"Funny how when you leave things lying around, they show up at the worst times," the Doctor observed.
"Does it know we're here?" Jo whispered.
"Yes, my dear. It can sense the electric fields that our bodies produce," he said. "Whispering won't change its awareness of us." But he was also whispering.
"How can light kill us?" she asked.
"It's a creature, Jo. It operates on our bodies to provide itself what it needs."
"And it hurts of course," she added. In spite of her attempt at humor, she shrank back against the wall.
The Array paused, as though surveying the room somehow. It slowly traveled along the far wall.
"Slide as close to the corner as you can," the Doctor told her. "Let me cover you." They slid over to her corner, and he used his weight to push her into the back corner of the open closet.
"What about you?" she asked.
"It may not recognize my metabolism," he said. "It's after humans--it needs to study them to learn their weaknesses."
"Doesn't read books, eh?" she asked with a faint attempt at a laugh.
"Not many. It's surveying the room again," he said, peering around the wall of the closet to get a look at it.
"Oh get on with it," she whimpered.
"It must realize somehow that we can't get away," he said. "It's in no hurry. Just hang on. It's coming now." He could feel her trembling behind him, and he practically sat in her lap in his effort to cover her with himself. His only real hope was that the creature would not recognize his body's ability to drop to a near-death like coma, and would leave him for dead once his energy signs became too faint to read.
It slowly advanced along the near wall, coming towards the closet.
"Can you breathe back there?" the Doctor asked.
He felt her nod into the back of his shirt.
Theoretically, it should have been better to have been completely relaxed, to present as low an energy field as possible to the array, but he found himself tensing as it passed into the open closet and descended on him. He had expected to feel fear, but the sense of ghastly inappropriateness that descended on him with the small cloud of light was inexplicable. It was certainly not the most hideous creature he had ever beheld, nor even was it bringing him the most hideous death he had ever considered, but it was the most alien of creatures--a sentient being that did not rejoice to have found prey nor regret taking life. He felt its intensity and even its intelligence, but there was no other common ground. It was completely an alien.
For a moment, the blood rushed to his face; there was a roaring in his ears, and he thought he heard Jo give a small sob of fear and some other emotion. To a lesser extent she was also reacting to the strangeness of it.
Then suddenly it retreated, receding from him like a wave down a beach, back into the sea. He gasped and realized he had closed his eyes, though closing them had not walled out its brightness. An onlooker would have thought that he and the creature were both eyeing each other in stunned silence, but he knew that the creature was not regarding him at all. It had, in fact, discarded him. Whatever remnants of communion were still between them plainly showed him that it had entirely lost interest in them.
He let out a shaky breath and felt the blood recede from his face.
"Jo," he whispered.
She was still alive as well. "Where is it?" she asked.
It moved along the other wall, away from them. He managed to slide away from the corner, freeing Jo, who peeped out at it cautiously.
"Why didn't it kill us?" she whispered.
"I think it's in a deficit stage," he told her. "Takes too much energy to kill us, and we don't return enough to it."
He looked down at her. "You all right?"
"Now that I know I'm not on its menu," she said.
"How did Diana--" he began, but just then the door opened, and the Master appeared with a long tube-like instrument in his hand. He pressed a button, and the array suddenly seemed to melt into a red line of light.
"A laser gun," the Doctor said.
"Yes Doctor," his adversary told him. "It will keep the colony alive. Doesn't take much. It will live in a shutdown mode inside the laser beam." He closed a shutter over the front lens of the laser and set the laser down on a table top, well out of the Doctor's reach. Though the Doctor had referred to it as a laser gun, it actually had no trigger and no handgrip. It looked like nothing but a metal tube with a few switches and a hole on one end, now covered with something very like a camera lens shutter.
"Nothing but a He-Ne ray laser," the Doctor said.
"Yes," the Master told him as Diana cautiously entered. "A helium/neon medium is sufficient to keep it alive while shut down, as long as the beam remains fixed and constant. It could hibernate in there indefinitely. But its strength must be very low. I see it did not find you worth its while."
"So sorry to disappoint you," the Doctor told him.
"Oh, I am elated," the Master told him congenially. "It's not quite the death I had picked out for you. And I still am in need of a hostage, so it's all worked out."
"Well now what?" the Doctor asked him.
"Now I set up some radio equipment on the roof," the Master told him. "I have an excellent vantage point up there to make contact with a certain satellite that I am interested in. Diana will stay with you two. She has exactly two bullets left in the gun I gave her, so I would behave if I were you."
Without a word to them, Diana flopped into a chair, the gun in her hand, the carving knife at her belt. She watched them without expression.
* * * *
The long day passed by. Jo gradually dozed off, exhausted after two days without sleep. The Doctor did his best to make her comfortable, slinging his hands down the bar on her other side to allow her to sleep against him, so that her handcuffs did not have to bear her full weight. His own wrists were in pretty good shape, but she had been jerked from the van by her handcuffed wrist, which was now swollen and probably sprained. And for Jo, the bench was too low and the bar too high for her. Her arms were lifted nearly to full extension, whereas his had plenty of give, and he had enough reach to grip the bar with his hands and take some of the pressure off of the metal bracelets.
Sleep was her only release, and--exhausted--she gladly nestled into his shoulder and upper arm while he patiently gripped the bar, her weight supported from beneath so that she did not have to bear it on her bleeding wrists. Diana also seemed to be nearly dozing.
"So he gave you your legs back," the Doctor said at last.
"Shut up," she told him, rousing.
"No doubt with some stolen technology," he added pleasantly. "Probably from some poor chap who was killed for it."
She leveled the gun at him, and said. "I can't kill you because my Master wants you for himself, but I can kill her," and she swung the gun to point to Jo, who was asleep. "Now shut up."
He subsided. Drunk with power, he thought. Able to walk, shocked by the strength of a fully functioning spine. Probably done with a cybernetic implant, and from the looks of it, a very sophisticated one. She had complete freedom of motion, and it looked like her nervous functions below the waist had been completely restored.
The Master came down the stairs, busy with his preparations, but interested enough to comment on the words he had overheard.
"You're in a poor position to bully the child, Doctor," he reminded him. He gathered a few more things and went back up the steps.
"You could be free now, Doctor," she reminded him. "If you had only listened to me when I begged you to help me. I guess now you wish you had taken me."
"No, Diana," he said soberly. "No, I never could have given you what you crave. I think I would always have treated you like a child."
"Why?" she asked.
"Because you are a child," he told her. "And there's nothing wrong with that."
She let out a laugh. "Oh shut up, then. You'll see how much of a child I am."
He did become quiet. The sunlight in the room was strengthening with the brightness of summer afternoon. The Master, of course, had searched the Doctor's clothes and had destroyed the transmitter. The Doctor wondered if the Master had found the second tracer that he'd hidden in the chassis of the jeep. If not, there was a chance that help would come. But transmitters were not the best tracing devices--anyway, not at this stage of their development. More painstaking triangulation would be required to home in on the signal, and then there would have to be surveillance, and a plan made, and men brought in covertly. Perhaps they would attempt nothing until after dark. It was only now a couple hours after noon. He had started the day early.
A couple more hours passed. The rays of sunlight lengthened. Even the Doctor dozed, the weight of Jo hanging heavy on his upper arm, dragging the bracelet into his left wrist. He woke up to see Diana eating bread and looking with interest at a sketch that the Master had given her. The Master was busy nearby, his jeweler's glass in his eye. They seemed completely absorbed in their work. On his arm, Jo opened her eyes. For a moment, she automatically smiled at sight of him, forgetful of their circumstances, but when he smiled down at her, she remembered.
"Sleep well Jo?" he murmured kindly, reassuringly.
She put up a brave front for him, as he knew she would. "Not too bad," she said, then added, "Horribly bony pillow, though." And she poked him with her head.
"Why, I resent that remark," he said with a low chuckle. "There's plenty of muscle over that bone."
"I meant the bone on your arm, Mister, not that big one between your ears." She giggled at him, and for a moment her eyes were their usual selves, bright and friendly.
"You rascal," he said. "You wait until my hands are tied to hurl insults at my boyish physique."
This conversation was carried on in a low murmur, but he saw Diana watching them, and he stopped. She abruptly turned back to the drawing of the radio circuit. The Master glanced up at her, puzzled at her annoyance with them. Then something outside the window arrested his attention. He stood up, motioning Diana to back away from the one unboarded window. He peered out from alongside it.
"There's someone out there," he said in a low voice.
"UNIT?" Jo asked the Doctor in a whisper.
"I certainly hope so," he whispered back.
"It's soldiers," the Master said. "Settling in down in the woods below the house."
"The hostages--" Diana began.
"Come here," he commanded, and she followed him to the open closet where the prisoners sat.
"They think I have three hostages," he said to Diana, but for the benefit of the Doctor and Jo as well. "The Doctor is priceless to them; and Diana you are valuable because they believe you are the invalid daughter of a great scientist. But this one is expendable."
He jerked Jo's handcuffs towards himself, and she came off the bench and fell forward. She would have landed on her knees, but the handcuffs caught her before her knees met the ground. She yelped in pain. The Doctor rushed forward instinctively, and met the full force of a kick from the Master in his midsection, knocking him back into the wall.
"Prove yourself now," the Master said, pulling Diana's arm and gun hand up and pressing the gun into Jo's forehead. "Pull the trigger. I'll throw her body to them to show them I'm not joking. Prove to me that you'll do whatever I command you to do."
"I will," Diana insisted, but for a moment her own bravado was gone as she stared, wide-eyed, down her arms at her finger wrapped around the trigger.
"Diana, you'll never undo this!' the Doctor gasped.
"Do as I command you, Diana," the Master told her. "You have never failed me yet."
"I'll do it," Diana insisted, but sweat had appeared on her forehead and underarms.
Jo, in pain from hanging by the bracelets, looked up at Diana without a word.
"She saved your life!" the Doctor exclaimed.
"Do it!" the Master said in a dreadful voice.
"I want to--it won't go," she said, nearly crying. "It won't go."
"It's just a panic reaction," the Master told her. "Calm down and force your finger to pull the trigger."
Suddenly the Doctor spoke calmly. "She can't do it," he said. "Her body won't obey her will." He looked steadily at Diana. "Some part of you knows that it's wrong, Diana, that it's wicked."
The Master snatched the gun from her hands, and Jo closed her eyes, but Diana said suddenly, "I have an idea."
The Master glanced at her.
"I can do more damage behind enemy lines," she said. "They think I'm a hostage. Send me out first in the wheelchair at the right time. They can't shoot or rush the house while I'm between you and them. While I wheel down to them, you should have plenty of time to direct the radio signal and then fire the laser with the synthetic crystal."
She looked at the Master, anxious of his displeasure. But he seemed to have forgotten it. He seemed impressed by the quick plan.
"All right," he said. "The radio equipment is ready, and I have the argon laser upstairs. You must buy me about seven minutes."
"I'm ready whenever you say," she told him. "Will you keep the gun?"
"No, you might find better use for it," he told her. "Once I have completed the light bridge, I will use the argon laser as my weapon and keep at least one of the hostages as a human shield. Contrive as best you can to get back up to the van," he told her.
She nodded. While she hurried to get the wheelchair, the Master firmly pushed Jo back onto the bench. "You have bought a few more minutes for yourself, once again, Miss Grant," he said, and hurried to help Diana.
"Jo," the Doctor whispered to her.
"It's all right--just hurt my wrists," she gasped. "I'm all right, I'm all right."
Diana started out the door, and the Master hurried to the upstairs, anxious to make the best use of her diversion as possible.
"What's he going to do?" she asked in a whisper.
"Direct a hexadecimal code toward the American's experimental satellite," the Doctor told her. "He'll direct it to refocus it's mirrors towards Venus, and then shoot the laser towards it."
"The He-Ne laser you mentioned?" Jo asked.
"No, Jo, a much more powerful laser than that toy--an argon laser with a much more refined refraction system."
"He's going to succeed," Jo said.
"No if the Brigadier was successful in jamming the satellite's receivers," the Doctor told her. The heard the crunch of the wheelchair's wheels as it made its way past the boarded windows of the house.
"Come on," he said. "We're getting out, too."
"How?" she asked.
For answer, he gripped the bar with his hands and pulled his feet up, bracing them against the opposite wall of the closet. He set his back against the near wall. Then he strained with his feet and his shoulders, trying to use his body's strength as a pry.
It worked. With a groan and then a great clap, the closet frame cracked apart. He jerked down, wincing at Jo's sharp breath of pain from one last wrench on her handcuffs, and brought the bar down from the closet's framework. They slid it through their handcuffs and let it clatter to the floor.
"Thank you," Jo said breathlessly.
"Not at all my dear," he told her. "Are you all right now?" He helped her to her feet.
"I soon will be."
They were interrupted by the sudden explosion into flame of the ruined edge of the closet.
"Get away!" the Doctor yelled, pushing her through the alcove by the closet and into the entryway of the house.
"What is it?" she exclaimed.
"The argon laser. He's shooting at us. Run!" She obediently started out the door and looked back at him. "What about you?"
"I'm getting that Array," he said.
"But you're still in handcuffs!" she exclaimed, holding up her own bound hands to remind him that they were not free.
He shot her a stern glance. "Do as I say; get down the hill on the back side and come around on the road to where the soldiers are. Stay out of the line of fire between the house and them."
She might have argued or simply disobeyed, but she was too spent to do anything but obey him. With a quick nod she hurried down the hill away from the house. He plunged back inside, ducking under cover to avoid more fire from the laser.
Meanwhile, Diana remained on her pitifully slow course down the front drive. She could see the soldiers in the woods, rifles ready, most of them busily training their sights on the house in readiness for any appearance of the Master, the rest of them watching her in breathless silence while she negotiated this no-man's land between the house and the cover of the trees where they were massing to storm the Master in his borrowed lair.
"Help me," she called out piteously when she thought to. "He said he's going to kill me!"
Sgt. Benton appeared at the perimeter of the cover. "This way Miss," he hissed. "Come on."
She stalled him by casting a fearful glance back at the house.
"No don't look back," he hissed. "Just come forward. We've got our guns on the place. Come on!"
The last sound that Diana expected suddenly cut through the air. "It's a lie!" Jo Grant screamed from the outside corner of the house. "She can walk! She's working for the Master!"
Diana jumped in alarm. Jo, careful to stay out of the line of fire in front of the house, leaped into the woods on the other side of the house but cried out again, "Benton! she's got a gun in the wheelchair! She's got a gun in the wheelchair!"
Sgt. Benton looked uncertain at the conflict of the weak and frightened appearance of Diana and Jo's urgent warning. He did not draw his own sidearm, but he stepped back a little further into the cover of the trees, uncertain. One or two of the soldiers altered their stances to keep Diana in view, their guns ready to raise if necessary.
Diana glanced at her watch. It had only been four minutes since she had left the house. Sgt. Benton was just about ready to give the order to rush the lodge. She made an instant decision and pulled the gun from its hiding place, leveling it at the Sergeant.