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 waited until Mike Yates left the apartment. He spent his time wisely, with his ear pressed to the wall in the hallway outside the apartment. He also debated on the benefits of making himself known to Yates but then decided on postponing such a meeting. It was becoming clear from the snatches of conversation that he could glean through the wall that Kit was gaming either Jimmy or Mike, and until he knew which was the cuckold, he would confine his efforts to appealing to Kit.
At last he heard the conversation end and the scrape of a boot as Mike pushed aside a chair on his way to the door. The top floor of this miserable building seemed to be unoccupied, other than Kit's flat. He ducked around a corner as Mike left. Then he crept back. Kit was leaning over the shaky rail of the flimsy stairs, already dressed for the day in another hideous and skimpy outfit. "Next time a full carton!" she called crossly.
"Next time I'll be lucky to bring cigarettes at all," he called back. "They're closing in on the Black Market."
The Doctor came up behind her. She stayed leaning on the rail as Mike clattered all the way down the long flight. She straightened, turned, and saw him.
"You're a woman of many loyalties, Miss Grant," he said. "All of them conflicting, apparently."
She was tempted to retort with a sharp answer and then flee and slam the door on him, but he saw in her eyes that she was suddenly afraid of who he might really be. One word from him to Jimmy, and she would be finished.
"Don't be afraid of me," he said. "Here. Maybe you can use this." He withdrew the card holder that he had nipped from the drunken soldier. "I don't know if it's useful or not."
She flipped it open. "Soldier's ID," she said. "Coupons for coffee, cigarettes, and sugar." Her eyes got a hungry look in them.
"Yates can make use of the ID," he said. "Useful for forging, I expect. Slip in a different photo and gain access to a few places."
"You know Yates?" she asked, her eyes suddenly anxious.
He was hesitant. "I know of him." She was looking at him, her dark eyes doubtful. So he added, "I've heard that he's a good man. Reliable."
"He wants to save the country. To make things the way it used to be. He'll do anything he has to." Her eyes met his, and the Doctor realized with a slight shock of surprise that Kit actually feared Mike Yates more so than Jimmy.
"I need your help," he told her. "Between yesterday and this morning, I've lost something and somebody very important to me."
"Come in," she told him.
* * * *
Yates hurried to his place of work, the Energy Provider Network Accounting Office. Skilled in electronic technology, he was one of the few men in London who could get regular employment. It amounted only to reading meters for the government and accounting for allocated wattage hours. But the position also provided him the use of a telephone and the ability to travel freely throughout the city.
He clocked in and attended to logging the readings from the previous night and then annotating the electrical consumption histories that were out of the satisfactory range. These meters would require a visual inspection. He could often arrange these inspections to let him tour where ever he needed to go in the city to meet his contacts with the resistance.
As soon as he could, he got to the telephone that was kept in a private cubbyhole in the main office. He dialed quickly.
"Yes?" a voice said.
"This is Yates. There's a problem."
"What's gone wrong?"
"Sandy's gone and been pinched. But they aren't on to him yet. They think he's dealing in circuits."
"Do they plan to let him go?"
"No, they're suspicious. They want to do a second round interrogation." He hesitated and then blurted out, "I want to break him out." The voice on the line became cold. "Don't be ridiculous. Expose the whole operation to free one person? What about the good of the country?
"It won't be much good if Sandy breaks in the end."
"I'll get a pill to him."
Yates was silent. At last he said, "I don't want that."
"Sandy's trained. He'll take it."
"I know, but it's not---it's not right to ask him to do it."
The line became silent again, and then the voice, when it spoke, was patient and kind. "Yates, every one of us vowed to give up his life. My turn is coming. As is yours. Sandy's going first, that's all. But not alone. None of us are alone when we die."
"I just think we can get him out. If they think he's a dealer the security won't be that tight."
"Listen to me." Yates actually hated it when he was told to listen. He grit his teeth. The voice continued. "The whole operation is in place now. It will take about a year, but Stahlman is about to get approval. I have people on the inside who can rig the entire operation to kick out the power across the entire nation for 24 hours when Stahlman taps into the subterranean energy source. We must build everything to that day, Yates. We're a year away from the coup."
Yates was silent. As his silence continued, the voice went on. "We're much better off now than we were a year ago. Now we have a plan; we have some technology, and we have a better organisation in place. We must be patient, and we must be willing to pay the price. The drilling project must be allowed to start, and nobody must be the wiser about our people. Not now. If Sandy is in danger of breaking, he's got to take the pill. We cannot risk failing in an attempt to free him. How many more of us would be captured, do you think, if the least thing went wrong?"
Yates took a deep breath. "You're right, of course."
"I don't like it, Yates. But I'm fully committed to this thing. I'll get the pill to Sandy. I'll convey to him the solidarity of all of us. We'll never forget him."
"No, Doctor, of course not. Thank you for taking care of it."
"I've got another matter to deal with. I'll be in touch."
"Good bye Doctor." Yates hung up, his face stricken.
* * * *
Though it was only mid day, the pub where the Master took Jo was crowded with elegantly dressed men of varying ages. Some wore uniforms of smart cut and good material. But the women were mostly Jo's age, or appeared to be. They were also well dressed and seemed very good at talking in murmers. The scent of perfume hung in the air, mingling with the cigarette, cigar and pipe smoke. Jo was not entirely surprised that the time lord knew the best places in town for food and spirits. Not many people were seated at the bar, but the wide floor accommodated about twenty-five tables, most of them just large enough for four people each. The tables were all taken. Waiters in white uniforms piloted their way among the crowd, trays held high. The Master ushered her to the bar.
"The quality," he told her as he nodded to the man behind the bar and held up two fingers, "Is not what it once was. Twenty years ago, I mean, when I used to pop in every now and during my excursions into this part of the galaxy. Most of the beef is tongue, and that pink stuff they call salmon is not any species I know of."
"Looks just like London," Jo said. "My London."
He smiled. "It looks just like it did when this country was prosperous, my dear. Appearances are so very important to the new regime." Their drinks came, and he handed her glass to her. "There actually are less impressive places that serve better food, but such establishments are often raided by the police or Security Detail under suspicion of buying from the Black Market. I could not afford to have us get taken up in a bust. If you're to be detained, it must be by the right person."
"So you're actually stranded here, too," Jo said to the Master.
"Well, let's just say I would have to justify any outside excursions to my superiors," he told her. "They want me to get the Doctor, alive if possible, so that they can pay him back for stealing one of their TARDISes. They tried to get him themselves, but he proved a bit too nimble for them. The best they could do was strand him here. And then they recruited my services."
"And you're working for them from a high sense of justice?" she asked.
"I'm doing this because one does not dispute with the High Council of the Timelords. They send me on an assignment, and I go." He arched his eyebrows. "However, I do get to confiscate all his goods, and he's got that TARDIS of his crammed with wealth. I'm sure that the High Council will also allot me certain fees for my work."
He reached into his suit coat and pulled out a small electronic device. He flipped it open, and it looked like a calculator, except that the screen was a bit wider and more square. "Yes, he knows that we're here. He's outside, hanging about." He set the device down on the bar top. Jo looked at it, but it looked only like a graph to her, with a series of dots on it, most of them congregated close to center. Several of the dots wavered and flickered, blurred together, and then became distinct again. He saw her puzzlement.
"This works best in crowds," he told her. "The dots and blotches that you see are the people around us. It's picking up their biological electronic signals. Once it establishes a baseline, it can show me if there are anomalies." He dropped a finger to a single dot that did not waver or flicker. "That's him. His signaling is different from the electronic signals emitted by humans."
"You know where he is?" she asked.
"Yes, it's fixed to show me in the center of a sixty meter circle. He's that way," and the Master nodded to the doorway. "Out the door there and a few paces up the sidewalk."
"Are you going to feed me before you send me out?" she asked.
To her surprise, he put his hand under her elbow and looked down at her. "Yes," he said. "I suppose that equipping you with that blast vest you're wearing under your clothes and a transmitter of my own has done nothing to convince you that I will do my best to protect you."
She hesitated. And then she said, "The Master in my world is a terrible liar. He can look right at somebody and lie to them, and then kill them. Or let them die."
"I'm a terrible liar, too. And I've killed rational creatures when ordered to do so." She disengaged herself from his hand, and he let her. But he said, "I haven't been ordered to kill you, and I've been honest with you so far about my conditions and my history." He turned and scanned the crowded room for a free table. "Even a liar has to tell the truth to somebody, Miss Grant, or else he himself forgets what the truth really is. I do not wish to become the victim of my own lying. Come. There is a table free."
* * * *
At the Security Detail lock-up, Jimmy leafed through some status reports and release forms. Though a fairly young man, he had risen high enough in the ranks of the Security Detail to merit a tiny office of his own, and he had the authority to keep two of his subordinates standing and waiting while he sipped strong, sweet tea and read the reports. The room was cramped, windowless, and cheerless, and it might have been another cell in the lock up except that the lock was on the inside of the door.
At last he looked up. "What about that fellow dealing in radio parts?' he asked. "Are we authorized to interrogate further? Or do the chaps up the line want him next?"
His question was never answered as another uniformed man burst in and saluted. "Captain Owen!"
Jimmy kept his eyes cold. "What is it?"
"Unauthorized death, sir. Inmate 14. Looks like suicide."
Jimmy swore and stood up. He kicked the wooden chair across the room. "Who was on guard duty last night?" he roared. "Who got to him?"
"The prisoner was in seclusion, sir. Nobody in or out."
"Well the rats didn't kill him. Come on! This is the work of the resistance."
* * * *
"You stayed out all night without getting picked up by the patrols?" Kit asked
The Doctor's eyes became hopeful. "Any chance of a cup of tea?"
She grimaced, and he realized with a twinge that asking for a cup of tea in this world was really asking a great favor. He suddenly wondered if she ever went hungry. But she set about making him tea. He noticed the spot on the wall and the shattered bits of crockery in the small garbage pail. Kit, he realized, had a hard life indeed. He fished around in his pockets and brought out two bags of jelly babies.
"Perhaps you would like these," he said, setting them down on the table.
She glanced over but did not say anything.
"It was easy to avoid the patrols," he told her. "But I left a rather tall object parked several blocks away from here. Looks like a police call box."
"Sort of a perfectly huge cabinet, all enclosed. Big enough for one or two people to stand up inside."
"And you left it on the street? You must be round the twist."
She poured him his tea and brought it to him. There was no milk and no sugar. And the tea was weak, made from leaves already used once. He thanked her and took an appreciative sip. "Well it's quite heavy," he told her. "So nobody could walk off with it very easily. But I was wondering if there might be some sort of confiscating process."
"The best you can do is ask the local patrol," she told him. "They're not as bad as the military if you're up front with them. If they confiscated it, you'll get it back. But they will fine you. Or you can bribe them to let it pass. The cost is the same either way, but if you bribe them, they'll be more friendly in future."
She glanced at a chipped wall clock. "Local patrol takes over from military patrol at ten. They won't get to their stations until after twelve. Got to collect their rounds first."
"Do you pay them?" he asked.
"We have an arrangement."
He said nothing and drank his tea. As he finished, she shot a sharp look at him. "You ready to go now?"
He set the cup down. "Have you ever heard of a Professor Stahlman?"
"Nobody who would admit it," she said.
"I would like to ask your officer friend about him."
She let out her breath. "Look you, just push off! Jimmy doesn't need any trouble from you!"
"Why? Because you're bringing enough of it to him, taking his confidences to the resistance?"
Her eyes flashed. "Go on then! Make trouble for me! Yates will settle the score with you later, no matter what happens to me."
He stepped up to her. "I'm sorry," he said instantly. "But there really is a new danger to everybody. Jimmy may be able to help prevent it."
"A security danger?" she asked.
"An impending catastrophe," he said. "A man named Professor Stahlman is trying to build a project to drill into the core of the Earth. Such an action will de-stabilize the geological plate on which we sit. If he's successful, he'll bring about the destruction of the entire planet."
"The government won't let him do it," she said.
"He is convincing this government that it's safe." He spread his arm wide, gesturing to the world outside her tenement. "When has this government ever made a right decision?" he asked. "It's ruined business and technology, brought the whole country to the edge of economic chaos. Stahlman will be able to prove to the government that the earth's core will provide limitless energy at low cost. That's the only thing the ministers will consider."
"Then how can you stop him?"
"Well, I have to try. I want to talk to him first. Reason with him. Failing that, I'll need to find other scientists who will listen to me---"
"The only scientists are government scientists," she said. "They think along the party line. If they don't, they end up in a labor camp."
"Then I'll have to take my case to the government itself. Physics is on my side. And there are other means of deriving power from energy sources than drilling into the earth's crust. I can offer them cheaper and safer alternatives."
She let out a brief laugh. "So in the end you'd be a government man." Her eyes held a certain amount of contempt and satisfaction. "Is that what you really want Jimmy for? To get you in good with the government and get this Professor Stahlman out?"
"If I specialize in playing both sides to get what I want," he asked her, "are you going to blame me for it?"
Resentment again flashed across her eyes, but after a moment she said, "No."
He quietened his voice. "Well what about it? Will you arrange for me to meet Jimmy?"
"Everything for a price," she said. "You bring me a carton of fags, and I'll get you in with Jimmy." She glanced at the door. "Now off you go."
Something in his eyes was deeply chagrined, and she saw it, but he obediently turned away and went to the door.
"And Mister," she said.
"Jimmy won't listen unless you bring something for him. Beer or stout."
"Right." He nodded. "I'll be back tonight."
* * * *
"All right, Miss Grant. Time for the curtain to go up," The Master told her as he finished a post-prandial cigarette. "Take a good hard look around when you go out, and do a couple loops where the street is busy. He'll expect that. And then straight as an arrow to the warehouses."
She stood up, her face set but her eyes uncertain.
"I'll get him before he gets you into his TARDIS," the Master promised. "If it comes to a scuffle, stay as low as possible. I'll shoot at his head. You're small enough that he cannot make a decent shield out of you."
"As long as you give me time to get in place, everything will be all right," he told her. He hesitated and then said quietly, "Off you go, then."
She went out of the crowded pub. There was no sign of the Doctor, either one of them, out on the street. He was better than she at staying concealed. She earnestly searched for him as she strolled about in front of the small shops. The plan was that if she spotted him, she was to go back into the pub. He would be suspicious otherwise.
But she did not get sight of him. She at last set out for the place where she had been rescued by the Master, first doing some loops to lose any unwary followers.
Getting to the warehouses was a long walk from the small, prosperous section of the city where the international investors, government officials, and criminal leaders congregated and spent money freely. She passed a few blocks of lovely flats with carefully tended window and patio boxes, each of them protected by ornate wrought iron fencing.
Then it was blocks of worn office buildings and smaller, closed businesses. And then the streets became dirtier, more chipped, and less frequented. Abandoned warehouses, parking garages, and closed construction sites dominated the landscape. There were no pedestrians, and she felt exposed and vulnerable. Anybody might attack her with impunity here.
She was still several blocks away from the site of her rescue from the TARDIS when she heard footsteps behind her. She turned and saw him, the same well made suit, the hair cut slightly more close and more short than the Doctor she knew, the face as quiet as stone.
She ran from him, making for the rendezvous point. There was just enough time to pull a small flexible rod from her blouse, a safety device from the Master. She heard a distinct ringing in her ears and knew that he had fired a weapon at her. Either he had missed or the blast jacket had deflected it. The ringing became more intense, and she suddenly lost the use of her legs at the knees. For a moment she felt as though she were trying to run through deep water, and then the pavement came up and hit her.
"So the little quail returns to the nest," a distant voice said. Her vision cleared. He was alongside her on his knees, about to come astride her. She had no idea where the Master was. The flexible rod was in her hand. She flailed out with it in a determined arc. It telescoped open like a thin radio antenna and whipped a thin red stripe of blood across his face. She rolled away as he screamed and grabbed for her. As he came up again on his knees, she whipped it across his eyes.
She darted away. He missed his grab and then came up on his feet. He was shouting, his voice sounding like the snarling of an animal.
"Get down! Get down!" somebody was shouting. It took her a moment to register the command, and then she saw the Master ahead of her, leveling his own weapon. She dropped and heard an energy discharge, but it was the Master who fell. Blood spurted over the front of his suit.
He had been wearing a blast vest, too, she thought dumbly. The Doctor grabbed her hair at the very top of her head and jerked her up to her knees.
Instead of pulling away, she rammed herself straight between his legs, trying to knock him off balance as he instinctively tried to protect his groin. His hold loosened on her hair and she scrambled through the opening between his legs. She heard another blast and realized that the Master was still alive and firing. The blast either missed the Doctor or had no effect.
Trying to get hold of her again with one hand, the Doctor leveled his weapon at his fallen enemy. Jo reached up, grabbed hold of his belt in the back, and jerked hard on it, trying to upset both his balance and his aim. Her hands encountered a sheathed knife by accident, hidden under his suit coat.
Still trying to get hold of her and shoot at the Master, the Doctor's big hand closed over her ankle. With a strong jerk of his arm, he pulled her out from between his legs. He succeeded only part way. She got the knife free and without thought slashed him behind the knee.
It wasn't deep enough to hamstring him. He screamed and simply dropped onto her, ending her struggle with the sheer weight of his body. The Master, she realized, was no longer shooting Her last glimpse of him had been of him on his side, the blood expanding out from him in a pool.
The Doctor ground his weight into her, knocking the breath out of her. Then he plucked the knife from her hand and threw it down out of her reach. He had two angry red welts across his face. He rolled her onto her back under him and pinned her shoulders with his knees.
"One down," he gasped. "And one to go. I'm going to enjoy this." He ripped her collar open at the throat and took up the discarded knife.