8.

The Master came back into the bakery and kicked aside a box of the mutated yeast-cakes. It was obvious there wasn't much to be done on this front, seeing as the men he'd confronted had seemed all too confident there was an antidote for it. The Doctor's doing, no doubt. Still, what was one half-finished attempt at dominion when he would easily prevail the next time? After all, next time his adversary wouldn't be available to help those puny humans with their pathetically simplistic grasp of science.

He already had him captive, after all. Two of him, in fact. The very idea made him swell with pride. He truly was the Master, and he would make the Doctor bow to that fact, once and for all.

He was pacing back towards the apparent double-ovens, cracking his knuckles in anticipation of the repartee he would shortly enjoy, when a grinding sound made him pause. A new walk-in freezer faded into view on the other side of the room.

The Rani stepped out. She didn't look happy. "You're out of time. Where is it?"

The Master blinked at her, then carefully schooled his face into a congenial impassivity. "My dear Rani. So nice to see you again."

"Don't give me any of that small talk," she snapped. "The rod. You took it out and replaced it with this." She pulled an Earth-style ball-point pen from a pouch at her waist and held it up significantly. "Did you really think I wouldn't notice such a childish prank?"

He blinked at her again, this time in honest confusion. "That looks like a pen."

"Of course it's a pen," she said. "What it isn't it the matrical tube from my filimental osmotifier. You have ten seconds to either hand it over or explain yourself."

He put up his hands apologetically. "I really don't know what…"

"Nine."

"I kept my part of the…"

"Eight."

"… bargain! I didn't touch…"

"Seven."

"… that tube! But wait…"

"Six."

"…I did shortly find…"

"Five."

"…the Doctor here!"

"Four."

"A pen! It had to be him!"

"Three."

"The Doctor did it!"

"What?" the Rani said, frowning angrily. "Are you saying you not only stole my equipment, you left it laying around so the Doctor had his hands all over it as well?"

The Master's jaw shifted.

She waved her hands in the air. "Could you be any more asinine?"

"But!" the Master said, scrambling to set it right. "We have the Doctor. Both of him."

"What do you mean, both of him? You didn't…"

The Master smiled smugly as a cat, regaining his confidence. "I have his current regeneration as well. They're in my TARDIS. No doubt he can tell us where he's put your missing toy."

The Rani narrowed her eyes at the use of the term. "Open it up."

The Master hesitated. He had really wanted this particular moment of glory alone, but finally he turned and waved a hand. His TARDIS doors opened.

Pacing in, followed by the Rani, he called out ahead. "Doctors! I've a little surprise for you, a visitor…"

He stopped.

"Well? Where is he? Or them?" the Rani asked from the doorway.

A little flustered in spite of his suavity, the Master cast about the room for any sign of the missing prisoners. There wasn't even a chain to be seen. There was icing on his console, and one of the panels was laying open. The readings showed no other people on board. He went very quiet and after gathering himself a moment, strolled back to the doorway.

"They seem to be…"

"Missing? They got away, didn't they?" the Rani interrupted icily before he could spin a lie.

He followed her as she turned back to the kitchen.

"You…idiot! You imbecile!" the Rani ranted at him. "I hand him over to you practically on a silver platter and you can't even hold him in your own TARDIS!"

"It was only a moment…" the Master began, attempting to keep his face cool and composed, a losing battle in the face of such a crushing disappointment.

"Didn't you take any precautions at all?"

Stalling for time while he tried to decide on the best way forward, the Master held up the Doctor's sonic screwdriver. "You and I both know he never goes anywhere without this, one of them was already entirely stripped. What else would you have me take?"

The Rani suddenly reached out and smacked the sonic screwdriver right out of his hand, sending it skittering under the metal countertops where, unknown to them, it bumped up against the Doctor's shoe. He grinned down at it and quickly scooped it up.

"One just wasn't enough, was it?" she said angrily. "Oh no, you had to double his chances of outwitting you! I won't have this obsession of yours affecting my work anymore." She reached for the leather belt-pouch she wore and pulled up a vial, clicking it into a slender atomizing gun.

The Master frowned cautiously. "What is that?"

"Something to make your idiocy stop. Don't worry, it'll be quick, you'll be down to your basic skeletal structure in less than a minute."

The Master's eyes widened and he backed towards his TARDIS. "You wouldn't dare."

Her face was hard. She raised it up.

"Stop, I beg you!" said a voice and it wasn't the Master's.

They both stared as the Doctor stepped out from his concealment, flipping his cape back out of the way. "There's no need for all that. Leave off on the poor fellow. Look, I have your missing bit right here," he pulled the small tube from his pocket and waggled it in the air. "No need to make the poor chap regenerate over such a little thing."

The Master glowered at him with a strange blend of disbelief, disgust, anger and begrudging relief flickering over his features. "How dare you…"

"Besides, he might be worse next time," the Doctor pointed out very reasonably.

"Agreed!" said the Rani. "His pathetic hide would have been a waste of this anyway." She shrugged and smoothly returned the vial to her belt-pouch.

"I do not agree," said the Master, scrambling for any shred of control or dignity in the proceedings. "What advantage can he possibly have? Why are you letting him take you for a fool?"

"I know fools," said the Rain icily, measuring the Master with her eyes. "Occasionally I even find they have their uses."

"What advantage do I have?" the Doctor asked. "Tut-tut, I just saved your currently rather miserable and misguided life. You've a rather sorry way of saying thank-you."

"Hand it over," the Rani was saying, holding out her hand.

The Doctor tapped the small tube thoughtfully. "Certainly, my dear. Certainly, if you will promise to move on from here and leave Earth alone."

"Gladly," the Rani said with disgust. "I've lost too much time over this unwelcome interruption as it is."

The Doctor stepped forward and handed her the tube with a little bow and a smile. "And I do hope you'll try to keep your experiments from our mutual friend in the future. I've no desire to have to keep mopping them up."

"Doctor…" the Master's voice warned.

The Rani raised her brows and suddenly tossed her head back in a laugh. "Ah Doctor, always the charming one. You almost tempt me to keep you for myself for a while. Well done." She gestured at the Master. "Unlike that one. If you like, I'm half-inclined to capture him for you instead, if you want him."

"No, thank you," the Doctor said with a glance at his scowling adversary. "I'll be content if he'll be doing the same and clearing off. This world has enough of its own troubles without his adding to them."

The Rani was already going back into her TARDIS. "Well, I'll leave you to iron that one out yourselves. I have work to do. Until another time…hopefully a very long one…." her doors closed and the walk-in freezer faded out to grinding sound.

The Master still looked like thunder.

The Doctor turned to him, rubbing a finger over his chin. "Well, it got rid of her, didn't it? Sorry about the wounded pride thing, old chap. Couldn't just let her kill you there."

The Master didn't comment. He reached into his pocket and pulled up a small silver weapon. The Doctor stepped back.

The doors all burst inward.

"Hold it right there! Hands up! Stay where you are!" shouted UNIT's soldiers as they poured in, guns at ready.

"No, no, don't shoot him…!" the Doctor was protesting, getting between them and their intended quarry. "You don't need to protect…"

The Master was already vanishing into his TARDIS. There was a familiar grinding sound and the ovens faded away.

The Brigadier pushed his way in past his men. "Was that…?"

"Yes, he's gone," the Doctor said in disgust.

The Brigadier looked around the cake, bread and flour-spattered kitchen. "Now what?"

The Doctor looked around the bakery and ran a hand over his sticky hair. "You wouldn't happen to have any tea?"

~~ Fin ~~