Trumpkin;Doctor Who;Jo Grant;Katy Manning;Third Doctor;Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart;Jon Pertwee;Jeri Massi
The Doctor, Stehart, and Cornwallis arrived back at the house on the hill in the early evening. They found Jamie waiting for him. "Your friends are at the medical center in Augusta," he told them. "One of them's hurt pretty bad."
"Take us there!" the Doctor exclaimed.
But Jamie did not want to drive with a black man. "I'll lead you in my car," he told them.
They followed him back across the bridge into Georgia and through the network of high ways that led to the hospital of the Medical College of Georgia. Jamie left them there, and the three UNIT men hurried inside. Yates met them at the end of the lobby.
"There's a radiation ward," he said. "Closed off from the rest of the place. This way."
"Who is it?" the Doctor asked as they hurried down the hallways.
"It's Jo. She's asking for you, Doctor. She's afraid. It's pretty bad."
Yates' own face was stark white, his eyes looking too big.
"Radiation exposure?" Cornwallis asked.
"Yes. A fatal dose. She's already---changed. The doctors here told us she'll live for another 36 to 48 hours."
The Doctor broke into a run without thinking. Yates led them all at a swift pace down several hallways to a small, lead security door. They passed into an anterior chamber, a waiting area that could quickly be converted to a triage site in the event of a wide scale radiation emergency.
A woman dressed in a crisp, starched nurse's uniform was waiting for them. "She's this way. We've made her as comfortable as possible. She wants the one called the Doctor."
The time lord nodded and followed the woman down a short corridor, through another heavy door, and into a room where the light was not quite normal. Several sun lamps were set up around a bed, shining down on it. And in the bed, unclothed and covered by a sheet, was what remained of Jo Grant. She was twisting, writing with short movements, and making small sounds of pain. At intervals, she shivered from cold.
The Doctor leaned over her and very gently rested his hand on top of her dry hair. "Jo, I'm here." Her face looked far more mummified than it had a few hours before when her comrades had found her.
"It chased me into the swamp," she gasped. "I didn't mean to disobey you."
His voice and eyes were gentle. "Of course not. Who chased you?"
"Silver man. And then a light."
"I see." He frowned for a moment in sudden thought. Her breath, uneven and panting, was the only sound for a moment, and then she said, with a sound like a small sob, "I wanted to go with you."
It was too much, even for him, even at a time when he knew he had to be calm. His eyes became wet. "Will you forgive me?" he asked, his voice shaken from her gentle reproach. "I wish I had taken you with me. I wish I had, Jo." He kissed her forehead, very gently, several times. "I'm sorry."
When he looked at her again, tears had streaked his face.
"Don't leave me," she gasped.
He paused, his own eyes filled with pain, remorse, and the burden of a new uncertainty. "I think there might be a way to save you," he told her. "I'm not sure if it will work. I have to take you back to the swamp. Now. Quickly. It's going to be painful for you to be moved."
Her skin could not withstand the pressure of a handclasp, but she touched her withered fingertips to his hand. "What you think best. I want what you think best. I'll go."
He turned and went back to the antechamber. Yates, Benton, Stehart, Rogers, and Cornwallis were all grouped outside, heads down. Stehart had his unlit pipe in his mouth and was facing the wall. Cornwallis was on his knees, his dark head bowed. The Doctor realized that he was not the only one praying, but he was the only one to be so open about it.
"I need your help," he said clearly. They all looked at him. "I have to move her. I have to take her to the swamp."
"The journey alone'll kill her!" Stehart exclaimed.
Benton spoke up. "Why do you want to move her, Doctor?"
"There's no time to explain it. Will you help me, or will you refuse to help me?" he asked them. "She has told me that she wants me to do what I think best."
"I'm your man," Benton said. "We can put her on a backboard and move her in the four wheel drive."
Yates stood up. "Right. I'll get one from the Emergency room. I saw them when we first came in." And he walked out.
The Doctor's gaze fell on the others. The nurse entered. With a swift turn as though he would speak to her, the Doctor tapped her on the side of her neck. She swooned, and he caught her. Cornwallis helped him lower her to the floor. He put his handkerchief under her head.
"We have to move quickly," the Doctor said.
"I'll bring the four wheel drive around," Cornwallis said. "It should be large enough to slide her across the back seats." He hurried out. His face set and grim.
The Doctor looked at Stehart and Rogers. "Well?"
"Just tell me why?" Stehart said.
"You saw what happened in the reactor today," the Doctor told him. "The creature that was in the core moved when they shut down. Jo was caught in the radiation field that it generated. Just like you two were caught several days ago."
"But we weren't radiated," Stehart said.
"Because the keepers of that creature knew you were there and cleaned you off right away. As soon as you were exposed, they got rid of the radiation. But they missed Jo. They didn't know she was in the swamp until she'd been radiated for a few seconds. By the time they cleaned her off, it was too late."
"It's still too late!" Stehart exclaimed. "She's not radiated no more! She's dyin' from the chemical changes it worked in her!"
"But maybe they don't know that," the Doctor said. "Maybe if we take her back, they can still help her."
The young UNIT men still hesitated. "I need an ultra violet light source," the Doctor told them. "Something that will go up and down the light spectrum with as wide a scale as possible."
"We got a flouroscope at the barracks," Rogers said.
:"Well get it, make it portable, and meet me in the swamp."
Yates re-entered with the backboard.
Stehart made a decision. "All right, let's go." He paused at the doorway. "Doctor, you're gonna cause her a lot of pain, and maybe kill her just by movin' her. If she dies out in that swamp---"
"She'll be just as dead as she would have been here. Now get moving!" Benton ordered, for once raising his voice. The two men left.
Getting Jo moved onto the backboard took some engineering skills with the sheet. And even then, she was in such pain on the hard surface that she wept with a tearless weeping. They worked as hard and as quickly as they could, the Doctor's explosive orders forcing Yates and Benton to concentrate on their task instead of on her outcries from the move.
Cornwallis was waiting at the rarely used ambulance dock that was designed as part of the contingency plans with SRP to transport radiation victims quickly into the medical center through shielded doors.
Jo endured the transfer and the transport. She lost consciousness during the long, smooth trip into SRP and revived as they left the paved roads and entered the swamp. The pain of the jolting of the four wheel drive made her scream.. She finally fainted again. When she came around, she was in the silent swamp, more cold than she had ever been in her life, shivering uncontrollably without the sun lamps, unable to bear the weight of any type of blanket or covering.
She had the impression that somebody had been using the worst language she had ever heard, and she thought she heard a man sobbing. But when she opened her eyes, there was only the Doctor, and he was shining what looked like a huge flashlight into the sky and all around the swamp. He looked at her, saw that she was awake, and rested one hand very lightly on the top of her head. "I'm here. Keep fighting, Jo. You need to give me time."
She was too cold to answer, and the pain that was a permanent part of her would not allow her to speak.
This limbo of pain and cold and flickering light seemed to last for hours. And then, as silent as the night itself, she saw four of the silvery men looking down at her. There was nothing that they could really do to her that was worse than what she was going through. She felt no fear, no even when one of them removed his heavy glove, revealing a second glove underneath, and gingerly touched the Doctor's head with a shining, gloved finger.
The mere touch rocketed the Doctor backward as all of his muscles convulsively contracted. He lay in a heap against a tree. And then a golden light was all around her. It caught her attention. She had no idea how long she looked at it, but after a time, when dawn began to rise around the swamp, it rested on her. A pins and needles sensation went through her, and the edge of the pain was dampened in her midsection.
"No, I don't know what to make of it," a man said. She was watching a black and white movie at 2:00 in the morning and was a teen age girl again. The man on the screen was Christopher Lee, dressed in a white smock, playing a medical doctor.
"But can you do anything for her?" another man asked. Peter Cushing.
"Well, I can ease her pain. And then we'll see."
And then the golden light sent a strobe of sensation into her, all through her. It was actually several sensations, and it aggravated some elements of her pain. But then there was a stillness.
She again lost track of time, but when she next noticed, the sun was visible above the scrub forest of the swamp. It was mid-morning. Two of the silver men crouched over her, their movements jerky and robotic. They lifted her from the backboard, and the lifting was bearable. They turned together as one man, with her between them, their heavily visored faces not looking at her, not looking at anything, she realized. Their movement was now fluid, but was not human. It was as though they had become a single machine, whose task was to keep her stable between them and carry her away.
As they took her away, she saw the Doctor, still stunned on the ground, his eyes open, watching them take her but unable to do anything.
* * * *
At the jeep, Benton and Yates held Stehart in grim silence as the young American man struggled and helplessly kicked his feet and tried to stand upright. Every time he nearly did so, the two British soldiers pulled back on his arms again and dragged him backward a few paces to keep him from gaining a stance.
Nearby, Cornwallis eyed Rogers calmly but with wariness. But the long slender man did not offer to stir. He stayed where he was, watching his comrade. At last, chest heaving and his breath sobbing in his throat, Stehart came to rest, hanging by his arms between Yates and Benton. It had been a long and furious struggle. The loud and pitiful crying of the young girl had also finally stopped.
"She's dead, ain't she?" Stehart sobbed. "You brought her out here and let her die."
"She may not be dead," Benton said grimly. "The Doctor knows what he's doing."
Helpless between his captors and tremendously affected by what they had all put the dying girl through to move her here, Stehart started to cry. His sobs were hard and embarrassed, but his complete helplessness between his captors allowed no other vent to his grief and frustration. "How could this have helped her? I never heard a woman cry like that! Rogers!"
"Here I am," Rogers said.
"Is she dead?"
"I don't know."
Stehart sobbed helplessly between the two soldiers, who kept firm grip on him at either arm. But as the young corporal slumped down, Benton shot a look at Yates, and Yates nodded, unhappy with the measures they had taken to restrain their comrade. They lowered him to the dirt road.
Still crying, he rolled onto his side and tried to get to his feet, but his struggles and the emotional strain of believing that he had put a dying young woman into terrible pain had left him exhausted. Rogers walked over to him and knelt by him. "Hey."
"I'm sorry," Stehart sobbed.
"Come on." Rogers put his arms around him and lifted him to a sitting position. Cornwallis glanced at Yates and Benton, then stooped and picked up the pipe, tobacco, and matches that had fallen out of Stehart's pocket in the struggle.
"You lost your pipe, Corporal," he said, crouching in front of Stehart and offering him the smoking implements.
"I can't use my hands yet," Stehart said.
"I'll make you a smoke." Cornwallis said. "I used to do this for my father. He smoked a pipe." He knocked out the pipe against the heel of his boot, squinted at it, and then tamped in a small load of tobacco. He broke off a match and lifted the pipe halfway to his mouth, as though he would have gotten it going for the young man. Then he stopped and grinned. Distracted from his own tears, Stehart was watching him, not objecting, but they all knew that taking a pipe from a black man's mouth would be a first for Robert Lee Stehart.
Cornwallis grinned. "Oh, I forgot. If you share my pipe, it will give you curly hair. Here Rogers, you start it for him." He passed the pipe to Rogers, who took it and lit it with shaking hands. Rogers had also been deeply affected by the suffering of the girl, but he had not attempted to physically force the Doctor away from her.
"Do you think she's dead?" Stehart asked the black man.
"I know that she wanted to come back here," Cornwallis told him. "She wanted to be with the Doctor, and she wanted to come back here. She never did ask us to take her back to the hospital."
Stehart was silent. At last he said, "I couldn't stand it. I had to stop him."
"Neither could I," Cornwallis said. "I was waiting for her to ask to be taken back. I would have joined you if she had. But she had hope in his plan. Maybe the hope was better than lying in a hospital bed and waiting for death to come, eh? Maybe the stress of the ride here was a better death than the dissolving away by degrees by tomorrow."
Rogers handed Stehart the pipe, and Stehart took it, his hand trembling. He took a thankful draw on it, his eyes now fixed on Cornwallis. He blew out twin jets of smoke around the pipe stem, and took another draw. It calmed him. After a moment he offered the pipe, stem first, to the Barbadian. "Smoke, Corporal?"
Cornwallis took the offered pipe and touched his lips to the stem, using them as little as possible. He took a quick draw and handed it back. "You use a rank tobacco, my friend. Navy Cut Deluxe is better."
"Can't get that in South Carolina." With a smile of enjoyment and a faint air of superiority, Stehart drew on the pipe. "Our tobacco's half Georgia clay they say."
"Come on," Cornwallis said. "That rank stuff would get any man on his feet." He and Rogers helped Stehart up. They dusted him down. Stehart turned to Yates and Benton.
"I'm sorry," he said.
"We'll say no more about it," Yates told him. "It was a difficult operation to carry out." He looked away. None of them said anything. Now that her outcries through the veil of shrubbery and trees had stopped, they all expected that Jo Grant was dead.
But it was another hour before the Doctor came through the trees, his steps uneven, as though he were dazed.
"How is she?" Yates asked.
"Gone," the Doctor said hoarsely. "Taken."
"Taken?" Benton echoed. "Taken where?"
"Into the care of the visitors. And the creature has come to rest in the M reactor. We've got to get Sanchez Emil to leave it alone!" He seemed to gather himself together and then strode to the jeep. "Come on!"
The others were stunned. "Where?" Yates asked.
"To see Sanchez Emil. And to keep this swamp clear!"
"What about Jo?" Stehart exclaimed.
The Doctor turned to him. "She's not here. They took her away. Now come on!" He climbed into the jeep on the driver's side.
"I'm sorry, Doc! I have to see for myself!" Stehart made for the trees.
"Oh, all right, the lot of you! Follow after in the four wheel drive when you've finished your search! I'll be with Emil! You'd better get out of here soon. If they scram that reactor, this place will go hot again."
"Wait a moment, Doctor!" Benton called. "I'm with you!" he sprinted for the jeep and climbed in.
As they pulled out, the Doctor nodded at the radio. "Use that thing to find where Sanchez is. He's probably already at the reactor. We'll need his approval to get through the security cordon."
* * * *
"Dang!" Stehart said softly as they surveyed the area around the empty backboard. Numerous heavy footsteps were planted into the soft earth. "Just like he said. Somebody come and took her away, and we didn't even hear it."
Cornwallis shook his head. "We must trust the Doctor, now. He has been right so far---as far as we can determine, anyway. And Josephine was close to his heart. Whatever he did, I think he did it to help her."
"We have to think of what to say to the police," Rogers ventured. "Them hospital people's gonna know we took her outta there."
Yates looked thoughtful. "We'll go to the UNIT barracks first and get cleaned up," he said. "Everybody smart and proper, with sidearms. If we're going to present ourselves to the police as soldiers of a top secret task force, we'd better look the part."
* * * *
Thirty minutes later, the Doctor and Sgt. Benton were met in the control room of the M reactor by Sanchez Emil. This was a newer reactor than the K reactor, and the control room was roomier. Six engineers were moving back and forth, looking at analogue dials and talking in urgent tones into microphones, communicating with technicians at remote stations. A Wackenhut guard stood at the door.
"What happened to Morgan?" the Doctor asked.
"I've relieved him of his duties," Emil said. Then he quickly conceded, "All right, there were radiation alarms set off by sensors in the swamps last night. And I understand that a young woman was fatally radiated. And now this reactor is behaving erratically."
"But has not exceeded safety limits," the Doctor said.
"Doctor, any erratic behaviour exceeds safety limits!" Emil snapped. "If the reactor core becomes too agitated, the boron rods will be ineffective! In fact, they will become dangerous! You must know that!"
Benton was puzzled. He turned to the Doctor. "Boron can always shut down a reaction right up to the point of critical mass," he said.
"These boron rods are tipped with asphalt," the Doctor told him. "The weight ensures that they will come straight down into the core. But asphalt contains organic material. If the elements in the reactor become overly excited, there could come a point where the asphalt could touch off an explosion if the boron rods were dropped. It's a safety flaw in reactors built in this era. As long as the reactor is scrammed within the first few seconds of trouble, all is well, but the longer the core is allowed to build up energy, the more dangerous it becomes to drop the rods."
"Safety rods were not intended for game playing," Emil declared. "There should be no waiting around!"
"You're being forced to wait," the Doctor told him. "One person may already be dead. The reactor core is still not in the danger zone for being scrammed. If you scram this reactor now, that creature will go wandering again. By pure good luck and the herding abilities of our visitors, the local population has been kept safe. The visitors keep directing it into the reactor cores. They will not let the reactor blow up!"
Emil paced restlessly. Benton shot a glance at the Doctor. Emil had already received a report of the evacuation of Jo Grant to the Medical College of Georgia. Apparently the administrator had been locked up in the control room and had not yet heard that she had been kidnapped from the hospital.
"All right," Emil said at last. "I don't want to risk the populations of Aiken and Johnston. We'll maintain a watch. You two will stay here."
The Doctor relaxed. For the moment, the battle was won. "Any chance of a cup of tea?" he asked hopefully.
* * * *
"Gosh, this is sweltering," Rogers said as Yates surveyed him with a critical eye. His boots newly shined, Yates clumped over to Cornwallis, who was buckling on a gun belt.
"Are you going to make us walk in formation, Cap?" Cornwallis asked.
Rogers hid a smile.
"Look, what about the girl?" Stehart asked. "Are those fellers gonna bring her back?"
"The Doctor will know," Yates said.
* * * *
As Emil paced back and forth between two rows of control panels, Benton turned to the Doctor. "How can you be so sure about these visitors?" he whispered.
"They did communicate with me, Sergeant," the Doctor told him in a quiet voice.
"They talked to you?"
"No. Language is their weak point. Our language, I mean. They used a sort of telepathy. Knocked me clear off my feet, but they did impart a lot of information to me in an instant." He waited until Emil was further away. "These visitors don't really understand bodies like ours. They have bodies, but their bodies are made out of energy, with very low mass."
"Well, where do they come from?"
The Doctor lifted his eyes to indicate the heavens. "Everywhere. All over," he said. "They don't understand physical location the way that we do, either. All their lives, they've been aware of other life forms but have never really bothered to find out much about creatures with terrestrial bodies."
"So what brought them here?"
"One of their life forms---a less sentient creature, rather like a pet---became ill or was injured. Not sure which. It homed in on the hotspots of the seven reactors in this area and took refuge in one of them. They've been trying to coax it out. But they pretty quickly found that they were endangering life here. So they took the radiation suits to protect us, not themselves. When that guard shot one of them, he inadvertently released it out through the bullet hole, and its presence killed him instantly. All it could do was try to clean up the area from its own mess. So now they've lined the chest and head cavities of the suits with lead."
"Protecting us again," Benton said. "But if the visitor killed the guard, why wasn't Jo killed?"
"She almost was. The visitor who was shot reflexively followed the trajectory of the bullet," the Doctor said. "Following the path of friction-generated heat. It's just like if you or I were to have the rug pulled out from under us. We'd follow gravity and fall. These creatures fall along lines of energy when they lose their equilibrium or orientation." He glanced at Benton. "It accidentally killed the guard before it knew what had happened. But as for Jo, she was exposed to the creature itself when it passed her. It wasn't an immediately lethal exposure such as the guard had, though it was far more concentrated than a human can withstand."
"So the silver man she saw was actually guarding the swamp," Benton guessed.
"Actually he---or it---was trying to home in on the creature and coax it away from here entirely," the Doctor said. "And by the way, Jo may have run into more than one of them. There are several. They cleaned the swamp immediately as the creature passed through. But they were one or two seconds too late in cleaning Jo. And they don't know enough about us to realize that she was already dying."
"Can they help her?" Benton asked.
"They mean to try. They saw my knowledge. They may be able to figure something out."
"In time to save her?"
The Doctor looked hopeful. "Fortunately, these creatures exist at the speed of light. Think at the speed of light. Communicate without words. What would take us weeks or even months to figure out, they can analyze within a second or two."
* * * * *
Jo eventually realized that she could not open her eyes, and then she realized that she no longer had eyes. She wanted to struggle, but there was no reassuring sense of arms and legs. And yet she knew. She perceived her keeper inarticulately: a presence, a person. Aged but not old; masculine, but not male; able to move quickly and to make war, and yet almost perfectly at rest.
He was so foreign and so intimately linked to her mind that she was frightened and wanted her body back. His response amazed her as he opened her mind to feel a bit of reassuring pain from her burned and withered flesh. She realized that she was still tied to her body. It was a tenuous thread at the moment, made more so by this person. He wanted her as far removed from her body as was possible without killing her, and so he had somehow engulfed her body and made it a part of his. And now he was changing his body. He felt pain as he did so, but he did not react to pain as she did. It did not distress him.
He was forcing his body to imitate hers, to take on blood, to be bone. Not much, she realized, or otherwise he would die and she would die with him.
But though she was existing in him and knew that he was attempting to save her, she could not really communicate with him. Images of stories she had read and bits of old movies she had seen flashed across her consciousness, and she knew it was he, doing this in her mind, calling up images that she understood. But he could not communicate himself to her.
He strengthened the thread that tied her to her own body, and she felt pain again. He pulled her back from it and re-commenced his own forceful generation into a fleshly appendage. She gradually guessed what he was doing---turning himself into a spare heart, a spare liver, a spare kidney, all by turns. Not a complete body organ, but just enough of something to take her wasted cells and recycle them. He was working to make her body begin its healing process. She despaired. But when he strengthened her tie with her own body again, the pain was not quite as bad. He weakened the tie and resumed his attempt.
* * * * *
Yates hung up the pay phone and came back to the jeep. "All right. The Brigadier's been notified," he said. "He's going to go through official channels and see if he can't keep us all out of lock-up."
Cornwallis nodded, and Yates shot a look at Rogers to tell him to drive for the hill in North Augusta.
"What do we say to the police?" Cornwallis asked.
"That we are members of a top secret international task force, and we removed Miss Grant to a secured area for her own safety and the safety of the medical staff at the hospital."
"But we didn't," Stehart muttered.
"According to the Doctor, we did," Yates said. "If he tells us that those 'visitors' of his have her in their care, we have an obligation to believe him."
Rogers spoke up. "If we're lookin' at the prospect of spendin' the next coupla' nights in the can, what say we get supper first. I'm starved, and there ain't nuthin' to do until we either get arrested or hear from the Doc."
This plan was agreed to. They had radios in their belts, and so they returned to North Augusta and the Chinese restaurant that had served them before. Clad in their uniforms, with berets on and sidearms, they made a much more impressive looking group than they had before, and they were seated with no trouble.
The radios remained silent, and soon all four men were lost in the comfort of good food. They were all ravenously hungry. When they were finished, Stehart and Rogers pulled out their pipes. Things did not seem so bad after a big meal.
"Maybe she is alive," Stehart said at last. "Alive in some secret hospital."
"You can count on the Doctor," Mike said. "He has a habit of being right about the most unearthly things."
"Well, like what?" Stehart asked.
Mike considered. UNIT personnel could be given information on a need to know basis, but the Brigadier usually frowned on storytelling about anything that involved the Doctor. Still, this poor man had been put through the wringer and was being asked to put an enormous amount of faith in the time lord. "Well, I'll tell you about the Autons," Yates began, and he launched into his account of the first time he had met the Doctor. Even Cornwallis had heard only rumors and pieces of the Doctor's history. He listened with as much fascination as the two Americans. From there Yates told them about the Keller machine, and then about Axos.
They ordered more food and fresh coffee. The afternoon was turning into evening, but the hours were well spent. By the end of Yates' stories, Rogers and Stehart were more confident in the time lord's judgment.
"And maybe," Rogers said hopefully as they at last stood from the table. "Maybe by now that Brigadier of yours has gotten us the all-clear!"
It was an encouraging thought. "Let's get up to the hill and turn in," Yates said. "Things might start happening at any moment with the Doctor. I'm up for first watch."
* * * *
It was well after Yates' watch was up, that time called the dead of night, when the young captain was awakened by Cornwallis shaking his shoulder. "Get up, sir! We have visitors!"
Yates sleepily got up in the wavering light. It gradually dawned on him, that there should be no such light at this time of the morning. It was just after two. Cornwallis was already at the window. In the room next door, they heard Rogers and Stehart talking in quiet, anxious voices. Yates looked out the window. On the front lawn, a rickety cross had been set up and set alight. Covered with creosote, it burned like a huge torch.
Stehart appeared in the doorway, his sidearm in his hand. "Put that away!" Yates snapped.
"It may not be over, Captain," Stehart said.
"It's over for now. There's nobody out there. Put the gun away."
Stehart nodded and returned to his room. Yates followed and Cornwallis came after him.
"Let's call the police, for all the good that will do. We'll stay up and keep watch," Yates ordered. "But I don't want anybody going outside until after it's light. We're going to avoid a confrontation with these people."
* * * * *
Morning found Sgt. Benton tipped back in a chair, his mouth hanging open. Still on his feet, the Doctor noted that the control room was calmer. The men had become used to the erratic readings and were not as close to panic as they had been.
One of the engineers spoke: "Activity is dropping." He checked the readings for the plutonium rods. "Rods are stable. But activity is dropping."
"Water temperature dropping," another man said, watching the controls and read outs. "Pressure is stable."
Emil shot a look at the Doctor and raised a bushy eyebrow.
"Flow is stabilizing," the first one said. "Off gases, normal concentration levels." He scanned the dials. "Activity is normal. Rods are stable."
"Core temperature normal; pressure normal," the second man confirmed.
"The creature is leaving," the Doctor said.
They were silent as the engineers made their checks and conferred over the microphones and headsets with the technicians. At last, the lead operator spoke. "All systems are online and normal. No unusual activity."
Emil sat heavily in a chair. He was relieved that it seemed to be over, but at a loss over what had caused all of it. The idea that the Doctor had been right and that an extra terrestrial creature had taken up lodgings in the reactor core was hard to believe and would be impossible to include in a report.
"And now," the Doctor said. "I need to take up watch in the swamps."
* * * *
Jo wanted her mother, or anything flesh. She had never realized how firmly wedded she was to having a body. She still had one, but she could not use it, and all her senses had been deprived. She was more a part of his body, and she wanted her own back, and all to herself.
His attitude towards her, she now realized, was that of a superior creature to an inferior creature. Unlike a human, he did not have any contempt for her. Indeed, her inferiority to him had awakened a profound sense of duty in him to help her, as a kind hearted person would help a lost dog get back home, or to spring a cruel trap and assist an injured animal. He had made himself responsible to correct what had happened to her and to completely restore her to her life.
But though he was kind, he had no capacity for affection or compassion, and her own capacity to communicate with words was---to him---as ineffective and cumbersome as the barking of a dog would be. He did not realize that, tucked into his very being, she was lonely and trapped. She wanted to go home. And when she thought of home she did not distinguish between the home of having full use of her body or the home of being on earth with her friends.
For perhaps the hundredth time, he strengthened her tie with her body, and now there was no physical pain, only her instinctive sigh of grief and frustration. This alarmed him, and he weakened the tie again and tried to find the difficulty.
* * * *
"Yes, well get out to the swamp as soon as you can," the Doctor said into the microphone of the jeep's radio. "It's too bad about those clansmen, but all I want to do is find Jo and get out of here. I don't care if they think they've chased us off. We've got to search for her."
By noon, the six of them were clambering through the swamp in the stifling heat. But there was no sign of the silvery men, and no sign of Jo. The day intensified to its hottest, and then waned. The Doctor sent Rogers and Yates back to town to bring back food and water. Night fell before they returned.
While Benton, Cornwallis, and Stehart took a brief rest, the time lord once again backtracked all the way to the point where Jo had been carried away. The swamp darkened quickly, and he wished he had brought a flashlight from the jeep. But just then, he saw a ghostly figure on a raised hump of ground, not far from the discarded backboard.
"Jo!" he called.
Now that her keeper understood her better, he strengthened her tie with her body, fixing her firmly into it. He suddenly understood her grief, and her need for words suddenly came to him like enlightenment. He could not communicate with her well, but as he gave her nerves and blood full reunion with her, he filled her with a comfort, an assurance that she would be among her friends soon, and he would protect her until she had returned to her own home.
But now that she had her body back, she was not very steady with it. The sensory perceptions of sight, sound, and smell confused her. For a moment, she could not sort them out. At last the repeated sound, "Jo, Jo, Jo," got through to her.
"Oh!" she exclaimed in surprise as two arms came around her. This was too much input for a moment, and then suddenly, she let herself be held.
"Did I frighten you?" the Doctor whispered. "I didn't mean to." He stroked her hair, felt her trembling, and realized that she was overwhelmed and not fully oriented. "It's all right. They've brought you back to me." He spoke to her quietly, soothingly. Her eyes, not focused properly and not yet seeing him, showed that she was under stress as she negotiated the use of her senses. He tucked her into the crook of his arm, her head against him, so that she could feel the beating of one of his hearts and hear his breath. "You've come back," he whispered to her. "You're here again. Everything is all right now." He continued to speak to her quietly.
Gradually, his voice restored her, and she began to order her memories of him, and her own life. From there she recalled the other strands---her childhood and who she was, and the short term memory items: South Carolina, and the enormous Palmetto bug in the bath tub, and the two men who smoked pipes and called her ma'am sometimes.
She began to sort out her vision and hearing and other senses. She pushed her face into him and sniffed in the smell of his cologne, recognizing it. But there was something amiss. She realized that he was not wearing his waistcoat and smoking jacket. Oh yes, in this heat he was dressed as a dang American. She peeped up at him, at last seeing him, recognizing him, and remembering him.
"Am I alive?" she asked him.
"Yes. Alive and well and wearing nothing but a sheet. We'll have to do something about that. You need some boots at the very least." He smiled.
She didn't get the joke. She was still looking at him earnestly, still reorienting herself.
"I'll carry you," he said. "Come on." He stooped and gently lifted her behind the knees. He carried her down the rise of ground. Through the scrub, he saw the glare of headlights. "Ah! Looks like the boys have come back with some food."
But when he stepped through the trees with her, he saw a far larger group of men than he would have guessed. Yates, Benton, Stehart, and Rogers were backed against the four wheel drive vehicle, their hands up. Cornwallis was being held by the arms by two men clad in blue jeans and t-shirts and wearing white masks. Other than Cornwallis, the UNIT men still had their sidearms, but none had yet drawn. Some of the klansmen had rifles or shotguns, but not many. If it came to a gunfight, there would be devastating losses on both sides.
The Doctor set Jo on her feet and looked at the ring of men surrounding them. "This is a security restricted area," he said in a firm voice. "You are all trespassing, Leave at once."
Somebody shoved him from behind, away from Jo.
"Jo!" he exclaimed. He had no idea if these men would have hurt her or not. Just then, one of the silvery suited visitors stepped from the scrub. He caught the arm of the man who had shoved the Doctor and sent the clansman flying into the bushes. The Doctor realized that the visitors had been following him and Jo.
Several of their attackers started forward, but then somebody spoke. "We don't want to fight ye," he said. "We just want to teach that nigger a lesson about livin' in a white man's town."
The Doctor held out a hand to Jo. She joined him, and the silvery man allowed this. Three more silvery men had appeared.
"The black man's from overseas!" Stehart exclaimed. "Let him go! He's leavin' in the morning!"
"You've had two warnings."
The best that the Doctor could count in the dimness was that there were between 25 and 50 klansmen around them, some dressed in the full white regalia, some in jeans and masks, and a few with their faces painted multiple colors.
"We all came here to save you from a radiation disaster!" the Doctor shouted. He wondered why the visitors did not interfere. But they simply stood there. Perhaps, he realized, they did not know what was going on.
One of the klansmen again walked towards Jo, and the silvery man neatly tossed him over into a bush.
"Tell them fellas t'take off their helmets!" somebody shouted.
"They can't!" the Doctor called back. "They're radioactive."
The silvery men suddenly stepped forward, but all they did was herd the Doctor and Jo closer to the other UNIT people and then stand closely around them.
"But what about Cornwallis?" Jo asked.
Nobody answered her. Instead, the man who had first spoken about teaching Cornwallis a lesson, spoke again. "Go ahead, men. Don't you others move, and it'll be over fast."
The silvery men would not let them move any way. They stood silently and watched as the young UNIT corporal was tied between two trees, his shirt ripped off, his trousers and underwear pulled down. Four of the klansmen made a line, and each one whipped him across the back ten times with a three tailed whip.
Jo hid her face against the Doctor and cried, and then she would make herself turn and look at Cornwallis, not wanting to turn away from a friend in distress. Benton was almost sick.
When it was finished, Jo stirred and shook her head. "Color," she said out loud. And then, "I can't make you understand."
One of the silvery men stepped forward. He pulled off his outer glove and lifted his hand. A tremendous white flash lit up the swamp for a moment, illuminating the band of trespassers. The klansmen swept back in a wave. But as nothing else happened, they flung a bundle of switches at the feet of the beaten man, who hung by his arms between the trees. And then they left.
The silvery men walked back into the swamp, and the UNIT people rushed to their comrade and cut him free. They carried him tot he four wheel drive vehicle and rushed back to the Hill.
* * * * *
"Here's tea," the Doctor said to Jo, bringing her a tray with hot tea and
toast on it. Morning light was filtering gently through the white sheers of
"Cornwallis," she began.
"No more fever," he said. "I don't think he's fit to travel, but he wants
to leave." He sat on the edge of the bed. "I don't blame him. Stehart and
Rogers have called in a local physician to see him." He looked at her. "It
could have been worse. He has no broken bones. Kidneys are all right."
"I couldn't make him---my keeper---understand," Jo said. "I tried to ask him
for help, but he wasn't much aware of what was going on or why. When he
felt my fear he came to my rescue, but he didn't understand the rest. They
don't understand color that well. The whole idea that some people would
hate other people based on color doesn't make sense to them."
"Drink your tea." He stood up and paced restlessly. From far down the hill,
they heard the church bell. "Going to church," the Doctor muttered. "How
many of those fellows last night will be sitting in church today? The whole
town's going to church!" His voice was bitter.
Jo glanced at the clock by the bed. It was time for Sunday School. She
glanced out the window and then put on her robe and joined him. "Except
they're not going to church!" She pulled aside the sheer. "The whole street
is empty." She looked up at him. "Did you make toast for me?"
"Yes," he said.
"What about Jamie? He and Suzanne make us breakfast early every morning.
What's happened to him, then?"
They looked at each other and walked out. "Jamie?" the Doctor called, He
knocked on the door of the master bedroom. "Are you all right?"
Suzanne came to the door, fully dressed. "Is the medical doctor here?" she
asked. "Jamie's sick."
"I am a doctor, madam," the Doctor told her.
"No, we want our family doctor!" And she hurried up the hall. The Doctor
glanced down at his assistant, and by silent consent they entered the master bedroom.
The curtains had been untied to dim the room, but as they entered, Jamie
himself was coming from the bathroom, saying "Suzanne, I called Rod, and
he's the same---"
He stopped at sight of them. Even in the dimness, the Doctor and Jo could
see it plainly. Jamie was black. Not pitch black, but darkened. His skin,
in fact, seemed to be about the same shade as Cornwallis' skin.
"Get out! Get out!" he shouted at them. They beat a hasty retreat and
stepped aside as Suzanne rushed past them and slammed the door closed.
"But he's not---he's not a negro," Jo said. "His other features are
In some wonder, they walked up the hall to the front room and gazed out the
front windows. A smattering of people had driven down to the church, but
some of the houses across the street had their shades drawn.
"Last night," Jo began. "When that visitor made the light flash over the klansmen---I thought it did no good."
"I thought it was just an empty effort to chase them off." His eyes were thoughtful.
"Could light do that?" she asked.
"As a creature of matter, I have very little idea of all that light and energy can be made to do," he told her. "But I would suppose that, yes, there are ways it can be used to alter skin color."
She was suddenly troubled. "Was Jamie there last night?" she whispered.
Just then the town's premier physician came down the steps. "How is Cornwallis?" Jo asked.
"Well Miss, at least there's man I can treat!" He nodded up the steps. "His
pride's hurt, of course, and he's very low. Shameful business. But he's
treatable! Not like my other cases so far today!"
"It's not yet ten a.m.," the Doctor said. "And a Sunday at that. How many cases have you had today?"
"I've been called to three homes so far this morning," the physician told them.
"Don't know what the ailment is. But folks---all men---have turned dark.
Dark like that young man upstairs, except he come by his naturally."
"Klansmen, by any chance?" the Doctor asked.
The physician shrugged and became diplomatic. "Well, that's an organization
I try not to have ties with, sir. I ask no questions. But as a matter of
fact, two of the gents I saw this morning are fairly outspoken on their
views concerning the Negro race. The other one, an Alfred Morgan, is a very
high official at SRP!" He paused and looked reflective. "This is one for the experts!"
"Some type of burn?" the Doctor asked.
"Not traumatic, if that's what you mean. It could be some type of reaction to a burn. I've never seen the like. Looks permanent."
He nodded to them and went down the hall to see Jamie.
"So," the Doctor said. "The visitors did take a hand. That was what that
flash of light was all about. Permanent darkening of the skin by exposing
them to a very specialized light." He cocked his head at Jo. "Punishment?"
She shook her head. "Education, I think." She looked up at him. "If they
thought humans were bickering about something as pointless to them as skin
color, they would just show the side that is mistaken how inconsequential
it is to be black. And the easiest way to do that it so make them
black---well, brown, really."
"The exact same shade as Cornwallis!"
He looked down at her, and after a moment his eyes twinkled. But then he
said. "And that explains how the Klan got into the swamp. Morgan was one of
them. Getting revenge on us, no doubt!" He looked up the steps. "We've got
to get Cornwallis out of here! By noon time, this town will either be praying to
him or lynching him!"
"So now we go home?" she asked hopefully.
"Yes," he said, leading her up the steps. "Now we go home."
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