23.

In a secluded part of London Airport, a large group of international journalists have gathered around the red carpet that was spread out from the private airplane that had just arrived from Washington. They impatiently waited for the president of the United States to appear, and fought for every square inch of tarmac to get closer to the velvet ropes in the front line. Donna, who had disguised herself as a reporter for a local London newspaper, stood her ground and pushed the legion of photographers away who tried to elbow her to the side. She felt like a pebble that was thrown inside a tumbler, when the door of Airforce one finally swung open and president Arnold Winters emerged, wearing a solemn expression on his face as he descended the stairs. He was closely followed by his bodyguards. Flashlights erupted all around him, while the journalists shouted comments and questions to attract his attention.

"President Winters, is it true that the US is going to intercept the broadcast of tomorrow that was set up by the British prime minister?"

"President Winters, are you going to take over the operation from Harold Saxon?"

The president smiled politely at the cameras, waved at the crowd with an amount of faked keenness that only a politician could muster, and mumbled to his press officer that he wanted him to announce to the press that they should expect no comments. He then addressed the British minister walking next to him.

"I don't know what that ass Saxon is playing at, but get me in contact with him as soon as possible. It is bad enough to have him publicly announce this encounter with an extraterrestrial species without consent of the United Nations, but getting me trapped with these journalists as soon as I set one foot on British soil is intolerable. That man doesn't know the meaning of discreet even when it hits him on the head."

The British minister nodded nervously, grabbed his mobile phone out of his breast pocket, and started dialing the number. The phone went over, and he was greeted by a cheerful voice on the other side of the line.

"With Harold Saxon, the prime minister of Britain, speaking."

"Um, yes, sir, you're speaking with Dan Brown here, the minister of foreign affairs. President Arnold Winters has just arrived at London airport and would like to speak to you in private."

" Oh really? I have to say I'm awfully busy. My dear Lucy and I are still trying to make our minds up about what we should do with the bare walls in my office. What do you think, paint or design wallpaper?"

"Prime minister," And the panic started to rise in the minister's voice. "I would strongly advise you to contact president Winters as soon as possible. I fear we'll be heading for a relationship crisis with the US otherwise."

"Oh don't be so absurd. Old Arny is not going to do anything rash. But since you're so tense about it, I will do you a favor and have a little chat with him."

"Thank you sir." The relief was clearly audible in the minister's voice.

My pleasure, besides, I can't have my minister of foreign affairs shit himself in front of one the world leaders, it's very bad PR."

"Shall I check your agenda to make an appointment sir?" The minister asked, ignoring the fact that he just had been insulted.

"No need, I will be there in, oh let's say, one minute?"

"One minute?" The minister looked puzzled.

The sound of a heavy engine tearing up the tarmac pulled the minister's attention away from his phone call. A black, shiny Jaguar with dark windows drove right into the group of journalists and pulled over just in time in front of president Winters. The president's bodyguards immediately responded by aiming their guns it at the vehicle, ready to fire.

"No!" The minister hurried over, waving his hands in the air. "No! It's not what you think! I recognize that car. It's our prime minister. Don't shoot!"

The front door opened, and Harold Saxon climbed out of the Jag with his trademark cockey smile plastered on his face.

"Hi guys! Sorry, didn't see you. There are some disadvantages with the use of tinted glass in the front window." He swirled around on his heels. "Ah! Mister President sir!" He saluted him. "How nice to finally meet you in person. When we spoke over the intercom you sounded taller."

Lucy Saxon stepped out of the passenger's seat. She checked her hair and with her suede purse in her hand, walked up to her husband. Behind the Jaguar, Saxon's extensive escort arrived in four heavily armed military vehicles.

President Winters gestured to his men to lower their weapons, and stepped up to the British prime minister, his chin raised high in indignation.

Donna had been stunned from the moment Saxon arrived at the scene. She studied the man in front of her, who seemed so familiar in gestures and speech and looked so very much like the Master that she had to restrain from stepping forward and slapping him in the face for almost running her over. She could hardly convince herself that this was the same pitiful man that she had saved from the streets, and she could certainly not bring up any sense of sympathy for him. She had always felt a certain undertone of fear when she was close to the Master, and that fear was all that she could sense right now. She looked around nervously, desperate to find that one familiar, friendly face in the crowd. Something inside her convinced her that the Doctor was close. When Saxon's men started to dispatch the press and send them back into the airport lobby, Donna took her chance and slipped away, and hid herself behind a large truck. Harold Saxon continued to address Winters till they finally ended the conversation and the president left. Saxon then turned to his wife, whispered something into her ear, and let his escort guide her to their private jet. For a moment he stood there motionless, as if he was an actor on stage who was waiting for the second act to begin. It arrived in the form of a police van that pulled over right in front of Donna's hiding place. The doors swept open and a black family of three was brought out, they were hand cuffed and manhandled by the police.

"Hi there! The Jones isn't it? Welcome!" Saxon cheered. "Get them on board! I don't want them to miss out on anything."

"The Jones." Donna whispered to herself. "But that's Martha's family!" Her breath caught as she watched how they were herded inside a Land Rover and were driven off. "God, if he ever does this to me…" Donna shook her head in frustration and bit on her lower lip till she tasted blood. She had to regain focus. She kept telling herself that Martha's family was going to be fine. The Doctor was going to stop this madness, although she still had no idea how. She had hoped that she would find him here so close to the Master, but now it seemed that she had failed. Her mind raced. She must get on board with the rest of them. Only then she had a chance to meet up with the Doctor. She climbed inside the truck and moved to the back where she hid herself behind the stacked up boxes of ammunition.

The army commander waited till the prime minister was escorted to his private jet before ordering his men to leave. Donna moved further back in the shadows and kept herself silent when heavy boots stepped onto the back of the truck and the armed soldiers sat down on the benches lining the cabin. The backdoor closed with a loud bang, and the truck began to move, driving Saxon's men and Donna to the waiting cargo planes at the other side of the landing field.

24.

"All maintenance personnel boarding are requested to show their ID at gate 1. I repeat, all personnel arriving at the Valiant are requested to identify themselves at the gate."

A group of workmen were lined up at the docking bridge that connected their airship with the Valiant. The Master, dressed in a blue overall, a grey T-shirt, and wearing a yellow safety helmet that shielded his eyes, stepped forward, and held an empty piece of paper right in front of the nose of the officer who was guarding gate 1. The man studied the blank sheet, than gazed at the Master's face before he went back to the paper to check the face in the non-existing picture. "Anything wrong?" The Master asked, nonchalantly.

"No, it's fine." The officer motions with his head for him move further without giving it a second thought. The Master walked across the bridge and boarded the Valiant, entering the main passageway with the rest of the workmen. He followed the stream of grey/blue men, but diverted unnoticed from the group as soon as he passed the engine rooms. There must be more interesting things to discover on this airship than leaky pipes or broken machinery. He turned a corner, slipping past the guards without even the faintest attempt to be inconspicuous, and went down the stairs to reach the lower deck. Something was hidden down there. Something important. He could sense it. He could hear it cry out to him and to every living Timelord left in existence. It was the song of time itself. He turned around, and started pacing through the corridors. His feet picked up speed and before he realized it he was running towards the direction of the sound.

The Doctor rushed inside a tiny room at the back of the half-hidden corridor. His face lit up when he finally set eyes on his beloved Tardis.

"Oh at last!" He exclaimed in great relief.

Even Martha, who was worried about the fate of her family, allowed herself to smile, Jack stepped forward inquisitively.

"But, what's it doing on board of the Valiant?"

The Master halted when he caught sight of the three figures standing inside the small space. Two of them were Earthlings, one of them was certainly not. He could sense his presence like one could sense the sea behind the dunes because of its smell, taste and sound. His breath caught, and for a moment he didn't know what to do. He had expected to find a Tardis, but now he had bumped into another Timelord as well.

The Doctor suddenly froze, aware of a cold but familiar sensation that slivered down his spine, but slipped from his consciousness the moment he tried to pay attention to it. He shrugged it off and pushed open the doors of the Tardis. The Tardis interior bathed in a red glow, and the precious core of the machine was stripped bare, only to be replaced by a cage of ugly wires that hummed of the massive currents that passed through.

The Doctor's hearts sunk as he realized what had happened to his beloved time machine. "No no no no, It can't be!"

Martha gazed at the Tardis core, an ugly feeling crept up on her.

"What has he done to it? It's sounds like it's….sick.'

The Master followed them inside the Tardis. Thanks to his deception filter, he was fully hidden from the Doctor and his companions. One look at what Saxon's had concocted, and it was enough for him to understand what the Tardis had become.

Jack swallowed a dry lump that caught inside his throat.

"Is that what I think it is?" He muttered.

"It's a paradox machine." Both Timelords answered simultaneously, one in fear and utter disgust, and the other in excitement and admiration.

25.

Harold Saxon leaned back in his seat, and popped another jelly baby in his mouth. He grinned joylessly as president Winters continued to address the world in front of the cameras, a tedious lecture on the importance of this encounter with an alien race to humanity. It was so incredibly cliché and dull that it would have bored him to murder and mutilation if it wasn't for the fact that he could keep in mind that he was soon going to wipe that pompous smile off that fat hypocrite's face.

His grin became just a little tense when from the corner of his eyes, he caught them entering the room, the Doctor and his companions. He fiddled the silver ring on his finger and leaned forward, the smile was still plastered on his lips but his eyes became alert. He was surprised that his greatest nemesis could be so stupid to think that a simple deception filter would deceive him. The Doctor used to be brilliant, oh so incredibly clever. Now he kept himself at the sideline, and revealed to that Torchwood freak that he wanted to bring him down by draping that third rate deception filter around his neck. Was that the Doctor's "big plan" to save the world? He couldn't help to snigger at this preposterous idea. His lovely Lucy glanced at him nervously. He took her hand and kissed it, while awarding her with a small reassuring wink.

He returned his attention to that American clown who was finally wrapping up his organ-grinding-monkey performance. A communal gasp escaped from everybody inside room when the Toclefanes finally materialized in front them.

"You're not the Master." The first Toclefane proclaimed.

"We like the Mr. Master." The second one commented.

"We don't like you." The third one said, and turned away from the president.

The gibbering American idiot started talking about claiming mastership over the Toclefanes, but the silver minions were not impressed.

"The man is stupid." Concluded the first.

"Master is our friend." Lamented the second one.

"Where is my Master? Pretty please?" Asked the third.

Harold Saxon's realized that his time had finally come. He jumped up from his seat. "Oh, all right then. It's me! Ta-dah!" He exclaimed and slid in front of the cameras and into the center of attention, stealing the US president's limelight. "Sorry, sorry. I have this effect. People just get obsessed. Is it the smile? Is it the aftershave? Is it the capacity to laugh at myself? I don't know. It's crazy!"

"Saxon! What are you rambling about!" The US president addressed him in a stern voice.

Saxon crossed his arms and looked down at him with the same haughtiness that Donna would have recognized all too well. "I'm taking control, uncle Sam. Starting with you." He turned to the Toclefane hovering next to him. "Kill him." He simple stated. The Toclefane shot out an orange beam and incinerated Winters, and he combusted into a cloud of burning ashes. A woman screamed and chaos erupted, with everyone trying to flee in panic. Saxon's men pulled out their weapons.

"Nobody move." The head commander barked. Saxon laughed cruelly as the men and women froze under the threats and were herded together in the middle of the room. The Doctor rushed towards him, using the commotion as a cover, but was quickly apprehended by the guards. They forced him to kneel down in front of Saxon.

"We meet at last, Doctor!" Saxon's voice was slick and dripped with sarcasm, while his smile broadened into a malicious grin. "Oh, I do love saying that…"

The Master, who stood in the shadow in the back of the room and had remained unnoticed to both the Doctor and his former self, quietly observed the drama that played out in front him. It intrigued him that he did know Donna's precious Doctor after all, and he knew himself well enough to immediately see that the defeat of the other Timelord exhilarated him. Saxon glowed like a kid who had just discovered his greatest present under the Christmas tree. But what he didn't understand is why he hated him so much. Did the Doctor wrong him in the past, or did he wrong the Doctor? His train of thoughts was interrupted when the male companion ran forward in an attempt to take down Saxon but was shot dead with one well-aimed beam from the laserscrewdriver. The girl rushed over to him and cradled him in her arms.

Master, just calm down! Just look at what you're doing and stop. If you could see yourself." The Doctor pleaded.

Saxon stepped down the bridge towards his prisoner. He gazed down at him, amused.

"It's that sound, the sound inside your head. What if I could help?" The Doctor tried.

Saxon shrugged indifferently. "Oh how to shut him up." He snorted. "I never had a good solution for that continuous yapping of yours. By the way, you should reconsider your choice of companions Doc, they get dumber and dumber with each incarnation, and I'm not talking about the girlie and the freak here."

He gestured to his men and they brought in Donna, who was fighting every step till she saw the man knelt down in front of Saxon.

"Doctor!" She wanted to rush towards him, but was held back by the guards. "Oh I'm so glad I found you!"

"Donna? Donna Noble?" The Doctor stumbled. "What are you doing here?"

"I was trying to contact you!"

"What? But why? Why now?" The Doctor looked puzzled for a moment, but quickly turned his attention back to Saxon. "Why is she here? Let her go! She has nothing to do with this."

"Really? So you didn't send her down snuffling in the cargo deck then?" He aimed the laserscrewdriver and fired. Donna shrunk away as the beam hit the floor right in front of her feet.

"Stop it!" The Doctor yelled. "No more killing! Please, I beg of you!"

"Oh, you're just saying that because I can only kill her once, unlike freakboy over there." Saxon pouted, and burst into laughter.

Donna was forced to kneel down next to the Doctor. She glanced over at him. "Doctor." She whispered. "Don't fear him. It's going to be all right." She took his hand. "I know you Doctor, I mean, really know you. I'm not who you think I am." She bent towards him and whispered her secret into his ear.

"Hey! Stop that! You naughty girl!" Saxon motioned to his men and they dragged the Doctor away from Donna. As he was pulled away, the Doctor kept staring at her, his eyes wide in disbelief and fear.

The Master sat down on the steps, facing the Doctor, and relishing the fear he saw in his eyes.

"You know Doc, I have to confess, you didn't exactly run into me by accident. I did some planning on my side. Remember professor Lazarus? And his genetic manipulation device?"

He turned his head and looked at Martha.

"Or did you think that your little sister Tish got that job merely based on her wits?" He returned his gaze to the Doctor. "I've been laying out traps for you all this time."

He rose up slowly while he played with his laserscrewdriver, letting it balance between his fingers.

"If I could just concentrate all that Lazarus technology into one little screwdriver…" He paused for a moment. "But…oh, if only I had the Doctor's biological code."

He tapped his fingers under his chin in mock contemplation. "Wait a minute!" He snapped his fingers and rushed over to the silver case that stood on the conference table. "I have his hand!" He opened it, and exposed a glass jar with a severed hand inside. The Doctor turned pale.

"And if Lazarus made himself younger." Saxon mused, and twisted the laserscrewdriver. The light on the tip of the device switched on, producing a low and threatening humming sound. "What if I reverse it Doctor, with what…a hundred years?"

Saxon fired the laserscrewdriver at the Doctor. The beam hit him full in the chest, and the Doctor screamed and convulsed in pain as the device started aging every living cell in his body at frightening speed.

Donna watched with a horrified expression on her face. This wasn't right, she thought. She knew from her memories that the Master was defeated almost the minute that president Winters was assassinated, but that didn't happen. And now, that monster was doing something horrifying to the Doctor, he was destroying him in front of her eyes.

Saxon finally stopped, allowing the Doctor to raise himself up from the floor. His face had turned into that of a very old man, and his fragile body shivered of the very effort that it took to move his wasted muscles.

Martha gazed at him, her face struck by grief and fear. Jack revived and opened his eyes.

"Teleport." He whispered to her and handed her the manipulator.

"I can't." Martha spoke softly.

"We can't stop him. Get out of here. Get out."

The Doctor collapsed on the floor. Martha crawled to his side and took him in her arms.

"I've got you." She whispered, her voice strained with grief.

Saxon was delighted. "Ah, our would-be doctor. But tonight, Martha Jones, we've flown them in all the way from prison…"

The door swept open and Martha's family was brought in by the guards. It pained Donna to see how Martha had to watch helplessly how they were ushered into the room like cattle and were left at the mercy of this ruthless madman.

"The Toclefanes." The Doctor spoke, his voice terribly weakened. "What are they?"

Saxon's mad smile turned into a sadistic grin. "If I told you Doctor. Your hearts would break."

"Is it ready Master?" The first Toclefane questioned.

"Is the machine singing?" Asked the second.

Saxon checked his watch. "Two minutes past." He replied and mounted the stairs with two steps at the time. He turned to the cameras that were still rolling. "So Earthlings! Basically, it's the end of the world." His smile widened, he raised his laserscrewdriver high as if it was a king's scepter, and shouted from the top of his lungs.

"HERE COME THE DRUMS!"

Somewhere in the belly of the great airship, the paradox machine activated, and time itself was altered, violently ripped apart to allow the creation of a massive paradox. The sky spit open and an army of Toclefanes, six billion strong, entered through the rift and rained down like a cloud of deadly arrows that darkened the sky.

"Decimate them! Remove one tenth of the population!" Saxon ordered.

His army descended upon the people of the earth, entered their buildings, or caught them out in the open, and killed every tenth person that they encountered. Slitting, slicing and dismembering till blood washed over the streets of Tokyo, London and New York. All over the world, the human race was being massacred.

Donna cried when she heard the desperate pleads for help that flooded in via the intercom.

#Valiant, this is London, people are being slaughtered! They're everywhere! Help us!#

#Valiant, the London Unit headquarters are under attack! What do we do?#

#For God's sake! Help us! My men are dying!#

Her heart hardened to stone when she realized that her mum and granddad were down there, suffering the same fate. She looked at the Doctor, who lay huddled against Martha, his brilliant spirit crushed under Saxon's tyranny. She gazed at Martha's family, with their faces devoid of hope and struck down by fear, and she stared at Jack, who was gutted by the defeat and horrified by the lost of so many lives.

And all the time, the cries of the dying and wounded were ringing in her ears.

She couldn't take anymore of this.

She crawled to the Doctor who looked her in the eyes and immediately understood what she was attempting to do.

"Donna, no." He whispered.

Donna took the sonicscrewdriver out of the Doctor's pocket, and hid it up her sleeve.

"I have to. I can't let this happen."

She kissed him quickly on his forehead.

"Harry!" Lucy Saxon warned. "That woman you found in the cargo-bay, she took something from the Doctor!"

Harold Saxon turned around, just when Donna sprung up from her position and pointed the sonicscrewdriver at his hearts.

Saxon eyed at her maliciously. "So, it's Donna Noble, isn't it? Tell me, what are you exactly planning to do with that?"

"I'm going to kill you." Donna spoke, her voice trembling.

Saxon's men pointed their arms at her, and the three Toclefanes in the room closed in on her with their blades exposed.

"Really?" Saxon laughed. He didn't seem to be intimidated at all. "And you are trying to convince me that you, with your feeble Earthling brain, know how a sonicscrewdriver works?"

Donna swallowed hard. "No." She whispered. "But I would figure it works kinda like a laserscrewdriver. The funny thing is, that it was you who taught me how to use one." She activated the Doctor's weapon and a blue light erupted that shot straight at Saxon's chest.

"No!" The Doctor screamed. Saxon leaped aside but was struck in the shoulder. The beam didn't incinerate him, but passed right through his flesh without causing any damage, and collided with the control console on the bridge where it deactivated the security system. Donna's eyes widened, the sonicscrewdriver trembled in her hands when all the doors in the room slid open simultaneously and triggered the alarms.

"You taught me…how to open locked doors…" Donna mumbled, her courage sank into her shoes when she realized that she had made a horrible mistake. Saxon descended the stairs calmly. "Disarm her." He ordered, and his guards grabbed Donna by her arms and took the screwdriver away from her.

"Donna Noble." Saxon hissed, and took his own laserscrewdriver and pushed the tip under her chin. "The one companion of the Doctor, who would always be lovingly remembered as the woman who was too stupid to use a screwdriver." He gazed at the Doctor triumphantly. "Oh don't look so anxious Doc, you know I'm gonna get rid of all of them eventually. There is nothing you can do about it. At least I promise to let you watch." He activated the weapon in his hand. "So let me start with the most annoying one, this noisy, red tart from Cheswick."

A red light beamed across the room and struck Saxon. It burnt his hand and he dropped his laserscrewdriver on the floor, while he yelled out in pain and surprise.

"Who did this?" He screamed. Suddenly, a man dressed like a mechanic appeared out of thin air and rushed at Donna Noble. A silver piece of metal dangled from a rope around his neck and sent out strong waves of dimensional distortions. Saxon immediate understood that it was a deception filter. A good one that was designed well enough to fool him. The man shot down the two guards and pulled Donna away, but Saxon had just enough time to catch a glimpse of his face.

Donna was forced to the ground with the Master on top, shielding her off from the Toclefanes who now sprung into action. He grabbed her hand and pushed down hard on the metal device secured around his neck. The emergency teleport that he created from what was left of the future Toclefane switched on and they were transported from the airship and out of danger.

26.

They materialized at the exact same spot where the Valiant disk had crashed landed a day before in the sewage system of central London, and plunged down into the water basin. When Donna emerged back to the surface, she stared straight into the Master's face and panicked.

"Get away from me!" She shoved an elbow in his neck and pushed his head back down under the water. "Murderer!" She screamed. "You murderer!"

The Master fought her off, and forced himself back to the surface, where he swallowed air and water into his lungs.

"Stop it! It's me you stupid bint! Donna!" He dodged her blind kicks and blows and grabbed her head between his hands, forcing her to look her in the eyes. "It's me! Calm down. I've got you out. You're safe. You're safe now."

Donna stopped pounding on his chest with her fists and froze. "You're…you're the Master."

"Yes. Yes I am." The Master said, half irritated, while trying to regain his breath and coughing up water.

"Harold Saxon, and the Master, they are the same." She spoke as if in shock. "You did those horrible thing to the Doctor and Martha and Jack. You killed all those people." She staggered back away from him.

"Donna." The Master splashed after her.

"Oh don't Donna me!" She hissed, retrieving some of her fiery personality. You are a bloodthirsty monster! And I saved you from Unit while I should have let you rot!"

"Donna, wait!"

Screams erupted from the streets above. The Toclefanes were clearing out entire London, murdering anyone they encountered in their path. Donna's breath caught when she saw the dark stains that spread over the side of the basin. It came from the blood of the victims that spilled from the sewage wells, and slivered in thick streams down the walls into the sewage tunnels below. A dark sense of desperation overtook her. She struggled further, wading through cold water, while the tears started to roll down her cheeks.

"Donna, please wait. I can help!"

She halted, but didn't turn to look at him.

"Don't try to get out there on your own. He's going to hunt you down and kill you. You're not safe."

The Master came after her, and placed his hand on her shoulder. Donna swallowed.

"Stay with me. I'll keep you safe."

"Why?" She finally turned to face him. "Why are you doing this?"

"Because we're in the same predicament. He saw me Donna. He knows who I am, and believe me…" The Master swallowed a lump in his throat and shook his head fearfully. "I know what's going on inside his paranoid head. Someone who thinks and acts like him, and can predict every step he's about to undertake, he sees it as a threat. A potential danger that should be eliminated. Even if the opponent is his future self. That's how his brain works. And thanks to that paradox machine, he can get rid of me without consequences." He looked at Donna, his eyes pleaded with her to understand. "To be frank, one way or the other, I'm fucked."

"He's mad." Donna muttered to herself. "Well, you're mad." She gazed at him, suspicious and confused. "And now what, you're one of the good guys now? You want me to trust you? Are insane? You brought this down on us, all this death and destruction, you were responsible for all of it!"

"And I can make it stop!" He replied solemnly. "Donna, I saw it in your mind when you restored me. You can't remember any of this because in your perception, in your version of reality, this never happened, and I can't exist if this continues. For me to become who I am I need my former self to be defeated, how moronic this ever may sound. Trust me. I'm on your side. I have no choice."

Donna gazed back at the Master, her emotions in turmoil. She hated him for what he had done, but she also realized that she needed to trust him. In her heart she wanted so much to believe that what he was telling her was true. Outside, the world was coming to an end, and she felt like she was all on her own, with no one left to help her except for him.

She sighed. "All right. But if you betray me or the Doctor, I swear to God, you're gonna wake up one day with a knife sticking out of your neck."

A ghost of a smile appeared on the Master's face. "Nothing worse than a woman scorned." He remarked, and offered her a hand. Donna took it, hesitantly.

TBC

As always, reviews and comments are much appreciated.