Sarah Jane finished her phone call before she went to look at what had alarmed her young friends. She looked at the creature slumped on the floor dispassionately. It was not the first time she had seen an alien, and far from the first time she had seen a dead one.
She wasn’t sure what species it was. Not humanoid, anyway. It was more like a sort of lizard. It had scaly skin and a long, thin body, lidless eyes and slit-like nostrils and a mouth with a lot of teeth. The blood all over the kitchen floor came from the wound in the creature’s chest, caused by a knife sharpening steel thrust into it with some considerable force. Mr Lumsden had fought back.
It was an intelligent life, not just a ‘creature’. Sarah Jane realised that much. It had intelligence enough to kill the Citylink driver and take over his body in order to get into the property, and cunning enough to work out the one way to get into the otherwise fortress of a house. The reptilian body, of course, could bend much more than most vertebrates Sarah Jane knew about, and squirm its way through the parcel receptacle.
“He always knew they would find a way,” she said. “And now they have.”
“Who have? And WHY? Luke asked. Two obvious questions.
“And how come you know all about it?” Clyde added. “Nobody in the neighbourhood knows anything about Loony Lumsden. How come you’re in on it?”
“Stop calling him Loony,” Sarah Jane responded. “He is not.” She sent Maria to find a blanket and put it around Mr Lumsden to keep him warm until help arrived. There wasn’t much else to do except keep checking his pulse and make sure he didn’t get any worse.
The help only took a few minutes to arrive, anyway. Sarah Jane sent Maria to open the door as another car parked up behind her Figaro on what was becoming a very busy driveway for the home of a recluse. Later, she thought, they would have to do something with the Citylink van. But Mr Lumsden came first.
“Clyde, go upstairs and open the landing window.” He gave him her sonic lipstick as Maria headed for the front door. Clyde looked excited about the prospect of being trusted with it. “Use it to open the shutters on the window. And then use this.” She reached again into her handbag and gave him a dog whistle. “It’s for calling K9. I think we might need him. It’s a special frequency just for him.”
“Good,” Clyde remarked. “We don’t want every other dog in town heading our way.” He went to do as she asked while Maria returned with the new visitor.
“Where’s the patient?” Martha Jones asked as she rushed into the kitchen, lugging a medical bag with her. “You know, I don’t DO house calls usually.”
“I know, but this is different,” Sarah Jane answered. “Mr Lumsden won’t go to a hospital. So the hospital has to come to him, like everything else. I haven’t tried to move him, but I kept him warm. I think he has concussion.”
Martha examined Mr Lumsden quickly and carefully.
“Yes, there’s concussion. He took a bang on the head from something. Broken ankle, bruised ribs. None of them broken. But he took some heavy punches. Somebody had a real go at him. No spinal damage, even though he landed on his back. He’s ok to move. I’ll put a splint on the ankle and then let’s get him into his own bed.”
Martha set to work quickly then she Sarah Jane and Luke helped to carry Mr Lumsden to his bedroom. It was a strangely decorated room that fuelled Clyde’s ‘Loony’ impression. The walls and ceiling weren’t wallpaper, but silver backed mirrors.
“Ok,” Martha commented. “That’s…”
“It’s to stop the aliens reading his mind telepathically while he slept,” Sarah Jane explained. “He felt that his will was weakest when he was asleep and took extra precautions. All of the external walls of the house are lined with sheets of metal, and the ceiling.”
“Does that WORK?” Martha asked. “I mean, I’ve done a fair bit of transmatting in my time. I didn’t think there was anything much that stopped one of those. Even the TARDIS…”
“The TARDIS?” Maria, Luke and Clyde all chorused.
“You know The Doctor, too?” Maria asked the question they all wanted to ask. “You travelled with him?”
“Yes,” Martha answered and a look passed between her and Sarah Jane. A look of people who shared the same experiences and knew there were some stories they could never share with any but each other.
“Cool!” Clyde said.
“What about Mr Lumsden? Does he know The Doctor?”
“No,” Sarah Jane answered. “I wish he did. He might not be so frightened of aliens then. If he met a GOOD alien.”
“But WHY is he frightened of them? And why ARE they after him?” Luke asked.
Sarah Jane sighed and looked at the old man in the bed. He wasn’t likely to wake up for a little while. It felt WRONG talking about him behind his back, but there was nothing else to do for the moment.
“It all started fifteen years ago,” she said. “Mr Lumsden was an ordinary… well no, not an ORDINARY businessman. He was a very clever businessman and his company was absolutely flourishing. A.L.C. Ltd. His company make light weight circuits for medical equipment. Body scanners, ECG machines, that sort of thing.”
Martha looked at the old man and her lips moved over the words “A.L.C.”
“Arnold Lumsden Components,” Sarah Jane supplied.
“A.L.C. is on nearly every piece of equipment I USE,” Martha exclaimed. “Look, it’s even on my stethoscope. It has tiny, microscopic components in the ear piece that enhance the sound.”
“So that’s why he’s so rich?” Maria concluded. “Ok… but why… all of this?”
“Fifteen years ago, he was driving home from a business meeting out at a country hotel. He and his wife. It was a quiet, country road and he hadn’t passed another car for miles. Then there was an accident. A completely freak accident. Not with another car. A space ship crash-landed, hitting his car and driving it into the field along with it.
Mr Lumsden woke up in a strange place. It looked a bit like a hospital, but it wasn’t. Because instead of doctors and nurses there were aliens. And the aliens were sicker than he was. They were dying in our atmosphere. They told him that he had to do something for them. He was scared, and he wanted to find his wife. He didn’t know that she had died in the crash. But anyway, the dying aliens put something into his head. I don’t mean like, probes or microchips or anything of that nature. I mean they sort of sectioned off a part of his brain and put a secret in it. Even he doesn’t know what it is. But it was vitally important to the aliens. They had to give him the secret because they had an enemy who would use it to cause untold harm. That’s what he remembers. Anyway, they repaired his injuries and he was able to walk away from the crash site. He knew by then that his wife WAS dead, and he was terribly upset but he walked as fast as he could because the aliens had set their ship to self-destruct. There was a huge explosion that destroyed the ship and the car, everything. He was found by the emergency services when they rushed to the scene. They took him to hospital. But that night there was an attack on the hospital. Two nurses and a doctor were killed but Mr. Lumsden managed to save himself by hiding in the x-ray department. The machinery there, and the low level radiation hid him from them….”
“Wow!” Martha exclaimed. “Wait a minute. That was the hospital I work in. There are rumours about it in the staff room. People say there were these creatures that wore Human skins and sort of SHED them like snakes shed their skins and went on the rampage. Most people reckon it was a joke and the official record says there was a fire that killed the three staff members. But I’ve seen weirder things than that. And I KNOW people in Torchwood. Faking a fire, wiping the witnesses memories, all in a day’s work to them!”
“Mr Lumsden went to U.N.I.T.,” Sarah Jane said. “He told them. They believed him because they had investigated the unusual wreckage from the ‘car crash’ and knew something was wrong. But they couldn’t do much more to help. He got mad at them because they had so little practical help to offer. He told them he was going to protect himself. And when they saw HOW he protected himself, by cutting himself off from the world, hidden behind all those protective shields, living his life by remote, running his business by video conferencing, they asked me to keep an eye on him, be his unofficial outside link.”
“This seems a desperate way to live,” Martha said. “For FIFTEEN YEARS! He hasn’t left this house in all that time?”
“I’m surprised he hasn’t gone mad,” Maria commented.
“What, you think this was a SANE idea?” Clyde answered her. “Fifteen YEARS without even opening a window?”
“But he WAS right,” Luke pointed out. “There’s a dead alien in the kitchen that sounds just like the ones Martha described. And a Human skin in the porch.”
“Yes,” Sarah said. “It looks as if they’ve caught up with him. “I don’t know how they found out. But they’re here.”
“We should call U.N.I.T.,” Martha said. “Or Torchwood. No, they’re too far away. London Torchwood is gone now. There’s only the Cardiff ones left. And they couldn’t get here in time.”
“Yes,” Sarah Jane agreed. “We should. But…” She was reaching for her phone when she saw Mr Lumsden stir. She waved to the youngsters to stay back as the old man put his hand to his head and groaned.
“You’re all right, Mr Lumsden,” Sarah Jane told him gently. “We found you. You’re going to be just fine.”
“Who is that?” he answered becoming agitated. “Get away. Get away from me. It’s dangerous to be near me. Especially now. They’ve found me. It’s tonight…”
“It’s me, Sarah Jane Smith,” she told him. “I came when I knew you were in trouble. This is Martha. She’s a doctor, and she’s a friend, too. I promise you.”
Mr Lumsden opened his eyes fully and looked at Martha. He grasped her hand.
“You look like my wife,” he told her. “She died.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” Martha answered. “But YOU’RE alive now, and that’s the important thing.”
“They’re coming tonight.” He struggled to sit up and saw Clyde, Maria and Luke in the room, too. “Send those children away. They’re in danger, too.”
“It’s all right, Mr Lumsden,” Sarah Jane assured him. “They’re with me. And they know about fighting aliens. We’re all here to help you. I’m going to call U.N.I.T. They’ll help.”
“No,” he answered. “No, they betrayed me. That’s how those creatures knew where to find me. U.N.I.T. betrayed me.”
“I’m sure that’s NOT true, Mr Lumsden,” Sarah Jane told her. “U.N.I.T. are good people. But…”
As she spoke, the lights suddenly went off. At the same time Sarah Jane’s phone in her hand gave a bleep and showed ‘out of transmitter range’. Maria looked at her phone and it said the same. Martha’s, too. She grabbed the landline by Mr Lumsden’s bed. She wasn’t at all surprised to find it was dead.
“They’ve cut power and phone lines and jammed mobile signals.” Maria summed up the situation.
“We’re on our own.” Martha noted.
There was a sound of glass smashing on the landing.
“Clyde?” Sarah Jane whispered loudly. “Did you reseal the shutters when you signalled to K9?”
Even in the dark they could feel Clyde’s embarrassment.
To Be Continued...