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A Prelude to Terror

By Leigh Hendry

Earth-time 1517


‘Shields penetrated, Commander. The dynacron thrust generator is damaged. Unable to hold present course.’

‘Prepare for entry to orbit of nearest planet. We will have to land. Engineer, report.’

‘Dynacron thrust generator should hold until we land, Commander.’

‘Commander, computer reports that planet has large areas of water, interspersed with land masses. Atmosphere is breathable, gravity is heavier than Zygos. We should be able to repair the ship on this planet.’

‘Excellent - prepare for descent. Communications, contact Zygos.’

‘Negative, Commander. External communications impossible - diastellic componentry in sub-space communicator damaged.’

‘So be it. Reduce dynacron thrust and initiate descent trajectory.’

‘Course plotted and engaged. Holding.’

‘Commander, on our present course, we will touch down in a large water area, just inland from an area of sea.’

‘It is well. If the planet is inhabited, we must remain hidden until our power is regained.’

Earth-time 1975

August 15

‘Commander, internal security reports show an intruder, identified as the Duke of Forgill, approaching the ship.’

The Warlord turned to his subordinate. ‘Explain.’

‘He is approaching through the airlock tube connecting our ship to the Castle, Commander. He must have discovered our tunnel entrance.’

‘He must not escape. Madra, take a team to capture him. Place him in a holding cell.’

Three figures left the control room.

The Commander paced about the control room, speaking quietly to himself.

‘For hundreds of these Earth years, we have lain undiscovered here while our ship was repaired and we regained our strength. But now things have begun to move quickly. These humans who have built these rigs in the Sea, and who have placed their puny buildings in the path of the Skarasen, have endangered our secrecy greatly. And now this lordling has dared to enter our tunnel. We must begin to move if our plan is to succeed.’

He moved to a control on one of the panels in the room. Manipulating one of the gnarled knobs on the panel, he called up information on a screen. Scanning quickly, he came to the screen that held the information he wanted. It read:

SUBJECT: 10th Duke of Forgill. Strongly against arrival of Oil Company. Chief of MacRanald clan. President of Scottish Energy Commission.

It was one of many entries of information collected over the years by the Zygons.

When the Zygonian craft had first crashed, the plan had been for the craft to be repaired, and for their journey to be resumed. But, after the sub-space communicator had been repaired, and the news had arrived that the Zygons' world had been destroyed in a stellar explosion, the Warlord Broton's plan had changed - to one of conquering the planet called Earth, and reshaping it to suit his people and to give them a new home.

With the arrival of the oil company, and the increasing risk of discovery, Broton realized that the plan had to be effected soon. And now, the human Duke had stumbled into their base. Broton knew that he must find a way to use this to the Zygon's advantage. And as a start, he thought, the Duke could be used for the taking of body prints, enabling the Zygons to infiltrate the primitives and discover more.

October 3

The Caber shook his head, and continued sadly down the path to the moors. He was too loyal a servant to speak against the Duke, but he had to admit, if only to himself, that the Duke seemed... well, strange.

The Caber knew that the Duke had been against this American oil company ever coming near Tulloch. He had been furious when he felt that the Castle's foundations were being damaged by the underwater detonation carried out by the oil company in their constructions. ‘Great fools’ he'd muttered as he sat in the Great Hall. The Caber had said nothing, and the Duke had continued, as if to himself, ‘Don't they know of the damage they could be causing? No, of course they don't! And he'd leapt out of his chair and gone looking through the old manuscripts kept over the centuries by the monks, to clarify the layout of the ancient crypts before he investigated.

And ever since, he'd not been himself. He seemed more distant. Ah well, the Caber thought, I'll warrant he knows what he's doing.

A glimpse of movement out of the corner of his eye caught his attention. His musing wanderings had brought him right down on to Tulloch Moor, near the edge of the Duke's land. He had come here with some vague intention of keeping a lookout for poachers, but the movement that he had glimpsed did not appear to be a poacher. There it was again. And as the Caber turned to confront the trespasser, his mind screamed, ‘Impossible!’ just before the stinging blast from the Zygon catapulted him into unconsciousness.

November 17

Sister Lamont folded back the crisp, white sheets on the hospital bed, and bent down to tuck them in, with perfect hospital corners.

Satisfied, she gave the pillow one last plump, and left the room. Pausing only to get her coat, she left the Oil Company's hospital and walked briskly through the village and out to the wooded areas she had grown so fond of. Taking her sandwich out of her coat pocket, and munching as she went, she grew contemplative, enjoying the glimmers of sunshine through the trees, and the sounds of many birds. And then the birds stopped. Involuntarily, she stopped walking, momentarily startled. Silly, she told herself sternly, probably just some animal has alarmed them. And grinning to herself, hoping no-one had seen her momentary panic, she continued her stroll. And that was why she never saw the Zygon that stepped out from the tree behind her, breathing heavily in the far from ideal atmosphere. And the Zygon reached out and grabbed her, and jolted her into unconsciousness with a vicious sting.

December 17

The American Oil Company rigs started operating.

‘Most satisfactory,’ murmured Broton.

This item appeared in TSV 35 (September 1993).

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