Blood-Dimmed Tide Episode Three

Blood-Dimmed Tide

Episode Three

Jeri Massi

The afternoon drive to Hoffshire was a nightmare. Even before they reached the bad weather, they could see it on the horizon. The pile of dark clouds sat like a fist where earth and sky met, unmoving.

"It's not natural," Mike said at last. "It ought to be moving. Use the handset, Jo. Ask HQ to get the weather radar people on that thing."

She nodded and took up the mic of the radio. He remained pensive as she completed the communication and alerted UNIT. As she set the mic back on its rack, he said, "We're driving right into it, you know."

"Well we can't go back," she replied.

"Orders are orders," he agreed.

"I meant because they need us," she told him. "And we need them, too."

He glanced at her. "How do we need them?"

"Something the Doctor said to the Brigadier," she told him. "Turning and turning in the something or other, the falcon cannot here the falconer"

"That's Yeats," he said instantly, "`The Second Coming.' His name and mine sound the same, but he spelled his differently."

"And then there's another line," she added. "About reeling shadows of the indignant desert birds. I think it means shadow birds--black birds." She leaned forward and looked at him expectantly. Mike had been to college and had done well in literature studies. "What do you know about William Butler Yeats, Mike?"

"I know he had this entire mythology all worked out in his mind," he told her. He squinted thoughtfully. "He believed that Christ actually ushered in a new era, but that eras pass away--every 20 centuries, I think. So he believed that the order that came in from the Christian Messiah would end when a new Messiah figure would come in--well, by the end of this century. Only, the new Messiah figure that he predicted is supposed to be entirely unlike the Christian Messiah. It's a great Sphinx-like creature--" He stopped.

"What is it?" she asked.

"It's supposed to be heralded by giant black birds," he said softly. "Those are its messengers--it's forerunners."

"So great black birds show up in Hoffshire," Jo said. "And at the exact same time, the Doctor loses his mind and starts quoting Yeats."

"He did quote him yesterday in the lab," Mike recalled. "I remember now. I scarcely noticed what he was babbling--but between all that about Ammon and blood, he did quote from the poem."

"Mike, it can't be coincidence," she exclaimed. "It's related. What if he hasn't gone mad or had a seizure? What if something has gained control of him?"

It was just then that water hit the windshield like a wall. It blinded Mike from seeing the road for a moment. He quickly regained control of the car and slowed to a crawl as the rain hammered at them.

"If there's something behind all this!" he shouted over the noise. "We may very well meet it in Hoffshire! I hope you're ready!"

* * *

The Doctor opened his eyes. Somebody nearby was gasping air dryly like a dying man in need of water. After a moment, he realized that the sound was coming from him. He closed his lips and realized that his mouth was almost perfectly dry, that his legs, chest, and arms were so drenched that he thought he was bleeding. But he looked down and realized that it was all sweat. Three handcuffs on each wrist chained him to the metal bars of a hospital bed. His trouser legs were torn where his fingernails could reach them. Manacles wrapped around his ankles hobbled him and were attached to the bed frame.

"Water, please," he gasped, and he saw the Brigadier move alongside him and order, "Give him water. We ought to have an IV in here." A soldier instantly poured water from a plastic carafe into a cup, put a straw in it, and held it for the Doctor. He drank almost all of it before he let his head fall back.

"Can you hear me, now, Doctor?" the Brigadier asked him.

"Who are you?" the Doctor whispered.

I have come to give you power.

"Doctor?" the Brigadier asked sternly. "Can you hear me?"

"None of that," the Doctor whispered. "Who are you, and what have you done to me?"

I have done nothing to you. I wait to give you a kingdom.

"No, you're just thwarted because you can't wear me down. I haven't caved in, yet."

You have injured the girl you are so fond of. You have cursed her and beaten her. She has been taken away.

He saw the image of Jo under his fist and tried to leap up, shocked, but the chains stopped him. "No!" he shouted. "No! I didn't do that! I didn't do that!"

I can control you with a thought, with a snap of my fingers if I choose. You are my puppet, but I am willing to make you my prophet, my emissary.

He strained against the chains and fell back. "Brigadier," he gasped. "Where is Jo? What's happened to Jo?"

"She's on an assignment," the Brigadier said. He cautiously leaned closer to the Doctor, checking the bound timelord's eyes for signs of recognition.

Shall I snap my fingers, small one? Shall I show you again how helpless you are before me?

"I will never give in to you!" he exclaimed.

I snap my fingers.

The Doctor leaped against the chains and gnashed his teeth at the Brigadier, almost getting his nose. He spit furiously. The Brigadier jerked his head back, eyes steady in spite of the spittle that covered his face. Slowly, he drew out his handkerchief and wiped his face with it.

"Ammon! Ammon!" The Doctor cried. He jerked his left wrist against the handcuffs. One of the chains snapped. The soldier unshouldered his rifle, but suddenly the Doctor fell back to the bed, and he groaned. It was a pitiful sound. For a long moment his chest heaved up and down. At long last, he seemed to be weakening from the maniacal strength he had shown for the last 24 hours.

"Yes, you make me do what you want," he whispered, eyes closed. "But still I resist you. You are weakening. You can't keep it up, can you? You need me to surrender, but I will not surrender."

Shall I snap my fingers again, my puppet?"

"You do what you want," the Doctor said. "It costs you more strength to force me than it takes for me to resist you. The humans will feed me and care for me. I can last a long, long time yet." He suddenly opened his eyes.

"Doctor," the Brigadier said sternly. "Can you hear me? Do you know where you are?"

"Feed me and care for me," the Doctor repeated. His eyes opened wide in shock and dismay. "Good grief! I know who you are now. I know who you are!" He suddenly screamed in pain. The soldier shouldered his rifle again and leaned over him without thinking, concerned. The Brigadier did likewise.

"Brigadier!" the Doctor screamed.

"I can hear you!" the Brigadier exclaimed.

The Doctor writhed on the bed. He screamed again, and a fresh sheen of sweat drenched his face. "It's the monster! It's the monster!"

"What monster?" the Brigadier demanded. "Doctor, can you hear me?"

"From the Keller machine! It wasn't killed! It's found me!" He screamed again, an agonizing scream that sounded as though he were being ripped apart. Abruptly, his voice was cut off as he dropped into the deep, deep coma that was his final defense.

* * * *

There's water over the road ahead. It's rising!" Mike exclaimed. He quickly shifted the car into reverse, but they did not move.

"The wheels are spinning!" Jo cried. "We're in mud!"

He looked back at the terrain. "It's erosion. The flash flood's washing mud down toward us."

"Maybe we can push our way out," she began. But he shook his head. "That water in front of us is rising, Jo! Look at it! Come on!" She tried to open her door as he opened his, but something seemed to be pushing against it. As she forced it open a crack, water seeped in around the bottom of the door, swirling onto the floor of the car. Suddenly, the entire car shifted. Mike reached in before she could even call out. She slipped out of her seat belt, and he helped pull her out on his side. They staggered through the mud away from the car as it shifted again along the mud under its wheels.

"Let's get to higher ground!" he shouted. Now that they were out of the car, they saw that a narrow brook had overrun its banks in the deluge. Adding to it, run off from the rolling hills around the road was turning the lane into a rushing river. Desperately, they slipped and climbed uphill towards a fringe of trees above them.

* * * *

"Lamb, oh my Lamb! How will I tell Mary?"

"Alan," Collins said. "Good heavens, man. We can't let the others get past us. Come on."

Unable to see, Alan stood up blindly and would have gone in the wrong direction, but Collins took his arm. "Just stand here while I get the rest. I'll pass them to you. Don't look at their faces." He slid down into the flooded beck and caught another of the small bodies that suddenly disentangled itself from some floating branches on the submerged bank. On the high bank side of the stream for about twenty yards, the soaked ground was littered with the laid out bodies of children--the kindergarten school of Hoffshire. He and Alan had pulled out eleven bodies so far, laying them where the water could not carry them away, working their way up the beck.

PC Collins' feet and legs were becoming numb from the cold water. He almost stumbled and went over. Alan took the lifeless body from him, laid it on the high bank, and held out a hand to the constable. The rain suddenly began to let up.

"I'll take my turn," Alan said. "It's got to be done." He held out a hand to his friend to haul him up and trade places with him.

"They're coming!" Collins exclaimed, as Alan helped him up the bank. Over Alan's shoulder, in the lane between the foot of the hill and Alan's cottage, people were hurrying toward the beck, then breaking into a run at sight of the men and the silent bodies. Collins glanced at his watch. It had been less than twenty minutes since they had started their desperate run for the beck and made their terrible discovery.

* * * *

"Get the IV in here," the Brigadier ordered. A medic and one of the soldiers brought in a rack for the IV and began to set it up. To his great surprise, the Doctor opened his eyes, but his long, lean form remained still. His face shone with a pearly sheen from sweat and weariness. He seemed vulnerable, even pitiable. Lethbridge Stewart forgot the slight grudge he felt over the Doctor's attack against Jo. The indignity of violence against a woman had struck him to his core, and some part of him continued to insist that such urges, no matter how induced, could be resisted. But at sight of the Doctor's face, the quiet eyes and the deep weariness, he leaned closer, concerned.

"Can you hear me, Doctor?"

"Lethbridge Stewart," the Doctor said. He was not whispering, but his voice was worn so low that it was hard to hear him.

"Do you know where you are?" The Brigadier asked.

"Somewhere in UNIT, I expect."

"Do you know what has happened to you?"

"Yes," he said, not turning his eyes to the Brigadier. "But it's exhausted, too. It's resting. At last."

"Doctor," Lethbridge Stewart said, more sharply. The Doctor turned his eyes to look at him.

"Do you know that you have had some type of seizure?"

"If you like."

"And that you have assaulted UNIT personnel?"

The Doctor hesitated, and then he asked, "Was it Jo? Did I really hit her?"

"I'm afraid so."

He regarded the Brigadier for a long moment, straining, the Brigadier thought, to remember. The Brigadier spoke again: "She's all right, and I've sent her out on an assignment."

"There's not much time," the Doctor said. "It will attack--I will have another seizure soon."

The Brigadier cocked an eyebrow. "How do you know that?"

"I don't have time to explain it to you. You've got to use something else other than these handcuffs, Brigadier. I want you to sedate me."

"Thought it would take enough drugs to knock out a horse to sedate you."

"It will," he confirmed. "But you've got to keep me down, and the handcuffs won't work. Please, send in an MD, and I'll tell him the proper dosage, but you've got to hurry. And can you get me cleaned up at all?"

He was in a pitiable state. In his madness, he had frothed at the mouth, urinated, torn apart the pieces of his clothing that he could reach, drawn blood around the handcuffs and manacles.

"We'll see to it, old boy," the Brigadier said.

"Only after I'm doped up," the Doctor added urgently.

"Yes, we'll be sure to keep you under. You there, go get an MD," the Brigadier told the medic. The medic nodded and hurried out.

* * * *

The rain soon let up, though it did not do Jo and Mike any good. They were both soaked and stranded, and they sheltered as best as they could on the high ground above the road. She wondered if there were anything worse than being wet and unable to get dry. As the rain let up, Mike ventured back down to the car. The afternoon was passing, and night was coming on. He waded in water that rushed up above his shoes and he got to the car, which had been turned slightly by the rushing mud and water, but which seemed to be stuck fast. Mike climbed inside and used the radio. After a minute or two, he came out again and climbed the hill to Jo.

"Benton's on his way," he told her. "He's about a half hour behind us. He says the reports are that most of the roads into Hoffshire and the surrounding county are washed out, but he thinks he can get through with the jeep and the truck."

"Are the villagers all right?" she asked.

"I don't know," he told her. "All their lines of communication are down."

* * * *

"Good heavens, man, you've got enough in there to dope a horse!" the Brigadier said uneasily as the medical doctor hung up an IV of water and narcotic. It had taken the Doctor and him over a half hour to argue and hash out which chemical would be most appropriate for the timelord's system. Even when made to understand that the Doctor's metabolism was unique, the MD, whose name was Sorenson, insisted on a drip method so that he could watch the Doctor's vital signs.

Sorenson scowled at the Brigadier's comment. "There's enough in that bag to kill a horse, not dope him," he retorted. "I don't care if he has got two hearts--"

Ignoring the bluster in a reassuringly arrogant way, the Doctor looked up at the Brigadier. "Once I'm out, see what you can do about cleaning me up, will you?" he asked. "These chains are hurting me, especially where I snapped the two handcuffs . But you can take them off once I'm unconscious."

"You really think you're in for another seizure?" the Brigadier asked him. "Yes, I'm sure of it. It's only a matter of time, unless I'm sedated enough."

"But what's causing them?"

The Doctor looked up at Lethbridge Stewart in some surprise. "You don't know?" he asked.

"No! You've blathered on about Ammon, and a temple of blood, and poetry by William Butler Yeats, and the Keller machine, and monsters. What inferences was I supposed to draw from all that?"

"Lethbridge Stewart, I don't have time to explain it to you now, not with this thing putting me to sleep," the Doctor told him.

* * * *

"That's twenty-two," Collins said as the Reverend Sanders and Billy from the pub helped him bring Miss Battersham up onto the bank. She was as dead as the children. But two of the infirmary volunteers took charge of her as the men set her onto the bank. The village had boasted a general practitioner and a dentist, and both men were working over the children with a silent and dreadful earnestness that was sort of a panic in itself. Collins knew that none of the victims would be revived.

"That's all of them, by the class role" Sanders said. The clouds were breaking, admitting weak afternoon light into the darkness that had seemed as deep as any twilight. The villagers were scattered along the bank, kneeling mostly, over the bodies of the children. The sound of a crowd weeping, of men and women wailing as a crowd, was new to all of them. Collins turned around and suddenly dry heaved. He sobbed twice, and then dry heaved again. The Reverend Sanders caught him.

Mr. William Newgate Smith, the village's undertaker and coroner, came up the line of bodies and villagers, his face ashen. "There's just no room for them all in my facility," he said to the minister. "The church is sanctuary, Reverend--"

"We can't keep them there long," Sanders said, worried. "It's not even air conditioned."

"I just," and Mr. Smith put his hand over his eyes. "I just don't know what to do. We were never prepared for this." Collins straightened up just as Smith gasped for breath and held back a sob. "Why did this happen?"

Though pale and shaken, Collins spoke firmly. "We can't think about that now. We've got to think about what to do. What's that?" And he nodded at something down in the beck. He would have gone in after it, but the minister held him back and went in instead. He came back, shaking it off. "It's a toy," he said.

Collins picked it up. "It belonged to Lamb--to little Ruth."

He walked down the miserable and wretched line of mourning and found Alan, Mary, and Kara. They were gathering up their youngest daughter in a blanket, folding it around her as though putting her to bed.

"I--I found this," the constable said haltingly to Alan.

Alan looked up at him and slowly took it. "It's Bear," he said. He wrung out the small stuffed toy and tucked it into the blanket against his dead daughter's chest, and then folded her hand over it. "There my Lamb, there's your Bear," he said softly. He wrapped the blanket around her so that her hand would not drop it.

Kara, completely quenched with fear and dread, held onto her mother's skirts and looked up at her father. "She won't cry for Bear in heaven, will she?" she asked.

"Why, no," he said instantly. "No, there are no tears in heaven." He stood up with the bundle in his arms. "Heaven is where we see the face of God," he said. "And we forget our earthly fears and sorrows. Come along home, now." The three of them slowly trudged over the sodden ground, forgetting Collins.

Sanders came up to him. "Constable, the Penningtons were adding a wing to their house," he said.

Collins nodded. "Does that mean something?"

Mr. Smith joined them. "Yes it does," he said. "We have to commandeer the lumber."

The policeman nodded. "Come on, then," he said, and they trudged away past the foot of the hill, toward the other end of the village.

* * * *

The medical doctor looked uncertainly at the IV bag. "You've already had enough to put a sailor down," he said doubtfully. "Don't you feel anything yet?"

"What's that? Oh, a bit sleepy. You will unchain me and look after my wrists and ankles, won't you Brigadier?" The Doctor asked.

"Of course," the Brigadier said. "I'm not one to let you lie there and rot."

The Doctor yawned prodigiously. "Send someone to get clean clothes," he said drowsily. "I don't want a blasted hospital gown."

"Williams," the Brigadier said to the guard. "See to that, will you. He's got a trunk of odds and ends with his personal effects in a corner of the lab."

"Right sir!" Corporal Williams strode out.

"How many fingers am I holding up, Doctor?" Sorenson asked.

"Oh go away," the Doctor murmured, closing his eyes.

"About time," Sorenson muttered. "Anybody else would be dead by now, and he's only just going to sleep."

The Brigadier produced a handcuff key and began working on the Doctor's left wrist, freeing it from the three bracelets that held it to the bed rail.

"You will have to hurry," Sorenson told him. "I don't intend to let all this drain into him. I still say it's too dangerous. As soon as you've got him cleaned up and his wrists bandaged, I'm pulling out the IV."

"All right, then," the Brigadier told him. "But he won't like it once he wakes up."

"He won't wake up for three or four days with that lot in him," Sorenson complained.

"Dr. Sorenson, you don't understand the Doctor--" Lethbridge Stewart quickly moved around the bed and unlocked the Doctor's right wrist. From the bed, the Doctor's breathing relaxed another notch and became very slow and regular. The Brigadier shot a concerned glance at his friend's worn and pale face before starting on the manacles at his ankles.

"I want to check his hearts," Sorenson said. He leaned over the Doctor with the stethoscope and listened. "Hmm," he said doubtfully. "Neither one is comparable to a human heart. Let's see, there must be some logic to figuring out the ideal pulse rate for a two hearted creature--"

Finally, the Brigadier swept the manacles off the bed. "Right! That's the lot. Let's get the orderlies in here to look after him," he began. He turned to the door, heard a strangled cry behind him, and turned back to see Sorenson transfixed by the Doctor's fingers driven against his chest. The Doctor sat up, jerked his arm free of the IV, and threw Sorenson back against the wall; his other hand snatched the stethoscope free.

Lethbridge Stewart knew exactly what he had to do, but he never did it. There was one moment when he met the Doctor's eye, ready to try to subdue him, but in the next instant, the Doctor had him with the stethoscope tube around his throat. He never knew how the Doctor moved that quickly, especially with four times the normal dose of tranquilizer in him. The Doctor side stepped behind him and used the motion to tighten the makeshift garrote and pull the Brigadier backwards, his hands clawing for the tube.

"Don't struggle, Lethbridge-Stewart," The Doctor said. With one hand controlling the garrote, he slipped the Brigadier's handgun from its holster.

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