Title: The Master and The Rose
Story Summary: In a different universe, Rose Tyler is surviving in dystopian London when she meets a mysterious, compelling man – the Master. She helps him carry out his plans, but then the universes start fracturing, and somehow Rose is the key.
Chapter one was originally going to be twice as long, but it made better sense to cut it here, making the remainder chapter two. You'll see what I mean. It could have worked as one chapter, but flowed better as two.
THE MASTER AND THE ROSE
Rose eyed the building dubiously. Just another dirty, abandoned tenant block, it looked nothing special. But Mickey swore he'd seen some high-end electronics being carried in a couple of days ago, and, well, Mickey could be a bit of a thickhead at time but when it came to technology there was no one like their Mick. So here Rose was, having a look around to see if there was an easy way in.
Rose was what one of the demographics experts on the telly would have called 'a prime example of Britain's modern generation.' In these dystopian days, when cutthroat gangs roamed the dirty, dead-end London slums, a result of the city's economic collapse a half-century earlier, and children regularly starved or froze to death in the city's icy streets, almost everyone Rose's age was a criminal of some sort. Well, what else was there but crime, when from the time you were a kid your family couldn't feed you even if they cared enough anyway?
Rose and the other Cats – Mick, Shareen, Jimmy, Ace – had been stealing for as long as they could remember, and they'd been a gang since Rose was seven and the charity school burnt down. It hadn't been a great place, school, but it had been nice to drop in sometimes and pretend you were in a different world for a bit. Once the school'd got hold of a TV and a second-hand VCR and Rose, enthralled, had watched the tapes all day long with the rest of the grade-one-level attending that day. There'd been one about Africa, all strange animals and exotic people and landscapes, another about Ancient Rome, which was about as far from 21st century London as you could get, and finally a tape all about Cardiff.
Cardiff, capital of the Republic of Wales, all gleaming metal and shining glass, and public gardens full of softness and color. It had been a recruitment tape – "You could work in Wales, and live like this!" – and some of the kids had talked afterwards of how they wanted to live there one day. It was their fairytale city. A month later the school burnt down and Rose had gathered the most competent and likeable in of her age and grade-level – Michael Smith, who lived in her building, Shareen Walters, whose older sister'd taught her how to cook and clean and manage, James Stone who could pick locks and pickpocket even better than Rose could, and Candace Ifans who was smartest in the entire school. Mick, Shareen, Jimmy, and Ace. Together with Rose they made up the Cats, and were as aloof, independent and territorial as any feline.
Now Rose frowned at the old apartment building calculatingly. She had one of Jimmy's home-made 'lock picks' in her pocket, which should get the old fire-escape door open. Swiftly she clambered up the rusted metal stairs, distributing her weight cautiously and making as little noise as possible, testing the stairs as she went.
It took a bit of manoeuvring but sure enough Rose eventually got the door open and slipped cautiously inside, eyes scanning for movement and her trained ears picking up every sound. Rose moved down the hallway, slowly moved into the next room
…and stopped dead in astonishment.
Bloody sodding crashes! she thought wonderingly. The room was filled with shimmering flat screens and quietly humming, sleek black cases. Even the keyboards were flat and shapely.
Rose had never seen such technology in all her lie. She'd thought that the old laptop she'd filched from another gang for Mickey last year with its clunky, clattering keyboard and flickering screen had been something, but next to these wonders of technology it was just a piece of old junk. Rose moved forward to touch the nearest keyboard, but as she reached out a hand closed around her wrist in an iron grip.
Bollocks! Shareen said no one'd come in here since last night!
Rose twisted and tried to kick the person holding her, but they were just as quick
– she found herself being held against someone's body, arms above her head and bent back at the elbow so that her wrists were behind her neck.
"Well well," a male voice breathed in her ear, "what have we got here?"
He forced her forward a little so that their bodies weren't pressed up against each other any more and his mouth was no longer next to her ear, and announced in a cheerful voice,
"I see you were admiring my computer systems. Marvellous, aren't they? The advertising industry's got into a bit of a bad habit of calling things like cars and phones sexy but these, I think, actually are. Who'd have thought you could get turned on by hardware?"
One hand tried to have a bit of a wander.
"Sod off!" Rose grunted, trying to break free.
Somehow she was twirled easily and found herself looking into the face of her captor. He was giving her a manic grin.
"Oh, we can't have that," he said, mock-sorrowfully, "You haven't heard all about what my wonderful hardware does yet."
Rose was twirled again and her head forced down and closer to a screen.
"This," said the voice by her ear again while one hand reached around her and tapped something rapid on the keyboard and a window unfolded on the screen, "is 24th century London. Shiny, new, and just declared the capital of the Welsh Empire and the home of the Welsh president."
"You're mad," Rose said, "completely bonkers."
On screen was a new, clean city of reddish brick and warm shades of gleaming brown wood. Some buildings were tall, shining towers with impossible spires, while another looked like a pyramid of glass, sending rainbows dancing where the light hit it. Other buildings were made of smooth, pale sandstone. This was a living, organic city, a place that warmed the heart and enriched the imagination even as it met physical needs.
The hand on her wrists tightened painfully at her exclamation and Rose shut up, but the voice continued without pausing.
"Elections are taking place in this future to decide the president. That's what I want, what all this technology is for. So that in 2326, I become the Welsh president so that I can unleash my vision upon the world."
Abruptly Rose was released. She whirled, stepping backwards out of range as she did so.
In front of her stood a clean, well-groomed man in an impeccable suit. Unlike the clothing worn by everyone Rose knew, which was stolen and swapped and never quite the right size, this suit had clearly been made for him. It fit perfectly, cleanly following the lines of his body, broadening the shoulders and narrowing the waist through ingenious tailoring. His skin tone was fair, but not pale, his hair a sort of gingery colour. He had a rounded face full of unexpected angles, with small features and eyes that were as hard and cold as concrete and didn't match the energetic, mad grin he wore.
"But you don't believe a word, do you?" he asked. "I tell you what, you're living in a chaotic dystopian age, probably part of a street gang, you need to know how to look after yourself and your fellows, so I'm sure you have a bit of basic medical knowledge. Come here."
She stared at him, wondering what he was going to do.
"Come on, I don't bite," he grinned, giving a kind of disturbing smile that gave the lie to his words. He beckoned.
Somehow, under that compelling gaze, Rose found herself edging closer. He seized one of her hands.
"Now, I take it you can tell a heartbeat when you feel it?" Raising his eyebrows, he opened his jacket and pressed her hand against his shirt front so she could feel his heart beating beneath it. Then, with a flourish, he moved her hand to the right side of his chest. He grinned at her.
Rose just stared at where her hand was pressed to his chest, frenetic heartbeat throbbing against her palm. Strong beats, then lighter ones following a split-second behind. She was so stunned that she momentarily forgot the potential danger the man represented.
"You've got two hearts."
Rose blinked twice and composed her expression. She kept staring up at him though.
"What are you?"
His eyes glittered.
"I'm a Time Lord," he said quietly, voice full of satisfaction at that fact. "Last of the Time Lords of the planet Gallifrey. I am the Master."
Rose stared at him. He radiated magnetism and sheer power and as she stared his eyes drew her in, enigmatic and hypnotic.
Suddenly he let go of her hand, still resting against his chest, and turned to begin rapidly tapping commands at a different keyboard.
"If you want to be president in 2326, then what are you doing here?" Rose wanted to know. "That's, like, more than three hundred years away."
"Ah, but the future is built on the past, isn't it," he replied, tapping away. "So if you change the past, even the slightest bit, then that allows change in the future. So if I make all the right changes here in this time, that improves the likelihood of my being elected president in that one."
"Is that what all the computers are for, then?" Rose asked.
"Exactly. They monitor the current timeline and calculate precisely what needs to be changed when so that I can alter the timeline enough to make me president."
Abruptly he turned and stood in her personal space, smiling that disquieting sociopath's smile.
"But why," he continued, still smiling, "do you need to know all this?"
Rose's chin lifted, in defiance of the prickling sense of danger.
"Once you're president, what then?" she said instead of answering.
"Then I begin my plans to conquer the galaxy."
Still smiling. But Rose believed him.
"Let me help."
The Master started laughing, a derisive, genuinely amused laugh full of cruelty.
"What, you, a human?" he sneered. "A pathetic little ape with no reflexes, no strength and most importantly very little brain?" He laughed again, full of scorn.
"I'm not that stupid," Rose told him, "and I'm fast, and like you said, I've grown up in a world o' chaos, an' death, an' fighting. Can you tell me they're like that in that future I just saw, all that cleanness an' neatness? Can you tell me I honestly wouldn't be useful in a soft posh world like that?"
The Master started laughing again.
"and why would you want to help me? I'll destroy your world."
"Coz there's something different 'bout you," Rose said determinedly. "You're strong, and smart, an' just talking to you I can feel the power coming off you, in just waves. You get what you want. You've got plans, great, big, ambitious plans, bigger'n me an' my while world even, and I want to be a part of that."
His eyes were glittering again.
"Really?" he demanded. "You want to help an alien with absolutely no morals or conscience conquer your world and your people to exploit for their own destructive purposes?"
"Right then. We'll see how you go." He turned back to the keyboard, but a thought struck him and he faced her again.
"I suppose you have a name?"
"Rose," Rose replied, wondering if it really was as easy as all that. "Rose Tyler."
"Right, Rose, how 'bout you go make me a cuppa tea and then I can show you how to track the figures." His smile was bright but his eyes were cold. "You can make yourself useful."
And that was how it began.