Jack's solution


4.

Jack sat at his desk and stared at the blinking cursor on the text file left open on the laptop monitor of the bioconverter. The file in front of him consisted out of a little more than 2000 words, and told the story of one Marcellus Quintus, a Roman farmer who lived during the reign of emperor Claudius. Marcellus, so he had invented, was a simple but honest man, who worked hard on the small patch of farmland that he had inherited from his late father. He was married to a lovely woman named Lucinda Sejanus, and together they had a sweet little girl, who he had named Octavia, after his dear mother. Marcellus lived a happy life. His wife and daughter loved him dearly, and his land was fertile enough to provide more than enough food to feed him and his family. He remained as healthy as a horse for most of his life, and he lived to a satisfactory old age together with Lucinda, while Octavia married young and granted him many grandchildren.

Jack reread the entire document. His fingers lingered over the delete button every time he came across such words like "happy", or "lovingly", or "dear". He came to the end of the text, went back to the beginning and started rereading the whole thing again. He deleted "Marcellus", and replaced it with "Bacillus" and changed the man's profession from farmer to sewage drainer, but then doubted whether there was actually something like a sewage drainer even in ancient Roman times, and therefore changed it again in horseshit collector, which made him giggle.

He then changed "lovely woman" into "a woman built like a Russian tank but twice as ugly" and "fertile land" in "vermin infested stinking swamp land with no chance of raising so much as a crop of turnips". He didn't stop with this kind of small foolishness till he rewrote Marcellus/Bacillus daughter's fate, and let poor Octavia die of starvation while her desperate and heartbroken father tried to feed his ailing child a watery soup made out of his meager harvest of rotten turnips.

"Hang on there, that isn't right." He mumbled, and stopped typing in the middle of a sentence. He checked the corrections that he had made, and felt incredibly stupid when he realized how wrong he had been. He could of course rewrite the Master's personality and make him less of a complete and utter bastard, but he couldn't determine the way his life was going to turn out. The only part of the Master's life that his over-diligent writing could have ever any effect on, was his past that would only exist in his fake memories.

Jack continued reading and went over the part that he had rewritten about poor Octavia. The ruthlessness and sheer malice of that piece immediately made him feel bad about himself. How could he be so indifferent about the fate of the young child? If he wanted to punish the Master for his wicked deeds, he shouldn't have done so by targeting his made-up family. The idea that it wouldn't have worked anyway offered only limited comfort.

Jack marked the entire document, and then deleted it with one push on the button.

But it wasn't so that he intended to spare the Master.

His resentment towards the renegade Timelord was still kindled by their very last conflict. His anger blinded him from his morals and reason, and was dangerous as he hardly wanted to admit this to himself. A plan was slowly taking shape in his mind. It was a cruel and vicious plan that should have immediately rung off alarm bells for the good captain's otherwise immaculate conscience. But now that it could be continuously fueled by his hostility while it remained hidden from his rational judgment, the charm of this dubious scheme was luring him into an action that he would severely regret.

He moved the cursor back to the top of the now blank page, and started -once again- to retell the story of the Marcellus.

5.

The house was located in a narrow backstreet that diverted from a busy crossroad. It was a small, two-story red brick building, with only two narrow windows but two entrances that were separated from the street by sun-bleached drapes of an indistinguishable color. Two skimpily dressed young women with brightly painted faces sat on the high sidewalk in front of the house. When Marcellus and his master approached, they quickly pulled down their shoulder straps and revealed their pink breasts to the two men.

"Hey boys, do you fancy a girl for tonight?" One of the young women with raven black hair asked, fluttering her coal rimmed eyes. "I could ride you like an Amazon queen till the morning dawn if you fancy."

Marcellus turned away from the girl and looked down at his bare feet, visibly not at ease with the way she was flaunting herself at him. His master however, didn't seem to be afflicted at all. He gave the girls a generous smile.

"Not today doll-face, but maybe another time." He winked playfully, causing the young girl to blush and giggle. "I'm here to see your patron. Is he in?"

The raven haired girl quickly composed herself. The mirth completely vanished from her young face. "Oh, you're looking for Simon?" She uttered. "He's at the back."

"He's probably busy counting our hard-earned Denaries." The other blond haired girl added resentfully.

"Stop talking like that Livia. He might hear us." The other girl whispered.

Her friend shrugged her pretty shoulders in reply. "It's the truth. That's all he does all day while we are breaking our backs out here. He is a greedy little Sicilian monster. I swear if it wasn't for that Moor he hires to guard him I would have clawed his eyes out by now. She spat on the ground in disgust, just in front of the captain's boots. "May the Goddess Poena give him a ghastly disease on his genitals."

Jack tried to pay no attention to the blond girl's ravings. "Ehm, at he back you said? Thanks girls. Perhaps I'll see you both later." He gave the other girl a friendly nod.

"Whatever." Livia rolled her doe-like eyes as her dear friend seemed to be sincerely charmed by the weirdly dressed stranger. "And what about you then?" She asked, addressing Marcellus. "Do you fancy a trip to the lush fields of Venus between my heavenly thighs?"

"Livia! That's obscene!" The dark-haired girl commented, and red blushes exploded on her cheeks.

"That's because we're whores, my dear Antonia. Besides, your chat-up lines are just as vulgar." she returned her attention to Marcellus.

"So what it's going to be? Do you even have any money on you or are you just too shy to imply?"

Marcellus shook his head. His mouth was very dry when he answered, and he had difficulty to form words with his tongue. It felt strangely as if he hadn't spoken in while, or that he wasn't used to speak all. "No, I…I ehm…I don't."

"No what?" The young blond girl said, with a smirk on her bloodred lips.

"I don't know if I have any money." His voice jumped up and down like a crazy leapfrog. Livia stared at him for a moment with disbelief, and then broke out in cruel laughter.

"Gods have mercy on you. Are you a retard or something?"

"I…" Marcellus wanted to sneer back at her, but couldn't think of anything nasty or clever to say. His mind seemed to be completely paralyzed.

"Marcellus!" His master's voice came barking from behind the drapes. "Get in here, now!"

"Yes dominus." Marcellus replied. It came to him like a reflex, and he was actually relieved to be able to comply his master's orders, rather than to stay and be ridiculed by the two frightening ladies.

"Oh! You're a slave!" Mocked Livia, clapping her delicate hands in delight. "No wonder that you're not used to think for yourself."

"Stop pestering the poor man, Livia." Antonia said, realizing what Marcellus's master might be here for. Marcellus rushed inside without even so much as dare to glance at the two, while Livia wiped the tears of mirth off her cheek and yelled after him; "See you around bum-boy! I hope your charming master gets a good price for you!"

6.

Marcellus entered a dark, windowless room that was poorly lit by the shimmering light of oil-lamps that hung low from the wooden ceiling. The scarce light revealed the cheap frescoes that adorned the walls, depicting various dubious sexual acts between men and women. A number of chambers came out into the room, separated from it by thin red curtains that hung in front of the cave-like entrances. There hung a sour animal smell in the air, of dried sweat and stale urine. Marcellus felt his hart sunk into his feet as he approached his master.

"You sent for me dominus." He asked politely, keeping his eyes down.

"Here it is." His master said, without so much as looking at him to acknowledge his presence. "See for yourself what you want to give for him."

Behind a wooden counter stood a short tanned man with a scrutinizing face. He examined Marcellus for a while, mumbling something under his breath.

"I'm not in real need for another slave. The business is going well as it is and I have barely enough space for all the other slaves." He frowned. "What is he anyway? A Greek?" He took Marcellus chin and turned his face. "No, definitely not. Those brows and that huge nose are far too protruding. Must be one of those Northern barbaric tribes. German perhaps?"

"He is from Britannia." Jack said. "I bought him in Londinium when I was stationed there."

"Which means that he is uneducated, unwashed, and probably not even housebroken." Muttered the merchant, keeping a firm grip on his purse that hung from a belt around his waist.

"Look, do you want it or not? There are more establishments around this buildingblock who would gladly do business with me." Jack said, getting irritated. He had exactly one hour to get rid of the Master, the time-transporter that he had scavenged from the Torchwood archive did not give him more time than this.

The merchant shook his head in dismay. "His face is too round. Although it does give him that young boyish look that the gents are fond of. But your price is far too high. If you want to sell him to me you need to lower it considerably."

"Fine, Give me 30 Danaries for him." Jack said firmly. Marcellus's face immediately went pale.

"Wait, I don't think that's a just price either." The Simon said, smelling that more money could be spared. "This slave is not trained. He could be a disaster for my clients and cost me a handful to keep him fed. You know how these barbarians are, unmannered savages with an appetite like a bloody horse."

"You get him for 20 Denaries if you shut up right now." Jack said, sneaking a peak at his watch.

"Are you in a hurry my friend?" Laughed the merchant, although he had no idea why the stranger kept staring at he device strapped around his wrist, he could easily sense that he didn't have the time to bargain. "Really, I cannot spend so much money on a purchase I don't take time for to consider wisely. It would be bad business."

"All right." Said jack, having enough of it. "Suit yourself. Marcellus, we are leaving." Jack turned around and pushed Marcellus in the direction of the door. "No point in wasting anymore time here. Let's see what he lupanare across the street is willing to pay for you."

"Dominus, please don't sell me to a brothel." Marcellus pleaded, but his voice was so frightened and small that nobody heard it.

"Hold on there, my dear fellow." Simon exclaimed as he realized that the bargain was slipping through his fingers. "I didn't say that I don't want to buy your slave from you." He gave the captain a sheepish grin.

Jack grinned back at him, holding onto Marcellus shoulder with a firm and rather painful grip. "25 Denaries then, just because you're such a nice guy."

The grin on Simon's face stifled and became one of stone. He snapped his fingers and yelled over his shoulder to the back entrance.

"Micranus, bring me my box." He turned back to the captain, his faked smile still chiseled on his lips. "25 Denaries, you agree? I trust you accept coins from before the imperial era as well."

The drapes parted and a large square-shouldered Moorish man entered. His skin was black as olives and shone with sweat and oil. He walked over to Simon, and presented him a small wooden box. The merchant took out of his purse a silver key, and slipped it into the lock. He opened the box, and took a handful of gold coins, which he started to count out for the captain on the counter. The Moor closed the chest and stepped back behind his master.

"Dominus." Marcellus voice trembled as he watched with a growing sense of horror how the pile of coins slowly amounted to the 25 Daneries that his master had requested. "Please. I beg you. Don't sell me to him."

Jack ignored his pleading, and looked the other way to avoid the Marcellus's face.

"I promise I will be a good slave. I will do anything you ask of me!"

"Anything?" Jack asked.

"Anything dominus! I will clean your stables. I will work in the boiling chamber day and night to heat your villa. You don't need to feed me well, I can live of the scraps from the kitchen and I can sleep on the floor. I will work on your lands, I will cook and clean for you. Anything dominus. Please."

"Right Marcellus." Jack said coldly. "If you could do just this little thing for me, I'll promise not to get rid of you."

"Yes dominus. Anything!" Marcellus looked up at him hopefully. "What is your wish?"

"Go back in time and undo those thing that you have done on the Valiant. If you can do that, I will forgive you, and let you return home with me. Can you do that?"

The spark of hope that had lived in Marcellus's eyes dimmed.

"I…" His mind searched for the information that the words of the captain concealed, but the bioconverter had done its job perfectly. From his life as a Timelord, only tattered fragments remained. The memories from his time as a tyrannical ruler and as the ruthless master of the Valiant were locked safely away in the deepest darkest parts of his mind.

"I don't understand exactly what you ask of me dominus. But I don't think I can do that." He finally stuttered.

"No, of course you don't." Said the captain. "You're not the Doctor. You're nothing. He turned back to the merchant. "Ready with counting all ready? I don't have the entire day to waste on this."

Simon handed the coins over to him. "25 Daneries exact. Count them if you like."

Jack slipped the coins into his pocked. "No need to." He faked a grin at marcellus and slapped him hard on his shoulder. "Have fun with your merchandise. I reckon he makes a wonderful prostitute. Don't try to spare him on my account."

"What makes you think that I would?" Simon smirked. He clapped his hands. "Micranus, bring him outside and get him marked, and this time, do it somewhere on his body where people can actually see it. I don't want the incidence with that runaway Greek slave to repeat itself."

"Dominus, please!" Marcellus yelled, tears prickling in his eyes. His distress made him reckless and he seized Jack's hand to hold onto it desperately as he begged his master to reconsider.

"Let go! You must come with me." Micranus grabbed Marcellus by his arms and locked them behind his back as he forced the struggling slave to get away from his former master.

Marcellus was dragged out into a narrow dirty alley. The Moor bound his hands and feet to a wooden beam that leaned against the entrance of the lupanare. Then he disappeared in a small building that stood at the back of the house. When he came back he carried with him a bucket filled to the rim with hot burning coals from the kitchen, and in his other hand he held a heavily blackened burning iron. He buried the iron deep into the coals and turned to Marcellus.

"Do you have other marks on your body?" He asked without any sympathy.

Marcellus shook his head slowly, but remained silent.

The Moor grab hold of his tunic, and with one hand, tore the cheap fabric to pieces. He yanked the rags off the slave's body, stripping him down to his naked flesh. He then tossed the ruined clothes on a muddy pile of rotting garbage in the corner of the alley. Noticing the growing anxiety on the slave's face, he grinned a little and said; "You don't need to wear clothes anymore. Our costumers like to feel and examine evertyhing before they make a purchase."

He glanced over Marcellus body from head to toe. "You are so pale. I've never seen someone that color. You look like a dead man." He pulled Marcellus head up by his hair. "But you're right. No marks. That is strange for a slave. Was your old master not afraid that you might run away?"

Marcellus was too frightened and to shocked to speak. He shivered like a leaf in the wind. From where he was tied up, he could look down the corridor back into the street. Amongst the passing crowd he caught sight of his former master, his long trench coat sweeping behind him as he hurried by.

"Dominus!" Marcellus yelled. "Dominus! Please don't leave me here!" He was half-aware that he was screaming like a madman, and people stopped and peeked into the narrow passageway to see what was going on. Jack halted his pace and turned around, and met the Master's pleading gaze for just a short moment.

Micranus did mind that there were people watching. "Guess he did not care, huh." He shrugged indifferently. "Still, you need to be branded. Simon ordered so." He picked up the iron. The end of it was shaped in the letter S that now glowed a bright smoldering orange.

Jack watched how the iron S was pressed on Marcellus' bare chest. It hissed wickedly as it made contact and burned away his skin. The slave struggled and convulsed against his restrains, arching his back in pain, while a horrible howl escaped from him. Jack turned away and walked on, while the others remained staring at the sadistic scene. He kept his eyes closed, and forced himself to remember the Master's crimes on the Valiant, rather than to listen to Marcellus pitiful cries for help.

TBC