The Romance Of Crime Part 32

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'I came back from a case one day and they'd upped and left me. I still don't really know why.'

'Don't you,' said Stokes, rather amused. He let his large bald head fall back against the curiously warm and humming wall.

At the console, the Doctor was removing a set of leads from K9. 'How are you feeling?'

The dog's head snapped up and his eyescreen glowed a healthy red. 'Fully recharged, Master. Energy banks at eighty-nine per cent capacity.'

The Doctor rubbed his hands. 'Excellent. And how about you, Romana?'



She looked up from the read-out she was studying. 'Oh, fine. There's no need to worry. It was an unpleasant experience, but I remembered my training in resistance to outward telepathic interference.' She held up a hand before her eyes. 'I threw up a screen. She could use my body, but she couldn't see into my mind.'

'How jolly clever.' The Doctor patted her on the back. 'It's nice to know that the Academy are passing on useful information like that. Things were very different in my day, you know.'

'Oh, I didn't mean my Academy training, Doctor.' Romana smiled. 'I meant my training from you.'

K9 spoke. 'Master. Materialization in hover mode has now been achieved and TARDIS is stable.'

'Good, good.' The Doctor twisted the scanner control and the shutters slid open.

Planet Eleven lay below them, its entirety revealed by the scanner's powerful image translator. Its transmutation was complete. The stodgy blueness had been replaced by a layer of shining silver that coated the surface completely, and it now resembled a Christmas bauble or ball bearing, spinning helplessly in its orbit.

Intrigued, Spiggot and Stokes joined them before the screen. 'Is it really living?' Stokes asked.

'Not as such,' Romana replied. 'Not what you'd call life.'

'Hmm.' The Doctor looked less certain. 'But life, like death, is a very difficult state to define.' He reached out to close the shutters, but Spiggot laid a hand on his arm and pointed, in wonder, at the image.

'Doctor, look!'

On the surface of the planet, a shape was forming.

Indistinct at first, the swirling helicon surged upward in a huge, but recognizable, pattern.

The face of Xais. Twisted, snarling, and spread across half the surface area of the planet.

Somehow, they all heard her voice as her mouth, larger than the mountain range, opened. Her angry voice echoed telepathically up to them from the planet.

' NO, DOCTOR! I ORDER YOU TO RETURN PUNY NO, DOCTOR! I ORDER YOU TO RETURN PUNY NORMAL, I WILL CRUSH YOU! YOU WILL BE MY NEW.

HOST! I SHALL CREATE AN ARMY FROM THE POWER.

GATHERED HERE! ' '

Sadly, the Doctor reached out and twisted the scanner control. The shutters slid to and the voice faded with the image.

Stokes shuddered. 'Well, she looks rather active.'

The Doctor smiled. 'Don't worry, she's trapped there.

Without a host, she's got no hope of going anywhere. And her telepathic powers aren't strong enough to reach out at that distance.'

He turned to the two men. 'I think it's time we saw about getting you gentlemen home.'

The main hall outside the courtrooms was much as the fleeing crew of the Rock had left it. Evidence of the Ogron attack was limited to an occasional beam-scarred pillar or bust, and it could have been that the sabotage attempt engendered by Spiggot and K9 had caused more damage to property.

A blue beacon began to flash in mid-air, and a few seconds later the police box shell of the TARDIS had solidified from transparency. The doors opened and the Doctor, Romana, K9, Spiggot and Stokes emerged. All of them looked rather battered after their recent ordeals.

The Doctor extended a hand to Stokes. 'Well, I'm afraid this is where we must say goodbye. I hope your artistic career continues to flourish, despite the obvious drawbacks.'

Stokes shook the hand warmly and said pettishly, 'A good craftsman will succeed in whatever circumstances.'

'That's exactly what I meant.'

The Doctor patted Spiggot on the shoulder. 'Goodbye. Try to keep clear of any trouble in future.'

'Hang about,' said Spiggot. 'What about Planet Eleven?

What are we going to do about that? We can't have Xais shouting at passers by, it'll put the tourists right off.'

'A good point.' The Doctor ferreted in his pocket and produced a scrap of paper and a stub of blunt pencil. He scribbled down a complex formula and passed it to Spiggot.

'Tell your boffins to have a go with that. Should break down the helicon molecules fairly quickly.'

'Provided that the beam is directed at a convex angle,'

Romana reminded him.

There was a clatter of booted footsteps along the corridor.

Two men in black uniform were approaching. The taller of the two raised a blaster and cried, 'Halt! Who are you?'

Spiggot reached inside his jacket and brought out his wallet, which he flipped open to reveal his warrant. 'It's OK, boys, Frank Spiggot here. I've got the whole situation under control.'

The uniformed policeman lowered his gun. 'Hello, sir. Who are these people? Have you seen the High Archon?'

'Don't worry, they're friendly enough.' Spiggot stepped forward. 'As for old man Pyerpoint, well, you won't be seeing him again. Polished off, along with Xais and the Nisbett brothers.'

The officer boggled. 'Xais? And the Nisbett brothers?'

'Right enough. These people were kind enough to help me, and I recommend the highest civilian citation.' He turned to indicate the others, but the Doctor had already stepped hurriedly back into the TARDIS, K9 at his heels. Romana gave a little wave to Stokes and followed them.

The officer scratched his head. 'Why are they going into that box?'

The answer came a moment later as the TARDIS dematerialized.

'Well, it's not important,' said Spiggot, thinking quickly as ever. 'You'd never believe me if I told you. The important thing is, the menace is over. And I can tell you a thing or two about what's been going on out here.' He walked away with the officers.

Stokes lingered behind, listening to Spiggot beginning to relate the story of how he personally had dealt with the biggest criminal conspiracy of the decade.

'Finally, finally, I am going to be sick,' he said.

'Do you think Spiggot will pass on the formula?' Romana asked later, a little worried.

The Doctor was riffling through some yellowing star-charts. He held one up triumphantly, peered at a particular area, and grinned. 'Yes. Here, look.'

Romana examined the chart. 'The Uva Beta Uva system, surveyed fifty years after we left. And Planet Eleven is just a ball of rock. Good.'

K9 trundled forward, tail wagging anxiously. 'Master, Mistress,' he said. 'We have not finished the game.'

'Ah yes, the Monopoly.' Romana looked over to the board and reminded herself of the state of play. 'I'm just about to win.'

The Doctor unwound his scarf, shook off his coat, and draped them over the stand. 'The trouble with Monopoly is that it's far too simple. The mind wanders.'

'It won't take a moment,' said Romana.

The Doctor made for the inner door. 'I've more important things to do, anyway.'

'Oh really?'

'Yes!' the Doctor retorted. 'For a start, there's the...' He grinned. 'Well, I'll think of something.'

The Romance Of Crime Part 32

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The Romance Of Crime Part 32 summary

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