Blood-Dimmed Tide Episode Eight

Blood-Dimmed Tide

Episode Eight

Jeri Massi

"But it's decimated the village," the Brigadier protested.

"Precisely," the Doctor agreed. "We must stop it quickly, for it will certainly move once it becomes hungry enough. And if it moves, we are at its mercy again."

"All right then," Mike Yates said. "How will it move, Doctor? Vanish and reappear like it did in Stangmoor?"

The Doctor looked thoughtful. "I think," he said, "that with all the energies it expended in trying to break my will, and all that it did to raise the Sphinx and re-write its thought patterns, that the creature will likely not be able to pull its rematerialization trick. It only did that in Stangmoor when it was up to really full strength." He threw his glance out the window. "I think it miscalculated its prey. I think it is alive and well, but I'm willing to bet my life that the only way it's going to get out of here is to physically crawl out, or walk out, or swim out--whatever is in its nature to do."

"You don't know how it physically moves?" the Brigadier asked.

"No," he said helplessly. "I told you: we timelords have steered clear of these creatures and their planet. They are a danger to us, and we don't have to be close to them at all for them to destroy us. The closest I ever got to one of them was in Stangmoor, and then it was in that infernal machine. So I never got a good look at it."

"Well, we know its approximate size anyway," Mike ventured.

"Unless it's adapted its size," the Doctor added.

"How do we find the blasted creature!" the Brigadier exclaimed.

"Oh, not to worry about that," the Doctor assured him. "It's done half the job for us. With so many of the people gone, we can scan for organic material within certain parameters: look for material density, temperature, chemical exchange, excretions. We'll use some of my equipment that I brought." He glanced around at them. "After all, as unearthly as it is, it is able to live in this environment, so we can expect certain characteristics that we can hunt for."

"We mustn't waste any time," The Brigadier said, but his voice sounded weary. From the front of the church, they could still hear the sounds of the villagers.

"Nobody can do anything tonight," the Doctor told him. "You know that. Benton is laid up, and we're all exhausted, and the villagers will be of no help at all."

"We cannot let that thing attack this village again or take more lives," the Brigadier told him, an edge to his voice.

"It has no reason to attack," the Doctor retorted. "Even if there were enough people here for it to sense, once the human brain gets too wearied, brain activity decreases. Right now, with everybody tired and in mourning, the creature itself probably can't get an accurate idea of who is here and where they're congregated. It's got to rest, and we've got to rest. We're too tired to fight or even be its victims," he said.

Lethbridge Stewart gave a nod of assent. "Yates," he ordered, "Get a call out for more men. We've got to risk a few more in here to help us. Have them start out tonight with all caution. The ways are treacherous." He got to his feet, and they saw that he was fatigued and worn. "I'll take first watch--"

"I'll take first watch," the Doctor barked.

The Brigadier was too tired to argue. "Right then. We'll start the search at dawn. Everybody report for breakfast and a briefing at five. That's all for now."

Somebody had set up partition frames in the sanctuary so that blankets could be hung up for privacy, but nobody thought about privacy. By dark, eleven of the twelve cots were filled. The Doctor sat on the stone sill of one of the broken out church windows, where he could look over the village and keep one eye on Sergeant Benton. Nobody spoke to anybody else, though some of the villagers lay in their cots weeping, waiting for sleep. Jo wanted to talk to Alan, but she was so bone weary herself that she didn't have the strength to know what to say to him. The sound of stifled sobbing was still in her ears when she fell asleep.

Morning came with a rosy and pink glory, clear skies, and the sounds of birds. Jo woke up with the dawn. She lifted her head to see that, across the sanctuary, the Doctor was still in his place at the window, looking over the sunrise on the remains of the village below. It was just after five, and nobody was up yet, contrary to the Brigadier's plans.

She got up. Alan's cot was empty. At the sound of her throwing back the covers, the Doctor turned. "He's gone down to the village," he told her.

"Is that safe?" she asked.

"I think so. For now."

She went out to find a place to wash, but she saw Alan through the clear glass window in the front of the church, walking down the hill. Faint smoke still rose from some of the burnt buildings. She went out after him.

It was his time, she knew, to have his morning prayers, but he had lost his faith. Yet habit had still awakened him. She wasn't sure what to say to him when she caught up, but she knew she ought to say something.

He kept up a good pace, though, passing the ruined heap that had been his house and going through a fringe of trees until he came to the beck. She could not catch up to him; in fact, she could barely keep him in sight. Being alone on the outskirts of the deserted and barren village frightened her at the very corners of her awareness. She would have liked to have gone back up the hill, but when she looked back up at the church, the way up that hill seemed horribly exposed and desolate. She turned back in the direction that Alan had gone and plunged after him.

For a moment in the trees she lost sight of him, and she cast around, looking here and there. Then from the direction of the beck she heard what she had not thought to hear again: singing.

Thou flowing water, pure and clear,
Make music for thy Lord to hear
Alleluia, Alleluia!
Thou fire so masterful and bright!
That giveth man both warmth and light:
O praise Him, O praise Him,
Alleluia! Alleluia!

She came to the edge of the trees on the edge of the beck and saw him kneeling before the rushing waters, facing the rising sun. Mist and faint wisps of smoke lingered over the ground, defining the early light into definite rays that swept down on him in unwavering lines from heaven to earth. Though she stood behind him, she saw that his hands were over his face, and his great shoulders were hunched together, and she heard his sobs as he ended his song.

It was as it had been before. She could did not think it right to stay and watch, yet she could not leave him.

* * * *

On the front steps of the church at the top of the hill, the able bodied UNIT personnel were assembling over a breakfast of rolls, butter, and hot coffee. The Doctor, much to the annoyance of the Brigadier, had found a tuning fork somewhere and was amusing himself by hitting it against various hard edges and listening to the ring of the twin tines on it.

"Where's Miss Grant?" the Brigadier snapped. "She knows better than to be wandering off a time like this!"

"I sent her after Alan," the Doctor said lightly. "We couldn't very well let him go down into the village alone could we?"

"He shouldn't have gone at all!"

The Doctor made his voice soothing: "Quite right, old chap, but I had no means of restraining him, now did I? Jo will look after him, and if there's any trouble, he'll look after her." He had also brought a drinking glass out to the steps with him, and as he got the tuning fork to ring again, he held it upside down in the glass as though listening to the resonance. "Have we got a plan, Doctor?" Yates asked.

"Certainly." The Doctor paused to sample a buttered roll. Then he took an appreciative swig of coffee. "We hunt the creature out, first."

"And when we've found him?" Yates asked.

"Yes," the Brigadier interrupted. "How do we destroy a creature that is impervious to explosions, requires no material food, and can rain down fire bolts on its enemies?"

"We go for its weak spots," the Doctor said. He held out his cup to Yates for more coffee. "That creature is obviously capable of tremendous energy production. We know that. Any creature capable of emitting such powerful and high pitched frequencies must have a finely tuned metabolism. What it's doing requires chemical reactions--perfectly balanced chemical reactions that it produces in its own body, organically."

"Yes, but we can't jam its blasted signals!" the Brigadier protested.

"We don't need to, old chap. No, no, there you go again, wanting to attack it where it's strong."

"Well," Yates asked. "Where is it weak, then?"

The Doctor smiled. "The Master showed us that," he told them. "After all, he incarcerated the creature in the Keller machine, didn't he?"

"I thought that blasted Keller machine was its interface," the Brigadier said.

The Doctor stretched out his long legs and scanned the trees below for any sign of Jo and Alan. "What's that? Oh yes, it was its interface. But the machine was also a sort of delimiter, if you will. It prevented the creature from attacking the Master--initially, anyway. The machine inhibited it from sending out its extreme high frequency calls that affect the weather and other elements. No, no, though to us that creature seemed very powerful while it inhabited the machine, it actually was in a captive state: forced to rely on its illusions to capture human prey, unable to really use its strength. Even when it got strong enough to attack the Master and me and to pass through walls, it still was severely limited." He smacked the tuning fork on the edge of one of the steps and watched it vibrate. His eyes nearly crossed.

"And your point was?" the Brigadier asked.

"Somehow the Master captured that creature," the Doctor reminded him. "So we know it can be done. And furthermore, it appears that he captured it alone. Like us, he could not use explosions on it, or poisons, or threats for that matter. So he had to sneak up to it somehow, and then do something all at once to make it completely unable to resist him."

"Do you know how he did it?" the Brigadier asked.

"Hmm, shouldn't have been too much of a problem," the Doctor observed. "Capture a creature with an intricate neurochemical infrastructure, no natural predators, extremely complex physiology. It's the complex physiologies that always go keeling over when they're upset. I mean, you never see an earth worm with an upset stomach, and they eat all sorts of vile things. But feed a man a great lump of dirt from under the barn, and he'll be in bed for weeks."

He smacked the tuning fork on the step again and smiled as it rang.

"Well how did the Master do it?" the Brigadier exclaimed.

The Doctor held the tuning fork over the glass. It suddenly shattered in half. He smiled at the Brigadier and Mike Yates. "Sonics," he said. "All organic matter has a resonant sound frequency."

* * * *

Alan lifted his face from his hands and took the attitude of one who is listening. He glanced over his shoulder at the mist enshrouded trees. "Bright angel," he said distinctly. "Come out."

Hesitantly, Jo came out from the fringe of trees. He stayed on his knees, and she was aware of the fact that he was not terminating his morning session with God, simply bringing her into it.

"Jo," he said gravely. "Why have you followed me here?"

"I was afraid you might--do something. Or something might hurt you," she said. "It was dangerous for you to come down alone, Alan."

"Dangerous?" he asked, without bitterness but with some genuine wonder at her obtuseness. "Lass, what could possibly endanger me now? What have I left to lose?"

"Why, your life," she said instantly.

He looked thoughtful, looked into his hands, and then said, "I have no intention of doing anything rash, Miss Grant. Are you afraid to go back through the woods alone and up the hill?"

"A little."

He nodded. "Give me the rest of the hour, then, to conduct my business here. I'll go back up with you."

"Do you still believe in God, Alan?" she asked.

"Oh, aye," he said. "Aye."

She wanted to ask him more, but she didn't dare to. She had heard many people claim to believe in God, but then further questions angered them, troubled their security. For some reason she wanted Alan to believe in God more than she herself wanted to believe in Him. He looked up at her for a long moment, and then he looked ahead, as though including the Lord in his conversation.

"I would say He has wronged me, Miss Grant. I would say it, as I would say it about a man who would take away my life and my lambs. But a few matters prevent me. One: He has told me from the beginning what my lot is--to live, to work, to die. All my life is touched with death, for all my life is touched with sin. He has never lied to me about my condition."

"Is that your only hope in Him?" she asked.

He shook his head. "Two: he has commanded me to treat others fairly, to love mercy, to save the oppressed, to uphold the downtrodden, to give to the poor and the needy." He looked back up at her. "How can a God who commands this of me be unjust?" he asked her. "If He lauded me for getting back some of my own, or laid plans for ways that I might get rich at the expense of the foolish and naive, then I would say that God is like a man, and He has robbed me unjustly. But I know He loves mercy and goodness, because He commands mercy and goodness from me. It was God who taught me what mercy and goodness are."

Her own eyes stung with tears. "Then why has He done this?"

He shook his head. "You must wait for me over there. See? There's a fallen tree you can sit on. I won't be very long."

She nodded in submission and walked away to wait for him, but as she went, she heard him take up the song:

Thou rushing wind that art so strong
Ye clouds that sail in heaven along
Oh praise Him! Oh praise Him!
Thou rising morn in praise rejoice!
Ye lights of evening find your voice:
Alleluia, Alleluia!

* * * *

The Doctor was in the back office when Jo and Alan came back up the hill. The Brigadier met her rather coldly at first, but it was impossible to be less than kind when Alan was nearby. And Jo herself was so subdued and thoughtful that it was difficult to stay annoyed with her.

All of the few remaining villagers had lost loved ones in the incineration of the busses and van. Their mood in the morning was one of increasing belligerence to the thing that was attacking them. Rather than stay cowed in the church, they were far more willing to go out and find the creature. Mike Yates was assigned to keep them busy and keep them together near shelter. Alan stayed behind with Sgt. Benton, who was the only wounded person not able to get around on his own. His burns did not seem much better, though the Doctor reported that they had not worsened.

"Here's a shopping list," the Doctor told the Brigadier as Lethbridge Stewart came into the briefing room. The Brigadier stopped and glanced at the sheet. "Six tins of putty?" he asked, reading the top line.

"The water proof kind would be best," the Doctor added.

The Brigadier scanned the top half of the list, then dismissively put it in his pocket.

"The best equipment in the world is no good unless we can find its hiding place, Doctor," he said.

The Doctor had a terrain map spread out on the table, which Jo had been marking with colored pencils at his direction.

"The creature must be hiding from notice," the Doctor told them both. "You know, clean out of sight. But not too far. It can't let too much rock distort its signal when it's engaging in finely tuned signal activities like creating fire bolts and lightning storms.

"You think its underground?" the Brigadier asked. "Why, it could be anywhere--in any rabbit hole or badger cave."

The Doctor looked thoughtful. "Hmm, those might be a little too close to the surface for its tastes. It doesn't need a scraping shovel or somebody's plow bringing it up to the surface." He glanced out the window. "I wonder if anybody knows of any caves around here. Real caves."

"Alan would." Jo told him. "He's out front with Sgt. Benton. I'll get him."

A moment later she returned with Alan. The Brigadier rose and offered the man a chair. With a nod of thanks, Alan sat down. His slate blue eyes fell to the map.

"Are you hunting out the source of our troubles, then Doctor?" he asked.

"I hope to," the Doctor told him. "Thought I might enlist your aid."


The Doctor threw his glance to at the map. "You know of any caves in this area?"

"Oh, aye. Not so very big--diameter wise I mean," Alan told him. But there's a regular network of 'em off the beck. You'd go on west by southwest of this hill we're on. Right about here." He put a thick finger on the map to indicate the place. "There's what's called a blowing hole somewhere in those woods. There's also another wee opening closer to the village, but it's under water, what with the flooding. It's a place where the beck broadens out a good bit, and a bit of stone shelving juts out. There's an opening down there, but you can't even see it now."

The Doctor looked thoughtful. "You can show us the blowing hole?"

"Oh, aye, if you let me search a bit. I explored it often when I was a wee lad. A man can't stand up in there, but he could crawl through a good ways."

The Doctor nodded. He stood up. The Brigadier looked alarmed. "What are you planning, Doctor?" he demanded.

"Why, to go in there with a sonic device and render that thing harmless!" the Doctor exclaimed.

Jo gasped, and the Brigadier exclaimed. "Never! Are you mad?"

Alan looked troubled at this exchange. He glanced at the Doctor, who glared at the direct order: "Brigadier, somebody must--"

"Not you!" the Brigadier ordered. "I forbid it!" He came around the table. "Where will we be if you get yourself killed in those caves?" he asked. "You're the best weapon we've got against it. We can't risk you."

"And besides," Jo added. "If anything goes wrong with that blocker of yours, you'll be back under its control."

He scowled at her, indignant. "What could go wrong with my collar?"

"Proximity may present entire new dangers," the Brigadier replied. "Who knows how strong the fields are that it wraps around itself? If it were to get control of you again, you would never get free of it, Doctor." He hesitated, then spoke again. "I'll go."

"A commander in a time of war cannot throw his life away in a noble gesture!" the Doctor retorted. "You're no more a candidate than I am. You cannot leave your duty."

Lethbridge Stewart raised an eyebrow at being told his duty. "Doctor, that high-handed--"

"I'll go," Alan said.

All three of them stopped and looked at him.

"Give me a crack at that thing," he asked.

"Any fear from you would raise its defenses--" the Doctor began, but Alan said quietly, "The thing that I have greatly feared has already come upon me, Doctor. What else is there to fear?"

An unreadable expression crossed the Brigadier's face, but then he said, "Very well, Alan. We are short handed and can make use of a volunteer. I suppose I don't need to tell you how dangerous that creature is."

Alan shook his head and looked up at the Doctor. "What do you want me to do?"

"We'll work out a step-by-step instruction," the Doctor said. He glanced at the Brigadier. "We'll need a few more things on that shopping list I gave you: chains and locks as well."

"Chains and locks?" the Brigadier exclaimed. "To chain the creature?"

The Doctor shook his head. "If we re-open its pathway to me, I can serve to distract it from its immediate environment."

"Let that thing take control of you again!" Jo said. "Really Doctor--"

"That's what the chains are for," he told her. He looked at the Brigadier. "Chain me up and put me under guard and let me get its attention. That will give Alan enough time to go into the caves, find it if it's in there, set up a weapon, and get out."

The Brigadier nodded and pulled out the slip of paper. He made a notation on it. "Chains and locks it is," he said.

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