The Doctor's problem
It was apparent from the Doctor's face that the last trip with his new reluctant companion did not exactly go as planned. He looked tired and pale, with dark half moon rims underneath his eyes. His hair spiked up in all different directions as he ran through it nervously with his fingers. The first thing Jack did was to ask him to sit down, and offer him a cup of tea to calm his nerves. When he handed the mug of tea over to the Doctor, the captain noticed that he had a slight tremor in his hands.
"Is everything all right?" Jack asked with great concern.
They were sitting at the captain's desk in the Torchwood laboratories. The rest of the gang had already gone home and most of the lights had been shut down a while ago. The sudden appearance of the Doctor right behind him in the dark when he was finishing his report on the last alien incidence hadn't exactly done any good for his nerves either. Jack sipped patiently from his tea as he waited for the Timelord to compose himself.
"It didn't work." The Doctor uttered in a flat voice.
"What didn't work?" Jack asked.
The Doctor sighed, and pulled another couple of spikes in his hair.
"Traveling with him. It didn't work at all. Frankly, he is driving me up the wall."
Jack wasn't surprised, but kept a stern face and nodded understandably.
"I haven't slept for days. Mind you, it's not like I need a lot of sleep, one hour a day and I should be fit as a fiddle. But I never get to that hour of rest because he keeps stirring things up. If I take an eye off him for just a second he is already up to wreck havoc. It's like living with a hyperactive narcistic little monster with the destructive tendency of large defiant canine. One that constantly wants to kill me that is."
"Didn't you say that you would take him somewhere safe and far away till he is rehabilitated?"
"I took him to satellite 47." The Doctor muttered, taking a careful sip from his comforting hot tea. "It's an abandoned seeding pod rotating around a barren planet in solar system 23B, which is basically at the edge of the bloody universe. It's an empty space-vessel filled with rusty junk and defunk control-systems. He shouldn't be able do any harm there. But then he sneaked into the abandoned laboratory behind my back and started tingling with the remaining DNA samples that were left in the freezer. He built an entire army of generic aliens in one afternoon and sent them after me. Mind you, the quality of the DNA was rather bad and these creatures were relatively harmless. I mean, they couldn't really hurt me since they had like 11 legs and no heads on their shoulders to tell them where to go, but still. It's the idea that he actually did this." The Doctor looked at the captain with an expression which could only be described as childlike bafflement on his face as if he just couldn't understand why on earth the Master would want to get rid of him.
"The satellite wasn't such a good option then." Said Jack, smart enough to not give the Doctor his opinion of the matter. Not yet at least.
"Nope. So I decided to take him to the planet of the Dwahjans. Do you know the Dwahjans? Friendly little creatures really, strictly vegetarians. They won't harm a fly. In case you wondered, they look a bit like those Ewok puppets from that Star Wars movie. I mean, how cute can a race of alien get, right?" The Doctor asked, sighing desperately.
"What did he do to them?" Jack asked, but already guessing in which direction this conversation was going.
"He thought them how to make fire!" The Doctor yelled, slapping his forehead with the flat of his hand. "How evil is that! Of course it didn't take long before all of Dwahjans were turned into bloodthirsty carnivores. They just couldn't resist the cooking smells of a thick slice of juicy steak!"
"Oh." The captain uttered, he was actually expecting something more spectacular than this.
"It was absolutely dreadful! After we left, no cattle was safe anymore on that planet!"
"They had cows there?"
"And then there was this incidence onboard the TARDIS." The Doctor rambling on, ignoring the puzzled look on the captain's face. "The Master was locked up in his room but somehow still managed to escape while I was taking a short nap. He got hold of my password and recalibrated the navigation system. When I woke up, it was 1245 and we had landed in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico, but I was unaware of that because I had the TARDIS set on going to the green pastures of New New Zealand in 5421. When I opened the door, the gulf of ocean water that swamped in knocked me unconscious and washed me all the way back into my bedroom. It took me ages to unplug the drainage systems."
"Sounds like he's incontrollable." Jack opted, and shook his head.
The Doctor sighed deeply and leaned back in his chair. "It's not like he is always like this. Well, actually, he is." He realized reluctantly. "But sometimes he can be reasonable. Mostly late at night, when we are both dead tired of fighting each other constantly, and we are sitting quietly together around the core of the TARDIS. He then might say something that actually makes sense. Utter a sentence or two that is not drenched in sarcasm or greased up with deception."
The Doctor had a far off expression on his face, lost for a moment in his thoughts. The paleness of his complexion and his deep sunken eyes made him look frail, just like the old shrunken creature that the Master had turned him into onboard of he Valliant. The very recollection of the Doctor trapped in that state made the captain's stomach turn and fired up his resentment towards the Master.
"You can't go on like this." Jack finally said. "I hate to tell you this Doctor, but I don't think that the Master is redeemable in anyway. The guy is just rotten to the core. If you continue to travel with him and treat him as your equal and not your prisoner, he will just continue to take advantage of your good nature and think of ways to escape. Or worse, get even with you for kicking his butt. You can't trust that guy."
The Doctor remained silent for a while, considering the advice of his dear friend. He didn't believe that Master could not be redeemed, but he was very tired, and for the moment, very much out of ideas.
"I know I can't trust him. I know that. But I'm the only one who can help. He has no one else." The Doctor pleaded.
"Could you perhaps make him human again?" Jack suddenly proposed, remembering professor Jana. The guy was a cuddly panda bear compared to the Master. "You could use the TARDIS to rewrite his biology and lock away his repellant personality in that fob-watch device." And then get rid of it once and for all by catapulting it into a black hole, Jack thought.
The Doctor rubbed his eyes and shook his head tiredly. "I have thought of that, but I won't be able to control the TARDIS when it's recreating his personality. The process is completely randomized."
"So he can turn out just as much as a bastard as he is now?" Jack laughed. "Okay, what's the risk? He will become at least human and therefore less dangerous. That's some sort of a solution right?"
"Ehm, yes. But that's not the point." The Doctor mumbled, rubbing his temples as he tried to soothe an upcoming headache. "If I turn him into a human I won't be able to stop myself from interfering with his life. It won't be fair to his human form if I keep crashing into his existence while I could turn his world upside down in an instance or worse, expose him to dangerous aliens who are keen to capture a defenseless Timelord." The Doctor paused for a moment as an idea sprang to his mind. "But if somehow, his new identity could be kept secret…"
Jack leaned forward in anticipation as he observed the sudden alertness in the Timelord's eyes.
"Yes!" The Doctor snapped out of his train of thoughts and jumped up from his chair like a puppet on a coiled spring. "If I could just build a new bioconverter module, based on the one connected to the TARDIS. The new one is of course relatively simple compared to the original because it only needs to convert the Master's biology into a human, no need for extra options there. But if I connect a programming module to the new design, we must be able to control the personality forming process. Ha! We could make him as likable and considered as a bloody saint! The only thing is…" The Doctor suddenly halted, and frowned.
"What?!" Exclaimed the captain impatiently. "It seems like a brilliant plan! What Doctor? What's wrong with it?"
"I cannot be the one who creates his human form." The Timelord muttered, and scratched behind his ear. "If I do that I would exactly know where and when he is, and that was the whole problem with turning him into a human to begin with."
Jack thought about it for a while, then opted with a boyish grin; "And what if you let me rewrite his personality? I could conceal his identity and hide the fob-watch from you." It won't be lying at the back of a drawer, that's for sure, the captain thought with a hint of sarcasm.
The Doctor didn't particularly like the idea of leaving someone else in charge of his fellow Timelord. He knew the Master, he was a great danger not only to the people around him but also to himself. He could remember vividly how Mrs. Jones and even Lucy Saxon had tried to kill him after he was captured. The hate that burned in his victim's eyes blinded them from any human compassion what they might have spared for their tormentor. If it wasn't for Jack's and the Doctor's interference, the Master would have been shot, and found his early demise on the Valiant. However, if the Doctor was to ever trust another man with this difficult and demanding task, it would be the captain.
"Suppose I was going to allow you to do that…" The Doctor said, hesitantly.
"Look, I know what you are thinking. I promise that I'm going to keep him safe, and make sure that he lives a good and happy life."
"You don't feel any resentment towards him?"
Jacked shrugged. "Not as such that I would act it out on an innocent civilian, which he will become as soon as he is turned into a human. Besides, I'm mainly doing this because I want to help out a good friend."
The Doctor nodded as he was desperate to convince himself of the captain's benign intentions. Under any normal circumstance, the Doctor would have thought twice before accepting Jack's offer. However, 60 days of constant sleep deprivation and a stressful life with an argumentative evil Timelord had taken a serious toll on his good judgment.
"All right, if you think that you are up to the job. I get started on the bioconverter device immediately."
After two days of intensive tinkering in a secured laboratory in the cellar of the Torchwood institute, the Doctor had finished the machine and vanished without saying a proper goodbye, leaving only a small note behind. The brand-new bioconverter was sitting on the captain's desk, sending out a low electronic buzz. A laptop and a crash-helmet were connected to it with bundles of colorful wires. The Master's fob-watch stuck out of the side of the helmet, secured with some tape. Jack first observed the whole shaky design with some amazement, but then decided that the Doctor would probably know what he was doing. Besides, he reasoned, the worst thing that could happen is that the Master would get his brains fried. There was no lost in that.
He picked up the Doctor's note from his desk, and read it in silence.
I managed to get the bioconverter up and running. When you start up the laptop, a tutorial will run automatically to teach you how to operate this device. You are probably wondering where the Master is. I left him bound to a chair in the room next door. In case you are concerned that simple ropes won't hold him down; he is completely drugged out. I gave him a shot of tranquilizer before I left. He won't wake up before noon, which should give you plenty of time to get ready.
I'm going away for a while. Actually, I'm going to bed and sleep for at least a week. Please, remember what you have promised me. Keep him safe. In contrary to your belief, I have not given up on him yet and am still determined to save him from himself. I will return as soon as I have figured out how.
I wish you the best of luck and all the wisdom that suits a man of your age captain!
NB: I'm sorry, but I think I might have finished your tape-roll.
"So now what, you're babysitting me or are you playing my super nanny?" The Master sneered, smiling cynically. He was still bound to the chair, wearing the bioconverter helmet with the plastic straps secured under his chin. It was a little too big and the rim of the helmet half-covered the Master's eyes.
Jack ignored his prisoner's remarks, and continued monitoring the energy bars that flashed across the screen. He needed more power to start up the complicated process.
"Hey, can you get this stinking ashtray off my head? It's starting to smoke my brains."
"Can't wait for that to happen." The captain muttered under his breath while typing in the correct parameters.
"He really is a complete idiot, isn't he? He is supposed to be a Timelord and a genius, but he can't even build a simple device like a bioconverter that works properly. Look at this thing, it's held together with tape and I can see pieces of chewed up gum stuck inside this helmet for insulation. I'm telling you right now, this is never going to work. You're wasting your time with this."
"The Doctor warned me that you were going to say that." Jack said, grinning at the Master gleefully. "Afraid to return to the human race, are you? Don't you worry. I promised the Doctor to take care of you. I thought that I might turn you into a 15th century dung shover or a 11th century inbred French farmer with the IQ of a glass of rainwater. How about that?"
The Master shot a dangerous look at the captain, anger boiling underneath the apparent calm surface.
"Where did the good Doctor go anyway?" Purposefully ignoring the captain's threat. His voice was like silk drenched in honey. "Is our hero in hiding, leaving a talking monkey in charge of the devious villain? Couldn't he deal with the stress anymore? I would say that it's a bit early for a burn out, we haven't even finished our honeymoon period yet." He smiled deliciously, taunting the captain with his reserved confidence. "Personally, I found the whole thing rather disappointing, the guy is a complete bore. I had more fun getting drunk and talking to a piece of wooden furniture."
"You should be grateful for the Doctor. If it wasn't for him, you were already dead." Jack snapped.
"Do you want me dead then?" The Master grinned, a sly look in his eyes.
"Everybody onboard of the Valiant who can remember a single thing about that year wants you dead." Jack said, coldly. He was finishing the last calibrations for bioconvertion procedure. It was not a minute too early because the bastard was really starting to get on his nerves.
"Oh my, such mindless hatred and hurtful prejudice against a defenseless prisoner my dear captain. Didn't you enjoy the private quarters that I have granted you during your stay?" The Master mocked, reminding the captain how he was chained up in the engine room like a dog. "I know that at least I had fun! Every day I had great fun, target practicing on you. The way that my mind could come up with new and exciting ideas to kill you off, really I never thought of myself as a very creative man but you certainly tickled my muse, captain Jack."
Jack tried hard to block out the Master's scorn and focus on the last numbers that he had to feed into the program. He felt the veins in his neck pulse.
"Remember that time when I cut out your liver and fed it to that mutt that I got Lucy for her birthday? You looked so surprised when I slipped that knife in your fat gut, ripped it open and yanked the whole thing out, as if you couldn't believe that I was doing that to you. And that mutt actually took a bite or two out of the bloody mess before it made him sick. Have you seen that, or were you already dead by that time? I really liked that dog, I still can't figure out why Lucy wanted to rid of it after that he barfed out your liver."
"Shut up." Jack said angrily, staring at the monitor in front of him without typing another word or coordinate any longer.
"Oh, oh!" He actually raised himself up from the chair a little as if he was a schoolboy eager to provide the answer to his teacher. "And remember that time when I took that wrinkled old fart for a test-drive in his new wheelchair? Such fun we used to have, the Doctor and I." The Master closed his eyes as if remembering something sweet. "I pushed him on and off the stairs for hours, and every time he managed to find some new bones to break. Old people and osteoporosis hey." He opened his eyes and stared back directly into Jack's. "If you can't laugh about that you must really be a sour prick."
"Shut the bloody hell up!" Yelled the captain, anger boiling in his guts.
"A sour, miserable little prick. Like you, I guess." The Master said, spitting out the words while raising his head in defiance.
Something snapped inside Jack's mind. He rushed over to the Master with the sudden ferocity of a prowling predator and grabbed him by the shoulders. His hands were clutched together into hard fists and he raised one of them, ready to strike.
The Master grinned at him with a mad and amused look in his eyes.
"Oh yes! Captain Jack, go satisfy that anger. Finally!" He laughed triumphantly. To Jack it sounded like the insane laughter of a desolate mind. "You hear it too, captain, don't you? The rise of drums, that violent mindless hate that pulses and blinds and consumes and overtakes everything, sanity and soul."
He punched him in his face, and the Master pitched sideward onto the floor. He then clutched a couple of loops that ran over the Master's chest and lifted him half up from the ground. To Jack's dismay he still kept laughing insanely at him while a trickle of blood ran out of his nose. Bending down over him, the captain's face was only inches away from the Master's.
"No I don't hear those drums." Jack whispered. "And I don't think that the Doctor was right about you. You are scum, and definitely don't deserve a second chance."
There was a flash of anxiety in the Master's eyes, but only for a short moment. It was gone in a blink of an eye. What remained was that sarcastic, sheepish smile.
"You are going to kill me, aren't you?" He said without emotions.
Jack shook is head slowly.
"Worse." He answered, unaware of the wolfish grin that appeared on his face, and struck him on the side of his head, propelling the Master into unconsciousness.