1. The Animal Trap
Rain clouds. Thunder. An atmosphere of a stormy night on an alien planet. The tempest was furious and terrible as it took place. It was a dark stormy night. Rain; rain; rain. It kept pelting down from huge dark clouds covering the sky. It was unexpected that anyone would be out on a night like this.
Yet…on the beach….a man – human – was on the run in the tumultuous rain. He was making for a dark forest as he ran. Up the slope he went to enter through the trees.
In the dark forest, the rain still pelting down, the man, whose name was Roger, ran for his life. He couldn’t make head nor tail of where he was going with it being so dark in the forest. He was getting tired. And sleepy. The rain did that to him.
Roger blinked as he tried to focus hard on his surroundings. Aside from feeling tired, he was afraid. He never felt so scared in all his life. The mere thought of who was chasing him was inconceivable. He never expected it. No one did. He ran on, determined to reach the light.
“Must…escape,” he panted. “Must…find a way out! Please! Please, let me find a way out!”
Stumbling forward, Roger fell. The rain was too much for him. It was working hard to make him weaker. Roger knew that. Why must he suffer like this? What had he done to endure such torment?
“Mustn’t stop now,” Roger said, determined. “Must keep going! Must…keep…going!”
Roger struggled to get up to his feet. He trudged on through the forest. Rainwater splattered all over his face. He let out a long suffering sigh before giving an almost uncontrollable yawn.
Then, out from the corner of his eye and in the darkness of the forest, five dark figures stepped out to meet him. Roger saw them. The figures wore dark robes. They breathed stale air as they wore their black hoods. The figures surrounded Roger in a circle, advancing upon him. Roger was now very afraid. He knew he was done for.
“No!” he shouted. “Not you! Not you please! I was so close seeing the last of you!”
As they slowly encircled and caged him in, Roger gave out a sharp cry.
“Stay back, all of you! Please, stay back! I’ll smite you down to shreds if I have to! I warned you!”
Roger made an attempt to strike a blow at one of the dark figures with his fist. But the rain had already weakened him. He was thrown off by the dark figure very violently. Roger tripped and fell to the ground again. He became very angry then. He charged back up at the figures.
“Back away, you devils!” he cried. “Back I say! Back! BACK!!!!”
Roger yelled as he charged forward. Then one of the dark figures pulled a long sharp sword from its sheath. Without warning, the figure thrust the sword into Roger’s chest. The air escaped from Roger immediately once the blade went through him. He looked down and saw the blood pouring out from his chest where the sword went. The dark figure withdrew its sword out of Roger, lowering it to one side.
Looking up at the figure, Roger gritted his teeth. He struggled to utter his final words with his final breath. “That…wasn’t…fair,” he complained.
With that, Roger fell to the ground. He lay on his back, desperate for air. The dark robed figures saw to it that he didn’t get it. They drew their swords, exhaling harsh growls and sneers before they stabbed Roger a dozen times. They kept on stabbing! They stabbed and stabbed until they made pretty sure Roger was dead. Soon, the killing stopped. The dark figures replaced their swords back in their sheaths.
Roger lay dead as the dark figures returned back into the darkness of the forest. The storm ended as soon as the slaughter on Roger ceased. The ground was soon beginning to soak in a river of blood.
That same night, a few metres away from the forest, the TARDIS landed on the beach. Its lamp light glowed aloft on top of the box a number of times before the sound of a thump echoed to indicate the TARDIS had landed. The lamp light stopped glowing once that happened. A few seconds later, the TARDIS doors opened. Out stepped the Doctor and his companion Leela. The Doctor grinned delightedly as he wrapped his long scarf around his neck.
“You landed us in the middle of the night,” Leela said annoyed. “I can see my way in the dark, but I would like to hunt by instincts, thank you.”
“Ah,” the Doctor wearingly. “No hunting here. We’re on holiday, remember? So don’t spoil anything with violence, will you?”
“I’m a huntress, Doctor,” Leela told him. “You should know me better than that. I never abandon my warrior ways.”
“Yes,” the Doctor said sadly. “For me, it’ll take quite some time to educate you. If it was daylight though, I’d say you’d fit in well with the tourists. They’d take you for wearing a bathing suit as you are now.”
“Bathing costume?” Leela asked, curious.
Leela still wore the leather leotard outfit she had on her when she first met the Doctor. Despite getting the chance to dress in other refined clothes, Leela always felt comfortable wearing her leotard.
At that moment, the TARDIS doors opened and out trundled a robot in the shape of a dog. K-9 wagged his ears as he skidded onto the sandy beach.
“Ready to embark for destination, Master,” K-9 piped eagerly.
The Doctor groaned, annoyed. He got on his hands and knees to say to the metal dog, “K-9, next time you want to announce your presence, try to bark. You can bark, can’t you?”
“Negative, Master,” K-9 replied. “Barking is not necessary to my programming.”
Sighing, the Doctor eventually got up to his feet and made his way down the beach, heading south.
“Come on, you two!” he called to Leela and K-9. “Let’s make our way to the hotel. Hopefully it should still be open with a 24 hour service.”
Gradually, Leela and K-9 followed on behind as they and the Doctor made for the hotel where they were staying.
A while later, the Doctor and Leela had walked half a mile on the beach. They took in the fresh night air as the waves of the sea gently crashed onto the shore. K-9 trundled behind them whilst Leela fired questions at the Doctor.
“So what is this planet you’ve taken us to, Doctor? The planet…Anothea?”
“In the constellation of Cassio,” the Doctor said boldly. “Earth century: 64th It’s a holiday planet, Leela. Full of beaches; oceans and forests. All for leisure here.”
“And people come here just because they want to go on holiday?” Leela asked.
“There’s nothing wrong with a bit of relaxation, Leela,” the Doctor replied. “If you’ve had a hard day’s work at the bank; had a stressful time with your manager…though I don’t really know much about that sort of thing, so one wonders why I even mentioned it…or travelling around the universe like I have, it’s nice to come to a place like this. You can cast your troubles here and there’s no one to bother you.”
“So, we’ve come here to cast our troubles?” Leela enquired, confused. “After travelling for so long in the universe?”
“Exactly!” the Doctor replied. “We deserve a break after all, don’t we? All three of us!”
“Correction, Master,” K-9 interjected. “Both you and the mistress deserve relaxation. I only require to be switched off and be put on recharge.”
“Alright; alright, K-9,” the Doctor said irritably. “No need to be so nitpicky.”
“So you’ve been here many times before,” Leela surmised. “To this planet of holidays.”
“Not many times, Leela,” the Doctor corrected her. “I’ve been here a few times. I did try to take a friend of mine – Sarah Jane – to this neck of the universe once. Unfortunately, I got the coordinates mixed up.”
Leela scoffed, “That is hardly a surprise.”
“Affirmative,” K-9 agreed.
“Oh shut up, the pair of you,” the Doctor retorted.
Leela smiled before she went on, “Sarah Jane? She was travelling with you before me.”
“Indeed she was,” the Doctor replied. “Nice girl, she is. You’d like her. I need to find some time to catch up with her. Or at least send a present to her. A Christmas present perhaps. Perhaps I should send K-9 to her.” He deliberately said this to wind both K-9 and Leela up.
“Master?” K-9 enquired, quite surprised.
“Don’t send our dog away, Doctor,” Leela protested. “Especially since Professor Marius entrusted him into our care.”
“Thank you, Mistress,” K-9 piped up. “Appreciation noted.”
“He’s just a robot you know, Leela,” the Doctor insisted. “I can always make another model of him if he breaks into pieces.”
“Not K-9,” Leela smiled. “He’s more than a robot. He’s a good dog. Aren’t you, K-9?”
Leela knelt down and patted the metal dog. K-9 wagged his ears. “Affirmative,” he replied.
The Doctor grimaced a bit before Leela nudged him and pointed north.
“Look, Doctor!” she exclaimed. “Over there! There’s a light ahead. Very bright.”
In the distance, a dark castle loomed up ahead. It was gothic and brooding in every measure.
K-9 wagged his ears in acknowledgement. “Affirmative, Mistress. Source of light approximately three miles ahead in north direction.”
“Ah yes!” the Doctor cheered, grinning. “That’s our destination up ahead! The Moriston Hotel!”
“Moriston Hotel?” Leela enquired.
“Yes! Owned by…well, Mr. Moriston himself,” the Doctor replied.
“You know the man then,” Leela remarked.
“Absolutely and most stupendously not,” the Doctor said abjectly before he boldly strode forward. “Come on! Let’s make for the castle before they close up! A shame we can’t be there for the cabaret.”
Leela mused over the word whilst following the Doctor, who was storming off at a fast pace to the castle. Leela turned to K-9 who trundled on behind. She lent forward to talk to K-9 as they walked.
“K-9, you’re a clever dog, aren’t you?” she began. “You know so much about so many things that I don’t understand.”
“Affirmative, Mistress,” K-9 replied. “My databanks contain records of information on absolutely anything. Please state your query.”
Leela gradually said, “Well, what exactly is…cabaret?”
K-9 soon began his long, laborious explanation of carabet as he and Leela followed the Doctor to the castle hotel.
The Doctor, Leela and K-9 arrived inside the hotel, just in time before the rain started. They found themselves in a lobby, which was quite dark and uninviting. The lamps were faintly lit all around.
“Doctor, I sense danger here,” Leela said.
“Nonsense,” the Doctor replied. “Probably your imagination. It’s very late at night. There aren’t very many people about…”
“No,” Leela interrupted him. “I sense something wrong here. I can smell it. It reeks of death.”
K-9 wagged his ears. “I detect no hostile lifeforms within this vicinity, mistress.”
“There you are you see, Leela,” the Doctor said reassuringly. “Nothing to worry about. Let’s check in!”
With that, the Doctor approached the reception desk and rang the bell. No response at first. A moment of silence ensued.
“Hello?” the Doctor soon called out. “Anybody about?”
Leela approached the reception desk and stood by the Doctor.
“If this is a hotel to welcome people on holiday, why then Doctor does this place smell of darkness?” she asked. “Even the walls are dark as well as the rooms, despite the small light.”
“Maybe there’s a power cut and someone’s trying to put the lights back on,” the Doctor suggested. “Best not to enquire too much, Leela. It may be impolite!”
The Doctor grinned. At that moment, a willowy little man entered behind the reception desk. The Doctor’s grin became broader as he greeted the man.
“Hello there!” he began. “We’d like to book two of your finest rooms! One for myself and one for my friend Leela. The dog is with us too. I’m sure he won’t mind which room he sleeps in.”
The man looked at the Doctor, mildly astonished. He wore tweed clothes and his hair was a mess. He wore glasses. Leela guessed if he took them off, he would be useless without them.
“So, you’ve come at last, have you?” the man asked. “Come to sort our little problem, hey?”
“Little problem?” the Doctor enquired.
“Jolly good of you to come round,” the man said. “Having a beastly time of it. With everything being so dark and wretched.”
Leela whispered to the Doctor, “This man is not what he seems. Do not trust him, Doctor. I sense he has secrets.”
“Don’t try to be judgemental, Leela,” the Doctor told her. He turned back to the little man behind reception and said, “So, everything’s alright with the rooms then, Mr.…?”
“Moriston,” the man answered. “Ronald Moriston. I own the hotel here, you see?”
“Of course,” the Doctor said. “Delighted to meet you, Mr. Moriston. I take it service isn’t too good lately. What with waiters; waitresses…”
“Remember,” Moriston interrupted insistently. “Remember what I said to you, dear fellow. As I instructed via stellar mail.”
“Did you?” the Doctor asked, perplexed despite his curiosity. “Did you really? And what was it you instructed, Mr. Moriston?”
But Moriston didn’t answer. Instead he ‘sshed’ the Doctor and said, “Not another word. You’re better than me to keep everything hushed up. Aren’t you, dear fellow?”
“Oh of course,” the Doctor replied. “Nothing would please me better to hush things up. But for argument’s sake…”
Moriston still didn’t answer the Doctor’s questions as he kept on, “Please remember what I said. Remember the hoods covering up the faces of those…things. Their faces are not what they seem.”
“Hoods?” Leela said confused. “Covering faces? What faces are these, strange man?”
“Would you like a jelly baby by the way?” the Doctor asked. “You don’t look too good. You have a pale look. Have you not eaten much today?”
The Doctor offered his bag of jelly babies to Moriston as he took them out of his coat pocket. But despite opening the bag for him, Moriston didn’t take one jelly bag. He leaned in closer to the Doctor and whispered, “Remember! The Hunters are dangerous. They show no mercy.”
“Hunters?” the Doctor said surprised. “Did you say ‘Hunters’?”
“The Hunters of doom,” Moriston told him. “Doom I tell you! No good will come of it!”
“I was right,” Leela said. “There was danger here. I can sense it.”
“Negative, Mistress,” K-9 piped in. “No sign of danger detected anywhere within this vicinity.”
“Shut up, K-9,” the Doctor told the robot dog off. “We’re talking.”
The Doctor was about to continue his conversation with Moriston, but Moriston said quietly, “I can’t say anymore. Just remember what I said. The Hunters will be onto you soon.”
Moriston then adopted a more casual manner once two people entered. A man and a woman.
“Greetings, gentlemen,” Moriston said. “How may I help you?”
One man stepped forward to introduce himself and the woman. “My name is Mr. Borack. This is my colleague Miss Meesley.”
Miss Meesley stepped forward and curtsied.
“And what exactly is your business here, sir?” Moriston asked Mr. Borack.
“Exactly, sir,” Borack replied. “Business! But first, we’d like to check in.”
“Certainly sir,” Moriston replied. “Just sign the register please.”
Moriston gave Borack a pen, which was taken to sign the register. Moriston then handed over a set of keys to the Doctor rather hastily. The Doctor took the keys automatically before realising what was going on.
“There you are, sir,” Moriston said. “Your rooms are 24 and 25. On the second floor that is. I hope’ll you enjoy your stay here. You, your friend and your dog.”
“Thank you, Mr. Moriston,” said the Doctor bemused. “We will, yes.”
The Doctor walked off with Leela and K-9 following him as they headed for the stairs to take them to the second floor. They were fair distance away from the reception desk once going up the stairs.
“You looked troubled, Doctor,” Leela observed.
“Yes,” the Doctor replied. “I’ve absolutely no idea what that man was on about. Do you, Leela?”
“No, Doctor,” Leela replied.
“Oh,” the Doctor became crestfallen. “Do you, K-9?”
“Negative, Master,” K-9 answered.
“Oh,” the Doctor was even more crestfallen. “You know, Leela. I was right.”
“About what?” Leela asked.
“About this place. It reeks of death. I can smell it. I knew there was danger here.”
Leela rolled her eyes, annoyed at the Doctor’s absentmindedness. They were halfway up the stairs by now.
An hour or so later, Leela met up with the Doctor in his room. He had K-9 with him on his bed. Leela sat on the bed with K-9 whilst the Doctor sat in a comfortable armchair. Leela tucked her legs in as she sat on the bed.
“You know something Leela;” the Doctor began, “I think we may have underestimated ourselves. I think we were expected.”
“I do not believe that to be so, Doctor,” Leela answered.
“What’s that?” the Doctor enquired.
“For one thing,” Leela explained, “that man said he sent you information about what’s been happening here. And you did not receive any messages from him despite what he said.”
“Yes,” the Doctor pondered. “Obviously he assumed we were the ones helping him out with a spot of bother he’s been having.”
“And you said we were here to cast our troubles aside,” Leela reminded him.
“Yes,” the Doctor mused. “It seems our intent to spend a quiet little holiday has back-fired.”
“The question is, what do we do now?” Leela asked. “Do we stay here for our holiday or do we seek out to fight the evil here?”
“Hmm,” the Doctor murmured, distracted. He eventually turned to Leela and asked, “What do you think we should do?”
Leela thought for a moment. She then replied, “I know you not to ignore a mystery like this. So I say, we go out there and take battle with the Hunters ourselves.”
“Yes,” the Doctor grinned. “That’s what I thought you would say.”
“Caution, Master; Mistress,” K-9 warned them. “Likelihood of intercepting designation Hunters on irrational grounds is unwise.”
“Couldn’t have put it better myself, K-9,” the Doctor agreed. “Though it has often been said I am irrational anyway.”
“So who are these Hunters?” Leela wanted to know. “Do you know them, Doctor?”
“Not the foggiest, Leela,” the Doctor answered. “They could be anyone. Daleks; Cybermen; Wirrn; Krynoids; Sontarans. It could be a whole army of giant robots or Davros. I’ve nothing in my noggin to ascertain what and who these Hunters might be.”
“There are few records in my databanks to categorise lifeforms in Cassio sector under designation Hunters, Master,” K-9 informed him. “Probability that Hunters came from outside Cassio sector most likely.”
“Yes, they may have come from the Nerva beacon which is miles away from this system,” the Doctor mused. “Or from Vicaton V in the Glasmos Empire. One can never be sure.”
“They are ‘Hunters’, Doctor,” Leela reminded him again. “That is one thing we do know about them. I as a hunter know that they don’t reveal themselves too likely. They would hunt by night rather than day. They would not be so foolish to reveal themselves so openly.”
“Very good point, Leela,” the Doctor applauded her. “So therefore, we have to hunt for them in the dark before they hunt us.”
“Caution, Master,” K-9 warned again. “It is very unwise to hunt for Hunters in dark who are likely to strike back.”
“Yes, yes, alright, K-9,” the Doctor said irritably. “No need to state the obvious. We’re doing the best we can here, you know.”
At that moment, Leela looked out of the window in the Doctor’s room. She saw a faint glow in the distance. She couldn’t make out what it was at first. But then it suddenly struck her. She nearly had a sickening feeling before she composed herself very quickly. She alerted the Doctor, who was still babbling on.
“There’s something very odd about this hotel that I failed to mention…”
“Doctor!” Leela called urgently. The Doctor didn’t hear her.
“A certain change about everything. This place seems gothic. Even the staff and the guests are few in-between. It reminds me of one time when Alexander the Great and I…”
“Doctor, take a look outside!” Leela called again.
The Doctor came out of his reverie. He got up annoyed as he went to join Leela at the window. They both looked outside to see a red mist in the distance. It was rising up out of the dark forest. It filled the night sky, causing the clouds to illuminate with red.
“Well now,” the Doctor astonished. “A red mist.”
The Doctor sniffed the air as did Leela.
“Hmm. Traces of protein and glucose compounds,” the Doctor sniffed. “And plasma.”
“It’s the smell of blood,” Leela concluded. “The stench of death. Death has been spilled this night.”
“Yes,” the Doctor said regretfully. “Pity you didn’t mention that to me before, Leela.”
“I did,” Leela protested. “I did just now, I did.”
“Yes well, now we know that something’s amiss on this planet,” the Doctor stated. “What do you suggest we do, savage?”
Leela thought for a moment. “Explore?” she suggested.
“Explore where?” the Doctor asked.
“The forest?” Leela suggested again.
“The forest?!” The Doctor seemed outraged. “Are you insane? On a night like this?”
“It’s what you would do,” Leela argued.
“Nonsense,” the Doctor retorted. “How would you know what I would do?”
“Because you are a great man of great wisdom,” Leela answered. “And I know you too well.”
“Oh, really?” the Doctor enquired, surprised. “Am I really a great man of great wisdom?”
“Yes you are, Doctor,” Leela said happily.
The Doctor seemed touched by Leela’s words. “Oh well, in that case…a night’s stroll wouldn’t do us much harm.”
“Indeed not, Doctor,” Leela smirked.
“Though be on your guard, Leela,” the Doctor advised her. “We don’t want to get ourselves lost, do we? Or lose our heads. If you know what I mean.”
“I understand, Doctor,” Leela answered. “I will be with you to protect you.”
“Really? Will you really?” the Doctor asked.
“Yes Doctor,” Leela said.
“Oh well, thank you,” the Doctor said graciously. “Most kind of you, Leela. Though I suggest you reframe using your knife unless I say so. Alright?”
Leela was disappointed at this.
The Doctor then turned to K-9. “Fancy having walkies with us, K-9?”
K-9 nodded. “Affirmative, Master. My function is to assist you.”
“Good boy, K-9,” the Doctor said, delighted. “Well, let’s go and explore the forest, shall we?”
With the trio agreed, Leela and K-9 followed the Doctor out of the hotel to begin exploring.
Dawn was coming. The waves of the sea crashed onto the shores. The Doctor, Leela and K-9 approached the forest as they came to the first set of trees. The Doctor flung his scarf around his neck as they were about to enter.
“This doesn’t look too good, Leela,” he said.
“I believe you’re right, Doctor,” she said. “The smell of death is very strong here.”
“We must keep watch and be on the lookout,” the Doctor advised her.
“Caution, Master; Mistress,” K-9 warned them. “Caution.”
“What is it, K-9?” the Doctor asked.
“High levels of plasma detected on ground surface, Master,” K-9 replied.
Leela and the Doctor stepped deeper into the edge of the forest to see what K-9 meant. The forest was bathed in blood. The ground reeked of it. The Doctor looked on gloomily whilst Leela was fascinated.
“A battle must have happened here,” she said. “A long battle to the death at night.”
“It’s manslaughter, Leela,” the Doctor reprimanded her. “This isn’t from the remains of a battle. The Hunters must have slaughtered their victims whilst in the forest.”
“Then we shall avenge their deaths once we’ve found the Hunters,” Leela declared.
“It may not be that easy,” the Doctor told her. “The sun’s nearly coming up. We may not meet our highly rated pack of ‘hunters’ in the daytime.”
“We must follow the trail,” K-9 stated.
“Be quiet, K-9,” the Doctor retorted. “Now as I was saying, if we’re to find the Hunters, we must wait until night comes…”
“We must follow the trail,” K-9 repeated.
“Quiet, K-9,” the Doctor snapped. “Like I said, we’ll be here to give them a surprise before they slaughter anyone else…”
“We must follow the trail,” K-9 insisted. “We must follow the trail.”
“K-9, how many times do I have to say it?” the Doctor said bitterly.
“What trail, K-9?” Leela asked.
“Approximately 450 yards away,” K-9 replied. “In north eastern direction: 30 degrees.”
The Doctor and Leela looked to see the trail K-9 detected. They were astonished.
“Doctor, the trail!” Leela exclaimed. “It’s…”
“Yes,” the Doctor interrupted. “Most fascinating.”
“They are footprints,” Leela continued. “Drenched in blood.”
“Somebody’s been running in the forest lately,” the Doctor observed.
“It may be the trail of how the Hunters got in here,” Leela said.
“Perhaps,” the Doctor said, unconvinced. “Shall we follow the yellow brick road then?”
“The road is grey, Doctor,” Leela pointed out. “Not yellow.”
“Then let us follow it,” the Doctor insisted.
With that, the Doctor and Leela began to follow the trail. K-9 trundled on behind but the Doctor turned around to stop the metal dog in his tracks, placing his foot in front of him. K-9 stopped.
“Not you, K-9,” the Doctor insisted. “Stay here and keep guard. We’ll call for you should we need anything.”
K-9 dropped his head sullenly.
“Don’t sulk now, there’s a good dog,” the Doctor said. “You will do as I say, won’t you?”
K-9 was still sulky as he replied, “Affirmative.”
“And get off my foot please.”
K-9 trundled off the Doctor’s foot.
“Good boy,” the Doctor cheered. “Won’t be long. Come along, Leela.”
The Doctor began to head off into the forest whilst Leela turned back to K-9 with a sympathetic look. She kneeled and patted K-9’s head affectionately.
“See you later, K-9,” she said. “We’ll be back.”
“Come along, Leela,” the Doctor called impatiently from a distance. “Keep up!”
Hearing the Doctor call her, Leela got up as she waved goodbye to K-9. She took out her knife and went deeper into the forest to follow after the Doctor. K-9 whirled around solemnly. He began to keep watch grudgingly on guard like he’d been told to. Neither did he, the Doctor nor Leela realise that they were being watched by a dangerous, lurking presence.
Inside the forest, the Doctor and Leela took in their surroundings. They were horrified by what they saw. The ground was reeked in blood caused by the footsteps of whoever made the trail. The roots of the trees were withered and decaying as were their bark.
“These Hunters must have some bloodthirsty desire to cause such deaths,” Leela said. “It is not an honourable way to live.”
“So you think being ‘savage’ is honourable?” the Doctor questioned.
“I am not ashamed for being savage,” Leela replied.
They continued to walk on in silence for a bit.
“This path we’re following must have some significance,” the Doctor insisted. “It can’t just be that it’s drenched in blood.”
“Perhaps its leads to a secret hideout, Doctor,” Leela suggested. “Where the Hunters are about to lash out and attack us as prey.”
The Doctor eventually stopped which caused Leela to nearly crash into him. He was silent for moment. Leela didn’t disturb his concentration.
“Do you hear that?” he asked her.
“Hear what?” she asked him.
“What is it?”
Leela became silent. They both listened to hear a sound. The sound eventually turned out to be someone crying. A child perhaps. They listened for quite some time.
“Hear that?” the Doctor then asked.
“It’s a sound of distress,” Leela remarked. “A boy crying.”
“Or a girl perhaps,” the Doctor pointed out.
“No,” Leela was certain. “It is a boy. It sounds like he is lost without his mother.”
“Hmm,” the Doctor replied, nodding. “Let’s see if we can find him, shall we?”
The Doctor led the way. Leela followed.
They eventually came to a part of the forest where they found a little boy. He was eight years old, very small and rather thin. He had gold brown hair and wore a woolly pullover; dark trousers and brown shoes. The Doctor stepped forward to greet him, putting on his big grin.
“Hello there! Are you lost? Cos we are.”
The little boy saw them and got up, terrified. Leela rushed to the boy to stop him getting away. She placed a reassuring hand on his shoulder.
“It’s alright,” she said. “We’re not here to hurt you.”
“That’s right,” the Doctor agreed. “We’re friends. We mean you no harm.”
The boy stared at the Doctor and Leela, unconvinced. He had a sad droopy look. Seeing the boy distrusting them, the Doctor took out from his coat pocket a bag full of jelly babies. He opened up the bag, lending it out to the boy.
“Would you like a jelly baby, hmm?” he asked. “You can have any colour you want.”
The boy shook his head, frightened. But Leela reassured him. “It’s alright. They’re not poisoned. Look.”
Leela took out a green jelly baby from the bag the Doctor held. She showed it to the boy, before popping it into her mouth and eating it.
“See!” the Doctor cheered. “It’s quite safe. Go on! You know you want one!”
The boy still wasn’t quite sure what to make of the two strangers he met. Eventually however, he reached out for the bag and took a jelly baby from it. It was orange. Orange was his favourite colour. He popped it into his mouth and ate it. He beamed, satisfied. The Doctor approved.
“There you are, you see,” he chuckled. “I told you’d like them. Here, go on! Have the bag! Keep them!”
The Doctor handed the bag over to the boy for him to keep. The boy was puzzled at this.
“It’s alright,” the Doctor reassured him, grinning. “I got plenty more where they came from.”
“Who are you?” the boy asked, still scared. “What are you doing here?”
“Us?” the Doctor replied. “Ah well, we’re just visitors. Arrived recently, you see. I’m the Doctor. And this is my friend Leela.”
“I’m a warrior of the Sevateem,” Leela told the boy. “And I will protect you. We will protect you from whatever scares you in this forest.”
“Quite, quite,” the Doctor concurred. “Now, what’s your name? Hey?”
The boy was silent for a moment. Eventually he said, “Richard. My name’s Richard, sir.”
“Good to meet you, Richard,” the Doctor said cheerfully. “And please call me Doctor, not sir.”
“Tell us, Richard,” Leela wanted to know. “Why were you crying? What has upset you?”
Richard was still afraid to tell these two people anything. Yet, they had been nice to them so far. So why shouldn’t he tell them.
“My dad,” he replied. “I was looking for my dad. You haven’t seen him, have you?”
“Your dad?” the Doctor enquired. “No, I should say we haven’t. Was he in this forest then?”
“He said he was going to the beach,” Richard explained. “To collect some…specimens. My dad…he’s a…arkist. Something to do with looking at rocks.”
“You mean…arkioligist?” Leela checked.
“Archaeologist, Leela,” the Doctor corrected her.
“Yes,” Richard said. “That’s it!”
“Ah well then,” the Doctor said cheerfully. “I should very much like to meet your father, Richard. He and I would share the same ground. But why search him in the forest if he was out on the beach?”
“I was afraid he might come in here,” Richard told them.
“Come in here?” Leela queried. “A nasty forest like this?”
“It’s a trap,” Richard said. “The animal trap!”
“Animal trap?” the Doctor asked.
“It was set up by the Hunters,” Richard explained.
“So you know all about the Hunters then, Richard,” Leela realised.
“Yes,” Richard answered. “Dad told me about them. He said they were horrible. They always hunt in the forests at night but not anywhere else.”
“Then why would he come in here?” Leela asked. “If he’s not foolish to come into this forest, why do it?”
“Because something lured him in here,” the Doctor realised. “That’s what a trap is for! The animal trap to lure Richard’s father into the forest. Where the Hunters are most likely to hunt him down and kill him.”
“It would have to be a clever lure,” Leela remarked. “Something that would weaken Richard’s father will to come in here without hesitation.”
“Yes,” the Doctor agreed. He then turned to Richard. “Tell us, Richard. What makes you think your father would come into the forest? How and what would bring him in here?”
“It rains!” Richard said.
“What?” the Doctor asked, puzzled.
“It rains when the Hunters want to lure people in,” Richard explained. “It rains on people and it makes them come into the forest.”
“Ah,” Leela realised, “because the rain is frightful and it makes people want to get under shelter, doesn’t it?”
“What better place to place a trap within a forest,” the Doctor remarked.
“And it makes people sleep,” Richard continued.
“What did you say?” the Doctor asked, perturbed.
“The rain…makes people go to sleep,” Richard repeated, confused. “Once people are asleep…the Hunters have you. And they kill you without a second thought.”
It gradually dawned on Leela that this shocked the Doctor greatly. Not because of the killings by the Hunters, but because of the rain’s power to make people go to sleep. At the time, she couldn’t understand why the Doctor was so worried.
Whilst the Doctor and Leela were talking to Richard, they didn’t realise they were being watched on a monitor screen. In an underground lair, a crippled, wretched man watched what was happening in the forest. He groaned in pain and anger as he recognised who was on screen.
“So! You have returned at last! After all this time! Now…we shall complete the circuit! The power shall be mine again!”
Sharic Par, the leader of the Hunters, pressed a knobs and switches on his table-top of controls close to the monitor screen. The image slowly changed as it presented two figures attempting to make contact at the same time he did. They saw Sharic Par and beamed delightedly.
“Borack,” Meesley said. “I think we’ve got him!”
“Ah!” Borack began cheerfully. “Hello, Mr. Par! I’m glad we got through to you! We only just arrived. We’ve settled into our rooms and…”
“Cease your prattling, you two,” Par said bitterly, “and listen to me! I have special instructions for you! A very important task!”
“Hear that, Borack,” Meesley said. “We’ve got a very important task to do!”
“Yes Meesley,” Borack replied testily. “I heard him clearly.” Turning back to Par, Borack asked, “What is it you wish us to do, sir?”
“Head for the northern mountain,” Par told them. “Once there, set up the beacon inside like I told you to. Have it transmit on a radius at 150 radar parsecs. Once you’ve done that, the call shall be heard. The power shall be activated at full range. Triumph is assured!”
“Oh very good to hear, sir,” Borack politely said. “Mind you, I still don’t see what this has to do with…”
“Did I pay you to ask questions?!” Par interrupted angrily. “Did I order you not to ask questions to avoid having your heads cut off!”
Borack corrected himself nervously, “Err…yes, yes. You did, sir. No asking questions. That was the agreement. Yes, sir.”
“Well then,” Par went on, “Go and do your job then! You and Miss Meesley! Understand?!”
“Yes sir,” Borack answered nervously. “Right away, sir.” Borack turned to Meesley. “Switch off, Meesley!”
“You switch it off!” Meesly protested.
“No, you switch it off!” Borack fought back.
“I’m not switching it off!”
“Yes, you will!”
“Oh no I won’t!”
“Yes, you will!!!”
Tired of their prattling, Par pressed a button and switched off the monitor screen. He gasped in pain as he was unable to compose himself, body and all.
At that moment, two dark robed figures entered. They stood before Par and bowed to him. Out came harsh, rasping voices that would unnerve anyone.
“You summoned us, master,” said the first hunter.
“What do you wish your servants to do for you?” asked the second one.
Par regained his composure as he addressed the two dark figures.
“Hunters! I am sending you on an errand. Set up the animal trap! There are intruders in the forest!”
The Hunters listened as Sharic Par gave his orders to them.
Leela kept watch for any signs of danger. She knew it would have to come soon. She turned to the Doctor.
“Doctor, I think we should take the boy back to the hotel before we continue our hunt for the Hunters,” she said concerned.
“Nonsense,” the Doctor retorted. “Richard wants to have some adventure. We shouldn’t deny that to him. Isn’t that right, Richard my boy?”
“I want to find my father,” Richard said. “If he’s in this forest and the Hunters have got him, then I want to find him.”
“That’s the spirit,” the Doctor said approvingly.
“I do not think the boy will be brave enough to face the dangers that lie ahead,” Leela argued.
“Oh really Leela,” the Doctor said admonishingly. “How sceptical you are.”
Just then, dark clouds appeared above their heads. They rumbled and cracked before it started to rain. Rain poured down on the Doctor, Leela and Richard’s heads. It drenched the entire forest furiously.
“Doctor!” Leela cried. “The rain! Rain falls in the forest!”
“Yes,” the Doctor said. “And we’re going to get soaked if we don’t get undercover.” Then it suddenly occured to him. “Rain! It rains in the forest! And that means…”
“The animal trap!” Leela finished. “This is what happens when luring those into the animal trap!”
“The Hunters are coming!” Richard exclaimed. “The Hunters are on their way!”
At that moment, K-9 trundled in. The dog seemed alert and uptight.
“Master; Mistress! Alert; alert! Danger; danger!”
The boy got up to his feet in alarm. “What’s that?”
“It’s alright, Richard,” Leela reassured him. “He’s not evil. He’s our dog, K-9. You’ll like him.”
“K-9, I told you to keep guard,” the Doctor said abruptly. “Why didn’t you…?”
“Alert, Master!” K-9 interrupted. “Alert, alert! Danger imminent! Immediate priority!”
“Something’s obviously upset him,” the Doctor said to Leela.
“He said there was danger,” Leela said. “It would be better if we listened to him. K-9 knows so much.”
“Nonsense,” the Doctor retorted. “In this neck of the woods, what could possibly go wrong?!”
At that moment, a shot rang out. The Doctor, Leela and Richard ducked down with K-9. More shots rang out. They looked up to see who their attackers were. Leela saw them first.
“Figures,” she cried. “Dark robed figures! They carry guns! Rifles! Larger than any other weapon I’ve seen or laid hands on!”
“They’re very sophisticated and advanced as well, Leela,” the Doctor commented.
The figures dressed in dark robes wore large hood over their heads. Concealed underneath the hoods were faceless men. They were like wraiths in human form. Whirring mechanics echoed from inside the figures as if they were robots.
“It’s them!” Richard cried. “It’s the Hunters!”
“Are you sure, Richard?” the Doctor asked.
“They always dress like that,” Richard insisted. “We never see their faces!”
“Then I shall slay them now,” Leela said, determined. “With honour and pleasure!”
Leela began to get up as she drew her knife from her sheath. But the Doctor stopped Leela, pulling her down to the ground.
“If it’s all the same to you Leela,” the Doctor told her, “I think we’ll take your earlier suggestion and head off out of the forest.”
“I am not afraid,” Leela replied. “I am a huntress! And these are the Hunters!” She then cried out, “Die, you black clothed fiends! DIE!!!!”
“Leela, no!” the Doctor called to her.
But it was too late. Leela got up again and was already onto them. She fought one of the dark robed figures with her knife, fighting with ferocity. But the Hunters were far too strong for her. One got behind Leela and grabbed her arms. She struggled in the Hunter’s grasp, knocking her elbow into him…or her…or it….but to no effect.
“Let me go, you cowards!” she demanded. “Let me go!”
Leela bit her sharp teeth into the Hunter’s arm. The Hunter seemed to wince once being bitten into. But it was no good. The Hunter wouldn’t let go. The rain didn’t help much either. Leela struggled to focus as she was unable to keep on fighting. She started to slump. She heard the Doctor call out to her, “Leela! Leela!”
But it was no use. All she did was give a weak reply, “Doctor! I have failed. I feel…so…sleepy.”
The Doctor saw what was happening nearby as he called out, “K-9! Rescue Leela! Give those Hunters everything you’ve got!”
“Affirmative Master,” K-9 replied.
With that, K-9 protruded his nose gun and fired profusely at the Hunters. A few Hunters fell once they’d been hit by K-9’s laser fire. K-9 continued firing whilst the Doctor turned to Richard, nudging him.
“Richard,” he said encouragingly. “We’ve got to get you out of here! Make for the path back the way we came! And don’t fall asleep!”
“But Doctor,” Richard protested. “What about your friends…?”
“Don’t argue with me,” the Doctor bellowed. “Just run! Now! Come on!”
Without questioning, Richard ran off back on the path the way they came. The Doctor followed, almost tripping up on his scarf.
K-9 meanwhile managed to keep some of the Hunters at bay, but it was to little avail. The metal dog’s power cells were weakening as the Hunters became too strong for him and were adapting quickly to his firepower. Whether it was down to the rain or his loss of power, it was hard to tell.
“Power levels…depleted,” K-9 stated, drained. “Apologies…Master…Mistress. Cannot…hold. Cannot…hold….”
Eventually, K-9’s head drooped before he was deactivated. The metal dog was soon taken by the Hunters as was Leela. Leela struggled against the Hunters long enough before she’d fallen asleep with the rain pouring down. The Hunters’ leader turned to his subordinate.
“Take them away,” it said. “His lordship is expecting them.”
Leela and K-9 were soon taken underground by the Hunters. The animal trap had done its work.
At the edge of the forest, the Doctor and Richard got out alive. They stood before the sandy beach. Richard looked back, seeing no sign of Leela and K-9 behind them.
“Doctor, what about your friend Leela? And that dog of yours…”
“They’ve already been caught, Richard,” the Doctor told him. “There’s nothing we can do for them now.”
“But the Hunters,” Richard went on. “They’ll slaughter them! Just like how they would’ve killed my dad! We can’t just leave them…”
“Listen to me, Richard!” the Doctor interrupted him. “Listen to me! Leela and K-9 are both capable of looking after themselves! And I’m pretty sure those Hunters won’t kill them instantly!”
“How can you be so sure?” Richard asked.
“You said the Hunters slaughter people at night.”
“Yes,” Richard said bemused. “Yes, I did. But…”
“Well, it isn’t night now,” the Doctor pointed out. “It’s almost morning. Why would the Hunters abduct Leela and K-9 without killing them? No, I believe someone wants them alive. For my sake.”
“Okay,” Richard said, still bemused. “What are we going to do then?”
“Do?” the Doctor thought for a moment. “We do what I always do in a situation like this.”
“What’s that?” the boy asked.
“We form a plan! On how to rescue them of course,” the Doctor replied. “Come on! Let’s head back to the Moriston hotel! We’ll have breakfast while we’re conducting a plan.”
“And what about the Hunters?” Richard enquired nervously. “What happens if they come after us?”
“Let them try!” the Doctor said boldly. “If they’re good hunters as people say they are, we should give them a sporting chance. But now, I’m hungry and I’m sure you are too. Especially after a night like we just had. So come on!”
The Doctor walked off on the beach, heading back to the hotel. He rolled up his scarf around his neck whilst Richard nervously followed. The sky was getting brighter that morning. The waves continued to crash onto the shore.
© Tim Bradley, 2020
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