21.

It was hard for anyone who wasn't a Timelord to understand the troubles and dangers that were associated with timetravel. Tinkering with time was as dangerous as playing with matches while tanking gas or flying a kite during lightening. The captain didn't know that he could not just fix the time transporter and hop back to the very moment that he sold the Master to Simon to undo his mistake. The technique wasn't an issue here, even if he had a brandnew timetransporter based on the most advanced alien technology, he wouldn't have been able to go back and interfere. Time itself would not have allowed him to chance anything, at least not without creating a paradox, and we all know down what road that was going. If the Doctor had not been that crossed with the good captain, he might have bothered to explain it to him, using his favorite comparison of time to a fast flowing river. It would have gone something like this: If someone dropped a stick into the stream it would get caught in the torrents and be swept downstream. If you wanted to retrieve it, you cannot just go back to the spot where the stick was dropped. You had to travel downstream and fish it out. It was the same with the Master, he had lived through a timestream that was now part of history. If Doctor wanted to rescue him, he needed to go where – or more accurately- when the Master had ended up so far. The problem was that this time-river was not flowing at a constant pace. At some parts, the currents were stronger, and time literally passed quicker than at other parts. The 1969 Woodstock festival for example, those three days in the summer of music and love lasted longer then the hundred year's war between France and England. In Jack's time, it was only a few months ago that he had stranded the Timelord in ancient Rome, but in ancient Rome, the Master had now been living as Marcellus for more than half a year. The Doctor preferred not to think of what could have happened to him during that time. He had immediately calibrated the Tardis to track down the Master, and if everything worked according to his plan, he would intercept his troubled fiend at the exact moment where his timeline had taken him. It was all very time-whimey, and perhaps it was a good thing that the Doctor had not tried to explain it to Jack. It would have probably taken him some precious minutes, which would have condemned the Master to suffer in his fragile human form for another couple of days.

The Doctor watched impatiently as the Tardis core huffed and puffed its existence into the first century AD. "Come on, come on." He muttered, his feet jogging on the spot. His hand was already on the handle of the police box door when the eerie green glow of the heart of Tardis dimmed. By the time the noise of the engine died out, he had slammed the door behind him and was rushing down via Nova into a direction, which he hoped was the right one. The problem was that he could not sense the Master's presence since he was no longer a Timelord, and the Tardis was no help in this last part of his quest as it had rubbish coordination resolutions when it came to tracking a moving object. He had to rely on captain Jack's description to find him. It was therefore only after a long half an hour of aimless running around that he found out that the Antonian baths were up north of the city, while he himself was heading south. He thanked the Roman citizen who had helped him with directions. The man only nodded and stared puzzledly after the strange looking foreigner as he dashed back into the crowd.

The city was a bloody maze. This was Rome well before the great fire for which emperor Nero would gain his infamy. Nero would later rebuild the city according to a cohesive and more rational plan, but for now many of the ancient primary structures dominated and complicated the flow of traffic. It was the city that had grown rather than it had been built on the seven hills crowding the Tiber. The streets were crooked, ran in every direction, and had so many twist and turns in them that it made the Doctor's head spin. He had ask for directions four more times before he found the Antonian baths, and it took him another odd look from a young slave girl and a shake of the head of an old vendor to get himself anywhere near Simon's establishment. He arrived at the busy crossroad, and in his ignorance, passed by the red bricked two storey high building that was Simon's lupenare. He crossed the street and grabbed hold of the very first pedestrian who bumped into him.

"Excuse me." The Doctor gasped, trying to refill his lungs with some much needed oxygen. "I was looking for someone who runs a lupenare named Simon Asinaria? Do you know where I can find him?"

The Roman eyed him from head to toe, interpreting his unusual style of clothing as something either rather eccentric or exotic. But since the man could not even find a brothel when he's standing in front of one, he assumed that the stranger was a foreigner, perhaps one of those barbaric tribes from the north visiting the capital. He did look awfully pale to him.

"You are looking for Simon's whorehouse?" He asked, better to be blunt than to waste effort on polite chitchat, which was of course totally wasted on these uneducated brutes.

"Ehm, yes." The Doctor answered. "Would you mind to lower your voice a bit?"

"The whore house is just right across the street." The man continued, pointing at it while shouting even louder. "You're smart to go to Simon's, he's got the best whores in Rome. Very pretty, very clean, and quite affordable."

Yes, ehm no. I mean, thank you, Thank you, I think I can find it now. Good day to you." The Doctor rambled. He quickly whirled around and almost stumbled over his own feet.

"Hey!" The man yelled after him. "Could you do me a favor and tell him Gaius Amatius sent you? He gives me discount for bringing him new customers!"

The Doctor rushed over to the red-bricked building, his two hearts were hopping in his chest like two delinquent rabbits.

22.

"I won't do this. You can't force me Micranus! You just can't!"

Livia crossed her arms over her bosom, her fiercely painted lips was a thin red line that ran across her face. She eyed at the costumer who was currently sitting in the chamber that was assigned to her. He was so drunk that he looked like he was about to pass out on the stone bed.

"Auw!" She yelped when Micranus took hold of her arm, pinching his thick fingers into her delicate flesh. "Let go of me! You can't just drag me in there! Stop it you dark brute!"

Micranus did not look impressed. "You've been requested by senator Ceacillius. He had already paid Simon for the entire night. You get in there now or I'll beat you and have him take you while you are unconscious." He tightened the grip on the girl's arm. "It's your choice."

"You stinking two-faced Moor! I can't go in there! He's diseased! You are going to kill me when you push me back in there with him! He's got puss blisters on his dick. That Greek girl, Galina serviced him a month ago and she died of fever within a week!"

"That's got nothing to do with the senator's condition." Macrinus hushed. "And stop yelling like that you dumb whore, he might hear you insulting him!"

"I can be as blunt as I bloody well like!" She hissed and spat in Macrinus face. The Moor wiped the spit out his eye, and raised his large hand to strike down on her.

"Oh you won't bloody dare!" Livia yelled. "Strike me once and I am going to tell everything to Simon! I bet he still wants to know where his precious money went, don't you think?"

Micranus lower his hand immediately. "You won't speak of it!" He whispered angrily. "Are you mad woman? You took half of the Denaries! If you tell him he will whip the flesh off your skinny bones!"

"Oh, but I don't think he's going to let you off he hook that easily either. I think he might sell you back to the salt mines, or worse, you'll become an exciting part of the entertainment in the arena!"

"You she-wolf!" Micranus hissed and slammed her back against the wall. "You vicious serpent! You keep your mouth shut about this or I will slit a knife over your thin little neck when you sleep!"

"Do it!" Her eyes burned with defiance. "You think I am going to live for very long after I catch that disease from him? I rather die knowing that you won't have any use of your part of the money! You wouldn't have gotten it in the first place if it wasn't for me. I was the one who told you that Marcellus was hiding something, remember?"

"Yes, but it was I who came up with the plan to rob Simon for all that he's worth. If it wasn't for me you would have just run off with the 15 Denaries."

"I am no better off with 70 Denaries if I end up dead within a month." Livia snorted. Her features suddenly softened. "Please Micranus." She begged with in a low voice. "I won't tell Simon anything, I swear. Give me a chance to get out of here alive. My brother is coming to collect me. I've written to him and he's traveling to the city to buy me my freedom. We are going to fool Simon by paying him with his own money. I'm finally going back to my family." A sad smile spread across her lips. "No more prostitution, no more drunk men, no more of any of this. I am going to start a new life. Please, I beg of you. Let me get away from this place."

Micranus sighed. He wasn't a softhearted man, but he understood what the woman was fighting for. He had his own stash of money, hidden safely under a loose tile in the kitchen floor. He was planning to desert his master in the coming winter months when the nights were long and the streets darkened to safe precious fuel for cooking and heating. He wanted to return to his homeland in the far East. It would be a dangerous journey, and he needed every Denary in his share of the fortune and a great deal of luck to get to his destination, but he believed deeply that the price of freedom was worth everything.

"What do you want me to do with the senator?" He finally asked. "He requested you specifically."

"Just send someone else in." Livia sighed, the color was quickly returning to her cheeks as she realized that she had convinced Micranus. "He's too drunk to notice the difference anyway."

Micranus peeked through the curtains to check. The senator was sleeping off his drinks on the stone bed. His nostrils trembled as he snored as loudly as a camel.

"I can wait till it's dark. He is certainly drunk, but I don't want to take any unnecessary risks." He considered his options for a while. "Who am I going to send in?"

"You can't send in any of the girls!" Livia answered hastily. She truly did not want her friends to suffer Galina's cruel fate in her place. "They probably already know about his condition anyway. They will try to resist."

"So what are you suggesting, you want me to drag a drunk off the streets or do you want me to go in there to service him?" Micranus stated sarcastically.

"You can't ask any of the girls." Livia pleaded. "I don't want their deaths on my conscience."

"Make up your mind Livia." Micranus snorted. "I have to take someone in there to please him!"

Livia did not know how to answer him. Anyone she mentioned was going to be placed in the hands of Pluto. She looked away from Micranus, forcing herself to make a decision. Her eyes gazed through the open back entrance and caught sight of Marcellus, who lay huddled in a pool of his own filth in the back alley, shivering with his back against the wall. The chains around his neck and feet were crusted with blood as he tugged on them continuously while he rocked his naked body back and forth. It left angry red wounds on his skin. Simon had punished him savagely after the incident with the gladiators. The slave hadn't spoken a word ever since. Most of the girls including Livia though that he had been hit too hard on the head and had finally lost his mind.

"You are fooling me." Micranus said, following the direction of her gaze. "Not him!"

"He's not going to last very long like that." Livia said, justifying her thoughts to Micranus and herself. "It's better to sacrifice Marcellus than to ruin the life of one of the other girls who still have a fighting chance."

"Didn't you do enough to the poor wretch?"

"The correct phrasing should be, didn't -we- do enough. He is not only the burden of -my- conscience, Micranus."

"The senator requested a girl."

"He asked for a blowjob and wanted to take me up my ass. I don't think the senator will be missing anything when he gets Marcellus." Livia responded with a hint of sarcasm in her voice.

Micranus sighed and scratched over his bald scalp. "He's filthy, and he is mad."

"Yes, but he is not dangerous anymore, is he?"

"Not after what Simon ordered me to do to him." The Moor muttered.

"Oh come on. You can kick him in his goolies and still he will thank you for it if you order him to. He is as docile as a castrated dog."

"That's true." Micranus admitted pensively.

Livia came up close to the Moor. Her lips brushed his ear as she softly whispered to him. "No risks then, and no more blame. We have already condemned our souls for this the very moment that we got our hands on Simon's fortune."

That night, Micranus released Marcellus from his chains and took him inside the kitchen. In front of the warm fire he ordered the slave to wash himself. Marcellus reacted slowly, his hands trembling as he grabbed hold of the rag and dipped it into the pail lukewarm water. Micranus, shortly running out patience, took the rag out of the slave's hand, and started cleaning him himself. The Moor could not help but to feel pity for the wretched man as he noticed how he flinched away when the cloth touched his skin. It was the instinctive reaction of a frightened dog that had been beaten repeatedly by his master.

Micranus tended the slave's wounds. He disinfected them with wine and bound scraps of rags around the most horrific looking cuts and bruises. He even gave him a bowl of stew to eat. Marcellus took it greedily, but the bowl was hot while his fingers were still numb of the cold. The slave let out a sad cry when he dropped the bowl, and fell on his knees, trying to retrieve it in desperation. Micranus felt a pang of guilt when he saw him eating it hungrily from the dirty floor. He took the bowl, refilled it, and tapped the slave gently on his shoulder.

"Here, take this." He said. "Don't eat what you have spilled. If you want more, just ask."

He waited till the slave wolfed down three more bowls of hot stew before taking him back into the lupenare. It was dark inside, most of the clients had already left. Simon was up stairs, counting his earnings for today. Micranus quickly led Marcellus to Livia's chamber. He parted the curtains and gestured with his head for him to get inside.

Marcellus obeyed, and entered the small room. The senator was snoring peacefully on the stone bed. He was still fully clothed with the sandals dangling loosely from his feet.

"This is senator Ceacillius. You serve him for tonight and I let you may sleep in here. But don't make a sound or Simon will know that I have let you in, and you will be punished. I will collect you in the morning. Understood?"

Micranus thought hat Marcellus might have trouble to understand him, but the slave nodded slowly back at him. For the first time since weeks, he looked up at the Moor with something that might be described as a presence of mind.

"Thank you sir." Marcellus uttered. Although his voice was weak, he sounded truly grateful.

"Don't." Micranus said after an uncomfortable silence. "Don't thank me for this." He turned away and pulled back the curtain while cursing Livia under his breath.

TBC

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