foot, the top of it smacking the bandit square in the kidneys.

The bandit pulled himself up against the wall of the cave, instinctively dodging backwards. He twisted and rolled to his feet, lashing out with his fists. He was quite good, for an amateur, but the abbot slid aside easily, letting all the bandit's punches and kicks connect only with thin air. Then a flick of the wrist tapped the bandit's ear.

This time he stayed down.

The abbot seized the man, dropping to put his knee into the small of the bandit's back, and grabbed his hands pulling them behind him. 'You should have listened,' he said. He meant it.

Doctor Who_ The Eleventh Tiger Part 38

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Doctor Who_ The Eleventh Tiger Part 38 summary

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