Blood-Dimmed Tide Episode Twenty-One

Blood-Dimmed Tide

Episode Twenty-One

Jeri Massi

"We have once chance." The Doctor had his foot pressed to the floor. They screeched to a halt in front of the pillbox, and he pulled her inside.

"But there's no shelter here!"

"Down with you--in there!" And he pushed her into a hole dug and cut into the floor just big enough for a man to slip through. He quickly lowered her down and then followed her. Then he pulled her onto hands and knees and pushed her through another small hole. It frightened her, but he was insistent and pushed.

"Roll!" he exclaimed. "Roll under it!" She got on her stomach and pushed herself forward under what she realized was a sort of barricade. She came up in another tunnel leading straight up.

"There are handholds. Climb quickly!" he exclaimed. She rattled up hand over hand, hurting her burned hand but not hesitating as she came up over a ledge into an underground room dug into the clay.

She knew what it was: a nuclear fallout shelter, leftover from the war. Twenty four inches of earth and concrete were needed to afford a measure of safety for soldiers caught in the area of a nuclear blast, and the U shaped tunnel was the best improvisation for soldiers far away from manufactured or lead lined facilities.

He came up after her. "The weight of the virus cloud is heavier than air," he said. "It should sink into the lower part of the tunnel and not come up. But don't move. Don't do anything to disturb the air in here."

The roof was too low to let her sit up, and so she lay on her side, turned away from him. She was trembling, and thirsty, and in shock. And grief stricken. Ling, she thought desperately, sending out a pulse that could not be received. He was so afraid, and I was so afraid. I'm sorry.

After a long moment his voice came from the darkness. "I knocked your canteen right off your belt back there. Do you want some water?"

"No!" she exclaimed. "No, I don't want anything from you!" There were only a few minutes left before death took them, if it did take them. But she could not rally herself to face it or him with any kind of dying dignity.

"I'm sorry about Ling," he said from the darkness.

She could not move; she knew she had to stay absolutely still, but she said, with many tears of both hurt feelings and anger, "You're always sorry about the things you can't help. Those are the only things you'll apologize for--breaking my finger in the cave because the parasite had you, and that Ling died because she meant do die for you from the beginning. You couldn't prevent any of that!"

Her tears turned to genuine hurt feelings. "But you're never sorry for what you can help. You're vain and self-obsessed, and-- and superior to everybody. You never understood Alan, and you never understood Ootuk, or Onaugh, or even Ling. You never understood me, either, or the Brigadier, or any of us." She was still very hurt and angry, but her storm of tears was giving way to exhaustion and thirst. She slumped on her own arm, panting and tired. "I don't know what we are to you--only humans, as though our feelings and beliefs mattered less."

And then she could say nothing else, only stay still, too exhausted to do anything.

* * * *

At the bunker, Alan looked over at the Brigadier, who sat by the radio operator. "Ling is dead," he declared. "The Doctor and Jo are in great danger."

"Get the Master up here!" the Brigadier ordered one of the soldiers. "Is that sentry locked up with a suicide watch?"

The soldier nodded.

"And take that one with you--Tiki," the Brigadier added. "We don't need any more of you getting hypnotized." The soldier walked out with Tiki on his shoulder.

"You must convey our deepest sympathies to them," Lethbridge Stewart said to Alan, but Alan shook his head. "They don't view it that way, sir."

They waited in silence until the Master was led in, hands manacled to a chain around his belt, and then Alan spoke again, reporting from Ra. "The mind parasite is dead."

Just then the radio crackled. "Alpha and Bravo reported in," it said. "No signal from gamma."

"We're going out there," the Brigadier ordered. He glanced at the Master. "You, too. Get some body bags!' He shouted at the soldiers.

"You don't need me!" the Master snapped.

"You arranged for their deaths, and so help me, you'll collect the bodies," the Brigadier said. "That Ootuk character had the right idea. You ought to see and know what you've done."

"Let me come," Alan said. "Ra can pinpoint the place where Ling died. It will shorten the search."

The radio crackled again. "Message from HQ in Tel Aviv. The Chinese representative has arrived and demands an interview."

"Tell them she can come out at her own risk," the Brigadier told the radio operator. "Report that the Sphinx is dead. We'll need medical decontamination out there and collection of the remains. Come on, Alan. And you too." And he firmly pushed the Master out ahead of himself.

* * * *

The fallout shelter had very little air in it, and when Jo woke up, she nearly panicked in the total blackness. She made a sound of fear as she tried to remember where she was.

"Jo," the Doctor's voice said, and then she remembered, but her heart was pounding because it was so hot and still. The roof was very close.

"Come this way," he told her. "Toward my voice. It's safe to leave, now."

He helped her to the ledge and she felt the canteen press into her hand. "Drink something before we go out there," he said gently. "It's a long drive back in the jeep."

"I can't get the cap off." Her burned hand would not allow her to either grasp the canteen or untwist the cap.

"I'll get it." He unscrewed it for her, and she took a drink from it. It was perfectly full, so she knew he had not drunk from it. "Did you hurt your hand?" he asked.

"Yes, I burned it."

"There's a first aid kit in the jeep. I'll look at it as soon as I can." But he hesitated before they swung over the ledge to the rough ladder.

"Will you forgive me for the things I could help?" he asked her. "For what I said in the garage, and for making you and Ling stay separated when you missed the People, and--and the other things, Jo?" Typical of him, he did not even remember most of what he might have said or done to offend her.

"Yes," she said in a small voice. "Some of what I said, Doctor--I didn't really mean."

"Well, it was all true. Anybody can be a self-satisfied ass, and I've had centuries of practice." And then he put his arm across her shoulders and suddenly pulled her in, in to his bear-like, quick embrace. "Thank you for going with me all the way to the end, Jo. It does matter to me." And then he let her go and dropped over the ledge without using the ladder.

"I'll help you down," he called up to her. "Mind your hand."

* * * *

Manacled in the passenger seat of the jeep, the Master remained silent on the ride out to the gamma assault site. The Israeli soldier, armed with a rifle and seated next to Alan in the back, also had little to say. Killing the creature was a great victory, but the death of any of them took the joy from it.

"It's that way," Alan told the Brigadier. "A beeline from here."

Dreading what they might find, they came around a hill of sand to see the abandoned rocket launcher, a discarded canteen, and the body of Ling stretched out on the ground. Alan leaped out before the jeep had fairly stopped. He picked up the body and cradled it in his arms. Ra reached down a footpad and touched Ling's withered footpad.

"What does Ra say?" the Brigadier asked.

"That Ling died with composure," Alan told him. "`Unmoved from truth' is how they express it--" The Master snorted.

"She says that Ling was surrounded by horrors but did not partake of them, and she has gone to the Truth she has loved. We must not mourn her unduly, for we shall certainly join her." He shot a glance at the Master. "Some of us."

"Are you translating or annotating?" the Master asked.

"Translating," Alan assured him. Carrying Ling, he climbed back into the jeep.

"What is their practice in death?" the Brigadier asked Alan. "How shall we care for Ling's body?"

Alan pulsed the question and then said, "Death is not common on their world, but when one of the old ones ends his days before Ootuk, they usually transport the body down into the caves."

Lethbridge Stewart nodded and then glanced around. The hot day was waning. Night would make a search almost impossible. "They made a run for something," he said. "Let's follow the tracks of their jeep."

"So," the Master said as they sped over the sands. "You believe what these little weasels believe? That some great cosmic figure is going to sweep up your blessed little souls into His great big house?"

"Not quite the way I would put it, or they," Alan said. "But aye. I believe that God prepares a place for the righteous and a place for the wicked."

"And no doubt you believe that Jesus died on a cross and rose again--being the good Christian that you are."

"I do believe it, and I believe that He will raise me up in my flesh, and I will one day see Him, face to face like a man sees the face of his friend."

"But I have traveled in time, Alan. I know the truth. Do you know what the truth is?" The Master smiled with some satisfaction. "Or are you afraid of the truth?"

"Well, a lot of people reckon they know the truth," Alan said. "But go ahead."

"He never rose from the dead. There is no resurrection. I went back in time. I looked."

"Did you now? Why, that's a lot of trouble to take for a religion you never believed in anyway," Alan said lightly. "Have you ever figured out why so many of His followers were so willing to die for the testimony that He did rise again? and that they saw him after He rose again?"

"Religious fanaticism!" the Master snapped.

Alan shrugged. "Somebody in this jeep is a fanatic, that's for sure."

"There's the pillbox," the Brigadier said. "And look, there's the jeep!"

Ra suddenly pulsed a happy and excited pulse to Alan, but before he could speak, the Master snapped, "The day I see anybody come walking up out of a tomb is the day I own myself a fool and a liar!" The Brigadier pulled to a halt before the open doorway of the battered pillbox, just as the Doctor emerged up from the hole inside. He leaned down and pulled Jo up after him.

"Doctor! You're alive!" the Brigadier exclaimed. Alan laughed.

The Doctor looked up, smiled, and then led Jo out. His recent rebuke had quieted him, and so he did not make a sarcastic reply to the Brigadier's rather obvious statement.

"Alive and well, Brigadier," he said. "Just a bit bashed about." He glanced at the Master. "What's he doing here?"

"I fear I have missed the pleasure of collecting your dead bodies," the Master said.

"You'll follow us back?" the Brigadier asked.

"I want to see to Jo's hand, first. But we'll be right along."

Jo glanced at the Brigadier, a look of relief to be alive, but of unhappiness as well. The mission was now accomplished, but there was still a price to be paid. He met her glance and looked down. She saw Ling cradled on Alan's broad forearm and came up to him.

"It's all right, Bright Angel," Alan said quietly. Because he was in the jeep he moved closer, over the wheel, so that she could see Ling. "I let Ling, die, Alan," Jo whispered, looking up at him. "Because I was afraid the Doctor would die."

"Letting Ling do what she was determined to do was not a bad thing," he told her. Ra quietly reached down and joined to Jo's ear and for a moment Jo leaned against Alan and Ra--a silent communion that the Doctor never questioned her about.

"Where is Chin Lee?" the Doctor asked Lethbridge Stewart.

"On her way, I think," the Brigadier said.

"Well do me a favor, will you?" the Doctor asked. "Don't do anything until I get there?"

"Doctor, this is UN--"


"Oh all right. Just don't hang about."

Lethbridge Stewart pulled the jeep around and drove for the bunker.

* * * *

The Doctor wanted to hurry back to the bunker, but he had time to make a quick dressing for Jo's hand, which was only lightly burned along the heel of the palm and the outer edge. Just enough to be painful and awkward.

"I don't think that you can prevent disciplinary action, Doctor," Jo said as they sat in the front seats and he quickly applied first aid. He looked up at her and grinned as he wound a gauze strip around the dressing.

"Never under estimate the power of my persuasion, Jo," he told her. "I have been known to actually talk the hind leg off a donkey. I really did, you know. That's how the saying got about. I shall wear the entire UN down if I have to." He packed up the first aid kit and put it into the back. Then he glanced at her. "Nobody's taking my assistant away from me," he said.

"We kidnapped an international criminal," she reminded him. "The entire world's most wanted criminal."

"But you only kidnapped him from one person, Jo," he told her. "And that person owes me a very big favor. And you kidnapped him to further the mission in Israel. And right now, Israel owes you a very big favor." He stroked back her hair. "Don't worry." And then he passed her his canteen. "Take a good long drink." And then he passed her his handkerchief as well. "And then you might want to rinse off your face. It's gone all streaky from that clay down there."

* * * *

They drove back to the bunker. Within an hour, Chin Lee arrived with General Iksaac, and they, the Brigadier, and the Doctor went into conference for a long, long time.

* * * *

The burial of Ling was not protracted. At the bunker, Ra and Tiki would have taken care of matters very quickly, but Alan stopped them so that the soldiers who wanted to could assemble. And the soldiers would not be pleased except that she be buried with some honor. Ra and Tiki both tried to explain that any trinket laid to rest with her would not benefit her. Alan interceded with explanations about human views of death and human mourning. At last they allowed for Ling to be curled up in one of the UNIT berets. One of the soldiers hung a gold star of David around her neck. Then Ra and Tiki, with Alan, connected together and stood before Ling's body. There was a moment of concentration, and then the body and its burial possessions disappeared.

"Where did you send her?" Jo asked Alan.

"To the shelter under the pillbox," Alan told her. "She'll likely be undisturbed there."

After the abbreviated funeral there was nothing to do but wait. The lights were back on, and the air flow was much improved. After a shower, and a change of the dressing on her hand, and a meal that one of the soldiers prepared from provisions brought along with General Iksaac, Jo and Benton and Yates simply sat and waited.

When General Iksaac came out, he called for the Master to be brought out. Chin Lee did not stop to speak to them, but Iksaac came to the room where the soldiers had mess. All three of them leaped up. He shook hands with each of them, and bowed to Jo as he took her good hand.

"My men speak very highly of your courage and dedication," he said to them. "Thank you for your service! I trust that these matters will quickly be laid to rest." He saluted them, and then left.

"I say, that didn't go too badly," Benton exclaimed after he'd gone. But just then the Brigadier called for them.

In his temporary office, he delivered them a rather stinging lecture on the wrongness of their conspiracy. "The thing is," he concluded. "When all is said and done about provocation and just cause, it speaks ill of your confidence in me." He stopped in front of Mike Yates and met him eye to eye.

"Did you think so little of me, Captain, that you had to go behind my back?"

He stepped in front of Benton. "And you, Sergeant? Am I a fool to you? A fool in your eyes?"

And then he stepped in front of Jo. "And you, Miss Grant? Did you think me unable to cope with the Red Chinese?"

He put his back to them and spoke over his shoulder. "That's all I can say to you. Chin Lee has agreed to the Doctor's request to not make a formal protest, and we have delivered the Master back into her charge. And General Iksaac is committed to protecting you." He looked away from them. "But you have wounded me deeply, for there were no three persons under my command in whom I placed greater confidence as a team, both personally and professionally. You have humiliated me and betrayed my confidence in you. That's all. You are dismissed."

"Please Brigadier--" Jo began.

"Dismissed, I said!" he barked. Yates nodded at them and put his hand on the door.

"One other thing," the Brigadier said. They turned hopefully to him, but he did not look at them. "Your records will show a reprimand for this, and I will just as fully record your uncommon valor against the mind parasite. Now you may go."

* * * *

"There's not one of us who hasn't lost something dear in this whole thing," Jo said as they got out into the hall. Mike Yates did not answer. He simply walked away. After a moment, Benton followed him. She would have gone off in search of either the Doctor or Alan, but just then the door opened and the Brigadier came out.

"Please Brigadier, won't you forgive me?" she asked him instantly.

"Miss Grant--"

"Please! I know it seemed like lack of confidence, but it was just that you were so far away."

"What's that got to do with it?" he asked her.

"Please sir, call it lack of judgment, or lack of nerve," she asked. "But not lack of confidence in you." He hesitated, and she realized that they truly had offended and hurt him. She pressed her advantage. "Every time in this whole awful conflict when I thought I was all in, you showed me I could do more than I thought I could. And I did. I'd rather be dismissed sir, than to think you don't know that I am ready to follow your orders."

"Well." Now decidedly embarrassed, he cast his eyes around, trying to think of something to say.

"Uncommon valor comes from uncommon leadership," she told him. "You know that. If you count the kidnapping as lack of faith from us, then you have to count all the rest as our votes of confidence: going to the pillbox to get the Doctor on your say-so, and staying down here in the bunker with the air running out--all the rest. Even back in Hoffshire--" And her voice caught, but she added, "When the Doctor was taken, I was completely lost. Defeated. You made me keep fighting. And when I first got into Tel Aviv, you told me exactly how it was going to be, and you were right. We were all pared down to the core of what we truly were. And I don't like everything I saw, but I did see that I respect you, sir."

"All right, then, Miss Grant," he said quietly. "We'll say no more about it." He held out his hand, and they shook hands, and then he hurried away. But the hard, warm grasp told her that she had relieved the humiliation that she had caused him.

* * * *

General Iksaac and the Nation of Israel could have found a hundred festivities to welcome the soldiers back from the bunker. But the Brigadier's team was ready to return home. The General saw to it that they had a private jet, stocked with every amenity to make their trip pleasant.

But once aboard the small, luxurious jet, the UNIT people did the most natural thing. They fell asleep.

The Doctor had been tempted to try the TARDIS in a direct jump across space to UNIT HQ, but his conscience was still tender after the scolding he'd gotten from Jo, so he joined her on the plane. She fell asleep less than a half hour after take-off, outlasting the Brigadier, Yates, and Benton by about twenty minutes.

Jo-like, she had fallen against him in her doze and then unconsciously curled up for a really good sleep, so that he could not move his right arm without waking her.

Across the aisle and a row up, with a row of chairs to himself, the Brigadier woke up, glanced around, and fell back to sleep, composed with his arms folded across his chest and his hat on his knees.

Behind him, sharing the row with the two People, Alan slept the most peacefully, lulled by the pulsing in one ear from Tiki, and the pulsing at his heart from Ra. They had chosen to stay with him. General Iksaac had named them Heroes of the Nation of Israel, and Alan was appointed to be their legal guardian. He still had to go back to Hoffshire and face the ruination there, count the few survivors, and decide whether to rebuild his life there or forsake it for a new start.

In front of the Doctor and Jo, Yates and Benton sprawled in their chairs, their long legs thrust out. Yates' arm hung over into the aisle. Every now and then, Benton snored. Good feelings had been built up again between them and the Brigadier, and he was more inclined to view their actions as a lack of confidence in the UN than in himself.

The warm weight on his arm stirred, and Jo looked up at him sleepily. "Say," she said.

He smiled down at her. "Say what?" he asked.

"I know Chin Lee's not going to make a protest, but what about the Master himself?"

"Oh, don't bother about him. He'll keep his mouth shut about the kidnapping."

She was already falling asleep again. Her head dropped down, the top of it coming to rest against his shoulder, but then she woke herself up and without lifting her head asked, "Why?"

"Because General Iksaac threatened him with the death penalty if he made a sound about anything," the Doctor told her. He was silent for a long time, and then in a sudden moment of tenderness he rested his cheek down on the top of her head. "You know, I really am very proud of you, Jo," he said. But she did not answer him. She was asleep again. "Oh well," he whispered. "I never remember to say it, and then when I do, she's asleep." He shifted carefully so that he could lean back and doze without disturbing her. "It's what I get for being a sort of hot water bottle for humans, I suppose." He closed his eyes and did not see her eyes open as she smiled to herself.
The End of Blood-Dimmed Tide
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