Zoe awoke suddenly at a rumble of thunder from outside. She looked at the clock on her right. It said 12am.
Huh, she thought, it's not often you wake up at exactly midnight to a thunderstorm. Her half-asleep mind recorded this as one of the neat trivialities life threw in to make interesting. She turned over in her sleeping bag and tried to go back to sleep (and the really nice dream involving David Tennant feeding her grapes while in a toga).
A bolt of blue lightning so bright it lit up the sky like morning struck. Zoe yelped and jumped. She wasn't afraid of thunderstorms- she'd been through much worse- but this one was making her jittery.
She shivered and the hairs on her arms stood up. That last strike had cast a strange blue light through the walls of the tent she was sharing with her dad. Unzipping the side of her sleeping bag, Zoe shakily got up and moved to the tent flap to peek out at the sky.
A massive column of clouds that seemed to go on forever hovered above the ruins of Machu Picchu. Purple, red, blue, and gold streaks of energy swirled in them, creating what looked like a vortex from a sci-fi show. Zoe's jaw dropped as she realized the blue lightning coming from the clouds was hitting the same spot.
She had seen many things while travelling the globe with her dad, but nothing compared to this. The lightning was like nothing she knew- not jagged or broken up, but straight and identical to each strike before. It was hitting in a familiar four-beat pattern Zoe couldn't quite place.
She turned to the sleeping figure of her father on the other side of the tent, eager to share the strange sight with him.
"Dad!" When a gentle shake didn't rouse him, she sighed.
"Guess I'll have to explore on my own," she murmured.
She pulled on a big cable-knit sweater over her sleep shirt and plaid pyjama pants, then checked her hiking boots for bugs before slipping her feet in. Grabbing her rucksack as a precaution, and taking a torch out of it, she slipped into the brisk night.
The ruins of Machu Picchu were illuminated by a mix of the continuous lightning and full moon. It had been beautiful during the day, when she'd taken pictures, but know it was something else entirely. Chillingly magical and exhilarating, her gaze was torn between the storm-cast scene and the treacherous path, illuminated by her torch.
With a pace fueled by adrenaline, Zoe reached the top of a hill and paused to get her bearings, hot breath revealed in the crisp mountain air.
While searching for the best route forward (she couldn't remember why she was heading towards the lightning), the strikes picked up speed, still hitting in the same spot and in the same pattern. It was such a brilliant blue it seemed white. Zoe lifted her arm in an effort to block the light, yet she couldn't look away. Hypnotized by the phenomena, she stared as the lightning struck faster and faster until it ended in a giant flash that left the sky looking like it was day for a full minute.
Zoe blinked in the return to darkness. The swirling clouds and lights were still looming above, but the night seemed strangely still in lieu of the lightning.
Then she saw it. A flicker of light where the lightning had been hitting, like a torch in the dark, and below it what seemed to be writing. She squinted trying to read it.
"Pol… ublic… all… ox," was all she could make out, but it was enough.
It can't be; it can't be. It's impossible. Completely impossible that the TARDIS just landed in Machu Picchu she thought. Another voice popped into her head and whispered "Never say never ever."
"Shut up David," Zoe growled out loud. Any other remarks to her inner Doctor were stifled when what seemed to be a door opened, letting loose a red (or was it mauve?) light. A man's silhouette appeared against it.
"Hmm. Not big enough to be Nine, not skinny enough to be Ten. Eleven? Nah, his hair would be more noticeable."
Rassilon's Garter Belt! she chastised herself. You're acting like this is real! Get a grip! Obviously I'm dreaming. That makes sense; I did have a very long day.
The door to the 'phone box' shut, cutting off the light coming out of it. In the mostly-darkness, still lit by the swirling clouds and moon, Zoe thought she could see something (the man?) moving.
A strange need compelled her to head in that direction as fast as possible. Even though this wasn't real, she wanted to play along.
Her blood was pounding as she scrambled down a path, winding between remnants of the old Incan city. She was so focused on getting to the Police box a stifled scream escaped her lips when she ran into something. Scratch that; someone.
It could only be the man who'd come from the TARDIS; it's not like many people wandered the ruins of Machu Picchu at night.
For a moment they stood looking at each other. Zoe was wide-eyed with feet spread out, ready to run. The man stood tall and still as a statue in a shadow cast by a half-destroyed wall.
He broke the silence first. "Who are you?"
The man was silent for a moment, leaving Zoe to wonder what he was thinking. She still couldn't see his features amidst the shadows.
"So you're not Bad Wolf?"
Whatever Zoe was expecting him to say, this was nowhere on the list. "What?!"
"Are you Bad Wolf?"
"No! No one's Bad Wolf! She's not real, psycho! Where'd you come from? What asylum?" She stepped back warily, but he just stepped forward.
"I assure you, girl, Bad Wolf is very real and very important. Now if you aren't Bad Wolf, someone else here is."
"Here? You do realize this is Machu Picchu, don't you? Just me and my dad and maybe five Peruvians for miles."
The mysterious figure came even closer, out of the shadows, revealing a face with eyes narrow and dark, black hair, and harsh features. Simply put, intimidating.
"The coordinates were very clear and exact. If you're the only one close by, you must be Bad Wolf."
"Why do you keep saying that?! Bad Wolf is an entity; a combination of Rose Tyler and the Vortex!"
"But you know of it."
Zoe snorted. "As does half of Britain and thousands around the world."
"I've crossed universes to find Bad Wolf and I'm not leaving without it. I know you're Bad Wolf, even if you don't know that yet. The TARDIS lead me here to find he/her/it- whatever- and the TARDIS is never wrong."
"Right. The TARDIS. Of course. Why did I expect anything different?! You're already obviously crazy and obsessed with Doctor Who! It only makes sense you have a TARDIS too!" Zoe swung her arms about wildly, the torch's beam skimming across the surrounding ruins.
"What next?! A sonic screwdriver?!" She said, voice raising to a painfully high pitch.
Unfazed, the man calmly replied. "Laser, actually. Who'd have sonic?"
Zoe stilled and tried to regulate her breathing.
"Who are you?" she whispered.
The man took another step towards her.
Zoe backed up hysterically shaking a finger at him.
"No. No, no, no, no, no! Of all the fictional people to be, you have to be the Master!"
"You know me?" The stranger sounded a bit taken aback.
"Sort of. I've never seen you with that face." Zoe shook her head. "Wait a minute! What am I talking about?! You're not the Master!"
"I think I know who I am," the man replied tersely.
Zoe couldn't resist. It came out almost reflexively.
"You think you know? How stupid are you?"
A moment of silence hung between the two of them until 'the Master' spoke in a soft and somewhat wistful tone.
"Rassilon, you sound like him."
Zoe shifted feet, confused at the rapid changes of mood.
"Oh. Of course," She said with sarcasm, and crossed her arms. "Speaking of him, where is he? With you here- if you were the Master that is- he shouldn't be far behind."
The man drew himself up and stiffened. "He's dead," he answered in a flat voice.
Zoe looked at him in shock. "No. Oh no- you didn't!"
"Didn't kill him? You're right, I didn't. He died saving me."
"Well," Zoe said, attempting to deal with this news, "That's very him, isn't it?"
A growl came from the figure and he drew closer to her, fire burning in his eyes.
"Make up your mind! One minute you insist I'm not real, the next you speak as if you know me!"
"But you're just a character! In a television show! That I watch!"
The man didn't speak for a minute. He looked into her eyes and seemed to consider what she'd said.
"That would explain the way you're acting. It would explain a lot of things actually."
"Like why you were thrown in an asylum?" Zoe mumbled moodily. The stranger pretended not to notice.
"I may be a fictional character in this universe, but I'm real in my own."
"What, like you crossed the Void?"
"Yes." Zoe rejoiced when the man sounded surprised. "You know a lot about me."
"That's 'cause I'm a zealot when it comes to the show. I'm not the biggest fan, but I'm considered an authority on it," she said, just a teensy bit smug.
"Do you know who Bad Wolf is? In my universe, I mean."
"Course. Rose Tyler."
"Are there any similarities between you and… Rose Tyler?"
She blinked. "Um… My full name is Rosemary Zoe Taylor and hers is Rose Marion Tyler. I'm 19 and that's how old she was when she met the Doctor. I… I also only have one parent alive… like her." Zoe swallowed a lump in her throat. Her mum had died four years ago from cancer.
"Why does all this matter?" She snapped, shaking the mood off.
"Because Bad Wolf never happened in my universe, and it was supposed to. It needed to. Whatever Bad Wolf is, it's big enough to be vital for the survival of the cosmos."
"Well, duh! It involved all of time and space."
The man- Master?- shook his head slowly in disbelief. "I don't think I wanna know. All I know is Rose Marion Tyler was never Bad Wolf and never met the Doctor. Somehow, it got erased."
"So go back and make sure she does."
"It's not that simple. Time is already paper thin and fragile because of the Chaos. If I go back and do that on purpose because of what I know, it would create a paradox. My universe would doubtlessly collapse if that happened."
Zoe frowned. "But I thought paradoxes happened all the time?"
The stranger ran a hand through his short hair and sighed. It was the most… human reaction the Master had ever had, Zoe realized. It made him look so normal.
"Look, imagine it like this- and please know I'm only explaining this to you out of pity; time is like a house of cards in my universe right now: extremely unstable. Now, my card house is uneven and it's starting to wobble. A breeze coming through a window isn't helping it much either. So, to stabilize my card house, I could either move a card around or add a new one. Which one is the better choice?"
"Adding a card," Zoe said slowly, starting to understand now.
"Exactly. Moving one would undoubtedly bring the house tumbling down. But adding one… that's almost guaranteed to work. Do you see why I need Bad Wolf from this universe; an 'extra card' if you will?"
"Yeah, I do actually," Zoe nodded, proud of herself. "But you said I'm Bad Wolf. What makes you think that?"
Zoe had to digest that for a minute.
"I don't get it."
"Ever since I was eight I've heard the sound of drums," he began to explain.
"Yeah, yeah, I know that," Zoe said impatiently.
The Master looked at her suspiciously. "Just how much do you know about me?"
"Enough, Koschei," She replied with a sniff and lift of her chin. The Master's eyes widened perceptively.
"How do you- ? Never mind. Not important and not enough time." He dismissed her knowledge of his name with a wave of his hand. "The thing is, they were a warning. I only discovered this after the universe started to end, of course. The Doctor and I- we actually worked together as the last two Time Lords in existence- realized if we ran the beat through some equations and complicated theories your puny human brain can't comprehend, it could lead us to a solution. In the end it provided coordinates here. The numbers also made two words when we ran it through a different equation."
"Bad Wolf," Zoe hazarded a guess.
"Exactly. And for whatever reason, you're the only one who can fill Bad Wolf's role."
"That's ridiculous," she scoffed.
"I know. I'm surprised it all comes down to a dirty ape too."
Zoe shot him a look. "Okay, say you're really the Master and everything you've said is true. What exactly am I supposed to do?"
"Easy. Come to my universe and do whatever this Rose Tyler was supposed to do."
"Will I be able to come back?"
The Master shrugged. "Life's full of surprises, but that one is about as likely as getting a pony for your birthday."
Zoe thought about it intensely. This could be the chance of a lifetime. How many times had she dreamed of travelling with the Doctor? But her Dad needed her. She couldn't leave him alone for good, and frankly she didn't want to.
"Right," she said firmly, "As cool and tempting as that sounds, if it means I have to leave my universe and never see my family and friends again, I'll pass."
A feral grin spread on the Master's face and reminded Zoe he was essentially, at the end of the day, a villain.
"Who said you had a choice?"