Trumpkin;Doctor Who;Jo Grant;Katy Manning;Third Doctor;Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart;Jon Pertwee;Jeri Massi
by Jeri Massi
"No, no, you can let go now," a kind voice said. It was the kindest voice she had ever heard. In her blindness, it instantly brought before her mind's eye the Doctor's face, the grip of his hand on hers, his reassurance. But then she saw in her mind the hideous face, knew it was nearby, and she tried again to climb higher. Her eyes were fast closed, sealed against the danger of seeing that face again.
"No, don't, Jo," the kind voice said. "Don't hurt yourself. I'll send the face away. You won't have to see it again."
She let out a sob and suddenly felt that she was nothing but a wild, frightened animal herself. Her entire humanity was dwarfed. Even though she didn't want to die, she struggled again to climb up the fencing so that she could throw herself off.
A powerful hand was fixed in the back of her collar. Another strong, gentle hand got hold of the waistband of her slacks from behind her. "You won't see that face any more, Jo," the Doctor's voice said. "You're safe."
She opened her mouth to speak, but what came out was entirely garbled and senseless, and she started to cry. But she kept her eyes closed. Blindly, she again tried to climb up the fencing, pulling to get away.
The firm gripping of the strong hands did not loosen, but they did not become rough, either. They held her in place and waited until she could not struggle any more.
Unexpectedly, she found words in her darkness. "I can't hold on any longer," she whimpered.
Her strength gave out, and she suddenly let go, her hands bleeding from the imbedded diamond pattern of the fence mesh. Two strong and gentle arms pulled her in and carried her away. She covered her face with her bleeding hands.
Some time later, whether a few minutes or a few hours she did not know, she came around as a wet cloth was dabbed around her eyes, removing the smears of blood. She was on the worn sofa that the Doctor kept against the back wall of the lab.
The Doctor was looking down at her, his keen eyes sober and softened. She wanted to relax and feel safe as she always did when he was nearby. And yet even as part of her decided that she could feel safe here in the lab, a sudden, unthinking part of her leaped straight up from the sofa.
She would have bounded away in a great jump, but he caught her. He didn't force her back but stopped her.
"Can you control yourself, Jo?" he asked.
She tried to blurt out her fear, but the same garbled mishmash of sounds came from her mouth. She could not articulate words.
"All right," he said gently. "All right. The aphasia will pass in a moment or two. It isn't permanent."
Unexpectedly, a meaningful sentence did pop out. "I've seen death!" she exclaimed.
"No," he said gently. "No."
"I've seen my death!"
"No, my dear. No. Here, look at my eyes."
She instantly turned to his great quiet eyes. Not so many months before, he had freed her from the Master's hypnotic hold on her, using his eyes and voice to recall her. Without thinking, helpless as a child, she put her arms around his neck and hid her face against him, reduced once again by what she had seen. She had no dignity or self possession before the horror of that face that she had seen. She could only cling to him: terrified, ashamed of herself deep in her being, confused and disoriented from what she'd seen.
"Can you take it away? Out of my mind?" she sobbed.
"Yes," he told her. "It will be like a bad dream that you've awakened from." He stroked her head.
"Did it kill Trumpkin?" She began to cry then, when she remembered that the defenseless alien had been right at the thing's feet.
"No, dear, he wouldn't kill Trumpkin. He's tremendously sorry that you came 'round that corner when you did. He didn't mean to terrify you."
The Doctor stroked her hair and waited until she had better control of herself. But his voice was already restoring some of her equilibrium. She looked up at him again, pleadingly, wanting him to dim the memory of that face. His eyes held hers.
"You're safe," he said to her. "Nothing hurt you. It was just a face. Just visual. He can't help the face he has--or rather, the face he doesn't have."
"That's it," she whispered, her eyes fixed on him. "He had everything that makes a face, but it wasn't a face. It was death's face."
"No, Jo." He stroked her cheek and spoke again, persuasively and in a low, strong voice. "He can't help his face. His people are like that. No face. No voice that a human or most other creatures can interact with. It's all a blank. Is that what frightened you so?"
Her fear began to recede to normal limits. She had been pushing her weight against his arms, as though she would have still gotten away if she could have, and done harm to herself to end the memory of that face. But now as his gaze calmed her, she abruptly became still. She wasn't sure if he would reassure her once she calmed down, especially now that her panic began to seem almost ridiculous--at least, to him it would seem ridiculous.
But the Doctor himself had been nearly holding his breath, worried, more openly worried for her than she had yet seen him. As she calmed down, he seemed glad enough to let her huddle against him for a moment, letting her senses and her memory re-orient to the familiarity of the lab, of him, of UNIT and the ordinary paths of life. "Are you sleepy?" he asked her, and part of her knew that this was suggestion on his part. His words washed a wave of drowsiness over her.
"But is Trumpkin safe?" she asked.
"So you've named him, eh? Yes, he's safe. He's right over there." She opened her eyes to look and saw a tall, straight figure near the TARDIS. It was holding Trumpkin. She made a sound of fear, but the person, who seemed to be a tall human about the size of the Doctor, had a thick cloth folded around his head and face. At her gasp, this stranger backed behind the corner of the TARDIS, and the Doctor prevented her from getting away.
"He won't hurt you, Jo. He's masked himself. He's sorry that you saw him so soon. He'd only gone after Trumpkin--as you call him--to bring him back to the lab."
She couldn't speak. In fact, she was nearly sick.
"Look at me," the Doctor said kindly. She did. "Our friend over there has come to me for help. He won't hurt you, and he didn't mean to frighten you."
But she couldn't speak.
"He stopped you from throwing yourself off that fence," the Doctor told her.
"It was you," she said. "I heard you."
"No. He has no voice of his own, Jo, not that you would be able to endure. There are voices and sounds that could drive a human mad. So he mimicked my voice to calm you. The little creature--Trumpkin--enabled him to do it. Then he brought you back to me. He'll be careful to keep his face covered." The Doctor hesitated. "He's in trouble. He needs my help. And I need you to keep his presence a secret."
"He was in the store room this morning," she said suddenly. "You knew he was back there. As soon as you saw Trumpkin, you knew!"
Her eyes filled up with tears. She might have been spared the terror of the alien if the Doctor had been honest with her.
"I was trying to protect him. And you," the Doctor told her. "I knew you could never endure the sight of him. But I didn't want to disgrace him by making him hide in dark corners. Or reveal him to the Brigadier." He suddenly became more his austere and annoyed self. "I mean, Lethbridge Stewart is a thoroughly solid chap, but you can just imagine his reaction to a creature that drives humans mad by his glance." He relented as he saw that she was quite worn out by her terror and by his brusqueness with her, and by events that were--once again--entirely out of her experience.
"Listen to me," he said with an authoritative quietness in his voice. She raised her eyes to him. "He will not hurt you. He saved you," the Doctor said emphatically. "He brought you back to me so that I would take care of you. He's a very gracious, very kind hearted creature. And I don't think he's ever done a bit of evil in his life."
"Then why is it so horrible to look at him?" she whispered.
"Because he's not at all human, not a bit. You instinctively looked for something in his face that wasn't there, Jo. I know it seems like a great blank to you. You don't really know how to see his face properly. But he'll stay masked. He doesn't take any pleasure in frightening people."
And then the other person spoke. For a moment it was like hearing the Doctor across the room, and she turned without thinking. But it was the stranger.
"I won't hurt you, young woman," he said with the Doctor's voice from behind the TARDIS. "I'm sorry. I'll bring you tea if you like."
"He sounds just like you," Jo whispered.
"Answer him, my dear," the Doctor said gently. "He's addressing you."
She answered with an automatic answer: "Thank you," she said, and then she realized that she did not want him to bring her tea. She didn't want him anywhere near her.
The TARDIS was blocking her view, but she heard him walk away, towards the tiny cupboard of mugs and the tea kettle. She glanced apprehensively at the Doctor. For his part, he smiled at her with the ghost of a mischievous smile. "Monsters don't make tea, Jo. You should know that by now."
She heard the rattle of cups and spoons and looked down at her hands. They had been bleeding from the fence. To her surprise, the flesh on them was sound and whole.
She touched her face, but there was no telltale trace of blood. Had she imagined lacerating her hands on the fence? But no, there were smears of blood on her sleeve and the front of her blouse.
The Doctor misunderstood her concern. "I'll give you a cleaning solvent that will take the blood out of your clothes," he said. But just then the stranger came back, an incongruous figure with the cloth--which Jo realized had been cut down from an army issue blanket--masking his face. Trumpkin hung on his arms, and he carried a delicate china teacup in each of his hands. With a certain air of grace that even she did not miss in spite of her nervousness, he presented one cup to the Doctor and one to her. Trumpkin swiveled his head to look at them in turns.
"Oh dear," the Doctor said politely. "I neglected to tell you that humans boil the water before they put the tea bags in.
"That is why the infusion is so sluggish," the stranger said with the Doctor's voice. "It is easily mended, time lord."
He extended a gloved finger to Jo's cup and touched the surface of the water in it, then did the same for the Doctor's cup. Steam quickly rose from them, and the tea bags released their dark stain into the water. Trumpkin shot out his long tongue and tapped Jo's chin. He whisked it back up his snout.
"And you like cream cake?" the stranger asked her.
"I'm afraid we don't have any," she said politely, much less terrified of him and suddenly filled with a pins and needles feeling that she ought to be on her best behaviour. He had a ponderous grace about himself, and the Doctor himself seemed quite deferential in his presence. He wandered away to the workbench, found a discarded assortment of gadgetry, bits of wire, and burned out circuit, and made a pile of them. Trumpkin, looking like a satisfied little Buddha, whisked out the whip-like tongue and tapped the stranger's covered chin.
"I see, I see. They like the sugars even more than you do. And yet it suits them less. Very well. And you may have some, too. Share and share alike as the humans say." He touched his gloved hand to the pile of odds and ends. It happened so quickly that Jo could never really describe it. He reached to pick it up as soon as he had touched it, and so before she really saw the transformation, she felt a wave of heat hit her and realized that he was carrying a cream cake on a tray, which he brought to her.
The Doctor seemed amused. "You don't mind recycled cake for tea, do you, Jo.?" He asked.
She stared up at the cloth mask of the stranger. "How did you do that?"
He hesitated, and then he bowed over her to offer her the cake. "I interact with energy and matter differently than you do. Trumpkin helps me."
She glanced at the furry alien, hanging onto the stranger's arms. Trumpkin looked at the cream cake.
"But how does he help you?" she asked.
The Doctor, drinking off his tea in a single draught, set down the cup and sighed. "My assistant will ask you questions forever. Don't think she'll tire of it eventually, because she won't."
"I will have tea with her and explain what I can." He set the cake down alongside Jo and retrieved a lab stool for himself. The Doctor stood. "About that circuit," the time lord began.
"Trumpkin can help you," the stranger said. He lifted Trumpkin and passed him to the Doctor. A corner of the cake had broken off as Jo had taken a piece. The long, whip like tongue whisked out, caught it, and sucked it in.
The stranger cocked his head at his Determiner. "A sneeze right now would be disaster," he observed, and then he asked, "Do you want more?"
But, apparently satisfied, Trumpkin turned to look at the workbench. Jo saw that there was a circuit assembly there, as well as stacks upon stacks of what looked like poker chips. The stranger saw her glance and anticipated the next question.
"I travel by means of personal transference," he said. "Rather than by space ship as you are familiar with. With some slight means of conveyance, I can transmit myself over great distances in space. I have come to ask the Doctor to repair some of my equipment. Those disks that you see are for Trumpkin. They are his language. He can communicate with the Doctor by arranging them to show the values that the circuits must attain for power."
Jo had worked under the Doctor's tutelage enough to understand that a complex circuit's overall power delivery could be effected by unexpected inductances, capacitances, and resistances that were not part of the design. The Doctor laid a great deal of blame for circuit problems on Earth's technology of transistors, which were too dependent on temperature, humidity, interference, and their own material construction to be as stable as what he liked. But she had guessed that circuit design in and of itself was a complex mathematical process, even with stable components.
As she watched, the Doctor set Trumpkin down on the table top, and the small creature immediately began sliding the disks around with his snout or forepaw, arranging them in some language of his own that the Doctor could read.
"All right, we'll check there first," the Doctor said absently as he read the pattern. He picked up his visor that he used for microcircuitry and put it on, masking his eyes.
The stranger spoke. "There are rifles missing from the lockers."
She turned to him. "What?"
"There are rifles missing from the lockers," he said again.
For a moment she went blank, and then she asked, "Where?"
"In the lockers that you checked. I can show you."
"But I counted ten in each."
"There were false duplicates. If you are no longer afraid of me, I will show you. Isn't this your duty? To find if any have been taken?"
"Yes," she said. And she took a long drink of her tea while he sat, the blank, covered face directed at her.
"What shall I call you?" she asked, her voice quiet and shy.
"You have named me Trumpkin," he said.
For a moment she thought he had been confused and she wondered how to avoid correcting him, but he spoke again, "What you call my Determiner, you also name me. We go by the one name, Jo."
The thought of the basement intimidated her, and she wondered if she should prepare for anything unexpected. "Trumpkin was panicked by my shirt earlier," she began. "But he seems all right now."
"Because I am with him again. I can help him bear what he views as anomalies in your world, even as he helps me to interact with what you can observe as a human. We will be safe in the basement without him. I have been there once and understand what is there. Your senses and perceptions of the room and the equipment are imprinted on my mind through him. I can accommodate." So saying, he stood and with a gesture very similar to that of the Doctor when he wanted her to come with him where she was afraid to go, he held out a gloved hand to her.
Jo set aside the tea cup and took the offered hand. She had been nervous, but even as the glove touched her, she realized that he must have healed the lacerations she'd given herself, and she recalled how he had made the water hot and transformed the debris into food. And then she was on her feet, confidently leading him to the basement, now intrigued by his comments on the rifles.
"Where are you going?" the Doctor asked.
"He wants to see the basement!" Jo exclaimed.
"Well take him the back way!"
She took him down the back steps to the basement. By now midmorning was well past, and nearly everybody was attending to lunch, which the day shift ate rather early, owing to the shift starting at 0600. Jo signed herself in, and let the stranger, who now must be called Trumpkin, sneak in by the expedient of crawling past the sign-in desk while she engaged the corporal in a bit of conversation.
They were buzzed into the armory area, and she opened the blast door and then the pen door.
"Here," Trumpkin the larger said. He pointed to one of the lockers she had checked. She obligingly unlocked it and opened it. The lockers themselves were like great wooden chests. One rack of rifles housed five of the weapons, and each chest had one rack on the bottom row and another rack on top, with the rifles reversed so that both rows would be visible and easy to count.
Trumpkin the larger pointed to the third rifle on the bottom rack. "It is not a weapon but a toy."
He helped her lift out the top rack, and they set it aside. She picked up the weapon he had chosen. An AR-15 is lighter than most machine guns, but still has a solid feel to it that speaks of heavyweight construction. But the gun that she picked up weighed less than a pound.
"It's plastic!" she exclaimed.
"A toy," he repeated. "But to your senses, because you rely on vision, it appears real until you look at it in appropriate lighting, or until you pick it up."
She turned from it to him. "But how did you know? Did you look in the lockers?"
"You looked in the lockers, Jo. The memory of the sight shot out from you as you counted. Trumpkin conveyed it to me because it was mathematics. He thought you were trying to talk to him. But when I saw the memory, I realized that you were not seeing the weapons as I can see them."
"So you saw all the lockers that I checked in this pen?" she asked. "You saw them through Trumpkin when he tried to make sense of my counting?"
"Yes. Each locker has one false weapon in it, placed in the bottom rack." He cast his blank face around the vast room, towards all the other pens. "We should check the rest. It will not take long. I expect that every locker has one real weapon removed."
It was much later that afternoon when Jo reported back to the desk of the Officer of the Day. Yates had his head bent over a pile of inventory forms. He glanced up at her. "Hello, you! I was wondering if the Doc had whisked you off onto another project. Where have you been?"
"Checking the AR-15s!" she exclaimed. She set one of the plastic replicas on the desk. "Mike, somebody's been down there smuggling guns out!"
He stood up and picked up the false gun. For a moment he was silent, and then he became crisp and business like. "Right. Get Sgt. Benton up here will you? I'd better notify the Brig."
* * * *
The Brigadier, grim and quiet as he could be when contemplating a bad situation, straightened up from the locker and glanced around the pen.
Yates and Benton looked at him while Jo pensively glanced around the basement. She was very concerned about automatic weapons being smuggled out of UNIT HQ, but part of her wanted to be in the lab. And she was perfectly sure that the stranger, or Trumpkin the larger as she called him, would have a better plan for figuring out the identity of the thief than any plan that they would come up with.
As though to confirm this suspicion, the Brigadier said, "How does a bloke smuggle 25 automatic weapons out of a military headquarters?"
"We'll need to check the sign-in sheets," Mike said.
They heard footsteps and looked up. His thick eyeglasses reflecting the many lights of the pen area, Osgood strode into view. "No prints on the false guns, sir. None on the two racks that we checked."
"Whoever did it must have worn gloves," the Brig said. "Of course."
Jo spoke automatically. "We can check the light bulbs."
He turned to her, startled. Much as the Brigadier respected the way Jo had battled the Axons side by side with his own soldiers several months earlier, and endured the rigours at Stangmoor prison prior to that, he had never lost the impression that she was something of a giddy little girl.
"If he was down here at night making a contraband stockpile of weapons, then he would have needed to have dimmed the bulbs that shine through the basement windows," and she pointed up to the narrow, high windows at the far end of the room. "One switch controls all the lights in the basement area, so the only way to dim the lights visible on the outside would have been to loosen them by hand in their sockets. But gloves are clumsy for that type of work. There's a chance he might have taken them off."
She knew then that she would never have thought of this. Somewhere, somehow, Trumpkin or both Trumpkins were helping her.
"Osgood, check the bulbs for fingerprints," the Brigadier said, not taking his eyes off of her. He was looking at her with new respect. "Miss Grant, I'd like to keep you on this matter until it is concluded. I'll arrange it with the Doctor."
Yates spoke up. "But how did he get them out of here? And who did he sell them to?"
"The fakes," Jo said suddenly. "They certainly are not of English manufacture." Again, all three men looked at her. "These replicas are probably mass produced. We can test them for similarity of seam contour to determine if they came from one mold or many. But if they came from a mass production facility, it's probably American. Such exact replicas of an automatic rifle would be illegal in this country."
"Eh, yes," the Brigadier said. "Quite." He tried to become brisk and take all her insight in stride, but it was clear that he was rapidly re-evaluating his estimation of her. Yates and Benton were already looking at her with wide-eyed wonder. She cocked her head at them.
The Brigadier threw a glance at his wristwatch. "Yates, have this area cordoned off from all but secured personnel: You, Benton, Miss Grant, Osgood, myself. We'll reconvene in an hour at my office. Get some supper the lot of you. It's going to be a long night."
* * * *
Jo further amended her name for the Trumpkins as Trumpkin Senior and Trumpkin Junior. It was unavoidable. The smaller, Trumpkin mightily enjoyed sweets and hanging on to people, and the ponderous grace of the other Trumpkin made him seem old and wise. So even though both were about the same age, the appellation of "Senior" and "Junior" stuck. Even the Doctor used it.
Trumpkin Junior was still quite dusty from his foray into the basement through the crawl spaces, and by the time Jo returned to the lab, the small creature was uncomfortable. Earth's dust mites were a new experience to him, and his dense fur did not protect him well.
While Trumpkin Senior set about finding food, Jo was assigned to bathe the furry alien in the lab's enormous galvanized sink. This took longer than one might expect for bathing such a small creature, because Trumpkin Junior enjoyed it so much that he turned somersaults under the running water. And the cream rinse would not easily wash out of his fur.
But at last she had him bundled into soft towels from the TARDIS cupboards. The Doctor took the task of scrubbing the absorbent cloth over the little creature, which Trumpkin responded to by tapping the Doctor's chin several times with his tongue.
"No, old fellow, that's not disgusting at all," the Doctor said after about the fifth such caress. But it was clear that the time lord could hold his own. He was in an excellent humor, having spent his entire day with aliens right under the Brig's nose.
Trumpkin Senior emerged from the tea corner with a plate for Jo.
"More recycled food?" she asked with interest.
"I boiled the water the human way," he said, and nodded his masked face toward the tea kettle. "Are you never annoyed at how long such tasks take to complete?"
"All the time!" she admitted.
The Doctor at last stripped off the towels and set his charge under a small warm lamp to complete the drying process. "Look here, Jo," he said. "What's all this about Lethbridge Stewart wanting you to go full time on this inventory thing? I didn't mean to give you full sign-off from the lab."
"There's been a bit of a snag," she said.
"What? In taking inventory?" He made a sound of impatience. "Surely they can count right without you there!" He strode over to the phone, which doubled as intercom. "All right, I'll call him and tell him you can help! But I want you back right away!" Trumpkin Junior, again resembling a Buddha in spite of the fluffy texture given to his coat by the cream rinse, turned with interest to watch the time lord.
She glanced up at Trumpkin Senior as the Doctor dialed up the Brig's extension.
"Thank you," she said.
He turned the blank face to her. "For what, Jo?"
"For making him want me in the lab."
He stroked the side of her face with a gloved finger. "He does want you with him, Jo, but he is also angry and sad at his imprisonment. Sometimes when his thinking is influenced by his frustration, he consoles himself by sending you away or behaving in a superior way. But he would be in great distress without you."
"Are you a time lord?" she asked suddenly.
"No." He paused. "I am Trumpkin Senior. That is your name for me."
"But what are you?"
"I am myself." He changed the subject. "There are other methods to determine who has stolen the guns. The Brigadier is concerned foremost with where they were taken and who has received them."
"Twenty-five automatic rifles in the hands of terrorists," she said. "That's enough to arm a platoon of men. They could wipe out a small town."
"Yes, yes." His tone was soothing. "He may neglect more obvious clues. Even if you cannot track down the maker of the replicas, tell the Brigadier or Mike Yates to search the Receiving records here at UNIT. It would have been easier for the thief to have the replicas shipped here to a department and then hidden, then to have brought them onto the site himself."
She nodded. He leaned closer and rested his hand on her head. "Now eat your supper!"
And then he walked away to check the circuitry that the Doctor and Trumpkin Junior had assembled and repaired.
She quickly finished her meal with five minutes to spare before the meeting in the Brig's office. The idea that there might be a discarded packing case tucked away in one of the pens seemed feasible. An American return address or postage mark might advance their investigation.
The Doctor and the two Trumpkins were bent over the circuitry, talking. She hurried out to do a quick check around the pens.
A cordon had already been set up, but it was unmanned. Day shift was over, and night shift never went down to the basement area. Even the sign-in desk was empty. The required keys were still necessary to get in, and those were on only two key rings: the Brig's, and the ring that Jo still had in possession.
She let herself in and did a quick survey of the storage pens from the outside of each, scanning for the telltale brown cardboard of a shipping box or packing material. She found nothing; there were other places to search in the basement area, but there was no time. Just as she straightened up from the last pen in the row, a hand caught her from the back, and something hard rapped into the back of her head.
She would have pulled away, but a man's voice, not American, said, "Don't move."
"What do you want?" she asked, not turning.
"I want you to walk out to the back car park. Now. Or I'll blow your head off."
Sweat suddenly moistened her arm pits. "You'll only blow my head off out there," she said, trying to make her voice sound even. "Well, it's too late. We've already caught you at gun running."
"No you haven't. And if I'm doomed, then you're doomed too. I'm not dying alone." The hand pushed her collar. "Go in front of me!"
She was desperately frightened, but she knew perfectly well that he meant to kill her in the back car park, to avoid spilling her blood here in the investigation site. Then he could hide her body anywhere.
"I won't," she insisted, planting her feet, and her voice trembled. "I'm going to ruin your game. You'll have to kill me and get my blood all over yourself. That's what you're afraid of, isn't it? One speck of blood on you, and the Doctor will find it out."
"I'm not that afraid to kill you here." She heard him cock the hammer of the gun. It was probably a big handgun, she thought dizzily, a .45, like a cowboy. She closed her eyes.
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