Chapter 12

44.

The Doctor knew that something had changed. He sensed it. He felt it in his old bones, like the change of the weather, or the coming of a cold winter. The Master did his best to not let it show, and for the humans on board of the Valiant who either were his servants or his captives, nothing indeed had changed. But for the Doctor, who had lived and seen more than all of them combined, the signs were as clear as if they had been written in large black paint on the walls of his bare cell. Slowly, he bended his fingers, stiff and painful of arthritis, and wrapped them around the handles at the sides of his wheelchair. He pushed himself forward, not towards the barred view of the corridor, but to the back, where he could hear the pitiful cries of the prisoner who was kept in a cell, many levels beneath him. He placed his ear on a pipeline that disappeared in the floor and listened.

His hearts ached when he finally realized who the prisoner was.

"What is it, you old fart? Why don't you eat?" The guard inspected the dog bowl that the Master had given his arch nemesis to humiliate him even further. "I'm getting into trouble if you starve yourself. Now eat something." He grabbed a handful of what ever it was that filled the yellow doggy bowl and pushed it against the old man's lips. The Doctor turned his head, smearing the food all over his face.

"God, you're ungrateful! What, you want me to beg?" The guard was actually close to begging, he remembered very well what happened to the last bloke who got fired from this job after let the old geezer choke on a piece of stale bread. His head was still rotten away on a pike outside in the courtyard.

"You know what, screw you! You know there are prisoners down there who are actually not getting fed at all, and you're wasting food like it's nothing! You don't know how good our Lord and Master is actually treating you. You could have been that poor bastard down in sector 13. He's been starving to death. All skin and bones that one. At least you still got some flesh on your cheeks."

The Doctor raised his head and uttered a few words. The guard, who hoped that the old troublemaker had changed his mind and was going to comply, came closer to him.

"Sorry, didn't catch that. What did you say?"

"The prisoner." He had to stop, for the effort that it took him to raise his voice forced his lungs to become short of air. "The prisoner in sector 13. How is he?"

"Why would you care?" The guard scoffed. "Is he a friend of yours? I could have figured that out. Everybody who's just remotely in favor of you has been punished in the most appalling sort of way. But I must admit that he got the worst of them lot. It's like our Lord and Master really hates his guts! I've never seen him treat his prisoners in such a ruthless way before, and I have seen many disgusting things happen here, I can assure you that. What? Sorry can you repeat that again?"

"What did he do to him?"

"Pfff." The guard blew out his breath and tried to make a list. "What didn't he do? He whipped the poor bastard till his skin came off, broke his limbs on the rack, burnt and stabbed him…oh and he electrocuted him once, at one of our monthly God-save-our-Lord-and-Master celebration days, stuck the poor bastard inside a tub of water and just switched on the current. A couple of my mates were forced to watch and had to puke up their breakfast right on the spot. He looked like a piece of human shaped charcoal after it was done, really disgusting. None of us thought he would survive the next day, but the strange thing is, every time our Lord and Master gets his mean itch and order one of us to drag him out of that pit again, he looks like nothing has happened to him! I'm telling you, not the tiniest scar remains after each of those horrible episodes. It's so bizarre." The guard shook his head and stirred with his finger in the brown paste inside the bowl. "You know, me and my mates have this theory, that the prisoner down in that pit back in section 13 isn't really a person at all. Well at least not in the strictest sense of the word. We think he's some kind of an alien. One that can regenerate himself really fast, like one of those damn lizards who grow back their tails after you cut it off. That's probably one of the reasons why our Lord and Master keeps his face hidden from us with that weird mask thing. The guy must look hideous."

The guard paused and glanced over at the old prisoner in the wheelchair. "Hey gramps, what's wrong? Oh now don't cry! I didn't want to upset you. It's just a story. Stop that, I'm getting intro trouble if you cry, my Lord and Master won't like this."

The Doctor shook his head. Bitter tears dripped down his chin on the dirty fabric of his shirt. "Why is he doing this?" He whispered. "He has one chance to redeem himself, and he's destroying it without a second thought."

"What?" The guard furrowed his brow, he didn't catch a single word of the Doctor's lament, but he did thought of a way to make sure that he wasn't going to get into trouble with the old geezer not leaving his plate empty.

"You know what, if you're not going to tuck in, I don't mind adding a bit extra to my daily ration." And with that said, the guard dug his hand into the dogbowl and scooped a handful of the brown pulp into his mouth.

45.

It took the Doctor two weeks to get Tish and Francine smuggle in all the parts that he needed to finish his device. Both women were put to household chores by the Master, and were treated like lowly servants, moping up the mess he left behind (which was mainly other people's blood) and bringing him his drinks (coffee, coffee and more coffee, till he almost vibrated out of his chair due to the caffeine). The only good thing about this, was that like lowly servants, Francine and her daughter came and went in almost every part of the ship without raising suspicion, and were able to pick up the odd bolts and pieces that the Doctor needed, but couldn't get his hands on himself because he was heavily guarded. The two women were actually so sure about how they were hardly being noticed, that they even passed on their errands to the Doctor when the Master was in the room with them.

"Here you are. A piece of broken radio antenna." Tish handed it over to the aged Timelord, while quickly glancing over her shoulder. The Master was crooning a Beatle song at his ill-fated wife, who by now, was so stoned that she could hardly stand on her high heels. The Master himself had finished a whole casket of Burgundy from 1978, and was well on his way to la-la-land. It seemed that the most likely mess that Francine was going to mop up this evening, was his vomit. Tish turned back to Doctor.

"What are you actually going to do with these?" Tish asked hopefully.

The Doctor took the antenna in his trembling hand, and after checking over his shoulder to make sure that the Master was still occupied, took a small object out of his pocket, broke the antenna in two and fitted it on, before showing it to Tish.

"It's a small mechanical cricket." Tish muttered, hiding her disappointment. She didn't want to seem ungrateful, but she kinda had expected something more…well shall we say, more deadly?

"It's a communication device." The Doctor wheezed, straining his lungs with effort. "You did well."

"Yeah, I guess." Tish was still staring at the little wiry insect with a puzzled look on her face. "A laser cannon would have been nice though."

That evening, when the Master was done playing around with the Doctor, and felt that he had humiliated him enough by forcing his former arch nemesis to watch him serenade his wife with a murdered karaoke version of Elvis's love me tender, and had intimidated him enough with his eye-opening speech about how midgets were just really short people who couldn't win a football-match because their legs were too short, and after he had personally delivered the Doctor back to his cell and wished him good night with his usual mockery of how he looked like a cross between Gandalf and that talking old prune from the Muppet show, the Doctor took the little cricket out of his pocket, and activated it with a push of a button that was hidden underneath its belly.

The lights in the eyes of the mechanical creature switched on.

"Hello there." The Doctor whispered. "Listen, I need you to go help a friend of mine."

He held the cricket up, close to his lips, and whispered the assignment into its antenna.

"Understood?"

The creature nodded its mechanical head, and twitched with its antenna as if to say yes.

"Now, go. Go find my friend." The Doctor held his hand close to ground, and the bug jumped off and skittered across the floor. It went straight for the pipeline that sunk into the lower levels, and disappeared inside a crack in the concrete.

46.

Somewhere, deep in the belly of the great ship, many floors underneath the Doctor's cell, was a deep pit, covered by a rusted grill of heavy iron. Two guards we standing on top of it. They were supposedly on duty, but were too drunk of the wine that had been supplied by their Lord and Master to celebrate the 6th month of his rule to give a bloody toss.

"I bet I can hit him from up here. Hit him right on the head." The first one slurred.

"Tsss. You're not going to hit anything. Unless it's one of your own boots. You're awful. You really are." Laughed the second one.

Both of them were totally unaware of the tiny little mechanical creature that slipped between their feet and crept inside the pit. Actually, even if these two had been sober they would have missed it for they were not the brightest amongst Saxon's troops.

"I say, I can hit him, right on the head, without even using my bloody hands!" Yelled the first one.

"And I say, you can't hit shit." Hissed the second one, on which the first one responded by pulling his cock out of his pants, ready to take aim.

"Now if I can just get a glimpse of the little maggot." He slurred. "Ah, there he is! Bulls-eye!"

47.

The Master dived away from the hot stream of piss that rained down on him, and hid in a small niche carved out inside the pit. He heard one of the guards cursing loudly, yelling that he had made him piss all over his boots.

"I'm gonna get you, you little stinking maggot! Next time my Lord and Master get you up here, I'm gonna enjoy whipping your bare ass. You hear me?!"

Why do they even bother, he thought, closing his eyes to this nightmare for a second or so, while rocking his body back and forth continuously. Sometimes, when the guards were gone, he didn't even know if he was sleeping with his eyes open or closed, for it was so dark down here that it all seemed to make no difference. But they really didn't need to bother to humiliate him any further. He had been living like a beast. Being dragged up and tortured for their Lord and Master's pleasure, only to be tossed back like a sack of rotten potatoes into this stinking well after he was done with him. He had been lying here on the dirt covered floor many times before, resting his abused body on a bed of straw that smelled of urine and his own waste, with either his bones fractured or his skin opened and his flesh cut, and actually wishing that the bloody bastard wasn't such a coward and had him killed already. He couldn't take much more of this, and something inside him was soon going to crack. If I still had a voice, he thought, at least I could scream. I would scream my lungs out, like that poor woman's head that we found inside that Toclefane. I would scream and scream and never stop again. Oh, how I wish I could still scream…

He waited till the loud and obnoxious voices above him had faded away before he opened his eyes again. A little creature sat on the floor in front of him with its pinprick eyes alert and its antenna raised.

What is this?

It was too dark to see clearly. It looked like an insect, but the shield was too shiny, and its legs too wire-like to seem real. He crawled closer to it on his hands and knees, careful not to startle the creature, when the light that came from the torches above the pit burnt out. He sighed, and hoped fiercely that the sudden darkness didn't frighten away the little creature. Tentatively, he held out his hands to search the floor around him, but all he could find were handfuls of dirty wet straw. He sat back, pulling his knees tight against his belly and rubbed in his eyes. Maybe he didn't see the creature after all. Maybe he was finally going mad. He believed he was, because every night (or was it day? It didn't really matter down here), when he was left alone in the dark, he could hear the sound of drums rising like an upcoming storm. It was the same sound that he had heard when he was making his journey with the Valiant disk, when Donna encountered the younger version of himself, the little boy who was lost in the silver devastation, scared out of his wits. He had heard the drums inside the boy's head, and it had frightened him. Now it had returned, growing louder with each day, and went on and on for a longer period each time that it took over. The violence with which it overcame him made him want to smack his head against the wall and tear out his own brainstem, for it whispered to him in a thousands voices such gruesome thoughts and hideous ideas that it froze his soul and filled his hearts with dread, just by simply recalling them.

That creature wasn't real. He thought, and a dark hopelessness settled over him. He listened helplessly, as the dreadful sound slowly rose up from inside. The drums, they're real. And that's all what's left with me here. The sound of drums. Slowly closing in. Tearing me apart.

A light suddenly lit up from out of the darkness, it came from the little buglike creature that sat quietly in the corner, as if it was waiting to be found. The Master stared at it, amazed.

You don't need to listen to the drums if you don't want to, Koshei.

What? The Master thought. Now he believed he was truly mad, for didn't that weird bug-thing just spoke to him telepathically? And he called him what?

Koshei. That's your name. Well it used to be, before you chose to take another, more pompous one. But I must say I rather prefer this one.

The Master coughed loudly, partly because he had a nasty infection in his lungs, but also because he thought making some noise would drive the craziness away. It didn't.

Oh shit, I'm talking to a bug.

I'm not a bug. This is a telepathic communication device. Clever isn't it? Don't you recognize it?

Recognize what? The Master answered, staring at the brightly lit little bugger with a scared expression on his face.

I gave one to you, for your birthday! Just before you went to your initiation ceremony. Don't you remember?

Stop saying that.

Saying what?

Saying if I don't remember anything. The answer is I don't. I lost my sodden memory. That's how I got into this bloody mess in the first place. I should have stayed where I was, in 2008, as a stupid and miserable homeless bum who ate out of garbage bags. At least I wouldn't be talking to a stick insect that claims to be my best mate when I was younger.

So you do remember.

Remember what?

That we were mates, friends, best buddies? We weren't blood brothers, we never went so far as to drink each-others blood. Can't stand the sight of it.

The Master sighed. Piss off and leave me alone.

Koshei, listen. I don't know what happened to you, but you've changed. I mean, it's bad of course. Bad that you have lost your memory from what happened before, but… you've really changed for the better. You're no longer the bloodthirsty psychopath you used to be. That's why he hates you so much, don't you see? You are better then him! Don't let him drive you mad.

Enough! I don't know you! Whoever you are, get out of my head.

You do remember me! You're just fighting it off. Don't do that. Don't be afraid of it. What happened in the past is now written in stone and cannot be changed, not even by a Timelord. But it can still change your future, for the better and the good.

I don't want to listen to this. The Master pressed his hands on his ears, and turned away from the tiny light, pressing his cheek against the filthy wall.

Koshei, listen to me. Stop hiding. Koshei!

48.

"Koshei, I know that you're in here, stop hiding!"

Harsh light erupted, blinding his eyes. Someone yanked hard on his ear and he was pulled out of the cupboard, and was on his feet before he could say "ough".

Master Azmael finally let go of the boy, only to point an angry finger at him. "You young man, are an absolute menace! Look what you have done!" He showed him the empty birdcage by the window. "My beautiful white griffin has escaped because of you! I told you boys not to open the cage to play with him. He's not domesticated yet!"

"I'm sorry sir, really." Koshei mumbled, what else could he do.

"Honestly, I have not expected such mischief from you Koshei. From that young rascal Theta perhaps, but you! You're my straight A student." Old master Azmael shook his head. "With all that good sensible wit that you have up there, how could you think of such a moronic plan!"

"Well Master." Koshei muttered. "You did tell us that white griffin feathers make excellent arrows."

"Yes, for the indigenous people of the planet Zultar, that is. Not for naughty little boys who are absolutely disrespectful for their master's properties!"

It wasn't so bad really, the old master made him write an 10000 words essay on the rarity of white griffins as a punishment, which was interesting enough as a task. The young boy happened to like griffins, or he wouldn't be in this mess in the first place. The bad thing was, that he had to write it in one of the empty classrooms that faced the courtyard, where outside, Theta was making increasingly more ridiculous faces at old master Azmael when he wasn't looking, and forced Koshei to burst into laughter.

Master Azmael stared solemnly at him and shook his head in dismay. "What's so funny about this punishment, young man? Do you think this is a joke? You find causing grief to other people a laughable matter?"

"No sir." Koshei pulled a straight face, and looked away from stupid Theta, who didn't know when he should stop. When the master turned his back on him, he waved at the other boy, mouthing that he should get lost. However much he liked griffins, he didn't want to write about them till his arm dropped off out of exertion. But Theta was persistent. He gestured to Koshei, pointing at the window. Koshei responded by raising his middle finger at him. The other boy shook his head and grinned.

Hey don't be so rude. I just want to rescue you before you die of boredom in there.

As far as I can remember, it was you who got me into this trouble in the first place.

And that's why I'm getting you out! Now, get up and open the window.

Are you nuts? He's gonna make me write an entire bookwork on Zultarian avian species if I catch me doing that.

Trust me, he won't. Now get to that window, or he's flying off again.

Who's flying off?

Theta rolled his eyes, and stuck out his tongue.

The griffin of course, you dimwit. I found him sitting on the roof near our bedroom and lured it down with a piece of cheese on a string. He's gobbling it up right now. When he's finished, he's bound to take off again.

Shit.

Koshei jumped up and ran towards the window. He unlocked it and swung it wide open.

"Young master Koshei! What do you think you're doing!" Old master Azmael roared.

The bird, who was indeed not completely tamed, but nonetheless recognized his master's voice, lost interest in the piece of stinky cheese and flew through the window where he landed on the old master's desk with a very cheeky expression on his face.

"Snowbeard!" Azmael exclaimed, as much in delight as he was in surprise. "You came back!"

Needless to say that afterwards, young master Koshei didn't need to stay any longer to finish his piece on snowgriffins, and he ran outside straight into the courtyard where he met up with his mate, who was sitting under a tree waiting for him, and was already dreaming up their next disastrous adventure.

"Told you I was going to get you out." Theta grinned, chewing on a blade of grass. "Seems like a bloody shame if you have to stay inside when it's your birthday and all."

"Well, the day started good, before you came and mucked it up." Koshei responded.

"Tha! As if you didn't want those feathers for your arrows yourself." Theta scoffed. "I was merely complying to the wishes of the birthday boy. Didn't mean any trouble."

"You know, my mom was right. I shouldn't be hanging out with you. You're a bad influence. Soon I'll be taking mind-alterators when I'm in the fourth grade, because you told me it would help me with my math."

"You don't need any help with your math, you're brilliant at it."

"You suck at math."

"So I need those mind alterators. Look who's the bad influence now."

The boys burst out into laughter. Koshei lay down next to his friend, and watched how the cool mountain wind ruffling the red colored leaves above their heads.

"Happy birthday to you too, muckhead." Koshei said after a while, and took out a little box from his pockets. He didn't gift-wrap it or anything, but it was a present nonetheless. "Made it myself. Hope you like it, and don't go break it as soon as you get your clumsy fingers on it."

"Oh, how sweet! And I thought you would forget all about my birthday!"

"We were born the same day, how on Gallifrey can I forget it. Besides, you've moaning about it for weeks now."

"Great, I always wanted one of these." Theta held up the content of the little box like he was holding a short dagger. "What is it?"

"That, my friend. Is a sonic device that can use sound to alter the form of any physical object." Koshei explained with a proud little smile. "It also shoots out a kickass beam of blue light when push you this button." He demonstrated it, and a kickass blast of blue energy erupted from the object. "It doesn't do anything really, but it kinda looks cool."

"Neat. I always wanted one of these."

"You've already said that."

"Have you got a name for this?"

"Not really. Maybe I should think one up. Hmm. How about, the shape alteration device, nah too long. Or wait, the sonic shape shifter!"

"Why not call it the sonic screwdriver. It looks like one."

Koshei pulled a disgusted face.

"No! You're not going to call it that! You're bloody ruining it when you call it that!"

"I like that name. I came up with that name. What's wrong with that name?"

"It sounds like something you would find in the toolbox of a plumber."

"Well it's my present, so I get to pick the name."

"Fine, I'm just telling you it's horrible. It takes the coolness right out of it."

"Oh don't be such a fighead! It's lovely, thanks. I'm gonna keep it in my pockets and I am gonna cherish it for years to come. You never know when a sonic screwdriver comes in handy."

"Stop using that word. You're making me nauseous."

"Now it's my turn!" Theta exclaimed excitedly, and rummaged through his pockets and produced something that was covered in lint and whatever happened to be dwelling in the bottom of his pockets at that point. "Tadah! Neat isn't it?"

"Yeah, now let me carefully unwrap this well-crafted present first, before I burst into praise." Koshei picked the sticky threads of lint off the yet to be identified object. When he had finished excavating it, he wasn't sure that he didn't prefer it the way it was before.

"Well?" Theta said, his face radiant with pride.

"It's interesting."

"Yeah, I guess. Interesting and..?"

"Innovative??"

"You're supposed to say neat. Or cool. Actually a plain awesome would have been enough."

"I can't say it. It's staring right back at me with those beady little eyes."

"It's a cricket, it's supposed to have eyes! Geez!"

"Look mate, I don't want to sound rude, but what am I suppose to do with a cricket? Do I look like I collect insects? And if you want to give me one, why not just pick one up out of the lawn instead of going through all that trouble of making one out of scratch? I mean, what is actually cool about this? What is it going to do? Strike me with its awesome ability to eat grass? Seriously."

"It's a telepathic device. You know, so we can keep talking to each-other whenever you have that critter around instead of me. Look, perhaps it doesn't look like much, but I spent months of pocket money on the parts. And it took me hours to get the little clockwork inside to run, if you think robotics at that size is easy, well think again mate."

Theta crossed his arms and stared at Koshei with a very offended expression on his face, which was absolutely necessary in order to hide his crushing disappointment from his friend. Luckily, the boys have known each-other since they were five, and they could read each-others faces almost as well as they could read each-others minds.

"It's neat." Koshei stated, and faked a smile. ""I like it. Thank you."

"You're just saying that to make me feel better."

"Nah, of course not. Look, I'm sorry for dishing it. A telepathic communication device is actually very cool."

"You like it? Really?" Theta's face lit up again. "Then you should think up a name for it. I mean, it's your present."

Koshei pulled a face that stated that he really didn't want to bother if it wasn't to keep Theta's moronic but painfully hopeful smile plastered on his lips. "What about, the telepathic communication device. There, satisfied?"

"Eh, sounds a bit boring."

"Well, tough." Koshei snapped. "It's my present, I got to name it. You want to give your birthday present a horrible gay name, that's your problem. Fine. Don't mess with mine."

"All right, as long as you're happy with it." Theta grinned, waving his new sonic screwdriver around. "I know I am!"

49.

That night, the two boys were lying in their bunkbeds of their shared bedroom. The lights had gone hours ago, but neither of them could sleep.

"How do you think it's going to be like tomorrow, at the initiation ceremony?" Theta asked, while playing with his sonic screwdriver as he drew circles on the ceiling with the blue light.

"I don't know." Koshei turned on his side, and buried his nose in his soft pillow. The little cricket was sitting next to him on the nightstand, waving its antenna at him. When he thought about, it wasn't such a bad present after all.

"You remember Ushas?"

"That funny-looking girl with those pigs-tails. What about her?"

"Well, she kinda came out of her ceremony a bit weird didn't she?"

"Hmm. Now you mention it, she does spend a lot of time in the lab lately."

"Pfff, she ran straight out of the ceremony, put on a white coat and locked herself up inside the laboratory, you mean. Really, all she talks about nowadays is her science projects. And have you seen the stuff she's been growing inside those Petri dishes near the window? I came close to them by mistake last Tuesday and it went straight for my throat."

"Good science project." Koshei muttered admiringly. "It's going to be a hard one to beat."

"Hey!" Theta swung his head under the bed and stared at his friend. "Didn't you hear me? I said the girl was creepy!"

"I thought you fancied her?"

"Me, fancying Ushas? Seriously, have you replaced your brains with woodworms or something? I didn't even like her when she was normal and baked all those whole-wheat cookies for me, let alone now when she's busy growing God-knows-what kind of weed as a hobby. Besides, she doesn't even want to be called Ushas anymore, does she? We have to call her the Rani now, or she will throw a fuss. Girls! Seriously, if you ever catch me kissing one please do slap me in the face. They're weird!"

Theta lay back on his bed and started writing his best friend's name on the ceiling. "Look! It says Koshei." He was actually moving the sonic screwdriver so quickly that it spelled the first four letters correctly. "Well it sorta says Koshei. Kosh…That's good enough isn't?"

"How are you going to name yourself?"

"After the ceremony you mean?"

"Yeah."

Theta stretched himself lazily. "Something heroic probably. Like the White Knight. Or the Savior. Something like that."

"Oh do excuse me, but I feel a great tendency to barf."

"Hey! We're supposed to give ourselves ridiculous names. Otherwise Ushas wouldn't end up being the Rani. And you, what are you going to call yourself?"

"I would like something inspiring. You know what old master Azmael told me, about his ceremony? He said that it was inspiring. He looked into that chasm of the ceremonial mirror and came face to face with the time vortex, and he all he saw was creation."

"The creation of what?"

"Everything. Stars, planets, living beings. I would like to see that. I would like to witness that with my own eyes and return from my initiation, totally inspired."

"Tsss, you sound like you want to meddle with life itself. You know we can't do that. We're not allowed to, or old master Azmael is going to make us clean up the girls' toilets."

"Yeah yeah, I know, the first rule of the Timelords, never to interfere with what happens in the galaxies, yada yada yada, we're only here to watch. But doesn't that sometimes strike you as totally wrong? I mean, last week, we discussed the war between the Sontarans and the Rutans, all that bloodshed, all that death and destruction, and for what? Just because their leaders were bickering about something as foolish as what to name their communal moon. And for that same ridiculous reason, they're fighting across the universe, destroying planets, and blasting numerous moons out of the sky. And it's been raging on for like 50000 years or so. Now, wouldn't it be something when someone put a halt to it, right before all that fighting began? I mean, we have this power to change the universe for the better, right? We can alter the fates of millions, and we decide to just sit here on our arse all day and do nothing? Why give us the power to intervene in the first place, if we're not allowed to use that power? Doesn't it sound ironic in your ears?"

"So now what, you're going to call yourself the Great Meddler or something. Run away from the Academy, and become a renegade Timelord who's going to save the universe from all kind of baddies? Is that your plan?" Theta popped his head under the bed again. "If you are, you know your mom is going to kill you."

"Yeah, I know. I can hear her going on about it already." He started impersonating her in a high-pitched voice. "Oh the shame of it! Never has there been a member of the house of Oakdown who's become a disgraced runaway from the Academy! It must be that wild brat with limited upbringing, that Theta Sigma boy, who has corrupted my good son with these repulsive ideas. He must be punished for this! Quick, bring me a broomstick, and I will sweep his bottom till his cheeks are the color of ripe apples."

"Pervert." Theta laughed.

"Well, you'll be surprised how much she's actually like this. But I think I got my name ready for tomorrow. I may not runaway after the ceremony, and perhaps I have to obey the rules for a couple of years more or so before I can actually stand up for my ideas and change anything. But at least I got my name ready then."

"Oh right then. Tell me you dangerous outlaw, what are you going to call yourself?"

Koshei smiled at his friend. "I'm going to call myself the Master, as in the Master of all things."

Theta whistled. "Yeah, right, now it's my turn to barf."

"It's just that I need to be in control of everything, you know. If I want to better the universe, I need to be, I can't miss out on the details."

"You're sick, you know that mate. I've known you almost all my life and you've always been a total control freak, and now you want to turn that into your professional career? I'm serious, that's only going to end badly."

"If everything runs smoothly when I'm in charge, no one would ever have to suffer any hardship any more."

"Yeah, but before everything runs smoothly, those little details you were talking about would have already driven you around the bend. It's a bit over the top really. A bit far-fetched."

"We shall see." Koshei smiled confidently, and put his hands at the back of his head.

The two boys were silent for a while, each of them busy in their minds with imaging how they would turn out when they grew up. The possibilities were endless, and everything seemed so exciting, and wonderful in their eyes, that they could only wish they the time on the Academy could pass a little quicker. There was something however, that worried Theta a bit. He didn't know why exactly, but the way Ushas had turned out after the ceremony made him feel quite uneasy. He didn't want anything similar to happen to Koshei.

"Koshei, were you sleeping?"

"Yep."

"Can you take the cricket to your initiation ceremony tomorrow?"

"What?"

"Well you know, you're first, and I would like to know what to expect in case I goof up."

"But you're just an hour after me!"

"Look, I'm keeping your present in my pocket at the ceremony right? Can't you at least do the same for me? It's just a tiny little robot. No-one's gonna notice."

"Would asking for the reason why provide me with a satisfactory answer?"

Theta rubbed the back of his neck, and thought about it. "Ehmm, probably not."

Koshei rolled his eyes. "All right, if it makes you shut up and let me sleep."

"Thanks!" Theta said, sighing out of relief. "I'll stay in the dorm and open up a portal a minute or so after you go in. Promise that they won't notice a thing!"

TBC

Sorry for stopping in the middle of a flashback. Anyhow, please, supply comments or reviews to let me know what you think of the story sofar.