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Chapter Thirteen

Vittorio Salliari was at work in his office when the telegram arrived with a message he had been waiting to receive for more than a week. It seemed like years.


A secretary named Rosa put the telegram on top of a stack of other correspondence and placed it on the seemingly disinterested Salliari’s desk. She looked at the man behind the desk and frowned. She had been filling in for his personal secretary who was away on maternity leave. After only a few days, she found herself wondering how anyone could stand working in such close proximity to such an odious person on a permanent basis.

Vittorio Salliari was a multi-millionaire, owned dozens of smaller companies, was known as a shrewd businessman and investor, and had one of the finest collections of ancient pottery and glass in Milan, possibly the whole country. He was also fat, balding, pompous, self-centered, and thoroughly unpleasant to deal with on a one-to-one basis.

“There’s a telegram for you, sir,” Rosa said calmly, trying not to flinch as the man’s piggy little eyes looked up at her. “Do you wish to send a reply?”

Salliari picked up the telegram and read it, a laugh rumbling from his throat. “No. Please call my wife. She will be delighted to learn this has arrived.”

“Yes, sir.” Rosa felt a chill run down her spine and she tried not to think what might be in the delivery. More for his collection, presumably. After all, the new storage facility had been built for the sole purpose of housing Salliari’s collection. Then she thought of his wife and shuddered. As horrid as this man was, his wife was a worse. She was an abrasive woman with a habit of loudly berating her husband in public. Rosa had met her once and her immediate opinion was that the woman was a shrew.

Rosa made the call and transferred it to her employer. The woman on the other end of the line was screaming at her even as she did so. Then she heard Salliari’s placating tones through the open office doorway.

“If you’d let me get a word in, my love,” Salliari said calmly. “I’ve just received word from Mr. Tanner.” A pause. “Yes, my dear. The telegram just arrived. Delivery is being made at the new storage facility tomorrow.” Another pause. “I knew you’d be pleased. I told you the situation was in hand. Ciao, my love.”

* * *

The Major was trying very hard not to show how completely overawed he was at the sight of the sun, his planet’s sun, on the scanner. He threw a quick glance over to the exterior doors. It was just out there. The sun. Even after spending time in the TARDIS, jumping from place to place on Earth in a matter of seconds…it did not seem real.

The Doctor was watching his companion load the box containing the six components of the Planet Killer into one of the roundels in the corridor just off the control room.

“K-9…” the Doctor called.

“Master,” K-9 acknowledged from his place beneath the control console.

“How long until we reach optimum range?”

“Optimum range in 15 seconds, Master.”

Jason snapped the roundel shut and double checked to make certain it was locked. “Planet Killer in jettison tube, K-9. Fire when ready.”

“Affirmative. Activating in five seconds. Four…three…two…one. Device jettisoned.”

The Major saw a streak of light appear on the scanner screen as the device was hurled into the sun. The Doctor and Jason joined him, and they watched in silence as the box struck the surface of the sun and erupted into flames.

“That’s done it,” the Doctor announced with a relieved sigh. “Now your scientists will all be theorizing about the origins of a new sun spot.”

The Major gave him a steady look. He seemed to be struggling with something and Jason was afraid he was going to start berating every scientist on Earth. To his astonishment, the Major said, “Thank you.”

Jason let out a loud squeak upon hearing this and was sure he was about to suffer a coronary.

“Your welcome,” the Doctor replied happily. “What did I do?”

“You stopped the KGB from getting hold of something that can do that to the sun,” the Major replied succinctly, pointing at the newly formed sun spot.

Jason suddenly remembered the first building that he and Eroica had broken into and its collection of alien artifacts. He cleared his throat nervously. “Doctor, there’s something I haven’t told you…”

* * *

It took several men and considerable effort, but the crate was finally unloaded from the delivery van. From the comfort of the back seat of a black limousine that was parked some distance away, a lone individual watched the men’s efforts, wishing they would hurry up.

As soon as the crate was safely within the building, the occupant got out of the car and dismissed the driver. The wind kicked up a bit, and the individual reached up a hand and pulled on the hood of the cloak they wore in order to keep their face concealed, quickly entering the building and descending to the lower level to find the newly delivered box sitting just inside the door of a large room. A tall burly individual was standing beside it with a crow bar in his hand. He jumped when the cloaked figure appeared at the door. Then he realized who the person was and gave a nod of recognition.

“Won’t take but a minute to get this open,” he informed. He forced the metal bar into the gap and twisted. There was the sound of metal against wood as the nails protested their removal. He worked his way around the edge, finally working the side of the crate away enough to put his fingers into the gap. He pulled with all his strength and the side came away with further protests from the wood and nails.

The cloaked figure took a step back as the semi-conscious form of the bound and gagged Eroica was unceremoniously dumped at their feet.


* * *

“Idiot! Dummkopf!” The Major let loose a string of obscenities in German as he ranted on. He was storming around the console room, beside himself in rage. This time, Jason was not yelling back.

The Doctor was equally upset, albeit less animated. “Jason, you royal idiot, why didn’t you say something then?”

“I’m sorry! I got sidetracked by Dorian,” Jason replied apologetically.

The Major turned on his heel, seizing the reply. “Sidetracked? How? What did he do?”

Jason felt both sets of eyes boring into him and he blushed vividly. “He stole a handful of computer chips while we were there. I found out when I was putting the component in the storage case. He gave me some story about giving them to his accountant. The next thing I knew, were in the Mediterranean getting shot at by the KGB.”

The Doctor let out a groan and closed his eyes.

The Major gave an indignant snort. “And still you’re surprised that he left you?”

“Never mind the recriminations, Major,” the Doctor broke in sharply. “We need to deal with what’s inside that building.”

“How?” Jason wanted to know. “We can’t exactly uproot the whole thing and toss it into the sun.”

“Nein,” the Major replied as he crossed to the control console. “But we can blow it sky high.” He looked down at the alien technology before him, the irony of the action he was suggesting in his present surroundings lost on him. “Doctor, I need to contact NATO headquarters again.”

* * *

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