When he steps out the side door of the hotel, he sees her.
She is leaning casually against the side of the building, back nestled against the crumbling brick wall. Her pale face, sharp nose, square jaw, is pointed towards the sky. A nearby streetlight throws a dirty halo of light over her hair and shoulders, causing her expression to waver, dark and light, ash and flame. Her shadow has bled out across the ground; starting at her feet and then spilling across the pavement, cracking the footpath in half. It is deep summer, late August, and the air is dense, heavy and electric. Contrary to the weather, she is wearing a deep blue leather jacket over a pink t-shirt. She looks odd standing there, like some sort of apparition. Her body is only partly illuminated and half of her face is eclipsed by a dark smudge of shadow. Her presence has caught him unawares. He had thought to be alone, but she is here.
She is inconvenient and he doesn't like surprises.
Reaching up he loosens his tie, pulling down his collar just a little so that he can feel the fresh air against his neck. He takes a deep breath and closes his eyes, quieting the static buzz of his brain. He studies the afterimage that her figure has impressed on the back of his eyelids. His eyes throb, layers of colour pulsing in sync with the pounding of his hearts and the pounding in his head. The woman standing in front of him has suddenly been transformed from a lone figure leaning against a building, into a hazy column of sparking gold that is surrounded by layers of deep red, purple, and a peculiar shade of brown that wavers and then fades into black. When he opens his eyes again, she is still there, but now, instead of watching the sky, she is watching a row of flats across the street.
On the other side of the road, a bus groans to a halt, hissing as it kneels to let off a few bleary late night passengers. He watches it for a moment, mesmerized by the clouds of grey smoke leaking slowly upwards from its archaic exhaust system. Soon, he thinks, the entire planet will be covered in smoke.
Soon, soon, soon.
The bus lets out a series of grunts and moans as it pulls away, which serve to shake him from his reverie. He steps towards the woman, enjoying the slender, almost predatory, grace of his new body. He likes it. He likes his long limbs, the timbre of his voice, and the wheat colour of his hair. He has never been blonde before and it has been so very long since he has been young. He moves silently, casually, until he is leaning against the wall beside her. She doesn't look up, keeps her eyes trained on the flats. He wanders if she knows someone that lives there.
"Long night," he asks of her coolly, angling his body slightly away from her so that she won't perceive him as an immediate threat. He has learned, in the past two months, that body language is everything to humans. Reaching into his pocket, he retrieves a partly flattened packet of cigarettes and pulls one out. He used to find the human habit of smoking disgusting, dirty, below him. But, living here, stuck on this overcrowded world in this paltry city, he has come to enjoy it. He likes the smooth taste of the tobacco, the tang of chemicals, and the silky burn of smoke that travels down his throat and then rolls back out across his tongue. It soothes him.
"You could say that," she responds to his question crisply, without bothering to look over at him. She is looking back up at the sky. This displeases him. There is nothing to see there. What exactly is she looking for? There are no stars, no moon. The clouds are thick with unshed rain and London's light reflects of their lumpy bottoms, turning the sky an unpleasant shade of brown, a colour akin to cat vomit or raw sewage. If it were clear, if they were away from the city, he decides on a whim that he would offer to tell her the names of the constellations that would be overhead. He would use the quaint Earth names of course. Cassiopeia, the reclining queen, reigning sovereign of the summer sky, the Big Dipper, low and obvious on the horizon, Cygnus, brash, bold with his swan wings spread wide. He glances over at her again and becomes even more annoyed. She still isn't looking at him. He doesn't like being ignored, especially when he is being charming.
Before lighting his cigarette, he holds out the pack to her. She finally looks at him and then glances down at his offering. She takes one, slender fingers slipping the cigarette out from under the crumpled foil. He strikes a match on the brick wall and offers her the flame, watching her carefully as she inhales. The glowing red of the cigarette's ember combined with the spark of his match have given a little extra illumination to her face and he decides that she is pretty, in an overgenerous way. Her mouth is too wide, her jaw too square, her eyebrows are two critical slashes set over a pair of brown eyes that are set too far apart. Everything about her is an exaggeration. He begrudgingly admits that it is an interesting face, if common. Her cigarette is lit and he pulls back to light his own, drawing in a great cloud of smoke that he pushes out through his nose in an effort to burn away the last lingering smells of the ridiculous hospital fundraiser he has just escaped from.
He had come out for some air, a moment of quiet. It had been stuffy inside, even with the benefit of air conditioning. Too hot, too many humans, too many smells and emotions pushing up against him and suffocating him with feelings, imagined needs and insignificant desires. The stink of spilled champagne, thick cigars, shoe polish, and face powder still lingers in his nostrils and he takes another drag, letting the smoke clear his senses. He scoffs inwardly; the smell of power on this planet is so primitive. Of course, none of the fools inside knows what real power is. Only he knows that. Again, he thinks of his master plan, of how the Earth will look once he has crushed it, culled it, smoke and fire, ash and flame. The Earth will bleed; the universe will bleed. He will be a god. He smiles, a small smile that barely turns up the corners of his mouth. He looks over at her to see if she has somehow shared in his private joke, to see if she is smiling along with him. She has stopped looking at the sky. Her gaze has drifted back to the flats across the street. She is not smiling.
"Waiting for someone?" he asks, clenching his jaw in irritation. Something about this woman unsettles him, threatens to crack his carefully polished exterior.
She shrugs and exhales a cloud of smoke. "I was looking for a friend. I thought he might be here, but I'm too early."
"His loss," he replies smoothly, trying to recover his equilibrium. He is charismatic, magnetic and sophisticated. People, planets, solar systems fall at his feet, eager to please him. She looks over at him. A little furrow of irritation has appeared between her eyes and he suddenly feels stupid for having said it, for having bothered to say anything at all. She turns away, dismissing him and he hides a sneer, pushing down the growing surge of anger that is fighting to claw its way out of his belly.
Rapidly, he flicks his tongue in and out of his mouth, briefly tasting the air around her so that he can better define what she is, because he is no longer sure. She tastes of vanilla and salt, sweet and bitter. He decides that there is something of the sea about her, something lonely and windblown, like an empty stretch of beach. She is human, of that he is certain, but there is something else there also, a taste, a scent, that is both electric and familiar. She is young, but she smacks of something older, something powerful. He squints and his gaze wavers, her outline blurs. It's as if he should know what she is, who she is, but something is clouding his mind, making it hard to see her clearly. It is frustrating and he can feel his careful control starting to unravel. She is maddening.
Abruptly she turns to look at him. He is startled out his daze as her eyes catch a stray ray of light and flash gold. What is she?
He gasps suddenly as sharp pain shoots through his head, and the drums that he always, always, hears in his head are amplified. Sound, a primordial rhythm begins to pulse in his veins, weaving its way around his spinal cord, his lungs, stomach, brain, eyes, tongue, until he is so tangled up, that he is reminded him once again, that he will never be free. Blood pounds in his head, his hearts press up against his ribcage and he shuts his eyes. He drops his cigarette and begins to fumble in his jacket pocket. He keeps his eyes tightly shut, afraid that if he opens them the woman will be gone, the ground beneath his feet will fall away and he will be left standing in front of the Untempered Schism. He will be a child again; a child cowed by timelessness, a child without the strength to runaway. He wants to run. He had wanted to run, but then the drums had come, the undying rhythm, the call to war, the cry of the eternal. Something ancient is fighting to wake up in his mind, some instinct left over from the days when his own people built houses in trees and Time Lords were nothing but a future dream. The woman is there in his mind, standing beside the Schism (or maybe she is inside of it), her figure is pulsing along with the drums; her eyes are endless twin pools of gold. Something whispers for him to run, run, run, quick, quickly. She is a predator; she is dangerous. And the drums, the drums, the drums, they pulse and pound.
Finally, his hand closes around what he is searching for and he pulls out the bottle of pills, clumsy fingers prying of the lid, throwing a handful down his dry throat. He swallows and the relief is almost instant, the drums fade, retreat into the corner of his mind, a dull cadence as opposed to an overpowering beat. The images fade, becoming pale in the way that dreams do, until he can't remember exactly what he has seen or what he has just heard. The Schism closes. He opens his eyes. She is staring at him. Her eyes aren't gold, they are a clear brown. She is human after all, just a girl. He must be more tired then he thought. He should take better care of this new body, he likes it too much to let himself become careless.
"Something the matter?" she asks, arms folded across her chest. There is the barest hint of concern (or maybe it is pity) in her voice and he notices for the first time that she has an accent. South London.
"Migraines." He replies promptly, the practiced lie flowing smoothly from his tongue. "There's this constant pounding in my head... the sound of drums. " He has surprised himself by telling her that. He has shown weakness, and that perhaps more than anything that has happened so far, angers him.
She studies him, her eyes narrowing, and the resentment in him grows. "Have you seen a doctor?"
There is something about the way she says doctor that catches him off guard and his hearts skip a few beats. He knows he is being paranoid, jumping at shadows. Still, he wonders again, exactly who she is. Why is she standing out here on this deserted side street? Why does she seem so familiar and why does her very presence set him on edge? Adrenaline surges through his body. His laser screwdriver is heavy in his pocket, cool metal pressing up against his chest. He could take it out, overpower her, and take her to the TARDIS for questioning. For a few mouth-watering seconds he lets his mind wander, linger over how much fun he would have breaking her, extracting all of her useless secrets. He would flood her mind with pain and desire, make her totally dependent upon him, make her hate him and love him at the same time. He would be Master and her insanity would be delicious.
But, he carefully reminds himself, the time isn't ripe. The Archangel Network has just been launched. He has just officially announced his candidacy for Prime Minister. It is still best to use caution, he must move slowly for his plan to work. There would be plenty of time for games later, if not with her than with someone else. He knows that, for know, he must restrain himself. He strikes another match against the brick wall, lights another cigarette. "You could say that," he replies carefully.
Her face gives away nothing; her features are smooth, an empty canvas onto which various expressions could easily be drawn. "And was he any help?"
He swallows and licks his lips, which suddenly feel dry even though the summer air is hot and moist. "What did you say your name was?"
She smiles at him, a slow playful smile that spreads across her face, transforming her merely pretty features into beautiful ones. For a moment, he is amazed. "You're Harold Saxon aren't you? My mum saw you on the telly, said you just announced you're running for Prime Minister."
He is confused by the abrupt change in subject and scrambles for something appropriate to say. "Yes. I'm Harold Saxon," he replies even as he allows himself to think, 'You will call me Master before the end; you will grovel at my feet.'
The smile on her face widens, turning into a grin. "She didn't like you."
He blinks, surprised. "Who?"
Her smile dims. "My mum, said you were a fake."
Rallying, he gives her his best politicians grin. "I'm sure she just hasn't heard all of my message yet."
Her grin is gone now, and she raises one eyebrow. "Do you think you'll win?"
There is quite plainly a double meaning in her words and he drops his facade, his lip turning up in a sneer. "Who are you," he hisses, the last of his sophisticated facade crumbling to reveal a temperamental monster.
She shrugs again, unperturbed by his display of temper. "No one. A ghost."
"I don't believe in ghosts," he manages to spit out; his hands begin to shake. He reaches up and places one hand on his chest, feeling the sharp, hard, outlines of the laser screwdriver. He suddenly does not know why he hasn't killed her, hasn't silenced her. He doesn't know what is stopping him know. But he is frozen and he makes no move to restrain her. He realizes that he desperately wants her to be afraid of him.
"Your loss," she replies steadily without a trace of fear, throwing his earlier words back at him. Something beeps in her pocket and she pulls out an older model cell phone that looks like it has been tampered with. The words jiggery pokery pop randomly into his head, and he wanders where the phrase came from. "My rides here," she says putting the phone back into her pocket.
He takes a deep breath, inhaling deeply, trying to calm himself, struggling to regain what she has unexpectedly caused him to lose. "Vote Saxon," he manages to choke out.
She takes one last drag off her cigarette and then flicks the stub into the street. His eyes involuntarily follow the path of the burning ember as it lands, spluttering, in the gutter. "You should see a doctor about those headaches; listen to what he has to say. He could help maybe." Her tone is heavy, and her eyes are dark, sad. Her pity, her oddness, the irregularity of her words, all of it tears at him.
"You should mind your own business," he shoots back at her. It is a lame response. He looks at her steadily, memorizing the contours of her face. He would remember, find her when the time was right, make her suffer.
She turns away. He reaches into his pocket searching for another cigarette to replace the one that he has already almost finished. She turns back and her gaze pins him against the wall, "Good-bye Master. I feel sorry for you."
A single wild drumbeat erupts from the back of his mind and knocks his brain sideways, erasing her words from his memory. He drops the pack of cigarettes on the ground, and cradles his head in his hands. "What did you say?" She is silent, watching him, "What did you say?"
She smiles, a grim, knowing smile. "I said good-night Mr. Saxon. It was... enlightening." She walks away, turns left and disappears behind the building. He is left alone to cradle his aching head in trembling hands.