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From the journal of Mrs Mina Harker
27th December 2000
The beast was a towering creature, a near shapeless mass of coarse, dark hair. Its eyes burned with hatred, red like the glow of the last coals in the grate. It lumbered towards me growling all the while, a roar part animal, but part something else, something horribly alien. The fog parted around it, lifting away from its shoulders like a shawl. Its fangs flashed like the freshly sharpened knives hanging behind the butcher's counter.
I tried to clamber to my feet, but the strength had fled from my arms and I could barely lift myself to a sitting position. My heart strained painfully against my chest as the creature raised one clawed arm to strike. I am ashamed to say that part of me welcomed it, an end to everything, but another part, the greater, recoiled in mortal terror and I let loose a scream.
So deafened was I by the noise I was making myself that at first I failed to recognise the gunshots. The monster reeled as the bullets struck it, but it did not fall. It roared again, but I was unable to tell if this was in anger or pain. I turned to see the source of the shooting. Five men were running through the park, pausing only to fire another volley of shots into the creature. I assumed that they were soldiers, but they were unlike any soldiers I had ever seen. In place of the bright red tunics that characterised the British Army, these men were garbed in the colours of the trees that surrounded them. On their heads they wore bright blue berets with an insignia I was unable to make out.
The creature raised its right arm and opened its three-clawed hand. A white mist shot out and engulfed one of the soldiers. He fell to the ground, enveloped in what appeared to be cobwebs. The monster's attention was no longer on me so I began to crawl to the shelter of the trees. I still lacked the strength to walk.
The remaining four men dropped to a crouch and launched bullet after bullet into the creature. It seemed an age, but eventually the creature turned and lumbered off into the distance. I wondered what had prompted its change of heart, for I found it difficult to believe that the soldiers' weapons had been anything more than an annoyance. I was thankful all the same.
'Briggs, Murdock, Sullivan, get after that thing!' one of the soldiers barked. The three others disappeared into the fog in pursuit. The remaining soldier turned to examine his fallen comrade. He checked his neck for a pulse, then turned away, shaking his head. He appeared to have forgotten about me so I tried to hide deeper in the bushes, praying that I would not be noticed.
He reached into his pockets and produced a flat black box. To my surprise, he then began to talk to the box. Was the box alive, I wondered. It was hardly beyond some of the wonders I had seen. Or perhaps this was a new version of Doctor Seward's phonograph, reduced in size by a hundred years of technological advancement.
'Rat Trap to Queen Bee,' he was saying. 'Drone Nine was right on the money. Have made contact with creature and my men are in pursuit. Report one casualty. Also report capture of Wizard's Apprentice. Out.'
He returned his box to his pocket and then turned to face the bush behind which I was hidden.
'You can come out now,' he said to me.
Realising that I had nowhere to run to, I slowly got to my feet and walked out from my hiding place.
The man gave a low whistle. 'He sure knows how to pick 'em, doesn't he.'
The three other soldiers emerged from the fog.
'Sorry, sir,' one said, 'we lost it.'
'Can't say I'm surprised,' he replied, 'but at least we've got something to take back to the general this time.'
I shuddered when I realised that he was referring to me.
* * *
'He's still here, Dr Holloway,' Caroline said.
Grace did not look up. She stared at the blotter on the desk and at the brown rings left by her coffee mug. The mug was still half-full, but the coffee had long since gone cold.
She knew that the Doctor was still here. Caroline had forced him out of the office after Grace's outburst, but rather than leave he had simply taken up residence in the hospital's waiting room. According to Caroline, it was not as if he was trying to cause trouble; he simply would not go away. Not until he had talked to her.
She buried her face in her hands.
'What else can go wrong, Caroline?' she asked.
Caroline put an arm round her boss.
'It wasn't your fault,' she consoled her.
Grace looked up and managed a weak smile.
'Thanks, but it's not you I have to convince, is it?' she replied. They both knew that Carter would see things very differently.
'Send him in, Caroline,' Grace said softly.
'You sure?' Caroline asked.
Grace nodded. 'He's not going to go away until I see him and I can't stay locked in my office forever. Might as well get it over with.'
Caroline hurried away and Grace ran her hands through her hair. The prospect of meeting the Doctor again was making her self-conscious. It was not as if he would notice, but still
'Good morning, Grace,' he said.
Grace looked up. The Doctor stood just outside the office door, hands clasped behind his back. He looked timid, afraid, like a naughty schoolboy summoned to see the Principal.
Well, it's now or never, Grace thought
'Come on in, Doctor,' she said. 'You can leave us now, Caroline.'
The nurse shot her an 'are you sure' look and Grace nodded in response. The Doctor was not going to hurt her. Not deliberately, anyway.
The Doctor was hovering at the edge of her desk.
'Nice place you have here,' he said. 'A bit spartan, but nice.'
He continued to hover.
'Oh, sit down, for crying out loud,' Grace snapped.
The Doctor hurled himself into the empty chair.
Grace waited for him to say something. The Doctor avoided her eyes. Fiddling with the Rolodex file on her desk. When he lost interest in that, he picked up a silver plated biro and began pressing the end repeatedly, shooting the point in and out, in and out.
Grace snatched the pen away from him.
'Will you stop that,' she said. 'Look, would you like a coffee?'
She indicated a machine in the corner of the office.
The Doctor declined and Grace smiled. The Doctor on a caffeine high was too terrible to contemplate.
The silence continued. The Doctor broke first.
'Look, Grace,' he began, 'why don't you tell me what's wrong? I might be able to help. I am a doctor, after all.'
'Help?' Grace almost laughed. 'You?'
The Doctor looked both hurt and perplexed, like a puppy wanting to know why it has been kicked.
'Why not?' he asked. 'If you'll just tell me what the problem is '
'You don't get it, do you?' Grace said. 'You're the damn problem.'
'Me? But what did I do?'
'What did you do?' This time Grace really did laugh. It helped hide the tears building behind her eyes. 'You left me behind.'
* * *
Celaine Eliot chewed on the end of her biro as she surveyed the figures on the screen of her PC. To most people, the information displayed in yellow type of a black background would be simply a jumble of numbers, but there were patterns there if you knew what to look for and it was Celaine's job to find them. Well, that was the theory.
With a sigh, Celaine put down the pen and started to massage her temples. On a normal day the trends would leap right out at her, but she could not seem to get her eye in today. She put it down to her lack of sleep the night before. The reading had bothered her.
Strong hands reached over the back of her chair and began to massage her shoulders.
'Mmm, that feels good,' she sighed, easing back in a way she had seen Di-Di, her cat, do when she petted her of an evening.
'Anything for my favourite futures trader,' a gentle baritone voice commented. 'Besides, now I have you at my mercy.'
A hand snaked down from her shoulder towards the open collar of her blouse and Celaine reached up and slapped it away.
'Better watch yourself, James,' Celaine said. 'Come any closer and you might get burned.'
'Promises, promises,' James laughed. He came round from behind Celaine's chair and perched on the edge of her desk. 'So how's life in the world of the data analyst.' He waved his hand in the direction of the glowing numbers.
'Don't touch the screen,' Celaine snapped, grabbing his wrist.
'Sorry,' James muttered, pulling his hand away. He stared at it as if he did not know what to do with it, then ran it through his unruly black hair.
'No, I'm sorry,' Celaine admitted. 'I'm just a bit on edge today. I shouldn't have taken it out on you.'
'Hey, what are friends for?' James replied. 'Want to tell me about it?'
Celaine shifted uncomfortably. Her hand unconsciously flew to her collar, her thumb brushing the pentacle sewn just out of sight.
'It's nothing,' she said defensively. 'I just didn't sleep well, that's all.'
'More bad dreams?' James asked. 'I've told you, you put too much faith in them '
Celaine cut him dead with a look.
James raised his hands to ward her off.
'Okay, okay,' he said, 'let's just agree to differ on the dream thing. Subject closed, all right.'
Celaine allowed herself a slight smile. James might not share her beliefs, but at least he accepted them. Unlike Andrew.
'Not having much luck with it?' James continued, this time indicating the screen only with a nod of his head.
'Not much, no,' Celaine confessed. 'Some days you've got it, and others '
'You might as well stay at home?' James concluded. 'Yeah, I get days like that, too.'
'It's not as if we're actually doing anything,' Celaine complained. 'We're pouring so much money into the Berkeley project that all this is just a side-show. You just can't make any money in futures without a large enough investment to begin with.'
'You don't think the Dragonlady's gone a bit ' James tapped the side of his head, ' you know.'
Celaine grinned. 'I know, but no, I don't think so. She's smart. Scary, but smart. If she thinks this is worth the money then I want to know what it is.'
'Nobody's told you?' James asked.
Celaine shook her head. 'Uh uh. You?'
'Just rumours. There's some talk about a new earthquake predictor. Either that or we're funding UFO spotters.'
'Hey, I just report it, not invent it.'
Celaine sucked on her index finger while she thought. When she realised what she was doing she hurriedly withdrew the finger and clasped both hands in her lap. It was a childhood habit she was trying to give up.
'Well, earthquakes is always a good bet in this city,' she mused, 'but research programmes are a dime a dozen. What makes this one so special? Ha, I almost wish it were UFOs. At least that would be something interesting.'
'Aw, c'mon,' James pressed, 'you can't tell me that you've never looked out of your window and up at the sky and wondered if there was something else out there.'
'What? Little green men? Give me a break.' Celaine got to her feet and stretched. 'I'm gonna get a coffee. You want anything.'
'No thanks,' James replied, 'the machine's out of decaf. I'll see you later. How about lunch?'
'Later, James,' Celaine called, already walking away from her desk.
The coffee machine was on the far side of the 36th floor, Celaine had been unsurprised to discover. In theory, it dispensed a large selection of hot drinks and soups. In practice, it was well stocked with lemon tea and, if you were lucky, insipid coffee. After a couple of hours staring at a computer screen, though, it was better than nothing. There was a water-cooler standing next to the machine. It was a new addition to the office, having been deemed too expensive during the summer months when they actually could have done with it.
Celaine ignored the blue and white water tower and punched in her request for sweet black coffee. She was hoping that the sweetener might blunt the taste. The machine spat out a plastic cup and hot water began to slowly trickle into it. Celaine began to tap her foot impatiently.
Ms Chapel's office was just down the corridor from the coffee machine. The door was open and Celaine could hear the Dragonlady's voice from inside. The machine splurted out its last drop and Celaine picked up the cup, holding it round the rim so as not to burn her fingers. She turned to return to her office.
She paused. She did not make a habit of eavesdropping - well, she did not think she did - but it would not hurt just once, would it? Besides, she might find out what this project the company was funding was all about. She crept towards Ms Chapel's door.
'It's a minor inconvenience,' Chapel was saying. 'They have no grasp of what we are really planning.'
Chapel was standing at the window, watching the city below. She made no secret of the fact that she was in her fifties, but Chapel looked ten years younger. She was wearing an expensive dark grey suit that flattered her figure. She was passing a spherical silver paperweight casually from one hand to the other.
Celaine wondered whom she was talking to. She could see no one else in the room and assumed she had the speakerphone on, but she could not hear the other voice.
'No,' Chapel continued, 'the military stumbled upon us purely by accident. They are still blundering around in the dark. By the time the realise the truth our task will be finished.'
The cup of coffee was growing uncomfortably hot in her right hand and she gingerly transferred it to her left.
'My contacts at Berkeley tell me that the THUNDER is almost complete,' Chapel said. 'It should be ready for transport within twenty-four hours.'
Chapel cocked her head to one side as if listening. Her black hair, shot through with grey, fell over one ear.
'Yes,' Chapel said in reply to the unspoken voice, 'I have taken steps to remove the sensitives. I fear it may draw attention to ourselves, but I believe it is already too late for anyone to interfere with our plans. It's a pity, she's a good worker, but we can't have a Wiccan around to interfere with transference.'
Celaine flinched, spilling hot coffee down the front of her blouse. She gasped and then bit her lip. Had Chapel heard her? She pressed herself against the wall and wished she knew a spell to turn herself invisible.
Chapel had stopped speaking and had turned her face towards the doorway, her doe-like eyes boiling with menace. She can see me, Celaine thought. She must be able to see me. She braced herself for discovery, but it never came. Instead, Chapel turned back to the window and continued her conversation with her unseen associate.
Celaine did not stick around to hear any more. She went straight to the washroom, half-running in her haste to get some distance between herself and the Dragonlady. She hurled herself into the room and was relieved to find it empty. Supporting herself on the washbasin, she stared at her face in the mirror.
She was white as chalk. She had a pale complexion anyway, but she had definitely turned several shades whiter. With her spiky white-blonde hair (dyed, with the dark roots just beginning to show through) she looked like a ghost. She tightened her grip on the sink, turning her knuckles white, just to prove she was still real.
'The Wiccan,' Chapel had said.
How many other Wiccans could there be in the company. She fingered the pentacle again. She had always striven to keep her faith secret because she feared just this kind of discrimination. As far as James and the others were concerned she was just another New Ager. How would they react if they knew that she was a practising Witch? She had heard of witches who had lost their jobs because of their faith. Oh, they were always given some other reason for dismissal, but everyone knew. Deep down, Celaine had always feared the same would happen to her, but she had never expected
She looked down at the growing stain on her blouse and started to dab at it with some damp paper towels. She would have to go home at lunchtime and change. Perhaps she could grab some meditation time while she was there, clear her head.
'I have taken steps to remove the sensitives.'
This just could not be happening to her. Could it?
* * *
The soldiers led Mina south across the park. They walked briskly, eyes straining all the while for movement in the fog, but they saw no one. All the same, Mina could not shake the feeling that she was being watched. She had tried to question her captors and find out who they were, where they were taking her and, most importantly, what was that thing that attacked her, but the soldiers remained stubbornly silent.
She did not see the building until they were practically on top of it. The fog was so thick that it clung to the grey box-like structures like a child to his favourite toy, unwilling to let go until forced. It was an H-shaped structure, two large oblongs linked by a narrow bridge. There was a door in the centre of the bridge and a set of metal steps joined it to the ground. A guard stood at the door, a rifle balanced on his shoulder. He tensed when he heard the sound of people approaching, but relaxed when he recognised the soldiers.
The guard saluted.
'At ease, sergeant,' the lead soldier said. 'Where's the general.'
'In the incident room, sir,' the guard informed them, 'giving hell to the science team.'
'I guess I'll just have to take my chances,' the leader commented. He began to climb the steps, then turned back. 'Sergeant Storey? Groves didn't make it. Could you organise a stretcher party to recover his body.'
He whirled on his heel and disappeared through the door. The three other soldiers gave Mina no option, but to follow.
The tunnel was dimly lit, with blue painted walls. There were large doors at each end and Mina was steered towards the door on the right. The soldier in charge waited for her to go first and she paused, searching for a door handle. She could not see one and tentatively put her hand out towards the door. She gave a start when it suddenly slid to one side under its own power. She stepped back and the door slid closed again.
One of the soldiers prodded her in the small of her back with his gun. With some trepidation, Mina took a small step forward, waited for the door to open again, then continued into the next room.
The oblong building seemed bigger inside than out, but having travelled in the TARDIS this was a trick that did not impress Mina. The first room was empty, a semi-circular space done in the same colour scheme as in the previous corridor. Several doors led from this room into others and Mina could make out other people, some uniformed, some not, moving around in the distance. She was not given time to study them, however, as she was herded towards another sliding door.
There was a large glass-topped table occupying most of this room. Four people sat around it, only one of who was in uniform. A second uniformed figure stood at the head of the table, but Mina hardly saw her. Instead she focussed on the object on the wall behind her. It was like a large painting, but the picture on it was moving. It was like looking through a window, except that it was not a window and the images shown were not of what was beyond the wall.
She was so transfixed by the moving pictures that she almost missed the conversation taking place around her.
'What do you mean by barging in her unannounced, Captain Knight?' the woman at the head of the table was saying.
'I'm sorry, general,' the soldier who had brought her in said, 'but I assumed that you would want to see the prisoner straight away. May I present the Wizard's Apprentice.'
'Wizard's Apprentice indeed,' the general shook her head. 'Who thinks up these codenames, anyway? Well, I can't keep calling you that, not with a straight face, so who are you?'
Mina tore her eyes away from the dancing images and turned to look at the large black woman in the green uniform.
'I am Mrs Wilhemina Harker,' Mina responded. 'Who might you be and what do you want with me?'
The general frowned at her impertinence, but then her weathered face creased with a smile. 'I figure I should expect that kind of impudence from the Doctor's associates. I'm Brigadier-General Adrienne Kramer of the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce. And I need your help.'
* * *
'I'm sorry, did I miss something here?' the Doctor protested. 'I thought you said that you wanted to stay behind.'
Grace clenched her hands in her lap.
'I said I wanted you to stay with me.'
The Doctor shifted uncomfortably in his chair.
'I'm afraid I don't follow you,' he admitted.
Grace banged a fist on the desk in frustration.
'You really don't get it, do you?' she said. 'You think that you can just waltz in, turn everybody's lives upside down and then waltz out again and everything will be all right again. Well go figure, real life doesn't work like that.'
'I'm sorry,' the Doctor began. 'I didn't mean '
Grace cut him off. 'Thanks to you I lost my boyfriend, my career and very nearly my sanity. Why couldn't you die in someone else's hospital?'
'I hardly think you can blame me for getting shot,' the Doctor joked. Grace stood up sharply, unamused, and the Doctor held up his hands placatingly. 'All right, all right. I'm sorry. Again.'
Grace slumped back into her chair. The man was impossible to argue with.
'Look, Doctor, I'm just not sure you realise the consequences of what you do. You dive in and things change. That's who you are. But it's all right for you because you're a Time Lord. You can get in your box and you can leave it all behind. You don't have to live with those changes, but we mere mortals do. I've spent the last twelve months putting my life back together and I really don't need you destroying all that hard work.'
The Doctor ran his hands through his wavy hair.
'Well, I'm sorry you feel that way, Grace, but I can assure you that I haven't come here with the intention of roping you in to any of my schemes.'
'You haven't?' Grace was sceptical.
The Doctor shook his head and decided to risk a slight smile. 'Sorry to disappoint you. I only came here to show a friend of mine the Golden Gate Bridge and I thought that, since I was in the neighbourhood, it would be a good idea to pop in for a cup of tea and a chat.'
Grace found that she was fidgeting as much as the Doctor and had to force herself to keep her hands in her lap.
'I'm sorry, Doctor,' she confessed. 'It's just, what with the shooting and all '
'Shooting?' The Doctor leaned forward, elbows propped on the desk, chin cupped in his hands. 'Tell me more.'
'Oh, I'm probably just being paranoid,' Grace said. 'I was called in last night to treat a gunshot victim, but we were too late to save her. To cap it all, someone's stolen the body from the morgue.'
'Déjà vu all over again,' the Doctor joked. 'Not guilty this time.' His face froze and his blue eyes clouded over. 'Oh no. Grace, what's the date. Quickly.'
'Why, its the 27th of December,' she stammered. The Doctor was unnerving her.
'And the year?' the Doctor asked. 'Come on, Grace, it's vitally important.'
The Doctor slapped his forehead with the heel of his hand.
'Stupid, stupid, stupid, Doctor! All this time it's been staring me in the face and I didn't see it. How could I have been so blind?'
* * *
Celaine bolted the door behind her. At least the apartment offered some measure of security. Her mind was racing, but her body seemed to have switched to automatic pilot. She had already turned to hand her leather jacket on the stand just inside the door. At the base of the stand was a tub for storing umbrellas, but its only occupant at the moment was a large cricket back. It belonged to Andrew and he could have it back whenever he could be bothered to come and collect it. Celaine was not going to make the effort to deliver it to him.
She crossed the room, stripping off her damp blouse as she did so, noting vaguely that she would have to remember to drop it in at the dry-cleaners on her way back to work. Assuming she still had a job, of course.
Celaine opened the fridge and poured herself a tall glass of orange juice. Then she opened up a tin of cat food and begain to spoon it into a dish for Di-Di, who was coling herself around Celaine's ankles.
Maybe Andrew had been right all along. Maybe Wicca was going to do her more harm than good. Celaine shook her head. No, witchcraft was more to her than just a few rituals and some meditation techniques, it was a part of who she was. She could no more stop being Wiccan than she could start being Britney Spears. And if Andrew could not accept that then he could go to hell.
But if she felt that way, why did she still keep his picture on her desk?
Celaine ignored that thought and crossed to the bed. Bending down, she dragged her altar out from underneath it. It was hardly the best hiding place in the world, but it meant that the casual visitor would not realise what she was straightaway. Even in a cosmopolitan city like San Francisco people still had some conservative attitudes.
Celaine sat cross-legged on the floor. She used a cigarette lighter to light the white candle, representing fire, and the incense burner, in place of air. She closed her eyes and breathed in deeply, centring her self. She opened her eyes and reached across the altar, ignoring the pentacle, wand and athame, instead picking up a sealed jar. She removed the stopper and dipped her fingers into the liquid within. Then she dabbed some of the protection potion on to the inside of each of her wrists. She did not usually bother, but today she felt as if she could use the extra help.
Something she was keen on was colour magic and she often used it to dictate her wardrobe. When she had tidied the altar away, she dug out a yellow sweater from her wardrobe, yellow for strength and health. Unfortunately, it was not one of the garments into which she had sown pentacles. Reluctantly, she took the necklace from her jewellery box. It was a pentacle hanging from a silver chain. It had been a gift from Andrew, before he had realised how serious she was about all of this stuff. Celaine disliked wearing it, not because it reminded her of her ex, but because she felt it was a bit obvious. Still, if she hid it beneath her sweater then no one would notice. Assuming they did not know all ready.
There was a crash from the kitchen and a cry from a startled cat. Pulling the chain over her head, Celaine hurried to investigate. The window had been smashed.
'Well, that's just great,' Celaine muttered. It was probably just some kids deciding to persecute the local witch. Up until today she had thought that she had been very careful about concealing her faith. No it seemed that all this time she had been wearing a sign on her back saying 'Witch'. Could the day get any worse?
She knelt down to find a dustpan and brush so that she could clean up the glass. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a round object lying on the kitchen floor, presumably whatever the kids had thrown through the window. At first she thought that it was just a stone. Then she realised that it was a silver sphere. A sphere like the paperweight Ms Chapel had been playing with. Curious, Celaine leaned closer. The sphere began bleeping at her. Celaine sat up, surprised.
The sphere began to roll towards her, the bleeping becoming louder, more strident.
Celaine got to her feet and began to back away.
The sphere increased its speed.
Celaine's mind tried to rationalise it. It was just a toy, she told herself. The kids were controlling it from outside by radio control or something. But there was more to it than that, Celaine could sense it. It was as if the sphere was alive. Alive and malevolent.
She turned and ran for the door, turning the latch and tugging on the handle. The door refused to open. Then Celaine remembered the bolt. She reached up and tugged on the heavy piece of metal, but it refused to budge.
The beeping was getting louder. She turned to see that the sphere was practically on top of her. Then the sphere stopped, its beeping silenced and Celaine let out a sigh of relief.
The sphere leaped at her.
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