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Side Quest

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The taxi that had driven Sarah and Harry from the Actonix Research Institute into Harton had sleeker, more curved lines than Harry was used to. In fact, all the cars they'd passed on the short drive had been somehow more bulbous and circular in shape, though still clearly recognisable as cars. Harry found it strangely disconcerting, more so than if there had been flying cars or vehicles that ran around on legs like a spider.

"Have you noticed how everyone has walkie-talkies?" Sarah asked.

"What's that?"

"Walkie talkies!" Sarah pointed out of the window and he could see several people walking along the street with small slim objects pressed up against their ears.

"Well, I suppose it stands to reason. They're useful things, just a bit bulky and what not in our time."

Harry pondered that phrase "in our time". He'd been to the future before, of course, but the Ark, in its various incarnations, had been so far in the future that it could almost have been another planet. According to the Doctor, this was a mere forty years after his time. Sufficiently close that Harry had wondered aloud about looking himself up until the Doctor had forbidden it with a single scathing remark.

The taxi pulled up and Harry paid the fare from the purse the Doctor had handed him. Like the cars and the walkie talkies, the money was familiar and yet different. The coins were lighter and smaller and there were a couple of new, heavier gold coins for one and two pounds, which at least meant he wasn't grappling with a fistful of notes, especially given how expensive everything apparently was. Once they were on the pavement, Harry looked across at Sarah.

"So, what's on this list of equipment the Doctor wants?"

Sarah fished several torn notebook pages from her pocket and sighed. "No wonder Professor Ross called it a pile of junk."

Harry leaned over her shoulder to look, "Remote controlled toy, three stainless steel tablespoons, five glow sticks... I'm not sure I even know what all those things are."

"Professor Ross gave me a list of shops to check out. Most of the things are going to be in either the toy shop or the bespoke electronics place she mentioned."

Sarah shuffled her pieces of paper to reveal two, written in a clear decisive hand, as opposed to the Doctor's scrawling cursive script.

"Might as well split up then, I suppose. I'll take the toy shop."

Harry reached for one piece of paper but Sarah snatched it out of his grasp. "Oh no you don't! I don't want to lose you in some kind of futuristic toy shop. You can have the electronics shop!"

Harry shook his head as Sarah stuffed one of the pieces of paper into his hand. He'd quite fancied the toy shop although he didn't think he would have completely lost track of things in there. Still, the electronics shop might be interesting as well. He looked at the name on the piece of paper and then scanned up and down the High Street for a sign.

"There are directions on the back," Sarah said as she headed away from him.

Harry flipped over the piece of paper. There were indeed directions and a small map. Well nothing ventured, nothing gained, he thought. The sooner the Doctor and Professor Ross managed to decipher the strange signals Professor Ross had detected the better. If Harry's previous experience with the Doctor was anything to go by, those signals almost certainly spelled trouble of some kind.

Banana Pie Electronics was down one of the side streets off the main shopping area, squeezed between some sort of costume shop and a tattoo parlour. A bell jangled as Harry walked in through the door. The shop was packed full of shelves heaving with bits of equipment. Narrow aisles led in between them.

Harry looked down at his list. Some of the parts he recognised. The Doctor wanted half a dozen vacuum valves (presumably he was trying to do something computational) but some meant nothing to Harry (what was semi-conductor?). It was clearly going to be slow work. Harry started walking slowly down the first aisle, reading the labels on every box and component.

"Can I help you?"

Harry was startled out of his contemplation of a "Build your own Robot" kit to see a young woman standing next to him. She was wearing jeans and a stripy jumper and had bleached blonde hair piled up on her head in a sort of messy cross between a bun and a pony tail.

"Umm, do you work here?" Harry's mind went a little blank. He wasn't exactly bad with women, but he was aware that Sarah thought his attitudes a little old fashioned and this was forty years into the future.

"Shop belongs to my Dad," there was a note of defensiveness in her tone.

"Right! Splendid!" Harry thrust the list at her. "I'm afraid I've no idea what half of these things are!"

"Valves! You're lucky Dad's a bit of a hobbyist. Those aren't easy to come by these days."

"Aren't they? Don't you need them for computers and such like?"

The woman gave him a surprised look. "Electronics really isn't your thing, is it?"

"No, I'm afraid not."

"Never mind! Grab one of the baskets and we'll have you sorted out in no time."

Harry glanced over to where she was gesturing and saw a stack of plastic baskets, not entirely dissimilar to the wire baskets he was used to in supermarkets. He walked over and picked one up and then started following her obediently down the aisles.

"That doesn't look much like a pie," he commented as she put a small box in the basket.

"Raspberry Pi, it's a computer, just without all the trappings like monitors and keyboards. They're very popular with hobbyists."

A moment of inspiration struck him. "Is that why this place is called Banana Pie?"

"Yeah, not the greatest play on words ever but it had to be better than `Linklaker and Sons'"

"You're Miss Linklaker?" Harry guessed.

"Ms, but yes you're right. I'm Lily Linklaker."

She held out her hand and Harry shook it.

"Harry Sullivan," he said.

"Well, Mr. Sullivan, it was Linklaker and Sons in my grand-dad's day. Back then it was a Grocers, but my dad was more interested in computers."

"And you? Are you interest in computers?"

She shrugged. "I'm an Electrical Engineer. We sold computers for a while but we can't really compete with PC World and we didn't want to get into the secondhand phone market so I persuaded Dad we should go down the hobbyist route."

"Sounds like a plan." Harry felt quite pleased with himself. He hadn't entirely followed her story, why would you move from computers to phones? but he felt he had the gist of it.

"There, that's everything," she said putting a last item in his basket. "I'll scan it through the till for you."

She led him up to the front of the shop. She squeezed behind a tiny counter and picked up something that looked a little like a futuristic gun. She began running it over each item in turn until it beeped. Harry could see the numbers coming up on the till next to it.

"It'll be 5p extra for a bag, I'm afraid," she said.

"Not a problem," Harry pulled out the purse the Doctor had given him and began to sort through the notes in it.

"That's a lot of cash to be waving about," Lily said.

"There are a lot of things on that list."

"True! That's you done."

He handed over the money and she passed him a plastic bag full of the Doctor's shopping. The shop's doorbell rang again.

"Looks like you've got more customers," Harry said.

"All go around here. See you!"

Harry smiled and nodded, heading back towards the door. The man he pushed past was wearing a security uniform from Actonix. Harry gathered that a lot of military hush hush stuff went on at the lab. Luckily the Doctor's UNIT credentials still held good and they'd had relatively little trouble. But he had seen enough of the security to recognise the black uniform with the yellow lightning flash of the Actonix log on their breast pockets. Harry wondered vaguely what the man was doing in Banana Pie, but then reasoned that if Professor Ross used the shop for spare supplies, some of the other boffins up at the labs probably did too.

Harry turned back towards the High Street. He instantly spotted Sarah standing by a kind of decorative fountain arrangement in the centre of the pedestrian area. Next to her stood two women, twins by the look of things. They were tall and willowy with a startling shade of red hair. Sarah looked tense and alert. As Harry moved forwards she caught his eye and started to make frantic but discreet flapping gestures with her hands. She clearly wanted him to get out of sight.

Obediently Harry popped back into Banana Pie.

"I'm terribly sorry, I think I forgot..." the words died on Harry's tongue. "I say, is that a gun?" he blurted out seeing a pistol in the security man's hand.

The man swung around instantly, bringing the gun to bear on Harry, but Harry moved faster. He wasn't much of a brawler but he'd done some boxing at school and basic training in the army had involved a certain amount of holding your own. Trailing around after the Doctor had simply taught him that somtimes you must act act rapidly on instinct and not second guess yourself too much. He caught the man with a swift upper-cut under the jaw, that knocked him backwards. His head cracked against the counter-top and he slid unconscious to the ground.

Harry quickly checked for injury and was relieved to find a clear pulse and no bleeding, though he hoped the man would have the good sense to see a doctor once he came round. Harry picked up the gun. He was surprised to recognise the familiar shape of a Browning when so much else in this world was similar-and-yet different. He quickly removed the clip, slipping it into a pocket on his coat for safe keeping. Then he looked up at Lily Linklaker.

"Are you OK, old thing?"

Her eyes were slightly wide and her breath was on the short side but she looked composed.

"I think so, thanks!"

"No problem. You should phone the police. Shouldn't you?" he asked when she remained silent.

For the first time, it occurred to him that he'd just decked a member of security from Actonix Labs, which he knew to be affiliated to the Ministry of Defence. For all he knew, Ms Linklaker was a dangerous spy and the man had been apprehending her. On the other hand, back when he came from, a planned arrest would never have been conducted by a lone man pointing a gun at a girl. Harry wondered if this too had changed or if his gut instinct was correct and the man had been up to no good at all.

"I'm not sure. I'm not sure who tells who what?"

"Right, old thing. I think you had better start from the beginning and explain to me what kind of trouble you are in and then we can figure out what to do."

"OK, but not here though. He might wake up."

"That's true," Harry glanced at the gun in his hand. He wasn't clear about gun laws in this future, but he wasn't keen to get arrested for wandering around armed either. After a moment's thought he left it with the unconscious man and stood up.

"I live just around the corner, but I need to lock up the shop and..." she gestured towards the security guard.

"He'll come round in a minute or two. I think you need to take a chance on leaving the shop open," Harry said.

Reluctantly she nodded. They went out of the back into a narrow alley that ran behind the shops and turned towards the High Street. Lily shoved her hands into her pockets and walked with hunched shoulders and an expression that managed to combine mulish obstinacy with anxiety.

"Want to start the story as we walk?" Harry asked.

"He was from Actonix."

"Yes, I recognised the uniform."

"I used to work up there a couple of years ago, but I had a disagreement with Dr. Richards, the head of my lab, so I quit to help with the shop here. She's been trying to get me back ever since."

"At gun point? That seems a bit extreme for a recruiting tactic."

"It's been getting worse for some time. It started out friendly enough and then got more and more threatening. The last week it's been really frightening. I... well, I deleted a lot of my work and designs before I left and they want to get it back."

"Designs for what?" Harry asked.

She shrugged awkwardly. "It's classified. At least it was and I imagine it still is."

"Oh, right, I see. So some kind of hush hush military electronics jobby then?"

She smiled at that. "Pretty much, yes."

"... and since you deleted all your work and designs, can I assume that you didn't approve of the direction the research was going in?"

She glanced at him and nodded.

"Righty-ho, I can see why they're unhappy. Even so, that seemed like an odd way to recover an official secret."

She nodded again, "I couldn't ever prove anything but I was certain that my project wasn't actually for the MoD. Lots of things were inconsistent or didn't quite add up."

"But you don't want to go to the police because the first thing they'll do is call up Actonix and then there will be no end of a hullabaloo and you've got nothing concrete, just a bad feeling."

She nodded again.

Harry huffed out a breath. "Tricky one."

"You believe me, though?"

"For the time being."

"Our house is just along here. Dad should be home."

They turned into a terraced side street. Lily stopped by the third door, which had been painted a bright pillar box red. She frowned. The door was slightly ajar. Lily gave it a push and it swung inwards. Somewhere inside the house Harry could hear a news announcer on a TV or radio.

We repeat that there is currently no cause for immediate alarm, but everyone is recommended to stay in their homes until more facts can be established.

Harry's ears burned. He had a horrible feeling that the Doctor and Sarah had got into some kind of trouble in his absence. Still, maybe this weirdness with Actonix would tie into matters.

"Dad!" Lily called. "Dad, are you here?"

Harry pushed open the door to the nearest room. It looked like a sitting room, though a desk had been set up in one corner with a TV screen on it. Wires trailed loosely from the screen. It looked like something had been stored under the desk and connected to the TV, but it had been violently pulled out. Drawers in the desk had been pulled open and emptied out onto the floor.

"Someone got here before us," Harry said.

"Dad! Dad!" Lily called out in alarm and she dashed further into the house. Harry paused a moment wondering if there was anything to be gained from a thorough investigation of the sitting room, but then decided it could wait.

The hallway was narrow. Harry recognised the design of the house, even if he didn't know the specifics. The front room looked out onto the street through a bay window. A thin staircase led upwards and there would be two bedrooms and a bathroom on the first floor. Behind the living room would be a dining room and then a kitchen would lead out into a yard or garden with yet another alley at the back. The hallway had a bare polished wood floor and had been painted a dingy shade of beige.

Lily had headed towards the kitchen. The door had swung shut behind her and Harry paused before opening it again, hearing the faint sound of voices within. He leaned forwards, listening intently.

"I do suggest you come with me," a woman was saying. "Otherwise it will be much the worse for your father."

Lily murmured an assent. A chair scraped back as someone stood up. Harry hurried back down the hallway and ducked back into the sitting room.

He was just in time as footsteps marched past him and out of the front door. Harry moved so he could see through the lace curtains of the bay window. A tall dark-haired woman in a suit, with a second Actonix security guard behind her, bundled Lily into a car. Harry grabbed a piece of paper off the small desk and hurriedly jotted down the registration number and then watched as the car drove away.

It took Harry a surprisingly long time to identify Lily's phone and then work out how to use it. He dialled the number Professor Ross had given him for her lab. The Doctor answered.

"Hello there, Doctor. I've run into a bit of trouble down here..." Harry began.

"Not as much as we've run into up here, I expect," the Doctor whispered.

Harry instinctively dropped his voice. "What sort of trouble?"

"I don't know if you've noticed but there's an alien invasion going on."

"Not really," Harry had to admit. "Is that why we're whispering?"

"Yes, that's why we're whispering. Have you got my electronics supplies?"


"Good chap. Bring them up here to the research centre. You'll need to sneak in. They've seized control of the building systems that control all the locks and cameras and will probably start replacing the security guards with their own people any minute now. We're in Professor Ross's lab. Sorry! Have to dash. See you soon!"

The Doctor hung up. Harry stared at the phone in irritation and then set out to find a taxi. It seemed plausible to assume that whatever trouble the Doctor was in was related to Lily's problems so hopefully by getting himself and the Doctor's bits and bobs back to Actonix he could help her.

The High Street was quiet and deserted and the taxi rank was empty. Harry recalled the announcer on the radio telling everyone to keep indoors. Just as he was contemplating a long walk to the research centre, a dark blue van with the Actonix Logo on the side drove down the street.

"All citizens are ordered to remain indoors and await further instructions. We repeat this is a national emergency. All citizens are ordered to remain indoors and await further instructions."

Through the window of the van, Harry could see a flame-haired woman with a megaphone, much like the ones he'd seen with Sarah earlier. He guessed she was one of the aliens.

Harry pulled himself into the doorway of one of the shops and watched as the van made its way further up the street and then stopped outside an imposing Georgian building with all the hallmarks of a Town Hall. The loudspeaker switched off and two aliens climbed out of the front of the van and walked up the steps. Harry hurried over to the empty vehicle. If he was lucky, when they had concluded their business at the Town Hall, they would go back up the hill to Actonix.

Harry tried the back door of the van and was delighted to find it open. The inside was largely empty apart from a tool box and a pile of dust sheets and blankets. Quickly Harry climbed inside. About five minutes later the front doors opened and shut and the engine started up.

A small window gave Harry a view from the back of the van into the driver's cab. He angled himself so he wouldn't appear in the rear-view mirror and studied the two aliens as best he could. They could have been twins and possibly they were, though they could also have been clones. They looked human enough though, in spite of the striking red of their hair and the slightly vacant expressions. The fingers of the hands on the wheel were long and slender, but not unusually so. The only slight oddity was that each of them, though definitely female in form, had an Adam's apple. It wasn't unheard of in humans but if these two women weren't twins then it was certainly odd that they both shared this anatomical quirk. Harry slumped down in the back of the van and hoped that all the aliens were tall red heads, otherwise he was going to have trouble identifying them.

When the van came to a halt, sometime later, Harry forced himself to wait for five minutes. Then he cautiously opened the back door and peered out. He was in a large garage area surrounded by a couple of other vans and a minibus all bearing the Actonix logo. All he needed to do now was find the Doctor. Luckily, the Actonix lab complex was well signposted with floor plans at most major intersections. Harry jogged over to the nearest door and was relieved to see a big map just there with "You are Here" and an arrow. Professor Ross's lab was on the other side of the complex. Just typical really.

Harry stuck his head through the door and checked out the corridor. There was no one in sight. Oh well, nothing else for it. He pulled his day pass out of his pocket and hung it around his neck and then set off down the corridor as if he owned the place. The labs had been quiet when Harry had first arrived a few hours ago, but they seemed quieter now. He didn't pass anyone in the corridors as he moved along.

The Actonix building was rather bland and featureless though in a pleasant enough way. Dark blue floor tiles carpeted the floors and everything had a feel of being well-maintained and freshly painted, even though it was all a little identikit. Each room had a dark blue door with a narrow vertical pane of glass allowing people in the corridor to see into the room beyond. Harry peered as inconspicuously as possible through these panes as he walked past. There were a bunch of people sitting around an office looking rather glum in the first room. In the second three red-haired alien types stood over some scientists as they worked. They all looked so similar, he decided it must be a clone race of some kind. At the third door he spotted Lily leaning over a complex piece of machinery on a workbench. Harry tried to open the door, but wasn't surprised to find it was locked.

Harry rattled the handle and Lily looked up. He waved at her through the narrow glass panel in the door and she hurried over.

"What are you doing here?" she hissed.

"It's a little complicated. Apparently, there are aliens."

Lily glared at him through the glass panel of the door.

"Honestly! I don't really know what's going on, but that's what I've been told! I came back up here to bring my friend his electronic supplies, but there's definitely something fishy going on. I think most people have been locked into their offices."

Lily frowned. "That could explain why the Internet is down. I just assumed Dr. Richards had deliberately disconnected me. Mobile phone reception up here has always been rubbish, so that makes us pretty isolated."

"Do you think your Dr. Richards could be working with these people? Hence the sudden interest in getting you back?"

Lily nodded slowly. "I'm not necessarily believing you about the alien bit, but Dr. Richards is obviously in a hurry to get this finished."

"What is it? I know it's classified and all that, but I think things have moved on a bit now and I possibly need to know."

She nodded. "It's meant to be a wormhole generator. But the theory isn't ready. As it stands you can open up a wormhole to somewhere but this end would almost immediately start collapsing and would eventually pull everything in local space into it and form a Black Hole."

"Right, well even I know that's bad. Have you explained all this to Dr. Richards?"

"I have, but I don't think she understands. Or at least, she seems to understand but she doesn't seem to care, if that makes any sense. At the moment, I'm just going as slowly as I can with the work and hoping something will come up. I don't want anything to happen to Dad."

Harry nodded sympathetically. "Do you know where your father is? I can try to find him?"

Lily nodded. "Dr. Richards took me to see him. He's in store room 3B."

"I'll head over there. I need to drop these electronic parts off with the Doctor en route so he can defeat this alien or whatever invasion of his. You keep stalling as long as you can with this wormhole thing of yours."

At the next map Harry checked for the location of store room 3B. It was just past Professor Ross's lab which was a bit of luck. Hopefully he could kill two birds with one stone.

The door to Professor Ross's lab was propped open with a fire extinguisher. Harry stuck his head through the gap and then had to duck as Sarah swung a chair at him.

"I say, old girl!"

"Harry! Thank goodness. Have you got the Doctor's electronics?"

"Yes, I have. Do you mind explaining what's going on?"

Harry looked around the room. Two aliens were lying in one corner, tied up with small pieces of plastic. Professor Ross and a dark-haired woman were both crowded with the Doctor over some kind of whizz-bang device that looked like a combination between a hair-dryer and a gramophone speaker.

"No time, Harry. No time!" The Doctor swept over and plucked Harry's bag of parts out of his hand. "I need you and Dr. Richards to head for the Security Office at reception."

With a start Harry realised that the dark-haired woman was the same person he'd seen abducting Lily earlier that afternoon. He'd only really seen her from behind before, but the suit and hair cut were the same, as best Harry could judge.

"Dr. Richards?" Harry asked, slightly bemused by the turn of events.

"Yup, found her being harassed by two of the aliens, luckily we were able to put them out of action," The Doctor waved at the two bound figures on the floor.

"Does it really need two of us? I know where the keys are stored," Dr. Richards said.

"Safer with two of you. Harry can be quite competent in a pinch."

"Thanks, I think," Harry muttered.

"Good chap!" The Doctor slapped him on the back. "Take Dr. Richards to security and get hold of the keys to the old synchrotron room. I'll meet you both there. Take this swipe card with you. I've programmed it to override the block the aliens have put on the system."

Harry found himself handed a small square of plastic and bustled out of the room together with Dr. Richards. The woman rubbed her forehead. Harry noticed her long slender fingers. She was wearing a decorative silk scarf at her throat and a suspicion clicked in his mind.

"This way," Dr. Richards said, starting down the corridor.

"Can you fill me in a little. Why are we going to the security office?" Harry asked.

Dr. Richards didn't have the bright red hair of the other aliens, but now Harry was looking she had the same blandly good-looking features. Maybe Dr. Richards had dyed her hair for some reason.

"The Doctor thinks he may be able to use the old synchrotron magnetic field generators to boost the signal."

Harry watched the silk scarf closely. He was pretty sure it was concealing an Adam's apple that bobbed up and down as Dr. Richards spoke.

"What signal?" Harry said.

"These aliens seem to be susceptible to microwaves on a certain frequency. Knocks them out. But the effect is very localised at the moment. You need to be virtually standing over them."

"I see, so the idea is to boost the signal and take out the lot of them."

"Yes, look, do you think you can find your way to the security office on your own? There's something I want to check up on," Dr. Richards said.

"Should be able to. But you won't be able to get in anywhere either will you?" Harry waved the plastic swipe card.

"I've got one too. I was there when the Doctor constructed the override."

Harry considered his options. He didn't trust Dr. Richards, on the other hand it would be easier to rescue Lily's father without her presence. "Right, I'm on it."

Harry watched as Dr. Richards headed off down a side corridor. Then he began to run towards store room 3B. If he was lucky he could rescue Lily's dad, get the synchrotron keys and then get back to Lily and let her out.

Store room 3B was just around the next corner. Harry had seen how people operated the doors at Actonix and he tapped his piece of plastic against the black square mounted on the wall. The lock clicked. Harry smiled with pleasure and pulled the door open.

"Are you Ms. Linklaker's father?" Harry asked the man inside the small room.

"So what if I am?"

"Excellent. I'm here to rescue you. We need to get to your daughter."

The man leaped to his feet. He must have been in his sixties, grey-haired with a lined face, but hale and hearty looking.

"Is she still in the lab with that mad scientist boss of hers?"

"She's still in the lab. I'm not sure about the mad scientist."

"Excellent! There you are, Harry!"

The Doctor and Sarah were walking down the corridor wheeling a large trolley heaped with wires.


"Change of plan. Forget about the synchrotron, we're going to use triangulation."

"Where's Dr. Richards?" Sarah asked.

"Umm about her, did you notice she had an Adam's apple? All the aliens have them."

The Doctor's eyes boggled for a moment. "Really, are you sure?"

"It's pretty distinctive once you look for it."

"Do you think she's that escaped prisoner they keep going on about? The one they want returned to their jurisdiction or else?" Sarah asked.

"What escaped prisoner?" Harry asked.

"What aliens?" Mr. Linklaker asked.

"Who's this?" The Doctor frowned at Mr. Linklaker. "No never mind. We've no time. We can worry about Dr. Richards later. Harry take this to the quadrangle area. When the buzzer goes off hit the big red button."

The Doctor shoved a large square box into Harry's hands. There was indeed a big red button prominently displayed on top of it.

"Right! Go to the quad. When the buzzer sounds, hit the big red button."

"Excellent. Come on Sarah, we need to set up more of these!"

The Doctor and Sarah swept off down the corridor.

"Who was he?" Mr. Linklaker asked.

"Difficult to explain, but he's one of the good guys. Now, if I remember the layout we can go past the lab your daughter is in on the way to the quad!"

The lab was three corridors down. Harry wasn't certain how much time they had and he set a fast pace. Mr. Linklaker gave him a sly grin and started to jog and suddenly the two of them were running down the corridors. The old man was pretty fit. They pulled up outside the lab and Harry swiped the Doctor's piece of plastic in front of the sensor by the door. With a click it swung open.

"Dad!" Lily rushed forwards and gave her father a quick hug.

"Right! Now we need to get to the quad!" Harry said.

"But Dr. Richards has taken the wormhole device. She was here just now. We have to stop her."

"Is it finished?"

"Not quite but I think she can figure out the rest."

"Do you know where she went?"

Lily shook her head.

"Right, we'll check out the quad first and one of you can wait there with the Doctor's box. Then we can start hunting for Dr. Richards!" Harry decided.

"It's as good a plan as any, Lily," Mr. Linklaker said.

She nodded uncertainly. "She might have gone to the quad anyway. There's a risk that too much electrical equipment could distort the field at the wormhole throat. If she sets up in the middle of the quad that might minimise the effect."

"Right, quad it is!"

They ran down the next corridor. There were double doors at the end. Harry's pass unlocked them and the trio pushed their way through. Dr. Richards was indeed in the quad with the large electrical machine that Harry had seen Lily working on earlier.

She glanced up as they burst through the door and reached for some sort of long tubular device. Harry instinctively grabbed hold of each of the Linklakers and pulled them down to the ground. There was a whirring sound and a smell of burning. Something above their heads exploded.

"Get back!" Harry cried, pushing the Linklakers towards the door, then he ran to the side, hoping to draw the woman's fire.

Harry cast about him frantically. The quadrangle was bare with a few desultory raised beds. Slightly forlorn plants languished amid decorative stones. Harry had an idea. He hefted a stone thoughtfully in his hand. Presumably all he needed to do was put the wormhole machine out of business, at least for a while.

Harry hadn't ever really enjoyed cricket, but his school had considered basic competency at the game to be part of a rounded education and Harry was both hard-working and reasonably well-coordinated. He'd been the best bowler in the second eleven. Harry risked popping out from behind his flower bed and pitching a good hard ball at the wormhole device. He ducked back down quickly as a chunk of concrete disintegrated at the side of the bed, but was satisfied to hear the sound of breaking machinery.

Dr. Richards swore.

Harry risked a peek over the edge of the raised bed. He was in time to see Lily and her father being marched back into the quad with five of the aliens behind them, each holding a gun very similar to Dr. Richards'.

"Stop there, Jatham. We've finally caught up with you!" the first alien said.

Dr. Richards, Jatham presumably, growled with frustration, but nevertheless flung her weapon to the ground and raised her hands.

"Good, we will take you back to the supreme council for judgement."

"Does that mean you're going to go?" Lily asked.

"The annexation of this planet will continue. It has resources that will be useful to us."

Harry sighed in irritation. Of course they couldn't just go. At that moment, the device the Doctor had given him buzzed loudly.

"Who is that!" the alien said, swinging his gun round towards Harry and the flower bed.

Hurriedly Harry fished the Doctor's box out of his pocket and slammed his palm down onto the big red button in the centre. The outcome was surprising. All the aliens, including Jatham or Richards or whatever her name was, promptly collapsed to the floor. Their eerily similar forms shimmered slightly to reveal creatures that, while still humanoid, were distinctly more alien in appearance than their previous forms had suggested.

Harry dusted himself down and stepped out from behind the flower bed.

"I say, Lily, Mr. Linklaker are you both alright?"

Lily nodded and hurried over to the wormhole machine. Its internal wires were sparking quietly. It looked like Harry's rock had knocked quite a few connections loose.

"You got to this just in time," Lily said. She began pulling out more of the wires. "Best to decommission it entirely though."

"Harry! Excellent! Good to see you! I say, is that a wormhole engine?" The Doctor swept into the quadrangle and instantly made a beeline for Lily and her machine.

"Ms. Linklaker can tell you that, but something like that, I think," Harry said a little helplessly.

The Doctor peered at it. "It doesn't seem to have any kind of mouth stabiliser."

"Dr. Richards wouldn't give me time to develop one. She said it was unnecessary," Lily explained.

The Doctor regarded the unconscious form of Dr. Richards. "Well I suppose it wouldn't have been necessary, if all she intended to do was to take a one way trip to another part of the universe. Harry did you know someone was constructing an unstabilised wormhole engine around here?"

"Well, you see, Ms Linklaker's father was being held hostage," Harry gestured towards Mr. Linklaker and then tailed off suspecting that the Doctor was about to berate him for not taking the threat more seriously.

The Doctor's gaze swept over Mr. Linklaker, and then back to Lily who was still busy disassembling her machine.

"And you presumably rescued him, informed Ms. Linklaker he was safe, and then you all worked together to put it out of commission."

"There wasn't really time to get you, what with needing to get to the quad and all."

The Doctor grinned at him. "And you still managed to set off your part of the triangulated distortion field in time!"

Harry glanced down at the box he was holding. "Is that what this is?"

"Yes, that's what that is." The Doctor clapped him on the back. "Well done Harry! Excellent work."

Harry felt his ears tingle and had no doubt he was blushing shamefully.

"It was nothing really," he mumbled.

"If you say so," the Doctor said breezily but he winked at Harry and grinned again. "Now, let's go and find what sort of trouble Sarah has got herself into, shall we?"

Harry nodded and let himself be led from the quadrangle, where Lily and her father were still gathered over the wormhole machine. All in all, Harry felt, it had been one of his better days.