“Androids,” Luke said. “Brendan, they weren’t real policemen. Mum has been taken by androids – AGAIN!”
“Get into the car, quickly,” Brendan replied. He ran to the driver’s side and took only a few moments to adapt himself mentally to driving a British car. Maria got into the passenger seat while the boys fastened their seatbelts in the back. Brendan started the car as Maria pulled out her sonic screwdriver and used it on the Satnav attachment on the dashboard.
“That’s the signal from her watch,” Maria said as the satnav displayed a blip already over a mile away. “Follow it.”
Brendan looked startled by her actions and by her peremptory order to him, but he obeyed straight away. Meanwhile she pulled out her mobile phone. She tried one number and shook her head.
“The Doctor’s number is unobtainable.” She said. “He must be somewhere very far away in time and space.” She searched her list of numbers for somebody else who might be able to help her.
“Jack,” she said. “He’ll know what to do.”
“Jack’s in Cardiff,” Clyde pointed out.
“I know. But… at least…”
What she needed most was a friendly voice. An adult friend who could reassure her. If she couldn’t get through to The Doctor, then Jack was a close second.
“Jack!” The number connected on the second ring. “Jack, it’s Maria… No, not that Maria. Sarah Jane has been kidnapped by androids dressed as policemen. We’re following in the car. No, I’m not driving. I don’t know how. Brendan is with us. Sarah Jane’s nephew, Brendan…. Yes, that one. How do you….” She reached into her pocket and found the hands free adapter and carefully clipped it to Brendan’s ear as he drove. “He wants to talk to you.”
Brendan didn’t waver. He kept on driving carefully, keeping just below the speed limit so as not to attract any real policemen who would hold them up. But he had a conversation with Jack Harkness at Torchwood, Cardiff that sounded quite positive to those in the car with him.
“He’s getting onto U.N.I.T.,” Brendan said when he had finished the call. “They’ll track the signal and be on it right away. He said to tell you all not to worry.”
“We’re not worrying,” Clyde pointed out.
“I am,” Luke contradicted. “Brendan, even if U.N.I.T. are on it, keep going. Mum needs us.”
“I intend to,” Brendan answered.
“You sounded like you knew him?” Maria queried. “Jack, I mean. And he knew you were ‘the cute one’.”
“I know of him,” Brendan answered. “We’re in the same line of work. We’ve exchanged information with Torchwood and vice versa. He’s… not the sort of man I’d expect a teenage girl to have on her speed dial.”
“He’s a friend. I trust him,” Maria answered. “Look… the car’s turned off the dual carriageway. Where’s it going now?”
“Bold Way Industrial Estate,” Brendan said, glancing at the SatNav. That doesn’t sound good. Place like that they could easily drive straight into a warehouse and be out of sight. Good job we have the signal. But if they take her watch away…” He paused. He didn’t want to sound pessimistic in front of the youngsters. “What’s this all about anyway? You said androids AGAIN….”
“It must be them again,” Luke said. “Those Thinktank people. We stopped them last time. But only because The Doctor and Jack were helping. Now it’s just us.”
“Thinktank?” Brendan was surprised. “Aunt Sarah told me all about that lot years ago, when I was about your age, Luke. Fantatics with PhD’s. Very dangerous. They think ordinary people should be ruled by the intelligent elite.”
“They hate mum because she helped The Doctor stop them.”
“Ohhh,” Brendan groaned as he looked in his rear view mirror. “We’ve got problems.” Maria looked up from studying the SatNav and saw a police car coming up close behind them. Two police cars.
“Are they real or more androids?” Clyde asked.
“If they’re real, they could help,” Brendan suggested.
“Yeah, three hours later when they’ve decided we’re not bonkers,” Maria replied. “Keep driving. Don’t let them stop us this time.”
Brendan again did as she told him. He pressed his foot down on the accelerator so that they slipped right over the speed limit. As he did so, the police car behind accelerated to and bumped into the back of their car.
“They’re not real police,” Brendan said. “That’s no method of traffic calming.”
He increased speed again. The second police car raced past and got in front, forcing him to slow down. At the same time a third car came alongside so that they were boxed in on all three sides. Everyone knew what would happen next. They’d seen it in those real life police programmes where the helicopter recorded the manoeuvre down on the road. The police car in front would gradually slow, forcing Brendan to stop the car. And then they were done for.
“Everyone’s buckled up, aren’t they?” Brendan asked. Then he swerved to the left. The hire car mounted the grass verge and kept going, smashing through a wooden fence into the grassy stretch of meadow beside the road. It led to the back of the industrial estate they had been heading for anyway. Two new units were being built and the grass gave way to an unmade gravel access road before Brendan stopped the car between a pair of JCB diggers.
“Come on,” he said. “We’re on foot from here. Maria, can you find Sarah Jane’s signal with that stick of yours?”
“Sonic screwdriver,” she replied, holding it up.
“Really?” Brendan was impressed. “Wow. You’ve got one of those? Does it have any kind of function that will deal with these androids?”
“Localised EMP pulse,” she answered. “But I’d have to be standing right next to one of them for it to work.”
“Maybe you’d better let me,” Brendan suggested. “This is dangerous for you kids.”
“Don’t get all responsible adult with us,” Clyde answered. “After that car stunt.”
“It’s my sonic screwdriver. The Doctor gave it to me because he thought I was good enough to handle situations where I’d need it.”
“Then use it now,” Brendan yelled as they turned a corner beside the half-built warehouse and were confronted by one of the android policemen. The reason they knew it was an android and not a real policeman was that it immediately raised a gun and ordered them to stop. Maria didn’t stop. She stepped towards the policeman with her sonic screwdriver raised. She pressed the button and felt a vibration and a flash of blue light that told her it was working. Which was just as well because for a few heart-stopping seconds it didn’t seem as if it was. Then the android policeman fell backwards and crashed to the ground, his face falling off and rolling away.
“Run,” Clyde shouted. “Before more of them turn up.”
“This way,” Maria told them. “Sarah Jane is in one of these warehouses.”
Brendan looked worried. Maria was sure he was about to say something like ‘you kids stay here.’ But they couldn’t stay there. Five of the android policemen were converging on the spot. Too many to fight with only one sonic screwdriver.
They ran for it. But they ran in the direction Maria was picking up on her sonic screwdriver.
“It’s that one,” Luke said as they approached a warehouse with the name “TT Enterprises” on its front fascia.
“Are you sure?” Brendan asked.
“TT…. Think Tank.”
“They’re supposed to be intellectual elite… and they choose a name that obvious?”
“Arrogant,” Brendan commented. “They think us mere average people won’t work it out.”
“None of us are average,” Clyde retorted. “We know Sarah Jane!”
“Right,” Maria said. “So let’s get this door open.” She adjusted the sonic screwdriver and aimed it at the lock on the side door to the TT Enterprises warehouse. The door swung open. She adjusted it back to EMP mode and aimed it at the tall, heavyset man who stood inside. He seemed surprised to see them, but not too surprised to stop him reaching for his pistol.
The EMP mode didn’t work.
“He’s real,” Clyde called out. “He’s Human!”
“He’s unconscious,” Luke added. All three youngsters generally abhorred physical violence, but they couldn’t help admiring the way Brendan sprang forward and punched the much bigger man square in the face. He fell back just as hard as the android policeman had, except that his face didn’t fall off. They all stepped over him as they crowded into the small office. Brendan paused to pick up the fallen pistol as Maria again used the sonic screwdriver to open the inner door.
“Ok, be careful,” Brendan whispered. “There are armed androids and armed humans around here. And even if there is a mode on that sonic screwdriver for dealing with humans I don’t want you using it, Maria.”
“Well, I don’t want you using that gun,” Maria answered. “And you know Sarah Jane wouldn’t, either.”
“I know. But he might come round again and then he’d be behind us with a gun. Besides, it might help to have people think I would use it.”
Maria didn’t like the idea, but Brendan put the gun in his pocket, anyway. They slipped out into the corridor that lay beyond the office. There were doors that led into other offices, mostly empty, and two large storerooms that contained clothes on racks – mostly uniforms – policemen, nurses, soldiers, and curiously, traffic wardens.
“For more androids?” Clyde noted. “Creepy.”
“Very creepy,” Brendan agreed. “But why? And where is Sarah Jane?”
“The main part of the factory is that way,” Luke said, pointing towards a double door at the bottom of the corridor.
“How do you know?”
“I was born in a factory,” he reminded them all. “It was very like this one. It must be built in the same way.”
“Well, that figures,” Brendan said. These industrial units are all more or less identical. But let’s go carefully.”
“Brendan, did Sarah Jane nag you to be careful when you were our age?” Maria asked.
“No, not really. But she did worry about me. And if anything happened to any of you lot, she wouldn’t be very happy with me.”
“If we don’t find mum…” Luke began. Then Brendan hushed him as he pushed open the door to the factory floor carefully and peered inside. He slipped in and signalled for them to follow him quietly.
It was a factory for making androids. They stared in astonishment at the half made metallic humanoid shapes on the assembly line. Production had obviously stopped for the night. All the machinery was still. But it was easy to imagine how it would look with the bodies being put together bit by bit in an ever moving line.
“Look,” Clyde said. “Those ones… the finished ones… they look like the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition.”
“And the rest of the Cabinet and Shadow Cabinet,” Luke added. “I’ve seen them on the news.”
Oh!” Maria exclaimed. “They’re going to kidnap the government and opposition and replace them with androids who will do what they want!”
“They’ll have access to all of this country’s secret information.”
“We’ve got to stop them.”
“U.N.I.T. are on their way, remember,” Brendan said. “They will be stopped. We need to find Aunt Sarah. Maybe she isn’t in this part.”
“Yes, she is,” Maria answered. “I’m still picking up the signal from her watch. It’s that way.”
“Past all the finished androids?” Clyde made a disgusted face. “Yukk.”
“Come on, it’s just like the waxworks,” Maria told him. “Nothing to worry about.”
“At least there are no clown androids,” Luke pointed out.
“What’s wrong with clowns?” Brendan asked.
“Long story. No time.”
They crept silently past the rows of completed androids. They did, indeed, look like the waxwork models of politicians at Madame Tussauds. Except, in fact, rather more realistic.
“There!” Clyde called out and started to run. Luke was a few seconds behind him, but he got to the bound and tied figure lying on the floor first.
“Wait,” Maria said. “Just in case… she might be one of them…” Maria aimed the sonic screwdriver at her. Nothing happened. “It’s her. Undo the gag. Get the ropes off. Let me get to the handcuffs.”
“How did you find me?” Sarah Jane asked. “I didn’t think… I am SO glad you did. But how?”
“These are really smart kids,” Brendan told her. “Come on, let’s get out of here.”
“Gladly,” Sarah Jane replied as she accepted Brendan’s arm. Her arms and legs were numb from being tied and cuffed. She wasn’t quite ready to do any running, yet.
Not that there was anywhere to run to. They all stared in horror as the android Cabinet and Shadow Cabinet surrounded them. Vacant android eyes focussed on them as they closed in. Hands reached as if to strangle. The small group of humans backed away into a corner, knowing there was no escape.
“Sarah Jane… your sonic screwdriver?” Maria asked as she turned hers to the EMP emitting mode again and stopped the Prime Minister android on the point of grabbing her.
“Yes,” she said. “It’s here.” Sarah Jane quickly copied her, taking out the Home Secretary and the Shadow Chancellor.
“There are too many of them,” Brendan said as he used old fashioned fisticuffs to topple the Shadow Prime Minister, whose face came off as he landed on the already defeated Home Secretary.
“Wait…” Maria said. “Sarah Jane… in the manual… one of the appendices… it says something about putting two sonic devices together…”
“Yes… but does it say NEVER do it or does it say that it doubles the power or something?”
“I can’t remember,” Maria admitted. “But… let’s try. What’s the worst that could happen?”
“It’s alien technology,” Sarah Jane pointed out. “It could turn this industrial estate into a smoking hole in the ground.”
“Worth a try?” Brendan asked.
“Anything’s better than being strangled by a bunch of fake politicians!” Maria said as Sarah Jane reached out her arm. The two sonic screwdrivers touched and the blue glow on each one increased exponentially. Maria and Sarah Jane turned together, keeping their arms outstretched. They saw the androids toppling, one by one.
“It’s working!” Maria exclaimed. “It’s killing them all…. Or deactivating them…” She actually wished she hadn’t used the word ‘kill’ in connection with such familiar faces. It felt quite weird.
“Stop where you are!” called out a voice that had to be Human, since it wasn’t affected by the EMP. Three men flanked them, all with guns. Brendan’s hand moved towards his pocket, but he thought again. He was outnumbered.
“Drop your weapons and put your hands in the air!” called out another voice and suddenly there were a lot more people in the factory. They wore dark uniforms and red caps with the U.N.I.T. symbol on them. The three men obeyed. Now THEY were outnumbered.
“Whose idea was it to call U.N.I.T.?” Sarah Jane asked as they were escorted out of the warehouse and into a big army vehicle. They were given tea and sandwiches while they waited for the soldiers to finish ‘mopping up’ operations, then the colonel in charge of the operation would need to debrief them before they would finally have an escort home.
“Jack called them,” Maria answered.
“Jack? He’s not here, too, is he?”
“No, but I’d better ring and tell him we’re ok,” Maria said. “He’ll be worrying.”
“Actually, I’d better ring him. Torchwood will need to know, as well as U.N.I.T.” Sarah Jane took Maria’s mobile phone and speed dialled the number for the Torchwood Director. He was obviously relieved to hear from her and said something that made her laugh. Then she became very serious.
“Jack, it was Thinktank. You should have records of them. They’ve reactivated. And… they’re still led by the woman who ran them in the 1970s. Hilda Winters….” She paused as Jack questioned her. “Yes, I’m sure. The men in charge, here, they’re just lackeys. I don’t know where she is, but I heard her voice… they called her by radio to say they had me. She told them not to kill me yet. She wanted to watch….” Sarah Jane paused again as Jack spoke. “No, I think they missed her. Not that I’m complaining, because U.N.I.T. got here in the nick of time. But she’ll have seen them all around the factory and run for it. She’s still out there.”
Jack must have said something about her being caught sooner or later. Sarah Jane answered that she really hoped so. Because the thought of that mad woman running around London was too creepy. Then she finished the call and turned to look at Brendan as he sat beside Luke.
“Not the holiday with your aunt you were hoping for?”
“No, but it’s what I’ve come to expect from knowing you, Aunt Sarah.”
“Tell me about it,” Maria added. “I used to have a normal life before I moved into Bannerman Road.”
“Wouldn’t change it for the world, though,” Clyde said. And on that they all agreed.
Hilda Winters was, indeed, on her way to witness the end of her arch-enemy, Sarah Jane Smith, when she saw the U.N.I.T. vehicles surrounding the factory. She drove on past, gripping the steering wheel of her car tightly in her anger and frustration. How was it that such inferior people were able to thwart her every time?
Sarah Jane Smith was going to die, she vowed. But first, she was going to suffer. And so would everyone she cared about.
Hilda Winters had another plan.