Lucy could not stop staring at the creature inside the gilded birdcage. The way its huge eyes bulged out of the sockets of its domed shaped head, and the thin wire-like neck to which the head was attached to the rest of its frail body made her think of vulnerable baby birds that had just hatched out of their eggs. She also couldn't stop glancing over her shoulder at her husband, whose expression reminded her of a feline predator stalking around the cage for a tasty meal. A cold shivered down her spine as she imagined, just briefly, what Harry could do to the poor creature if he just reached out into the cage and grab hold of it too harshly. She shuddered, but kept telling herself that it didn't matter. Soon, all of this would be all over. What truly mattered was that she kept watching, and registering, and storing these events into her memory.
"So what do you think Doctor?" Saxon studied the expression on his caged pet's face, which was hard to read for between the many folds of wrinkles. "Is this good or bad?"
The three of them were inside the Tardis turned paradox machine, where the wheezing, sickening sound of the engines reminded the Doctor of what kind of monstrosity the Master had created out of his beloved time machine. The Tardis core bathed in a bright violet glow that slowly turned green, then back to violet again. The sight of the Tardis pained his hearts. It was obvious that it was struggling, not to free itself from its bonds, but was fighting against all ods to survive.
"Well, if it's bad for you, I suppose it's good for me." Saxon smirked.
"It can't keep this up." The Doctor replied, his words were nothing more but whispers that were easily drowned out by the noise of the Tardis engine. Still Saxon could hear him loud and clear.
"Oh you're just saying that because you're losing the game. You're such a sore loser, can't you just be happy for me for once?" He mocked.
"Master, look at it! The paradox that you've created is killing the core. It's draining the Tardis dry like a disease."
"You're wrong." Saxon shook his head and grinned. "The Tardis has been continuously trying to fight it off ever since I installed it into its heart. And still, both the Tardis and the paradox exist."
"You've changed the future too many times. It can't keep up forever."
"And whose fault is that?" Saxon moved closer to the cage, seeing the Doctor eye to eye as he rested his forehead on the bars. "Certainly not mine. Why don't you blame your red-head simpleton of a companion-to-be for this chaos that she has created? Or why not blame yourself? If this part of history isn't turning out to your liking, with no happy ever after, and Christmas and a bunch of cute little Earthlings saved from their well-deserved demise, shouldn't that be the fault of the Doctor? For failing them all?" He whispered with a cruel glint in his eyes.
The Doctor fell silent as the Tardis doors swept open and the Master entered the control room. He was closely escorted by two Toclefanes.
"Or maybe…I should blame him." Saxon snorted, and turned to his future-self.
"What's going on?" The Master hadn't seen the Tardis since he was captured, and like a man who had not seen his friend who has fallen ill for a long time, the changes were more striking to him than to the others. For if the Tardis had looked ill when he had first set eyes on it, it now looked emaciated, a shadow of its former self and close to dying. "What happened?" As a Timelord, he felt the pain of its suffering in hearts. He looked his past-self in the eyes, and couldn't understand why he remained seemingly so unaffected by it all.
Saxon rolled his eyes at him. "You're not going to start too, are you? It's bad enough that the Doctor here is preaching hail and doom over us all." He turned to him and sneered. "It's still under control. Don't crack your head on it."
The Master gazed at the Doctor, who shook and bowed his head.
"And what the hell are you doing here?" Saxon asked, irritated. "Aren't you suppose to keep yourself busy in the lab?"
The Master lowered his eyes. Over the past long, gruesome months, he had learned not to provoke him. "It's the machine. I think it's ready."
Saxon's face lit up. "Really?"
"Yes Master!" Both of the Toclefanes sing-songed in chorus, for they all shared a common memory. "We've seen it! We've seen how it worked! The machine is singing and our Master's day of joy and glory will soon be upon us!"
"Ha! But that's absolutely fantastic!" Saxon swirled on his heels. "Do you hear that Doctor? It's ready! Soon you don't need to worry about your precious Tardis. We won't need it any longer. The paradox will be capable to hold its own."
The Doctor pulled himself up against the bars with a frightened expression on his wrinkled face. "What are you going to do?"
Saxon stared back at him, and grinned. In his captor's eyes, the Doctor could see a violent madness swirling like the time vortex inside a pool of darkness that mirrored his soul. "I'm going to raise the drums." Saxon whispered, and his grin widened in a smile. "I am going to thrust a dagger into the fabric of reality to slit its belly wide open to let the Legions enter. Under my command, the Timelords will rise again when the past and future are fused into one, glorious whole."
Fear stabbed the Doctor's hearts. "Master, listen to me." He warned, and clutched desperately onto the bars till his knuckles turned white. "I know what the drums are. They are not here to help you rebuild Gallifrey. If you let them in, they will destroy everything. It would be the end of the universe!"
"The end of the universe, Doctor, has already happened. Didn't you see it dying, back on Macassairo? Nothing left but the husks of burnt-out stars. A cold and empty wasteland of the celestial corpses, stretching out for eternity. What Legion promised me so many years ago was a remedy, a cure against the inevitable, a final solution. They will help me to create a new Gallifrey in the sky, once I've kept my part of the bargain at least." Saxon stepped away from the Doctor's cage.
"I pity you Doctor that you cannot hear the drums. But don't despair. Soon, I will no longer be the only one who can hear it. The call to war will be inside us all."
He took Lucy's hand and pulled her behind him as he walked out of the door. "Come then, my darling dearest, let's go see this great machine at work." The Toclefanes cheered and flew after their master. Lucy looked over her shoulder and kept gazing at the Master with unblinking eyes till the doors were closed behind her. Left alone with the Doctor, the Master felt a cold shiver crawl down his spine. Why is she always looking at him like that? He felt sorry for her. Having regained some of his memory, he could recall the beautiful and affectionate young woman that she once was. Not too bright, but with a good heart. He knew what he had reduced her into. The guilt of it weighted heavily on his shoulders every time that he was forced to meet her eyes.
"She looks at you because she believes that can she recognize a part of him in you." The Doctor crawled towards the Master with much effort, leaning on the bars to move forward.
"What has that poor woman been using?" The Master snorted with a sarcastic grin on his face. "Does she still not know who I am?"
"It's not that part of him that she recognizes." The Doctor answered. "She loved him, and perhaps still does. She just cannot find what she loved in the man she calls husband."
The Master stared at the Doctor in silence, then burst out into laughter.
"When you're wrong, you really are so incredibly wrong! What she sees is a murderer, and what keeps her staring at me for is the fear that one day she won't live to see another sunrise. She fell in love with a wolf in disguise. The man she loved had never existed."
"You know that's not true."
The Master bowed his head. "You know that you've lost Doctor. This time, there won't be a happy ending. For neither of us." He looked up at the Tardis core, which engines send out such pitiful sounds that it seemed like it was mourning. "Just another 24 hours more...." He muttered, with a forlorn expression on his face.
A Toclefane materialized inside the control room, and hovered in front of the Master.
"You are summoned by our Lord and Master." It simply stated.
"Perhaps then when the end is here, we'll both finally find some peace and quiet." The Master smiled sadly, and turned away from the Doctor, who kept staring at him as he left under the escort of the silver minion.
The transmission was bad, not that he couldn't see the new officer's face, but his voice sounded like he was packaged inside a tin can and shot out into space. The very idea of it produced a vivid mental picture inside his mind of one of his faceless goon soldiers cramped inside a useless satellite, orbiting around the earth while screaming his lungs out in despair, till the very limited supply of air in the cabin ran out. He made a mental note to himself that he should let this very amusing sentence be carried as soon as he had thought of any excuse to chastise his troops. The mechanic who was to be blamed for this rubbish connection would do nicely.
"My Lord and Master, I have received great news." The young officer proclaimed with as much faked cheerfulness as he could muster. Saxon stared at the screen and wondered if he was really that pale or that it was perhaps the crappy satellite receiver that caused the young man to look like he was already dead and buried. He found it amusing and a bit tasteless, like he was staring at a painting of a weeping clown or something. He made yet another mental note, that he should dispose of this new officer as soon as the goon had barfed up the message that he had obviously swallowed in fear. There must be still one or two among the human military left who he didn't find repulsive to work with.
"Speak." He ordered, and leaned back in his leather chair. If the chap hurried up he could still let his secretary type out memos for a replacement and send what's-his-name out into space to choke to death before dinner.
"It's professor Dorcherty. She contacted us with the message that Donna Noble and Martha Jones are back in England my Lord."
Saxon rose from his chair in anticipation. "Where are they now?"
"They have left and are on their way to the barracks of the second London units my Lord."
Saxon clapped his hands. "Perfect! Perfect timing. With them here, and the machine singing. Oh my old friend, you could say that the end is nigh…"
"Should I dispatch the troops my Lord, and capture them for your safety?" The officer opted hesitantly, with a badly concealed shiver in his voice.
"I think I can handle this one on my own, thank you…"
"It's colonel Fairmount my Lord. At your service my Lord."
"Yes, yes, what-ever." Saxon quickly dismissed him. Although he much appreciated the fear that he could evoke in his simple-minded human subjects, he couldn't stand the persistent cowering of this particular young man, and if he had to endure yet another shivering my Lord from this piece of hippopotamus waste he would actually vomit. When the officer was off-line he called in on his secretary, a lovely young African woman with a skin that shone like olives and full sensual hips, and made the necessary arrangements for the "late" colonel's succession, before he prepared himself to disembark the ship.
"Blimey, it's very cozy in here." Donna tried to squeeze herself between the groups of people sitting on the staircase in the once stately four level house turned barrack, and started handing out her limited provision to the prisoners. "Take a piece of baguette, came from France just this morning. Can't say for sure that has been baked that recently, but at least is sounds fancy."
A young girl, barely fourteen years old and looking absolutely famished, broke a piece off the stale bread before handing it over to her brothers. "Thank you miss." She said gratefully.
Donna nodded and smiled. "There you go, one full year on the run for psychotic Timelords and murderous silver footballs, and still I look like a singleton." She turned to Martha who responded to her witty remark with a broad smile. "Well, at least we are warmer like this, all huddled up." Donna noted, rubbing her hands together. "It's freezing in here. Don't you guys get any coal or wood to burn?"
"We used to." One the girl's brothers replied. "But they stopped handing them out to us a few weeks ago. It got something to do with using the last of the resources to melt down the railway tracks to convert it into munitions for the soldiers."
"Glad they used it for something useful then." Donna remarked not without sarcasm, and looked around in the house. "How about those cupboards and shelves, we could burn those."
"We are not allowed to make fire anymore in our quarters." The young girl explained. "If they catch us, they'll send us to the experimentation camps, or worse."
"They can't let you live like this. It's cold and you're starving. You'll all get ill." Donna objected.
"Some of us are already too ill to work in his factories, but he doesn't care. Not anymore." The young man replied, and hugged his sister. "I think he wants to get rid of us. We've done what he wanted, and now he will just leave us here to die."
"If we're lucky enough, that is." An older woman sighed with a solemn expression on her face.
"You're not going to die. Don't talk like this." Martha responded. "There is still hope."
"Hope for what? A quick and painless death? Or hope for yet another day of this…this hopelessness and hunger. I haven't eaten for weeks." The older woman complained and rested her head against the stairpikes.
"There is hope, because of one man." She stared at the faces in the dark that surrounded her. Everyone here knew who she and Donna were, now she was going to tell them about the man who they had never met but had saved their lives so many times before, and will again. If they would just be prepared to listen to her.
She told them about the Doctor, what she had seen, what he had done for her and for many others. How selfless he was, and how incredibly kind, and how one day he would return to her, and defeat the Master to restore everything to how it once was. The people around her listened quietly, and slowly took her words of hope into their hearts while outside the light of day faded at the horizon, till the darkness in the streets was absolute and complete.
Saxon stalked the streets with the grace of a predator in search of his prey. His arms were raised and his black leather gloves squeaking when he rubbed his fingers in anticipation. "Oh come little girlies!" He sing-songed, and gestured to his men to follow closely behind.
"Come out come out, where ever you are. Come and meet your Master."
When there came no response, he raised his voice to address the frightened humans inside the barracks. "You know what the penalty is for hiding these two? It's death you dimwits. By any way of my choosing. Let me tell you that it won't be a pretty one. Something involving a pair of meat-hooks and an elaborate amount of cooking oil springs to mind. Ever heard of what Nero did to the Christians? I think we could all use a little light in these dark times."
The people inside the barrack were seized by panic with everybody talking and moving at once. Tom quickly took a blanket from one of the prisoners and hid Martha and Donna underneath. "Sshh!" He urged. "Hide them! Don't say a word." He took his gun out of his backpack and moved slowly towards the door.
"Well isn't that disappointing?" Saxon exclaimed. "Anybody? No? Right. Positions!"
The men aimed their guns at the derelict houses. The fearful faces of its inhabitants appeared in front of the windows.
"Look around you ladies. Look at those faces, for you are going to be responsible for what is about to happen to them. On the count of three!"
Martha closed her eyes, the mad frightened drumming of her heart could not block out the dreadful meaning of Saxon's message. Donna slipped her hand inside her pockets and closed her fingers around the small device that the Master had given her.
"We can't let him do this." Donna whispered and gazed at Martha.
"No, you're right. We can't." Martha threw the blanket from her shoulders and with all the prisoners staring at her, made her way to the door.
"One, two…" Saxon stopped counting, and clapped in his hands. "Oh look at that! Well done girls. Very brave indeed. The old sockpuppet taught you well."
Martha stepped out into the streets, closely followed by Donna.
Saxon raised his weapon. "That's close enough. The bag. Hand me the bag, miss Jones."
As soon as Martha took off the bag and threw it in front of his feet, Saxon fired his laserscrewdriver and destroyed it.
"Right, there goes the magic gun." He adjusted the laserscrewdriver, then took aim again at Martha. "Now to dispose of the Doctor's faithful companion. Any last words?"
Martha took in a deep breath and closed her eyes.
"She might not, but I certainly have." Donna spat and took a few brave steps towards him, only to be held back by a wall of guns pointing at her.
Saxon pulled a face as if he had just swallowed something very foul-tasting. "Donna Noble." He mused, and lowered his weapon. "Why aren't you dead yet? Didn't my last broadcast broke your heart to pieces?"
"I'm still here, and I won't go anywhere until I have wiped that greasy smile off your thick bloated head!"
Saxon sighed deeply. "I think I should get rid of the most annoying one first, sorry miss Jones." And he aimed the laser at Donna's head. "Should blast that most irritating loud-mouth of yours right to kingdom come." He said, and smiled almost politely at her, when Tom suddenly rushed out of the house with his gun in his hand. He was ready to fire at the tyrant and put an end to his life when Saxon simply diverted his aim at Tom Hilligan's chest and blasted a hole in his lungs. The young man went down screaming. Donna uttered a cry, while Martha gazed at Tom's dying body with hooded eyes, and felt how a cold hand wrenched her heart.
Saxon stared at the dead young man for a moment before bursting into laughter. "Man that was FUN!" He cheered, with an excited did you see that?! expression on his face. "And the best part is that he really stays dead. I got so used to target practicing on captain bisexsual that I forgot how it felt to really kill a man with my own hands. It feels…" He closed his eyes, and inhaled deeply. "Absolutely FANTASTIC!"
"You're disgusting!" Donna yelled. "How can you be so ruthless?! You murdered him! You should feel remorse and guilt, not psychopathic joy! The Doctor told me that you were mad, that the vortex had poisoned your mind, but I see now that he was wrong about you. You're not mad, you're a cold-hearted monster!"
Saxon stepped forward and grabbed Donna, digging his fingers into her cheeks till it hurt and she was unable to continue her angered rambling.
"Let me remind you, miss Noble, that I am not the gullible version of myself, who would allow you to express your opinion about me so very openly." He hissed into her face, his had childlike joy vanished completely without a trace. "And I doubt if I would appreciate your Jiminey Cricket act much. So be warned." He pushed her aside. Donna landed on the ground in front of his feet and stared back at him with a look full of anger and resentment.
"But then, shouldn't the death of these beloved companions be witnessed by the ones who actually gives a bloody toss?" He mocked ,and put his laserscrewdriver back inside his pocket. He gazed at his men. "Oh don't just stand there like a bunch tragic Greek figures. Take these two in." He stepped back to his car. As he observed how Donna was dragged away by his soldiers he added. "And gag the gingerhead, I don't want to hear a single word coming out of her."
"What about the prisoners?" A commander asked.
"What about them?" Saxon said with an air of indifference. "What kind of work do they do for me?"
"They work at sector 14 my Lord. They make the rocket casings."
"Well that's finished, isn't it? I don't think I need laborers after the actual labor is done."
The commander understood his message, and started to assemble his troops. Saxon watched how his men escorted the two women inside the trucks and inhaled deeply.
"Patience Earthlings. Patience. Just one more night of darkness, and tomorrow will be a brave new world."
TBC and merry X-mas to you all!