3rd Doctor
Old Soldiers
by James Swallow

Cover Blurb
7.Old Soldiers
Written by James Swallow
Directed by Nigel Fairs
Sound Design and Music by David Darlington

Old soldiers, comrades in arms - the Brigadier saw many fall during his years with UNIT, but perhaps none more tragically than those at Kreigskind. Called to help when a friend falls ill, how can Lethbridge-Stewart fight an enemy that can breach every defence?
  • Read by Nicholas Courtney as Brigadier Lethbridge-Steward and featuring Toby Longworth as Konrad Shrader.

    Time-Placement: The Brigadier said this story took place a few weeks after the situation at Wenley Moor, so this must come between Doctor Who and the Silurians and The Ambassadors of Death.

  • Released: December 2007
    ISBN: 978 1 84435 292 0
Episode One
(drn: 32'11")

Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart pours himself a drink and recalls something his father told him on the day he said he was going to join the army - “In life, as on the fields of battle, there are old soldiers and there are bold soldiers, but there are very few old, bold soldiers“. He didn’t know what his father meant at the time, but he does now. The job they do takes its toll on those left behind. He knew a couple of fellows who were willing to risk their lives for their friends and for the greater good, and he‘d take a bullet for both of them. One of them is dead now, but the other he’s sure he’ll see again one day, when he least expects it. He makes a toast to absent friends, comrades in arms and old soldiers…

Kriegeskind Castle wasn’t a warm or welcoming place and the rain didn‘t help much. It had been a fortress for hundreds of years, either for the Nazis, the Medieval lords, the Romans or the nomadic tribes before them. It was in a remote part of the German countryside and was easily defensible. The Brigadier hadn’t been inside since UNIT first took over the place years ago. It was one of dozens of secure UNIT facilities across the world, watching for signs of invasion, paranormal events or unexplained anomalies.

When the Brigadier returned to Kriegeskind he didn’t think the place had changed much, except for the helipad in the courtyard and the antennae atop the keep. It was few weeks after the situation at Wenley Moor and he was still coming to terms with the hard decisions he’d had to make there. The Doctor had stormed out of UNIT HQ after an exchange of frank views and the Brigadier wasn’t sure he’d ever come back. The Brigadier didn’t question his own judgement as the Silurians presented a clear and present danger and a soldier‘s role is to defend, but even so it hadn’t been any easy choice. When the call came to go to Kriegeskind, he was happy to use the time to get some perspective.

The telex he received was from Kolonel Heinrich Konrad, and it was a plea for help. The Brigadier first met his old friend on a NATO exercise back in the 60s and knew he wasn’t a man to cry wolf, so when he said something was wrong at Kriegeskind, the Brigadier took the request seriously. Konrad was a German UNIT officer and a good man, as strong as an ox. He was in charge of the castle and had turned it into a top-notch base, specialising in researching the debris from past alien attacks.

The Brigadier was welcomed by Major Schrader, Konrad’s second-in-command, who said he was acting as base commander while the Kolonel was indisposed. The Brigadier didn’t take kindly to Schrader as the man’s anger was barely contained and he always seemed to be looking for someone to bark at. The Brigadier was forced to pull rank just in order to avoid being asked to leave. Schrader reluctantly agreed to let him see Konrad, but as he was taken down to the medical ward, the Brigadier was sure he could see fear in the eyes of everyone they passed.

Konrad was a mere shadow of the man the Brigadier once knew - as pale as death, as if all his energy had been drained out. He was attached to medical equipment via numerous tubes and wires and Schrader assured the Brigadier he was being given the best treatment. Konrad whispered to the Brigadier and mumbled about killers rising up and moving through the ages. He warned of an impending attack and said they wouldn’t stop until everything was destroyed.

The Brigadier was deeply unsettled by the void in Konrad’s eyes. He watched as his friend wavered between lucidity and incoherence, calling out, sometimes enraged and sometimes terrified. Schrader said the Kolonel had been diagnosed with an acute mental breakdown, a form of post-traumatic stress disorder. The Brigadier had seen similar things before in other people, but the Konrad he knew had an iron will. Conventional treatment in a civilian hospital was out of the question, so he was being dealt with internally, but the Brigadier refused to walk away until he found out what had caused this. He was assigned temporary quarters in the East Tower and it was only when he was alone that he started to question the value in him staying here. But he had a feeling he couldn’t define that told him there was something ’wrong’ here. He went to sleep that night, still troubled…

He awoke suddenly to find a sword descending to decapitate him. He rolled out of bed instinctively to grab his gun - and realised his assailant was clad in the battle armour of a Roman legionnaire. The man’s face was blank and emotionless and he appeared to be only half there, like a painted glass figure. He attacked again and as the Brigadier opened fire, the man disappeared as if made of smoke. Major Schrader and his troops had engaged a whole group of the legionnaires in the Great Hall and the Brigadier could see immediately that this wasn’t their first encounter with this sort of thing. He joined in the battle and noticed that whenever the Romans fell, they did so without a cry or a scream. He’d expected a bullet to pass straight through their ghostly bodies, but in fact when they were hit they simply faded away. Nevertheless, it was certainly no illusion as the Brigadier saw many dead or injured UNIT officers, including a young Malay soldier whose arm had been sliced open from elbow to shoulder.

After the battle was over, the Brigadier demanded answers from Schrader and was told Kriegeskind Castle was built on the site of an ancient Roman garrison. There had been ‘incursions’ before, but the phenomena of these quasi-physical forms had been increasing recently. Schrader openly admitted that he wanted to handle the problem himself as he regarded it to be an internal matter. He said he didn’t want Kolonel Konrad’s condition to come to light as the man would be stripped of his rank and the work here would be shut down. The Brigadier sympathised with Schrader’s point, but wondered whether he was putting his young officers at risk by not seeking help. He thought Schrader might be out of his depth, so was pleased when the German officer asked if he could draw on the benefit of his own experience. He was even prepared to indulge Schrader’s fantasy that he was still in charge of the situation.

They were under siege from an enemy that could move through walls and could strike in a heartbeat. Guards had been placed outside the radio room - apparently to protect the equipment - but the Brigadier suspected it was Schrader’s way of preventing anyone from calling for help. Fortunately the Brigadier had his own personal equipment and sent a message requesting the Doctor’s help. While he waited, he decided to investigate whether there was any connection between the ghosts and Konrad’s medical condition.

The Brigadier visited his friend again and asked whether Schrader was responsible for what had happened here. Konrad said Schrader was a decent soldier, but he was limited and afraid of the unknown. Then he mumbled incoherently about other soldiers dying and the fact that he was the only one left. He said the phantoms were coming to destroy them and he pleaded with the Brigadier to help stop them. He became more agitated with every word and insisted they mustn’t let the invaders win, then he slipped into unconsciousness, leaving the Brigadier shattered and questioning his own resolve.

As dawn rose, the Brigadier explored the rest of the Castle. The UNIT soldiers he encountered were the usual cross-section of representatives from across the globe, but all of them were afraid. He learned that Schrader had ordered a lockdown across the base, closing off all entrances and cutting off all means of communication with the outside world. Then a plane flew overhead and the Brigadier saw a parachute descend down onto the ramparts. If he hadn’t been there to identify the Doctor - making a typical theatrical entrance - it’s likely the man would have been shot by the nervous guards. The Brigadier brought him up to speed on what was happening here and the Doctor immediately concluded they were dealing with a time fracture and that the problem wasn’t going to be solved with guns and violence. The Brigadier was convinced there was more going on that just a problem with time, but as the Doctor dismissed him out of hand, he decided to pursue his own line of investigation.

The Brigadier kept remembering something Konrad had told him about him being the only soldier to survive. He headed for the castle mortuary and found sealed records going back several months. They referred to men going missing and training accidents, but the Brigadier knew they were euphemisms UNIT often used when their personnel were killed by aliens. Then he came across a reference to a cadre of men, under Konrad’s direct command, who were assigned to a project codenamed 995. Of the six men, only the Kolonel had survived and they each had a toxicology report giving evidence of poisoning. The Brigadier couldn’t understand why his friend would submit himself and his men to a lethal toxin.

The Brigadier tracked the Doctor down to the Great Hall where he was taking reading with his sonic screwdriver. He said he’d been doing a scan for residual time particles, the sort that would be left embedded in the stone after a temporal shift, but there was no sign of anything. If these phantoms weren’t the product of a time corridor, then where were they coming from? When the Brigadier produced the medical files, the Doctor apologised for doubting him earlier. He pointed to a chemical analysis report which showed the men had been killed by an alien organic compound in their blood that had strong psychoactive properties.

Suddenly the Doctor noticed a chill in the air and a smell like ozone. More phantoms appeared in the Great Hall, but this time they weren’t Roman legionnaires but German soldiers from the Second World War. The ghosts carried machine guns and they immediately opened fire, causing everyone to duck for cover. The Doctor was baffled as there was still no evidence of time flux, but whatever they were, their weapons were very real. The ghost of warriors past were invading and the Brigadier knew that time was against them…

Episode Two
(drn: 29'24")

With only a few rounds left in his gun, the Brigadier encouraged the Doctor to join him in a tactical withdrawal. The ghosts came after them, stepping through walls whenever necessary before resuming their attack. The Brigadier has seen many men fight and was used to the look of anger and panic in their eyes, but the phantoms had completely expressionless faces, devoid of anything that could be described as human. The Doctor believed they might be dealing with a psycho-plasma matrix or even photogenic matter, but the Brigadier suspected he was plucking technical jargon out of thin air.

They Brigadier took the Doctor to the medical ward in the hope that he could work out the cause of Konrad’s illness, but they found his friend had got much worse. The Doctor discovered the level of the alien compound in Konrad’s blood was even higher than those logged in the autopsy reports. The Doctor used a device to bring the Kolonel around and the man begged the Brigadier to forgive him. He mumbled incoherently for a while, then slipped back into unconsciousness. Major Schrader arrived and ordered his men to take Konrad into another laboratory which he claimed was better protected. He told the Brigadier their attackers now included 1940s soldiers, Roman legionnaires, knights and even barbarians, but he was unwilling to discuss the situation in the presence of the Doctor as he considered him to be a security risk.

The Brigadier regretted indulging Schrader earlier and now he insisted that the Major tell them what’s going on. Kriegeskind Castle was as much a research centre as it was a military base and Project 995 was one of their most secret ventures. It concerned a plant discovered in the jungles of South East Asia. It was alien in origin and had the potential to dwarf the most dangerous weapons in the world. UNIT was asked to conduct a series of trials and they discovered extracts from the plant could produce incredible enhancements in the mental and physical abilities of the test subjects. Konrad had chosen the subjects, but because he was unwilling to ask them to do anything he wouldn’t do himself, he took part too. After all the previous invasion attempts, he knew they were in a fight to defend their planet from forces with technology centuries in advance of their own. They needed better weapons to help level the playing field…or failing that they needed a better breed of soldier, one that could defeat an alien invader on their own terms.

Konrad and Schrader had come to believe the only way to defend Earth was to modify human beings and Project 995 was an attempt to create a super-soldier. Schrader insisted that no one was coerced into volunteering and everyone knew the risks - but they all died except for Konrad, and shortly after that the incursions started. Schrader said he believed the time shifts were the result of an alien aggressive force trying to sabotage the project and he suggested the Doctor himself, as an extra-terrestrial, may secretly be an agent for the invaders. He accused the Brigadier of allowing the Doctor to infiltrate UNIT operations in Britain and then he announced that he’d already taken steps to ensure that neither Kriegeskind nor Project 995 fell into the hands of the enemy.

Schrader had initiated the Arc Light Protocol - an operational command code that the Brigadier knew only too well, since it was originally his idea to create it. Arc Light was a last-ditch solution, a kind of scorched earth policy. In the event that a UNIT facility was in danger of falling to enemy forces or that something within it came to represent a threat to the world at large, the entire base would be “sanitised”, effectively wiping it off the face of the earth. They had no more than four hours before a bomber air strike obliterated the Castle and everything within a two-mile radius!

Elsewhere in the Castle the battle with the phantom soldiers continued unabated. The Doctor remained in the lab trying to cobble together some equipment while the Brigadier armed himself and took the fight to the enemy. But for every ghost the UNIT troops destroyed, there seemed to be another ten close behind him. They advanced in waves, one after another, as if history itself had come to kill them. It dawned on the Brigadier that the men he was fighting alongside, plus those down in the lab, were all that remained of the UNIT forces at Kriegeskind, and with each passing moment, their numbers were diminishing. He gave the order for the men to disengage and fall back to the medical wing where he hoped they could fortify their position.

In the lab, the Doctor had identified the plant that was used in the experiments. It was a very rare extra-terrestrial phylum from the galaxy M33 that drifted through space in a dormant condition until it could take root on other planets. It was quite benign in its normal state, but it contained psychotropic elements that could stimulate radical biological changes in humans and cause the subject to develop uncontrollable psychic ability. It became clear that the phantom invaders weren’t coming from the past at all, they were part of Kriegeskind’s own history being conjured up from the very stone of the castle itself. The Doctor explained that ancient places always captured a trace of the emotions spent within in, and if those energies were strong, they could linger like a psychic mark. The test subjects were all soldiers, attuned to the bloody business of warfare. When the alien plant altered their minds, their latent psychic powers reached out and drew the echoes of battles from the past to them. This also meant that with five of the six subjects already dead from the poison, the psychic force must be resonating from the only remaining survivor of Project 995 - Kolonel Heinrich Konrad.

Schrader refused to believe a word of the theory and his behaviour began to sound manic as he accused the Doctor of being an alien invader in-waiting. The Brigadier suspected the pressure of the situation had become too much for him and he was disturbed when Schrader refused to countermand the Arc Light Protocol. He regarded the Major as a fool who’d given in to his fear and allowed it to rule his every waking moment. Realising they were wasting their time, the Doctor returned to the laboratory and started work on building a psionic counter wave to halt the phantoms.

The Brigadier rallied the men, determined that if he was going to die here, at least he’d go down fighting. The phantoms continued to advance slowly down the corridors so he ordered his men to fire short controlled bursts from their rifles. He was chilled by the thought that if they died, they too might become new additions to the army of ghosts, haunting this place until the end of time. Instead of facing them head on, the phantoms started walking through the walls and then the Brigadier heard the blood curdling scream of Major Schrader. He raced into the medical ward and saw the Major impaled on a Roman’s sword. The enemy had changed their tactics and were flanking the UNIT personnel by walking through the walls to catch them unawares. The Brigadier and his men eventually managed to beat them back, but it was too late to save Schrader.

During a pause in the attacks, the Brigadier found himself listening for the sound of the approaching aircraft, unsure whether he’d even be able to hear it this deep inside the castle. Kolonel Konrad briefly woke up and started muttering incomprehensibly, but the Brigadier tried to stop him as his ramblings were upsetting the junior officers. He wanted to give Konrad something to ease the pain, but there was no cure as the alien plant had meshed itself into his body, changing him irrevocably. It was only by some quirk of biology that he’d been able to survive this long, but he’d lost his mind in the process.

Suddenly the phantom army attacked again, coming from every conceivable angle and carrying swords, axes, maces and machine guns. It was easy to hit them with return fire, but the UNIT soldiers were badly outnumbered. The Brigadier knew Konrad was the unwilling source of all this death and destruction and just for a moment it occurred to him there was a single round left in his gun. He didn’t mind taking the life of an enemy, but could he really kill a comrade and friend in cold blood? The Doctor interrupted his thoughts and showed him the device he’d just finished making. It looked more like a work of art than a practical device, but the Doctor flicked a switch and the phantoms immediately stopped and remained frozen in their positions like statues. The Brigadier touched one and was chilled right down to his bone. The Doctor explained that his counter wave was nullifying the effect of the psychic field inside the castle. The Brigadier was quietly pleased, but he knew it could only be a matter of minutes before Arc Light was implemented. The Doctor didn’t know how long his wave would remain operable so he ordered the Brigadier to get the surviving soldiers away as quickly as possible.

Unfortunately the Doctor needed to remain behind to keep the machine in check. The Brigadier volunteered to take his place as the Doctor was far more valuable to UNIT and to the Universe than he was, and it looked like there was going to be another huge argument between them - but then Kolonel Konrad spoke to them from his bed and said he’d do it. Perhaps because of some side effect of the counter wave, some element of the man Konrad once was had returned. The Brigadier checked that he was alright, but Konrad blamed himself for everything that had happened. He thought he could defeat their enemies by becoming like them, but instead all he did was unleash an even greater threat - the uncontrolled pain and horror of a thousand battles. The Brigadier told him the Arc Light bombers were still on their way so Konrad formally reassumed his post as commander of Kriegeskind and ordered the Brigadier to leave immediately. Then he said goodbye to his old friend and told him not to look back.

The Brigadier led the evacuation from the castle and noticed there were some new additions amongst the phantoms - men in UNIT uniforms! The group moved as quickly as they could. The bombers appeared on the horizon and the Doctor grabbed the radio from the Brigadier urgently and said they still had time to call them off. He contacted Konrad and told him they were all clear, then they listed as Konrad used the radio back at the castle to speak to air command. The Kolonel read out a code word, but the Brigadier knew it wasn’t the abort code. Seconds later, the bombers struck and Kriegeskind Castle was completely obliterated as a firestorm swept in…

The Brigadier took some small comfort from the fact that Konrad, Kriegeskind and the phantoms all perished together. Every trace of the alien plant was also atomised, along with all the other research material. The Brigadier later made sure the entire sorry affair was committed to a sealed file so it couldn’t happen again. In his rush to protect his world, Konrad had let his judgement slip, but he paid the price for making the wrong decision. The Doctor told the Brigadier he was sorry about his friend, but the Brigadier realised it all came down to the choices they made - Konrad’s choices at Kriegeskind and his own choices at Wenley Moor. They’d both done what they thought to be right.

Years later and Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart has never forgotten the choices made and the consequences thereof. He’s determined that when the next threat comes to this planet - and it will - they won’t defeat it by making themselves as alien as their enemies. He knows that if we sacrifice everything we are, then there’s nothing worth defending any more. The one thing that makes us unique is our humanity. He pours himself a drink and makes a toast to absent friends, comrades in arms and old soldiers…

Source: Lee Rogers

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