19.

Somewhere deep underneath the busy streets of central London, in one of the old abandoned Victorian sewage tunnels, a small light appeared. It was no bigger than a firefly and floated in the air, illuminating a darkness that was otherwise continuous and complete. The family of rats that had called this part of the sewage their home, stared at the unfamiliar sight with much curiosity and a little bit of fear. One of them, a large experienced female who had already seen at least four winters, came closer and sniffed the air around the small glittering ball. She used her paws to try to catch it when it started to fly away. It could be an insect of some kind, a fat juicy bug that would be nice and crunchy underneath her teeth. She went after it. The light fled from her till it reached a large cavernous basin inside the tunnel system, and came to a standstill when it reached the middle of the large pool where it floated for a while above the shimmering water.

Then, it suddenly started to grow.

The rat twitched her whiskers nervously as the ball of light grew into the size of a mouse, than a rat, a cat, a small car. It kept on growing bigger and bigger till it started to make a loud rumbling noise that rose up in volume like an airplane taking off. The large female turned her tail and ran. The ball of light erupted into a blinding fireball, blue sparks ignited when the metal rings scraped over the stone surface of the old basin. The Valiant disk appeared, floating above the water for less than a fraction of a second before it was sent crashing down into the basin below as the rings continued to hit the stone walls, sending the entire structure off balance. Parts of the wall collapsed and plummeted into the water below. Huge waves of water splashed over the sidewalk, flushing the rats out of the tunnel.

The rings got stuck in the stones and mortar and finally stopped turning.

In the middle of the Valiant disk, on a platform that was half-sunken underneath the water surface, Donna and the Master lay next to each other, close to the ruined console.

"What?" Donna gasped as she regained consciousness, half-certain that she was still choking to death. She slowly realized that she was no longer buried in the sand, but was lying on the floor of the Valiant disk with the remains of the great rings burning around her.

"What the hell have you done!" She gasped. "Where are we?" She gazed around. The Toclefane was hovering above the Master. He was still unconscious, lying face down in the water.

" Shit!" Donna rushed over and quickly turned him around. "Master!" She hesitated for a short moment before she dared to slap him in the face. "Hey! Don't tell me you've let yourself drown in an inch of sewage water!" She held her hand in front of his nostrils. He was still breathing. Relief washed over her when he slowly opened his eyes.

The Master gave her a weak grin. "How did I park?" He muttered.

Donna couldn't help herself from smiling back at him.

"Like a Russian tank driver on drugs." She looked at the burning rubble. "I don't think you're going to be able to get insurance to pay for this."

The Master sniggered, but his smile soon vanished from his face to be replaced by a grimace of pain. His hand slipped down the drenched labcoat to where the bullets of Unit soldiers had penetrated his body. The red bloodstain started to bloom again, and colored the water in which he lay dark.

"You're bleeding." Donna watched with a sense of panic how the red stain spread out over the water surface like a blotch of ink. "Why are you still bleeding? I thought you were better? You seemed all right when we were in that fake desert."

"Time doesn't flow in that place. My injuries didn't heal because it didn't have the time to do so. The Valiant Disk placed us outside time till we re-entered the time stream by leaving through the porthole. As far as my bullet holes are concerned, they are still made a couple of minutes ago and are smoking fresh." The Master gazed up at Donna and studied her face. "Oh don't look so scared. I'm not going to die for a second time in one day, it's starting to get a bit cliché."

"I'll get you to a hospital." Donna took his arm and swept it over her shoulder, helping him up.

"Oh no, not the hospital." The Master grimaced while he carefully weighted out each step before he took it. "I thought you didn't want me dead? Those so called doctors are all to eager to slap me on the dissection table as soon as they discover my unusual anatomy. I'll be dismembered into little parts and distributed over a dozen of labeled jars before my hearts stop beating."

"But you need medical attention." Donna argued. She noticed how a stream of blood trickled down his legs in the pool of water at their feet.

"I can heal myself." The Master answered with a certain amount of stubbornness and misplaced pride. "I'm still partly regenerating, all that I really need is a bit more time. I need a safe place to rest."

He started to have trouble to speak as every breath he took strained his chest painfully. One of the bullets must have entered his upper chest cavity and ripped through his lungs. Donna helped him through the tunnels, while the Toclefane flew out in front to light their path. Finally, they reached a shallow niche in the wall where a flight of stairs went up to the streets above. She helped him up the slippery steps. At the top of the stairs was a heavy metal door. The hinges and the lock were completely rusted. Donna tried to push it open, but it didn't budge. The Master, now heavily leaning on Donna and fighting to remain conscious, slipped his hand inside his pocket and held out the laserscrewdriver.

"Here, use this." He opted. His voice was now so weak that everything he said sounded like a whisper. "Push this button, here." He pushed the device into her hand.

Donna fired the laserscrewdriver at the lock, and pushed again the metal door with her shoulder. It gave. Daylight flooded in, blinding them both for a short moment. She flung it further open and helped the Master through the doorway. The Toclefane was ready to follow, but the Master shook his head.

"No. You stay in here till it's dark outside." He held the laserscrepdriver up. "Use your tracking device to locate the beacon." He twisted a mechanism on the screwdriver and a tiny red light started to pulse at the tip. "Find the beacon, and you'll find me."

The Toclefane, although disappointed, obeyed its Master, and went back down into the tunnels to wait for nightfall. Donna closed the door and together with the Master, she ventured into what she hoped to be an alleyway in a normal town on earth somewhere close to London. She turned the corner and found out that she was actually in London, standing on the crossroad between Regent Street and Piccadilly, with the huge bright neon commercial boards and the Shaftesbury memorial right in front of her. People pushed by, rushing to or from work. Cabs and red buses pushed through the congested streets at the speed of mating snails. She gazed at all of these more than familiar sights, and exhaled a sigh of relief.

"Oh, at least we're home! Well, I'm home. I'm not sure about you…Hey!" Donna felt the weight on her shoulder increase as the Master slipped into unconsciousness. She could not hold his entire weight, and had to partly lean him against a lamppost to keep him standing up.

"Hey! Don't sleep!" She pleaded worriedly. "I don't know if you're ever gonna wake up again if you faint now." She eyed the bloodstain on his doctor's coat that had bloomed over most of the lower half of the fabric, reaching the linings. "That's it. I'm going to call an ambulance. You can't go on like this."

"No." The Master muttered. "No doctors…please…"

"But…what do you want me to do then? I can't let you just bleed to death."

"Take me…take me somewhere safe…"

"I could bring you to my house if you want." Donna opted.

"No, you can't. You can't risk it to meet your past-self."

"Oh, and that's a bad thing, right. I'm sorry, I should have expected this." Not only did the Doctor once explained this to her, but she also clearly remembered all those crazy plotlines of those Back to the Future movies. Donna racked her brains for a better solution. "Okay, think Donna, think! Somewhere safe. Somewhere safe. God! I don't know! I don't even know what day and year this is! What do you want me to do, bring you to a hotel or something, is that what you want?"

"It's June." The Master whispered.

"What? What did you say?"

"It's June the 22nd, 2006." The Master explained in a slightly louder voice.

"June the 22nd of two years ago…" Donna suddenly thought of something. "Hang on, that was in the summer when I got a temporary secretary job for a charter company. My boss went on holiday and asked me to feed his goldfish and water his plants. He's got a large apartment here in central London, just a block away. I can get you there." She checked if the Master was still awake. "It's close and safe enough. If you still can walk."

The Master nodded, and struggled to get up. Donna supported him, and managed to get him back on his feet.

They stumbled through the busy street, getting strange looks from the other pedestrians who craned their heads to stare at the horrific bloodstrains on the Master's coat. Luckily they didn't want to meddle with the two of them, for they both looked and smelled like they were homeless or on drugs or both.

"Talk to me…" The Master whispered, his lips and his face had turned pale. "It keeps me awake..."

"What do you want me to talk about?"

"Why are you so sure you won't bump into yourself…at the apartment?"

"Ehm, because I actually forgot to water his plants and feed his goldfish. I remember this so well, because he was gone for two weeks and by the time he came home, he needed new plants and a new pet."

The Master gazed at her in astonishment, before his lips slowly curled into a boyish grin.

They didn't notice it, but as Donna and the Master made their way to the apartment, they passed by countless pamphlets stuck on lampposts and barren walls, all of them sending out one particular message into the world. If they had cared to look up at the large billboards raised on the first and second floors of the department stores at Piccadilly, they would have recognized the man in the campaign posters, dressed in his immaculate black suit and looking into the camera with that "oh do trust me" smile that never quite reached his eyes.

Proud citizens of Great Britain, they would have read, vote for a better and safer future. Vote for Harold Saxon.

TBC