Over The Edge
The Master gurgled and choked as he continued his vain effort to fend off the attack. The tendril around his chest suddenly constricted like a giant snake and he realized, to his horror, that even if he did manage to loosen the coils at his neck, he would suffocate nonetheless as the enraged Alterran made good his promise to squeeze the life out of him.
The Doctor turned to look in the direction of the voice, having been confused by the reply. He stared in horror at what he saw and everything came flooding back in a rush.
"No! Jason, stop!"
The Master could feel consciousness beginning to slip away, his vision starting to blur. Hearing the Doctor call out, he knew in spite of everything that his rival would try to talk the incensed Alterran Prince out of wringing his neck.
So did Jason.
"Don't try to talk me out of this, Doctor," Jason said vehemently. "Don't…even…try."
The Doctor was stunned by this admonition and by the cold malevolent sounding voice that had delivered it. He had heard that tone before, many years before during a time when Jason had skirted the edge between reason and mindless violence much too often. It had taken years of patient guidance from the Doctor, and considerable effort on Jason's part to get his violent temper under control. Now, suddenly it had all been undone and the Doctor feared the volatile Alterran was very close to the point of no return.
"Oh, dear," the Doctor muttered under his breath.
With a mighty effort, and the help of his companions, the Doctor managed to sit up. "Jason, listen to me," he said urgently. "Think about what you're doing. I mean really think! You're Alterran. Your race has shunned violence for centuries."
"I am aware of that, Doctor," came the uncharacteristically contemptuous reply, the grip on the fast weakening Time Lord tightening further. "And I don't—"
"The cardinal law of your own people is to never take the form of any instrument of violence. Would you turn your true form into such an instrument? Have you lost all your respect for the Laws of Alterrous?"
The Doctor noticed the coils loosen slightly. Excellent! I've struck a nerve! Rising tenuously to his feet, he supported himself with a chair and continued his barrage with greater ferocity. "Look at yourself. Look at what you're doing. You're a Healer, trained to save lives, not take them." He paused only long enough to steady himself before pressing on. "You've become as bad as he is. Killing whoever gets in your way. Is that what you really want, Jason? To be like him? To be like the Master?"
This last question had been dropped like a bomb and the Doctor waited for the explosion to follow. When it did not come, he sat down in defeat, shaking his head. "It's too late. I can't reach him anymore," he sighed helplessly. "He's gone over the edge this time and I can't bring him back."
Without realizing, the Doctor had dropped a more powerful bomb than the first.
"Noooo!" Jason shrieked as if in the throes of death.
The semi-conscious Master was flung across the room like a rag doll. He struck the wall not far from the smoking wreckage and collapsed gasping and choking to the floor.
The aberration hung in the air and was suddenly Prince Jason again. He stood transfixed by the sight of the Master's prostrate form, his gaze moving slowly to the crumpled body of Saunders, whose actions had saved his life. Dazed and trembling, he turned to face the Doctor, seeing a familiar look of uncertainty in his eyes, only now there was real fear mixed in. A fear Jason knew all too well. The fear of losing himself to the uncontrollably violent and unpredictably dangerous side of his own duality. He had not lost his temper so completely in decades and had never been pushed so far over the edge. Yet somehow the Doctor had managed to pull him back.
Unable to look his old fiend in the eye, Jason turned away, looking back at the devastation in the room. Covering his face with his hands, he sank to the floor, trembling uncontrollably. "What've I done?" he wailed. "What've I done?" Finally he broke down completely, too overcome with tears to speak.
The Doctor walked slowly over to his shattered friend, taking him in his arms as if he were a small child. The Alterran tried to push him away in shame, only to succumb to the Time Lord's efforts to console him. He sat clinging to his oldest and dearest friend weeping bitterly.
The significance of the confrontation eluded Tegan and Turlough, who exchanged a look of mutual bewilderment.
No one spoke for what seemed an eternity. The silence was finally broken when the computer suddenly let out a loud beep. All eyes turned to see the screens now read—
YOU WHO WOULD SEEK CONTROL
HAVE LOST ALL
ONLY THE DUST REMAINS
The last domino had fallen.
Jason looked meaningfully at the Doctor, his own message taking on a profound significance. He drew a deep breath in order to regain enough of his composure to speak. "Thank-you, my friend," he said in a subdued voice. "I think—No, I know—you just save my sanity. Again."
The Doctor beamed back at him. "My dear Jason, I dare say, I should probably be thanking you. From the looks of this room, I'd say the lot of you just saved my life."
"Erupting volcanoes can have that effect, I'm afraid," Jason observed softly.
"Especially long dormant ones, eh?"
Across the room, the Master had also managed to regain some of his composure and was in the process of cursing himself for allowing his moment of triumph to be so utterly destroyed. Using the wall for support, he was able to work his way over to the storeroom and slip in unnoticed. Suddenly the room was filled with the familiar sound of a TARDIS dematerializing. The Doctor and his companions turned in time to see the storeroom fade from sight.
"The Master!" Turlough exclaimed. "He's got away!"
Jason took a deep breath. "Well, at least we know he can't take over the Containment Area," he said in satisfaction as he stood up. He held out a hand and pulled the Doctor to his feet.
"How do you know that?" the Doctor wanted to know.
Jason gave him a knowing look before explaining about his program. Nodding over to the message on the screen, he said, "I had Tegan and Turlough activate that program to destroy the contents of the Containment Area. My Uncle had me enter it as a precautionary measure." Shaking his head, he added, "I never dreamed I'd be the one using it."
"What're you going to do now?" Tegan asked pointedly.
"First off, I think we'd better see who's still alive in this place."
"I think that's a very good idea," the Doctor agreed as he dusted himself off. "You probably should contact your father and the Emperor and let them know what's happened."
"They'll never believe it," Tegan remarked, shaking her head. "Idon't even believe it."
Jason caught the Doctor's eye and smiled mischievously. "Oh, don't you worry, they'll believe it. They'll believe almost anything, if I tell them the Doctor was involved."
Command Override © Margaret Price 1989 is an original work written for the enjoyment of Doctor Who fans everywhere. No copyright infringement is intended.
Original series broadcast on the BBC. Format © BBC 1963
Doctor Who and Tardis are trademarks of the BBC.
The story and all other original characters are © Margaret Price