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 stepped into the control room, but he did not have long to wait. From the walkway that led back to the other rooms of the TARDIS, his double quickly appeared, dressed almost identically to him. Only the tie, loosely knotted in a bow, was wrong. It was navy blue, and the top button of the collar behind it was buttoned. He preferred a black tie, and he always kept the top button of his shirt open.
But there was no time to speak or to parley or even open his mouth. His enemy drew out a weapon and fired. The blast was on a reduced setting, but it flung the Doctor back into the wall. He had just enough of his senses left to feel his legs buckle and to want to make himself stand up and face his double. But his body would not obey his will. After a moment, he felt a firm hand grip the back of his shirt collar and twist, cutting off his breath.
The Doctor choked and tried to struggle, but the energy blast had disoriented his nerves. He couldn't use his hands properly. He swung and grabbed, but it was futile. After a moment, loss of air made him stop. The collar loosened a slight bit.
"That was lesson number one," he heard his own voice say. "And the lesson is this: You are not going to leave here alive. Once we establish that, it's a matter of how well you'll bargain with me for a quick death."
The powerful hand dragged him backwards across the gleaming floor. He struggled, but the strength was gone from his legs. At last he gasped out a single word: "Jo!"
"You won't be seeing her, either. She's dead."
* * * *
Kit had trained herself to remain unimpressed with everything. It was a safeguard against people who might try to overawe her or frighten her into betraying herself.
But when she entered the large control room, her mouth opened, and for a moment she forgot about her own grief, about the threat of losing the Doctor to some hideously powerful enemy, even about the danger to her own life.
For a long moment, she stood backed against the closed doors, speechless. The obvious paradox that the room was larger on the inside than it appeared on the outside made up only part of her shock. It was futuristic, and even she could see that the control console, the glareless lighting, the gleaming walls and floors, were all other worldly. In an instant she grasped the idea that she was dealing with truly powerful beings. She felt a curious shame, and a sudden sense of being very small. And then suddenly her desperation to save him increased. Part of her had sensed his greatness all along, and now she felt that he had humbled himself and been patient with her in recruiting her help earlier.
She stayed with her back against the wall and sidled around the room. She circled to the corridor that led to the other rooms of the TARDIS and cautiously moved forward.
She hadn't gone very far when she was instantly seized and dragged back into a dark alcove, a hand over her mouth and another across her throat. "Don't scream," A voice hissed. "Or I'll kill you. Don't move, and don't fight."
Her captor hesitated, and she nodded, her eyes big. He cautiously moved his gloved hand from her mouth.
"Jo?" he asked, uncertain.
"Kit," she whispered.
"What are you doing in here?"
"I was looking for somebody."
He gripped her by the shoulders and abruptly turned her to face him. "Like Jo," he said quietly. "Who are you looking for? Answer me quickly!"
Understanding dawned on his face. He was shorter than the Doctor, bearded, with glittering brown eyes. "Where is the girl?" he asked. "Your counter part? Where is she?"
Kit faltered, puzzled. "I--I don't know. I don't know what you mean. I don't have a counter part. My boyfriend was killed earlier tonight."
He saw truth in her eyes and hesitated. "This place is a death trap. How did you get in here?"
She didn't speak, and the eyes in his face took on a harder look. "It's unwise to resist me, young lady."
She shook her head. "I came to find somebody. Not to hurt anybody."
"The Doctor?" he asked again. "Did he kill your boyfriend?"
"No! No of course not! He said that somebody else did it. Was it you? Are you his enemy?"
"He and I have a common enemy." The stranger suddenly relaxed and released her. "You seem to be caught up in something you don't comprehend."
"What is this place?" she asked. It just looks like a booth on the outside---"
He waved the questions away. "It is operated by a being who is determined to kill your Doctor. And this person has also imprisoned another young lady who is as like you as two peas. You ought to get away while there's time."
"I didn't come just to get away," she said.
"Well the hallways are divided into chambers that can be sealed off," he told her. "Sealed off and flooded with poison gas. Come here." He led her to the doorway of the small room. "See that canister on the wall? It is operated by a switch in the next section of hallway. He can stand up the hall from somebody, activate a switch, and their section of the hallway is flooded with gas. Steel doors come down to seal them off."
"Is that what he did to the Doctor?" she asked.
He shook his head. "Not yet.."
"Can't you jam those things?"
"No. I have several devices that will trigger the switch from a few feet away, so that if he toggles it on, I might be able to toggle it off in time," he said.
"Or toggle it on to trap him," she added.
"That is highly unlikely. He is a clever opponent." But his eyes showed approval of her insight in how to use a defensive weapon as an offensive weapon. He reached into a pocket and passed her a small object no larger than an egg. "I intended to give this to the young woman if I could free her," he said. "Be careful with it, but if you need it, you can aim the narrow end at the switchplate in the wall to toggle off the canisters and save yourself."
"So you'll let me help you?" she asked.
"Yes, so long as you know that I am in command." And his voice and eyes became stern. "Your first task is to find and free the girl while I search for the Doctor. As long as she is held hostage then your Doctor is no good to us, and his counterpart has a bargaining chip. The best service you can be to your Doctor is to find the girl and get her out of here. Leave the rest to me."
Kit had no intention of obeying him to the letter, but she nodded. She understood survival, and she understood that this man knew far more about how to get the Doctor out safely than she did. He surveyed her face for a moment and then said, "I will tell you the way to our enemy's playrooms. It isn't a pleasant place."
* * * *
The Doctor was helpless as his counter part lifted him across his shoulders like so much dead weight, carried him through a doorway, and dumped him onto a table. The Doctor of that world crossed to a wall switch and operated some controls. Instantly, the narrow table hummed, and its occupant felt a pressure pull him fast as though he were wrapped to the table in a cocoon.
"Easily done," his enemy said. "Gravity magnification. Of course, if I increase it too much, your lungs will not be able to work fast enough. Getting the setting just to the point where the lungs struggle but cannot draw in quite enough breath is tricky on this old machine. But I have the hang of it, now." He leaned over the Doctor. "Would you like to see it work?"
"No that's quite all right," the Doctor said conversationally. "There's no rush."
"What a funny man you are." He glanced over at a screen on the wall, reading the display. "Well, you are a time lord, anyway. The real thing."
"Are you the only one, my only duplicate?"
"I had thought I was unique, until I heard about you. Quite alarming to see my other self. And then to find out he's nothing but pure appetite, seeking gratification."
"Yes, you are obviously unaware of how to satisfy appetite. Don't feel too bad about Jo. She died with a smile. Well, right before the scream. But at least I did for her what you were unwilling to do."
The Doctor was silent, unable to respond to this jab. His adversary cocked an eyebrow at him and then went on with a careless tone. "It wasn't entirely unpleasant for her. I kept whispering to her, 'imagine it's him, dear. Just imagine.' And then finally, you should have heard her breath. Like this." And he softly panted, a high pitched, rapid pant that imitated fear and excitement. "The cord around her neck frightened her, of course." He panted a few more times and then cut it off with a whimper and a choking sound. He made his eyes start from his head as though he were being choked.
"Stop it!" the Doctor roared., and tried to get up. But the force on the table was irresistible. "Leave her alone now that you've killed her!"
His enemy turned curious eyes to him. "But what was the draw for you? Why did you take that human girl under your wing? If you were sent to kill me, then what good was she to you?"
The Doctor gave up struggling. He sank back, frustrated and heart broken. "I may have deserved this, but she didn't," he said,. but not to his captor. "Jo, I'm sorry for this madness."
"You do love her, in your way." And the enemy Doctor came and stood by him, his face serious for once, mockery forgotten. "And she loved you. How did it come about? Just tell me that. If you had no use for her, what was it about her that made you keep her?"
"She was good," the Doctor said with a gasp of sorrow. "Even you must have seen that."
His enemy's face suddenly became bitter. It twisted with sudden anger. "Good!" he spat. "What kind of reason is that! And she wasn't good! She was stupid, for one thing! And she wanted things from you that you couldn't give her! And when I gave them to her, she hated me!" He strode to the wall and threw some switches. The pulling force on the table increased. It had the same effect as though a tremendous weight were coming down on the Doctor, crushing him.
"I am you!" His enemy shouted at him. "I am you, but I can do things and make things happen! When were you going to kill me? What was your plan?"
The Doctor could not answer with the great force crushing him down to the table. He struggled to breathe.
"Why didn't you just get away with her if you loved her!" his enemy shouted. "It's your fault! You killed her! You let her fall into my hands!"
* * * *
Her hand on the activation device, Kit cautiously crept down the corridor where the Master said the so-called "playrooms" were. The doors opened for her or already stood open. What he had not told her was that there were other occupants of these rooms. Twice she thought she had found her quarry, but each time that she entered a room, the body locked onto the cot was dead. She entered another darkened room, saw a body, and it also was dead.
Kit felt her own nerve beginning to desert her, but just as she would have edged out and considered taking flight, she heard a sound like a whimper. Though the corridor outside was well lighted, the room was dim where she stood and it grew darker as the distance from the door increased.
Hesitantly, she edged into the darkness and heard another sound, the rustling of somebody moving, and then a sobbing sigh.
She let her eyes adjust, and she gradually was able to make out another cot, with somebody lying on it. And this one was alive.
Even in the darkness, Kit could see that this young woman was very nearly her double. The Master had forewarned her of this, but the sight of the other young woman once again drove home to her that she was interacting in the affairs of great beings and great events. She might have been afraid of her own double, except that the young woman was clearly in misery.
Kit's own grief was too great to make her cold to the suffering of another. She drew closer and at last spoke.
"Is that you, Jo? Are you Jo?"
The young woman on the cot opened her eyes. For a moment, she stared at Kit with so much shock and fear that Kit lost most of her own fear.
"Who are you?" Jo asked.
"My real name is Josephine Grant," Kit told her. "But people call me Kit. And you must be the Master's friend."
"What are you doing here?" Jo asked.
"The Master sent me to free you. Is there a light?"
"The young woman," Jo said. "The one over there. Is she dead?"
Kit only half turned. "Yes, I rather think she is."
Jo lay back. "He killed them all. He killed them all so that I would hear it and see it." She caught back a sob. "I begged him to stop. I told him I would do anything he wanted. But he did it anyway."
Kit became savagely brisk. "Come on!" she said sternly. "If you lie her and blub, there's no help for anybody. We've got to worry about the living, and then we'll cry for the dead! Sit up!"
And she helped Jo up, but her actions were more gentle than her words. She inspected the bracelets on Jo's feet. "I don't have the first clue how to get these undone!" she exclaimed.
"The wall," Jo told her. "There's a switch on the wall."
"I thought those things activated the gas canisters."
"No, that control board over there. It works the devices on the cots."
Kit nodded and went to the wall. She felt it carefully, not able to see it very well in the darkness, but she quickly figured out that the six switches on it corresponded to the six cots in the room. She flipped one, and the bracelets holding Jo to the cot sprang open.
* * * *
A roaring blackness was just coming up over the Doctor's vision when his counter part released the unbearable pressure on him and strode to another screen in the wall, his attention completely diverted from his victim for a moment.
"Not---not quitting so soon," the Doctor gasped, straining for breath.
"Oh, I plan to extract all kinds of information from you before we're through. But I intend to be here to enjoy it. I must attend to something." And he strode out.
The Doctor caught his breath, and his vision cleared. As it did, he saw another figure slip into the room, and he tried---again unsuccessfully---to lift his head.
"Give me a moment," the Master said. He went to the wall and scanned the controls.
"He said he's killed Jo," the Doctor gasped. "Did you find her?"
"He's killed at least one of his victims," the Master said. "But I did not find Jo. I had just located his playrooms for his victims when he passed by with you. I thought it most prudent to follow. Discreetly, of course."
"Where---where's he gone?"
"I'm not sure. Ah, here we are. This should do it." He operated several controls, and the Doctor lifted his head and then tried to slide off the table. He nearly fell to the floor. The Master helped him. "Broken bones?" the bearded time lord asked.
The Doctor leaned heavily on the edge of the table. "Smaller bones. My ribs. Maybe some cracks in others. Just give me a moment."
"A young woman from this city followed you inside," the Master told him.
The Doctor turned anguished eyes to him. "Kit? He'll kill her, too." He tried to straighten, but he could not do so quickly. "Find her," he said helplessly. "Save her. Please."
"If I leave you here, then I'm back at my starting point. Come on!"
The Doctor nodded. Moving painfully, he followed his ally out into the corridor. The Master drew a blaster from his pocket. He passed it back to the Doctor and then took another weapon from his belt in the back.
"No questions, no mercy," he said tersely. "As soon as you see him, kill him. Let us put an end to this madness. Though he has contributed to the downfall of this planet, he will do no other harm."
The Doctor stared at the Master for a long moment. The Master turned to look at him. "Did you hear me?"
"All right," the Doctor said. "There doesn't seem to be any other way."
* * * *
"The dark fellow, the one with the beard, he told me to find you and get out of here," Kit told Jo as they stood in the doorway and peered into the corridor.
"What about the Doctor?" Jo asked. "My Doctor, I mean."
"He said he would find the Doctor. Look, who are you?" Kit asked. "Who is the Doctor? Why have you been made to look like me?"
Jo surveyed her with rueful eyes, not sure how much this version of herself would be prepared to believe. And yet, certainly, she deserved the truth.
"The Doctor and I live in a universe apart from this universe," Jo began.
"Not an aberrational universe? Is all of that actually true?"
The question startled Jo. "You know that this is an aberrational universe?" she asked.
Kit shrugged. "The New Order doesn't allow it to be taught any more. But yes, it was one of the teachings of one of those Greek fellows. We all learned it in grammar school. Plato, I think. He said that there's a true universe, but aberrations spring off of it. Counterfeits, I guess you would say. Hadn't you ever heard that idea?"
Jo shook her head. "We have the teachings of Plato in my world, some of them, but not that. I was shocked to come here and see a version of my world that's so like my world, and yet so unlike it." She hesitated and eyed her double up and down. "Quite unnerving, actually. Especially to find the Doctor here is so---so awful---so cruel---a savage animal with a brilliant mind---"
Kit stopped her with a short, sharp question. "You're happy in your world?"
"Yes," Jo said. She didn't even need to ask it, for she saw the misery that had ground itself into Kit, but the question came out anyway: "And you?"
Kit did not answer. Instead she asked, "And he's good to you? Does he love you then?"
"He's very good to me," Jo said. "It's almost like I was asleep all my life until he woke me up. But he doesn't feel that way toward me. Not towards any one as far as I know. But he does care for me in his way."
Kit's voice was a whisper. "I know." She brought herself back to the present crisis. "Well what about it?" she asked. "Do we make out escape our try to find them?"
"We should go to the control room and wait," Jo said. "We don't know how to find them, and the TARDIS goes on forever, so searching may only make matters worse. But from the control room we may be able to work out something."
Kit nodded. "Let's go, then. And careful. If that duplicate Doctor is half as bad as you say, I don't fancy running into him."
They stepped out into the corridor and cautiously approached the first corner. Jo peeped around it to check, and just as suddenly she was seized by the hair on the very top of her head from behind. She heard Kit yelp, and then they were both jerked backward and thrown off balance. They were slammed back into the wall, and though the grip on Jo's hair was released, it was almost instantly replaced with a huge hand across her throat. Her vision cleared in time for her to see the enemy Doctor. He had both of them against the wall.
"Well, well, two little rabbits for my hutch!" he exclaimed. "Curiouser and curiouser! I am quite interested in this little puzzle." Keeping Jo pinned with his strong right hand, he leaned closer to Kit. "And what is your name, my little dear? Have you a kiss for a kind old man?"
Kit, with a remarkable sound like a snarl, jerked her right hand up from the inside of her jacket. The Doctor suddenly yelped and cursed and released Jo for an instant. "Run!" Kit shouted. "Get help!" She slashed again with the straight razor, aiming for his eyes.
Bleeding in a line from his chin to halfway across his cheek, he ducked to avoid the blow and then slammed the web of his left hand into her throat: a short blow that cut off her breathing and flung her back into the wall. Jo saw that the momentary fight was lost and ran. She could not combat him alone, and she knew it.
"Doctor!" she shouted. "Doctor!"
She ran blindly around a corner, running away from the control room and the enemy Doctor. The Master suddenly popped out of a doorway ahead of her. "Quiet!" he hissed. "Where is the girl? The other one?"
"He's got her!" Jo exclaimed. She darted through the doorway. "She cut him on the face with a knife or razor or something, but he got her!"
The Doctor stood further in the room, leaning heavily on a table, and she ran to him, though she did not touch him. He raised his eyes to her, and she saw that he was in pain. Before she could speak, he shook his head. "It's all right," he said. And then, "We must save her." He turned to the Master.
The Master nodded. "We'll do our best. He must be killed. The lives of other planets hang on it."
"Not to mention your own life!" the Doctor suddenly snapped.
The Master was cool. "That, too, certainly. And yours. And hers. Come."
He turned from the Doctor and led the way into the corridor, his gun at the ready. They followed.
"Stop!" a voice commanded, and they saw the enemy Doctor of that world, a stripe of blood across his face, with Kit pinned in front of him. He held a blaster to her head. "You'll do as I say, now!"
"Never!" And the Master leveled his weapon at his enemy, ready to shoot down Kit if necessary. The Doctor, still armed with the weapon the Masrter had given him and caught in the doorway, fired. The blast caught the Master on the arm and flung him around into the wall. "I won't let either of you kill her!" the Doctor exclaimed. He kept his weapon ready.
"Drop it!" his duplicate ordered. "Or she dies! Horribly!"
But the Doctor did not obey. "I can't. You'll kill all of them if I do. Let them all go, and you can have me. I'm the one you want."
"Doctor!" Jo exclaimed.
"Quiet, Jo." He gently pushed her behind him in the doorway but kept his eyes fixed on his adversary. "I give you my word. Send them out, and then you can flood this whole place with nerve gas and kill me while I'm helpless."
The Master, dazed from having hit the wall, glowered at the Doctor that had been his ally. "Don't be a fool! The High Council will have my head if he gets away from me now!"
"I'm onto you," the Doctor said briefly. "You are only slightly less cold blooded than he is." He turned to his double. "Do we have a deal? Let them go! You can retreat back into the other room if you want and send them out. And then it will be just you and me. In your TARDIS."
"He'll kill you!" Kit gasped. She had her one hand to her throat to stop him from choking her, and her other hand was in her pocket.
"So I will," the enemy Doctor said. He looked down at Kit regretfully. "But it will not be as much fun as my other past times. Oh well." He let out a philosophical sigh. "One must make the best bargain that one can---"
He would have pulled Kit further back to enable him to get to the shelter of a doorway, but just then she moved. Her hand came up from her jacket, a small egg-shaped device in it. She pointed it at a switch plate that sat by the top of the doorway over the Doctor's head and pressed a button. The Master's eyes glowed with surprise and sudden, deep satisfaction.
The same sound of something rolling over bearings filled the hall. "Kit!" Jo exclaimed.
"No!" the enemy Doctor shouted, but suddenly Kit turned full into his arms, interfering with him, clinging to him as he tried to get past her.
Jo started forward, and her own Doctor tried to follow, not even sure of what was going on, and still unable to move quickly. The Master leaped to his feet, and his good hand went into his other pocket as though by reflex. But then he stayed still as the doors came down.
"Let me go! Get away!" they heard the other Doctor scream as he tried to get to the steel door before it came all the way down.
Jo's Doctor, as he saw the doors come down, stumbled to the partition that was closing them off from Kit. "Kit!" he shouted.
He got his fingers under the steel door as it came lower than his knees and tried to lift against it. "Kit! What did you do? Kit! He's a killer!" His efforts were futile against the heavy door, and it pressed past his slipping fingers and closed against the floor.
They heard the hiss of cylinders releasing gas in all the sealed off sections around them. "What is it?" the Doctor asked. "What's happening?"
The Master's voice was calm, but his eyes were somber. "He has the place designed so that he can activate a trigger to seal off the corridors into sections and flood them with gas. She activated the trigger in this section. The sensors read that he was standing here, and they lowered the doors and filled the other chambers with gas."
"Gas! Nerve gas?" The Doctor flung himself against the steel door. "Raise! Raise it!" he exclaimed. "We can save her!"
The Master's voice was quiet. "It was her choice. The doors will come up in a moment."
The Doctor turned to him, his eyes horrified. "You can't save her?"
The Master's hesitation was so brief that it was almost unnoticeable. "No. But she has killed him."
They heard the sudden click and rushing sound of the ventilation coming on. In a moment, the doors lifted.
"I will see to him!" the Master exclaimed, his voice suddenly savage. The body of the other Doctor lay further up the hall, as though he had tried to get under the door that had sealed him off on the other side. Jo turned away as the Master stooped over the body. She and her own Doctor knelt by the body of Kit.
A coldness rushed through Jo as she saw her own face lying at her feet, the eyes fixed and staring, the expression sad but not especially frightened. For a moment she thought she was going to be sick, and then she heard the Doctor let out strange, soft sound that she had never heard from him. It was a whimper of pain and horror and disbelief. He had no voice. He made the same sound again, and then he lowered his face over Kit's face. "I'm sorry!" he gasped. "It was my fault. I'm sorry!"
The Master, further up the hall, grunted several times, and there was a strange, electronic sound. And then he slowly stood up. Jo saw that the head of the other Doctor was severed from the body, and she turned away. She clung to her own Doctor, sorry for him, but afraid of this one final act of barbarity.
The Master turned and pointed his weapon at the Doctor. "Get up!" he exclaimed.
The Doctor turned to him but did not rise. "She died to save you. Is that meaningless to you?"
"She died to save you, Doctor, though it worked out well for me. Now get up!" The Doctor looked down at the body and carefully closed her eyes. He took Jo's hand and stood up. "What will you do with her?"
"I shall bury her. Not here. Elsewhere. This planet will be destroyed soon, and I would keep her in a grave that will endure. She is part of the evidence of all that transpired here."
"You knew all along," the Doctor said. "You knew that he was the link to Stahlman. And you knew that he could destroy anyone who tried to stop Stahlman. He was the one who convinced Stahlman to drill through the earth's crust. And now Stahlman is going to do it."
"Yes," the Master said. "He was both Stahlman's liaison, and head of the resistance in this part of the city. With the young man killed, the government shall appoint a special Security Brigade to work in cooperation with Stahlman and protect him." The Master cocked an eyebrow. "You have not changed history. You have simply become a part of it."
"Why did you let us?" Jo asked.
"Because I could not stop you. I must pick my battles, and this one was chosen for me by my superiors. You could do no harm to our plans."
"Your plans?" Jo asked.
"To let the Doctor of this world engineer the destruction of earth," the Doctor said. "That was why he was allowed to live. They knew that he would have the cleverness to enact a revenge that they themselves could never admit to."
"A cleverness that they do not possess," the Master corrected. "What you fail to understand, Doctor, is that this Earth would grow more powerful and more aggressive until it would become a threat to other planets. We had to see her destroyed now or allow a seed of war to spring up that would encompass a quarter of the galaxy someday. The High Council can be ruthless, but they have sense. It was determined that Earth should be given over to a tempter. She would choose her own fate, and she has chosen it."
"And then the tempter must be killed," the Doctor said.
"Did you think him worthy to be spared?" The Master leveled the gun at the Doctor. "You are a radical, Doctor, an item unlooked for in the scheme of things. I would have done the young woman lying on the floor there a favor to have killed you at once."
Jo made a sound of fear and suddenly clung to the Doctor, but the time lord looked at the Master. "Yes," he said. "You would have. Perhaps you would have saved them all if you had killed me."
"Nonsense. Don't take so much credit for your own stupidity. You did not ordain the history of this earth by what you did. You simply became a part of it., unable to alter the events that the High Council set in motion. And though I have many reasons to kill you, for her sake," and he nodded to Jo. "I shall spare you. She must be returned home."
"But Kit," the Doctor began.
"I shall bury her. I promise. She saved my life, and that is no small favor. Go to the control room."
The Doctor hesitated, and the Master abruptly pointed the gun at Jo. "How many more people will be hurt before you do as you are told?"
"All right," he said quickly. Pulling Jo close, he moved as rapidly as he could up the corridor. The Master followed.
"Stop," the Master said as they came into the control room. "Stand there at the console. It was your signal that crossed his signal, and you jumped from your TARDIS field into his. The same mechanism should send you back. Set the frequency for me. I don't want to know what it is. I don't want to learn the secret of slipping from reality to reality."
The Doctor nodded, leaned over the console, and adjusted several settings. The Master looked across the console at him. "The earth was doomed," he said. "Doomed before you ever came here. I warn you now, do not come again, or you shall incur our wrath. And you will only complicate a painful, downward spiral for the people here. You will be killed if you return, and we will kill any who come with you. Do you understand?"
"I will not return," the Doctor said hoarsely.
"I am not as cruel as I may seem." The Master stepped up to the power switch. "I might have killed you to protect my interests, but for the sake of the affection that is between the two of you, I chose to spare you, and even to save you if I could. I have done that." He glanced down at the control. "Thank you, for the friendship you gave me. It would matter more to me if my superiors would allow it. Goodbye."
He threw the switch. In another instant, Jo found herself looking at a TARDIS console that now seemed slightly less sophisticated, slightly less spotless, slightly less dead and sterile, than the one she had just seen.
"We're home," the Doctor said. His voice was strange: weak and drained. She looked up at him. As soon as her eyes met his, tears spilled down his cheeks. "I'm sorry," he said again. "I'm sorry, Jo."
She knew that it was Kit he was crying for. "It was more than three years ago," she whispered. "She would be dead now anyway."
"Yes," he gasped, and he did not stop crying. She hugged him, but she was too small to be of much effect, she thought. He engulfed her in his arms and let out a gasp of pain as his cracked bones protested.
"You need to rest," she said. "You need to sleep and recover."
"Not yet," he sobbed. "I can't. I was wrong from start to finish. There's nobody who can forgive me. They're dead."
"No, it's not that way," she insisted, gently, but it was useless. Jo had seen the Doctor shed tears before, but she had never seen him entirely overcome with grief. He was a person of great height and powerful stance, huge hands and a wide, broad chest. As he broke into sobbing, holding her to himself, she felt almost as if a thunderstorm had found her and taken her to itself while it cried itself out. All his life and hearts and powers seemed to be in his tears and his sobbing remorse. Crying, for him, was extremely physical. She closed her eyes and pushed her head against him, unable to do anything else.
At last, when he had cried with such force that a human man would have been nearly senseless from the exertion, he became more aware of her. He stroked her hair and said, "Everything you said was true. Everything you said from start to finish. It was a mad attempt. It was foolishness. Clean contrary to all the laws of time. And I dragged you into it. Will you, at least, forgive me, Jo?"
"Yes, I do forgive you," she said earnestly. "Please. It's all said and done now!"
He slipped away from her, staggering unsteadily, and put his hands on the console. She wasn't sure what he was doing, but he laid his palms flat on two disks on the console, closed his eyes, the tears streaming down his face, and spoke. "Can you hear me? Please!" he exclaimed. And then he became still, but the lines deepened on his face. Suddenly he burst out with a shout, his eyes still closed: "You were right! I am a fool!" He took in a great breath. "My exile is right and just! I deserve it, and you acted with mercy!" He bowed his head. "All your ways are just, and you treated me with a wisdom I didn't deserve!" He began to sob again, and he bowed down over the console from pain. "I will stay here, and I will not fight you. Your punishment of me was just!"
And then he fell into his sobbing, though it was not as strenuous this time.
"Doctor," Jo said. "You're hurt. What did he do to you? You're in pain."
He opened his eyes. "I'll rest," he promised her. He straightened up and turned to her, his eyes concerned. "You need food and rest, too. Please." He looked down at her as she tried to get her shoulder under his to help him walk. "Don't go far from me, Jo."
"No, not far at all," she said. "Come on. Let's find you a bed in the TARDIS."
"No, not the TARDIS. Not now. Take me to the sofa."
She guided him to the worn sofa in one corner of the lab. He sank onto it, and was almost immediately unconscious. She knew that he was exhausted, and that he needed the deep, long sleep of a time lord to heal himself. She pulled off his shoes and then hurried to find some blankets.
It was not until the next day that he awoke. He opened his eyes to find her by the sofa, her dark eyes fixed on him, worried.
"I'm all right," he said instantly. "Didn't you sleep?"
"Oh yes," she said quickly, but she looked exhausted. He sat up, and he was, indeed, strong again.
"Come here," he said quickly. "That chair is too hard."
She willingly sat next to him, and he looked down at her, concerned and still guilty and grief stricken.
"Look, I've been thinking," she said.
She rested her hand on his hand. "The other me. Kit. I understand her, you know. Because she and I are made of the same stuff."
"Yes," he said, and his eyes became sober.
"You don't understand, Doctor." She looked at him more earnestly. "Look, it was like being awakened by you. To me it was as though all my life I was asleep: walking and eating and even learning how to survive, but it wasn't until you came that I really began to know things. to understand things. I wouldn't change any of that. It seems that somehow you slowly woke me up and made me more like I should have been all along."
He seemed touched by this account but did not see what it led up to. "Thank you," he whispered.
"Kit made the choice I would have made," she said. "What was she when you met her? Don't say it; I already know."
"She had a hard life," he said quickly.
"I could see that. But Doctor, if she woke up to caring about you more than she cared about her own life, and caring about getting three other people to safety even if she had to kill herself to do it, that may not have been such a tragedy."
"Jo, it was such a waste for her to die," he began.
"Not to me," she insisted. "Waking up to die for the right thing might be better than just poking along until death finds you. You've made my life meaningful And if you made her life meaningful, you shouldn't say it was a waste. I don't think she could have made a choice like that before you came. And it was a hard choice, but just making that choice might have undone a lot of bad choices she had made."
He paused and thought for a moment, recalling the exchange that Kit had made from one way of thinking to another. If he had never come, she and Jimmy would have continued as before, with Jimmy beating people to death for a living and Kit scheming and conniving to escape the city. There was no knowing which was better. "Perhaps you're right," he said after a moment. "We'll never know. But it's one way of looking at it."
She would have said something more, but with a sudden, careful gentleness, he put his arm around her, drawing her in. "Jo," he said suddenly.
Her eyes widened. "What?"
"I--I have been a great fool," he said. "When I was exiled here, I hardly valued you at all, until you showed me how deep the compassion and friendship that you have for me runs. I--" He raised his hand and laid it along her cheek. "I can't live without that guidance. You have something and are something that I can never possess in and of myself. Please stay with me. I can't bear to lose you."
"Why--" She was startled at this revelation. She quickly gathered her wits. "Of course I'll stay with you. You can never pry me away, even when you want to."
"No, I don't mean just day to day, here at UNIT. Stay with me forever."
The request was an even bigger surprise. She cocked her head. "Doctor, I'm a human woman. I'll get old and die. Quickly, compared to you."
"Not in there." He nodded to the TARDIS. "Time doesn't pass in there. You could live in there. With me. Hundreds of years. I'll be whatever you need me to be to make you happy. I'll learn, Jo. I know that you can teach me to make you happy and to be--" He hesitated and then found the words. "Wiser than I am. Wiser with that intuitive goodness of yours."
He put his arms around her and then lifted her across himself. Moving as though with no effort, he settled her in the crook of his arm. He stroked back her hair from her face. Startled at how gently and quickly he moved with her, and how sure he was with her, she held onto him. He looked down at her, his eyes quiet. For a moment, she breathed in the smell of him, her face against his waistcoat and jacket, his strong arms holding her. He leaned closer, his eyes patient and expectant. He was ready, as soon as she consented, to take her into the TARDIS and then gently and thoroughly make her his. When she answered, her voice was trembling. "Stay with you always?"
"Please," he whispered. "Whatever you need. I'll be anything. Father and daughter; husband and wife, Teacher and pupil. All three, if need be."
She stilled the trembling in her voice, but it came out low and faint. "It would be a burden on you," she told him. "I would slow you down."
"No. I would be glad to stay with you." His eyes searched hers. "Perhaps there might be some side trips I would have to take, but I would never be far from you."
She caught her breath, her eyes fixed on his, but after a moment she woke up to reality. She realized that he was still grieving, for once painfully vulnerable. Kit's death, if anything, had made him sense how easily she herself might die. What he was suggesting, she realized, could not make them happy for very long, especially him.
She didn't struggle to get up. Instead, she lifted her hand and gently stroked back the hair on the side of his head. And then she said, "Doctor, is it my compassion that you love? And that I care for you so deeply?"
"Yes Jo. Yes!" he exclaimed softly. "I see it better now. I want to treasure those things."
"But it's being mortal that gives me those things," she told him. "What you really value is that I've learned to be able to give up my life. But to do that, I have to be able to really give it up." She tugged on the lapel of his jacket. "Oh Doctor, if I went and lived in that TARDIS of yours, and lost the power of dying, I would lose the power of feeling my own weakness. Maybe it would take decades, or even centuries perhaps, but sooner or later, being immortal would take away my mercy and compassion. In a hundred years, I wouldn't be the same person who went into the TARDIS. I would be somebody else entirely."
His eyes flickered with surprise as he saw the logic of what she was saying. "It would imprison you," she said softly. "No matter how much you care for me, you couldn't stop traveling and wandering. And sooner or later, I would want to stop. I would either imprison you, or you would have to desert me."
"No," he whispered.
But she realized, and it was a truth like an arrow that went through her, that the evil Doctor of the other universe had actually told her the truth. And as it filled her with realization and certainty, she fell out of love with the Doctor, though she still loved him as her teacher and friend. But now, looking up at him, she knew that he was not human and could not be made to feel human things, even if he wanted to. He had to have that union with the TARDIS, and if she came into that union, it would have to be as some creature also inextricably linked to the TARDIS. It was a leash that would turn into a chain someday. And it would turn her into some other creature than what she was at that moment, something immortal, and thus removed from the nature she had been born with.
As he looked down at her, he saw that her decision was made. "I'm sorry," he said. He helped her up.
"It was losing Kit," she said gently. "It made you think too much about losing me. But I'm not going anywhere any time soon. You think about it, and by tomorrow, you'll realize that this is for the best. I can't be a timelord. You can't be a human. We do best when we help each other to be what we were meant to be. Neither of us really has the power to hold onto the other."
"I won't try to slip out on you again like I tried to do!" he said quickly. "That was wrong!"
"All right." She looked at him for a long moment and then stood up. "I'd better go."
"Go?" he asked.
"Home. A bit of bed rest and a bath," she said. "I'll see you tomorrow." She touched the back of his hand, and he said quickly, "But we will go on as before, Jo?"
"Of course we will," she said. "Look, let's say no more about it. I think that after we both rest a bit, we'll agree."
"All right." He stood up as she walked out. "Perhaps you're right," he said. And then she was gone. Not running away, just gone, back to the human world of flats and beds and baths and tea, concerns about getting the rent paid and finding a newspaper and getting a parking space. For a moment the gulf between them seemed vast. He sat down. But he knew that she would be back the next day. No matter how great that gulf might be, or how other worldly her experiences, she always found her way back to him.
He stood up after a moment, paused and looked regretfully at the console, and then fished his key out of his pocket and went to the TARDIS. He went inside and closed the door.