This was something entirely different. This was normal, ordinary Alice running from such an extraordinary thing. And she wasn’t ill in bed this time.
And this was Little Pebbleford. Daleks didn’t invade Little Pebbleford. Nothing happened in Little Pebbleford.
“Stop! Stop!” said Alice, once they’d gotten to the end of the tunnel and back to the gardens of the houses at the bottom of the cliff. “I need to catch my breath.”
“Alice, we must continue to run as fast as we can. They are Daleks.”
“I know!” said Alice, leaning forward, a stitch in her side. She looked up at him. He was leaning on his cane and trying to hide his tiredness. “How do you move so fast when you’re using that thing?”
The Doctor looked a little uncomfortable. “It comes and goes.”
“Everything okay, sir?” came the police man.
“I need you to move everyone back,” said the Doctor. “Keep them away from this entire area. Get them into the town centre.”
“Can I ask why, sir?”
“Do I have to wave my I.D. at you again, constable?”
The young policeman looked as though his school teacher had just told him off. “No sir,” he said, looking down.
“On their way,” said the policeman.
“Typically slow of the military,” he said under his breath.
“You did tell me to tell them to make in an hour.”
The Doctor mumbled something under his breath. “When they get here, tell them to cordon off the area, but not to enter anywhere past this housing area. That includes the hill leading up to the school.”
“Yes, sir,” said the policeman.
“Wow!” said Alice, now recomposed, “you’re definitely not the school caretaker.”
He grinned. “Sometimes I wish I was. But I’d miss this life too much. It’s half the reason I’m fighting to stay alive.”
Alice frowned. “Alive?”
“Not now,” he said, skipping through the back garden and back to the lane that ran up to the school.
“Where are we going?”
“You’re not going anywhere, miss Stokes,” said the Doctor, suddenly looking immense as he blocked her path.
“I beg your pardon?”
“You’re not going anywhere. This is too dangerous.”
“Oh, come on,” said Alice. “I’m old enough to make my own decisions.”
“It’s too dangerous,” he repeated.
“And who’s gonna look after you when you collapse?”
“I beg your pardon?” he said, gripping his cane a little tighter.
“It’s obvious, Doctor,” she said, looking at him sadly. “You may seem fit and healthy, but you’re not. Whatever plans you have up your sleeve, you’re gonna need someone with you to complete them.”
He opened his mouth to say something, realised it was futile, and then closed it.
“What happens if you collapse when you’re trying to defeat those pepper pots? You need me there to help you back up.”
The Doctor looked frustrated, turned away from Alice, and then turned back to her. “What makes you so eager to trust me?”
Alice shrugged. “Intuition. Any person who knows how to deal with madness must be trustworthy enough.”
He smiled. It was a smile that said he had accepted defeat.
Alice smiled back. “Come on then. Let’s go.” She made for a jog and then stopped herself. “Wait a minute. Where are we going?”
“Up to the school,” said the Doctor, hobbling past her. “I already have my plan ready and waiting.”
In the Dalek shuttle, the lights in the control room were beginning to spark back into life. Now a further three Daleks were slowly beginning to wake. The first Dalek crossed over to one painted blue with black trimmings. It was slightly bigger and bulkier than the other three and was dusty with cracks running down it’s skirting panels.
“ARE YOU FUNCTIONAL?” said the first Dalek.
The blue Dalek creaked it’s dome around to look at it’s fellow soldier. “OPERATING AT 78%. POWER LEVELS ALREADY RISING.” The blue Dalek swivelled it’s head to look at a computer readout. “STATUS REPORT.”
The first Dalek glided slowly to the panel and began running through information screens. “DALEK SHUTTLE TRANS-WARP ENGINES MALFUCTIONED. SHUTTLE MATERIALISED OUT OF TRANSWARP INTO SOLID ROCK.”
The blue Dalek’s eyestalk looked up. It was surveying the damage. “WHAT IS THE STATUS OF THE SHUTTLE?”
“SHUTTLE HAS SUFFERED SIGNIFICANT DAMAGE TO OUTER HULL. SHUTTLE WILL NOT FLY AGAIN.”
“CONTACT DALEK FORCES IN THE GARAZONE SYSTEM.”
“READINGS INDICATE THAT WE ARE TWO THOUSAND YEARS IN THE PAST. THE EARLY 21st CENTURY.”
“THEN WE ARE TRAPPED HERE.”
“UNLESS WE CAN BUILD A NEW SHIP.”
“REPORT ON THEORY?”
“THE TIME LORD KNOWN AS THE DOCTOR IS HERE. HE ESCAPED AS WE WERE REACTIVATED.” The Dalek changed the readouts and it showed a map of Little Pebbleford. “READINGS INDICATE HE IS WITHIN THE STRUCTURE DIRECTLY ABOVE US.”
“PREPARE A BATTLE PLAN. THE DOCTOR WILL HELP US, OR HE WILL DIE.”
The school was in darkness. For Alice, this was such a strange experience. She’d been in the school at night before, of course, marking homework, but this was different. There was absolutely nobody about.. All of the outside lights were off and the whole area was still and silent.
They made their way into the school grounds and up the gentle-sloping lawn that led to the pathway that led around the old, 1930’s-built stone school building.
“So what’s the plan?” said Alice, eager to know what to expect.
The Doctor stopped, turned to face her and then looked her in the eyes. “Alice, what is wrong?”
“What do you mean? There’s nothing wrong?” she said with a nervous laugh in her voice.
“You seem far too eager to rush into danger.”
Alice sighed. “I’m not eager to rush into danger. I’m eager to have a bit of excitement.”
“But you like your job?”
“Of course I do, but….this is Little Pebbleford. Nothing ever happens here.” She had to remind herself of who she actually was. She was a school teacher, not a child. She had to keep a level head. She knew these Dalek things were dangerous and she had to make sure that she didn’t let her eagerness for adventure overtake her common sense.
“Hmm,” said the Doctor, continuing to walk along the path. “Just be careful.”
“Why are you so concerned about someone having fun?” said Alice, following him up the stone steps and into the entrance to the old building.
“I’m not concerned,” said the Doctor, as he marched along the corridor, walking stick swinging beside him. “I’m more concerned about the fact that you don’t seem scared.”
“Of course I’m scared,” said Alice. “It’s terrifying.”
“Because I haven’t had this before.”
The Doctor stopped and frowned. “What do you mean?”
“I grew up looking after my sisters. I had a good childhood, but it wasn’t a very adventurous one. All those stories the other girls at school used to tell me about just…well, having fun and playing. I never had that. I had to grow up quickly.” She smiled sadly. “I missed out on it all. Especially after Dad went away.”
The Doctor smiled at her sadly.
“So let me have this. Even if it’s just this one night. Let me have this fun. Please.”
He broke into a smile. “Of course. But just this one night. After this, you go back to your job and get on with your life.”
“Yes, boss,” she said, giving him a mock salute.
“Where?” said Alice, jogging after him.
“The quad,” he said, opening the doors which led outside to a central open-air courtyard.
In the quad was a small greenhouse, a pond and various trees and potted plants. Only this morning Alice had witnessed one particularly naughty child being made to stand in the quad for ten minutes whilst he thought about the awful name he had called Mrs Dobson.
Mind you, thought Alice, Mrs Dobson was pretty awful anyway.
“The quad’s the centre of the school,” said Alice.
The Doctor smiled, pulling a bunch of keys from his pocket and going to a drain cover in the centre. “And the Dalek shuttle is directly beneath us.”
Back down the little lane, four Daleks, led by the blue one, were slowly making their way up the slope and towards the school.
“READINGS INDICATE THAT THE DOCTOR IS IN THE BUILDING AHEAD,” said one Dalek.
“HE WILL NOT ESCAPE US THIS TIME. HE MUST BE EXTERMINATED.”
Inside the school, Alice had run back inside, across and corridor and to the textile classroom. She stared out in horror as the four Daleks gently floated into the air and began making their way towards the buildings.
“Doctor!” shouted Alice, back to where he was working outside, “The Daleks are here!”
The Daleks had stopped. They were floating about 15 feet off the ground, but it looked as though they were waiting for something. Waiting for instructions.
The blue Dalek had a device attached to where it’s plunger should have been. It extended it and held it up into the air. The device began beeping.
“ALIEN DEVICE HAS BEEN DETECTED WITHIN THE SCHOOL. IT IS OF TIME LORD ORIGIN.”
“Hello, Daleks!” came a voice from near to the main building’s entrance.
“IT IS THE DOCTOR,” said one of the Daleks, with almost a hint of excitement in it’s voice.
“Exactly,” said the Doctor. “Even after all these years, I’m still here and you still haven’t defeated me.”
“YOU ARE SURROUNDED,” said the blue Dalek. “YOU CANNOT ESCAPE.”
“I’m not looking to escape,” said the Doctor. “In fact, all I have to do is make sure that you don’t get in.”
“THIS FACILITY IS OPEN. YOU CANNOT WITHSTAND THE MIGHT OF THE DALEKS.”
“Yes, yes,” said the Doctor, leaning beside a drain pipe, “under normal circumstances, you would be able to just glide in here, exterminate anybody in your way and take me prisoner.” His eyes narrowed. “But not today.”
“EXPLAIN,” said the blue Dalek.
“Ah, now that would be telling,” grinned the Doctor. He went into his jacket pocket and pulled out a small, silver object with a red light at the end. “I can just show you. My sonic screwdriver,” he smiled.
The Daleks watched on. If the Doctor hadn’t known better, he would have thought they had curious looks on their alien faces.
“Now,” said the Doctor, “all I need to do is activate the screwdriver, and I’m safe.”
The Dalek stalled for a moment. “THIS DEVICE IS OF LIMITED CAPABILITIES. READINGS INDICATE THAT IT WAS BUILT TO OPEN DOORS.”
“True,” said the Doctor, giving a little chuckle, “but it’s able to switch on other objects of much greater capability.”
The Doctor placed his thumb over a small button at the side, and then pressed down.
Back at the quad, Alice watched on and stepped away from the drain hole. Inside was a brass, cage-like object with machinery and a completed clock-work device inside. A small pipe protruded from the centre of it. The machine started humming, and then suddenly a beam of light shot into the sky. It stopped about forty feet up and then exploded outwards, spreading out across the sky and then slowly trickling down to create a dome of energy around the school.
Alice smiled. And then frowned. The Doctor had explained to her that it was a force field, but he didn’t explain how they were going to get out.
The Daleks watched as the force field touched the ground, effectively sealing off the school from anything else outside
“MAXIMUM FIRE POWER,” barked the blue Dalek. “EXTERMINATE!”
The other four raised their guns and shot out deadly energy blasts at the dome. The force field flickered and sparked angrily, but ultimately stayed standing.
“Oh, don’t be so silly,” said the Doctor, popping the sonic back in his jacket pocket, “that’s a shield of Gallifreyan design. Nothing - but, nothing - can get inside or out.”
“SWITCH OFF THE DEVICE,” shouted the blue Dalek.
“Not today, thank you,” said the Doctor, giving a look of disdain and then returning to the building.
Once the Doctor had gone, the blue Dalek turned to another. “RETURN TO THE SHUTTLE. BEGIN TO FORMULATE A PLAN TO BRING DOWN THE SHIELD.”
“I OBEY,” said the silver Dalek, as it glided back down the slope.
The Doctor returned to the quad where Alice was looking a little worried. She had been pacing up and down beside the drain opening, biting her finger nails.
“Don’t bite your finger nails, Miss Stokes. I do that. Is everything okay?”
“Did you know the Daleks were down there?”
“No,” said the Doctor, “but I had a bad feeling. So, when I took this job, I installed the device in the school.”
“But why the school? The rest of the village isn’t defended.”
The Doctor pulled up a chair and sat down. “I knew something was under the school. I wasn’t sure what, but I was aware that there were alien readings coming from it. I thought it likely some kind of spaceship.”
“Okay,” said Alice, “but that still doesn’t explain why you put an alien shield thing into a school drain.”
“For protection,” said the Doctor, grimly. “There was always the possibility that whatever was under the school wasn’t friendly.”
“So you built it to protect yourself?”
“No,” said the Doctor, interlocking his fingers, “I built it to protect the children. If this village had become overrun by aliens, at least I’d be able to put a shield around the school.”
Alice smiled and touched his hand. “That’s very kind of you.”
He smiled back at her. “Fortunately it‘s night time and there are no children here anyway. I also had considered that if whatever was down there had escaped, they would have come upwards. I‘d have been able to trap them inside the force field. I didn‘t expect their ship to blow a chunk out of the cliff.”
Alice shook her head. “You could have been ages waiting for whatever was under there to be uncovered.”
“Believe me,” said the Doctor, getting up and crossing over to the drain again, “I wasn’t intending on staying. I thought I’d settle for a few weeks and then see what happened. If nothing happened I was going to monitor the area from afar and then return if anything happened.”
Alice crossed over to him. “You do this a lot, don’t you?”
“All the time.”
“How are we going to get out of this?”
The Doctor turned to her and looked down into her eyes. “That’s the tricky part. I suppose I didn’t really think my plan through well enough. I’m going to have to modify the plan.”
“How?” said Alice.
“I need to let the Daleks inside,” he said.
“And we escape through the back?” said Alice, hopefully.
“Sort of,” said the Doctor.
“Just tell me, Doctor,” said Alice, getting impatient.
“I need to let them in, switch on the shields and trap them inside.”
“Okay,” said Alice, getting up and walking across the room to the door. “How are we going to do that with us inside?”
The Doctor frowned. “I need you to stay here.”
“I need you to lower the shields, let me out and then raise them once the Daleks are inside.”
“They’ll kill me,” said Alice, trying not to laugh at the absurdity of it all.
“That’s why you have to hide. Find somewhere - anywhere - to hide. Then I’ll signal you, you drop the shields and I fly the TARDIS in to rescue you.”
“What the hell’s a TARDIS?”
“It’s my time machine!” said the Doctor, impatiently.
“Ah,” was all Alice could manage.
“Look,” said the Doctor, putting both hands on her shoulders and looking down at her, “I wish there was some other way, but there isn’t. The Daleks aren’t going to enter the building if there’s nobody in it. In the ten or fifteen minutes that we might have, I’ll have time to slip back to the Dalek shuttle and blow it up.”
“Blow it up!?” said Alice, shocked. “That’ll bring the entire school down!”
“I know,” said the Doctor. “I didn’t want to do it, but it’s the only way.”
Next Time: Alice is left alone...to face the Daleks! Coming Saturday 25th January 2014.