Blood-Dimmed Tide Episode Four

Blood-Dimmed Tide

Episode Four

Jeri Massi

"Do you hear me?" the Doctor asked.

The Brigadier gagged and choked out, "Of course I blasted hear you! Let me go at once!"

The Doctor jammed the gun behind the Brigadier's ear. Corporal Williams walked in and stopped abruptly at sight of the Doctor, the Brigadier, and the gasping Dr. Sorenson, who still could not rise from where he had been thrown.

"Drop your rifle!" the Doctor ordered.

"Williams, he must not get out of the building!" the Brigadier exclaimed. "Block the exits! That's an order!"

"Do what he tells you boy," the Doctor said. "But get out of my way right now, and drop the rifle."

Cpl. Williams set the rifle down.

The Doctor jerked his head towards Sorenson and ordered, "Move over there by Dr. Sorenson."

The young soldier did as he was told.

"You may do as you like about the exits," the Doctor told him. "But do not follow us. Do you understand?"

Williams nodded.

"Get those exit doors sealed off!" the Brigadier shouted again.

"Yes sir!" Williams exclaimed.

The Doctor pulled the Brigadier toward the door, kicked the rifle out into the hallway, and dragged the Brigadier out.

"We're going to move quickly, Brigadier," he said. He loosened the stethoscope tube slightly and pushed the muzzle of the gun into the Brigadier's head. "Make for the lab."

The Brigadier complied but said quietly, "Doctor, you are not in your right mind. I insist that you return that sidearm to me and return to your room."

The Doctor suddenly staggered but regained himself, fighting the effect of the narcotic. "Keep going," he said.

They came down the steps and entered the lab. Up above, they heard the quick shuffling of feet as soldiers raced through the building to cover the exits.

"You won't get out of the building," the Brigadier told him. "Even at the cost of my life, they won't let you out."

"You're a brave man, Lethbridge Stewart," the Doctor said. "Go into the lab ahead of me." In a deft motion, he released the stethoscope tube from around the Brigadier's throat, threw the lab door open, and shoved the Brigadier in ahead of him, but not roughly. Still holding the gun, he came in after the Brigadier, closed, and locked, the lab door.

Lethbridge Stewart rubbed his throat, eyed the gun in the Doctor's hand, and demanded, "Well now what?"

But the Doctor rushed past him, almost ignoring him, into the TARDIS. He stopped in the TARDIS doorway, let out a great sigh of relief, and turned to the Brigadier, who stood in the lab, uncertain.

"Well?" The Brigadier asked.

The Doctor glanced at the gun in his hand, glanced at the Brigadier, and then tossed him the gun.

The Brigadier caught it. He straightened and kept his face wooden as he looked at the Doctor.

"Doctor," he said gravely. "Please come back to the infirmary with me."

"If I do," the Doctor told him. "If I leave this TARDIS, I shall fall prey to the thing that has been attacking me."

"You have been suffering seizures," the Brigadier told him.

"I have been suffering the same attacks that were suffered by some of the prisoners in Stangmoor prison," the Doctor told him. "Do you remember them?"

"Of course," the Brigadier said. "It was less than two years ago. They died of fear, not insanity."

"They died because the creature that inhabited the Keller machine attacked their nervous systems and found pathways to their brains to make them see, hear, and feel the things that they feared most," the Doctor told him. "I warned the Master then, as later I told you, that neither he nor I could withstand the creature for very long. Once again, I have been proved right." He grimaced. "Small comfort."

"But you haven't been terrorized like they were," The Brigadier pointed out. "You went mad."

"The creature used the prisoners merely as food," the Doctor told him. "But it wants me for a servant."

"That creature was destroyed," the Brigadier reminded him. "Doctor, I insist that you come with me back to the infirmary!"

"Lethbridge Stewart, I cannot leave the TARDIS," the Doctor told him. "It is the one place where the creature cannot penetrate." He glanced at the sides of the doorway where he stood. "The TARDIS interior is dimensionally transcendental. The creature cannot perceive it. It protects me."

Impatience rose in the Brigadier's voice. "Rot, man! You had a seizure! If some creature were possessing you, you would not have had the sense to return my gun to me."

"The creature is resting," the Doctor told him. "I outlasted it for the time. But it will attack again."

Lethbridge Stewart became resolute. "Doctor, do not make me force you to return with me."

"You cannot force me," the Doctor told him.

"I regret this, Doctor," the Brigadier began, raising the gun. "But I order you to--"

The Doctor waved him away, turned, and walked further into the TARDIS toward the console. "Don't be a fool. I have work to do. Come back in about ten hours." He strode to the console and pressed a button. The doors began to close. Out in the lab, the Brigadier held the gun up. "Doctor, don't make me--"

"You won't do it," the Doctor said. The doors were closing. A look of anguish crossed the Brigadier's eyes, and he leveled the gun at the Doctor, then lowered the muzzle to point at his knees, but just before the doors closed, the Doctor called, "Besides, I took the bullets! Sleight of hand and all that!"

As the TARDIS doors closed, sealing them apart from each other, the Brigadier opened the chamber of the gun, and checked. It was empty. He was already familiar with the Doctor's extraordinary sleight of hand, so he didn't bother to wonder at how the timelord had gotten the bullets out between the infirmary and the lab.

After a disgusted moment, Lethbridge Stewart went to the lab phone and picked it up. "This is Lethbridge Stewart. Get someone down here to open the lab door. It's been locked, and I don't have a key--"

The door of the TARDIS slipped open a crack, and a key was tossed out onto the floor. The door closed again.

"Never mind," the Brigadier said to the phone. "Just get some sentries down here."

Inside the TARDIS, the Doctor let his knees sink under him, as the great dose of narcotic nearly overwhelmed him. He knelt on the floor and bowed his head. It had been a difficult ruse, though successful. But he was already exhausted from the domination of the creature, and though the narcotic was not nearly as effective against him as it would have been against a human, he had received a huge dose. He needed a wash and a change of clothes and some attention to his wrists and ankles. But even with these pressing needs to attend to, and the imminent danger that the creature represented, not to mention the need to right matters with Jo, he sank face down to the floor of the TARDIS. He was unwilling to get up even to find a bed or cot. He spread himself out, pillowed his face on his bruised and bloody hands and wrists, and closed his eyes. In a moment, he was asleep.

* * * *

It was nearly nine before the jeep and the truck from UNIT found their way over the flooded hay fields. The truck bogged down three quarters of the way across, and so everybody piled into the jeep. Benton drove at a crawl across the darkening field.

"Weather's broken, but it looks like nobody's about in the village," the sargeant observed. Only a few lights were showing in the shadow of cottages on the edge of the hill below the church.

"Who knows what we'll find," Mike Yates muttered.

Benton pulled to a stop. "This is the end of the line," he said. "That stream there is flooded. We might strand the jeep by trying to cross."

"Think you can jurry rig a bridge across?" Yates asked him.

Benton nodded and glanced at the three soldiers around him. One was standing on the back bumper, one on the running board, and one sat in the back with Jo.

"Take us about an hour," Benton said.

"Take care of it and set up your field HQ behind the church," Yates ordered. He pointed at the dark bulk of the hill on the other side of the beck. "That must be it over there. The recce said it sits on a hill."

"Right, sir."

"Miss Grant and I will walk the rest of the way," Mike said, handing Jo out of the jeep and taking their suitcases from the soldier. Trying not to get wet was no longer even a consideration. After sitting in the rain for two hours and then driving across the countryside in an open jeep, they were both as wet and as muddy as if they had swam the streams all the way into Hoffshire. The trudged up the field, the water coming over their shoes, and found a place where the beck was narrow enough to jump across. Even since the tragedy of that afternoon, the waters had receded considerably, though evidence of the flood was plain to see, even in the deepening dusk of the summer night.

They walked in weary silence, but presently as they reached the gravel of the lane, Jo took enough interest in their surroundings to look around.

"Something's wrong," she said. "It's so quiet."

"Well, it's a week night," Mike said.

"It's still too quiet," she insisted.

He fell silent and after a few more minutes walking nodded ahead. "There's the place," he told her. "I hope they're ready for us." They strode up to the door, and Mike knocked.

"I hope we can get a cup of tea after hours," he said. He glanced at Jo as they waited on the step. "Doesn't look like they've been waiting for us," he observed.

She was so tired, so wet, and so cold that it was hard to concentrate on what he was saying. But she looked around the dark and silent village and said, "Just not right, here."

"Giving you the creeps?" he asked.

"No, Mike. It's not like Devil's End," she said. "I mean, they were all hiding something, there. There was a dark underside to that village: a lot of petty crimes and scandals that the Master exploited. But here--"

"No dark underside?" he asked.

She glanced up at him to see if he was teasing her for her premonitions, but his face was only tired. "No," she said at last. "I don't sense a dark underside, any secrets."

"But something," he added.

"Like sadness," she told him.

"What's taking so long?" he asked. Just as he lifted his hand to knock again, the door was pulled open.

They found themselves face to face with a broad shouldered, dark haired young man only a few years older than Mike, but with a face much cragggier, and eyes of a more startling blue.

"We forgot you!" he exclaimed. And for a moment he looked at them in open dismay.

Jo waited and then said, "May we come in?"

"I'm sorry," and he stepped back and ushered them inside. They entered the cramped entryway and came into a front room furnished with antiques and hand framed cross stitches. A tall, slender woman came in from a back room. "Alan, " she began. "Is it the minister--" She stopped at sight of them. Her eyes were red rimmed, and her face a ghastly pale.

"Have we come at a bad time?" Mike asked.

"We--we lost out little girl today," the man said haltingly. "We forgot to notify your headquarters. But it's all right. You must be exhausted. You look like you were caught in the storms."

"We're so sorry," Jo said.

"Look," Mike told him. "Lend us your phone. We'll find--"

But the man shook his head, and after a moment, the woman gave a nod of submission to the inescapable requirements of hospitality. "I'll get some towels," she said quietly, and hurried out.

"There's no place else in the village," the man said. "We're too small to have many visitors. And we've all suffered a terrible tragedy. It wasn't just our daughter."

He looked at Mike searchingly. "You're the science advisor?" he asked.

"We've come out ahead of him," Mike said. "We're to get the facts for him first."

"Oh, aye, that would be the best way, I reckon."

He had squinted at Jo but said little to her, but now his wife came back with a stack of towels, and she said to Jo, "Oh, were you hurt? Did you fall?"

"Um, yes," Jo said.

"I'll bring you up tea directly," she said. The sadness on her face wrung both the visitors.

"Look," Jo said. "We just can't put you out at a time like this. We've--"

"God has sent you to us through hell and high water," the man said. "We need you here. Especially now. There's been a terrible tragedy. But we won't talk of it now. I'll show you to your rooms, and Mary will bring you up tea and a bite by and by. Come on then."

* * * *

Back at UNIT HQ, the night was quiet and brooding. Yates had requested a weather analysis, and it came through in the late evening. Osgood reported on it to the Brigadier. "The storm was an anomaly in that it did move against the normal flow of weather, but it was a trackable event," he told the Brigadier, who sat behind his desk and looked at him with a brooding sort of impatience. Osgood hastened to be both brief and accurate and added, "Two fronts collided, and the violent winds they created ran in an anomalous direction, pushing the storm on a haphazard course. The closest analogy we can make is to hurricanes--" He pronounced it "hurrikins"-- "in the Caribbean. Hurrikins out there run west by northwest into the North American continent and can move almost due north or even east to west, which was also against prevailing weather currents."

"Are you telling me now we've had a bally hurricane?" the Brigadier demanded. "How does a hurricane get produced in the English Channel?"

"Well sir, the weather service didn't say it was a hurricane. They said it's directional travel can be compared--"

"All right, all right, all right!" Lethbridge Stewart exclaimed. "Get the report out to Hoffshire if they can receive it yet. It's nearly ten, now. They ought to have their station set up."

The emergency line beeped, and he swiped the receiver up in one motion. "Yes!" He frowned. "Another report? Oh, yes, right. Just a moment." He shouldered the receiver and looked at Osgood. "Get on the connection and get down what this fellow is saying. It's a report on that thing out in the Jordanian desert. An American satellite's picked it up. The UN secretary is crying for us to get the Doctor onto it. I'm going down to the lab to check on that situation. Put them off if you must, but get the information!"

"Right, sir!"

* * * *

The bedrooms upstairs were tiny rooms that were crammed under the eaves, one room on each side of the stairs. The roof slanted steeply in each room. Jo could stand upright where her bed and dresser were, but in his room, Mike was too tall and had to keep his head bent or else bump it on the ceiling.

"I'm sure you're used to much better," Alan began haltingly as the newcomers stood in either doorway and surveyed the tiny room allotted to each of them.

"No," it's very sweet," Jo said. And Mike added, "We won't be spending much time in your house at all, Mr--"

"Alan, just Alan," he said.

Mike nodded. "Alan, then. We've got a lot of information gathering to do, and we want to get those items out of the church basement and back to headquarters as soon as possible."

"The bath is downstairs," Alan told them. "Mary will bring some supper up to you directly. Please let us know if you need anything."

They thanked him and watched him go down the stairs, both of them silent, sensing the misery and unhappiness of the house. Then they glanced at each other across the opening of the stair case, and each went into his or her room. Mike bumped his head on the ceiling and let out an exclamation before closing his door.

* * * *

Even after a hot shower and a change into a flannel nightgown and robe, Jo was still chilled through. She sat on the top step with Mike and drank two mugs of hot tea before she went to bed.

But there are certain inevitable consequences of so much tea before bed time. Just as the sun was peeking over the rolling landscape outside early the next morning, she woke up. The bathroom was downstairs, so she donned her robe and slippers and went down. She wanted to be quiet to avoid disturbing the house hold, but after she had accomplished her errand and was on her way back to the narrow stairs, she saw the light on in one of the small rooms downstairs, and heard soft singing. She recognized the tune: "Erin," an old Celtic tune, commonly used for singing the Old Twenty Third in many churches. But the words she now heard were not the familiar twenty third Psalm:

He took me from a fearful pit And from the miry clay And on a rock, He set my feet, establishing my way.

And then silence, and then a quiet sound that she could not identify.

She crept closer and peeked inside. Jo and Mike knew that Alan and Mary had lost their daughter, but it had not been mentioned that the body of the little girl lay in the house. She looked inside and saw Alan, seated in a straight backed chair, alongside a cot on which his daughter lay. The little girl was tucked in as though in bed, a tiny stuffed toy at her chest.

Alan had a Bible on the nightstand by him, but he held a slim red book in his hand. He looked into it and resumed the lilting folk tune:

He hath put a new song in my mouth Our God to magnify Many shall see it and shall fear, And on the Lord rely.

Then he bowed his head, sobbed a couple times, and said--in such a low murmur that she could hardly hear him: "Oh, Thou has run me through, run me through! Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice. Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me." And then he looked down at the little bed, and would have resumed the quiet singing, but some sound or motion from Jo made him turn his head.

"I'm sorry, Alan," she said. "I didn't mean to disturb you. I--I just couldn't turn away, either."

"No, you must come inside," he said quietly. "Come in, if you are not afraid of death. You seem young yourself, Miss Grant. Too young to be out here on this mission."

"I-I have seen death before," she said quietly. She stepped inside and looked at Ruth. "She's beautiful. I'm so sorry. You said it was drowning."

"Aye, but we'll not talk of it yet," he said. "For this is the time of the morning to spend with God. It's been my habit these last many years to wait on Him first, and let the rest of the world wait on me an hour."

"You must have a great faith," she said, a little awkwardly, but genuinely surprised.

"I don't know about that. It has been shaken somewhat now," he said wearily. "but I know that He doeth all things well." He looked up at her, and she realized that he had been hoping she might have something to say to comfort his faith, but she did not. All the prayers she had ever prayed in her life might have just totaled one hour, and though she had learned her catechism as a child, she did not spend much time thinking of it.

"I'd better get ready to meet the day," she said quietly, excusing herself so that he could get back to his devotions. She touched the curly head of Ruth, and said again, "I am so sorry."

She would have turned to go out, but as she did, her glance fell out of the room's one window, and she saw something that drove the sanctity of the room, the dead girl, Alan's worship, all clean away.

"It's him!" she gasped.

Alan stood up and came to the window in a single stride. Out in the lane, a lone figure walked jerkily back and forth before the house. The morning light was still dim and uneven, for the front of the house faced southwest. But the figure was almost unmistakable, though its strange, puppet-like stride was strange. What poor light there was revealed the thatch of white and gray hair, the long legs. It was dressed in black, with a cape thrown round its shoulders. It was a little like a black clad scarecrow, a little like a giant, gaunt bird of prey, entirely foreign and strange, although Jo recognized him at once.

"D'you know him?" Alan asked. "Why're you so frightened, lass?"

"It's the Doctor," she gasped. "He's--he's out of his mind right now. Oh Alan, we've got to get Mike! The Doctor's been violent. He's had some type of seizure or fit."

"Mike nothing!" he exclaimed, striding out into the hallway. "It's coming up the walk. Stay back! Get Mary."

Heedless of his instructions, Jo followed him. She had seen the maniacal strength of the Doctor's insanity, and she would not leave Alan to face it.

Alan crossed the front room and swung the door open in the attitude of a man ready to defend his house and family. Jo hurried behind him, exclaiming, "Oh Alan, he's tremendously strong!"

But Alan stopped in amazement.

"What is it?" Jo asked.

"It's--he's gone!" he said to her. He stepped aside and let her look. The front walk and the lane were both empty and silent.

* * * *

After only a few hours' sleep, the Brigadier picked up the report on the satellite observations and hurried once again down to the lab to see if the Doctor would come out of the TARDIS. The door was wide open when he got down there. Impatient, he strode in.

"I thought I ordered these doors both locked--" he began, and then stopped in dismay. Across the room, the TARDIS stood silent with doors closed. Closer to him, the two sentries lay peacefully on the floor, their weapons removed. But they seemed unharmed.

Lethbrideg Stewart had a few words to say to that, mostly under his breath, and then he strode to the intercom. As he did, the open door to the lab swung closed and clicked with the distinctive sound of a bolt falling into place. From where he had been standing behind the door, the Doctor smiled at him. The Doctor was wearing what looked like a neck brace for victims of whiplash.

This time there was no hesitation in consideration for his condition. The Brigadier drew out his sidearm before the Doctor could reach him.

"Get back, Doctor," he ordered.

Familiar exasperation crossed the Doctor's face, and he demanded, "Look, aren't you tired of relying on that thing in every crisis?"

The Brigadier remained firm. "What have you done to my men?"

"A little hypnosis. It will do them worlds of good," he said. "Your chaps are under too much stress, you know." As Lethbridge Stewart did not respond to the gentle humor, the Doctor answered him directly: "They are only sleeping, Lethbridge Stewart. They will wake up on the stroke of twelve."

"And what's that thing around your neck?" Lethbridge Stewart asked.

"It's to prevent me from having any more of your so-called seizures," the Doctor told him. "Though they weren't seizures, and if you would put that gun down, I will tell you what's been going on."

The Brigadier gestured with the gun at the locked door. "If you want me to put this gun away, then open that door."

The Doctor countered immediately: "If you want me to open this door, then you must promise not to call in a platoon of soldiers to carry me off."

Lethbridge Stewart hesitated. At last he said, "I simply cannot promise you that in good conscience, Doctor."

"Then I cannot open the door."

"Then I'll be dashed if I put down the gun!"

"You military imbecile!" the Doctor exclaimed.

"Yes, but I don't hit women!" the Brigadier retorted.

The Doctor actually winced under the words. After a pained moment, he said, more softly, "If she was hurt, why did you send her away?"

"I needed her someplace else," the Brigadier said. "And you did threaten to kill her. I wanted her off the grounds."

The Doctor nodded. "Well, you had good reason, then."

"Do you remember what you said and did?" the Brigadier demanded.

"I remember that suddenly I could see the correct configuration for the dematerialization circuit of the TARDIS," the Doctor told him. "For a moment, it seemed that I could see all things. I picked up a bread board, and just by holding it and looking at it, I could see that it had a short in it,"

"Yes," the Brigadier confirmed. "Miss Grant referenced that."

"Then I saw Jo, and suddenly I saw through her--or so I thought. I saw that she was lazy, not truly interested in the work here. And part of me realized suddenly that I was not seeing all things, that I was misjudging horribly. But somehow I saw my fingers reaching to grab her, and I barely stopped myself. And then it rolled over me. I saw it, but I didn't see the rest, until there was Jo, stumbling back from a punch. Somebody punched her, and she turned with it. I thought to myself, `Good girl! Roll with the punch, Jo, just like that!' And I wanted to jump right in and sort out this person attacking her. But suddenly the fist was my fist."

He stopped.

"A lot happened between the moment that you swiped your hand at her and the moment when you punched her," the Brigadier told him.

The Doctor shook his head helplessly. "I saw it was my fist, and then I realized that it was all foretold in a line of poetry about the ceremony of innocence being drowned, and I tried to tell her, but the wrong lines of the poem came out. And then I woke up in the infirmary."

The Brigadier looked startled. "What about Yates and Benton and the soldiers?" he asked. But the Doctor shook his head.

"You know it is typical for victims of seizures to not have clear memories of what happened," the Brigadier told him.

"Let me guess something," the Doctor told him. "Surely by now you have received a report of the Sphinx moving in the desert?"

The Brigadier's jaw dropped, but he recovered quickly and said, "How could you know that?"

"Because the same creature that is controlling it has been controlling me," the Doctor told him. "Slightly different method, that's all."

The two sleeping sentries wore radios. They crackled, and a voice said, "All units report."

The Brigadier sidestepped to the nearest sentry and took up the handset.

"Track leader," he said.

"Track leader, radio message from the field. Greyhound Two reports that the Doctor is loose in the village," the dispatcher told him. "Are you near an intercom?"

"I disconnected it," the Doctor told him, not moving.

The Brigadier grimaced and spoke to the radio. "That's negative. What do they report?"

"The Doctor has just been sighted in the village, unescorted. They wanted to verify his condition with you."

Lethbridge Stewart frowned and then spoke. "Condition still being determined. But let them know that the Doctor is here, with me, in the lab."

There was a burst of static, and then the dispatcher said, "Negative Track Leader. The Doctor is now reported again in the village. Greyhound Nine has just called in a report. The Doctor is sighted before the main doors of the church."

"I tell you, he's here with me!" the Brigadier bellowed. "Are they seeing things out there?" He calmed himself and said, "Tell them to keep away from the figure of the Doctor. I don't know what it is, but they are to observe only and take no action unless forced to do so. Is that clear?"

"Affirmative, Track Leader."

The Brigadier lowered the radio and after a moment holstered his gun.

"Thank you," the Doctor said.

"Was it a seizure when you took me hostage?" the Brigadier asked.

"No, I knew what I was doing. It was a ruse to get out of the handcuffs," the Doctor told him. "But when I slipped your gun out from its holster, I flipped open the chamber and dropped out the bullets. Only takes a second when you know how. You were never in danger."

"Except from that blasted stethoscope!" the Brigadier snapped. The Doctor was silent. The Brigadier spoke again: "How did you know about the Sphinx? It was identified last night when you were locked up in your TARDIS."

The Doctor looked somber. "We are in grave danger," he said. "Fighting an intelligence that has taken up lodgings among us. An intelligence so vast and powerful that it can snap me in its jaws in a moment."

He glanced at the ruined window, where early morning sunlight poured through the jagged edges of the broken glass. And then he quoted the now familiar lines:

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned.

He looked from the shattered window to the Brigadier. "I don't know how to fight it. I can barely survive before it," he confessed. "I don't know where it is hiding, nor what it will do next, but it is bent on wreaking havoc across the world. It can control the elements, and the power of the Sphinx, and me."

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