The Doctor stopped for a moment and rested his fists on his hips, facing the open doorway and lost in thought. Jo cautiously crept up behind him.
"Yes, Jo." He seemed distracted, but after a moment he glanced down at her and forced his facial muscles to relax. "What is it, my dear?"
She looked right up at him, aware that it would be difficult for him to resist her request now. Jo knew that her sincerity had always touched him, even when he had not wanted it to, even when he had been annoyed with having her as his assistant. But especially since Devil's End, when his great hearts had been so touched by her sacrifice of herself to save his life, he was all the more easily won by her earnestness, and she thought that she could persuade him now.
"I want to ask you for something."
Forgetting his grim mood for a moment, he stroked her hair without thinking, as though she were a child. "Anything," he said gently.
"More people have died fighting this thing than have lived," she told him. "We both know that. We saw what it did in Hoffshire. I expect it will kill everybody here, too."
He hesitated. "It will try, certainly."
"Please let me die with you," she said. "I could bear it if I were with you. Even if it took me in visions and things, I think that somehow I would know you were there."
"Please, Doctor. Promise me that if you go off to fight it, you'll take me with you," she pleaded. "I can't bear it if you go off alone against it and leave me behind."
He offered her a half hearted, rueful smile. "But Jo, I rather thought it might be better if we kill it, instead. That way, we could both live." But the joke failed, and tears spilled out of her eyes as she looked up at him. He knew that she wanted him to take her request seriously. He cupped his hand over the back of her head and guided her close against himself. After a long moment he said, "I don't want you to die."
"I don't want to die," she insisted. "But it would be so much worse if it killed you first and then came after me. I can't face it alone. Oh please don't let it control you again, whatever happens!"
"No, never," he whispered. "Death before that, certainly. But it will soon be able to use the Sphinx for its interface. It will not need me as much." He looked down at her, hesitated, and then lifted her chin with his hand and looked at her searchingly and steadily with his great, quiet eyes. Her tears fell more readily as she met his gaze, but she did not turn away or look down.
"So you are ready to die," he whispered. "Even though it frightens you. Ready to go with me all the way to the end."
"Just promise me that I can," she asked. "I know you mean to die fighting it if you have to. I'm willing to go with you."
He hesitated, and then he spoke. "All right. I'll keep you with me," he promised her. "We both live or we both die. How's that?" And his voice became grim. He released her chin, said nothing more, and looked away for a moment.
She nodded and looked down, willing herself to be more stern and resolute, more convincing in the role she had chosen for herself. He glanced down at her and watched her. Head down, she wiped her tears away with her fingers and self consciously pushed her own hair out of her eyes several times, imitating an attitude of careless courage until she controlled herself. His hands lifted for a moment and opened uncertainly towards her, but then lowered again. Abruptly, he turned away from her and walked to the open doors of the TARDIS. "Show me to the lab, will you, Jo?" he asked her, keeping his face from her, his eyes fixed on the hallway outside the TARDIS. "I don't know my way around this place at all."
* * * *
As the Doctor and Jo came down the narrow hallway towards the large, concrete-lined room designated as the lab, Jo automatically glanced up towards the far corner of the room. The Brigadier had installed mirrors at each corner of the ceiling. Apparently, the Master had not yet noticed them. As she glanced up, she saw him become aware of their footsteps and deftly slip something from a workbench into his pocket.
He was working under guard, but the sleight of hand was too quick for the guard to see that anything had been palmed from the litter of electronic debris and gadgetry that covered that section of the bench. She almost stopped to signal the Doctor, but he breezed right past her.
"Right!" he exclaimed. "Here we are. Just like old times!"
"It will be at least a day before the medical substances that you've ordered can be flown in," the Master told him. "And that's assuming that the Brigadier gets the requisition right." The Doctor nodded and scribbled down a quick list. He passed it to Jo. "See if you can get onto this right away," he said. "It's restricted materials, so you'll have to get the Brigadier's authorization."
She glanced up at him, not wanting to be sent away, and wanting to warn him of what she had seen. But he smiled reassuringly. "We need these, and I know you can get through the red tape. I'll be right here," he added quietly.
She threw a glance at the Master, but the Doctor winked quickly. "Go on, Jo," he whispered. "It's all right."
She nodded and hurried out.
Getting messages out was rather complicated and required the assistance of one of the aloof Israeli UNIT soldiers. Apparently, the fuss and bother of carrying out a rescue of one traitorous scientist so that he could collaborate with another traitorous scientist while fire bolts rained down in a path straight for Bethlehem made no sense to these military minds.
Jo fussed and fumed while the communications operator contacted General Iksaac for permission to make mid and high bandwidth calls. Still, it worked out in her favor. Whatever the General's opinion of Britain's version of UNIT had been, he was clearly staking everything on a bid that the Brigadier could produce something against the devastation. There was a long pause as the general talked and the communications man listened. When the soldier handed her the handset he was much more respectful. "You may use it like any telephone, now Miss," he told her. "I will translate for you if the other end cannot speak English."
"Thank you," she said.
* * * *
Even with the Brigadier's help and the use of a translator, it took the rest of the afternoon to get through the Doctor's list of supplies. And even then the communications officer reminded her of the danger of trying to get anything air lifted.
"We'll have to follow the creature's resting patterns and hope that it doesn't change them," she said. "I'll phone the air force and warn them."
"They've been warned, Miss Grant," the Brigadier said, entering the cubbyhole and standing behind her. "Nothing is flying over Israel or Jordan right now, or through most of the Middle East."
The tiny cubicle where communications were carried out was a litter of notes and lists and communications information. Wearily, she started to gather it all up.
"You should get something to eat," the Brigadier said. "I think first shift is about to have their meal. Why not join them? Have you eaten today?"
"This morning," she said. She had forgotten to eat, and had not tasted anything since the odd assortment of food that she had scrounged up for the Doctor in the TARDIS.
"Go on, then," the Brigadier told her. "Yates and Benton and Alan haven't yet had a word with the Doctor at all. You go fill them in on how he's doing."
She was relieved at the order, for she was suddenly ravenously hungry and wanted to see her friends again.
She found them sitting down to hot tea and American rations. Benton--always the gentleman--passed her his mug and tray and went to get another helping for himself.
She found her one hand taken by Mike and the other by Alan as she sat down. It startled her to see how young they both looked. Mike was older than she by a year or two, and Alan's craggy face made him seem older than he really was, but suddenly they seemed almost like boys.
"Congratulations," she told them. "You really did it--all three of you."
"It's good to see you again," Alan said, as though they had all been apart for a long time. "How's the old feller, eh?"
Benton came up and grinned as he sat down, and Jo was just about to start on her food, when a voice said, "The 'old feller' as you call me is fine, Alan. Jo, I need you."
The three men looked up and nearly stood, but the Doctor waved them down. "Thank you," he said to them. "I'm grateful to you and would like to say more, but we have business to attend to. Jo, if you want me to keep my promise, you'd better come with me, now."
She instantly left the food behind and stood up, anxious but ready.
"Can we help you, Doctor?" Mike asked.
"Discretion is what we need right now, Captain," the Doctor told him. "The fewer the better. I would rather do this alone, but it's necessary to take Miss Grant from you." He took her hand and glanced down at her. "Ready?"
"Come along then." He led her away, but turned back to say, "We should be back shortly, but if not, replication of the false protease is the key. See if you can't get some medical people over here from a pharmaceutical research organization to help you."
And then they strode away.
Jo actually felt more regret at that moment for her missed dinner than for anything else, but she said, "Where are we going, then? Out to the Sphinx?"
"No, into the TARDIS," he told her.
"The TARDIS?" she asked.
He led her down to the main hallway where the TARDIS stood at the far end.
"You saw the Master palm that dematerializer this afternoon," he said. "It didn't take him long, did it?"
"But how could he--"
"Remember Axos, Jo," the Doctor reminded her. "He got a good look at my dematerialization circuit them. He knows how to bypass it. All he needed was the tools, which the Brigadier so kindly supplied to him in giving him the use of that lab yesterday."
"But the TARDIS will bring him back!"
"Yes, it certainly will. I picked his pocket while we were in the lab--slipped a fake bit of soldered transistors into his pocket and took out the real thing." He opened the TARDIS door and followed her inside. "Here it is." He fished into his pocket and produced the bit of circuitry. "It's a temporary," he said. "Rather complicated to explain, but instead of trying a bypass and then plotting in coordinates, he's created this hardwired bypass and controller. It's got the coordinates he wants hardwired into it. So even if the council of the time lords should think we are escaping, they will not be able to interfere until we materialize at our destination."
She hesitated. "Well," she said after a moment. "It's like he's abandoning ship," she said. "You know, get away long enough so that he can get out of the TARDIS and get away from Earth."
He shook his head. "No. I would have thought so, but he's got the return coordinates hardwired into it, too. He's taking a gamble that he can go somewhere and then quickly return." He slipped the circuit back into his pocket. "But why? Why, with Earth on the brink of destruction, would he be determined to go somewhere and then come back?"
"To find a weapon against the creature," she said. "He must know of something that will destroy it."
"Or assist it," he added. "The Master is known for bargaining with implacable enemies. And he's been pretty successful in the past." He threw his glance to the back rooms of the TARDIS. "In there with you, and I'll come to. I've instructed the Brigadier to let the Master pick the locks on his leg irons. We'll have to wait to see how long it takes him to escape and get in here."
She hurried out of sight of the control room. He glanced down at her and smiled. "Where ever he takes us, we can learn more about what makes this creature operate and what can be used to come to terms with it."
"And that blocker that he made for you will work?" she asked.
"Yes, I think so. Quiet now. Let's wait for him."
* * * *
They actually waited for a very long time. Jo was used to the necessity of allowing the adversary to make the next move, but she wished that she were not so desperately hungry. After about twenty minutes she made herself more comfortable by sitting on the floor in their hiding place. He glanced down at her but did not say anything and returned to watching the control room.
No doubt the Brigadier would be careful to make the Master's escape seem difficult, and he did a good job of it, too. Five or six hours later, when Jo was dozing comfortably, she woke up at the sound of the TARDIS doors opening. She glanced up. The Doctor, still somewhat incongruous in his khakis and boots, stiffened as he watched. She cautiously stood up, noiseless, and peered around him.
The Master operated the controls to close the doors and reached into his pocket. He pulled out a soldered mess of electronic bits and started in surprise as he looked at it.
"Come on," the Doctor whispered, and led her out.
"Looking for this?" he asked, holding up the circuit bypass.
The Master's shock and dismay were evident, but he hid them quickly. "Well, Doctor, you are quick to recover your wits, aren't you?" he asked. "You have thwarted my escape. I suppose I must be subject to the ceaseless scrutiny of those witless soldiers again." And he raised his hands, expecting the Doctor to open the doors and return him to his cell.
"Step away from the console," the Doctor said. "Jo, keep an eye on him. "
"Come now, Doctor, I shall go quietly," the Master assured him. "You know that I deplore violence."
"You are not going back to your cell," the Doctor told him, taking out the bypass circuit and pulling off a section of the console panel. "We are all going to your destination."
The Master nearly started forward, and Jo drew out the handgun.
"That won't do you any good in here," he snarled.
"Hmm, try it and see," the Doctor suggested. He fitted the circuit into place, closed the panel, and operated the controls. As though uncertain, the piston unit of the console lifted once, hesitated, and then lifted again and stopped.
"It has failed," the Master said grimly, but apparently relieved.
"Has it?" the Doctor asked. As though in answer, the unit lifted again and came down, then slowly took on its regular pumping motion. He glanced at the Master, satisfied. "She just needs a little time to warm up after being dormant for so long." He folded his arms and leaned against the console. "You can put the gun down, Jo," he said. "Neither the Master nor I can interrupt the TARDIS operation until we arrive." She holstered the gun and stepped back, closer to the Doctor.
"He cannot protect you now," the Master told her. "He is rushing towards his own doom."
"And where is that?" the Doctor asked. "The home planet of these creatures? You forget that you yourself commented that they are held in control by environmental factors on their home planet."
"You check the coordinates. Does it look like we are heading towards their home planet?"
The Doctor glanced at the console. "Actually," he admitted. "I've only ever known of the planet where these creatures were able to trap a time lord or two. I never said that was their home planet." He glanced at Jo. "Here is a lesson for you, Jo. The common rabbit is a harmless creature in England, where the foxes and weasels keep it in check. About a hundred and fifty years ago, English tradesmen thought that rabbits would be the very thing to help create a wildlife market in Australia. And so rabbits were imported into Australia. The results were catastrophic. Out of their natural environment, they overproduced in less than two years and destroyed foliage by the acres. They actually became a threat to livestock populations."
He looked from her to the Master. "What if the same thing happened with these creatures; so well controlled on their own planet, perhaps it was reasoned that they would make good subjects for study on another planet, but they escaped and went wild."
"Sheer speculation," the Master snorted.
"Is it?" the Doctor asked. "It would explain why you were able to capture one so easily, and how it so quickly overcame your imprisonment of it once it was in a different environment. You somehow found the original home planet of these things. You'd seen them elsewhere; you knew what they could do if unleashed from their natural environment. So you captured one and brought it to earth, where you thought you could control it." He looked wistful. "How I wish I still had that interface machine of yours!" he exclaimed. "Was that designed to mimic its environment? Are there actually super high frequencies that occur naturally on its home planet that prevent it from gorging itself on psycho-kinetic energies?"
Jaw set, the Master looked down. Then he looked up again, resolute. "All right," he snapped. "The secret is nearly out. Yes it can be controlled on its home planet, but listen to me, Doctor. We can still control it on earth!" he insisted.
"I intend to destroy it."
"Don't be a fool! Consider the consequences. Look at what fear of a common foe did to that general over there--Iksaac. That creature has a role to play on Earth. We can use it and its kind to end wars, end racial hatred, force humans to band together. Why, we know humans are creatures who seek group identities!" he insisted. "All right, let's give them the one-world self identification they're always prattling on about. Let us give them a common foe--something they can all hate and fight together." He drew himself up with a certain dignity. "Is it so wrong to force them to stop fighting each other?"
"Through the creature?" the Doctor asked, genuinely puzzled.
The Master hesitated. "The creature can be used to control human aggression," he said. "And we can control the creature."
"I'd like to see that."
"Like all rational animals born and not genetically designed, it has an overwhelming urge to reproduce," the Master said. "To continue its own genetic structures. Through that drive, we can bring it to terms with us, force it to comply with certain restrictions."
Jo did not follow this at all, but the Doctor started up, angry and horrified. "You've come to bring it a mate!" he shouted. "Is that your plan?"
"I'm better informed now! I can control a mate, keep it my captive, keep its offspring in my custody--our custody. We shall hold its children hostage."
"And give it what in exchange--a certain level of human horror and human suffering to keep it fed?" the Doctor asked.
"Even so, we would create peace on Earth!" the Master shouted at him. "What energy that creature needs to survive--what its offspring would need--could still be produced for one twentieth of what humans inflict on each other now! And we would have the mechanism to keep that controlled. We could make humans think they are fighting it--even slowly winning a long pitched battle against it."
A slight jolt of the TARDIS told them that they were coming out of the Vortex.
"We're going back to Earth!" the Doctor exclaimed, reaching for the console.
"Don't be a fool!" Desperate, the Master suddenly threw himself at Jo, who had been listening in speechless horror, distracted by the Master's plan. He tackled her and tried to slip the gun out of its holster. She desperately held his arm to her side and rolled over with him onto the gun side to pin his arm. She heard the Doctor shout, felt the Master's compact and powerful arm shove her away and jerk on the small handgun to wrest it free. The tiny leather thong that held it in place in the holster snapped.
Just as suddenly she felt herself freed of his arms, felt everything change around her. She leaped up and found herself alone--alone in a wintry landscape of ice and bleak mountains. The temperature was well below freezing, and the slight breeze quickly stripped the warmth from her. She turned back and forth, but the TARDIS was no where in sight.
Go to Episode 16.
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