Chapter Fourteen

Sunset was rapidly approaching at the Eye of Orion. Unlike the region where the Doctor and Catherine were, the region where the Eye was located had a very long twilight, due to its higher degree of latitude. At the height of this planet’s summer, the twilight could last several hours (in Earth terms), but as this was only early summer, the usual twilight was about half of that. However, with the approach of sunset, Constable George Black and Constable Jeffrey Crane were beginning to wonder if their sergeant was likely to be returning before nightfall. It had been a long, long day.

Their guard duty since the sergeant had departed with the Doctor had been quite uneventful. Constable Black would have almost categorised it as boring, if it hadn’t been for his colleague’s rash action earlier in the afternoon. It still made him laugh to think about it. His colleague had a much lower tolerance of boredom than he did, so always had a penchant for trying to invent situations even if there weren’t any. If Constable Crane could manufacture a situation where he could let loose his gunfire, he liked it even better. “Jeff definitely likes to shoot first and ask questions later. Just as well, I’m not like that too,” George thought, not for the first time since they had been rostered on duty together. It was because they were so different that they had, more often than not, been rostered together by their superiors. They weren’t always on Catherine’s relief, but had worked with her on many occasions in the past and it always seemed to work out successfully.

Earlier in the afternoon, a bored Constable Crane had been speculating, yet again, on what the Doctor and their sergeant were ‘up to’, to use his own blunt turn of phrase. But before Constable Black could reply, saying with exasperation, “Mind your own bloody business, Jeff!” or pertinent words to that effect, Constable Crane saw a large movement in the nearby bushes. There was a light breeze swirling around them, as he went to investigate, gun poised to fire. In his own mind, Constable Crane was sure the movement had to be from something, or someone, at least the size of one of those large bear-like creatures he had seen in the Central Orion Space Museum, ages ago. Neither he nor his colleague was in any danger, but he didn’t hesitate – he fired just below the main movement of the bushes. He was a dead shot. The movement stopped.

Constable Black went over to help his colleague remove ‘the body’. He parted the bushes and couldn’t stop laughing! “Jeff, come over here,” Constable Black said between bursts of laughter. “Have a look at your ‘aggressor’!” Constable Crane followed his gaze and looked at a large, dark-coloured piece of lightweight ceramic tile – now with a clear hole punched through it from the constable’s gun. He realised what had happened, of course. The tile was a piece of litter or even space junk that had become caught up in the swirling breeze. This movement, together with the leaves in the bushes moving in the breeze, had caused it to appear to be much larger than it actually was. Still, this knowledge did not prevent Constable Black from laughing at his colleague’s expense and asking him if he wanted the tile as a souvenir. Constable Crane would not be able to live this down for quite a while. However, all the latter said to his colleague was, “You’ll keep, George!”

The sunset was quite beautiful near the Eye – not as beautiful as the sunset was near Node Two, but still beautiful. However, neither of the constables was watching it. They were both wondering how long they should remain on guard at the Eye after nightfall. Both of them knew that they should not remain on guard once the twilight had disappeared. They, and their sergeant, had been expecting this duty to be a daylight job only, so had not brought any means of lighting or protection against the night’s elements with them to the Eye itself. Of course, the resources they needed were back in their ship, but it was too far away to be reached now before the twilight descended upon them. Their only real chance of shelter and protection from the night’s elements was the transmat beam and the ‘abandoned London shopfront’ location, as the Doctor had thought of it, where the sergeant had first encountered the Doctor. After discussing the timeframe for heading for the transmat, the two constables resolved to wait another quarter of an hour, just in case the sergeant returned.

Their brief had been to check out the Eye and the extent of the damage to it and then report their findings to their local area commander for further investigation. They were also to protect its remains from removal by itinerate collectors. At least that was what they had thought. Of course, the sergeant had not given them any details except that they were not to be seen, thus the use of the new invisibility tactics. It was assumed that the sergeant had received further instructions which she had not imparted to them, before they had arrested the Doctor. The Doctor’s arrival and involvement had put the proverbial ‘spanner in the works’ of all their plans. While as for his ‘abduction’ of their sergeant…..

Neither of the constables knew what conclusions to draw from this. The length of time she had been gone, tended to imply at least something was wrong, somewhere. It was unlike her to disappear like this. For them, the question was whether she had gone with the Doctor willingly or not, once she had entered his ship. However, neither would report her missing as yet. If they did so and she had not been abducted, then there would be ‘hell to pay’ because not only would they be accusing an innocent scientist of a major crime, but sullying her currently blameless reputation. It was also possible that she had some special brief to implement further investigations that they were not privy to. Reporting her missing would risk compromising such an investigation. Not to mention causing the pair of them to become utter laughing stocks, appearing to jump at their own shadows! Their colleagues at base would never let them forget it and their area commander would probably suspend their warrant identification indefinitely.

Constable Black looked at his watch. Twenty minutes had passed since he and his colleague had made their decision about the transmat. Although both constables were reluctant to leave the mound in case the sergeant returned, the twilight was now upon them, so they had little choice. The operation mechanism for this end of the transmat beam was hidden from prying eyes. It was located within a box-shaped device about the size of a medium carton and was about two metres directly in front of where the TARDIS had stood, previously. Even the Doctor with his good vision had not been able to see it. Like the constables when they arrested the Doctor and he accused them of being ‘disembodied voices’, the box-shaped device appeared invisible. The constables took one last careful look around and then moved off together, still on the alert for danger, in the direction of the transmat.

There was an eerie feeling about the Eye as night was about to fall. The light, naturally, grew dimmer, but there were no night time sounds to be heard. When the ion generation had been working, there would have been a cacophony of sound around – all the area’s night creatures would have been about, but because of the positive ions, they meant no harm. Now the ions had gone, there was no real attraction for the wildlife to come there at night, in case of danger. The constables knew that some creatures were there, but could not hear them. It was very strange.

They quickly located the transmat operation mechanism and switched it on. Within seconds they were in the ‘abandoned London shopfront’ location which was really their ‘on location’ regional operations site. Constable Black then closed off the mechanism, so it could not inadvertently be operated from the terminal near the Eye. They were safe and protected from the elements here.

The regional operations site had been erected at its chosen spot from a construction kit that was supplied to all Central Orion Protection and Security teams when ‘on location’. The kits were designed to be erected or collapsed quickly and easily by two men and included rudimentary furniture like benches, seats, tables, large casual bean bags as relaxed seating, bed bases and some comforts like bed linen, blankets and towels and, of course, indoor amenities. Constable Black always likened it to a child’s construction kit – every piece designed to interlock into every other piece perfectly and securely. Like the transmat operation mechanism, the site also had its own invisibility protection. When in operation, this made a complex of maybe six or seven rooms appear to be only a single enclosed room – the transmat entry point. However, if the Doctor had had the opportunity to use his sonic screwdriver while he had been under arrest there, he would have detected it easily. Constable Crane switched it off. As both the constables needed to be on duty at the Eye again at dawn, they both decided to turn in and have a good night’s sleep. They would need to be ‘on their toes’ for when their sergeant returned. Unbeknownst to each other, they both went to sleep with similar thoughts; where was the sergeant, what was she doing and was she alright? They also wondered if she was coming back soon…..

As nightfall reached the Eye of Orion, it was the middle of the night on the edge of the forest where the Doctor and Catherine were resting. The Doctor was always on alert when he was away from the TARDIS and here was no different. Catherine was sound asleep, after her huge exertions during the day. Time Lords never required as much rest as humans, so the Doctor, as had happened so many times in previous incarnations, often forgot human frailty in his enthusiasm for his endeavours. As he was thinking through the actions of the day – a type of review of the highs and lows for future reference – he thought about Catherine’s excellent effort during the day, particularly after her fall.

She was certainly a determined woman and would not admit to anything that she saw as weakness, including pain, until she was forced to. The injury to her knee today was yet another instance of this trait. She was definitely a woman of spirit and he thought, yet again, how much he admired that. He also was realising that the emotional bond he had with her was growing. Whether this was because he was still highly emotional himself at the moment or whether it was because he was coming out of his emotional shock and was realising things for the way they actually were, he didn’t know. But he still would have liked to know why exactly Catherine and her team were on special duty at the Eye. Of course, he thought, being from Central Orion Protection and Security, she may not actually know why they were stationed there. However, he had enough respect for her intelligence, her logic and her instincts to guess that she may have some shrewd insights into that.

The Doctor and Catherine were still sitting in the same position as when they had first settled down – both sitting with their backs against the tree, his right arm supporting her and part of his leather jacket around her while she slept. However, even Time Lords can suffer cramp from being in the same position for too long and his right arm was starting to feel a creeping numbness. He moved it slightly, bending his elbow and flexing his long fingers to restore his circulation, but being careful not to disturb Catherine’s sleep. Catherine did not wake as he moved, but she did turn in her sleep. But she would not have been pleased if she could have seen herself. Instead of moving away from the Doctor, she actually turned in towards him, with the result that her head was virtually resting on his shoulder. Surprisingly, the Doctor didn’t mind the movement at all, but raised his eyebrows slightly and grinned. He wondered what Catherine’s reaction would be in the morning when she discovered that she had spent part of the night resting her head on his shoulder! The Doctor’s blue eyes twinkled mischievously, as he curved his arm around behind her back to chivalrously continue gently supporting and protecting her as she slept

(* To be continued….. *)