Blood-Dimmed Tide Episode Eleven

Blood-Dimmed Tide

Episode Eleven

Jeri Massi

The lab at UNIT, formerly the Doctor's domain, was quiet. The shattered glass and broken bits of equipment were gone, and the window had been replaced during Jo's absence. Everything was in place, and she could not shake herself of the feeling that it was waiting for him to return. The TARDIS stood in the corner, familiar and now just a little ghastly, out of place without him wandering in and out of it.

She turned away from looking at it and faced the door. There was just nothing left to do. The Security Secretary had been singularly unhelpful--a man easily cowed by his superiors. They were no closer now to getting the Master in their custody than they had been when he had been reigning as the vicar at Devil's End.

Mike Yates, recovered from the attack by the creature, strode into the lab, cast a glance at her, and threw a wad of paper into a trash can with unnecessary force.

"That's from the Security Secretary," he said. "The Chinese representative positively forbids that the Master be given into our custody."

She put her face in her hand.

"You know why I despise Communisim, Jo?" he asked, giving further vent to his frustration. "Not because it's necessarily so evil. It's just so plain stupid."

He threw himself onto a lab stool. "We've tripped over that Chinese government at every step of the way with this creature. From the very first day when it took over that girl. Whatshername Chin."

Jo looked up. "Won't they negotiate?" she asked.

"They accused us of seeking to profit from the Master's extensive scientific knowledge," he told her. "Outright accusation. No thanks for freeing their officer from the Master's control. No thanks for saving the peace conference last year. They say we're allied with the Americans and are seeking to cement the Middle East with the West in a capitalist hegemony."

She sighed.

"And that's not all," he told her. "Israel refuses to join with Jordan in a joint effort to control and monitor the Sphinx. It's declaring its military presence in the desert as a means of protecting its own borders from danger from the creature. That's the latest word from the Brig. The UNIT forces in Israel are very pro Israeli and refuse to support him and set up liasion across the Arab states."

Benton strode in. The skin around his eyes still showed some scarring from the burns, and he was obligated to wear sunglasses outside. But otherwise he was all right, though just as anxious to get things moving.

"Any word, sir?" he asked hopefully.

Yates sighed, and Jo looked down.

After a moment, Mike spoke. "So the world is destroyed, not so much because of the creature but because of prejudice and petty interests," he said grimly.

Benton looked from her to Mike Yates, not comprehending.

"We can't get the Chinese to concur to release the Master to us," Jo told him.

"I don't understand," Benton protested. "Didn't the Brig tell us that once the Master stands trial he 's going to be held on English soil? That is, if he's not executed for his crimes?"

"Yes, held here by an international security team," Mike reminded him. "The trouble is, he hasn't come to trial yet. He's still sitting in Geneva, so we can't get to him. Sitting there in handcuffs and sunglasses, right where we can't touch him."

It had been faintly amusing after the Master's capture to find out that one of the security directives for holding him included the order that his eyes be shuttered at all times. It was the only way to protect his guards from his hypnotic technique until better training could assure their immunity from him. Enormous sunglasses, specially made, were locked on him day and night.

"Will the Chinese agree to anything?" Jo asked.

"They say they want a representative to accompany him at all times," Mike told her. "They refuse to allow him to be taken anywhere that is not a UN detention area, so that scotches any ideas of bringing him here, or of taking him out to the Brig. The closest we can get him to us is London or to the UN facilities in Tel Aviv if the Brig wants him out there."

Benton looked thoughtful. "If that creature would only put on another display, they might all sit up and take notice," he said regretfully. "It picked a fine time to go into hiding."

For five days, there had been no sign of the creature, the Doctor, or the Sphinx.

"Where ever it is, you can be sure it's busy," Mike said grimly. "The next time it emerges, there may be no time and no way to stop it at all."

"Did Alan talk to the Israeli government?" Jo asked suddenly. As the only person to have seen the creature itself, Alan had been taken with the Brigadier as an attache.

Mike shook his head. "Yes, but it did no good."

The three of them fell quiet, until at last, Jo--thinking again about the Doctor--said, "I would do anything to get him back. Even if he were dying. Even if he were dead."

Mike looked pained at her lament, but he nodded. "So would I," he told her. "But there's--" He stopped. He glanced at Jo. "Anything?" he asked suddenly and very softly. "Anything, Jo?"

She turned startled eyes to him, but she said without hesitation, "Anything, so long as I didn't hurt innocent people."

He glanced sharply at Benton without a word, and Benton said sharply, "Me, too, sir. You know I would. Anything to save the Doc. Or at least to verify--" He stopped himself.

"Shut the doors," Mike said.

Benton quickly closed and locked the lab doors.

"We can't get the Master by legitimate means," Mike began. "But we can kidnap him."

Jo agreed at once, "Yes! Let's do it, then."

But Benton, more practical, raised an objection: "What, so we can get hunted down in any country we go to?" he asked. "That won't do us any good. We need the Master to help us for weeks maybe. Maybe until the creature is destroyed."

Yates nodded. "We can still do it," he said. "We can fix it so that they don't hunt us down, so that everyone here thinks it's all legitimate and so that the UN never even knows that we've kidnapped him at all."

Benton and Jo glanced at each other in wonder.

"Well, if there's a way to do that, you can count me in," Benton said.

Mike nodded. "But afterward," he added. "Afterward, if we survive, it means we've thrown our careers away. Dishonor forever." His voice was sober. Benton nodded. "I'm in, sir. The worse dishonor is to leave the Doc, and the world, at the mercy of that thing."

* * * *

Sgt. Benton, looking determined and grim in spite of his scarred eyes, poked his head into the soldier's mess. "Oy, Markos," he called "Captain Yates to see you in the Brig's office. Special assignment."

Markos, a Spanish corporal on rotation with UNIT, hurried from the table.

"One of you blokes take the tray," Benton called as they hurried away.

Like all UNIT soldiers, Markos was clean shaven, but his olive skin, trim build, and erect carriage gave him a faintly aristocratic, exotic look. Only his eyes, wide with youth and inexperience, prevented him from being convincing. Benton led him to the office without another word to him. When they entered, they found Mike Yates waiting, seated on the edge of the vast desk, as though taking charge at UNIT were no very great matter.

"Got an assignment for you," Yates told him. "Very hush hush."

"Yes sir!" Markos exclaimed.

"You feel ready for it?" Yates asked.

"I do, sir!" Markos said.

"We've had word of an intelligence leak regarding the Master," Mike told him. "We need you to go undercover. Think you can handle that?"

"Yes sir!"

"Sources in Geneva indicate that the Chinese representative appointed to oversee the Master's security is actually sharply in sympathy with him," Yates said. "The Chinese government is also concerned, as the Master's previous crimes have presented a great deal of danger to certain of the People's Republic of China. So they have authorized us to infiltrate the security infrastructure. We're relying on you, Corporal Markos. We need a man who can keep his mouth shut and just play dumb."

"I'm sure I'll do very well, sir!" Markos exclaimed.

* * * *

At UNIT headquarters in Tel Aviv, the Brigadier was poring over casualty statistics from the last week. Impatient and ready to be rid of this British intruder, General Moshe Iksaac paced restlessly behind him. The Brigadier leaned forward over the broad work table and consulted the map.

"Here is where the Sphinx last went down into the sands," he said, laying a finger on the map.

"We have been through this, Lethbridge Stewart," the General said brusquely. "We are ready to bombard the creature as soon as it raises its head from the sand. The nation of Israel appreciates the grave danger that it represents."

"Well, unfortunately, General, we don't know that knocking the head off the Sphinx is going to solve the problem," the Brigadier told him, not looking up as he glanced back at the statistics. "Not until we know more about what the creature's purposes are, and how it intends to use the Sphinx to fulfill them. Look here," he said suddenly. He marked another place on the map. The General, unwilling to comply but determined to not be out maneuvered in a plan of strategy, glanced at the map. "Right here is where that convoy was stopped," the Brigadier observed. "Only three miles from the site."

"So?" Iksaac snatched up the report. "A convoy vehicle experienced engine trouble. Engine ignited, and vehicle was left. So? It happens in the desert. Some fool put it into service without proper maintenance."

"I'll need a follow-up report on it," the Brigadier said. "What happened to the vehicle, where it is now? Was it left out there?"

"Why?" the General demanded.

Just then, Alan walked in. He looked a bit incongruous in khaki trousers and a loose shirt. The dark, thick hair, heavy eyebrows and slate blue eyes were more at home in the chilly northeastern farm fields then here in the Middle East.

"Ah, Alan!" the Brigadier exclaimed, pleased. He twitched the paper out of the General's hands and passed it over to the young Ulsterman. "Run that vehicle history down for me, will you? I need to know the follow up."

"Aye, I can do that," Alan agreed, glancing the paper over. "Nice fellows down in the maintenance hangars. They like to listen to me talk. Think I got an accent."

"Why?" the General repeated to the Brigadier.

The Brigadier looked at him, exasperated. "The truck was carrying supplies, General," he explained. "Emergency supplies. Bottled water, food, that sort of thing."

"Of course. Supplies are re-stocked monthly," the General said.

"In Jordanian territory?" Alan asked, glancing at the map in surprise. "Israeli supplies?"

"We won't go into that," the Brigadier said quickly. "The main thing to find out is whether any of the supplies had to be left, and what items were left."

Alan crinkled his craggy features in thought. "A smattering of supplies like that left in the desert could keep a man alive for a week or two," he guessed.

"Could keep a timelord alive for a month or more," the Brigadier corrected.

"Are you saying that we are keeping your Doctor friend a prisoner in the desert?" the General blustered.

"No, General!" the Brigadier assured him. "No, I'm not saying that at all. Something that is an enemy of the state of Israel is keeping him prisoner. But like any prisoner, he still needs air, food, and water if he's to be any good. I'm trying to find leads to him, any sign of anything that looks like a trail of supplies into the desert."

The General let out his breath with an air of disdain. "All this talk of a prisoner. You are clutching at straws."

"And shelter," Alan said quietly. "A man in the desert would need shelter." He glanced at the map. "Oh, and Brigadier, here's that bit of change I owe you." He dug his hand into the pocket of his loose trousers, counted out some coins on his palm, and then set them down on the table: two Canadian quarters, heads up. The Brigadier glanced at him, disgusted. "What about some national coinage or army scrip?"

"Sorry, sir. But I do have a bit of change in the car that I picked up when we came through Jordan. Might be of some use to you."

"I'll get it tonight. See about that vehicle, will you?" The two of them exchanged glances and then Alan went out.

* * * *

"Well we can get him to look like the Master," Mike Yates said as they pondered their strategy down in the locked lab. "A goatee and sunglasses ought to do the trick. Did you get the Security Secretary, Jo?"

"Yes," she said. "The Chinese security advisor will get on a plane with him at ten o'clock tonight, bound for New York via Antwerp and London. They should be handcuffed together."

"What about our flight?" he asked.

"The four seater is fueled up and ready," Benton reported. "we can make it to the airfield in just two hours, worst case."

"Where's Markos now?" Mike asked.

"Getting his goatee," Jo reported.

"Any problems or questions?" Yates asked.

"Just one, sir," Benton said. "It's not the switch that worries me. It's afterward. We can say it all we like, but I don't think the Master's going to believe our threats. He may blow the whistle on us in the first few minutes if he thinks it's to his advantage. "

Jo looked down. Mike grimaced and tried to summon up the resolve to be heartless, but Benton interrupted him. "I'm sorry sir. If it comes right down to it, I can't look him in the face and kill him, with him being unarmed. And he'll know it. Because he'll know we need him for something."

"And knowing that, he knows he's got us," Mike agreed.

There was a long silence.

"But what if he doesn't think we're doing it because we need him?" Jo asked. "What if he thinks he's got no way to bargain with us? He'd wait, then. Wait and try to strike a deal."

They both looked at her.

"Come on," she said. "Think like him for a minute. What's the one thing he understands?"

"Greed," they both said.

She rolled her eyes. "All right, what's the second thing he understands? "

"Envy," they both said.

"All right then, envy. And the third?" She gazed at them with shining eyes, convinced of her own idea.

"Re-Revenge," Mike said.

"Revenge!" Benton exclaimed. She nodded. Nobody had more motive for revenge against the Master than UNIT did. He had killed at least a dozen of their comrades in arms in previous skirmishes, imprisoned the Doctor and Jo several times, ordered the beating of Benton at Devil's End, bound Mike Yates, and very nearly sacrificed Jo.

"Some of the delegates to the international tribunal don't want him to get the death sentence for his crimes against humanity," Jo reminded them. "And others do. It would be the most natural thing in the world for a group of hotheads to kidnap him and execute him. He must be afraid of that."

"It's a little like the way the creature acts," Benton concluded. "Find what he's most afraid of, and keep pounding on that until he gives in."

"And speaking oif the creature," Mike added. "We've got to find out what makes the Master immune to it. It ought to be attacking him like it attacked the Doctor, but it's not."


The only lights in the tavern were the flickery, shadowy candles at each table that cast uncertain shadows against the rough beams and coarse walls. It was nearly midnight. Alan had driven in a direct route through the spacious and well kept highways, then onto less well traveled routes more frequently marked with signs of Israeli soldiers and police, and then finally in the last hour into territory that was almost unmarked by anything at all except low houses and unlighted buildings. The Brigadier had no idea how his temporary assitant could keep his bearings in one of the remote sections of a foreign country. The trip was almost three hours long, and when at last they stopped and entered the tavern, he had no idea where he was.

"They're Christians," Alan murmured as he stood aside to let the Brigadier enter before him. "They'll expect a certain courtesy from you, sir."


Two men at one of the tables waved them over. They sat down. The tavern was a mixture of Western and Eastern culture: sturdy wooden chairs, checked plastic table cloths, but curious straw handcrafts decorated the walls, sheafs of straw and grass smoothly combed into swirls and patterns. In one dim corner, an icon of a Catholic saint, his throat and arms budding with wounds, was highlighted with a single candle in a deep bowl.

"This is Shuri, and that is his brother, Ali," Alan said.

"Ali?" the Brigadier asked.

Ali, younger and much more slender than Alan but with a face more worn, shrugged helplessly. "It was a good name for the neighborhood."

The Brigadier pulled out a pack of cigarettes and dropped them on the table. "Smoke, gentlemen?"

The two Jordanians took cigarettes and lit up, and the Brigadier did a quick survey of them. Ali seemed young, easygoing, good humored with a sort of resigned attitude. His older brother Shuri looked much older, nearly twenty years older, in fact, and was broad, grayed at the temples, and less inclined to smile. Both men were clean shaven. They wore army fatigue jackets of American make.

"We hear you are tracking the Sphinx," Shuri said. "No secret where it went down. What could you want to know? A drink, sirs?"

"Any chance of a good whiskey?" the Brig asked, and Alan asked for a beer.

"I want to know if there are any shelters out that way," the Brigadier asked. "I may as well forget getting any decent maps."

Ali laughed appreciatively, and Shuri afforded Lethbridge Stewart a grim smile. "We are familiar with the desert," he said. "There are numerous structures out that way--most of them in ruins. The closest that the Israeli Army can legitimately put you down is about 15 miles from the Sphinx's resting place. There's an underground bunker there. They have sovereignty over it. Beyond that, you would be in Jordanian territory."

"An underground bunker would be the very thing for a temporary HQ," the Brigadier said. "Ideal, in fact."

"For that, you must talk to General Iksaac," he said dismissively. "Let us go, Ali. We have done our duty."

They stood up, and the Brigadier exclaimed, "Wait a moment. There's more. Hang on a bit."

The two men glanced at each other and then sat down again. The drinks came.

Alan spoke. "We think there's a man being held prisoner out in the desert, " he said. Lethbridge Stewart glanced sharply at him, but neither Ali nor Shuri noticed.

"He's the one man who can possibly stop the Sphinx," Alan added. "You saw it, Shuri. Are you willing to trust either the Israeli government or the Jordanian government, or any government to stop that thing? You know that the last thing we need is two armies out in that desert. This man is a scientist, and he's the one man that has any idea of the Sphinx's workings. "

"What is he doing out in the desert?" Shuri demanded. "How did he get there?"

The Brigadier cut in. "We're not sure," he said with perfect truth. "In fact, we didn't count on it at all. He sort of disappeared on us, you might say. But the last thing he said was to his assistant. He told her something about working on the Sphinx. About adapting it."

"He is responsible for resuscitating the Sphinx?" Ali asked.

"He's being coerced," the Brigadier said.

Both men were silent, doubting the story.

"Look," the Brigadier told them. "All I want to know is what structures are out there. I have to check them." He drew a map out of his pocket and spread it on the table. It was hand drawn, based on the map he had used at the headquarters.

"A convoy suffered a breakdown here," he said. "Are you familiar with the territory?"

"I can give you exact coordinates of a pillbox that is out that way," Shuri told him. "But I have a price."

"Well let's drink first," the Brigadier said, and everybody nodded. He glanced at Alan, confident. If there was one thing he was sure of, it was that a Scottsman and an Ulsterman could get the better deal out of two Jordanians.

* * * *

The flight over the Channel in the four seater was quiet. Markos had added about thirty years to his appearance, along with the goatee and the wraparound sunglasses. A little overawed by the presence of the Brigadier's hand picked team, he sat stiff and ill at ease in the back with Yates.

Up front with the map, Jo watched the coordinates and kept an eye on their course, though Sgt. Benton was an experienced enough pilot to not really need her help. They were not following their registered flight plan, of course, nor were they in contact with any towers. They stayed low, trying to avoid the common air routes.

The problem, really, was that the lines on the map were rearranging themselves periodically. So far, her momentary visions had not interrupted her work or interfered with her vision for more than a moment. But they were becoming more insistent. The map obstinately reverted to the assortment of sticks and balls: hexagonal shapes arranged in a ladder. She did not want to see it any more. She closed her eyes and caught in her breath to avoid sobbing.

Sgt. Benton glanced over at her, concerned.

"You all right?" he whispered, not audible to Mike and Markos in the back. Eyes closed, she nodded. He would only think she were airsick. She had not told them of the visions. The deep, deep fear that the creature had somehow marred her mind permanently was too terrible to confront.

"What is it?" he asked.

"Everything all right up front?" Yates asked.

"Yes, fine!" she exclaimed quickly. She glanced down at the map as though reading it, but she did not focus on it.

Night was falling anyway; soon it would be too dark to consult the map without lights. The sky was like a blue bowl over them, closing down over the earth. After a moment she calmed down. It was difficult, in the regular, rhythmic noise of the engine, and the sky above clear and gradually dimming, to be much afraid of anything.

This, she thought, was an illusion: this peace. Just a result of the proper colors and air currents, she told herself: The sense of being in control--but of course, that was an illusion, too. At any moment the engine could fail, or the instruments go wrong, and they would be hurled to earth in a rain of fire. But she relaxed back into the seat and let the map lie idle in her lap. Benton glanced over at her and offered a brief and assuring smile. The horizon ahead did not seem to be coming any closer. The plane almost felt like it was just hanging, hanging over a serene earth below that knew nothing of the creature or the Sphinx or the fact that the Doctor had given himself up to spare her a horrible death.

She closed her eyes to wall out her conflicting feelings, and in a moment or two, she was dozing. She meant to glance over at Benton to finally tell him about the lines and hexagonal shapes, but when she turned and looked, she saw it was the Doctor at the controls. Instead of using the controls, he was simply sitting, head slightly bowed.

"I wronged you," he said, not looking up. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to frighten you."

"I don't know how to find you," she whimpered. "Has it taken you under the earth? Are you suffering?"

He opened his hand and looked down at it. "I know it frightens you, and I'm sorry, but it's the only way," he said.

"I don't understand," she protested.

He said something, but she didn't understand. He looked at her at last. His eyes were tired, his face haggard. He spoke again but she could not make out the words, and he held out his open hand to her so that she could look at it.

Written on his palm in black ink were the familiar hexagonal shapes and lines. She looked up at him, squinting hard to catch his words.

"I don't mean to frighten you," he said, and she understood what he was saying, but then he said something with a nod down at his hand. It sounded like "Eat it, Jo."

The lines and shapes were rising from his hand into a definite object all its own.

"Eat it to the Sphinx, Jo," he said, and then his face wrinkled in concern and frustration as he realized that she wasn't getting the words. "Please don't be afraid," he said slowly, and then, "This is the only way to save me-the only thing that will work. Eat it to the Sphinx."

"I don't understand what you're saying," she confessed.

He tried to put the shape into her hand, but when he did, it melted away. Disappointed, he looked down, and she began to cry, for she realized that she was condemning him to the creature.

Go to Episode 12.

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