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The Long Way Down, part 3a

Continued from Part Two

Title: The Long Way Down, Part 3/5
Author: llywela13
Show: Classic Doctor Who
Characters: Fourth Doctor, Sarah Jane Smith, Harry Sullivan
Rating: PG

Part Three

It was chaos, absolute chaos.

With shots still flying all around, Harry leapt forward to help Ren haul Dilly into the shuttle, while Brunnal took Ren's gun from her hand to lay down covering fire. Crouching to examine Dilly's injures, Ren at his side, Harry was only dimly aware that Brunnal had leapt aboard behind them and sealed the door until the newcomer spoke.

"What's the damage? Is it bad?" His voice was gruff and concerned – and then confused as he added, "Wait, what? Who's this? What are you?"

"An ally," said Ren, without looking up.

"A what? Where'd you find it?"

Harry ignored them both, too busy attempting to staunch the blood flow from Dilly's wound with whatever material came to hand and to remember whatever little he'd ever known of crustacean biology – for whatever good that might do, since this wasn't an actual lobster but an alien being he'd never seen the like of before today. He wondered frantically whereabouts the vital organs were kept, tried to locate an artery to check the pulse, and then reminded himself that he had no way of knowing what the standard pulse rate for such a creature actually was to compare it with.

He was a doctor, not a xeno-biologist.

"Where's the healing unit?" Brunnal demanded somewhere behind him, while shots thudded into the wall of the shuttle and Ren straightened in sudden alarm.

"The cockpit – Brunnal, they can get in, the forward windshield is smashed!"

"What? The hells happened?"

"It's been an interesting day! Get the helm, Brunnal, we have to get out of here, now – go!" Ren's hands were trembling as she gently stroked the smooth surface of Dilly's carapace. "Dilianzathal Enzor-Krallus, don't you dare die on me!" she ordered, voice wobbling slightly, and to Harry she added, "You said you were a healer."

"Yes. I did," said Harry, as shots could be heard from the cockpit – it seemed Brunnal had gone through just in time. A moment later the shuttle jerked violently as it took off at speed and Harry had to put a hand out to steady himself, smearing viscous alien blood all over the furniture in the process.

"Can you heal this?" Ren was tense, all her earlier stoicism drained away.

"The healing unit!" bellowed Brunnal from the cockpit as the shuttle bucked and weaved, moving at what felt like a ferocious speed. "Why aren't you using the healing unit, what's wrong with you all?"

"It's gone!" Ren half rose to bellow back. "Expended on the Earth man!" And the glare she turned upon Harry was pure resentment.

He knew better than to take it personally, knew both from medical training and practical experience that friends and family tended to lash out when a loved one was in danger and they needed someone to blame. The patient was what mattered now. "Do you have a first aid kit?" he asked, and Ren looked blank.

"A what?"

"The unit was low, but how can it be empty?" Brunnal shouted again from the cockpit as the shuttle swerved violently once more. "How much did you use?"

"The Earth man would have died!" Ren was all but seething with helplessness and rage. Harry knew that in this moment she would exchange his life for Dilly's in a heartbeat and felt irrationally guilty, as if his own healing had somehow caused all this.

"Then Dilly will now die instead." Brunnal sounded disgusted and angry and frustrated.

"Look, there's really no need for anyone to die," Harry said, and hoped it was true. "Do you honestly not have any kind of practical first aid at all?" He could hardly believe it. "Bandages, medicines – a hospital or health centre of some kind?"

"There are clinics for those without access to other resource, but very few and none near. For the rest – what would be the need when the healing unit will suffice?" Ren glumly replied.

"This would be the need," he said, and pulled in a long breath, told himself to calm down and concentrate, take one step at a time. He knew first aid and he knew medicine and a wound was a wound, no matter what shape the body. "All right then. We're going to have to improvise."

dwdwdwdwdw

"Oh, Doctor!" Sarah all but threw herself at him, she was so relieved. "We were just coming to…how did you get out?"

The Doctor grinned broadly as he broke the hug and stepped back. "Oh, you know me, Sarah. I can be very persuasive," he cheerfully said, and then added, "They intend to follow us, of course, but I'm sure we can do something about that," and as he spoke he turned to the alien with him, who'd been greeted so rapturously by the little band of rebels that he had to be one of them. "Rikard, it's terribly nice of your friends to arrange this little welcoming committee, but they really shouldn't have come."

"You're being followed?" that hot-headed young grey alien demanded in alarm, and the Doctor shrugged.

"Why else would they let us go?"

"But I thought…" began the young man named Rikard, his voice trailing off as the Doctor shook his head. He was the same species as Valina, Sarah noticed, although they didn't seem to know one another: both dark and sallow-skinned with the same heavily ridged forehead and long, curving double-pointed chin and nose that nearly met in the middle, the same strange sideways movement of the jaw when they spoke. He was tall and wiry with intense eyes, his long hair left to flow loose and untamed in stark contrast to Valina's elegantly coiffed style, almost crackling with energy.

"You've been making a nuisance of yourselves for far too long," the Doctor said, his keen eyes sweeping around the gloomy location and coming to rest on an overhead gantry. "We can't stay here – we're under observation, look."

Sarah peered up at the gantry and saw at once what he'd spotted – some kind of security camera, well hidden but visible when you looked for it. The whole vehicle bay was probably full of them, keeping track of everyone who came and went, no matter how quiet and secure the place seemed.

"They know where we are, then," she said with a shudder, remembering the carnage at the store and wondering that those grim, implacable militia men hadn't come after them already, while Valina blanched, moaning her dismay at being caught on camera in the company of dissidents.

"Oh, mother of mercy. I'm finished."

"But the others – we can't leave them there." Rikard sounded frantic.

The Doctor shook his head. "We can't help them now."

"Do you understand what will happen to them – for the crime of speaking out, for daring to ask for sympathy, for help, for equality?"

"I do." The Doctor was grim-face, resolute. "Our charming hosts made their intentions crystal clear, but we can't help your friends without helping ourselves." He glanced around once more, looking worried. "Listen, there isn't much time. We were released under the guise of negotiating a truce but I'm certain the intention is to use us to ferret out the rest of your group – they'll track us back to your headquarters, trace all lines of connection and supply. We'll have to split up – re-group and then plan the next move."

"Yes, all right, you're right," Rikard agreed with a worried frown, pulling himself together to address his friends. "You'll have to shake off any pursuit and go to ground, scatter." He loudly overrode their protests, resting a reassuring hand on the arm of that agitated young grey alien. "No, it can wait, we'll debrief later, when it's safe."

"Are these yours?" asked the Doctor, gesturing at the two vehicles parked in this corner, and Valina surged into indignant motion, charging forward in defence of her little run-around. "No! That one is mine!"

"You don't mind if we borrow it, do you, Valina?" The Doctor's eyes were big and beseeching, but she shook her head stubbornly.

"It is registered to me and I cannot have any part in your action – I should never have come here."

The Doctor hesitated, looking curiously at her. "But you did come here, Valina. Why was that?"

"To help me," Sarah quietly said, feeling guilty because she knew, had known all along, how desperate Valina was to avoid getting into trouble, how concerned she was not to let her family down, and she'd taken advantage of the other woman's sympathy anyway because she'd prioritised her own needs more.

The awful thing was she'd probably do the same thing again. Big picture versus little picture, and it was so much easier to ignore what seemed to be the smaller picture when it wasn't your own.

"I thought we were in a hurry. Do we really have time for this?" that hot-headed young grey alien grumbled, but fell silent when the Doctor looked sternly in his direction.

"Of course we have time, we're not thieves." He turned imploring eyes upon Valina again. "I'm sorry you've been dragged into this, Valina, but you came here because you wanted to help, and you still can – you could help us out a great deal. And perhaps if we succeed, you may find that the price you pay for that support isn't so great after all."

Valina's eyes were full of furious tears. "Go," she choked, and she thrust into the Doctor's hands the activation device for her vehicle, gesturing toward the camera, high on its gantry. "If I am seen then I am ruined already, but perhaps you might escape."

The Doctor smiled gently and squeezed her hand encouragingly as he took the device from her. "Thank you, Valina. Perhaps we all might escape – including you. Report it stolen, they might believe you." He turned back to the others. "Go on, off with you, and watch out for any pursuit – they'll be tracking us," and he gestured at himself and Rikard, "I'm certain of it, but that doesn't mean they won't also follow you."

"So lose them, by any means, and go to ground," Rikard repeated. "Await the recall signal."

"I'm coming with you," Sarah was quick to tell the Doctor, just in case he had any bright ideas about trying to protect her by sending her off with the others. She wasn't sure whether to be surprised or not when Valina also stepped up to join them, looking distraught but resolute.

"I come as well. If it is over for me then it is over for me, lies will not be believed, but this vehicle is mine and you are not taking it without me."

The Doctor smiled broadly. "Quickly, then – let's go!"

dwdwdwdwdw

This was field medicine at its purest and, as his patient stabilised, Harry found to his surprise that he was enjoying the experience, adapting human medical techniques to this alien patient. He'd been trained in this kind of rough and ready field medicine, of course, but had only rarely had occasion to put it into practice, and even all those life-and-death struggles with the Doctor, fighting for good against evil, couldn't compare with the rush that came of saving a life like this, hands on.

He checked vitals again, now that he'd worked out how, and was satisfied that the patient was stable and recovering, sat back on his haunches and allowed himself to relax.

"Well?" Ren hadn't stirred from Dilly's side.

Harry smiled, tired but content. "Well, nurse, I do believe the patient will recover."

Ren smiled back at him, and it was the first genuine smile he'd seen from her since they'd met. "We are in your debt, Earth man."

"Then perhaps now we can start looking for my friends," he was quick to remind her.

She nodded and tilted her head to one side, regarding him curiously. "An Earth man in a citadel few Earth folk would choose to enter. Why are you here, Harry? You never did say."

It was the first time she'd addressed him by name. Harry refrained from pointing out that she never had asked. "Well, there's not a great deal to say. I was travelling –"

"With these friends you wish to seek."

"That's right. We were travelling – well, we were supposed to be going home, in fact, but it seems navigation isn't exactly the Doctor's strong point, so…well, we ended up here instead." It seemed a dreadfully long time ago now.

"And then you fell."

He shuddered at the memory, an involuntary reaction. "And then we fell."

"A big blue box, you said." Ren pushed upright, flexing her spine rather stiffly. "All systems are up and running again now. I will programme a search. Someone will have noticed and reported it."

"Thank you."

Ren turned toward the cockpit just as Brunnal stepped – or rather limped – through, announcing that he'd engaged the autopilot now that any pursuit was well and truly lost. She gave him her severest look. "Can you be sure? The Shad won't let this lie. They'll be out for blood."

"They'll have to find us first," he confidently dismissed, folding powerful arms across his chest. "How's Dilly?"

"Recovering," said Harry. "What about you?"

This was the first opportunity he'd had to take a proper look at the third member of the smuggling crew. Brunnal wasn't tall but was solidly built, dark and muscular and more human in appearance than either of his colleagues although still noticeably alien; he had a forked chin and scale-like ridges running from the tip of his nose up across heavy brows along the forehead and back around his head, which was bald over the ridges but was otherwise covered with what looked more like fur than hair, thick and bushy. He looked tired and was visibly bruised, a dark patch of blood staining one leg, but a shake of the head was his only response to the question as he leaned over to check Dilly's condition for himself, then stepped back, grinning from ear to ear.

"Recovering indeed!" He slapped a heavy hand across Harry's back in celebratory fashion and Harry had to put a hand out to steady himself.

"Bit of a patch job, I'm afraid, but I'm satisfied for now. Are you all right?"

Brunnal clearly had no intention of admitting to any hurt. "Ah, it's no more than scratches."

"It is more than a scratch, you're bleeding." Stubborn patients were at least one area Harry felt he had some expertise, and two could play at that game. "Let me take a look."

Brunnal submitted to the examination with a very bad grace and Harry quickly realised that the man had also been shot, in the leg; a flesh wound only, heavily scabbed over, but nonetheless in sore need of treatment. "This isn't a recent wound," he observed as he began to wash it out.

"At the meet, when we were attacked," Brunnal explained, wincing, and Harry paused, startled at the implication.

"That was hours ago – were you offered no treatment for the injury at all?"

"What do the Shad care?" he dismissed, as if it would never have occurred to him to expect any different. "Mindless thugs."

"Mindless thugs whose influence spreads further across the galaxy with each cycle," said Ren.

"Their operation is large," Brunnal conceded with a shrug. "Their thinking is small."

"Their thinking is large enough that they have both our cargo and our payload," Ren pointedly continued, and Brunnal's face fell as he cursed profoundly at the reminder.

"Then we'll just have to retake them, won't we? We have a contract to fulfil, bills to pay."

"Retake them, you say – as easy as that, you think?" Ren scoffed. She stared worriedly at her comrade for a moment, and then looked at Harry; he wondered if he was about to be asked to join another mission before beginning the long-delayed search for his friends, but at last she huffed a weary sigh before shaking her head. "Perhaps, but it will have to wait. We owe a debt to the Earth man."

She went through to the cockpit and Brunnal pushed upright at once to hobble after her, ignoring Harry's protest that he hadn't finished dressing the wound. "What debt? We have obligations to fulfil…"

The door closed and Harry could hear no more, was left to wonder who would win the argument, whether his search was to be delayed yet again.

He tried not to think about the TARDIS falling or what might have happened to its occupants. It was indestructible, the Doctor had said, and he was hanging onto that statement for all it was worth.

"They both like to think they are in charge, you know," a weak voice spoke up and he turned in surprise to see his patient awake and watching him, reached out automatically to check vitals once more and was pleased to note that they were improving.

"So who actually is in charge, then?" he wondered and Dilly managed a feeble chitter, a gleam of humour entering those bulbous eyes.

"Neither of them!" the odd little creature chirped, and Harry could only laugh.

dwdwdwdwdw

"So how do we tell if we're being followed?" Sarah wondered, trying and failing to get a good look at the view through the front windscreen past the three taller bodies before her. It was quite a squash with four people aboard Valina's little run-around.

"Well, just at the moment," said the Doctor in his most off-hand tone, "We can't."

"Oh, well that's encouraging!"

"They may or may not be following yet, but we have to assume they're tracking us," he said. "Check your pockets, Rikard, there'll be a tracking device of some kind, some way they can trace us back to your headquarters."

Rikard had rather high-handedly taken the controls as soon as they were aboard, while Valina hung back looking tense and nervous, but now he moved aside to begin searching the pockets of his jumpsuit and Valina reluctantly resumed control of her own vehicle.

"Where should I go?" she worriedly asked.

"Stay within this district for now," the Doctor told her, searching rapidly through his own pockets and dumping the contents into Sarah's hands until they overflowed. "Round and round the roses till we all fall down – this is a regulated zone, they won't want any trouble here; we can buy ourselves some breathing space perhaps. Find anything, Rikard?"

The alien man began to shake his head – but then stiffened and held out a tiny device between his thumb and forefinger. "You were right," he said, fear bringing a sharp edge to his voice. "Quick, destroy it."

"Wait." The Doctor snatched the device from the man's hand. "Let's not be hasty."

Rikard was furious. "You want them to find us – destroy us?"

"Destroy the tracker and it'll register, force their hand," said the Doctor, tucking the device away in an inside pocket. "I think we can be cleverer than that – well, I don't know about you, but I can certainly be cleverer than that. No, we can use this to draw them out."

"How?" Rikard waved his hands in exasperation.

"Wait and see," said the Doctor, which Sarah took to mean that, for all his talk, he hadn't the faintest idea, yet, what to do next. "Any sign of pursuit?"

"Hard to tell in this traffic." Rikard leaned over Valina's shoulder to scowl at the small screen mounted on the console. "This scanner is not up to much," he grumbled, and Valina turned on him at once.

"It has always been sufficient for my needs – but of course, I have never been pursued by the militia before," she scathingly declared, and Rikard took exception and began to argue. The Doctor shrugged and left them to it, inclining his head in conspiratorial fashion to beckon Sarah over to the rear of the vehicle with him.

"Did you find anything, Sarah?" he asked in a low voice.

"What?" Clutching at her armful of junk from his pockets, which was threatening to spill all over the floor, Sarah was thrown by the unexpected question and blinked at him in confusion…but a second later her brain caught up and she realised what he was asking, and couldn't believe she'd forgotten, even for a moment. "Oh! Yes, I found the TARDIS, all in one piece." She quickly thrust the bits and pieces back into his hands and reached into her own pocket for the print-out Valina had given her. "It was taken to a waste depot."

The Doctor looked helplessly at the junk in his hands and quickly shoved it back into his pockets so he could take the print-out. He unfolded and studied it intently for about two seconds, then fixed her with unreadable eyes. "Nothing else?"

"There's no sign of Harry, not in the official records – at least not that Valina has access to," Sarah quietly said. "So wherever he is, it doesn't look as if he hit the ground."

The Doctor's face lit up like a child at Christmas. "But that's good news, Sarah! It means there's a chance, a real chance."

"Yes, but what's happened to him? And how are we going to find him – especially if we're stuck in the middle of all this," Sarah asked, worried all over again because if he hadn't reached the ground, then where was he? And 'all this' was so murky. It was politics and economics and shades of grey, a broken system, with no obvious bad guy to pit themselves against, no easy resolution and no quick wins. Technically it was none of their business, even, not that that had ever stopped the Doctor before, and Sarah agreed with that approach for the most part – did here, even, if there was something they could do to help, but still, "We probably shouldn't get involved…"

"Probably not," the Doctor conceded. "But we're already involved," and that was that. He smiled at her. "Chin, up, Sarah – nil desperandum, eh."

He was always so infectious; she couldn't help but return the smile. "Nil desperandum."

"That's the spirit. There may not be a great deal we can do about the situation here in general – there are some battles that people simply have to fight for themselves – but we can help Rikard and his friends out of their immediate predicament, and that's not for nothing, you know. Every little counts."

She hadn't thought of it quite like that. "Well, when you put it that way…"

"We should have stayed with the others," Rikard called across from the front of the vehicle, where he was fiddling with the scanner; trying to improve its range, perhaps. "We could have fought back, taken the centre by storm – they have weapons."

Remembering her brief conversation with the other rebels back in the vehicle bay, Sarah was quick to say, "Oh, but they don't," but neither one of the men seemed to hear her.

"Weapons, pah," the Doctor was saying. "You had weapons at the store."

"A single gun, good for effect only."

"And what good did it bring you? You still think weapons are the answer? After everything that's happened, all those lives lost at your protest today alone?"

"But we must do something. With more weapons, real weapons, we can make them take us seriously, we must make a stand," Rikard insisted. "All we want is the means to survive – equality, subsistence – but they make criminals of us, and for what? For drawing attention to injustice. So what choice do we have but to fight?"

Sarah raised her voice. "There are no weapons," she repeated, exasperated at being ignored, and both men turned to look at her.

"But there must be weapons," Rikard protested. "Tobin and the others – they went to meet with our supplier, they were to join us at the store. They didn't get there in time. If they had –"

"If they had, they'd have died along with all those others," said the Doctor. "Perhaps taken a great many innocent lives with them – is that really what you want?"

"The militia try to silence us and we won't allow it," Rikard sullenly insisted. "Our protests were always peaceful – we seek change, not war. It was they who attacked and forced us to take action. We must be allowed to fight back." He swung around to glare at Sarah. "How can there be no weapons? They went to meet the supplier. The deal was all arranged, watertight."

"Something went wrong," Sarah said. "I don't know very much, only what your friends told me." And she hadn't really listened, she remembered with chagrin, hadn't thought it was relevant. She wracked her memory trying to recall the details. "They said that your supplier was attacked and driven away, and some of your comrades were killed – I'm sorry," she added, seeing pain in the alien's face. He'd lost a lot of friends today; no wonder his anger and resentment were burning so hot.

"But the cargo," he managed to blurt out. "Not just the weapons, the rest of it, it was needed…"

"I don't know any more, I'm sorry."

"Who attacked them?" the Doctor curiously asked. "It couldn't have been the militia – if they already knew the dissidents' supply chain they wouldn't need us."

"They did say the name," Sarah remembered now. "I think it might have been…" she dredged the name out of her memory, "Something like…Chad?"

"The Shad!" exclaimed Rikard, and he cursed at length.

"Shad?" Valina half-turned at the console, her air of subdued resentment giving way to curiosity. "I've heard that name."

"I haven't," said the Doctor with interest. "But I should like to know more. Tell me about the Shad, Rikard."

dwdwdwdwdw

Harry wasn't entirely sure what he was eating, but he was hungry enough not to care. It looked strange and tasted rather odd, but he'd eaten far worse in his time, and school followed by the Navy had given him a cast-iron stomach, so he sat at the small table in the rear compartment of the shuttle, alongside Dilly's sleeping form on the couch, and dug in while Ren updated him on the results of her search of the citadel's information channels, or whatever it was she'd done to locate the TARDIS. It was at a waste depot, apparently, awaiting whatever happened on this world to rubbish found littering the streets.

It's indestructible, he told himself again, and then asked if anyone had been found in it or near to it or had been in to claim it.

They hadn't, as far as Ren could tell, but there were news reports of a man matching the Doctor's description being arrested after an outbreak of violence at some kind of political protest, and if he was involving himself in political protests and getting himself arrested, then he couldn't have come to any harm from that fall. It was as if a tonne weight had been lifted from Harry's shoulders.

"Yes, that sounds like him," he said. "If there's trouble to be found, the Doctor usually manages to find it."

It was strange that there was no mention of Sarah with him, though.

Ren glanced up as Brunnal stepped through to the rear compartment from the cockpit, still limping noticeably on his injured leg. "There were deaths at that protest," she pointedly said.

"None of our business – they know the risks, they choose to take them," Brunnal dismissed, and perhaps in other circumstances Harry might have asked him to explain, but just now he could only think about what this might mean for him.

"The Doctor wouldn't have let anything happen to Sarah," he worriedly said, and Ren lifted an eyebrow.

"He allowed you to fall."

"That was an accident," Harry staunchly defended, and then asked, "Er, so where do you suppose he'd have been taken?"

"To detention, in the first instance." Brunnal's drawling voice was dismissive as the alien man reversed and straddled a chair at the table, folding his powerful arms across its back. "Then trial – this regime imposes harsh penalties for sedition, which is why we'll not be sticking around any longer than strictly necessary."

"Well, then we'll have to get him out." There were no two ways about it for Harry, but both aliens looked at him as if he'd gone mad.

"Now that is not possible," Brunnal said with a shrug, reaching over to take a handful of food from a dish on the table and tipping his head back to pour the dry flakes into his mouth like the crumbs from the bottom of a crisp packet.

"Why not? We got you back from the Shad, didn't we?"

"Completely different," said Ren, looking troubled. "And the Shad were bad enough, but they're scavengers, pirates, flying under the radar. They'll not want to attract official attention any more than we do. But a militia detention centre in the heart of the citadel?" She shook her head. "No. No, that's out of our league entirely."

"Well, we have to do something. Or…I do, at any rate," Harry insisted, disappointed by her hesitance but not about to be swayed by it. He'd go it alone if he had to, somehow, and perhaps it hadn't been wise to expect support from criminals in the first place, however friendly they'd seemed and no matter what had been agreed, or was supposedly owed or not owed. "I'm not leaving him there."

"Is that so?" Brunnal looked down his nose at him. "Well, you might choose to throw your life away on a fool's errand, but we have our own business to be getting on with."

"Yes, but…" Ren at least seemed conflicted as she looked from Brunnal to Harry and back again, frowning. Then she brightened and said, "Here's a thought."

"What?"

"There were several arrests made at that protest," she said.

"Yes." Brunnal looked annoyed. "And they'll blame us. We were meant to have supplied them and failed to uphold the deal."

Ren rolled her eyes. "That was hardly our fault, and that isn't my point. Arrests were made. Will the dissidents sit back and leave their comrades to the mercy of this regime?"

Harry saw where this was going and felt a surge of sudden optimism. "You think they'll try to break the prisoners out?"

"Not without our supplies," Brunnal grumbled, scowling. "Supplies we no longer have to offer."

"Yes, what were the supplies you were selling?" Harry began…but then belatedly realised, from context, what this was all about. "Was it weapons?" He was more shocked than perhaps he should have been. "You were gun-running?"

"Only part of the cargo," Dilly's scratchy voice broke in, and Harry turned to see that the creature was awake again, those bulbous eyes blinking owlishly, almost beseechingly in his direction. "We ship food supplies, mineral supplements – whatever is needed. We profit, they benefit, you see?" Dilly's voice was earnest and sincere. "But this is a wretched world, failing – the rich have it all and the poor are trodden down, so they begin to fight back and can you blame them?"

"So now you're supplying weapons for that fight," Harry slowly said. Insurrection and the illegal arms trade – it was a dreadful can of worms to have stumbled into. He told himself not to get drawn into a debate about the rights and wrongs of it all. Priorities, Sullivan.

"We supply any need that cannot be filled through official channels," snapped Ren. "It's business."

Brunnal's scowl was deepening by the minute. "Yes, and we came to this world to carry out that business. Perhaps the rebels can help your Earth man free his friend, perhaps they can't, but they'll have no chance without our supplies. So the deal must come first, whichever way you slice it. We have to go back – strike now, while the Shad are weak."

"Strike now, with that leg slowing you down and Dilly out of action?" Ren scoffed. She was frowning, thinking hard, and at length shook her head. "Well, we'll have to make contact first, whatever our next move – make sure there's still a deal to salvage. Get to the sat-com, Brunnal. See if you can raise your contact."



On to Part 3b