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Stealth and Subtlety

By Alden Bates

The being watched the heat traces dancing before it.

Two bipedal mammals, humanoid. The first was identified as Gallifreyan, Time Lord, the Doctor. The second was human, taller than the first, identity unknown. The two traces moved past, the taller pausing for a moment. Audio input flared and spiked.

"Are you going to tell me why we're here," Bernice paused, "Or do I have to hang you by the ankles again?"

The Doctor, striding through the darkened corridor, stopped abruptly. The blackness seemed to close in further, unhindered by the faint glow of phosphor lamps set in the ceiling. Bizarre shapes loomed in the shadows, mostly unopened cargo boxes and dark metallic structures of indefinite purpose.

Ignoring her threat, the Doctor stabbed his umbrella cautiously at a patch of darkness to his left. Obediently a monitor screen lit up, eerily illuminating his face. After a second's pause, the UAC logo displayed itself, along with the station's designation. A neatly revolving graphic at the base of the screen depicted the world of Gabriel, a minor planet near the edge of the Federation.

Moments later, the Doctor had successfully navigated the computer system's security network and given himself full log-on privileges. He looked up to smile infuriatingly at Benny and noticed the impatient way she was standing. A quick memory search of the last few minutes revealed the reason.

"Cybermen." Fingers darted back to the keyboard. After another wait: "When you think about it there weren't all that many of them."

Bernice blinked. "There are obviously some thought processes floating about that I'm not privy to." She seated herself on a nearby structure, one without too many uncomfortable protrusions, folded her arms, and waited for more information to trickle out.

"There were only a few billion living on Mondas before the migrations, and the number has steadily decreased since then. What with the Cyber wars and attempted invasions of Earth. By the twenty eighth century, there can only be a few hundred left. That's why we are here." With a final flourish, the Doctor indicated the computer screen. Bernice stood up and took a look.

A revolving green outline image filled the left side of the screen while specification data filled the right. The outline was roughly humanoid with an angular, moulded head.

"Some new sort of Cyberman." Bernice raised an eyebrow.

The Doctor nodded. "A few months ago, raids started up on the outskirts of the Federation. Whole ships were found drifting in space, stripped of equipment and personnel. There were no clues until a burned out hulk was found drifting near this planet, Gabriel."

"The crew activated the self destruct during the raid?"

"Yes. The body of this Cyberman was found in the airlock. I must admit that I'm puzzled as to how they advanced so quickly." The Doctor let Benny read through the rest of the text before delving into his pocket. Bernice watched as an accumulation of junk built rapidly up on the console, bathed in green light.

Finally, the Doctor selected a small transparent data cube, slotted it into the interface and began downloading the data.

The being observed the two intruders accessing the primitive computer terminal and came to a decision. It switched off its built-in holofield unit and rose to its full height.

The human was already observing its advance while the Time Lord was still occupied by the primitive computer systems.

"Doctor, you didn't bring the gold dust by any chance?"

The Doctor swung about at Benny's prompting in time to see the Cyberman bearing down on him. In the two seconds it took him to observe the creature's similarities to the rotating on-screen image, the black moulded sensors on the sides of its head and the bulbous nozzle in its forehead. The gap rapidly closed between them.

Darting forward, with amazing speed, the Cyberman raised a finger to the Doctor's temple. A spark jumped between hand and head.

Above them, in the darkness, a sensor detected the electrical discharge and triggered an alarm.

The Cyberman swung around at the sound of the alarm. It hadn't counted on a detection system for electrical activity. Shifting the delivery mechanism in it's finger from killing strength to disable, it sent a pulse into the computer console. The pulse burned out every memory node in the computer net within seconds.

Its mission completed and ignoring the remaining human, the Cyberman quickly vanished into the shadows.

Bernice finished her examination of the Doctor, thanking his tough constitution for allowing his survival. She looked up to see that the Cyberman had vanished as quickly as it had appeared. Shuddering at the thought that the harmless piece of machinery she had been sitting on had turned out to be a Cyberman, she picked up the unconscious form of her companion and started back for the TARDIS.

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