The Dangers of Exceeding the Blinovitch Limitation EffectAlways the Third Doctor!;Jo Grant;Katy Manning;Jon Pertwee;Sequel to INFERNO;
The Dangers of Exceeding the Blinovitch Limitation Effect
Written by Jeri Massi
Jo Grant entered the lab to find the Doctor furiously working in the center of the room. To her amazement, the TARDIS console sat in the middle of the lab, with heavy power cables leading from it into the open doors of the TARDIS.
"Doctor, what are you doing?"
He glanced up briefly and then frowned. "Jo, I told Captain Yates to allocate you for shift duty today. You're to report to him."
She stepped forward. He was busy trying to fit a piece of the panel back into place on the disembodied console.
"What?" she asked. "Work on shift? Whatever for? And what are you doing?"
He straightened up, exasperated with the bit of panel, but he controlled himself and made himself sound patient. "Look, it is very dangerous for you to be in here today. I need you to stay clear of this lab!"
The question caught him off guard. He thought for a moment and then barked, "Because I say so, that's why!" He returned to the panel and would not look at her. "Now get about your business!"
She was at a loss. The Doctor had long ago given up on trying to get rid of her. This type of situation had not come up for over a year. "What's the matter?" she asked.
He took up a screw driver from the floor and tried to use it as a lever and a wedge to force the thing into place. "Nothing is the matter with you. But this is a dangerous experiment, and you must clear the area!"
"What are you doing? Isn't it dangerous to you as well?"
"Jo!" he exclaimed. He straightened up again and glared at her. She hunted quickly in her memory for some idea of why he would not want her around. Her mind hit on the unexpected heroism she had shown on their last adventure. She had initiated a time ram when he had failed to do so, both of them thinking that the event would destroy her. The Doctor was always touched by these moments of self sacrifice from her, but after a few days, the rot would set in. Guilt would hound him, and he would worry over her and want her sent off elsewhere for safekeeping.
He chose the worst times to remember that she was merely human, and a rather diminutive human at that.
"Look, if you're in danger, you might as well let me be in danger with you!" she exclaimed. "You let me go to Atlantis with you, and we both knew how dangerous that was!" She stepped up closer. "And a good thing I went, too! Who else could have brought you back to the TARDIS after Kronos got you?"
"You silly girl! This is nothing like Atlantis." He pointed to the lab doors, behind her. "Out!" he exclaimed.
Jo steadied her chin and stayed right where she was. She met his eye, but she couldn't help it that her throat tightened and her eyes got wet. She didn't like it when he shouted at her, and this abrupt dismissal of her was nearly a slap in the face from him.
"Are you going?" he demanded.
She didn't answer him. She couldn't speak without running the risk of tears. For a moment, the lab was silent. The electric clock on the wall buzzed softly as it ticked over onto the hour. The Doctor glared at her, but it was no good. He could see in her eyes that he had hurt her, and it was becoming increasingly a matter of concern to him not to hurt her feelings. Ever since that day several weeks ago when she had been recovering from a dose of poison and had told him---while narcotized---that she loved him, he had thought more and more about how vulnerable she was. She had no memory of saying it, and the removal of all her normal inhibitions by the narcotic had allowed the frank, almost casual, statement.
Under normal conditions she kept the extent of her feelings to herself, making herself a good companion to him, busying herself with tasks that needed to be done in the lab, accompanying him on drives to other research centers or libraries, letting him use her as a sounding board for his electronic creations or his annoyances with human beings or his frustrations over his exile. All in an instant he had understood how deeply she had involved herself in his happiness. And he knew that he owed this small mite of human kind a great debt of gratitude. For she truly had made him happy. He wasn't entirely sure how to return the kindness and make a human happy, but he often knew when he'd failed.
He relented, in his bearing at least. "Come here, Jo," he said. She hesitated and then came around the TARDIS console. "I'm sorry," he said gently. He rested his hand along the side of her face. For a moment he was silent, and then he said, "Once upon a time, before you came to UNIT, I managed to slip the TARDIS sideways into a sort of parallel earth."
"Yes, you told me about that," she said. "It was destroyed by fire."
"Yes, when a Professor Stahlman headed up a drilling project that actually broke down through the earth's crust. It shattered the pressure equilibrium under the crust and caused the geological plate to break into fissures. The collapse of that plate led to the cataclysmic upheaval of the rest of the earth's surface. That earth's surface. I'm certain that in that parallel world, Great Britain and a good part of Europe were destroyed. I'm reasonably sure that the rest of the planet was destroyed as well, though there is a chance that very small pockets of stable surfaces survived."
"But if it was destroyed---"
"There is a chance that I could go back before the event," he told her. "Go back, and prevent Stahlman from initiating the drilling project."
"Look, two heads are better than one for a job like that!" she exclaimed. "You know you always need me to pilot you around the stuffed shirts and establishment scientists. Take me with you!"
He rested his hands on her shoulders. "I wish I could. The problem is, there probably is a Josephine Grant already existing in that world. Bringing you into it would create a temporal paradox. It may actually cause that entire universe to collapse as it tries to reconcile the addition of duplicate matter."
She looked doubtful. "Are you sure?"
"The theory is that matter and energy exist in a constant state of flux, Jo, but that the sum total may not be added to, nor can anything be taken away from it. Adding you to a universe where you already exist would likely start a chain reaction of matter being converted to energy to compensate, a shift in the entire balance system of the universe. And it would never be reconciled for the simple reason that you---this you---" And he crooked a finger under her chin and looked down at her, "Do not belong there."
"But then, how can you belong there?"
"I can only assume that time lords are unique in all creation," he told her. "I transcend time, but it appears that I also have certain abilities in transcending space and realities as well. There is no version of me unique to that universe. So I can come and go. Provided I can get there."
"But Doctor! What about that Blinovitch stuff?" she asked.
His eyebrows lifted. "Stuff?"
"Yes, you know---can't change the history that you're a part of. All that. Those guerrillas that we ran into in the twenty second century got themselves stuck in one of those loop things where they were always going back and recreating their own future. You said so yourself."
"Well! So you do listen to me after all!"
She pulled a wry face. "I always listen to you. I just don't always understand it."
"If I go back to a point before the drilling project even starts, Jo, I may be able to derail it. It's not a part of my own history."
"It may be!" she exclaimed. "I mean, you did come in on events at the tail end."
"But I was never there in the early phases." He became abrupt and turned to the console. "Look, I've told you everything. Whether or not it works, it must be clear to you that I cannot take you with me. Now kindly do me a favor and stand back!" He skimmed his hands over the controls, and she stepped back, partly from a habit if obeying him and partly because she never quite trusted his work on the TARDIS. She was not entirely surprised when fat blue sparks suddenly shot out from under the control panel, scorching his fingers. He shouted and jumped back, then jammed two fingers into his mouth and sucked them furiously. She went to find the first aid kid.
She came back to find him sulky and in a bad mood. "That was the third time today," he grumbled.
This news surprised her. "I've a good mind to have my feelings hurt!" she exclaimed. "Let me see your hand." She set the first aid box on the console and opened it up.
"Now why are your feelings hurt?" He reluctantly obeyed her and held out his burned fingers.
"Because you would have sloped off without a word to me! Gone, maybe forever, and I'd never have known anything about it!" She pulled out the burn ointment.
"Don't use that," he told her. "It's no good for me. Just tape each one and let them be."
She'd forgotten that many earth medicines were useless or even dangerous to the Doctor's metabolism. She pulled out the narrow wheel of adhesive tape.
"If things had gone my way, I'd have left here and been back before you would have walked in," he told her. "Even if I go there for weeks and weeks, I can still come back here a second or two after I leave."
"If you're successful. Otherwise, you'd get yourself killed in that awful version of earth. You did tell me it was pretty awful. Are you sure you want tape right on the burn?"
She pulled off a long strip, tore it free and carefully wound it around the tip of his finger. "Too tight?"
"No, it's fine." He reached out with his good hand and touched her head. "I didn't want you to worry."
"But it's not a problem if I grieve, eh?" She trimmed off the ends of the tape and started on his second finger.
"I would have come right back. I'm not going to get stranded any where."
She rolled her eyes. She finished and she closed the first aid box. Then she nodded at the console. "Are you going to give it up, Doctor?" she asked. "It's over and done in that place. Their earth is probably destroyed. To get to the right point in time, you'd have to travel 'sideways' as you say and also go back in time. Their time," She picked up the first aid box to return it to his place. "And the High Council of the Time Lords won't let you do that!"
"Well that's just the point, isn't it?" he asked. "Last time I slipped through sideways, and they were never the wiser. My theory is that if I get through the barrier again, the TARDIS---or the console anyway---will be free in that universe."
Her eyes instantly fixed on his. "So that's your game. Swap realities. You could travel in time there. You wouldn't be stuck on earth at all." She was hurt, and he saw it, but deep in her eye he saw a sudden anger, a sense of betrayal. What he had described as a single trip to set things right was actually a prolonged expedition to wander that universe at his leisure.
"I could come back any time I chose," he told her. "I could come back a second after I left."
She took a step back from him. He could leave, she realized, go years without her, and come back a moment after he had left and assume that such an arrangement was all right with her, that his ability to do without her at his whim was all right as long as he came back right away in her time. The fact that he could have done all this with no warning, that she might have walked in that morning to find him years older, years more experienced, years estranged from her, was not alarming to him, even if the sum of those years came to decades. He would not, she realized, have missed her, aside from a sort of intellectual or whimsical awareness of her absence.
"Then go," she said. "You don't need my permission." She turned away and carried the kit back to its place on one of the shelves. He scratched the back of his head. She was angry. Truly angry. "Human love is so . .. confining," he muttered. She came back and went past him to the door.
"I need you," he said suddenly.
She turned to him, her expression stony. "To help you get away?" she asked.
"The timelords have some type of fix on the TARDIS itself," he told her. "That's why I was able to travel to that universe before---because I'd pulled the console out of her. But the truncating limits some of the control factors. I need you to go into the TARDIS and throw the power switch on my signal. It's no good attempting a relay from this console. I need somebody to throw the switch by hand."
"And how will you come back?" she asked.
"I'll find a power source there and get somebody over there to throw the switch. It happened once before."
Still stony faced, she went past him into the TARDIS. He went after her.
"Jo, I'll probably be right back," he said.
"There's no guarantee of that, but, I'll do what you want," she told him. "There's no stopping you when you're set to go. I can't go with you, so I'll just have to stay. If you can save that world, you should."
The switch was a massive pull switch attached to the cabling on the floor. She knelt down. "This is it?"
"Yes. On my signal." He hesitated. And then he said, "It's just a side jaunt. A necessary trip."
"This is what you are," she said helplessly, not looking at him. "This is entirely what you are. It torments you to be fixed in one place. Go on then. Get to the console. I'll throw the switch when you say so, but shout it good and loud."
He hesitated, and then strode out quickly. He went to the console, adjusted controls, and checked the cabling. "Right!" he shouted. "Now! Throw the switch!"
Inside the TARDIS, Jo pulled on the switch, but it was a massive pull switch, and it needed lubricating. She set both hands on it, set her heavily buckled shoe on the cabling, and pulled it back. Her necklace dangled onto it as she pulled it back with all her weight.
She heard the same wheezing and groaning sound that told her the TARDIS was in transit, and then she suddenly opened her eyes and looked around. She was still inside the TARDIS interior, but the console was now inside, the Doctor still at the controls. The TARDIS doors were closed. The cabling was gone. He was also slightly dazed, but when he collected himself, he stared at her in amazement.
"Oh no!" he exclaimed. "How did I get in here? How did you get here?"
She looked around. "I don't know. Did you travel into the TARDIS, or did we both slip sideways into that parallel earth of yours?"
She stood up.
"There's only one way to find out." He went to the controls and switched on the view screen. They stared at it as it panned the exterior of the TARDIS.
"Well, we're not at UNIT, anyway," he said. They were, in fact, viewing a remote corner of a city. It looked like a small, unused nook of London: warehouses and lorry delivery firms. The viewer picked up a poster on a concrete wall, and the Doctor zoomed in on it. Jo saw a stern, unsmiling face on a black background. The caption read, "Productivity saves the nation." There was smaller text beneath it, and then another caption, "England for Englishmen!"
"We're here," he said. "I recognize the slogan." He looked down at the chronometer. "Yet, according to this, we haven't traveled in time at all." He frowned. "That's not possible. The cataclysm occurred three years ago. Even if the whole world were not destroyed, I saw the English landscape erupting with lava and explosive gases." He frowned as he studied it. "It must not be working."
"Now, there's a surprise."
He glanced up at her. Sarcasm from Jo was a rare thing, and it was always a manifestation either of playful teasing or of very hurt feelings.
He noticed her metal shoe buckles and the jewelry that she wore. "I think you became part of the circuit," he said. "It was an oversight on my part. I should have given you leather gloves for throwing the switch. But I don't understand why the TARDIS was brought back together."
"Now what?" she asked.
"Listen," he said to her. "I can't risk taking you back until I at least get more information on how Stahlman stumbled onto this ghastly idea of drilling into the earth's crust. In our world he secured private backing before making his appeal to the government. In this world, private backing would have been impossible, not in such a totalitarian regime. I must see how he did it."
"I thought you said this world is parallel to our world."
"Events and even people differ at points," he told her. He came over to her and took her by the shoulders. "I have to leave. I have to pursue this. But if you go out those TARDIS doors, your presence could bring the entire universe here to a point of collapse. Do you understand me?"
"Yes I understand you!" Her eyes were big at his intensity, and he remembered to gentle his gaze. He looked away. "Jo, I'll have to make sure. I'm going to lock the TARDIS doors after me."
"So that nobody can get in?" she asked.
"And so that you can't get out. Not even if you want to."
"It's not the sort of thing I can leave to any human to take charge of!" he exclaimed. "You'll be safe in the TARDIS, and I will work as quickly as I can. I should be back within a few hours. I need to get information, make a few contacts." He made himself sound reasonable and reassuring. "Then I can get back here, take you back home, and make another attempt." He looked around. "At least now I know that I can do it, though I'm not sure quite what happened."
She said nothing.
"It's to keep you---and this earth---safe," he said. He set a few controls on the console, looked at her, and then looked away and hurried out. The doors closed silently, locking her in.
She turned away and decided to explore some of the rooms in the rest of the TARDIS. There was no point in trying to make herself comfortable in the bare control room.
Just as she turned she saw something on the console that neither she nor the Doctor had yet noticed---a single metal loop. Jo knew by experience what it was for. It served as a manacle for unwilling guests. The Master had locked her to his own console using the exact same type of device on her last journey. But such a device was foreign to the Doctor's control room. He did not kidnap passengers.
She stooped over it and examined it. It was a manacle. She heard a very faint sound and straightened up to see the Doctor standing in the entry way from the back rooms of the TARDIS. He was wearing a very expensive, dark suit, with a peach colored ascot tie that stood out on the high collar.
"Doctor," she said.
He also may have been startled, but his face was expressionless, and his eyes only glittered with a quiet glitter. Before she knew what else to say or do, he had crossed the room and seized her by the hair on top of her head.
"Yes, Doctor," he said quietly.
"You're hurting me!"
"I intend to hurt you, and I will hurt you much more severely if you do not tell me how you got here!" He pulled her head back. "Who are you? How did you get in here?"
"You brought me!" she gasped.
"I? Bring a human beast into my own lair? You'll have to do better than that!" He shook her by the head and then looked down at her, trying to catalogue her. "You're not one of my beauties," he said. "How did you get in here?"
"You came---to stop Professor Stahlman---"
"Stahlman!" He loosened the hold slightly, allowing her vision to clear. "Are you associated with Professor Stahlman?"
"Look, what's happened to you?" she asked. "Or---are you the Doctor in this world?"
He slapped her with his other hand, a stunningly hard slap. "I ask the questions! Now tell me the truth and I'll kill you quickly: How did you get in here? How did you find me?"
"I work for a man called the Doctor. He said he was coming here. I came along by accident."
"Enough of this! I have many devices in my back rooms that will enable me to question you at my leisure!" He eased the pulling on her hair again so that she could see him as he looked down at her. His eyes held a certain, sudden, undisguised appreciation, as though a new idea occurred to him. "You know, you're a pretty thing in your way. A nice little addition to my collection. I'll have to think of something special for you. Just for you. Once you tell me who you are."
A streak of white heat passed by with an inch of Jo's face and seared into his shoulder. She saw a round circle suddenly burst into smoke on his impeccable suit. He screamed and released her. He fell away as she dived under the console.
"Doctor!" she called, thinking that her own Doctor---if this were not he in some delusional state---had come back. What she saw stopped her cold. The time lord that she knew as the Master, his eyes set with s deadly intensity, leveled a laser pistol over the console and fired again at his rival.
"Foolish to operate your TARDIS with me close by, Doctor!" he exclaimed. "Even allowing for the double-locked doors. I suppose it is pointless to demand your surrender!"
This version of the Doctor did not answer but seized Jo by the hips as she would have darted away again. He pulled her in front of himself, and for an instant she saw the laser pistol pointed right at her, lined up to the Master's eye. The Master seemed about to fire, and then hesitated. The Doctor threw her into the console and darted back, out of the control room. She landed the wrong way on one foot, and it went down under her. She fell to the floor. A heavy steel door slammed down to cover his retreat.
"Doctor!" she shouted after him. She tried to leap up and then came down again, her ankle flaming with pain that shot up her shin.
She turned her eyes fearfully to the other time lord. He leveled the pistol at her. "Get up! Come here!" he ordered. "I'm taking you with me!"
She was terrified of the Master anyway, but she was also keenly aware of the Doctor's warnings about what would happen if she passed into this world.
"I can't!" she exclaimed.
"Foolish girl! There is no time! He's going to flood this place with nerve gas!" He seized her wrist as she tried to get away. She collapsed again on the bad ankle, and he swept her up without another word and raced out the open TARDIS doors with her.