"I wish I knew where the Doctor was," Jo fretted. "He's probably gotten himself into some kind of trouble. All those hypnotized men, well you know that means the Master's around here someplace, that's for certain, and that can't be good. You know what I mean. I know he can take care of himself, like the Captain said, but I can't help but worry. Do you think we should go looking for him? Oh, sorry, I mean, do you think I should go looking for him?"
Twilight was fading into night and the yard look eerie in the erratic glow of the burning building. The smell of smoke was thick in the air and Jo sat by Sergeant Benton where he lay at the back of one of the trucks on a stretcher with a woolen blanket tucked over him. "I'm sure the Brig's got people watching for him," he comforted. "Sorry I can't be of more help."
Jo looked down at his pale face and patted the blanket. Ever since they'd been brought to the truck, Benton had seemed far more embarrassed that he'd had to be handed down the steps half insensible than he was bothered by the gash on his leg, which a young medic had neatly cleaned and swathed before firmly instructing him to stay laying down until they could get back to HQ.
"Oh stop apologizing," she told him. "Look at me, I was silly enough to walk right into one of their traps and ended up endangering all of you. And now I've let the Doctor wander off without me. If anyone should be saying they're sorry, it's me!"
"Sorry, Miss," Benton said apologetically.
"Captain?" Jo called into the gloom as someone came near the truck.
"Er, no. It's just me," a brown-haired man in an ash smeared business suit came nearer and looked into the back. "John Babcock, if you remember me."
"Mr. Babcock. Of course I remember you," Jo said with a reassuring smile. "Is there something we can help you with?"
"Well, I heard you're still looking for Doctor Smith."
"Have you seen him?" Jo asked excitedly. "Where?"
"I don't rightly know if I saw him or not, but when everyone was busy with the house being on fire and all that I did see a couple of those troublesome men, the ones with the hats, carrying something out that way," he pointed. "I mean, it might be nothing, but now that I've had time to think about it, it was big enough to hold a person…so I thought maybe I ought to mention it. Especially since they didn't find him anywhere in the house."
"Out that way?" Jo echoed, looking out across the yard. There was nothing out there but scattered boxcars and beyond it a bit of woods with a pond.
Somewhere 'out that way' a strange humming sound began to rise. She started to climb down from the truck.
The Brigadier turned from directing men who had just discovered some pumping equipment to find a blank-faced man with a railway logo on his jumper going past , walking straight for the burning building. The Brigadier grabbed the man's arm and turned him, pushing him back towards Yates who was coming up behind more slowly.
"Captain, can't you keep those men contained?"
Yates, who had been assigned to watch over the seven men as something that didn't take much physical exertion, pointed toward the runaway man with a significant nod. Another soldier who had been following promptly hustled the railway worker back toward the fenced supply yard they'd turned into an impromptu corral for their wayward hypnosis victims.
"Sorry, sir. I think we're going to have to cuff them, they won't stop going back to that building. What are we going to do about them being hypnotized this way?" he said in frustration. "They're completely uncooperative. The Doctor knows how to fix it; nothing we're trying is working at all."
The Brigadier frowned as a strange vibrating hum began to rise from somewhere out on north side of the tracks. "I thought your men searched those woods," he said.
"We did!" Yates returned.
"Well, something is out there now." There were loud pops. Sparkling across the junction crackling bolts of electricity flashed as the numerous connection boxes begin to violently pop apart with a noise like gunshots. The cables they were still attached to crackled with additional power being surged into them the source beneath the water.
"Miss Grant! You're supposed to stay here!" Benton called after her as she jumped to the ground. "It could be dangerous! Babcock, stop her!" he added in frustration at his own immobility. "That's an order!"
"Uh…yes, sir!" the hapless aide said as the young woman ran off past him into the darkness, toward the hum. He stopped her in the only way he knew how to stop a running person, diving at her in a good rugby tackle he'd learned back in school. The two of them tumbled painfully into the gravel.
"Let me go!" Jo said angrily. She tried to rise and the man pushed her back down as loud bangs and pops were heard beyond them. They both looked over to see the cable boxes exploding in sizzling, shrieking bursts of light.
The Brigadier snatched at the elbow of a man running past. "Smithers! Any sign of the Doctor yet?"
"I don't think so," the Lieutenant he had addressed gasped, wiping sweat and ash from his forehead. "But we blocked the civilian fire trucks, like you ordered. Our own backup should be here in the next five minutes or less."
"Good. Pass the word that I'm to know the minute he shows up. The minute, do you understand me?"
"He better have a damn good reason to be gone at a time like this," the Brigadier muttered as the mesh fire escape shrieked, falling away from the burning building behind him. Men shouted and the railway began to bang and spark with small exploding boxes. "Or he's going to be in very deep water."
Chilled, blackened water gushed forcefully through the hatchway as the Doctor and Master worked to slide it aside enough for them to get through. "You first," the Doctor said gallantly as they were both already soaked to the chest. The level rose quickly in such a confined space and the pipe was still shooting its contents into the air. "Straight and then to the right."
"I know," the Master growled, took a deep breath and plunged down into the rising flood, vanishing instantly. The Doctor followed.
Blindly feeling his way along the body of the ship and threading his way past submerged branches, he finally found the edge and surfaced with a grateful gasp. The Master was just a little to one side of him, already kicking out towards the bank. Again, he followed, swimming after as best he could through the muck.
"We need distance," the Master panted. "It will explode when it lifts off."
"What?" the Doctor said in consternation. "Explode? Why?"
"A little failsafe of my own," the Master said as he went. "When it reaches full capacity. Thanks to their lack of honour on our deal, I failed to inform them of it."
"They have no idea of their danger?" the Doctor asked in horror, pausing in his strokes.
"Why should I tell them?" the Master answered.
The Doctor started to turn back, obviously thinking there could still be some way to warn the Gingers. The Master knew it and reached back to unceremoniously dunk him.
"Now it's too late," he told him flatly, allowing him to come back up for air.
"You're heartless," the Doctor spluttered, water streaming from his hair.
"No, practical," the Master corrected, yanking his fellow Time Lord along through the smelly brown pond towards the shallows. "Hurry. Just one more increase on the…" A water-sodden black stick whipped up as he stumbled over it and smacked him high on the chest, leaving his sentence unfinished as he spit bits of mud and bark.
"And it explodes, I know," the Doctor gasped beside him as they waded and staggered through the soft mud of the boggy edge and began pulling themselves up the side by means of grass clumps. "You're as bad as the Brigadier."
They spared no more breath for talk, but bent all their energy for reaching the nearest shelter: a short line of freight cars parked along the rails. Thinking alike, they both grabbed at the metal ladder that extended down the side and collided with one another, then swung to either side of it and pulled themselves up. On the opposite side, the dark water began to fall away from shining metal as the shuttle lifted up from its hiding place. The muddy bottom of the pond churned and gurgled like a live thing as the hum of the engines throttled to a shriek.
The water of the lake shot upward in a brown geyser and the boxcar rocked and trembled. Gravel, water and mud splatted below them as the force rocketed chunks of metal and bits of debris along the ground, ricocheting off the underside of the boxcar's carriage and rattling among the tracks.
There was a pause. The boxcar creaked, water could be heard slopping wildly in the remains of the lake and there was the roaring sound of something large on fire somewhere nearby. They ducked as a chunk of ragged metal bounced off of the top of their boxcar with a bang. A distant crackling heralded bits of hot space craft burning among the trees around the lake. The two of them looked at one another. After another pause to be sure there weren't any more errant missiles, both climbed down and peered back around the edge at the damage. The railyard was thickly filled with smoke, ashes whirled through the air and somewhere nearby a wailing siren was approaching.
The Doctor shook his wet hair back and leaned against the boxcar, examining the wreckage around the pond. "Still, they were living beings," he said after a moment, continuing the former argument only to turn his head and find the Master wasn't there. He glanced around, locating him a few yards away already climbing into a tall railway signal post which then faded out with a familiar grinding sound.
Across the way he could now see the signal house was heartily ablaze, black smoke billowing up into the darkening sky, the glow making silhouettes of the soldiers scattered here and there, shouting at one another and gaping at where the ship had formerly been. He sighed, wiped the water out of his eyes and trudged back across the tracks.
Jo sat up from where she and Babcock had instinctively dropped low and covered their heads when the ship exploded. Stray bits of mud and debris spattered down and a cloud of vapour roiled up from the water beyond the tracks. The echo of the blast reverberated among the boxcars.
"Doctor!" Jo cried in horror. "Oh no!"
Babcock followed her gaze grimly. "If he was there he's gone now, that's for sure. I'm sorry…"
She looked back at him with wide eyes filling with tears and shook her head vehemently in denial. "He can't be dead. He can't be! You must have been wrong!"
"I hope I was," Babcock said unhappily. "But I'm usually right about tracking where things go. And nothing could've survived that."
"But the Doctor…!"
He brushed gravel out of his hair, still trying to process what had just happened. "I know. I mean, I know he got through all right back when that building went up and all that, but he had that car of his with him then. He's not coming back this time. There's no way. I'm so sorry."
Jo started to get up, then just sat back on the gravel, pulling her knees up to her chest and hiding her face in them. "We need to let the Brigadier know," she said after a moment. At the sound of her voice, Babcock awkwardly reached out to pat her shoulders in consolation. He wasn't sure if telling that very stern and intimidating Brigadier that his favourite scientist had just been blown sky-high was news he really wanted to be the bearer of. Ash from the burning signal house filled the air and the gravel was cold and sharp, but neither of them moved.
They were still sitting there together when a tall man covered in mud and dripping pond water came walking out of the smoky darkness and wearily hunkered down beside them.
"Hello, Jo," he said.
Three days later John Babcock found himself walking down the steps toward the car park of UNIT in a euphoric daze. Once inside his old grey sedan, he unfolded the papers in his hand and looked at them again as if to ascertain that it was real and not a fake. The Brigadier had assured him this particular notice of commendation for training at this particular address of the Ministry of Defense would take his world in an entirely new direction, a world he had only dreamed of.
Even the Doctor had taken his hand in congratulations. "We're in your debt, Mr. Babcock. Even if most of what you did was accidental."
"After all," the Brigadier had added a bit drily, "If you're determined to be doing it anyhow, you might as well be trained in how to do it properly."
"Where's the Doctor?" asked Yates from the door of the lab. "I'm supposed to have him sign these papers for the requisition forms. And what are you doing here, Sergeant?"
"He's up in the Brig's office. Seems they wanted him to present a bonus of some kind to that government man," replied Benton from where he sat on the couch with his crutches handy. "And I'm recuperating, which apparently requires tea according to Miss Grant." He raised his cup and took a swig of tea as proof. "Which reminds me, whatever happened with those men at the railway?"
"Oh, the Doctor took care of them all right," Jo said from where she and Benton had been sharing a packet of biscuits. "You want a cup of tea, Captain?"
"Thank you," Yates said, carefully settling on the other end of the couch. After all, there was no reason he couldn't have some tea with a pretty girl if Benton could. "None of them could remember why they were all lined up in a burning building, but he's apparently left them under the vague impression they drunk themselves into a stupor at a party," he said. "Either way, they're grateful enough at being saved they won't file complaints. And the smoke from the signal house gave us a handy cover for the smoke from that explosion too; we've reported it as an accident with a fuel car."
"Well, that's something good at least," said Jo, peering into a mug to see if it was clean. She stuck the edge of her sleeve into it to wipe out some dust and poured the last of the tea in. She passed it to Yates.
Benton took a biscuit and gestured in the general direction of the Brigadier's office. "I'm glad that Babcock chap's getting something. He was the one who saw it, I mean those men setting fire to the building. He told the Brigadier we were up there."
"You know, the most horrible thing in all that was I could still see and hear things going on, I just couldn't move," Jo said, settling back between them. She looked up at the Captain. "But I thought you and Sergeant Benton were both very heroic."
Yates shrugged, his ears going red as he self-consciously tugged at his jacket, which wouldn't completely button over the bandages that still wrapped his ribs. "I'm glad the Brigadier is giving him something too," he said, steering the topic back away from himself. "He admitted he accidentally let that dragon go, but otherwise did pretty well for someone who was just an untrained civilian."
"Except for his knocking me to the ground the way he did," Jo said, holding up a bandaged elbow for evidence. She looked over at Benton and smiled. "I blame you for that one. But really, whatever happened to that dragon, then? It isn't still out there loose somewhere is it?"
"No," the Benton said. "According to the Doctor, it had a last meal of tobacco and has gone to wherever Polluxian dragons go when they don't go back to Pollux."
"And if he hadn't let that dragon out, the Master and I would have both been gone to wherever Polluxian dragons go as well," came the Doctor's amused voice from the door of the lab. "Not the way I would have preferred to perish, locked in a kennel with the Master of all things."
He came in, resplendent in fresh black and maroon velvet and regarded the three of them lined up along the couch with a smile. "I was just about to go out and work on Bessie a bit, it seems she's in need of a new speedometer again. Any biscuits left?"