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By Jamas Enright

Doctor Elisabeth Shaw looked up in time to see the woman enter her office. The woman was on the short side, with shoulder length black hair, and wore an air of determination.

‘Hello, I'm Sarah Jane Smith,’ the woman stuck out her hand. ‘I phoned earlier about doing an article on your research.’

‘Yes. I remember. Please take a seat, Miss Smith,’ Liz shook Sarah Jane's hand, indicated a nearby chair and sighed quietly to herself. She didn't really have time for this interview, but the funds for her project were running low and she wanted to get some public interest for her work.

As she sat, Sarah Jane got a portable tape-recorder out of her handbag and placed it on the desk between them. Activating it, she said ‘Perhaps you could give me some background information on your project before we actually begin.’

‘Certainly.’ Pausing for a moment to organise her thoughts, Liz started to speak. ‘Meteors have been failing on the Earth for millions of years. Although most of them burn up in the atmosphere a surprising number of small meteors have landed fully intact. I surmised that there must be some property of the meteor, some element, that enables it to either absorb the heat or to deflect it. This project was set up to investigate such meteors and to find, and then duplicate, the property or element to help our own rocket craft when they enter our own and, hopefully, other planets' atmospheres. So far I have narrowed it down to a small number of possibilities.’

‘It certainly sounds interesting,’ Sarah Jane said agreeably. ‘But, if you will forgive my asking, what are your qualifications for working on this project?’

‘Well I have a degree in physics, and am considered to be an expert in meteorology.’

‘Yes, funny that. Meteors,’ Sarah Jane seemed to be speaking to herself, but Liz could see Sarah Jane kept one eye on her. ‘Reminds me of a while ago when we had those two meteorite landings. Six months apart, but in the same area. In fact, that was when you were absent from the project, wasn't it?’

‘What are you trying to say?’ Liz asked coldly.

‘At the same time a group known as UNIT became publicly noticed. In fact you were seen in the presence of UNIT in Essex where the meteorites landed. You were involved in the Mars Probe Seven landing, and at the Inferno project.’

‘You seem to be very well informed about my private life.’

‘Tell me about UNIT. It's known that they were involved in public affairs, such as the Peace Conference, and its follow up organised by Sir Reginald Styles, but not much is known about the organisation itself. Who runs it? What are they really for? And who is that elderly man who was also seen with you, and with UNIT at these locations?’

‘I'm afraid that I am unable to discuss any relationship with UNIT under the Official Secrets Act, but if you manage to find out anything about Doctor John Smith I shall certainly applaud your efforts.’

‘Doctor John Smith? What kind of name is that?’

Liz held up her hands. ‘I have probably said too much already. Now, shall we continue with my project or have I already foiled your main aim?’

Sarah Jane smiled in spite herself. ‘I only found out about your connection with UNIT after ringing you. I really did come down for the rocket shield story.’

Liz found herself starting to grin. She wasn't the only one trying to get money. She knew that the UNIT story would be big, especially with the Doctor involved. ‘Of course. Now, to continue, I have decided that it is either...’

After sending in the story Using Meteors for Rockets, Sarah Jane arrived home to find a message on her answering machine from one of her sources. It was a tip about a top secret research centre. There were disappearances and UNIT had been called in.

Sarah Jane thought to herself. A research centre. Need some kind of cover. Wasn't Aunt Lavinia in America right now... Yes, that would do quite nicely.

This item appeared in TSV 37 (January 1994).

Index nodes: Fiction