Martha was helping out Donna with bringing another load of inactivated Toclefanes up to the Master's hideout in the attic of the cathedral, when she suddenly dropped the question that had been bugging her for days now. She knew it was sensitive matter, since she had once been victim to the same emotions herself, but she felt that she need to warn Donna, particularly because however much good she heard about the Master, it couldn't convince her that the man could be trusted.
Donna immediately halted, one foot resting on the next step. She turned her.
"I'm sorry, I didn't catch that, what did you say?" She asked, with agitation sounding through voice that indicated that she did hear her the first time.
Martha cleared her throat. "Um, I said, is there something between you and the Master."
Donna's eyes grew wide. "Hold on. What do you mean exactly?" She put the wooden crate with defunk Toclefanes on the staircase and put her hand in her side. "Why are you asking that?"
"It's just…It's obvious isn't it. The way you look at him, and keeps talking about him all the time… It's like me with the Doctor." She added, a little embarrassed.
"Martha, have you lost your marbles?!" Donna exclaimed.
"Oh come on Donna, I've been here for only a week and I've noticed it. You can't go on for 15 minutes without mentioning him at least once."
"Well, that's only because that spaceman is flippin' mad and an absolute pain in the arse! It's not because I fancy him in any sort of way! He's absolutely not my type!"
"Who's not your type?"
Both girls stopped bickering and stared up the staircase with faces that quickly turned into the color of ripe tomatoes. The Master stood at the top of the stairs with an amused look plastered on his smirking face.
Donna immediately tried to regain her composure. "No-one, Nobody, Nothing that concerns you." She rambled. "Martha and I were just chatting. Now if you could just make yourself useful and help us out with these instead of just standing there like a goalpost." She handed the crate over to him with an air of hostility.
The Master gave her a mock salute. "Yes madam! You know what you really need to worry about is what type of guy is going to consider you as his type. It's hard to find a man who can appreciate your wonderful bossy, pushy, and needy treats in your hostile and intimidating personality."
He returned Donna's angry stare with a teasing smile. "I recommend to go look for your prince charming in the local mental asylum. Should be a sure win." He gave her a wink and carried her stuff upstairs.
"Bloody lunatic." Donna commented, but could not suppress a sigh of relief when he was gone. She returned back to Martha who had been standing there like a statue at the Louvre ever since the Master popped his head around the corner.
"Not a word about this. Not ever." Donna turned and took a few steps up the stairs, than remembered something and turned back to Martha. "Oh, and don't even think about it when you're near him. He promised that he would stop nosing around in other people's minds, but it's not the first time that he proves to be a lying bastard."
Martha wanted to return a comment, but Donna shook her head and climbed up the stairs with a stern frown on her face. Martha waited sheepishly at the bottom of the staircase, but eventually followed Donna up the attic.
The wooden platform that was the Master's workshop looked even more like a chaotic garbage belt then it used to. Martha put her stack of crates in the corner and joined Donna who stood close to the workbench studying the metal sphere on the table. She would have pretended to be intrigued by a slice of burnt toast to be honest as long as she didn't have to risk facing the Master's ridicule. It was bad enough that she didn't know whether he had actually overheard them or not. The flush of embarrassment was still burning on her cheeks.
The Master grinned at her. If he knew something then he wasn't going to let it show, obviously.
"So, what do you think?" He nodded at the Toclefane on the table.
"What? It's just a Toclefane. One that was caught by the deactivation wires. What is so special about it?" To Donna, it didn't look any different from the hundreds that they had captured before.
The Master shook his head and mimicked the sound of an annoying buzzer from a game show. "Wrong answer. Besides if it's so ordinary, why do you keep staring at it as if it's the best thing you've seen since sliced bread?"
Donna's cheeks burnt so hot that even she realized that it would be impossible for him to not notice it. In a tricky situation like this, she had learned from many years of disastrous dating that being rude and obnoxious often distracted the opposite sex from closing in on her true emotions. It was bad enough that she had blokes in the past who rejected her with clumsy lines and went off bragging about it to their mates as soon as she turned the corner. She didn't need to experience this from a flippin space psychopath who had all the manners and good grace of a venomous adder. So Donna opened her mouth and prepared to shout something irrelevant but rude at him, when Martha came to her rescue.
"What's going on, why are you looking at this ordinary Toclefane?"
The Master clacked his tongue and rolling his eyes up. "Seriously, such eye for detail. Humanity traveled to the stars and I am stuck here with two females whose cavemen versions would have failed to invent the wheel." He leaned over the benchtop towards Martha. "Take a better look miss Jones, don't you think the shield armor is a bit too shiny?"
Martha took a closer look. Indeed the metal plates seemed more polished, and far less worn that the ones she had seen before. She frowned.
"It looks new."
The Master sighed of relief. "Thank you miss Jones for pointing out the obvious. It's new all right. It's so new that it's actually home grown from the last few months." He took a random Toclefane out of the wooden crates that girls had brought in and held it up to the light bulb dangling from the ceiling.
"According to the limited data that I have managed to extract form these critters, the Toclefanes were created on the planet Utopia by the last of survivors of humankind themselves in a desperate, but naïve attempt to preserve their species. They have already been around for thousands of years before Harold Saxon found a way to use the Tardis to bring them into our time line." He turned the globe slowly, and showed them the small patches of corrosion on the surface. "Metal does not wear fast in space due to the lack of oxygen, but on Utopia, there was a thin atmosphere left on the surface. The reaction took ages of course, and the damage to the inorganic part of the Toclefane was limited, but still, it's visible. The damage to the organic part, however, was more devastating."
Martha felt a cold shiver snake down her spine as she recalled what was hidden inside the spheres. The Master had showed it to her. Inside this murderous metallic monster was a sad, deteriorated head that hardly bore any resemblance to the face of a human being. It spoke with childlike naivety and reacted like a machine, devoid of even the tiniest spark of emotion that was associated to being human. The revelation that the lives of every person that she had known had been destroyed by the descendents of their own species had shocked her to the core and filled her heart with sadness. She could only dread what was hidden inside this new sphere.
The Master sensed her melancholy and unease. It would have been easy for him to exploit these emotions for his own benefit, but somehow, these long months traveling with Donna had altered his attitude towards the humans, and their suffering no longer left him cold. He gazed up at the two women with sincere sympathy in his eyes.
"If you don't want me to go on." He opted.
Donna shook her head. "Go on." She said with a soft voice. "Show us."
He took the laserscrewdriver from his pocket and ran over the welds that went across the surface of the sphere and divided it into 4 parts. Sparks ignited, illuminating the Master's face in an eery blue light.
The magnetic clamps that secured the sphere deactivated and the sides opened like pedals. Donna and Martha peered inside.
A decapitated head was clamped in a metal casing, but it wasn't the familiar, leather-skinned mummified skull of a future human, but the head of a young woman, barely in her thirties. They had cut off most of her hair, but a few blond locks were still plastered with sweat on her forehead. A light inside the mechanics suddenly switched on and the three of them found themselves staring into a pair of blinking blue eyes.
Martha took a step back, and pressed her hand on her mouth. "Oh my God. She's one of us…"
"Please…" The woman's voice was frail, and sounded frightened. "I can't see. I'm in the dark. Where am I? And why is it so cold?"
The Master leaned over to her while Donna watched and shook her head, but he waived his hand to her, gesturing that she didn't need to worry.
"It's okay. You're safe now with us." He spoke in tender, reassuring voice. "We're here to help. What happened?"
"I don't know, they took us from the barracks and shipped us away. We were kept in closed containers. When we arrived, there were so many people. Men and women, and children. Little girls like my own little Kimberly." A sense of panic took over her. "Kimberly! My daughter, where is she? Is she here too?"
"Yes." The Master lied. "She is also here. You don't need to worry."
A sad, ghostly smile appeared on the woman's cracked lips.
"Oh, thank God! I thought I lost her. I tried to keep her real close to me when we were herded like beasts inside that awful place. We heard horrible screams coming from the front, but there were so many of us, we at the back could not see what was happening. And we couldn't turn back. The doors were locked behind us. A man I knew from the labor camp lost his nerves and fled, but the metal balls came for him. It was horrible. People around me were panicking, and pushed me away from my daughter and forced me up the line. She called out to me, my little Kimberly, begging me not to let go, and I tried, I tried real heard. But her hand just slipped through my fingers, and then she was gone."
"It was not your fault." Donna comforted, with sadness in her voice.
"Everyone around me started to scream. Something wet and warm trickled down my neck. I looked up, and there at the ceiling above us were rows and rows of decapitated heads, human heads, dangling from clamps on huge conveyor belts. Their eyes were open and they were still alive. An empty metallic clamp came down at me and I screamed, I screamed and screamed and screamed…"
"No more of this." Donna whispered. "Please." She gazed up at the Master, her eyes begging him to stop. He complied and used his laserscrewdriver to switch off the power circuit. The woman's voice trailed on for a while, and she kept repeating her last sentence till her words slowed down and finally came to a halt. The burdened silence that the three of them were left with was deafening, and was only broken by sobs coming from the two women, when the Master gently closed the eyes of the unfortunate woman, leaving her to rest in her metal coffin for eternity.
It was late in the evening after the gruesome discovery, when the three of them came together again in the attic of the Notre Dame. They were sitting around the workbench in silence, each waiting for the other to speak first. The Master was chewing down his ration that the girls had brought up. Although he was hungry, the spam with beans in tomato sauce tasted now of nothing, and he realized that he had lost his appetite when he stared at the beaten and sad look on Donna's face. He mashed with his fork the beans into a distasteful paste, then dropped his cutlery and leaned back in his chair, confused and very agitated that he should care about her feelings.
"What are you doing?"
Donna blinked her eyes and gaze up him. She had been miles away. "What do you mean?"
"Why are you so quiet? Hmm? What are you so upset about?" He pushed the chair backwards and jumped up, holding his hands to his side. Donna remained silence, and kept her eyes on his unfinished plate.
"Hey! I'm standing here, talking to you!" He snapped his fingers in front of her nose and Donna looked up angrily at him.
"So now what? You suddenly realize that I'm also responsible for this? You see me now for what I truly am, a homicidal tyrant who ripped apart that poor woman's family, probably have murdered her little Kimberly, and cut her head off to put it inside a metal casing?" He stalked around the room like a caged predator. "Is that it?"
"You were responsible for that." Donna spoke, her voice devoid of emotions but calm. "That's something you cannot change."
"Right!" The Master swept his hand over the table, and Martha jumped as the plate of food shattered on the floor. He paced angrily towards Donna and leaned over to her. "Does my presence disgust you now? Would you rather have me gone?"
Donna suddenly realized that the way he was acting had nothing to do with anger, but with guilt. "No. You don't disgust me. Not the way you are now." She answered, and that was the truth.
Some of the anxiety left from the Master's composure. He sat down quietly and nodded at Martha to apologize, for words like that could never part his lips. Donna picked up the shards and cleaned up mess. "I'll bring you another plate." She just said, and went downstairs. When she returned she placed a bowl of stew that was left after last the kitchen-service in front of him.
This time, the Master did finish his meal.
"So. I was trying to get more information about that place where they have processed her." He tried to sound as normal as possible, as if the previous incident didn't happen.
Martha winced at the choice of words - processed does sound like the poor woman was just some slap of meat - when it suddenly dawned on her. "When we arrived at the city the river was clogged with headless bodies floating in the water. If they were left from the Paris massacre they should have decomposed by now. Those bodies were fresh."
"And one of them is probably from that woman we've found." The Master added solemnly. "I reconnected parts of her energy circuit to extract the information that was imprinted into her for homing purposes. I didn't revive her." He reassured Donna. "It was just enough energy to stimulate specific parts of her brain to get my hands on the coordinates." He went through his pockets and produced a worn tourist map of the Paris subway system. He pointed at a black dot in a red metro line. "It's located at the Place de la Bastille, on the exact spot where La Bastille Saint-Antoine once stood. Saxon couldn't have selected a more symbolic place to construct his factory of annihilation."
"The people in the labor camps were talking about their friends and relatives being shipped off to experimentation camps in the west. Maybe they were actually talking about this." Martha opted.
"The river has been clogged up with bodies for months. There must be thousands of them." Donna muttered.
"Oh no, millions." The Master responded. "And millions more are to follow. From what we have seen so far, Saxon is spending most of his resources in developing and building new weapons, and now he's creating a brand new army of Toclefanes. That's not going to be used to secure his position here on earth, for what has an all-powerful ruler like him to fear of us, a couple of lonesome terrorists who offer minimal resistance. No, he's preparing himself for war."
"But against who?" Martha asked.
"Against the rest of the universe." Donna spoke in an icy voice.
The Master nodded. "That's right, a teddybear for the lady." He spoke softly. "When he starts, the planets in every nearby solar system will burn."
"He's mad." Martha whispered, taken aghast by the prospect.
" Well, crazy is what crazy does." He replied, and found himself strangely agitated by Martha's response. "Personally, I think madness is just an alternative state of mind. If it was everybody's heart's desire to destroy the universe, it would be just considered as normal as craving for a pot noodle after pulling an all-nighter."
Martha stared dumb-folded at him while Donna was finally triggered to respond.
"Except that never turned out into a global genocide."
"Yes, well, anyway, coming back to the point, I think this discovery might prove to be the turning-point in our battle. Something that we could use to our benefit to turn the tide around. According to her information database, she was mainly wired up to the new batch of Toclefanes created here on earth in recent times, although a weak communication line was kept between her and the future kind. It has something to do with her mindset, it didn't fit into the collective memory of the future humans. Now call it my gut feeling, but something tells me that all the new Toclefanes are programmed in the same way, which means that they can be controlled separately from the older flock if the weak communication line between those two was severed. I looked into her communication files and found roughly 2 billion unique ID codes with whom she shares her information. Can you imagine that? 2 billion Toclefanes of the new generation. It's enough to raise an army for ourselves to fight Saxon!" He paused. "Do you know what that means? No more scavenging for trapped Toclefanes, no more tedious conversions that more often fail than succeed, no more hiding like scared little mice in the attic. No more surviving, but open warfare with a realistic chance of victory." The Master's eyes glowed with a strange savage excitement. He glared at the white silent faces in the room, and cocked his head. "Now, doesn't that sounds like a plan that's actually worth dying for?"
"No. It's not what the Doctor wants." Martha replied, shaking her head.
"What?" The Master uttered, in disbelief.
"The Doctor would never approve of this. I know that the situation is bad, but this is not the way to defeat the Master. He didn't ask me to fight him by killing people."
"Well excuse me for being down to earth and practical. In case you forgot, I wouldn't want to kill off my future-self anymore than your precious Doctor does. But this, miss Jones, is the only solution. We can't keep on going like this forever. Sooner or later, my deception filters will fail us and then there will be no more time to think about what your saintly tutor would have liked you to do in order to safe humanity, for the last of your kind will be wiped from the face of this mud-ball planet before you can even call out for your Doctor. I say we give my plan a chance."
"But how are you going to do this?" Donna asked. "Do you have any idea how to get control over them without the Master noticing anything? That place must be heavily guarded. I'm not sending anyone of the us in there to die."
"Look I'll think of something. We'll send out our remaining Toclefanes as scouts to map the entire place from a distance to find the safest place to get in. The data in her files pointed out that the main control signals were emitted from that location. If I can just build a transmitter that hijacks the transmission for a short moment, I can recreate the wavelengths and gain control over them. And you don't need to send your precious humans inside." He added, scoffingly. "I don't need anyone to back me up. I'll use the teleporter."
"Oh, no!" Donna shook her head furiously. "You can't do this. You'll be risking your own life. Besides, the teleporter can only be used three times before it needs recharging. What if you get stuck?" What if you get captured or killed, she thought. What, am I going to do without you?
"I won't." The Master answered. There was a time when the anguish that showed in Donna's eyes would have evoked his mockery, but that was now in the past. Too much had happened since then, and he had allowed himself to be shaped and bended by her presence, like a young tree in the wind. "I promise. I won't get myself killed okay?" He spoke gently to her as her response softened his resolve, and much to his and Martha's surprise, Donna reacted by throwing her arms around him, and by holding on to him tightly.
The plan was set after midnight when the dayshift was replaced. Thanks to the Master's scouts, the position of each security camera and alarm trigger had been carefully mapped out and fed into the database of the Toclefanes working for the Resistance. Energy scans of the building identified the exact location of the turbines that kept the gruesome machinery working, and wavelength scans had pointed out the hidden place where the transmitter was emitting en receiving its signals. The built-in echo-sonar equipment provided the rest that was needed for the operation; a detailed map of the facility that described each room and corridor in the correct scale. The Master used all of this information to design his strategy immaculately. He knew what was at risk if he were to fail.
It was a cloudless night that had followed a dreary, windswept day. Donna and Martha were following the Master, who stalked silently towards the huge hangar like building with towering furnaces through the bushes of weed that had went rampant over the place after the last citizens had disappeared. He wore the transporter as a belt around his waist, and the transmitter that should capture the emission signal was tucked inside his pocket. When he came close enough to the back entrance closest to the emission room, he halted his pace.
"Here it is, the closest spot to room 2134. I can only use the transporter to get into corridor 13a, two floors above. There is a wavelength scrambler installed in the wo lower floors, just to prevent someone like me from using the teleporter. I have to make my way down using the stairs."
He took out a device that very much resembled the teleporter, but was a size smaller and had a countdown panel fitted on the site, and handed it over to Donna.
"Remember, I have planned this entire thing for exactly 26 minutes. When I'm not back when the countdown is finished, activate the teleporter using this remote control. It only works when the signal is emitted from here, or it would be too weak to transport me out from inside that concrete building." He folded her fingers around the small black box and turned it around, showing a tiny lever at the back. "But in case of emergency, use this for you and Martha to get out of here. Turn this switch and the energy from my teleporter will be diverted into your remote. Put this button and you'll be both transported back to our headquarters in the Notre Dame. I'll already programmed your arrival point, so don't mess with the coordinates."
"But what about you. If I use this for me and Martha, you won't be able to get out yourself."
"Yeah." The Master replied. "I know. Don't worry. I'll get out of there."
"You're lying to me."
The Master let go of Donna and reached for the teleporter.
"I won't use this! Not if it means that I'm going to trade my life for yours! Wait!"
But the Master activated the device and vanished.
The Master arrived in corridor 13a with a bouncy headache and a painful kink in the spine. It was always a rough journey with these things, compared to a Tardis it was like traveling in the storage cabin in economy while he should have flown first class. But this was not the time to complain about these matters. He checked his watch. There were 25 minutes and 45 seconds left. He'd better hurry. Relying on the map that he had learned by heart, he counted his steps, paced down the corridor and he halted when he counted his 40th step. Just around the corner was the staircase for maintenance work that would bring him down to the sub levels. Just around that same corner were also three security cameras mounted up in the ceiling and two sensors that spilled infrared beams across the hallway, ready to sound alarm as soon as he put one foot in the wrong place. He checked his watch again, 23 minutes and 30 seconds left. He closed his eyes and counted from 3 back to zero. Exactly at the mark of zero, the electricity circuit that supplied that tiny area of the vast complex with energy shut down, rendering the security devices useless. It allowed him to pass unnoticed, and he rushed towards the stairs. When he had only taken two steps down, the security systems switched back on again without sounding off the alarms. He descended the staircase and stopped at the next security point where he once again waited for the external interference of the power supply.
Everything was working according to plan.
The 12 Toclefanes, the last dozen from the original 30 that he had been able to successfully convert into the Resistance's allies, were hovering at a thousand feet above the facility, and were programmed to cut down the power to each specific section of the vast building that was part of his entry route. He could not let them switch the power off completely, for that would certainly attract the deadly attention of Saxon's men. But the precious seconds that his thoroughly thought through tactic stole from the security system meant that their intrusion might remain under his enemy's radar for long enough for him to reach the emission room. It also meant that there was no time for mistakes. His Toclefanes, although protected by the deception filter that tapped into the Archangel network itself, would not remain hidden for the Master's clever surveillance forever. Once they were detected and destroyed, his time would quickly run out.
His hearts raced, and sweat dripped down his brow.
He slipped in and out of corridors, and forced open doors with his laserscrewdriver. He kept running and stopping before each security check, while getting closer and closer to his goal.
Soon there were only 6 minutes and three security points left.
Outside the building, hiding in the bushes of what was once the Place de la Bastille, Donna kept the remote close to her chest, and gazed at the facility as if she was still hoping to catch a glimpse of the Master. Martha let her be for a while till she noticed that Donna's hands were shaking. She put her hand on her shoulder. Donna blinked her eyes and gazed at her before she responded with an embarrassed little smile.
"I guess you were right about me and him after all."
Martha bit on her lips. For all the things that she would have said to her that ill-fated that day about how she should beware of falling in love with the Master, had now lost its significance and meaning. "He's going to be all right." She just said, in an attempt to offer comfort. "If there's someone left on Earth who can outsmart the Master, it should be him."
He had finally reached the last checkpoint. The emission room was only a few yards away, behind a massive steel door that looked like the door of a bank vault. But he had prepared himself for that, and there was no lock in the world that his laserscrewdriver couldn't open. He closed his eyes, and counted from three back to zero for the last time.
Nothing happened. The two security cameras and the trigger system were still functional. He inhaled and breathed out deeply before he started to recount. But when he reached zero again, the security system was still switched on.
"Dammit!" He sneered through clenched teeth. There were only 2 minutes and 14 seconds left. The Toclefanes were 10 seconds late. He dreaded the worst. He can't stop here and just give up, not now when he was so close. He peered up at the cameras and security sensors, uttered a curse under his breath and blew up both devices with two well-aimed shots of his laser screwdriver. It took 14 seconds for the central alarms to go off, which was 14 seconds gained over when he had just stuck his head around the corner and let himself to be caught by the security cameras.
14 seconds of extra time for him to try to save the world.
The steel door proved to be of only small nuisance, and swung wide open after he unlocked it with his screwdriver, revealing a darkened space dominated by a massive aluminous core that towered towards the ceiling and vanished into a huge circular vent. As soon as he entered the room, the transmission hijacker in his pocket began to beep. He held it up and scanned the entire room, till he found the spot with the strongest signal. The little machine immediately tuned in and started diverting the emission, recalculating the wavelength that controlled the Toclefanes. "Please. Please. Please Please." The Master muttered under his breath while his eyes followed the little green bar that slowly filled up till it stagnated at 95. "Oh come on!" He screamed and tapped on the side of the device while precious seconds ticked away. The bar began to grow again, and finally reached 100 percent. "Yes!" He just reached out for his teleporter to make his exit, when a red laser light that came from across the room blasted it from his belt. It fell on the floor where a second beam hit it and incinerated into to dust in front of his eyes.
"There is something wrong." Donna whispered. She couldn't hear the alarm bells going off inside the facility, but she didn't need to. The counter on the remote had turned zero, but there was no sign of the Master. With shaking hands she pressed the button under the display to activate the teleporter.
He rushed back to the door but stopped half-way. A large flock of Toclefanes entered the room. In hope that some of them were new and would respond to his command, he aimed the transmitter at them. "I order you to stop!" He screamed. "Turn around and let me pass!" But the Toclefanes were not impressed. They surrounded him like a pack of hungry wolves and slowly but certainly closed him in.
"Funny." One of the Toclefanes commented. "The imposter tries to be our Master."
"He is not our Master." A second one said. "Our Master knows about his silly little plans."
"Now we caught him like a tiny little mouse in a trap, nibbling on its last crumb of cheese." A third one added.
"Get away from me, let me pass!" Realizing that transmitted was useless, he reached for his laser screwdriver and aimed it at the threatening, menacing spheres.
"I wouldn't do that if I were you."
He fired and the energy in the laser screwdriver back-blasted into his hand and burnt his skin. He let out a scream and dropped the weapon.
"Told you so, you silly man. Our true Master had set up an protection shield that taps into your signals." One of the silver minions explained.
"Our Master is clever."
"Now let us prevent you from making the same stupid mistake again." And with that said, they destroyed his precious screwdriver with one single blast.
"No!" He stepped back in panic.
"No more games then. Your time is up. No more time for the traitor Timelord." The Toclefanes sing-songed in chorus, like little children.
"You've maimed and murdered the last one of us."
"Now it's time for us to maim you."
He bumped with his back against the wall. Realizing that he had failed and now must pay the price, he slowly sank through his knees. As the dark shadows closed in on him, he crawled down into a foetal position, defeated, and shielding his eyes from what he feared to be his imminent death.
Donna suddenly materialized in front of him and fired her stungun at the Toclefanes. Three of them were deactivated immediately and dropped down like plump ducks.
The Master was shocked. "Donna, what are you doing here?!"
"The remote didn't work, so I changed the coordinates to get in."
"You're mad woman! You're going to get yourself killed!"
"So far, it didn't happen yet." She shot another four of them out of the air.
"I didn't tell you to use the teleporter to get me out!"
"Look, you can't expect me to just leave you here to die, okay? Besides, I'm doing quite well I reckon." But as soon as she had finished her sentence, the Toclefanes activated an energy field around her. When she fired again, the gun only gave a sad little spark before it was blasted out of her hand.
"Oh bummer." Donna muttered, with an expression of disappointment on her face that would, under less burdened circumstances, look comical.
The Master pushed her out of the way of a canon of retaliatory laser-blasts, and she ended on the floor with him on top of her to shield off the rampaging metallic spheres. Soon they would descend upon them like a flock of deadly locusts, hungry for blood.
"You shouldn't have followed me." He said, but the look in his eyes contradicted him, showing genuine gratitude. He grabbed her hand that still held on to the remote. "I'm sorry Donna, but there is no way out. Not for the both of us at least."
She suddenly recalled how he had saved her from the bullets from the UNIT soldiers. He had saved her so many times before, in so many ways. Her eyes stung with tears as she realized what he was about to do.
"Goodbye, my faithful companion." He whispered to her, and closed her fingers on the remote.
"No!" Heart-broken, she finally found the courage to say that one thing to him that she had kept secret all this time.
"I lo-- " But before Donna could finish, the Master pressed her thumb on the button and sent her back to the safety of the Resistance headquarters.
For a moment, he stared silently at the spot where she had vanished, taken by surprise by her revelation, that quickly filled his already heavy heart with feelings of lost and regret. Above his head, harsh artificial lights switched on. It blinded him, and he squinted his eyes at the army of Toclefanes, who hovered over him like a thousand birds of prey, throwing threatening shadows over his existence.
"Look at the imposter, such a sad little man, and he thought he was so clever."
"No-one can out-smart our Master."
"Your companion left you, you're all on your own, no-one will safe you now."
This your final station, time to get off."
They exposed their rotating blades, ready to chop him into minced meat.
"Oh not quite." He muttered under his breath. Despite of his overwhelming fear, he found a spark of defiance left inside, which was just enough to help him to face his enemies with a dignity that he had come to admire in the humans. He stood up straight and raised his chin up. "I've got one thing left to say to you."
Instead of inducing a hostile reaction, the Toclefanes responded to his boldness with childlike curiosity. "Really? What would you like to tell us then?"
The door swung open and a large group of heavily armed men stormed into the room. They aimed their stunguns at the Toclefanes, determined to stop them from attacking their prey. Officer Goodchild stepped forward and aimed a regular gun at the Master.
"This is an order from your Lord and Master, don't harm the imposter. The orders are to capture him and bring him onboard of the Valliant. I repeat, don't harm this man."
The commander came towards him while the group of Toclefanes, ever obedient to the wishes of their Master even though it had been passed on by a weak little human, parted to let him through. Goodchild found his prisoner unharmed in the middle of the hostile circle, but the young officer was unpleasantly surprised. Although he had been well-informed by his Master about the target of this assignment and expected that the man he was about to arrest would bear a striking resemblance to his Lord, he didn't expect him to remain dead calm when facing capture, or smile back at him as if he had just overheard a good joke.
The young officer nervously waved his gun into his face. "What are you laughing about? Stop laughing!"
"Fine I'll stop, really." The Master raised his hands above his head and suppressed a little giggle that tickled his throat. "I surrender." He said, and forced himself to pull a straight face.
The commanded stepped back en ordered his men to cuff his hands behind his back. They were ready to drag him out, when the Master stopped complying.
The commander turned to him, now more agitated than he was nervous. "What now?" He barked.
"I still need to say something to them before we leave." The prisoner nodded at the Toclefanes. The commander rolled his eyes. "Make it quick, and don't anger them. These stunguns can only hold them back for so long."
The Master scraped his throat and faced them with a composure that was now completely devoid of any signs of fear. One of the Toclefanes flew up to him.
"What was it that you wanted to tell us, traitor?"
A broad smile appeared on the Master's face. "Take me to your leader." He said with a boyish grin, and let out the giggle that had pestered him for the last few minutes. "Oh I love saying that! Even when it does sound a bit stale and overused."
"That's enough! Come on you lunatic." The Commander's men pushed him towards the door, leaving behind a group of flying metallic orbs that had become very puzzled by the man's answer.
In his vast office room on board of the Valliant, the Master circled around the prisoner who had been brought in by officer Goodchild. Slowly and cautiously, his eyes studied every detail of the man's face, his round cheeks and young laddish looks with that petty crook's charm, and his watch-full pinhead eyes that could pierce right through a man's soul, but now shimmered with hostility. Little dimples that appeared at the corner of his mouth when he responded to his captor's scrutiny with a cocky but joyless grin. It was like looking into a bloody mirror, only…not.
If the Master had been still inexperienced and young, he could have mistaken this double ganger for a parallel version of himself or even a clone, created by those pesky little human companions of the Doctor in a pathetic effort to rescue the other Timelord, to save the world, or to simple annoy the hell out of him. But the Master had already been through all of his regenerations, 13 lives lived and wasted on the pursuit of power, only with everyone of them passing him by at a frighteningly fast speed. But this wasn't a replica of himself, he knew that his look-alike was placed out of time the moment that he caught a glimpse of that face. Something was wrong with this version of him. He shouldn't be here really, and yet, he seemed to be fixed into this timeline, not in a comfortable way, but rather like a big smelly foot forced into an undersized shoe. Somewhere in the back of the Master's mind, there was a vague realization that everything that had happened between him and the 10th incarnation of the Doctor, must have once taken place without this complete mess that had been brought on by his other-self, but he wasn't allowed to grasp on to that notion for long enough to be conscious of it. It was just the way things worked. Once a timeline was altered, everything must be placed back into a new order. Even the train of thoughts of an ancient Timelord had to yield to that rule. So instead of turning his mind around the problem, the Master simple decided to ignore it and focus on the task at hand, which was to apply some serious ass-kicking to his traitorous and suicidal other-self, who had been, in his humble opinion, way off track of things. He stopped his repetitious stalking, and faced his advisory with a matching self-confident smile.
"So, I suppose this is when you tell me how the bloody hell you got here. When exactly are you from?"
"When do you think?"
The Master smiled and struck his other-self in the face.
"A bit of advise. You should answer my questions, before I get my men in to help you out with providing it to me. You probably know that patience isn't one of my virtues."
His prisoner scoffed at him. "Even I know that telling you isn't a good idea. What if you change things for the worst?"
The Master burst into laughter. "I have my paradox machine. Nothing what I do can affect my future. Because that's where you're from, isn't it?" The Master grabbed his look-alike's right hand, pulled up his sleeve and turned it, exposing a healed scar in the shape of an almost perfect circle. "See, I've got mine already, from when I tried to access the Tardis core to fuel the paradox stabilizer. Nothing makes a better lasting scar than a blast of pure time vortex energy." He let go of his hand, and smiled contently. "Now we have figured that out, why don't you fill in the details." He stepped closer to him, and hissed in his face.
Instead of feeling threatened, His prisoner smiled back at him as if he was about to tell him a good joke.
"What? That can't be true!"
"I'm afraid it is." And he shrugged indifferently. "I'm sorry but I'm really from 2008. But if you want me to lie to you for comfort, I could tell you I'm from 8002, how about that? Better?"
"But how did you…how did I end up like..." He pulled a disgusted face. "What happened?" For the first time since this new regeneration, the Master found himself in shortage of words to express himself, although the overall feeling could have been described as a blind stinking panic. "Did my plan fail?"
"Oh, you mean the one where you wage war with the rest of known civilization in order to create your megalomanic empire?" The one you spend all your time, energy and limited mental health on to get it done? Hmm, let me see." The prisoner raised his chin up and furrowed his brows in a mock display of contemplation. "Nope, didn't hear a thing about it, wasn't even mentioned in the regional news. Guess it didn't work out and you were stopped for the good of Christmas and puppies."
"No! That's not possible!" The frantic despair displayed on the Master's face looked a bit pathetic in the future Timelord's eyes. Sure, he hadn't exactly look like he was a million bucks himself when he was scraping a living out of the bottom of garbage cans, and he had done his fair share of cowering too, but it was just an entirely different experience when you were looking the bastard straight in the face while he was shitting himself.
"It can't be!" The Master muttered, and yanked his hair, for the future Timelord a tell-tale sign that he was close to a mental breakdown. "Look at what I have achieved! Human race is enslaved and will be extinct by the end of the year. The weapons that I've built are so numerous that I can blast every fucking star out of the sky in this galaxy! How can I ever be defeated?"
"Sorry mate, I can't tell you that. I don't even know it myself." His alter ego stared back with a triumphant glint in his eyes. "I told you, you wouldn't want to know."
The Master screamed out of rage and took his laserscrewdriver out. He grabbed his prisoner's hand, and held the screwdriver over the back. Soon the skin began to smoke and burn. "Why are you helping that red-haired woman? She sides with the Doctor! Don't you know that!? Have you forgotten who your enemies are?"
The prisoner cried out in agony. "I didn't – I didn't remember him." He tried to pull his hand away from the laserbeam, but he was paralyzed. A hole started to burn into the muscles and tendons.
"Why did you save her? You're helping her trying to destroy me, do you realize that! Are you nuts?! Not even a terminally depressed lemming would do this to himself."
He let go of his prisoner who dropped on his knees. The Master came down to his level and stared him in the face.
"Why did you try to kill me?" He asked, dropping his voice to a soft whisper.
"I didn't try to kill you." The prisoner responded. "I only tried to stop you. And if you need to ask for my motivation." He held up his ruined hand to him.
The Master smirked, a wolf's grin on a joyless face. He raised himself up and looked down at his ruined self with a mixture of pity and revulsion. "I can't kill you. You know that. Even with the paradox machine around, I can't take the risk. Perhaps, now that you have revealed some details of my future to me, I'll be fortunate enough to wake up tomorrow and find that you have disappeared, and that my future has changed for the better. Maybe it doesn't matter that I kill you because you won't be me anymore. That would be good. But I've never been much for wish-full thinking. Fortune have often refused to be my mistress. Better to have a plan B."
He produced a large black box from a safe mounted in the wall behind his desk, and carefully placed it on the table surface. The lid of the box moved, rising up ever so slightly, as if something inside was trying to get out.
"Ever since our short encounter when you took that fat redhead off my ship I've been racking my mind about what to do with you when you are captured. For I was sure that it wouldn't last. Don't take this wrong." He glanced at him and grinned. "I'm sure you're every bit as clever as I am. I'm not underestimating your intelligence, but with my army and total control over the human population, I've sort of got the high grounds in this game. But I have to admit that I was a tad disappointed. You fell for my trap so easily. I guess I could always count on my hunger for power to guide my actions. The prospect of a whole army of billions for you to control, was obviously too much for you to resist."
He lifted the lid from the box. A slimy tentacle stuck out, and waved in the air like a toe testing the temperature of the water.
"I got this from our arms dealer. A Medusian crackhead who thrives on cheap opium. We ship off containers full of poppy-seeds to Medusia, and he in return delivers the plasma guns for my army. Nice fellow, knows how to keep his clients happy. When I told him I wanted something reversible, but effective, he immediately knew what to look for."
He showed his prisoner what was inside the box. A squid-like creature stared at him with pinprick eyes. The muscles in his seemingly liquid body, contracted in a wave-like motion, and the creature changed from a grey-blue color into a pink fleshy tone.
"Do you know the story about the man who bore a striking resemblance to the king of France?" The Master asked, sounding suddenly chatty and overly friendly.
The prisoner remained silent, and stared at the grotesque creature inside the box with an unnerved expression on his face.
"No? You didn't? Well, I guess there is still a little time for a story." The Master squatted down beside him and rested his chin on his hand. "You see, once upon a time, there was this ruthless king who didn't give a fuck about his subjects. In fact, there was very little that he cared about because he knew the secret of the universe, which was that everything was going be fucked up eventually, and the only thing that made any sense was for him to enjoy himself as long as he could. Apres moi le deluge. Right? I couldn't agree more. Now, this wise king had this really annoying twin brother, who should have been exactly like him in every sense of the word, and should have cherished the same principles in not giving a bloody toss. But unfortunately, his brother had been brought up differently. He was not raised at the royal court amidst the splendor and the fun, but was brought to some backward farmer who kept pigs. Don't ask why, besides the reason doesn't matter. That pig-smelling farmer taught the boy everything that was useful to raise pigs, but also filled is mind with crap about how he should care about other people's lives, about how it did matter and that not everything was turning into pig-shit. So, the twin brother, being fed on a diet of weak, retarded nonsense, returned to court and became a problem for the king, for everybody who knew about it preferred his kind brother over the young upcoming tyrant. He couldn't kill his brother, for it was against the promise that he had made to his dear mother. But he couldn't let the guy go prancing around in the palace either, not if he valued his own crown. So, the young king did the only thing that was sensible. He ordered his craftsman to make him an iron mask, one that would fit over a prisoner's face and couldn't be taken off unless you opened the lock at the back with a special key. One night, when his twin brother was sleeping in his comfy palace bed, he ordered his guards to arrest him and to bring him down to the Bastille, where they fitted the mask over his face, secured it with the lock, and threw him in a bare cell. They gave the key to the king, who visited his condemned brother only once, to show him the key that he from that day on wore like an amulet, dangling from a sliver chain around his neck."
The Master paused at the end of his story, and gazed at his prisoner whose face had paled. "Now." He said, and took the creature out of the box. "I don't know about you, but I found that story quite inspiring, it sometimes dazzles me what wisdom can be learned from history's lessons."
The creature suddenly jumped at the prisoner, and landed flat over his face. The prisoner screamed as the slimy elastic flesh first covered his mouth and nose, preventing him to breathe. He collapsed with his back on the floor, clawing frantically at his face in an attempt to pull the creature off.
The Master watched how the tentacles dug into its victim's skin, and crept over his skull till it fused at the back of the head.
"Oh don't throw a fit now, it's not going to choke you to death." He commented lightheartedly. "It's just trying to make friends."
Holes in the creature's body opened up, first around the nostrils, enabling the prisoner to breathe again. Then the areas around the eyes opened, and he was able to stare around with reddened eyes, as the acids coming off the creature's slime burnt into his tear-ducts. Holes opened around his ears and he could hear the Master's cruel laughter cut through the silence like a sharp knife. When the skin that covered his mouth finally thinned and stretched, the Master popped the membrane with his finger, allowing his tormented prisoner to inhale a deep breath of air.
"There there, not too bad is it? Told you it wouldn't kill you. Might burn a little though. But you'll get use to it. Eventually."
The prisoner tried to speak, but a slimy substance slipped into his mouth and covered his tongue, pasting it into one place. Then he almost choked when a tentacle slithered down into his throat, and took hold of his vocal-cords. The Master grimaced. "Yeah, that's a bit uncomfortable I guess. But I can't let you go talking to everybody about us, can I? Al least I don't rip out your freakin tongue."
He took a glass of water from the table and pressed it against the tormented man's lips. "Here, take a sip. Makes you feel better." He watched how the prisoner took a good mouthful of water down, but was struggling to move his lips.
"It's done." He spoke, almost soothingly. "It's almost over. Look." He tapped on the creature's flesh that had hardened till it was as thick and robust like a tortoise shield. "It's starting to settle. If you wait a couple of hours longer, it will be as hard as concrete. You wouldn't be able to break it open without removing a part of your skull with it." The Master grinned. "So how about that hey? What do you think about my solution for our little problem?"
The prisoner spat a mouthful of water right into the Master's face.
"Guess gratitude isn't on my list of virtues either." He sneered, and wiped the wetness from his cheeks. "No problem. At least there is no need for me to feel sorry for myself now." He pressed the button of the intercom that was setup on his desk, and officer Goodchild appeared on screen. "I'm done with the prisoner. Take him away." He turned and threw a glance at his wretched self, then swirled back to the monitor, his anger slowly boiling inside his guts. "Take him somewhere dark, and dank. Somekind of a pit would be nice. No daylight. You know what, why not devoid him from any light all together. Tell his guards to keep him in total darkness, let him be blind and see how long it takes before the drums swell up inside his head and takes his sanity. Starve him, but don't let him starve to death. Torture him, but don't let him die of his injuries. Let him live like a pathetic, faceless, voiceless worm." He laughed madly when he realized what he was actually saying.
When the guards came in to take the prisoner away, he turned to his future self for the last time.
"I pray for you, that one day you'll finally see the light of reason, and pick the right side. If not, I can only tell you to wear that thing on your fuckin' face in that dark shithole I'm sending you, till you forget who the hell you are and start to actually love it."
"Don't resent me for this!" He shouted after him, as the guards dragged the broken man away. "Apres moi, le deluge. Mon frere!"
When they were gone, the Master stood back in front of the window, tapping his fingers on the window pane at the pace of the drums. It should have been a glorious day, he had finally captured the only other Timelord left in existence who could threaten his position, but he found no joy in his victory. The words of his future self still resounded in his ears, and although at the surface he seemed as if he had regained his calm and composure, the very knowledge that he would eventually fail again filled his hearts with fear. It had become such a hollow victory, as if he had only exchanged one problem with another, and his mind once again couldn't rest at ease.
The intercom switched back on, and officer Goodchild reappeared on screen.
"My Lord and Master. I report that the prisoner has been taken care off as you commanded."
"Well done officer Goodchild." The Master clapped his hands. "I'm very pleased. Now I might not even need a new first commander for the troops. I must say, I find the competence of you and your men quite refreshing."
"Thank you my Lord. It was only our duty to protect you from these scheming revolutionists."
"Could you call the men of unit 451 together outside on the flight-deck for me? I would like to address them personally, and congratulate them for their achievements."
"That would be a great honor my Lord. The men will be extremely pleased."
"Let them gather right underneath the traffic tower. I'll come out to meet them in half an hour or so."
When Goodchild was gone, the Master snapped his fingers and a Toclefane materialized into the room.
"Yes Master?" It enquired.
"I suppose that I've let you lot down with intercepting you from harming that traitor."
"Well Master, your wish is our command. But we were a bit disappointed indeed that we didn't get to play with him." The silver minion sulked.
"Let me make it up to you. A group of men will be waiting outside near the traffic tower in approximately 30 minutes, let them be my present for you, my dear children."
He didn't care what they did, as long as the men were dead by the end and took his secret with them to their graves. For from now on, he wouldn't allow anyone to know the true identity of the masked prisoner, and the man's very existence would be kept a secret at any costs.
The Master returned to his favorite spot in front of the window. Humming a popular popsong that he couldn't get out of his head. He looked out over his domain, the ravished blue orb that the human's called home, and found absolutely no joy in hearts.