The Book of Five Rings
Abruptly, the Master pulled the gun away from her. He seemed both angry and a trifle chastened.
"What assurance could I give you?" he demanded. "How else can I explain it to you? If we don't go in, we will never get off this planet."
Jo didn't answer, only looked at him with eyes big from both fear and defiance. The pain was gnawing at her again. She had to lie back, but she didn't take her eyes off of him.
He forced himself to quiet his voice. "All right," he said. "If you fear I will leave you in the plant to the tender mercies of your enemies, then take this with my blessing." He reached into his pocket and produced a key that she recognized. It was the key to his TARDIS. He crouched down, took her hand, placed the key on her palm, and closed her fingers over it.
"Now," he declared, as though to indicate that she should agree with him.
"No," she said.
"Miss Grant, you try my patience!" he shouted.
She flinched but did not give in.
"All right," he said again. He held up the laser gun. "This hurts me very much," he said. "But I will do what is necessary."
He pulled out her other hand. Jo gasped in fear, but his intentions were not unkind. He placed the laser gun in her hand and closed her fingers over it.
"There!" he exclaimed. "Now are you convinced that I will not leave you? You have my weapon and the key. If you suspect treachery, you may destroy me."
For the first time, she looked doubtful.
"At least," he told her, "you may enter the plant with me, and if things go badly you'll have the option of fighting back or of destroying yourself before they take you captive again."
He gestured at himself. "I have lost those means, now," he reminded her. "Yet I still am determined to go in there and set my TARDIS free. Afterward, you will be able to direct me to send you anywhere in the universe--even back to your precious Doctor, or back to your own time."
She was truly doubtful.
"Miss Grant, we have no other choice," he told her. "We must be allies, and we must penetrate into the plant and knock out their equipment if we are to free ourselves."
"I just don't see how we can succeed," she said. "There are too many of them, and they know about us, don't they?"
"Yes," he said. "But they don't know everything, and I removed half of their security force on those ridges yesterday when I rescued you. They were not expecting an attack."
"But now they'll expect one," she reminded him.
He shook his head. "Who would want to go back in there?" he asked her. "They will expect us to flee in search of rescue or a means to live off the land. And now they have holes in their perimeter security. I plan to go in tonight, while it's dark, and find the route to their control centers. If I can, I intend to sabotage some of their fail safes. It will create a panic among them. And then we can enter unnoticed."
"When?" she asked.
"I think I can set it up tonight," he told her. "As soon as you're recovered, we'll return together, seize control where we need to, steal one of their ships, and escape."
After a moment, she nodded.
He sighed, satisfied. "Look," he said. "You're exhausted. I'll be gone for several hours. You should be safe enough. They cannot search very well at night, and this place is hard to distinguish even in broad daylight. You should try to sleep and not worry." He blew out two of the three candles used to illuminate the place.
She paused and then nodded. "All right."
Their hiding place was made from a canvas stretched over dry scrub. As he pulled the flap up to leave, she felt the wind from outside.
"Good luck," she said. "Take care."
He nodded and crawled out. She heard him take up the slop bucket outside. He would have to empty it far away. And then she lay back, exhausted from the confrontation. After a moment she slipped both key and laser gun under the blanket.
After a few moments, the pain in her side subsided again, allowing her to breathe. For the first time, she wondered where the Doctor was. She wondered how far he had gotten in his search for her. It suddenly occurred to her that the powerful hand that had snatched her from the TARDIS may have snatched him as well. and whether of not he had escaped them. Concern for his safety in all of this had not occurred to her until just now. She remembered the horrible, billowing creature who had promised to dine on the Doctor, and now she wondered if perhaps he had been their real target. And yet it seemed like such a complicated way to trap him. Perhaps, she thought darkly, that horrible creature had killed him already and she would never know. It was too terrible to consider.
She threw her mind back to the TARDIS at UNIT HQ, and the happy sound of his singing. She recalled the vivid dream she'd had about the score sheet that they kept in the lab of their chess and checker games. This sudden image, more than any other, suddenly brought tears to her eyes for home and her friends. But there was nothing she could do to bring herself closer to home or to him. She made herself calm down and tried to sleep.
* * * *
Wind was the one element that they had not taken into consideration. With Mags curled up into a tight, hard little ball of warmth beside him, sheltering against him and under his cape, the Doctor decided that he may as well sleep, too. He looked down at her to make sure she was all right. The niche in the rocks they had found was not very deep and certainly not comfortable. Typical of her, she had managed to make the best of it and accommodate to it. He could see by her slowed respirations that she truly was asleep, even though some of her muscles were still holding her bundled together against the cooling wind.
There was no point in both of them sleeping badly. He tried to frame himself around her to keep her warm, directing his breath against her and folding his cape around her better so that it would trap the warmth from his own breathing. After a few minutes her muscles relaxed more.
Seeing her made comfortable helped him feel more inclined to sleep. He closed his eyes and started to doze, and that was when he heard it--a gentle scrape of shoe on rock. His eyes snapped open. They had taken shelter in a cleft of rock on the lee side of one of the many steep rises. The sound came from above them as somebody passed by. He heard another faint sound, a creaking or squeaking, almost inaudible, even to his ears.
"I smell it," Mags whispered, suddenly awake without preamble.
"Human stuff. Urine and waste."
He realized what the creaking was---a bucket was being carried by whoever was going past. There was a splash some distance away. The footsteps came nearer again and then faded. Both of them cautiously lifted their heads and listened.
"He's not goin' back the way he came," Mags whispered. She sat up further, as did the Doctor. The night was windy and cheerless, and there were no stars out.
"He's moving towards the plant," the Doctor told her.
"But he come from over yonder."
"Come on. Be careful. It won't do anybody any good if we break our necks. Let's trace the source of that human waste." He had a small torch, and he wrapped his handkerchief over it. They could use it only in cover from the plant. But Mags' sharp eyes were as good as a cat's. She took his hand, and they climbed over the rise.
* * * *
"That's just an old place where they throwed building scraps from the plant," Mags told him an hour later. "Go on, shine your light. We're under cover."
He removed the handkerchief and pointed the torch down a steep drop to a fissure between the rock ridges. Below them, a tangle of old scrub branches, numerous spikes of broken planking, and discarded coils of tubing and wire were jumbled in a heap.
"Just a garbage dump," she said.
"I think it's more than that. Watch your step. Let's go."
She sighed. "Whatever you say, Major."
They had to be careful coming down, and he signaled for her to be quiet. It was a difficult descent, especially in the darkness. But at last they had come down. As they stood catching their breath by the heap of discarded materials, they both listened, but they seemed to be alone. He wrapped his handkerchief around the torch and passed it to her. While she held the dim light, he gently touched the pile of rubble with both hands, as though he were soothing some great beast.
He carefully stepped around to view it from a different angle, and then felt along the scraps of artificial planking and piles of machine parts.
"There's canvas under here," he whispered. Picking his way carefully, he came around the pile toward the rock wall on one side. Now he peered lower, closer to the ground, while she followed. He found the flap of canvas.
He kept his voice to a whisper. "There's our way in."
"Well I'm a Salafian's grandmother!" she said softly. "You was right all along, Major!"
She fished in the pocket of her jumpsuit for her knife.
He went down to his knees, eased the flap open, and peered inside.
"Jo!" he gasped. And he crawled through.
Mags came in right after him, looking around as well, but the tiny enclosure was safe. The Doctor rose, keeping his head low, and came to the mattress. Mags followed. The light from the single candle was poor, but the muffled beam of the flashlight showed that Jo was alone.
"Is she dead?" the young PI gasped, for the figure in the makeshift bed was white and carried the marks of suffering or illness. Jo Grant's face was incredibly drawn, her cheeks hollowed out.
He knelt down by his sleeping companion and touched her throat. "No, not dead," he said quietly. "She's alive."
"I'll cover the way in for you, Major," Mags said, turning to keep watch, her knife out and ready.
"Jo," the Doctor said gently. "Jo." He took her hand in his and ran his other hand across her forehead, smoothing back her baby fine hair. "Jo," he said, one last call, and then she opened her eyes and looked up at him.
The contents of those eyes startled him. She was in pain. "You're hurt," he said in dismay. Then he added quickly, "but it's all right, now. Can you hear me, Jo?"
Her expression changed from recognition to one of being at a loss. She touched the sleeve of his black velvet jacket, and then to his surprise tried to lean closer to him and inhaled sharply, as though trying to catch his scent. "In the dreams it always looks like you but never is," she said helplessly.
"Come on, I'm getting you out of here right now," he told her. He gathered her up in his arms to carry her out. "Mags," he called. "We're leaving."
Jo breathed in sharply again as he would have lifted her. "It is you!" She sobbed. She threw one arm around his neck in gratitude and relief and clung to him. All the pent up fears of the last several days came out as she cried and gladly breathed in the scent of starch, linen, heavy clothing, and expensive cologne that all made up the Doctor.
"Of course it's me, my dear," he said.
"Oh, don't lift me. I can't," she suddenly exclaimed. He quickly lowered her to the mattress. She was gasping from pain.
"I'm sorry. All right, all right." He stroked her head and face as she caught her breath. Quickly, he took her pulses, felt the outraged liver pulse and the diminished pulse of the kidney yang, and then held her until she had recovered.
"What happened?" he asked. "Where are you hurt? Your side?"
"They put something like a sharp needle into me. For hours. It was pulling out---pulling out my insides---"
"All right. You're safe now. No more of that. We'll get you patched up." He rested her on the mattress and again stroked back her hair.
After a moment, she calmed herself and tried to tell him of her escape. "The Master is here. He got away first. He---"
"Oy, Major!" Mags exclaimed in warning.
The smaller, compact figure of the renegade timelord came through the opening. Before he saw the Doctor, he saw Mags, and without a word he seized her. It was an unwise move.
The Doctor heard a sharp yelp as the tip of Mags' switchblade flicked open a stripe on the side of the Master's face. He leaped back, as much as their cramped quarters would allow.
"So we meet again, Mr. Sin!" she exclaimed. "Stay where you are, or I'll put it through your throat next!"
Only then did the Master recognize her. "It's you!" And then he saw the Doctor. "What is this mongrel?" But the switchblade was out and ready. He stopped in his tracks and eyed it. "I have done nothing to deserve this treatment. I was protecting the girl."
"I see you have already met Private Investigator Hardbottle," the Doctor told him. "My detective."
"Detective to the stars!" Mags added with a grin. She waved the point of the knife in front of the Master's nose and used her free hand to fish out a cigarette. "Last I seen a' you, them Tarks was haulin' you off. What are you doing with our bird?"
"I rescued that young woman!" the Master exclaimed. "Ask her!"
"He--he did," Jo said. "He stopped the machine that was dissecting me."
"Have mercy!" Mags exclaimed softly, and drew the switchblade away from the Master a few more inches. He glared at her in righteous indignation.
The Doctor glanced at him sharply.
"Not quite dissecting," the Master said. "They were bisecting out sections of her liver for their rather clumsy cloning operations." He spoke coolly, but added, "unpleasant process to say the least, and done without anesthetic."
"Jo," the Doctor whispered. He took her hand.
Mags glanced over at the Doctor, and the Doctor gave a brief nod. She closed the switchblade and pocketed it.
The Master inclined his head. "Thank you. He stepped forward. "I mean her no harm. She has possession of my laser gun and TARDIS key as proofs of my good faith." And he nodded at the bed.
The Doctor lifted the top blanket and saw the gun and key. "It will be all right," he said quietly. He nodded and lowered the blanket. But he took up Jo's hand in both of his.
"Such devoted friends," the Master observed with a sneer.
"They really are," Mags said in a hollow voice, and her expression was unreadable. But she became business like. "What now?" she asked the Doctor.
"I am taking Miss Grant to my TARDIS," the Doctor said.
"Miss Grant and I are in partnership," the Master snapped. "I rescued her and cared for her. You cannot leave me behind."
"He did, Doctor," Jo whispered.
The Doctor eyed the Master coolly. "I have no intention of leaving you behind. There is more to this kidnapping than mere body piracy. I want to find out what."
"I refuse to be your prisoner, Doctor. If you want to get inside that plant, then you need me as much as I need you," the Master said. "Return me to my TARDIS, and I will help you."
The Doctor smiled a rueful smile. "Even if I were stupid enough to believe that, I cannot return you to your TARDIS. My own TARDIS is in need of repair, old boy. That's what I need you for."
"That miserable piece of junk?"
"I think there is something here on the planet effecting her. But the emergency power system is still working. I want to get Miss Grant there. I have medical equipment. And clothing for her."
The Master hesitated. "All right, I'll help you," he said. "But I refuse to be your prisoner. When all of this is over, I expect you to return me to my TARDIS!"
The Doctor inclined his head. "If you help me and we get away, I'll return you to where I last saw your TARDIS."
* * * *
"The life of a Detective
They say you cannot miss--
You work from dawn to daylight
And then get really pissed!"
Mags sang, swinging the lager bottle between her knees where she sat on the TARDIS floor with her back against the bulkhead. "Oh, sorry," she said as the Doctor and the Master both turned and glared at her.
The two of them were busy at the TARDIS console, and Jo was asleep again, made comfortable on the emergency cot that the Doctor had pulled out from the locker. Mags sat happily in a litter of food wrappers. She took another swig from the bottle. "'Ave you figured out the real story yet, Major?" she asked.
"Yes," the Doctor said. "We've got the power system working again, but the drive system doesn't seem to be doing anything. We are trapped, and I'm bound to say I can't see what's causing it."
"It's coming from the processing plant itself," the Master said. "There's some type of interference being generated. We must penetrate it and locate the power sources."
"Power alone cannot hold the TARDIS in place," the Doctor said.
"But whatever is doing it will require power," the Master told him. "Cut the power, and we can free your TARDIS."
"Have you thought of how we can penetrate a fortress like that?" the Doctor asked. "With one laser gun among four of us?"
The Master let out a laugh. "Even if we were armed with a platoon of rifles, Doctor, there are still not enough of us to storm them," he said. "No, we must be subtler than that. Our hope lies in the fact that that nobody who has escaped from them would ever want to return there. They will not expect us to return."
The Doctor paused, then nodded. "True."
"In fact," the Master added. "If I am right, they will be sweeping the terrain outside the plant for us, seeking us out as fugitives. My guess is that they will leave only a skeleton security force behind."
"So we go in easy," Mags said, not realizing that the two time lords had once again forgotten her presence. "What? Same way Jo got out? Through a slurry ditch?"
"Hmm, that might be bit too obvious," the Doctor said.
"I have several access points that I've used," the Master told him.
The Doctor had better quarters for medical recovery than the control room of the TARDIS, but he had been unwilling to leave the Master unwatched. The medical kits from the lockers had been sufficient to ease Jo's pain and to give him a good diagnosis of the extent of her injuries.
On the cot, under the blanket, Jo stirred, let out a soft sound of pain from her dreams. The Doctor crossed to her and leaned over her.
"Jo," he said gently. "Jo, you're here with us, now."
She opened her eyes, saw him, and smiled in relief. He leaned over her and spoke to her in a low voice that Mags could not hear. The young PI looked down, not aware of the Master watching her. His own expression was unreadable. Unexpectedly, he strolled over to her and sat down by her. She glanced at him, surprised.
"So," he said. "I owe the good fortune of the Doctor's being here to you, in part. He tells me you are a crack detective."
"I do my best," she said. She looked him up and down and said, without malice, "He tells me that you're a sort of arch criminal."
"Ah, the good Doctor flatters me," the Master said, beaming.
"Says you attacked Earth a couple times. Wanted to take over, like, after most of the humans was killed off."
"I suppose I did," he told her.
"I'm human, you know," she said, reaching into her pocket for her cigarettes.
"Yes, so you've told me, Miss Hardbottle."
"Smoke?" she offered him. She flipped the pack towards him.
"Why thank you." He took the pack, shook out one for himself and returned it to her. He then took the matches as she tapped out a cigarette for herself. Gallantly, he struck a match and then held it out to her for a light.
"Oh thanks." She accepted the light from him and leaned back as he lit his own cigarette. They both took drags in companionable silence. For a moment, she amused herself by trying to get a smoke ring out before it dissipated and was pulled out by the fine air currents of the ventilation system.
"Well when you ain't tryin' to take over Earth, what do you do for a living?" she asked.
"This and that," he said lightly. He reached into his tunic and produced a pack of cards. Her eyes brightened.
"You play poker?" she asked.
"My dear, I am unbeatable."
She let out a laugh. "Not a swank like you," she said. "Not hardly!"
He smiled at her. "Ah but I am," he told her. "Name your wager."
"I can bet me fags," she told him. "What 'ave you got?" "Not much," he admitted. "Not much that would interest you."
"Awright, awright," she said, getting an idea. "You can bet countries."
"Sure, we'll take it as a gentleman's promise. When the day comes that you take over the Earth, you can pay me all the countries I win from you today."
"That will work."
She threw down a fresh cigarette as he shuffled the deck. "Just you ante up a country," she directed. "Make it England. I'd like to try being queen for a while."
Amused, the Doctor watched them from across the room.
"He's all love and brotherhood now," Jo said in a low voice.
"I see that, my dear," he said.
"And Mags is swallowing it," she added.
"Not Mags," he told her. "She's not fooled by him, Jo. But she likes a good time as much as the next person."
"Doctor, she's drunk."
He shook his head. "No, just happy. She's still on her first bottle and won't take any more, I daresay. But she's done her job, Jo. She's found you. For her, that's plenty cause for celebration." He looked down at Jo and smiled. "And for me, too." He brushed her hair back from her eyes.
Jo smiled in spite of her worry and disapproval. "So we go into the plant?" she asked after a moment.
He nodded. "We have to, and we have a fair chance at success."
She nodded in acquiescence. "I think I can sit up," she said suddenly.
He made to help her, but she shook her head and sat up on her own, then swung her legs over the edge.
"All right?" the Doctor asked.
"All right," she said. The Master looked up.
"Why Miss Grant!" he exclaimed. "So your boundless good nature has won out at last!"
"Hey!" Mags exclaimed, intent on the game. "Gimme two!"
"There," he told her, handing her two cards and then showing his own. "Full house. I told you that I'm unbeatable."
"Only on planets where a full house beats a royal flush," she replied, spreading out her cards. "I am now the queen of England, and you have no cigarettes." She collected the cards and expertly shuffled the deck. The Master glanced at the Doctor and Jo. "Night is coming on again," he said. "It will last seven hours, and then first light. Will you be ready to go at dawn?" he asked. He picked up his cards.
Jo nodded. "I think so," she said. "With a little help here and there."
"I thought the effects of my medical system would kick in soon enough," the Doctor said, satisfied.
The Master discarded and Mags handed him a card. "I'm throwing in Uruguay," he told Mags.
"There ain't no such country as Ergway," Mags said in disgust.
"Yes there is, Mags," the Doctor told her. "Depending on the century, that is."
"Oh all right; I call," she said.
"Pair of Queens," he told her with a flourish.
"Four Jacks!" she replied, and collected back her cigarette. "Hey! Four Jacks! Just like us! And now I'm queen of Ergway, too!"
The Master grimaced. Losing to Mags did not seem to bother him very much, except when the Doctor was looking on. He glanced up at the Doctor. "Dawn, then," he said. "I'll lead you into the processing plant."
"And remember," the Doctor said. "We have the gun."
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