Part 3 - A Shift in Perceptions
Summary: Attack of the Jack, and some suspicious statues create problems for the Master and Martha.
Note: I've hit a writer's block - I know what I want to do, just not how to do it. This is often the cause of long delays.
It was no secret that the TARDIS tended to make journeys a bit rough ever since the Doctor's…transformation, but this was overkill even by his standards.
"Behave! Sodding piece of-OW!" The Master snatched his fingers back as the controls sparked and spat angrily and laid into the console with a rubber mallet. Martha sympathized with the brutalized creature, but at the moment she was just trying to hang on for dear life as the ship pitched and yawned in the Vortex. The engines were making a worrisome keening noise that sounded rather like a dying animal.
"What's wrong with her?" she yelled over the din.
"Doesn't want to land," was the snarled response as the Master yanked down on the stabilizer and pitched forward into the computer screen as the ship lurched. "Some fool thing's got her spooked."
"I don't suppose that's a good reason she's refusing to, and we should find someplace else to set down?" Martha suggested, gritting her teeth as her stomach gave a sickening leap. "Where's our destination?"
"Only in bloody Cardiff!" the pilot replied. An air of superiority lit up his face as the TARDIS finally gave in and moaned, the materialization sequence sounding sick and reluctant as they dropped out of the Vortex. "That's better. Honestly, all we're doing is a fuel-up. Infernal outdated capsule." The Master rapped his fist on one of the struts as the materialization sequence finished with a thump and grinned triumphantly over at his companion. Martha groaned and relaxed her hold on the captain's chair, doubling over as she pulled deep breaths, quelling her nausea.
The grin turned to alarm. "You're not going to be sick, are you?" he demanded.
"Nice of you to care," Martha muttered.
"Care? Miss Jones, if I ever have the concern for your health you like to think I do, that's the day I dress in drag and do the hula in the middle of the Panopticon." He scowled, setting the handbrake. "I just don't want you gumming up the works with your breakfast, which I might remind you cost me a pretty penny."
"It was your idea to go to Tynar's Burgers in the Jixtom system," she replied archly. "I wanted to go to Milliways."
"Seen one end of the universe, you've seen them all," the Time Lord muttered. "If you're going to be sick, find a bucket. Why wouldn't she want to land in Cardiff? What'd she sense?" He raked his hand through his hair in frustration and stared at the computer, as if it held all the answers. "What am I forgetting?"
Martha watched him mutter to himself for a little while before she sighed and picked up her coat, walking stiffly to the door. It garnered his attention immediately. "Where do you think you're going?"
"Out for some fresh air; that is if we are actually in Cardiff," she teased.
"Oh." And just like that, his attention span shifted. "Don't be long; it'll only be a few minutes."
"Be back in less," she replied, and opened the door.
The cool sea breeze coming off the bay ruffled the stray strands of her hair and Martha felt instantly better. She leaned against the railing, staring out over the water.
"Beautiful day," offered a voice from behind.
Martha glanced towards the sky and squinted. It was overcast and gray. "Not really," she answered, and turned her head to see who had spoken. A foot or two down the railing, a young man in a military greatcoat was propped against the wall, watching the waves break against the docks. He smiled.
"I suppose it's one of those things you get used to," he joked, and she was surprised to hear American tones.
"Tourist?" she ventured, tilting her head. He mimicked her movement with a quirky grin.
"Nope," His head turned towards the centre of the plaza, to the foot of the fountain where the TARDIS was sitting, and Martha realized he could SEE it, parked and shielded with the perception filter on the paving stones. "You're the new companion?"
The doctor was momentarily speechless. "Uh…"
"Well, either that or you've regenerated again, Doctor," the American continued, his eyes raking her from head to toe in a way Martha felt she should be offended by, but couldn't seem to muster the willpower. "I like it. Tall dark and brooding was more my style, though."
"I'm not –" Martha started, stumbling over her surprise. "Well, I mean I am a doctor, but I'm not the Doctor." She paused. "Then again he's not him either…" she trailed off. "It's a little confusing, to be honest."
"Regeneration can be a pain in the synapses," her companion agreed, and stepped closer, offering a hand. "Captain Jack Harkness."
"Martha Jones," she answered, taking it with some trepidation. "What do you mean regeneration?"
"It's this thing they do, Time Lords, when they die…" Jack paused, and gave her a sheepish grin. "But when you meant he wasn't himself, you didn't mean that, did you?"
"I'm afraid not," Martha said, narrowing her eyes and stepping away. "Look, Captain, I don't know who you are or what you want with the Mas-the Doctor, but if you'll excuse me, I need to get back." She pushed past him, heading for the TARDIS. A firm hand grabbed her arm.
"I'm afraid I can't let you go, Miss Jones. I need to speak with the Doc, and I have a feeling he'll just fly off if I let you go back," Jack apologized, marching her towards the blue box. He knocked sharply on the door.
"Come on, Martha," the Master's voice sounded irritated. "That Rift's been active recently –it won't take long to charge the TARDIS up properly…any longer and she'll probably get indigestion, it'd be her style…"
The captain pushed his way inside, his eyes widening as he took in the console room –but not, Martha thought –with any sort of amazement or incredulity. He looked more like someone who has found something they thought they'd lost forever.
"Oh, no no-no-no," the Master emerged from behind the time rotor wiping his hands on a rag. "I refuse to let you bring one-night stands onto this ship, Martha. You want to do something unhygienic and messy, you do it…somewhere…" he trailed off as his brown eyes met the captain's blue.
"Oh...great," The Master sighed dramatically and rolled his eyes. "It's the freak."
Jack blinked. Whatever he had been expected, it wasn't this. "Doctor?" he asked disbelief in every line of his face.
The Master cocked his head sideways. "We-ell," he said, in a tone Martha found almost painfully reminiscent of the Doctor, "it is, and then again," he waggled his eyebrows, "it isn't."
"You've regenerated," jack tried to recover his stride, but Martha could see the 'freak' comment had shaken his previous self-confidence.
The Master was enjoying himself now. He leaned closer. "All that," he whispered, "and more besides, Captain Jack Harkness."
"You left me behind," the captain was obviously trying not to let the sudden closeness of the Master throw him off. "On the Games Station – you just left me there."
The Master raised an eyebrow. "What else would I have done?"
Jack stared at him. "What?" he asked, urgency and a need to believe in his voice. "What are you talking about?"
The Master was circling him now – long, lazy steps that didn't so much eat distance as make it shrink. He slid across the floor like a Cockney-accented, freckled, and extremely dangerous big cat.
"I could feel it from the minute you came back to life," the Master said quietly. "All that time and space and change and flux running through the temporal sphere – and in the middle of it, you: a fixed point. A fact," He stepped back, "An abomination."
"You mean how I can't die?"
Martha gasped. "You can't-" she started to say, but the Master cut across her.
"Give the little boy a big cigar!" he announced, clapping soundlessly. "Do you have any idea how much it hurts just to look at you? Just to see you standing there, and know that you will be there the next day and the next and the next, until the universe pulls itself down around our ears?"
The captain either didn't care, or else had more important things to worry about than simple rudeness.
"How did it happen?" he asked, and to Martha's astonished eyes, he almost seemed to be begging. "Will I ever be able to die?"
The Master flicked ostentatiously at a fleck of dust on his sleeve. "No chance," he said dismissively. "That was Rose's doing. Stupid ape looked into the heart of the TARDIS – brainless thing to do, but that was Rose all over, wasn't it? Brought you back to life – but ballsed it up, of course; brought you back for good. Still, got rid of the Daleks, so there's a silver lining to every cloud, I suppose."
Jack's face darkened, but all he said was. "Where is Rose? I saw the names of the dead - it said 'Rose Tyler'."
The Master sniffed. "Oh, I couldn't have killed her with a nuclear bomb in the head. She's trapped on a parallel Earth somewhere –being 'domestic', I suppose," he smiled like a shark, or a jaguar, "didn't think I was ever going to get rid of her."
That was when Jack broke his nose.
There was a lot of shouting then, and it was never quite clear in Martha's mind: yelling and fighting, and a storm of greatcoat and whirling fists, and finally –someone running for the door, closing it with an enormous slam. But that hadn't been Jack, Martha had somehow known. That had been the TARDIS, making her feelings on the matter perfectly clear.
The next time they needed to refuel, the Master took them to the rift in Paris.
"I never saw the appeal of these things," Martha remarked, staring at the time-worn statue outside the window with the disinterest of boredom. "They just sit out in the garden and attract spiders and mould and stains, and you can't clean them properly once the plants grow up around them."
"Mm," the Master responded, not even pretending to listen as he slowly swept the scanner around the dilapidated room in Wester Drumlins.
Martha sighed slightly. They had been en route to some pleasure planet called Midnight when the TARDIS had picked up abrupt fluctuation in the time stream and chosen to detour on her own power. The Master had been tight-lipped as to what exactly he was scanning for, and that had been several hours ago.
"I won't bother explaining it to a primitive mind," he sniffed, "You wouldn't understand it anyways."
"That just means you don't know either," Martha replied. "Dumb it down."
He stared at her as if the very idea was akin to stepping in a dog's leavings and laughed disdainfully. "Dumb down the mechanics of Rassilon's third theory of temporal-spatial quantum energy transference?"
"I don't know – make something up. Wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey; you're finding the polarity of a neutron; BS it."
"That's the most absurd thing I've ever heard. Wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey. If that's what they're teaching in your medical school these days it's no wonder your planet is so backward."
Life with him was certainly…different. Once, when they landed on a backwards planet in the middle of a political uprising, she had thought she knew what he was going to do – well she guessed she had pretty fair ideas, anyway. The Doctor would've leapt straight into the fray and told her the plan as he made it up on the spot.
The Master seemed to prefer to plan something out in careful detail, and only told her what was need-to-know. It was infuriatingly condescending in her opinion – until the rebels kidnapped her for information, and she had nothing to say.
She had learned that day the Master had a possessive approach to his companions –once the Alliance equivalent of black-ops had rescued her safe and sound, he had razed their encampment to the ground without a blink.
It wasn't the differences that threw Martha, but the similarities to the Doctor she'd known. He didn't do the random streams of consciousness babble. He cast cool, disapproving glares instead of disappointed sadness if he was displeased with something Martha had done or said, and his favour wasn't easily won. But he still took his tea the same, and she'd caught him in the act of licking something once or twice. And, she suspected, even with a new sardonic hue to his lectures, he still enjoyed explaining something technical to her if she was a willing student. She was exactly that now: not a companion, or a friend, but a student and assistant.
But more often, he'd clam up entirely, and she was back to being the pet ape he begrudgingly put up with for the sake of the parts of the Doctor that still resided in his memories.
Martha turned away from the somewhat creepy little cherub statuette and wandered further into the house. It was musty and cold, light filtering through the grimy windows, an occasional pure ray of sunlight shining through a shattered pane, making the dust she disturbed glitter and dance as it floated carelessly through the beam.
The medical student turned a corner and stopped, somewhat shaken. At the end of the hall, another angel statue stood on a pedestal. One hand was raised, thrown over the eyes in a swooning posture, as if it were saying, "oh woe is I, to be stuck here for eternity."
"Whoever lived here had creepy taste in decorations," she muttered, frowning. The hallway itself was in no better shape than the rest of the house; the ancient wallpaper was peeling away quite dramatically from the stone. She looked closer.
There was writing underneath the wallpaper.
Curiosity had her reaching up to grab the hanging corner and she slowly pulled the paper off. It made a terrific ripping sound, as more of the message was revealed.
DON'T BLINK. WATCH
"Don't blink?" Martha ripped down more of the paper.
WATCH THE ANGELS. MARTHA JONES, TURN AROUND. NOW!
Martha took a step back in shock. The message was for HER. She twisted, felt stone-cold claws close around her arms, preventing her from following the wall's instructions.
And then she was somewhere else.
The shout made the Master growl and he shoved the scanner into the pocket of his pinstriped black jacket. Infuriating child; what was it now? "If you're going to refer to me by HIS name, don't insult us both and contract it to 'Doc'!" he barked, storming out of the room and into the hall.
There was no sign of his companion. The storm clouds on his face darkened. "Martha!" Leave the ape alone for five minutes and she engages in property vandalism. The hall was littered with large scraps of paper. He scowled.
"Martha! Marth-" he stopped, staring at the message on the wall. His brow furrowed.
"Watch the angels Martha Jones."
Synapses fired, connections were made, and realisation came faster than his hearts could cycle. He spun around, and recoiled; the innocent angel statue that had perched at the end of the hall was suddenly looming over him, a demonic snarl distorting its features. In its stone fingers, a very familiar key was hanging by its chain.
"Oh no you don't," the Master growled, grabbing the key and yanking it from the angel's grasp, glaring intently at the sculpture. Weeping Angels, the only quantum-locked beings capable of generating such anomalies in the time stream – he should've known as soon as he'd received the readings. And Martha had been taken.
"I know the way this game is played," he told the frozen statue, slowly backing away down the hall. "You can't move unless I look away. Clever defence mechanism, very clever, but you've taken the wrong person, my friend. I'm going to get Miss Jones back, and then I am coming back here and ensuring you NEVER darken my shadow again." He paused, and studied the statue. "But I've missed something. You fellows are rarely alone. You like to travel in packs, don't you? Wolves of the universe."
There was a rustle of movement behind him. The Master smirked and straightened up.
And then he was somewhere else.