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
The Doctor had only the vaguest idea of where he might recruit help on his mission. In his own universe, many UNIT people visited certain, select pubs that catered to the military in décor and drinks. Jo herself preferred the slightly more elegant pubs in town, surrounded by peers from her own set, the music new and fashionable, the glassware more delicate and ornate. Traditionally, in the England he knew, pubs had been the safe havens for people of the same sympathies and persuasions to meet and talk with a measure of safety.
He was not at all averse to spending the day searching local pubs. On his last visit to this world, the Brigade Leader and Section Commander Shaw had both made reference to fanatics and dissenters. He hoped to find some of these. They were certain to have safety zones of their own where they felt out of reach of the current military regime.
He found himself at a pub not so very different or far in corresponding miles from the one frequented by the UNIT officers on his own world. Similarly, this place---though much darker than its counterpart---hosted young men in the dark, cheaply made uniforms of the new order. They looked at the Doctor in some scorn as he entered. He was dressed conservatively for this jaunt: his black waistcoat, black jacket, and white shirt with no frilling. But he stood out among the drab uniforms.
"And what might you be?" one young soldier asked him as he approached the bar.
"Just a man in need of a drink." The Doctor slapped him on the shoulder in playful friendliness and picked his pocket with the other hand, extracting a loose bill and tucking it away for himself.
"Hands off!" the young man snapped, pushing off the Doctor's arm.
"I do apologize," the Doctor said. "Please, let me buy you a drink. Same again?"
The stranger hesitated in surly contemplation and then said, "I reckon," as though he were doing the Doctor a great favor. The Doctor nodded to the middle aged man behind the bar and gestured at the glasses. In a moment, two filled pint glasses were set before them. It was nasty looking stuff, sickly yellow, and the time lord wondered why it was that the first signal of the collapse of freedom was bad beer.
"To your good health, young man," the Doctor said cordially, and slid the pinched note to the bar keep. As the young man tilted up his glass again, the Doctor did a second quick dip into his other pocket and transferred what felt like a card holder into his own pocket. Probably the soldier's ID. The barkeep returned with the change.
The young solider stumbled away, roughly pushing past the Doctor on his way out, and the Doctor managed to nip another bill from the good pocket.
He turned to see the barkeep watching him with a fixed stare.
"Excellent beer," the Doctor said.
"You carry on with that business during my busy time, Mister, and you'll give up a hand or an eye. They're not all as green and as drunk as that young man."
"Thank you for the warning," the Doctor said. "I don't know if it was my need of cash or my dislike of bullies that prompted me to act."
"Y'picked the wrong place to drink if you don't like bullies."
"Thick with soldiers, is it?"
The bar keep let out a bitter laugh. "Always been a haunt for the uniforms," he said. "But there was a time when the British soldier took some pride in it. Back when my old Dad ran the place. I could come in here as a tyke and sit on the edge of the bar and be safe. No more. They pick the worst of the bad to be soldiers these days."
"Why not close the place down?"
"Oh aye, and get tossed into lockup on some pretext. No thank you." He pointed at the Doctor. "You heed my words. I don't want no trouble. No more of that sleight of hand with the customers."
"All right." The Doctor leaned on the bar. The place was nearly empty, for the afternoon was still fairly young. "Let's say I wanted to go where I could breathe a bit of air free of soldier's breath. Where would I look?"
The bar keep wiped off the counter top and looked pensive. "You seem to be one of the old class," he said at last. "Don't know how you got through the purges, but the young kids from your set go to the Green Door Tavern. It's a good walk from here, going west toward the old train station. Don't expect no warm welcome, though. Some of them have been through prison. Others seen their folks go to trial, maybe shot. But if you're lookin' for people who might be relatives, try there."
The Doctor nodded his thanks and set off.
* * * *
"All right, now point your toe straight up." The Master watched as Jo obediently pointed the toe of her injured foot up at the ceiling. She was lying on her back, though now raised up on her elbows, on a narrow sofa in the long room. "Good. Now forward," he directed. She pointed the toe forward. "Now back and forth." He watched, and then nodded in satisfaction. "And, by the way, you can stop trembling like a frightened rabbit, young lady. I've repaired the ankle." He sat back and folded his arms. "And it didn't even hurt, did it?" He suddenly extended a hand to her face, and she flinched, but his intentions were kindly. He turned her head to examine the bruise left from the hard slap she had received. "I fail to understand how you could fear me so much when it is I who rescued you from one of the greatest villains of the universe."
"You're the Master," she said in a shaken voice. She was greatly comforted by his swift and careful attention to her foot, and certainly this small, efficient apartment where he had brought her was a better place than his TARDIS. But she was still afraid of him. "You're ruthless, and you don't let anybody stand in your way."
He arched one eyebrow in bland admiration of her summing up. "True, very true, but you are not-uh-standing in my way. Well, except for that one moment when the Doctor used you as a shield. And I could have shot you just to get you out the way, but at the last moment that blasted compassion of mine got in the way again. It's been intruding more and more lately." He shot her a wry glance as he reached into a copious medical bag by his feet. "If you interfere with me I may kill you, but there is something about the big-eyed fear of yet another pitiful victim of the Doctor's that made me unable to fire." He withdrew a very conventional cold pack from the bag and stood up to find some ice. The apartment was actually a single long room, tastefully but plainly furnished, but her practiced eye had already identified various items of electronic surveillance and security. He was obviously comfortable here, and that meant he probably had the place fully rigged to destroy intruders. He returned from the kitchen area with the ice pack and a hand towel. "That electronic brace will provide support and stress relief for your ankle," he told her. "But bruises must heal the old fashioned way. Here." He wrapped the ice pack in the towel and handed it to her.
He sat down and looked at her. She still regarded him with the big-eyed fear and confusion typical of humans on a first encounter with him, but it was clear to him that she knew him.
"So you knew the Doctor---or at least recognized him---and you seem to know me," he said. "Yet neither of us recognize you. And how did you get into his TARDIS? It took me years to become expert enough to pick the lock without blowing myself up. You haven't even lived long enough to gain that type of expertise."
"But why were you trying to get into the TARDIS?" she asked. "You must realize that attacking him in his own TARDIS---"
He waved it away. "Oh, one must seize very opportunity, young lady. My superiors ensure that much initiative. I had completely lost sight of him, and next thing I knew, his TARDIS was emitting a lovely transmission signal. I could never justify hanging back in fear. No, no."
"Your superiors?" she asked. "But you're a renegade! A criminal!"
"My dear, you are quite confused. He is the criminal. Those who uphold the law do not make victims of the poor young women who bumble across their paths. Can you sit up?" He offered her his hand, and she sat up.
He abruptly put on a much more stern face, but she got the idea that he did not want to be unkind to her. "I'm going to be frank with you," he said. "For whatever reason, you have stumbled into something very dangerous. The Doctor is a dangerous fellow, and quite honestly, I am just about as dangerous. But I want him. Alive, if possible, to deliver to my superiors for trial and execution. I must know how you know him and how you got inside his TARDIS. But if you answer me with honesty, I will let you go."
"And if I don't?" she asked.
"I will extricate the information from you by force. And probably kill you to avoid treachery from you or reprisals from any who might take your part. Now make your decision." And for a moment his eyes and face were as hard and resolute as the Master that she knew all too well.
* * * *
Finding the Green Door Tavern was not easy, as the bar man from the previous place did not give good directions, and the tavern itself was so very narrow that the Doctor would have missed it altogether had it not been for the bilious green door of the place. It was lodged between two other doors, one for a closed sewing and alterations business, and another that was unmarked. He opened the green door and strode in. This place---if anything---was worse than the last. The room was incredibly narrow and long, just wide enough to accommodate the bar and bar stools. Two tiny tables sat against the wall, crowding up against the stools at the bar. This was a place for people in despair, a place to shut out the world. Only a few patrons were there, about five, and all of them young. The Doctor wondered just how severe the purges had been.
His takings from the drunk soldier were pretty good. He ordered another watery beer and, taking his cue from the one or two silent people in the bar, kept quiet. At first they did not seem very friendly, but as he nursed the beer along and more people entered, there were one or two curious glances that went his way. Without meaning to, he had dressed in a manner that expressed a faint, convivial defiance of the current system. He wore clothes that harked back to an older, more affluent society, and these were the descendants of that society, as well as its survivors.
A couple young men brushed past him as they hunted for stools at the bar, and they both said "excuse me" to him, and shot him open but quick looks. Sympathy or agreement. He realized that he was possibly a slightly dangerous figure to them, the sort of person that secret police might tail. If any of the patrons of this place had reason to be wary of the police, they might keep a respectful distance. But nobody was hostile. Over the subdued, rather depressed atmosphere of the dark room, there was an air of commiseration. These were people who drank themselves into a stupor every night because they had lost everything: parents, belongings, titles, education, even an accepted place in society.
More time passed. He ordered another beer, accepted it with a pronounced "thank you" and was given a nod by the man behind the bar, and then examined his glass. In a conversational voice he said, "Pity the beer isn't as good as it used to be up north. They brewed it dark up there. Very bitter but never sour. No tang in the after taste." He sighed philosophically and took a long swallow. Then he looked regretfully at his glass.
"You from up north then, sir?" one of the young men nearby asked.
The Doctor continued to stare at the glass with a whimsical longing. "Oh yes, but that was a long time ago. Another lifetime, you might say. What one might call the good old days, being in a nostalgic mood, and not meaning to criticize our current politicians. They do their best, I'm sure."
This disclaimer, of course, created the exact opposite meaning. Everybody looked at him with some interest, even hope, and he felt a sudden twinge of guilt. If there had been purges of the aristocratic class---and he was sure that there had been---then these young men and women might hope in him for some tie to their pasts.
I had relatives up north," the man behind the bar, who was older than the patrons, said. "Up where there used to be vacation houses, you might say, and country estates. I didn't catch your name, sir. Maybe you were once acquainted with relations of mine."
"I call myself the Doctor now," he said. "No other name is really needed."
The answer elicited further glances back and forth and more understanding. They understood the necessity for anonymity Wisely not pushing his luck, the Doctor sank again into contemplative silence, studying his beer. More people drifted in. The place was about half-filled, but oddly quiet. He had moved onto his third glass, and the money was in danger of running low, when the bar suffered a disruption in its languid peace.
"Your money's no good here, Miss," the man behind the bar said, somewhat sternly, as a young girl entered. The light behind her blotted out her features for a moment, but as the door closed, the Doctor recognized her instantly. The hair was bleached a ghastly white-blond, and the clothing was exceptionally hideous and definitely designed to market the petite figure beneath it.
"You've picked a fine time to get choosy," she said. The Doctor stepped away from the bar and approached her.
"I said your money's no good. This here's a private club."
"Since you started making money off that fellow that makes it off the suffering of others."
"And you don't?" she snapped. "Plying your second rate booze to a bunch of dropouts."
"Josephine Grant?" the Doctor asked, coming up to her. He had known that he was in the right territory to find her, and he knew that if she had survived the purges, she would be reduced to something like this. But seeing the leather mini skirt and the fake fur jacket with the incredibly high shoulders, he felt a pang. Obviously, her family were all dead or in prison.
Every eye was on him, and she backed up a step as he approached. "Who are you?" She shot a fearful look at the bar keeper. He watched the Doctor, also concerned. Though he was obviously angry with this Josephine Grant, it was also clear that he had not intended to make any serious trouble for her.
"I was a friend of your uncle's," the Doctor said gently. "May I buy you a drink?"
"Get on your way. My uncle's dead," she told him.
"All the more reason to have a drink." He turned to the man at the bar. "A half pint for the young lady, please." He turned back to her. "Would you like to sit down, Josephine?"
She debated for a moment, and then accepted. "Kit," she said. "Short for Kitty. That's my name now" She went to the bar. The drink was set down before her with a knock of the bottom of the glass on the bar top.
"We all have to live, mate," she said to the man behind the bar. She turned to the Doctor, who retrieved his beer and stood next to her. She ran one hand appreciatively up his lapel. "So, you're an old friend? Looking for a warm welcome?"
He caught her hand, his own hand gentle, and his eye met hers with a glance both of kindness and sterness. After a moment he lowered her hand to the bar, though he did not release it. "Yes," he told. He lowered his voice. "Is it safe to talk here?"
"It's her that'll betray you, Mister," the bar keeper said. "She'd turn in her mother for the price of a drink. I'm sure it was her that got them all put up on charges."
"That's a lie!" she exclaimed. And for a moment, genuine grief and tormented outrage flashed across the hardened, cynical features of her face. "And you know it's a lie!" she shouted.
The Doctor put an arm around her. "Never mind him," he said. "I need to speak with you. There are certain matters that we must discuss."
She took a swallow of her beer and looked up at him, deciding that he wasn't merely coming on to her, but uncertain about what else he might want.
"People pay me by the hour," she said at last. "For talk or for anything else. You got anything?"
He brought out all the loose change and smaller notes from his pocket. "This is all that I have," he told her. "And you can have it whether you hear me out or not." He pushed it into the pocket of her jacket. "If I get more, I'll give that to you as well."
She hesitated, and for a moment an expression flitted across her eyes that was the Jo he knew, vulnerable and able to be touched by the generosity of others.
She finished the half pint in a few swallows and then looked up at him. "Come on, before it hits me how stupid I'm being."
* * * *
The Master frowned as Jo continued to hesitate. "I don't want to bring you to harm, young lady. I think you should just tell me the truth."
"Well," she looked at him anxiously. "Can I ask you a question?"
"Yes," he said. "Just one."
"Are you the Master here? In this world? Or are you the Master that I know?"
He was puzzled, and she saw a flicker in his deep set brown eyes, a look of sudden doubt in her sanity. "I am the Master," he said, and his voice had the ring of grandeur that she recognized. "I am the only one."
"But you don't know me?"
"Enough questions, Miss. Tell me who you are and how you know the Doctor."
She sighed. "I work with the Doctor," she began.
She met his eye, exasperated in spite of her fear. "Please just hear me out. You can torture me when I'm finished."
He arched his eyebrow in slightly offended surprise but then inclined his head.
"We work for UNIT, a group of people assigned to study inexplicable phenomena." She hesitated. She wanted to save her own life, and she knew the Master well enough to know that she could not successfully lie to him. Her best hope lay in telling him the truth but not telling him everything. "This morning the Doctor told me that he wanted to try to run the TARDIS console for an experiment. But he had pulled it out of his TARDIS. I was in charge of switching on the power from a manual pull switch. Somehow I became a part of the circuit. He started things up. We found ourselves back in the TARDIS. The console was in there too. He ran the viewer to take a look round and decided it would be safest for me to stay inside. He locked me in and then left. About a minute later, I saw this other fellow called the Doctor, who looks just like him, and he attacked me. That was where you came in."
His face was hard with skepticism but not outright disbelief. "Two Doctors?" he asked. Then he muttered to himself, "Oh the High Council is going to love that. Two of him."
"You don't mean to say that you are working for the High Council of the time lords?" she asked, astonished. "Are those your superiors?"
His eyes flashed at her, and for the first time Jo had a fear of having overstepped the boundaries and incited his wrath. But even in the flash of his eyes, she thought that she saw some fear as well.
"You know of the High Council?" he asked.
"The Doctor has spoken of them."
He relaxed slightly. "In fear, no doubt. He knows what they will do if they get him."
"But they've already exiled him. Here."
"They've stranded him here, but a planet is a big place to search. And he's excellent at switching his identities."
"So your job is to capture the Doctor and bring him to them for trial?"
"What is UNIT?" he asked.
"The United Nations Intelligence Taskforce."
"I've never heard of them."
"Well, they are a top secret organisation."
"The United Nations exists only in the democracies," he told her. "If you work for them, what are you doing here?"
She hesitated. He reached out and gently pulled the ice pack from her face. She flinched, thinking he might hurt her, but he only turned her chin to bring her eyes to his. She was startled at the mild expression in his eyes, the utter reasonableness. "Where are you from, really?" he asked. His eyes did not burn into hers; rather, they assured her. Everything would be all right if she told him the truth.
Jo had gained some skill in deflecting the Master's overpowering form of hypnosis, but this gentle and sympathetic gaze caught her off guard and completely subdued her. "Earth," she told him. "My earth. The good earth."
"The good earth?" He lifted his eyebrows but kept his voice gentle.
"Where England is free."
He gently stroked her cheek. "You're doing very well," he said quietly. "I'm so happy that you're confiding in me. And really, it's all right now. How is England free where you live? What do you mean?"
"It's the real world, and this is a parallel world. The Doctor came here to fix things. Oh no---"
Her alarm brought her out of the hypnotic spell, but he spoke again. "What's wrong? What's frightened you?"
"There's a duplicate of me here. I was supposed to stay in the TARDIS." She looked around. "Why isn't this world falling apart? Now there are two of me here!"
He dropped his hand to her wrist. "I see," he said. "I'm not sure what your fear of duplicates is, but I believe the rest. You have come from another reality; another universe, perhaps the absolute universe."
"We have a theory that there are other universes, aberrations from the real," he told her. "And that we are such an aberrational universe. But somewhere, there is a real universe, a universe that is truly the sum total of matter, energy, and time."
She stared at him. "Is that where you come from?" he asked her.
"I don't know. It's a different universe, certainly."
"And the Doctor---your Doctor---believes that bringing a duplicate here would somehow make this reality fall apart?"
She hesitated. "Physics is not really my thing," she began.
"You're doing very well. Go on." He dropped his hand from her wrist, sensing that she no longer needed hypnosis to lose her fear of speaking to him.
"He said that if there are any duplicates brought here, anything brought here that already exists here, the temporal paradox would make this universe collapse on itself. "
"So he kept you in the TARDIS because the TARDIS transcends time and space. Yet he has another self here. Why did he venture into this world?"
"Well, he didn't think he did. He thought that he would be unique here."
"Ah!" a light of understanding came into the Master's face. "He is still arrogant, whatever else he is!"
"He's good," she said meekly.
His expression became more wily. "And what of my counterpart? Is that why you fear me? Is he as efficient a servant of the High Council in your world as I am here?"
"He's a renegade. The High Council of the timelords wants him captured and stopped."
This stunned the Master. For a moment he only stared at her, and then he gently stroked his beard. "How did I ever develop so much courage over there? Thwart the High Council of the timelords?" His voice became admiring. "What a brave fellow I must be there! Or," and his face fell. "Incredibly stupid. Still, one hopes for the other." He met her eyes. "Tell me, am I stupid there? Or brave?"
"You're vain!" she said firmly. "Brave enough when you're after what you want."
"Yes, well, that hasn't changed," he told her. "But in this universe I am governed by good sense. I know better than to cross the High Council of the timelords. Even when they send me out to bring back the Doctor."
"So you work for them. And you're afraid of them." The Doctor had once compared the High Council to a group of old school masters to Jo: stern and old fashioned, but not evil. Apparently their character was not quite so noble here.
The Master let out his breath. "Well, this is a fine predicament. I'd still like to know how you got into the Doctor's TARDIS. It sounds like there was a mutual transference of some sort. He started his drive just as your Doctor started his, and the two TARDISes became one for a moment." He looked thoughtful. "I think that's the most likely thing."
"But why isn't the universe collapsing from the Doctor---my Doctor---and me running around in this world?" she asked.
"Well, it will eventually," he told her. "Or it might. The two of you don't make up much extra matter and energy, so it will take a few million years for the ripples to build up to any effect. The universe is a big place, young lady. It takes it rather a long time to notice unreconcilable phenomena." He rubbed his forehead. "Whatever did that fellow want to come here for? Doesn't he know this planet is doomed?"
The question startled her. "Yes," she said instantly. "Yes, he does. He's come here to try to save it."
For a moment the Master looked at her, his mouth slightly open in completely unguarded astonishment. And then suddenly, he burst out laughing. "Save it? He is just as arrogant, isn't he? Only it's all channeled in the other direction!"
"Well, over here the Doctor is arrogant enough to think he can manipulate the destruction of the planets to suit his ends. And in your world, he's arrogant enough to think he can manipulate events to save planets. I very much want to meet this altruistic Doctor of yours! I promise not to laugh in his face."
"Don't you think this planet can be saved?" she asked.
He became more grave. "Certainly not. It is locked in a downward spiral. I told you: This is an aberrational universe. We hurtle towards our own self destruction. The very fabric of our universe is collapsing upon itself. This planet has been locked in wars that have increased in ferocity and destruction for the last thousand years. She is ready to self destruct. It should be any day now, give or take a year or two."
* * * *
Jo, or Kit as she called herself in this world, had drunk down the beer in hurried swallows. Though it was only a half pint, she was slightly giddy as they made their way up the narrow wooden steps of a stinking tenement. He gave her his arm. There were numerous flights of stairs to climb, but she did all right.
"You live here?" he asked her.
"It's better than prison."
"Look, why were those people in that pub so hostile to you?" he asked her. "You're one of them, aren't you?"
"Yes, no matter what they think about me," she assured him. "They're angry because I've been seeing one of the members of the Security Detail. But he's all right. Just doing his job. And he does right by me---as much as he can. He's on duty tonight, else I couldn't bring you up."
"I only want to talk."
"I know, I know. Here we are." She at last led him up a narrow hallway with a slightly warped floor and unlocked an aged wooden door. She pushed it open and then stopped in surprise and horror. A young man, clad in a carefully detailed and immaculate uniform, was waiting inside.
At sight of the Doctor, he flushed a dark red on his cheeks and throat. "Is this what you do when I'm working?" he asked.
Without waiting for her to answer, he pulled a long and vicious knife from a sheath on his belt. It was intended, the Doctor expected, to be ornamental, but would be effective in a pinch.
The Doctor pulled her out of the way with a strong jerk of his arm. "Don't hurt her, you young fool!"
"It's not her I'm after, old man," the young man declared. "I'm going to carve you up, and if I don't kill you, the military police will be on to you. You can take your choice between a quick death here or a slow death in prison for fighting a member of the Security Detail!"