Blood-Dimmed Tide Episode Thirteen

Blood-Dimmed Tide

Episode Thirteen

Jeri Massi

"Yes," the Brigadier said into the handset. "Yes, you heard me. I want it here in 48 hours. Escort it yourself if you have to, and charter a jet, for all I care. I don't think cost will be a factor. We can count on the Israeli government to subsidize us rather heavily."

He set the handset back into its cradle on General Iksaac's desk.

"It is arranged?" Iksaac asked.

"They'll get the TARDIS straight to the underground bunker as soon as they can," he affirmed. "If we get the Doctor, we're going to need it before he can be of any help to us."

The Israeli general offered a cigarette to the Brigadier, but as the British officer shook his head, he lit one for himself. "I do not understand this fellow," he said to the Brigadier. "First he is controlled by the creature; then he fights it, but then he freely surrenders to it. Why?"

"It was forcing him to perform, uh, war crimes, General."

Iksaac shrugged. "He is an honorable man. Nobody would have blamed him. It was against his will, correct?"

Lethbridge Stewart sank into one of the comfortable chairs that dotted the spacious office.

"No, it was too atrocious," he said dismissively. "It was forcing him to victimize a young girl. Horribly."

Iksaac exhaled a plume of smoke. "I would like to meet the young woman worth the lives of so many people," he said shortly. Outside the open window, the sirens were still cutting through the night. People had thrown themselves out of windows, over ledges, into rushing water to escape the fears that the creature's momentary attack had triggered.

"If you did meet her, you would not think much of her," Lethbridge Stewart said casually. "Yet I am told by the Doctor that she single handedly defeated a creature easily of the stature and ferocity of this thing that we are now fighting." He paused. "But I am not fit to weigh the value of life against life, General. Even if the Doctor had withstood and let the creature have its way with him rather than yield to it, it would have taken him anyway. Once the girl was dead."

Iksaac said nothing. Another siren joined the first.

Lethbridge Stewart got to his feet. "It's late," he began. "I should get to my quarters. If we're to take possession of that bunker tomorrow--"

He was interrupted by a knock on the door. At Iksaac's command, an aide ushered in Jo Grant.

"Miss Grant!" the Brigadier exclaimed.

"Oh Brigadier!" And she caught herself as her eyes teared up at the sight of him, calm and in control of himself. But she said, "We've brought him, sir. Sgt. Benton is downstairs with him in detention."

One look at her told him that she had been days without sleep, and his quick eyes took in the bruise across the bridge of her nose and the look of pain in her eyes.

"Well done, Jo," he said quietly, forgetting Iksaac. He took her by the hand. "I've got quarters all ready for you, and I'm bunking in with Alan. I'll escort you to your room."

Iksaac's voice cut in like a drill. "Is this the girl?"

The Brigadier turned to him. "General Iksaac, let me present to you Miss Jo Grant, the assistant to our Scientific Advisor, and an Agent of the Crown."

Iksaac stubbed the cigarette out in an ashtry on his desk. "You were correct, Brigadier," he said. "I do not. Good night."

"Come along, Miss Grant," the Brigadier said, and he did not bid good night to the general.

"He does not what, sir?" Jo asked him out in the hallway.

"Does not have a sense of some of the more difficult choices that there were to be made in this, Miss Grant," Lethbridge Stewart told her. "In what condition shall I find the Master?"

"He's asleep sir. Should be asleep for the next twelve hours or so."

He glanced at her in some surprise. "You narcotized him? Whatever for?"

"We all agreed it would be a good idea, sir," she said. "We had to get him here."

"Where is Captain Yates?"

"Enroute, sir. There was some difficulty with the Chinese representatives. Captain Yates was detained."

"So you and Benton came along with the goods eh?" he asked. "All right. We're moving out in the morning--to an underground bunker that lies within fifteen miles of the last sighting of the Sphinx."

They strode down the hall in silence, and he opened a door for her. As they exited past a sentry and came into the warm night, she said faintly, "Are there any leads on him, Brigadier?"

"One," the Brigadier said. "We'll follow it as soon as we get possession of the bunker, Miss Grant. Up until today, General Iksaac was more than a little skeptical. But now we all know that the creature is here. He may be more forthcoming in allocating heavy equipment for us."

"It usually attacks in the late afternoon and during the night," she said.

"I know--seldom between sunrise and noon," he agreed.

"Do you think we'll be safe tonight?"

"Does it matter?" he asked her. "We won't continue to be safe. Now that it has the Doctor as an interface, it can create its illusions. This entire city--the whole world--is now at its mercy."

She bowed her head as they walked along the dimly lit compound. "But now," the Brigadier added. "We know for sure that it's here, and that it has the Doctor, and so he's here somewhere." He took her hand and put it firmly in the crook of his elbow as he escorted her to the quarters he normally used. "Don't give up hope," he told her. "That thing is going to strip us down to the very core of what each of us is, but in the end, we still may defeat it, Jo. It sounds old fashioned, but we do have right on our side."

* * * *

Long before Jo had anywhere enough sleep, it was time to get up, throw her clothing back on, and assist Benton in dragging the Master from his cell and into a truck assigned as guarded escort for the prisoner.

While it was still dark they assembled their small platoon of sixteen soldiers in two jeeps and two trucks and rolled out across the desert for the bunker. Jo and Sgt. Benton shared biscuits and coffee from a thermos in the back of the truck while the Master gradually came around for brief, confused moments and then lapsed back into unconsciousness. His hands were free but his legs were manacled to the leg of one of the benches mounted in the truck bed.

"I don't see how we can go on lying to the Brig," Jo whispered as they bounced and jolted over the uneven desert road.

"No need in getting him court martialed, too," Benton reminded her. "You know the Master's going to lodge a full complaint first chance he gets," Jo said.

"He might get the sulks; you never know. Sometimes he refuses to talk to anybody. Especially if he has to admit that we fooled him."

She shrugged, unconvinced.

By the time they reached the bunker, the glare of the sun had fallen across the broad desert floor. The row of vehicles trundled purposefully towards a mound that unexpectedly opened up as they approached. Two wide doors swung open, and they went in slow and single file down a steep concrete ramp. It was a little like descending into a parking garage, and though the first draft of air was hot, it became noticeably cooler as they descended.

"They weren't kidding when they said this was underground," Jo said. They hung on to the edges of the seat as the truck tilted. Eventually it went around a corner, and they leveled off again. All around them, the air took on the hollow, echoing sound of a large, concrete room. The truck stopped.

Benton glanced down at the Master, who remained apparently asleep.

"Come on, you lot," he shouted out the back of the truck. "Someone give me a hand with this bloke!"

As Jo jumped out the back into the wide, dim interior of the underground garage, she was surprised to see a tall, slim figure striding across the wide floor towards them.

"What took you so long?" Mike called to her.

"How did you get here ahead of us?" she asked, delighted to see him. She caught his hands and then stopped as she realized that the other soldiers were watching. There was already a slight tendency--though she did not understand it--to treat her grudgingly. She had no idea why and assumed that they supposed her to be of little use on such a desperate military mission.

"I waas flying in on transport and radioed for instructions," he told her. "When I heard this was the ultimate destination, I flew here ahead of you." He became more serious. "Were you caught in that--that fear storm yesterday?" he asked her.

"It's all right," she whispered. "And we've got the Master. He's only just now coming around."

"Leave it to me," Mike assured her. "I'll handle the Brigadier."

* * * *

Air conditioned and equipped with its own filtration system and emergency air tanks, the bunker was well equipped, compact, and yet luxurious in some ways. There were showers and cots with mattresses. A galley provided for better meals than what they would have gotten in camp. ANd the tons and tons of sand above the reinforced concrete and steel structure assured that they were impervious to bombs.

"Place was designed to withstand a nuclear war," the Brigadier observed as one of the Israeli soldiers showed them around. The Brigadier glanced at his watch. "Right. It's 0900. Breakfast in fifteen minutes, and the first objective assigned." He turned to their tour guide. "Corporal, you're on first duty with the Master at the detention cell. Let me know when he comes around. Take somebody with you. There must be two men with him at all times." The Corporal nodded and strode away, brushing past Jo so closely that he nearly pushed her aside. Yates started at this, and the Brigadier put a hand on his shoulder. "Steady my lad. Outsiders may take a different view of things than we do."

Yates turned to him. "Like how to treat a civilian government agent?" he asked.

"I'll speak to them."

Jo was puzzled but said nothing, and the Brigadier added, "Things trickle down, that's all. After they're with us for a few days they'll adjust. See you at mess."

He walked away down the narrow hallway. Yates and Benton were left standing with Jo. "Trickle down?" she asked. "What's that mean?"

"I don't know," Mike said, as confused as she was. Benton looked grim but said nothing.

* * * *

During the breakfast briefing, everybody was all business. And seated between Alan on her left and Mike Yates on her right, Jo was unaware of anything except the paper chart that the Brigadier had tacked up onto the wall.

"Based on remarkably little evidence, we believe that we know where the Doctor is being held captive," he told them. "Our single clue is that a supply vehicle was abandoned near the site of an unused and ruined pillbox left over from the war. This pillbox lies within two miles of the last sighting of the Sphinx. Close enough for the creature to access both it and the Sphinx, and far enough away from all other human civilization for anybody--including the Doctor--to escape across the desert."

"Why?" one of the soldiers asked. "Why does it want him near the Sphinx? "

"Our information is sketchy," the Brigadier said. "But we have reason to believe that the creature requires the Doctor to assist it in a-- a biomedical assessment of the Sphinx. The creature wants the Sphinx for some purpose of its own. Its agenda is still not perfectly clear. But we do know that from the first time the Sphinx was raised, the creature has been at work altering it."

"But how does it do this?" another soldier asked.

"According to the Doctor, and from what we saw in Hoffshire, the creature is capable of generating electrical waves too dense to be received, imitated or countered by man-made devices. The theory--as I understand it--is that when frequencies become that information-dense, they are capable of rearranging matter itself. I have no idea what the creature is doing to the Sphinx, but it is certainly doing something, and we must stop it. The surest way to stop it is to wrest the Doctor away from it."

Even where Jo was, she heard somebody mutter, "He is a traitor." But one of the Israeli UNIT sergeants ordered curtly, "Be quiet."

"He is not a traitor," she declared hotly, but the Brigadier said, "That's enough. The objective is to find him, restrain him, and bring him back here. Alive."

"I volunteer, sir," Mike said immediately, and Sgt. Benton added, "Me too, sir."

"I'd like to go," Alan said. "This is my war if it's anybody's."

"We have a helicopter nearby under cover--" the Brigadier began. He was interrupted as a sudden electronic alarm blasted over the public address system. Everybody leaped to their feet, but the Brigadier shouted, "Stay where you are!"

There was a sentry on duty and a radio operator. After a moment, the radio man's voice came over the loudspeaker: "Firestorm--firestorm reported--"

"A bombing attack!" one of the soldiers exclaimed. "Where?"

"Not bombs," the Brigadier said tersely.

"Twenty-two kilometers north by northeast--"

"The site of the Sphinx," Mike whispered.

"Military Search planes hit and downed," the operator reported. "Additional firestorms reported near Bethlehem. Israeli military is on alert."

"Yates, you're with me. The rest of you, to your posts on alert status. If that thing knows we're here, it will attack us next." The Brigadier strode out. The room quickly cleared.

* * * *

The Brigadier grabbed a pair of field glasses and led Mike up a very long and narrow set of steps that opened onto the ramp that led down into the garage. He threw a switch, and the automatic doors opened outward, allowing the glare of the sun and the hot desert wind to come inside. Using the field glasses, the Brigadier surveyed the horizon.

"Must be over," he said. "There's smoke over there, where the planes must have gone down, near the Sphinx's resting place."

He passed the glasses to Yates, who also looked.

"Your mission to rescue the Doctor has just turned into a suicide mission, " the Brigadier said. "We can make it as safe as possible, of course, but you'll be flying right towards that thing. The creature is there, and apparently it has decided to protect its air space."

Yates lowered the binoculars. "We have a reasonably good tracking history of when that thing rests," he said.

"Yes, but it has been known to shift its patterns."

Mike glanced around at the structure of the ramp. "Remember how the Doctor commented that sand is an insulator--a poor sort of semi-conductor?"

"I do."

The young captain shook his head. "I think it doesn't know we're here," he said. "If we can go in tomorrow morning, right in the middle of its sleep cycle--go in with a stripped down helicopter, no electrical stuff on board--get the Doctor, get out, and get back, we might do it."

"There's a helicopter hidden away under camaflouge," the Brigadier told him. "Get a crew and work on it today. Equip it with metal shielding and take out the insides. We won't be able to track you, of course."

"If we get hit by one of those fire bolts, there won't be any need to track us," Yates said.

"So you still want to do it?"

"Yes sir."

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