Trumpkin;Doctor Who;Jo Grant;Katy Manning;Third Doctor;Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart;Jon Pertwee;Jeri Massi
by Jeri Massi
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Set after Colony in Space.
Jo Grant rushed into the lab, snatched up her pen and clipboard, and made for the door again at a gallop. She moved with the speed of a member of the junior staff late for an important meeting. But a white piece of paper hung on the door jamb stopped her cold as she saw it. It was taped into place, and she snatched it down and read it quickly.
JO, THE ALLIGATOR CLIPS AND SMALL SUPPLIES
CAME IN. STOCK THE SHELVES.
I'LL TAKE CARE OF THE MORNING MEETING.
She stopped short and let out a sigh of disappointment. Now that the Doctor had found out that she could keep his precious lab tidy, it was all he wanted her to do.
Since returning from their brief jaunt into time and space, the Doctor seemed to more keenly feel his exile on earth. The fact that he had once gotten his TARDIS running now tormented him, and every hour of every day he worked on the dematerialisation circuit and drive system. He wanted every piece of equipment ready and at hand in case he should need it.
She was only in his way these days. He had completely forgotten the brief, mutual trust and reliance that they had shared against the IMC people on their last adventure.
Jo crumpled up the scrawled note and pitched it into the nearest waste can. She set her clipboard down on the lab bench and went to the utility drawer to hunt up a razor blade for opening boxes. As she pulled the drawer open, a movement just on the edge of her peripheral vision caught her eye. She glanced over to the store room and thought that she saw a tall figure duck back into the shelter of the doorway.
"Doctor?" she asked. "Is that you?"
There was no answer.
Maybe it was the stores clerk. "Corporal?" she asked. "Are you in there?" She straightened up and closed the drawer. For a long moment she listened intently.
From the hallway outside, she heard a couple of the men go past, talking quietly. Bright morning sunlight streamed in through the enormous windows, casting friendly light on the Doctor's assortment of African shields and Eskimo face masks hanging on the wall near the silent and inoperative TARDIS.
And then, just as she was thinking she had seen only a shadow or floater in her eye, she heard a distinct sound of cloth brushing one of the shelves in the closet. She hesitated, and then walked boldly to the storeroom.
* * * *
For once, it was Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart's turn to be bored in the daily morning conference at UNIT H.Q. The Brigadier, Mike Yates, and Sgt. Benton, along with one or two other junior officers, sat helplessly draped and slumped over chairs around the conference room, captives of a point that the tall, white haired scientific advisor found urgent to make.
"And that," the Doctor said, sounding as though he might finally be concluding his lecture, "is the difficulty. It's not that bullets will not work, gentlemen. It's that your particular methods of firing bullets won't work against most non-terran aggressors."
Benton added a comment with a sound of finality in his voice. "In other words, the bullets have to fire faster so they can cut better." He was sitting wrong way 'round in a straight back chair, resting his thick arms on top of the ladder back. Everybody started to breathe a sigh of relief. It seemed that the horrible lecture was at last over.
"Not at all, you've missed the point entirely!" the Doctor told him impatiently. Half of the men present stifled a groan, and Osgood muttered, "Oh mercy, he's off on it again!"
The Brigadier opened his mouth to interrupt, but he suddenly stopped as a woman's scream interrupted the Doctor. In an instant chairs were pushed back or overturned as the small group raced for the doors.
"That was Jo!" Mike Yates exclaimed as they ran for the stairs that led down to the lab.
Only the Brigadier had his sidearm, and he drew it out as they clattered down the steps to the lab. The sound of glass breaking and smaller objects being thrown reached them. But before they got to the double doors of the lab, Jo fled into the hallway and backed against the wall. She saw the men and nodded towards the lab.
"It saw me and went mad!" she exclaimed. "Absolutely mad! It's tearing things up in there!"
"Stay back!" the Doctor shouted, and came forward. The men obeyed him, except for the Brigadier, who came along behind him as a back up, the hand gun up and ready.
They all peered inside the lab. A creature that at first glance looked like a koala bear in the final throes of insanity rampaged across the workbench, scattering things out of its way with its broad hind feet, which appeared to be webbed. Monkey-like, it swung around on the table surface on its forehands, using its arms as supports, and then tore across the workbench in the other direction. It let out a scream that sounded almost exactly like Jo's scream.
Unexpectedly, the Doctor broke out into a smile. "How did that get here?" he asked. He then looked concerned as he watched it, but it was the concern of a gentle parent. He glanced at Lethbridge Stewart. "You can put the gun away, Brigadier. It doesn't intend us any harm. In fact, it's been tremendously upset, and it's frightened--panicked, I should say."
Eyes fixed on the creature, the Brigadier remained still, the gun pointed straight up but ready to be aimed. "What the blazes is it?" he demanded.
"A Determiner," the Doctor said. "A Determiner taken out of its context. That's one reason it's panicked. Step out of its line of vision." He glanced over at Jo. "You too, Jo. I think I know what made it go on such a rampage."
Both the Brigadier and Jo stepped away from the lab doors so that the creature would not be able to see them. The Doctor carefully removed his tie and put it in his pocket, buttoned his black velvet jacket nearly up to his chin, and entered the lab. He let out a low call to the creature, which was running across the workbench again.
It turned to look at him instantly, let out a sound very similar to a sob, and stopped in its tracks. Peeking at it from around the door, the humans saw that its grey, furry sides were heaving in and out. Its long, muscular forearms were bleeding bits of dark blood from the glass it had broken. The Doctor easily and casually strolled up to it. The creature had a pronounced snout as slender and as strong as an anteater's that hung down to the middle of its stumpy torso. As the Doctor neared it, it looked up at him, tipped its head back, and shot out an incredibly long, wiry tongue that wrapped around the Doctor's throat. Jo shuddered, and even the Brigadier winced. The Doctor did not seem much bothered by it, but he said, "Yes, it's dreadfully frightened. Come here, little fellow--or little lady, as the case may be."
He offered it his hands, the fingers laced together, as one might do to give somebody a leg up over a wall, and the creature unhesitatingly lifted an incredibly short, thick leg, showing the webbed paw clearly, grasped the Doctor's forearm with it, and climbed into his arms. It used its powerful webbed hind feet to hold his arms and stay perched in place.
"Poor thing," the Doctor murmured to it. "What accident of intergalactic misadventure put you here, I wonder?"
The creature withdrew its long tongue from the Doctor's throat and remained very still. The Brigadier and the soldiers relaxed as the small alien receded from being a maniacal midget to a subdued teddy bear. The Brig holstered his gun.
"Doctor--" he began.
"Don't come in," the Doctor said instantly. "And I don't know where it came from or how it got here, so you may as well not ask yet. Just go about your business until I find out. These things don't have a language other than pure mathematics and symbols, so it's going to be a while before I know anything about its history."
"Well are there any more of them about?" Yates asked from the edge of the doorway.
"I thought I saw something larger--back in the store room--" Jo began.
The Doctor glared at her. "Don't be ridiculous!" he snapped. "You're merely frightened, that's all! There's nothing unusual about that!"
At his rebuke, she stopped instantly. Nobody knew quite where to look when the Doctor spoke to people that way.
The Doctor glanced down at the pudgy extra-terrestrial in his arms. It had become as still as a statue, apparently very tense but no longer panic-stricken. "I shouldn't think that there are any more of its kind about," he said in a quieter voice. "They normally travel in pairs, but not species pairs. This one must have been separated from its articulate partner."
"Articulate partner?" Jo echoed, determined to question him despite his impatience.
Somewhat abashed, his voice was reluctantly patient with her. "Yes, yes. Meanwhile Jo, I think you're shirt panicked it," he said. "Tell me what happened, but don't come into its view yet."
From her refuge behind the door, she glanced down at her sweater, which was a very stylish knit with enormous stripes running across it. She had worn it recently on her first trip in the TARDIS with the Doctor, to the planet that the IMC miners had nearly stolen from the Earth colonists. The sweater had just come back from the cleaners the night before.
"How could my sweater panic it?" she asked, but then she answered him. "I was down here about to stock the shelves like you'd asked. I went to the storeroom because I--I heard something in there. Then this thing raced out towards me. At first I thought it was a dog, and then I thought it might be a raccoon or hedgehog. But when it saw me, it absolutely went mad. It raced over all the counter tops, smashing through all the glassware. I screamed, and then it screamed too. It was really frightening."
"Yes, Determiners go for symmetry," the time lord told her. "Screaming doesn't mean anything to it, but if you make what it regards as a random sound, it will try to make the universe more ordered by creating a symmetrical other half to the sound."
"But how could my shirt frighten it?" she asked.
He glanced down at the creature, which relaxed just a fraction against him and gripped his arms more firmly, apparently deciding it could trust him.
"Determiners communicate and think in mathematical symbols. Shapes have meaning for them. Visual order has meaning for them. Those big stripes on your shirt aren't saying anything meaningful to him, but they are saying that meaninglessness very loudly indeed. It would be the same for you, if you got lost and came to a strange planet and the natives were running around and screaming or using profane language as they approached you. It might mean something entirely different to them, but it would frighten you."
"Then why doesn't everything in the room frighten it?" she asked. "Nothing in the lab is symmetrically arranged."
"Hardly," the Brigadier added with a snort.
The creature suddenly tipped its head back to look up at the Doctor, shot out its long tongue, and touched it to his chin, then whisked the tongue back up its snout. The gesture seemed to please the time lord. "There, I knew we would be friends." He glanced at them. "Use your heads! Some sounds and noises that strike the ear would clearly not be communication signals to a human, and some would, and others might be or might not be. It's the same for him, but with visual symbols."
"Well what should I do?" she asked.
"Sneak past me and get a white lab coat for yourself," he suggested. "And Brigadier, you can just close those doors for the time being. We won't want to be disturbed for a while. We have to get our friend acclimated and make him feel more at home." Jo obediently entered, went past him so the creature would not see her, and pulled a lab coat from the hooks on the wall.
At a nod from the Brigadier, Sgt. Benton and another soldier swung the lab doors closed, cutting them off from the Doctor, Jo, and the creature. "Well I'm blowed," the Sergeant said. "A person that doesn't talk but mimics you, and has a language of squares and circles, so you can frighten it by wearing the wrong shirt and tie!"
"I suppose that the term `loud clothes' takes on a whole new meaning with that thing here," Yates agreed.
"That's enough," the Brigadier snapped. "I've been belabored enough this morning, and now I find we have another extra-terrestrial visitor right in our own H.Q! I am not in a mood for jokes, Captain Yates!"
Meanwhile, in the lab, the Doctor seemed very pleased to have a visitor. But Jo, slipping into a lab coat several times too big for her, asked the obvious question: "What do we feed it?"
"You know, Jo, I'm not sure," he said. "I don't know very much about Determiners in their own right." He hitched the creature's foot in his belt and raised a hand to rub the back of his neck, but the creature whipped out its long tongue and wrapped it around his wrist. "Oops, sorry," the Doctor said, and returned to letting it grip his arm. Satisfied, it sucked its tongue back up its snout.
Jo retrieved the broom to start a clean-up operation of the lab, which was littered with broken glass. For the first time, the creature turned its head, watching her, but without any apparent suspicion or overt worry.
"Would earth food poison it?" she asked.
A mimicked call went out from the Determiner: Would earth food poison it? She glanced at it and smiled ruefully, but the wide black eyes on either side of its long, ridged snout remained expressionless as it watched her.
"Are you sure it's intelligent?" she asked the Doctor.
He experimentally stroked the creature's head, but it did not react at all. "Oh, it's intelligent," he told her. "But a Determiner is not an earth creature, and it doesn't think like an earth creature. They fall apart without proper care because they don't know anything about caring for themselves."
"Then who cares for them?" she asked. She swept up one pile of glass shards and glanced around for the dust pan.
"Their articulate partner," he told her. "That's the riddle I have to solve. This Determiner belongs with its articulate partner, and somehow they've been separated. That's nearly impossible." He suddenly caught himself and seemed thoughtful. He glanced quickly at her, shot a look at the store room, and glanced down at the creature in his arms.
She brought the dustpan back to the pile of glass, but instead of sweeping she turned to him full facing and got his attention. "Look, I know I'm ordinary and haven't traveled 'round the galaxy as much as you, so could you please explain things a bit more thoroughly to me? I mean, I have no idea what an articulate partner is."
The Doctor frowned. "The trouble with you, Jo, is that half the time you don't want any explanation at all, and the other half of the time you want to know much more than you need to know." He glanced down at the creature with a slightly possessive air. "I don't have time to answer a lot of questions! What I need is peace and quiet."
She sighed. "Was it a bad morning conference?" she asked. She turned to her work. The Doctor became more indignant at the recollection of how everybody had been so bored during his lecture. He was just about to say something when the long, whiplike tongue tapped his chin again and disappeared.
Instantly, he calmed himself. "Well, it might have gone better," he admitted. "But to answer your question, Jo, an articulate partner generally is a member of some species that is less communicative than the Determiners."
She was stooped down, sweeping up the glass and dust, and she turned to look up at him. "That thing is communicative?"
"Incredibly so," he told her. "Especially in the universal language of mathematics. But its out of its environment, and I'm afraid it's not at all equipped to survive in ours. You see, the articulate partner provides the Determiner with care but also gives it a window on the world through its own more highly refined senses. The articulate partner becomes more communicative by having a bond with the Determiner. It can communicate for the Determiner but only by means of the Determiner."
She straightened up, fascinated. "So you mean, this little creature makes a rather stupid creature more intelligent by creating a bond with it?"
He looked both thoughtful and annoyed. "No, not at all. The Determiner doesn't make the articulate partner more natively intelligent, just more communicative. And the articulate partner cares for the Determiner and supplies it with additional observations outside of thre Determiner's more limited sensory perceptions."
He looked down at it and absent mindedly stroked the soft, gray fur of its head. "About feeding it?" Jo asked.
"I'll need to clean up the cuts on its arms and hands," the Doctor said. "I can take a smear of blood from one of the cuts and determine a good bit about its metabolism that way. Maybe I can find a suitable food for it."
He walked past her, towards the first aid kit. But as he passed her, the creature suddenly shot out its long tongue at Jo. Instinctively, she let out a short yelp of surprise and flinched as the whiplike tongue touched her chin. The creature nearly leaped out of the Doctor's arms.
He caught it and shot her a severe glance. "I believe that Captain Yates is doing the quarterly inventory. He needs assistance!"
For a moment Jo drew a blank, watching the creature warily. It had its face fixed on hers, but it made no move. The Doctor's voice cut in. "Off you go then, Jo, I can spare you."
The order took her back. "But I thought we--"
Still carrying the creature perched in his arms, the Doctor abruptly turned away from her, toward the storeroom. "Go on then. I'll let you know if I need you."
For a moment Jo stood still and nearly said something, and then she suddenly gave up. He had an exciting new adventure all to himself, something alien and exotic and mysterious. She walked out and closed the lab door behind herself. Before she had gotten to the steps to go upstairs, she heard the bolt of the door shoot home, locking her out.
* * * *
Captain Yates and Sgt. Benton had their heads bent over the inventory lists when Jo entered the tiny cubbyhole office allotted to Officer of the Day.
"Reinforcements?" Benton said hopefully.
She nodded. "Afraid so."
Mike looked up with a welcoming smile. "Don't be so enthusiastic! How's the anteater thing?"
She shrugged and showed by her face that she did not want to discuss it.
"Did the Doc send you up then?" Benton asked. "Can you give us a hand?" She looked rueful. "It's not like he'll miss me in the lab! Looks like everything is back to normal. I only ever make things worse," she said, half to herself.
"The old fellow can be a bit of bear, can't he, Miss?" And Benton offered her a brief smile of sympathy.
Yates glanced at Benton, and as though on a signal, both men became brisk. "Well, let's get down to it, then," Mike said. "Many hands make light work and all that. If we get finished before closing time, I'll buy a round for us all!"
* * * *
Weaponry and ordnance were always first on the list to be counted and locked away. UNIT had inherited several lockers of AR-15 rifles, now rendered obsolete by experimental automatic weapons designed just for them. The AR-15's were stored down in the dusty basement of the old building that served as London HQ.
Captain Yates handed her the enormous bunch of keys on the Number Two key ring, and sent her down to count up the weapons. The basement was musty, but not especially dark. In fact, floodlights and other luminescent devices of every description had been mounted in a complex matrix designed to eliminate all shadows in the vast basement area.
First she signed in, and then was buzzed through to the hallway that led to the secured area. She let herself in through the reinforced blast door with the heaviest key, and then passed through a doorway made of reinforced fencing material and steel bars, into a wide pen subdivided by the reinforced fencing into smaller pens stocked with weapon lockers.
She entered pen number one and found the correct key to open the first heavy locker where the AR-15s were stored.
There were ten weapons per locker. She counted the muzzles quickly and then double-checked by counting the smoothly polished stocks. Ten and again, ten. She checked off the first item on her list and moved to the next locker.
This was mindless work, and she spent a good part of her time reviewing her current difficulties. Whenever she and the Doctor got into trouble together, he was gallant, gentle, protective. Even on their last adventure, when she had accidentally been transported with him to that planet, he had proved himself a true companion. At the end, when Dent had ordered them to be lined up with the Master and shot by the IMC Security team, the Doctor had been comforting, apologetic for bringing her with him. Unable to look at the guns pointed at them, she had turned to look up at him, waiting for the fatal shot. And she had found his quiet eyes, steady and compassionate, fixed on hers.
She had seen in that moment--what she had thought was the last moment of her life--that he was completely alien, but good, able to be tender, able to understand her fear and help her bear it. And if he had not been able to make her brave, she had at least drawn from him the strength to be composed, her hand held fast in his warm grip.
It was a moment that would have changed Jo forever and shaped her for the rest of her life. But afterward, after their rescue, when she had mentioned it to him, the Doctor's reply had been dismissive. "Oh, that Captain Dent," he had said. "Megalomaniac. Frightful bounder. And that stupid whip."
Intrigued and awed from her first journey with him, she had no idea how to react to this brilliant, mercurial, exiled alien who seemed so much like a human man, but was not.
Her musings as she worked were interrupted by the sound of padding feet. Bare feet. She looked up.
Coated with dust from whatever secret route he had taken, the creature from the lab scurried towards her and let out a slight cry.
She was so amazed that he had found her that she didn't think but held out her arms. He scrambled up the weapons lockers and climbed into her arms, gripping them with his hind feet and holding her shoulders with his front feet.
"How did you get here?" she asked him.
How did you get here? The mimicked question came from his chest. He had no mouth as far as she could see.
"The Doctor's not going to be very pleased," she said.
The Doctor's not going to be very pleased. He imitated her tone perfectly.
"Trumpkin!" she said on sudden inspiration. She felt a thrill go through him.
Trumpkin! He mimicked, but he seemed to know she had given him a name.
"Come on, you!"
He whisked out his tongue and tapped her chin. She was fairly sure that this was a friendly gesture on his part, and her shame from having affronted the Doctor by flinching earlier prompted her to accept it.
But Trumpkin became very still, and as Jo carried him to the fence-type door, he suddenly pushed his head into her, nestling as a human might do. She sensed that this was a guess on his part, for she had already seen that his head was not sensitive as a human mammal's head was.
She opened the door and carried him to the blast door, but just as she opened it, Trumpkin unexpectedly scrambled from her arms. His hind limbs were so strong that they simply pushed her arms away.
"Trumpkin!" she exclaimed. "Don't run away! You might get hurt!"
He waddled away down the aisle between the fenced pens as fast as his pudgy legs would take him.
In spite of her alarm, Jo had to laugh as she chased him. The entire scene was more reminiscent of pursuing a two-year old playing a game than chasing down a truant alien being.
He waddled at full speed around a corner of the main pen, and she followed. She had her eyes full on him as she caught up with him and caught his long forearm.
She stopped as she saw that somebody was waiting for him, a tall figure that she took to be the Doctor for an instant, but then she realized that the clothing was different--strange.
She looked up.
The sight of the non-human face cut her like a knife driven into her heart and mind: hideous, a killing face: the face of death.
Somebody in the basement was screaming, and then she saw the mesh of the fencing as she rammed herself into it. She felt her fingers take hold of the mesh with rigid horror and she ran herself face first into it as hard as she could. The screaming was getting louder. She rammed herself into the fencing, felt it cut ineffectually into her fingers, but she could not ram herself hard enough to kill herself and take away the sight of the hideous face, looking down into hers. Abruptly, she reached higher and started climbing, her driven fear telling her she could die most expediently by throwing herself down onto the concrete flooring if she jumped from a great enough height.
Go to Episode Two.
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