17.

Donna walked across the confined space, her mouth dropped open as she took in what was happening around her. There, lying on a metal rack and seemingly unconstrained, was the man who had tried to kill her. He was naked, and his head, torso, and limbs were embedded into metal casings that reminded her of the bony ribcages of monstrous snakes. His eyes were open and he was conscious, but he looked dazed, as if he had been heavily drugged. Blue sparks circled angrily around the metal rings around his body. When she came closer to him, she noticed that they had wrapped him up in thick layers of bandage where he had been hit in the shoulder. Over his chest ran a large gruesome scar in the form of an upside down Y.

Donna turned around, horrified, but the soldiers seized her before she could run.

"Let go! You're sick, all of you!"

"Calm down miss Smith. We don't necessarily want to hurt him. The scar on his chest is not our doing. And we have treated his wounds and removed the bullets."

"Oh how kind of you." She said, her voice dripping with sarcasm. "And what is this then?" Donna pointed at the electrical current that slithered across his body. "Your idea of revalidation therapy?"

"That, miss Smith, is what keeps the Master contained. It's a constant electrical current that interferes with the electric signals coming from his living cells. It stops any muscle contraction that we would like to block, and neutralizes any neurological signal that we would want to interfere. It's the only way to control the Master."

"You're keeping him paralyzed in here." Donna's uttered, appalled, and finally realizing what the captain was telling her. "And you stop him think." She added, in disgust. "He's nothing but a puppet on strings."

"I can assure you, that we have good reasons to do this."

"Oh I bet." Donna wrestled herself loose from the soldiers. "And what do you want from me then. Are you gonna wire me up as well?"

"No miss Smith. Of course not." Captain Montgomery answered. I am appalled that you think that our operation might be capable of such heinous actions. We want you to help us to obtain the information of how to operate the Valiant disk. That's what project 005 is all about." The captain waved his hand and the two soldiers removed themselves from Donna. "Harold Saxon was the Master in human disguise. He wanted to control earth and enslave the human race to wage war against the rest of the universe."

"Hang on." Donna clamped her hands on her face and shook her head. "You're telling me that this poor bloke is an alien?"

"Oh, he's not just an alien. He's a Timelord. One of the last two in existence. He built the Valiant disk to control our time stream. Luckily, he was defeated before the machine was operational."

Donna felt giddy. She had heard and seen enough the past 48 hours to make her question her sanity, but this seemed to her to be the most absurd thing she had heard so far. "You're torturing this poor man because he looks a bit like our ex-homicidal prime minister, and because you believe that he's a spaceman!" She giggled. "God, what the bloody hell have you all been drinking!"

"Everything I told you is true. Miss Smith. I know why you're reacting that way. It's how you're supposed to act when you're confronted with these things. It's a build-in defense system to keep you safe. I wouldn't do anything that could complicate this protection system and your safety, if it wasn't that we are in dire need of your help. The Valiant disk that we have recovered from the Master's military base could be our most powerful weapon against the current alien threats yet. We need to know how to operate it."

"You're serious." She forced herself to stop laughing, and tried to calm down. "You want me to ask him? You got all these high tech brain-drainers here, what do you need me for?"

"The technology is not that advanced. We cannot extract anything from his mind without damaging it beyond repair." Montgomery admitted. "He seems to trust you, miss Smith. Go talk to him and if you return with useful information, I solemnly swear that after you have shared that information with us, you will be released immediately."

Donna contemplated in silence. She turned her head to the Master, who seemed to have noticed her, for his sunken eyes followed her around. Then she turned back to captain. "If I help you. Would you let this stop?"

"No." Montgomery said, without hesitation. "I'm afraid I cannot. He's far too dangerous."

"Right." She muttered, and looked away. She believed firmly that it wasn't right to leave him behind in here, but although she was keeping up an appearance of calm and defiance, she was scared for own life, and would, at this point, do anything to be able to get out of this nightmare.

"So you believe he trusts me." She mumbled, looking back at the captain, and squinting her eyes. 'Perhaps you're right. I mean, if he's really that kind of a blood thirsty monster you said he is, I'm certainly flattered that he didn't actually let your soldier boys kill me when he had the chance."

"So we have an agreement?" Montgomery asked, ignoring her snide remarks.

Donna nodded solemnly.

They told her that they would switch the neural control system over to low power so he could respond to her questions. They hosted her into a heavy suit with cables that ran out of the collar and sleeves directly back into a console in the corner of the room. "We're going to monitor your contact with him. The Master is known in the past to have used his hypnotic capabilities as a weapon. We don't want to take any risk."

Donna felt a hundred times heavier when she approached the prisoner in her metal harness, but it wasn't because of the suit.

"Hi." She swallowed a lump in her throat. "It's me again. Remember me?"

The Master looked up at her, his eyes heavily hooded.

"It's Donna. Donna Noble."

He parted his lips to speak, his voice sounded small and broken.

"Yes."

"Yes what?"

"I know you."

"That's good." She said, and tried to fake a smile.

"In the park. You were kind to me."

"Yes, I was there, before the ambulance came. Are you all right?"

The Master shook his head, and sweat dripped down his chin. "Pain." He whispered, and grimaced. " The sparks, they hurt."

Donna was stunned for a moment, although she realized that she could have expected to be confronted with this lie. "But they said it wouldn't..."

"It was much worse before." He arched his back before he collapsed back on the rack, his body twitching in pain. "Please, help me. Don't let them turn it back on." He begged.

"Listen, they want to know how to operate something called the Valiant disk. If you tell me maybe I can bargain with them." She lied. "But you have to tell me what you know."

He took in shallow breaths as he tried to concentrate on what she was telling him. "What's a…What's a Valiant disk?"

"You don't know? They said you would know."

"I don't…I don't know what it means. Please, let it stop. I can't take this any longer."

"But, they told me that you built it. You are the Master. Don't you remember your own name?"

The Master shook his head with much effort.

"And Harold Saxon, prime minister of England. Doesn't that ring a bell?"

"I don't know. I really don't know Donna. Please, make them stop."

"You really don't remember?" Donna took a few steps back. "So they are torturing you for nothing."

"Donna, please."

"I can't, I'm sorry." She said ruefully, as her true emotions surfaced. "I can't do anything for you. I'm not even sure if they are going to let me go now. Please, don't you remember anything, anything at all?"

"Ring." He said, and closed his eyes, breathing in deeply to distract his thoughts from a surge of violent muscular contractions. "I remember I lost my ring."

"Your ring." Her eyes became hopeful again. "Yes, yes the ring, tell me more, what do you know?"

"I lost it. I lost it somewhere in the park." He turned his gaze at her. "Please can you give it back to me?"

"How did you…?" She gasped and took the ring out of her pocket. It glowed in her hand like the burning remnants of a star.

"I've never told you that I had it."

"Please." He tilted his hand into her direction. "I need it."

It was as if a door inside her mind was opened, and all the monsters that had terrorized her in her dreams came rushing in. The man from the blue box spoke to her at the speed of light, with a thousand different voices. A cry escaped her as it cramped her head instantaneously. The world turned before her eyes, and she broke out in sweat.

"Something is wrong with her body temperature sir." The white coat behind the console reported. "It's rising very quickly."

"There is also a sudden surge in brain activity."

"What do we do sir. Do we pull her out?"

Captain Montgomery studied Donna who pressed her hands against her eyes. "Not yet. There is something going on with the Master as well."

"Donna, hand me the ring."

"What?" She spoke softly, and she finally recognized that voice. She had heard it speak to her in her dreams while she was being consumed by fever. "It was you. You told me to take the ring." She whispered.

"Donna, hand me the ring. You're burning up."

"Captain sir." The private who was watching over security camera 2 reported. "Donna Noble is holding a silver object in her hand."

"It's that ring." Montgomery reasoned out loud. "There's something wrong with that ring." He turned around immediately. "Pull her out! Don't let her hand that thing over to him!"

Donna was feverous, and didn't realize what she was doing. All she knew is that she wanted to obey that voice. She wanted it to stop burning. She wanted rain.

Before the soldiers could pull her away from the Master, she placed the ring in his hand and kept it there.

It was as if all the knowledge of the universe rushed through her head, and for fraction of a second, she knew everything. The secrets of all living things, the birth and death of galaxies, and the intricate working of time itself. And then, within yet another fraction of a second, she forgot again, as all of it was sucked down into her arm and her hand right into the Master's ring. Her head was being drained, and it felt absolutely fantastic.

"Let go now, miss." The soldier put a hand on her elbow, but was suddenly flung across the room, expelled like a magnet with similar charges, and he crashed into one of the standing screens. The second soldier tried to push her aside, and was propelled back into a console where he was electrocuted. The white coats jumped up in panic when the short circuit created by the accident also started to affect the rest of machinery.

"Stop this!" Montgomery yelled. "Turn on the neural controller back on! Stop him from making contact with her!"

But it was too late. The Master gasped for air as he let the ancient energy flow into him. All those wonderful, powerful secrets, his mind absorbed it all like a thirsty desert plant. He felt the wild sparkles emitted by his neurons, a magnificent reawakening of all that he thought had been lost. He closed his eyes, and sent his mind down the electric circuits that restrained him. He slithered through the cables and entered the consoles that had executed his torture so efficiently, and rushed into the database's core. He immediately understood how it worked, and how he could destroy it.

He reversed the power surge, rewriting the computer program to divert the energy back into the consoles by corrupting the original program like a self-spreading virus. When the operator tried to turn it back on, he was electrocuted on the spot by a 10000 volt of electricity, and his body combusted into flames.

Captain observed the absolute chaos that had erupted around him. He fixed his gaze on Donna, who was still holding on to the Master. The console in the corner that was still registering her brainwaves showed that an incredible amount of neural activity had build up inside her, it was the equivalent of a powerful electrical storm swirling inside her head. With that amount of energy, her brains should have been fried, but it didn't happen. Something was sucking the energy out of her. Something or someone, who was strong enough to contain all that power, took the energy away from her before it could do her any harm.

"He's draining her dry!" Montgomery exclaimed in shocked realization. "The Master is using her to restore his powers!" He turned to the officer who stood next of him, and pulled the stungun out of his hands.

"Sir! You can't approach her, it's dangerous!"

"I'm not going to!" Montgomery switched on the stunner and threw it like a spear while he rushed after it. It hit Donna in the side, and the electrical surges fired by the stungun disrupted the currents of energy flowing out into the Master.

She gasped for air as her consciousness resurfaced from the chaotic whirlpool of her mind for a short second, and she was knocked down by the captain to the floor away from the Master. The ring fell out of his hand.

Donna, lying on her back, gazed up at the captain, then her eyes veiled and she passed out.

"Get her out of here! Now!" Montgomery ordered, but before three of his men could rush over to collect Donna, all the lights in the entire facility suddenly went out and they found themselves in complete darkness.

"Captain! What's happening?"

"Everybody stay calm! Use your flash lights! Check the Master!"

The men went over to the rack where they had kept their prisoner. The metal casings were broken and the Master was gone.

"He has escaped sir!"

The captain's old heart skipped a beat. "Seal off the exits. Two of you, guard Donna Noble. The rest of us, start combing the entire room. He must not escape from Unit!"

Before the men could concur, the console on their left side exploded and sent down a dangerous rain of shrapnel on all of them. One of the soldiers went down when a thick shard of metal splitting his face. Mongomery and the rest of his men ducked down and found shelter behind a heavy file cabinet when a second explosion occurred, blasting the by the Master much-hated torture rack to smithereens. It was immediately followed by a third explosion that sent shockwaves through the bunker's structure.

Donna was half-aware that she was lying on the floor, her cheek resting on cold tiles that cooled down her hot skin. She opened her eyes to an ink-black darkness. Someone took her hand and pulled her up.

"You are coming with me." He whispered in her ear.

She swaggered on her feet, and with her arm swept around the shoulder of her invisible savior, she escaped.

Outside from the secluded section, the entire department of research was in panic. Everywhere around them, consoles were overloaded and combusting in flames. Electrical currents swept across the database and wiped out any information that was stored inside the Unit stronghold. These destructions lit the path of the two fugitives. Soldiers who were scanning the room with their flashlights caught sight of the fleeting figures and opened fire. Bullets rattled in the air, and flashes of light captured their trail, projecting shimmering shadows like a haggard sequence of a black and white movie on the walls. Donna bumped into a fleeing woman and screamed when her chest was ripped apart by the gunfire. She ducked for shelter, terrified.

"No don't stop, run!"

She was pulled up again by him forcefully.

"I said, run!"

He dragged her behind him, she could barely catch up as her feet stumbled on the bodies and debris lying scattered all over the floor. She didn't know where they were going, but the man holding her hand found his way in the darkness swiftly and efficiently, as if he was calculating each step and turn to his goal. They reached the middle of the room. He climbed on the platform, and pulled her up. Donna was now standing right in front of the Valiant disk and felt the wind sweeping her hair as the enormous machine continued to swirl around its axes. The man led her even closer to the disk.

"On the count of three, step forward." He screamed above the noise.

"What? Are you mad? It's going to cut off my face!"

"One."

"It's turning too fast! I can't see, I can't see where we're going!"

"Two!"

"I'm not doing this! You can't make me!"

"Three!"

He pushed her and Donna lost balance, stumbling forwards. She screamed as she felt the sweep of a metallic blade pass by her left ear, missing it by the length of the tip of a finger. She crash landed on the floor, and kicked her legs back like a headstrong mule.

"You bastard!" She burst out, when she realized that all her parts were still attached and functioning. She bald her fists and slammed him on the chest. "I was almost decapitated!"

He moved away from her, and for a moment, she lost contact with him, and she was alone with the mechanical sweep of the rotating disk, and the darkness surrounding her.

"Hey! Where are you going? Where am I? Where did you take me?"

She listened, her breathing rasped as the air was swallowed with mouth-fulls into her lungs.

"Am…am I dead?"

"Hardly."

The lights went on, such blinding, overwhelming lights that she had to squint her eyes. She gazed around and held her breath.

They were inside the Valiant disk, but it seemed that it wasn't a disk at all. It was a set of three rotating rings, each of them solid and heavy, thick as tree trunks, gleaming metal structures that turned around their own specific axes. They turned so fast that the structure appeared to be solid but translucent at the same time, a ghostly sphere that emitted light from within. Blue sparks of electrical currents snaked angrily across the surface.

He stood in the middle of the sphere, bare feet and dressed in nothing but a white lab coat that he had pulled off a dead Unit technician, and stooped over what seemed to be a control desk. He pushed another button and a small metallic sphere lifted up from a hidden compartment. It split open like a ripe melon, exposing a hideous, wrinkled skull, with eyes devoid of eyelids, a hole instead of a nose, and a mouth joined on the flesh with what looked like a speaker device.

-Master!- It spoke – Rejoice! Our Master and lord has returned!-

There was a moment of hesitation and confusion on the Master's face as he stared at the monstrosity, but he quickly regained his focus.

"Skip the niceties. I'm in trouble. I order you to inform me how to operate the Valiant disk."

Donna was back on her feet, and realizing who it was who had saved her, took a hesitant step towards the Master.

"You mean you don't know?" She asked, and turned when the lights outside the sphere came back on. Captain Montemery and his men appeared from behind the screens, and spotted them both standing inside the Valiant disk. He rushed towards them while he gave out orders left and right to his reformatting troops.

"They are coming, how can you not know? You switched the bloody thing on!"

"I don't know!" He roared, his face flushed with anger. "I was intercepted when I tried to reach the Valiant files. Now stop distracting me by wagging your stupid ignorant tongue!"

Donna's mouth dropped open, she took in a deep breath, ready to spill out a sewage of abuse at him, when her eyes caught sight of the red stain that bloomed malignantly on the white doctor's coat, just underneath his ribcage. She then realized that he was leaning heavily on the control desk.

"You're hit."

"I don't need your misplaced sympathy." He muttered and turned back to the talking skull. "Now, the information."

Master, I checked the systems, the Valiant disk is fully operational and ready for your instructions.-

"I can't give you instructions if you don't inform me." He responded with a hint of desperation in his voice.

-Master, please guide us, tell us what to do. –

"I need help! I don't remember any of this. What the hell is the Valiant disk suppose to do!"

- Patiently waiting for your instructions, Master-

He bald his fists, ready to smash in the console, when Donna took him gently by his wrist and held him back.

"Wait, I know what this upside down saucer thing is suppose to do. They told me, those Units guys told me what it was. This is supposed to be a time converter or something."

"Time…converter." The Master whispered under his breath, and a light lit up in his eyes. "A time converter." He repeated and ran his fingers through his hair. "A time converter!" He exclaimed, jubilantly. "Of course! Of course it is, look at it, how could it be anything else!" A radiant grin appeared on his face. He closed his eyes for a moment, and calculated and recalled everything he needed to know in order to execute the machine.

"Operate function 0121533, code 1211, but refrain from using the combustion to full capacity." He ordered.

-Yes Master, the operation is executed at once. –

The three rings started to increase speed, and the ground beneath Donna's feet vibrated, and then started to shake violently. Donna's eyes grew wide in fear. She looked at the Master, who returned her anxiety with a pleasant grin and simply mouthed above the deafening roar of the engines that she should hold on tight.

Full speed recorded, energy built up maximized. –

Frightened screams erupted around the Valiant disk when the light went out indefinitely, with every light tube and bulb blowing up and raining down on the fleeing men and women. The soldiers started to fire on the disk, but the bullets were shielded off and bounced back at them, with devastating results.

Fully charged, time jump in 3 seconds, two seconds, one second, initiated...-

A blast of light erupted from the core of the Valiant disk with the power of that of an atomic bomb. Donna closed her eyes as a wall of heat slammed into her face, and held on to the console as she felt how the ground was pulled away from underneath her feet. For moment she was floating, a weightless object engulfed in a sea of bright, all consuming light. Then gravity came back with a vengeance, and jerked heavily on her body, till she smacked down on the floor. She hit her head and immediately lost consciousness.

TBC