Why are you smiling Master? Do you remember something funny?
They have been talking like this for hours now, the Doctor sharing his recollections with him through the little mechanical cricket, while the Master quietly listened. At first, the Master had been very reluctant to expose himself to this, being secretly afraid of the skeletons he might find hidden in the closet, but as the hours crept by and the memories of his childhood surfaced like sun-bleached seashells on the shoreline, he slowly realized that reminiscing it with the Doctor actually helped him. The drums stayed away, leaving him alone for the first time since he had been condemned to the pit. And to his surprise, a comfortable feeling of familiarity crept up during their conversation, and he was slowly beginning to feel he was actually talking to a dear friend, who had been lost to him for so many years.
The Master put his head back against the damp stone walls.
I suddenly remember that time when you spend the midterm break at my parents' house. I guess that was the first and the last time that you met my mom.
Ah, lady Oakdown, yes…She was quite stern, certainly in that particular regeneration I remember her in.
The Master grinned. She used to scare me out of my wits when I returned home each semester and found out that she had changed her entire appearance again, like she was just trying out a new outfit. For Odion's sake! We only have 13 regenerations and she went through them like it was her wardrobe. And she was such a faddish snob. Anything exciting that somebody-else did or had, had to be copied. Our house was more like the cash & carry for nicked-off historical junk instead of a stately country mansion.
Oh well…The Doctor didn't want to say anything bad about the Master's mother, although lady Oakdown did frighten him immensely when he was a kid.
She wasn't that bad.
No she wasn't…She was just a bit insane.
It was nice of her to invite me over for the midterm break.
I invited you, and I had to moan and sulk about it for months before she allowed it.
She was a lovely cook. The Doctor realized not without panic that he was quickly running out of nice things to say about her.
Yeah. And when you told her how your mom adapted all of her grandparents' ceremonies from earth, and that you used to celebrate something called Christmas around that time of the year, she couldn't resist to throw a dinner party with a Christmas theme to impress the neighbors. All she needed from you were some typical Earth recipes for some splendid dishes that our cook could prepare.
Oh wait…now I know what you were smiling about…The Christmas roast...
The Master chuckled, ignoring that it hurted his infected lungs. What did you let her cook again? Let me see. He counted it out on his fingers. It was a Zultarian ostrich, stuffed with a decapitated black swan, obviously, or it wouldn't even fit! Stuffed with a Siberian goose…
Stuffed with a middle-sized turkey, well at least we got the turkey right…The Doctor mused.
Stuffed with a red bill duck, stuffed with a one week old chicken…Stuffed with a fat pigeon, stuffed with a whitecap quall…and finally, as a finishing touch, the quall was stuffed with a single black olive. And my mom was absolutely convinced that it was all done in the best possible taste.
Uhm, I didn't think that she would actually cook it. The Doctor explained.
That meat-mountain you've concocted took ages in the oven, and when it was finally brought in she couldn't lift it on the table without the help of our servants. And then, when she wanted to cut it, she actually broke her expensive sliver cutlery on it, because it was so sodden massive…
The Doctor waited with his reply, for the Master was laughing so mirthfully that tears rolled down his cheeks. It was good to see him like that, even if the memory of that catastrophic dinner did make the Doctor feel a bit guilty. Still, he was just a kid.
She has never quite forgiven me for that, has she? The Doctor asked a bit embarrassed.
No wonder she never said hi to me when she came to visit you in the Academy, even when I was in the dorm while she was there, she just pretended that she didn't see me.
Yeah… The Master finally stopped laughing, and stared at the little dot of light in the darkness.
Doctor, tell me, how on earth did we end up like this?
The Doctor drew a deep breath, not certain how to answer him.
We were friends Doctor. How did we end up trying to kill each? And me… He wiped the back of his hand against the much-hated mask, tracing the surface where his cheek should be. How did I become something like that? He wanted to say monster, but couldn't. It all went terribly wrong, didn't it?
The Doctor hesitated, but realized that he can't just leave this part of the Master's memory un-restored. He may risk everything with revealing it to him, but it was far too important to be kept hidden. The past was what had shaped them into who they were. If he could help him understand it better, than maybe, he would be able to save him.
Master…Do you remember what happened at your initiation ceremony? I asked you for a favor. Can you recall that? I asked you…
"I asked you to take the cricket with you to the ceremony!" Theta grabbed the little mechanical bug from the nightstand and held it in front of Koshei's face accusingly. "What's it still doing here? You didn't want to sneak out without it, did you?"
Koshei was dressed up in his ceremonial gown, and was fighting to keep the ridiculous headwear from capsizing over his head while he tried to look dignified as he practiced walking around without tripping over his long cape. He didn't exactly have the time to argue with his friend.
"Theta, it's not like I don't want to, but do you see any pockets in this oversized tent I'm wearing? I can't put it anywhere! I'm sorry."
Theta checked the garment, but it seemed Koshei was right.
"Do you wear any underpants?" Theta asked while biting his nails.
"No! I'm not going to stuff your robot in my underpants!" Koshei said without a second of hesitation. "Look man, why can't you just leave it? I'm only gone for an hour or so, and then you can go in and see it for yourself. Honestly, I don't understand why you are so persistent about this."
"Well you promised, didn't you?" Theta ranted, more out of despair than genuine anger. "And it's not about that extra hour. It's just…" Theta paused and pushed his fingers inside his mouth, which was for Koshei a clear sign that his friend was turning into a nervous wreck. He practically jumped when someone outside knocked on the door.
"They're here." Theta sounded like he had just swallowed a mouse. "The elders are here."
"Yeah, Yeah." Koshei answered lightheartedly, but he was nervous too. He just did a better job in concealing it. He pulled his collar straight and turned to his friend. "Well, how do I look?"
"Like a gay Christmas tree." Theta commented.
"I know." Koshei responded, and dropped his arms down. "Well, at least you're going to look like a complete tosser too."
"Look, Koshei, I know that it sounds stupid, but I have this horrible feeling that something bad is going to happen. Could you please take the cricket with you?"
Koshei sighed and stared at his friend, who kept his fingers crossed and was muttering a string of pleads into his face.
"Oh my mom is so going to kill me for this." Rolling his eyes, he lifted up a fold of the gown and tore a tiny hole in the inside lining. Then he took the mechanical cricket from his friend and tucked it inside. "Let me state this clear, I want this mended before the end of this week. I don't care how you do it, but my mom is going to collect it next Saturday, and I don't want her to notice a thing. Understood?"
"Yeah, right! Thanks!" Theta gave Koshei a hug that lasted too long for the young novice to feel comfortable with, and he was actually relieved when the elders knocked again on the door.
"Right." He pushed Theta off with quite some effort. "I have to go now. See ya!"
Theta bit on his lower lip while he watched how his friend wobbled out of the room with all the grace of a large moving church bell. Under normal circumstances, he would have found it quite hilarious, but today, he could hardly keep himself from bursting out into tears.
Koshei turned around at the door. "Look." He said, in a last effort to reassure him. "I'll be all right. Don't worry. See you in an hour."
As soon as his friend left the room, Theta closed his eyes and searched for the signal coming from the little cricket hidden inside Koshei's ceremonial robe.
A darkened chamber with a vaulted ceiling, supported by massive white marble pillars that seemed to disappear in the darkness above. The walls were lined by candles, and a blood-red carpet guided the eye towards a huge black mirror at the far end. The Master was standing in front of it, not as 12 year-old boy, but as a grown-up Timelord in his, oh what was it again? His second regeneration of his new life? What was happening here, had happened in reality, a lifetime ago. He noticed, that he wasn't dressed in the Timelord's traditional ceremonial robe as he should be, but wore the same old rags that his jailors had put him in, which could be as best described as a piece of rough cloth that closely resembled a potato sack with holes cut out for his head and limbs. He brushed over his face and noticed the harsh stubbles on his cheeks, and the bony structure underneath his skin that was layered with filth.
So he wasn't wearing that horrible mask, and it wasn't that difficult to figure out that there was something terribly wrong with this flashback he was experiencing. He looked around anxiously, trying to find another living soul in the room who he could address, but the place seemed to be deserted.
"Doctor?" He listened but there was no response. He licked his dry lips and tried again, louder this time. "Theta, are you here?"
"Yes, I'm here."
The Doctor, in his most recent incarnation - the one he had met onboard of the Valliant before his past-self had aged him so frighteningly - stepped out of the shadows behind him.
The Master sighed out of relief. "Where are we? Why do I look like this?"
"You're inside the ceremonial initiation chamber. It's here where they took you to see the time vortex. This is just a telepathic illusion shared between us, but nothing here is truly happening. However, I did change your appearance to that of your current self. I didn't want to expose you to it when you're just a little boy. Once was enough."
The Doctor retreated back into the shadows. The candles at the other side of the room suddenly burnt brighter, and revealed a group of elderly men, dressed in red and gold silk robes that indicated that had the rank of Cardinals, the founders of the Academy. One of them stepped towards the Master and gestured that he should come closer to the black mirror.
"Doctor, I'm not sure I want to remember this, even in my present regeneration." The Master muttered. He gazed at the Doctor with the fear clearly visible in his eyes, before he drew a deep breath and stepped forward.
The darkness inside the mirror slowly cleared, and showed the Master a reflection of himself as he was two years before, as the ruthless tyrant, the Lord and Master of the planet. Having suffered so much by his hands, the malignant smile on Harold Saxon's face alone was sufficient to paralyze him with fear, and the Master backed away, his breath caught while his hearts hammered inside his chest.
Don't be afraid. Remember, everything you see here now is already in the past. You can't be affected by it. But learn from it. Learn to control your fear.
The reflection of his past-self distorted and vanished, only to be replaced by a large black gap, that seemed to grow in size with every second that passed. It was the legendary schism that provided the novices a fleeting view through the fabric of reality. The Master looked into it, and saw the time vortex, swirling dangerously like the powerful current of a river as it crossed through galaxies and dimensions.
What did you see Koshei? Show me what you saw that day.
"I saw what master Azmael saw, which was the whole of creation." The Master was no longer inside the chamber standing in front of the mirror, but was lost in the time vortex itself, and saw every moment of creation that had happened in time unfold in front of his eyes. In vast clouds of stardust, particles combusted, merged together into larger particles, till a fierce light ignited inside each single one of them, and new stars were born. Drifting over this landscape of blinding starlight, gasses and rubble were caught in the gravity field of the new suns, and formed giant planets of breathtaking beauty or tiny spheres of rock, that glowed in the beginning like cinders in the fireplace, till they finally cooled down on the surface. In tide-pools on these countless new worlds, microscopic life was sparked into existence, creating the frail spiral of DNA that would be passed on from generation to generation in the glorious days to come.
"Oh Doctor…" The Master whispered, he closed his eyes, and smiled as his soul found peace. "If you could just see the things that I've seen. How could you not be inspired by it all."
There was a tiny disturbance in the vortex that remained undetected by most of the young novices who were brought in front of the great schism, but to the Master's critical eye, this tiny imperfection stuck out in that otherwise perfect moment like a sore thumb, and his eyes actually homed in on it almost by instinct, following that black spot that crawled and slithered through the vortex like a worm tunneling through an apple. It seemed that there was a tear in the vortex, a flaw in the design, a weak spot in the great current. Before the Elders could intervene, darkness entered, and like a man who looked over a ravine and stared right into the abyss, the abyss stared back into the Master.
The fabric of reality trembled, and the galaxies stretched and bulged, as if something large and monstrous was hammering on the door, forcing its way in. It followed the rhythm of the Timelord's double heartbeat, till the two sounds merged and became hardly distinct from each other. The Master felt the blood rise up into his head, and the pace of his heartbeat quicken. The time vortex was slowly corrupted with whatever came from the other side, which spread out like a burial shroud over the whole of existence. The colors of the vortex changed, from blue to crimson and back again, vibrating like the pulse of a sick man. All of this was reflected in the Master's eyes, and the images burned into his retina.
"Doctor…" The Master whispered. "Something has changed…oh something has changed for the worse…"
A voice came to the Master, a voice that was neither masculine nor feminine, but sounded as ancient as time itself.
"Child of Gallifrey." It commanded loudly, as if it was an army of thousand strong. "We summon you."
"Who are you? What are you doing inside my head?"
"We are Legion, for we are many, and we have existed before the beginning of time. Open your eyes Timelord and see…"
And the Master saw the end of the universe. The galaxies drifted apart, till they were only a scattered few across the darkness of space, too far away from each other to ever come in contact again. In the entire cosmos, stars were dying, with most of them suffering a lingering death as they shrunk into white dwarfs, while others ended as blazing supernovas. And as light and warmth disappeared from existence, so did life itself perish, withering away in the cold under a harsh starless sky, as the shadow of darkness that had come from the breach in the vortex fell over them, destroying everything. Eventually, there was nothing left but a cosmos of ravaging black holes, the burnt-out cinders of the stars, and the dead husks of planets, all drifting purposelessly in an ever expanding space.
Everything that was good, and warm and pleasant - the soft summer wind ruffling the red canopies of the silver birches in the vast forests of Gallifrey - the snow covered peaks of the high mountains - the river of silver starlight that spread across the night's sky – or the first rays of sunlight after months of winter-frost, had vanished…never to be experienced again. What was left was an eternity of emptiness, of darkness, and cold.
And the Master watched, and saw for the first time the flaw of creation, and understood, as he witnessed its decay, the futility of it all.
"There is no purpose to it. No point in anything …" The Master whispered.
"No! That's not true!" The Doctor interrupted his thoughts. "You must be stronger this time! Don't listen to it!"
The Master closed his eyes to the void, and forced himself to escape into another part of his memory. When he opened his eyes again, he was standing alone in a field of rubble in a London street that had been destroyed by Saxon's army. Most of the houses around him had collapsed, trapping many of its inhabitants inside. He cleared away the debris with his bare hands, removing bricks and pieces of smoldering wood determinedly, as if he was possessed by the devil himself. He found a pale woman's hand, and pulled her out of the small cavern of her ruined bedroom. Her eyes were still open, but her lips were cold and blue and she didn't breathe. He tried to revive her, pressing his mouth onto hers to fill her lungs with air, but it didn't work. He kept trying. Perhaps if he put more pressure on the chest…Perhaps if he caressed her face and called her name…
Donna found him, knelt down beside her in the rubble, still trying to revive her. She called out to him, but he didn't hear her.
"Master! You can stop now."
He shook his head. Tears dripped down his nose and fell on the woman's cheeks.
"Master…stop…she's dead. Please. Please let her go…"
He bowed his head, his hands suddenly felt clumsy and useless. Donna put her arms around his shoulder. He leaned heavily on her as he struggled to get up, for all of his strength seemed to have left him.
"I'm sorry. I couldn't save her." His voice was broken.
Donna took his hand. "It's okay." She whispered, and wiped the tears from his face. "You've tried…I don't blame you."
He was hardly able to glance at her, fearful to see her loathing for him in her eyes, but there was none of that. The only thing that was reflected in her eyes was his face that was filled with remorse.
"Promise me that you'll make this right again." Donna said, keeping herself brave.
"I promise." And he meant it. Even if it would cost him his own life, he would do anything to undo all of this to save her.
The Master was back in the initiation chamber. The Cardinals had disappeared and the candles lining the wall had burned out. Only the ceremonial mirror remained. It had darkened till it resembled the starless sky of the future. A manlike figure emerged from that darkness. His skin was black as if it was made out of shadows, and he was dressed like a warrior of by-gone times. He had no face, but in his hand, he held up a Greek theater mask made of white polished bone, and as he spoke, the bony lips moved and the features on the mask changed in expression.
The Master stepped back from the human-like creature. "Doctor!" He yelled. "Doctor! Where are you?"
"No use to cry for help." The warlord spoke with Legion's voice. "No-one can hear us here."
"What do you want from me?"
The warlord didn't respond, but raised his hand to summon a distant sound that slowly rose from the other side of the mirror, breaching the silence like the low rumble of thunder behind a mountain range. The Master's hearts froze. He knew that sound too well.
"You did this..." The Master muttered frightfully, pacing around in front of the mirror like a wild animal caught in a trap, as the realization slowly came to him. "You poisoned my mind with that sound. The drums that have haunted me in my every waking moment and tortured me in my sleep. And everything, everything that I've ever done to stop it…every dark thought that came up in my mind, every vile idea that I have acted out…"
"Was our command." Legion stated, and the smile spread wide across the mask, till it was hideous and horrific. "You were chosen. From that first moment that you looked into the Un-tempered schism as a novice, we became aware of you, and we have followed you into this realm." The features on the warlord's mask morphed and changed into that of Master's. "We exist in this realm because of you. We are one."
The Master averted his eyes from him and shook his head violently, unable to accept the hideous truth. "Why did you choose me? What have I done to deserve this?"
"You were selected, because you were strong." The Master's face melted away, skin and flesh peeling off till the bone-white of the skull appeared, and morphed back into the face of a Greek tragedy mask. A demented smile spread on the lips of bone. "And you were weak. You're such a glorious blend of contradictions, a man haunted by such ugly fears and divine dreams. How could we not have chosen you, Timelord?"
"But I have never wanted this. Not any of it!"
"You are one of our finest soldiers. In that you should take pride."
"I'm nothing but your slave!" He shouted in disgust and deep self-loathing. It was true, whatever he had achieved, however hard he had tried to do the drums' biddings in an effort to silence them, none of those sacrifices had ever been enough. He closed his eyes and swallowed hard as the hurt overtook him. The warlord had opened his mind and stripped away every last cover of forgetfulness, and exposed him to the bare, hideous truth.
"All those horrible crimes that I've committed, all that death and destruction…and for what…" He paused as the image of the pale dead woman amid the rubble appeared in front of his eyes. "I killed her." He whispered, and his hearts broke. "Without remorse, without even knowing...I killed Donna..."
"Your emotions are of no use to us." Legion responded without hate, or relish. "What is love but an illusion, a sick chemical reaction of interacting neurons triggered by pollutions of the blood. The Earth woman is of no importance to us."
"She is important to me!!" He shouted angrily.
The face on the mask laughed with a mouth lined with shark-like teeth.
"You cannot undo what you've done. Even you, Timelord, have to obey the rules of time." Legion spoke with dreadful flat resignation. "Soon the war will start, the war that you have prepared for us. The mighty of this realm will fall and the drums will rise. Listen to it soldier, he who claims to be the Master of all, and let it command you. Obey the drums, and fulfill your destiny. Open the portal for us to rise."
"No!" The Master attacked the warlord, his pain and anger shielding him from his fear for his true lord and master who had manipulated him like a puppet on a string and had corrupted his soul. But Legion raised his hand and swept him aside like he was nothing but an insect.
Legion's mouth opened grotesquely wide, like a snake that was bound to swallow its prey, and the Master could smell the stench of a thousand corpses decaying in the hot sun. He pulled the Master back up with an iron grip on his throat till his feet lifted from the floor. The drums swelled up till it rang maddeningly inside his head. He felt the fire in his lungs as his windpipe was slowly crushed.
"Don't you dare!" Legion hissed in a low and dangerous voice. "You had no strength to fight us in the past. You are mad to believe that you can fight us now."
The chamber darkened quickly before his eyes. From far away, a voice called out to him.
"Koshei! Please let me in! He needs help!"
Someone was banging on the door of the locked chamber. The lights of the candles suddenly ignited, and the flames threw restless shadows on the wall. The young novice was lying on his back on the floor with his hands clutching onto his throat. The Cardinals were standing around him, trying to calm the boy down. But Legion still had his paralyzing grip on him, and was pressing the air out of his chest.
"What's happening to him?" Azmael grabbed his student's legs and tried to keep them still. "It's like he's having a fit. Stop it boy! Whatever you've seen in that mirror, it's gone! Calm down before you hurt yourself!" He turned to the noise coming from outside. "Who's making all that racket?"
"I think it's one of the novices." Answered one of the elders. "It might be that Theta boy."
"Don't just stand there. Send him away! I don't want the young ones to see this."
The Master turned his head to the door and watched with hollow eyes how the elder opened it to send Theta away. He just got a glimpse of his face, which had turned frightfully pale, before he disappeared behind the Cardinal's back.
In reality, young Theta was send out into the courtyard and had not been able to save his friend. But what was happening here now was merely an illusion, created by the Doctor to help the Master restore his memories. So this time, the Doctor was able to free himself from the elder's grip and to rush back into the chamber. He couldn't see the monstrous warlord who was slowly crushing the life out of the Master, but he was aware of the great danger that he was in. The Doctor rushed over to Koshei, and pushing master Azmael aside, took the mechanical cricket out of the novice's ceremonial robe, and smashed it on the floor.
The telepathic transmission was immediately broken, and the Doctor awoke in his barren cell, his consciousness trapped, once again, inside his aged body. He stared at the darkness surrounding him, and slowly, he sank his head as he realized what he had put him through.
Many floors far below, in a cell that resembled a dark pit, the prisoner awoke from his nightmare. He crawled in a corner, and sat there for a long time, with his knees pulled up and pressing against his stomach, and wept while gently rocking himself.
Compared to this, the physical torture had been kinder.
"Tell Jack we will do it tomorrow." The Doctor's words were just whispers, but Francine had learned from the long months on the Valliant to listen, and to listen well. She leaned towards the old man, and reached out through the bars to take his hand. She was glad with the news, for she had wanted it, Ever since the Master dropped bombs on Japan and had forced her family to stand on the bridge to watch she had resigned with the idea that they must risk their lives to stop him. Before that moment, she had been consumed by fear, but something had snapped inside her when she saw the images from the ravaged cities of Tokyo and Osaka on the screens. The mutilated sexless figures with neither skin nor hair left on their bodies, scorched black by the heat or radiation, crying and weeping as they staggered through the burning streets. The rivers clogged with deformed cadavers. And a small child, covered in a hideous patchwork of ashes and boils, kneeling down beside the shore, and drinking greedily with its cracked lips from the polluted water.
She couldn't forget. The memory of it haunted her, every day and every night, till she was convinced that the only way to stop it was for her to kill him. She couldn't imagine that the Doctor was contemplating a different fate for that evil monster.
"I'll tell Jack. But I thought we would wait till the countdown reached the 100 day limit."
The Doctor shook his head. "He can't wait any longer."
"Who do you mean?"
The Doctor averted his eyes from Francine, for he couldn't explain to her what had happened between the prisoner and him. He could sense how strong her hatred was towards the other Timelord, and realized that she wouldn't understand.
"Is there something wrong with Martha?" She asked, projecting the Doctor's worries onto her own, and her eyes widened. "Doctor, you must tell me if she is danger!"
"No, your daughter is safe." The Doctor reassured her. "She is strong Francine. You don't need to worry about her." He presented her the mechanical cricket that he kept hidden inside his tattered coat ever since it returned from its descend into the dark pit. He had tried to re-establish a telepathic link with the Master, but although the little robot had retained its function, the Timelord was no longer able to connect with the prisoner's mind. If was as if the incident had evoked a defensive reaction in the other Timelord, one that had created an impenetrable shield around his consciousness. The Doctor was worried that this had trapped him in state of mental isolation that could only end in madness. So for the sake of his friend, he must act swiftly.
He handed the cricket over to Francine. "Take it to Jack. It will tell him what he should do." He gazed up at the brave woman, whose heart carried the courage to endanger her own life in order to defy a tyrant, and had all her faith into the good Doctor.
"Tomorrow." He only whispered, and squeezed softly in her hand.
The two guards who were assigned to keep an eye on him were not a clever lot, but it amazed Jack nonetheless that they hadn't noticed anything at all. The bolts that kept his chains secured to the two massive steel beams were more than a little loose, and he actually had to be careful not to put too much strain on them, or they just might drop out like rotten teeth from an old man's jaw.
Tish came in to feed him. He winked at her when she held three fingers against the tray for him to see, and watched the monitor that displayed the counter in the control room carefully.
"Hey, feeding time is over." One of the guards snapped when it was just one more minute before 15:00.
"He didn't finish it yet." Tish objected.
The guard knocked the tray out of her hands and gave a smug grin. "It's finished alright!" Then he took her by her arm and dragged her away from the captain. While Tish struggled to keep the guard occupied, the counter on the monitor finally reached 15:00. Jack pulled on the chains, and the bolts came loose from the pillars, setting him free. The guard who was left at his side immediately pulled his gun, but Jack was quicker. He kicked down the steam-hose that ran next to the pillar and turned it on the guard. The hot blast of steam burnt the man's face, and he dropped his weapon as he staggered back with his arms shielding his eyes. The guard that was escorting Tish let go of her and was rushing back to help him, but Jack had already picked up the other gun and aimed it him with a smug smile on his face.
"Drop it soldier. I may be smelly but I'm damn quicker than you are."
The guard moved his finger on the trigger. The captain fired and shot the man in both his kneecaps. He fell down on the floor next to his pal while screaming in agony.
"Told you so." Jack peered up at the metal beams that supported the ceiling. "So now what, doc? I can't even find the toilets in here, let alone your friend."
Two twitching antennas appeared behind a creak in the beams. The mechanical cricket came out of its hiding place, and scuttled down the metal to hop onto the good captain's shoulder.
Turn left, and go down the staircase at your right.
The captain grinned. "So I'll be listening to a toy-bug to show me the way. Brilliant, and I thought this was going to be one dull day."
He confiscated the second gun from the guards and left his prison.
"Why are you so quiet." The Master was lounging in his chair, smoking what he called "a spiced up cigar", which was a mixture of cannabis and prime Cuban tobacco. Being a Timelord, it didn't have much effect on him. If he actually wanted to reach the same level of intoxication that the earthlings experienced he must consume a ridiculous large amount of the stuff. But he did like the taste of it, and he enjoyed the effect it had on Lucy in the beginning. Although lately, his precious companion was so far off inside her head that she wouldn't even notice if he blew it right into her face all day, which he did.
He kicked the wheelchair. When there came no response, he kicked the Doctor's legs. He had at least expected a grimace, a bit of stiff upper-lip martyr-like suffering in which the pain would still show on the old prune's face, but nothing. Not even a sigh or a whimper. He sighed unhappily and put his head back against the comfortable leather cushions, blowing a circle of smoke into the room.
"I'm bored." He complained. He snapped his fingers. "By Gallifrey, I'm so fucking bored." Lucy came to him, scuttling like a mouse as always. Even dressed in the expensive clothes that he had given her she looked like a total mess. He didn't even want to look at her anymore. Perhaps it was time to select a new companion. One who could still entice him with her beauty and wit and didn't stalk around in his palace in the sky like a forlorn ghost that had risen from the grave. Lucy did what she had learned to do. She took the Master's coat off to fold it neatly on a chair before she retreated in the shadows. There she remained standing for most of the day, hardly breathing, barely alive, as she watched with lifeless eyes how the Master tortured one, and murdered the other, and took a seemingly endless chain of servants, female and male, into their bed as lovers.
The Master snapped his fingers again. A young girl with dark hair and almond shaped eyes came to him. "Tanya, my little raven dove." He whispered, and the girl's hands went automatically down on his shoulders, and gently but firmly, started to soothe his tensed muscles. The Master closed his eyes, and moaned. "Oh, that so good! I could kiss those little hands of yours. You know what, I'm going to take you to Katria Nova as a treat. There are whirlpools of gold there. Worthy of an emperor Timelord and his new companion."
He glanced at his wife, an amused smile on his lips. Somewhere deep inside the hollowed-out shell that once was Lucy Cole, the darling youngest of the Lord of Tarminster, an icy sharp hurt pierced through what was left of the woman's heart and killed her love for him. Still, she remained there standing in the shadows like a statue, the expression on her face unchanged. She didn't react when the alarm went off and a number of guards came rushing into the room. Her husband and lord jumped up from his chair.
"Condition red!" The guard barked.
"What the fuck is going?" The Master ascended the stairs up to bridge.
"Repeat to all units! Condition red!"
It was the moment that the Doctor had waited for. Francine, who had kept her head down until now, grabbed the Master's coat from the chair, and took out the laserscrewdriver. She threw it at Tish, who handed it over to the Doctor. He activated it and aimed it at the Master.
The Master turned around, and saw what the Doctor was holding in his hands.
"Oh I see." He muttered, and slowly put his hands up in a sign of surrender.
"I told you." The Doctor said. "I have one thing to say to you." He pushed the button on the laserscrewdriver, but it didn't fire.
The solemn expression on the Master's face disappeared and was replaced by a wide mocking grin. He leaned over to him while the Doctor continued to try to operate the screwdriver. "It's locked, you idiot. Isomorphic controls."
He slammed his fist on the Doctor's cheek, and closed his eyes to relish the crack of the old man's skull. The Doctor fell backward to floor, defeated and injured. He dropped the laserscrewdriver out of his trembling hands while the Master stood on the top of the stairs, laughing madly.
"It's DNA matched, which means that it only works for me! What do you hold me for? A bloody simpleton?"
A hand covered in sores and filth picked the laserscrewdriver from the ground and fired it at the Master who ducked away in time. The beam missed him by a hair but blew up the control panel next to him.
"What!? How did you do that?" He turned around again, his rage only tempered by his panic, and stared right into the eyes of the masked prisoner who had sent to hell. A ragged, emaciated figure, leaning heavily on Jack, but looked at him through the holes of the mask with fierce, maddened eyes full of determination.
The Master's breath caught in his chest.
"You?" His voice trembled, and disbelief followed by strong indignation washed over him. "You!? He repeated, pointing at the prisoner as if he was about to curse him. "What the hell do you think you're doing?"
The prisoner answered by firing again, and this time, the Master wasn't quick enough. The beam collided with his right hand and burnt a hole in the back, causing the Master to cry out in agony. "You vindictive little rat! You traitor!" He sneered.
The prisoner didn't respond to his rage, but raised the weapon again.
"That's enough." The Doctor shouted as loud as his old lungs allowed him to, and crawled forward on his useless legs. "That's enough Koshei. It's over. He will surrender now."
The guards moved closer to the prisoner, but Jack held up his pair of guns and pointed it at them. "Back off guys. Even if the Doctor decides to be lenient towards this asshole it doesn't take away the fact that we're still aiming that thing at his head."
"What are you doing?" The Master looked at the prisoner, cold steel-blue eyes piercing at its red-rimmed counterparts. "You can't destroy me. You know that. Without me, you cannot exist."
"Don't listen to him Koshei." The Doctor tried. "We won't harm him."
"Speak for yourself Doctor." Francine whispered under her breath, staring at the Master with a deep loathing in her eyes. "That man is a murderer. He should be executed."
"I agree Doc. He's too dangerous to be left alive." Captain Jack commented vindictively. "Maybe your friend here should dispose of him right on the spot while he still can." He added, keeping a sharp eye on Saxon's men.
The fear on the Master's face vanished to be replaced by a knowing grin.
"We are NOT going to kill anyone! Stop saying that!" The Doctor urged.
"You're lying!" The Master hissed, and turned to prisoner. "He's lying, you fool! Can't you see that?! Open your bloody eyes!"
"I'm not lying to you, believe me. I know what is tormenting him, it's that thing that came out the Un-tempered schism. I've seen it now Koshei. I can help!"
The prisoner's hand trembled as his resolve crumbed. When Jack came to release him from his horrible prison he had been so determined to put an end to this tyranny that when he had his chance to fire at the Master he had actually aimed to kill. But the words of the Doctor brought doubt to his mind. The hostility of the human prisoners had also awakened his mistrust and had exposed him to his old fear of death. He no longer knew what he should do.
"They hate you, you know." The Master's voice was flat, and designated. "Go on, take a long hard look into their eyes, and find out for yourself. When they look at me, they see a monster, a murderer, a bloodthirsty tyrant." He slipped his hand underneath the collar of his shirt and retrieved a charm that hung from a silver necklace. "They won't see what the Doctor sees. They won't see you." He held up the charm, a purple piece of stone that resembled a curled-up tentacle. His grin widened. "Remember that story I told you, about the king's wretched brother? I wonder how they will look at you now, when they find out."
He closed his hand around the amulet. A light, blindingly bright, erupted from the object. When the Master opened his hand again, the amulet was reduced to dust. Almost immediately, the mask became alive, the hard shield that had coagulated on the prisoner's skin and had become as hard as bone returned to a fluid-like state, while the tentacles that had held his head locked in a suffocating embrace retreated, leaving an inflamed surface of skin. The creature slithered down the prisoner's neck, looking dazed. It then fixed its eyes on Francine, who stood nearby and looked very frightened. The Medusa didn't hesitate and leapt into the air for his new host, but before it could reach out with its tentacles, it was shot down by one of the guards who had lost its nerves by the very sight of the hideous creature.
The Master observed the responsible officer with contempt. "That's coming of your payroll." He snapped.
"What in the name of…" Jack stared at the face of the man who he had rescued from the pit. "Doctor, what's going on here?"
The prisoner struggled to get away from the captain, ashamed and fearful of the judging look in the man's eyes. Weakened by anguish and the physical torture he had endured, his legs gave and he fell down on his knees in front of the Master, who grinned triumphantly.
"It's him!" Yelled Francine. "It's the Master. Look at that face! It's a trap!"
"No." The Doctor spoke, but his voice had lost its strength. "It's not what you think. Please, leave him alone."
The Master, now no longer under the prisoner's threat, calmly descended the stairs, and halted in front of his past-self, who had covered face with his hands in a desperate attempt to hide it from the humans. He crouched down beside the whimpering, defeated wreck. The prisoner posed very little resistance when he took the screwdriver from him.
"Now." The Master rose up and fired at Jack, hitting him right in the chest and burning a hole into his lungs. The captain fell to the ground, as the guards closed in on him, and kicked away his guns. The Master then turned to Francine, who was still paralyzed by fear. "Say sorry." He commanded with glee, and fired a shot at her that only missed her by an inch, hitting the wall behind her.
"Sorry. Sorry. Sorry!" Francine shouted through her tears. Tish ran over to her and she shivered as she fell into her daughter's arms.
"Didn't you learn anything from the blessed saint Martha? Siding with the Doctor is a very dangerous thing to do!" He signaled to his guards. "Take them away." He kicked at the still unconscious captain. "And drag this freak back into its cage. I will deal with them later."
He lifted the Doctor from the floor and put him back into his wheelchair. Then he crouched down beside him, and looked the old man into the eyes. "You're not going to win. Not this time, my old friend."
"When will you learn." The Doctor said softly, and a tear ran down his cheek as he glanced over the Master's shoulder at the miserable lonely figure huddled down on the floor. "It's not about winning. If you continue like this, we both lose, and your lost will be greater than mine."
"Wanne make a bet?" The Master laughed and sat on the edge of the table, facing him. "Let me remind you, there are still followers of yours, past and future, who are wandering the earth. Two frail human females, who should be at home studying her medical exam or sitting in front of the telly draining her wits with mindless soap-operas, but instead are now exposed to a life of hardship and danger, all because of you."
"What do you want?" The Doctor asked with a hopelessness in his voice.
The Master grinned. "Oh Doctor, I'm thinking of revenge. Sweet and full like a good blend of well-aged Whiskey. A short message for Martha Jones and Donna Noble, just to let them know that their boys are well."