The Doctor's stride would have brought him into the line of fire of the disruptor. But he hesitated at every other step and looked around the large entrance hall. On the floor above, partially hidden by the wide banister, the Master waited without breath, ready to fire as soon as the Doctor stepped into alignment with the sites of the disruptor. But it was the sound of the wheelchair's wheels brushing the library door that turned his head for a moment. In that instant, the Doctor passed through the line of fire and into the shelter of the steps themselves as he wandered down the first floor corridor.
Opportunities came and went, and the nerve of the Master was too solid to be shaken by his missed opportunity. Now there seemed only once chance to avert disaster, and he swung the disruptor onto Diana. He put his finger to his lips to warn her to be quiet. She gave a brief nod and looked at him steadily while they waited in silence.
"Well nobody's here, that's obvious," the Doctor said at last to Jo. "I suppose we'd better not go further until I have a clearer idea of what we're looking for."
"Just what are we looking for?" she asked.
He nodded to the front door, and they left.
"Well, Dr. Wilmer for one thing," he said as they crossed the flagstone walk to the waiting car. "I'd like to talk with him about that project he's been working on."
"Anything else?" she asked.
"Did you notice the lift on the staircase?" he asked her suddenly. "Somebody's confined to a wheel chair."
"Dr. Wilmer?" she asked.
"Not nearly. He's quite the sportsman." He swung a leg up into Bessie and climbed in, offering a hand to Jo as she climbed in on the other side. "Maybe the daughter," he said. His voice became thoughtful. "Wonder where she was today. Not like a house to be both open and empty."
Jo swept her eyes across the vista of green landscaping, sculpted trees, and trimmed hedges. "I don't know. It's not the sort of locale that needs locking up."
"Not a typical family," he observed. "If there is such a thing any more among humans. I think I'll see what Intelligence can tell us."
Jo was startled. "Do you think Dr. Wilmer is involved in something shady? Or dangerous?"
He started the engine and swung them around the drive. "I don't know. I shouldn't think so. I'm more afraid that something shady may be hanging over Dr. Wilmer."
She had to shout over the wind as they skimmed over the road in Bessie. "Because of the laser technology?" she asked.
"You know, Jo, humans in this era tend to be rather blind to some things," he told her. "Like laser energy. All those stories of laser guns and such."
"You mean you think laser warfare is impossible?"
"Oh no," he told her. "Laser warfare is feasible and a much cleaner alternative to the big nuclear war heads your people are so keen on stockpiling." He casually guided the car around a hairpin turn at fifty miles per hour, spraying gravel on the right and startling a bicyclist on the other side of the road. "In fact, you could build an impressive laser armament in space. In a time of war, all you'd have to do is knock out the enemy's power stations. For that matter, you could get so precise that you could burn out the firing mechanisms in their big guns. End the war with very little killing," he told her. "Anyway, at least you would be able to pick who to kill and who to spare." He grimaced.
"So laser warfare does work," she said, bringing him back to the topic.
"Yes, that's the problem," he told her. "Because lasers can do far more than just shoot at armies. They can do more than cut and slice in surgery, too," he added, anticipating her next comment.
"Like what?" she asked.
"They can transmit," he told her. "In space, they can be used far more effectively than radio for communications."
"That doesn't seem very dangerous," she ventured.
"What's dangerous," he said. "Is who would want such laser technology, and what would they be willing to do to get it."
* * * *
"Does this mean you're not going to teach me any more?" she asked him.
He silently slipped the disruptor back into his pocket. "It was a dangerous enemy," he told her. "I had to ensure your silence."
She inclined her head slightly.
"I'm sorry if I frightened you," he said.
"But you'll teach me the rest," she asked.
"Certainly," he said. Then he added, "What did those two want?"
"Who?" she asked him. "They must have been colleagues of my father's. I don't know them."
She wheeled back as he came back into the room. He made his voice casual and curious and friendly. "You are not familiar with your father's work?"
She let out a brief laugh of bitterness. "It's almost as complicated as your lessons," she admitted. "And he's not a teacher like you. He never talks to me. And when the people that he likes want to see him privately, he either makes sure that I'm away or he takes them someplace else." She looked up at the Master. "I embarrass him."
"Because of your legs?" he asked.
"Because of that," she agreed. "Because I'm a girl; because I didn't come into this world knowing everything he knows. He's not a patient man. I think he undertook all the different things that he undertook just out of boredom. Egyptian studies, astronomy, crystallography, the American Project."
"So you are like him in some ways," the Master told her, and for the first time he smiled a genuine smile. The one thing in her that he did identify with was that restless, rebellious brilliance of mind. Of course she was only a human, but it was clear that she was far above her peers.
She was startled by the comparison of herself to her father. "I suppose so," she said after a moment. "I do get bored easily."
"It was unfair of him not to feed your mind," he added. "In some ways, he has cruelly starved you."
"I--I would rather not talk about him."
He leaned over her and met her eye. "I want you to tell me. Tell me about him."
* * * *
"Here's that file you wanted, Doctor," Sergeant Benton said. He dropped the file onto the table in the workshop and realized that the room was empty. "Hallo?" he called.
Jo's head popped out from the open TARDIS doorway. "In here," she said. But Benton ventured no closer. As a rule these days, he stayed out of the TARDIS, even if it was supposed to be in dry dock.
"I've brought down the file on Dr. Wilmer from the courier," he said. "Will you let the Doctor know?"
"All right. Is that it?"
He handed it to her. "Thanks Miss Grant. The Brig wanted you to have a radio set nearby. In case the teams in the field locate the signal." He set the heavy radio bag on the workbench.
"Thanks. Looks like a long day," she said.
"I'll try to bring you a cuppa down later," he promised.
"See you, Sergeant Benton." Jo ducked back inside the vast interior of the TARDIS. The Doctor had pulled up some of the panels and connected one of his many gadgets into the wiring. In the center of the console, the piston unit that housed the drive mechanism slowly pumped up and down. Jo had only seen it operate in high gear, generating the power that would draw the TARDIS into the vortex. But now, it moved very lazily, and not quite in perfect rhythm. The Doctor was squinting down into the newly connected apparatus. It looked for all the world like a bulky sort of microscope.
"What do you see?" she asked.
Just then something in the console exploded with a loud pop, and blue smoke puffed up in a thick and whispy cloud. The piston unit stopped. He glanced up, exasperated. "Well, a glimpse is better than nothing," he said.
"Glimpse of what?" she asked. "What is that microscope thing?" The smoke made her cough, but it seemed that whatever had burned out was no longer burning.
"Telescope, my dear, not microscope," he told her. He took the file from her and waved it at the smoke to fan it away, then glanced at the open circuitry to see what was burned out. "I thought that I might be able to use the TARDIS to open a sort of window into time and space."
"You can do that?"
"Not very well, apparently. Come on, let's give this a rest."
Out in the Doctor's workshop and lab, they drew some stools up to the workbench. He opened the file and glanced through it. "Research grants," he muttered. "Doctored in Chemical Engineering. Not bad. Wish you people would get that periodic chart straightened out, though. Here it is--consultant to the American Project. Got himself a high security clearance here immediately after he hired himself out to them. How convenient."
"Why is that convenient?" Jo asked.
"It means that he's obligated to go through debriefings here," he told her.
She cocked her head.
"An old trick, Jo. Your government lets him go work for the Americans only under the condition that he be identified as a part of British security. So when he comes back from America they get to interrogate him to assure themselves that he has not participated in anything that would endanger your country. What it really means is that British Intelligence gets to pump him for everything he did and learned while in America working on the American defense project."
Her jaw dropped. "What would the Americans do if they found out?" she asked.
"Oh, I'm sure they know," he assured her. "This way they get what they want and don't have to let on that they have informed their allies of their plans. It's a diplomatically safe way to communicate certain bits of information to friendly countries. And for your government, it's a perfectly free way to keep an agent gathering scientific research and data that would otherwise be beyond your government's resources."
He flipped through a few more sheets. "Hmm, look at this."
She looked over his shoulder and saw a Xeroxed photograph that had been included in the Intelligence file on Wilmer. "That must be the daughter. She's in the wheelchair," he observed.
"Poor girl. Pretty face," Jo said.
"How can you tell?" He flipped through a few more sheets and uncovered a better quality photograph of Dr. Wilmer.
"Not a bad looking chap," the Doctor observed. "Drinks too much, or so it looks."
Indeed, the face--though fortyish and rather lean looking--was marred by deep pouches under the eyes and a bulbous roundness to the nose.
"Look," Jo said. "Did you see anything through that thing in the TARDIS?"
"Hmm? Oh! Not much," he said. "I thought surely if something had come down into the atmosphere--some outside militia or exploration team or whatever--there would be some indication: ionized particles, spent fuel traces, bits of debris from entry into the atmosphere. But there's nothing that I saw, and then the board blew."
"Hmm, pity that thing isn't better constructed," she said.
He glared at her.
"As I was saying," he continued. "Got a quick look at this side of the solar system. Just a glance, really. Nothing seemed out of place. Just some light activity on Venus."
"Oh yes, lights. What it really comes down to is I just blew out half an operating console for a glimpse that told me nothing."
* * * *
"This is just the wine cellar," Diana told him as she led him down the ramp that gave her access to the darkest rooms of the great house. "If you want information from my father, the only thing you'll find here is how much he knows about wines."
"No, my dear," the Master said. "I want you to see something down here. This was my point of entry into your house."
"So you didn't come from that lamp?" she asked with a smile up at him.
The comment annoyed him, but he smiled back at her. "Just a little stage magic to make an impression," he told her.
"It was impressive," she said earnestly. "I knew you must be a great man. And it was fun, too."
"I'm glad you appreciated it," he told her. "Wait right here."
He strode off to one of the racks, reached in, and plucked out a device that she could not see very well.
"What is it?" she asked.
"I want you to meet somebody," he told her. "Just a moment."
She felt a hum begin in the room. Only then did she realize that there were small bundles of wire and metal affixed to the floor and to the racks at regular points in the room. As the humming increased, she looked around and realized that the bundles were arranged to form a circle, and that she had wheeled herself into the middle of the circle, while he was outside its perimeter.
A sudden glow above her illuminated the roof, revealing dust strands and long cobwebs in stark and shadowless relief.
Back at UNIT, at the Doctor's workshop, the radio suddenly spurted static and then the nasal sound of a human voice. "It's back!" More static. "Greyhound Two to Track One. It's back. Strong field. Oh blazes--"
The radio went dead.
"What's happened?" Jo exclaimed, more to the radio than to the Doctor.
"The electro-magnetic field is incapacitating the radio," he told her. "Shouldn't last long."
As though in confirmation, the static returned. "--distorting the signal. Trying to fix on it. Over."
In the cellar, Diana remained absolutely still, riveted in place by the sight above her. "What is it?" she asked.
"Representatives of the government I work for," the Master told her.
The answer didn't make sense. The light grew brighter and began to descend toward her. The humming increased in intensity, hurting her ears. She tried to wheel herself out, but the chair remained fast, as though the wheels had been clamped down.
One tendril of light extended from the brilliant array toward her. She felt the heat and energy behind it, but nothing of a personality; somehow a life without sensibility. She threw herself forward to avoid it, to get out of the chair and scramble away with her arms, but the incredible energy forced her back. She couldn't escape.