This was not what was supposed to happen.
He lurched and fell down on his hands and knees in the rubble, while cold sweat drenching his new shirt. The dead tramp's hoodie was getting uneasily hot. His stomach growled, but now, it was to complain about the cramps it had to endure. Take the nausea that one suffered after consuming a whole turkey Christmas dinner with all the trimmings, multiply that by a million times and that was still a fraction of how horrible he felt. This was not what was supposed to happen to him. The tramp had been his first taste of humans after he was reborn in this cursed body. He remembered how good he had felt after he had slaughtered him. He recalled the satisfaction of consuming him, with the blood dripping down his chin and the warmth of these big chomps of flesh sliding down his gullet. He could remember how wonderful it was to still that raging hunger, that bloodlust that obsessed his mind and silenced his reason, how it was followed by the sensation of strength returning to muscle and bones, the rejuvenation of his dying body, albeit only for a short moment of time. He had wanted and expected the same experience from eating him again. A medicine for feeling blunted and used, to be given a purpose again in his seemingly futile existence and a restoration of his self-worth.
None of that.
He heaved painfully, his stomach rebelling against what it had been fed. His mouth filled with the horrible taste of death.
Only a few feet away from him lay the half-eaten corpse of the unfortunate tramp. His intestines, pink and coiled like fat worms, dangled from his ripped open sides. His limbs were chewed down to the bones. His brains spilled down the crack of his skull, while his eyes, wide and still fearful, stared vacantly at the rusty beams above.
The stench of blood filled his nostrils. He gagged and vomited. Pieces of what looked like liver mixed with skin and hair splashed on the grey concrete floor.
He felt disgusting. An undignified animal down on its four. The corpse of the poor tramp looked like it had been ravished by a mindless beast. The slaughter couldn't have been the act of a conscious man, and was absolutely unworthy of a Timelord. The debasing nature of his crime murdered his pride and stung his eyes with angry tears.
"Why did you do this?"
The Master didn't need to look to know that the Doctor was there. He was always there at these moments, to bask and loathe at him in his disgrace. When he was at his lowest, he could always count on the Doctor to hit him to the ground. He laughed bitterly, but kept his head bowed, fixing his eyes on the rubble. The Doctor will not see his grief.
"If only you could see yourself. You would turn away in shame."
He took in a deep breath, clearing the stench of death that kept lingering inside him like a disease. He forced back the tears and raised his chin up high. His face was now one of defiance. The Doctor stood in front of him, still looking self-righteous and Godlike, still with those old Yeller's faithful eyes that cried compassion.
With a shadow of a grin, he asked. "What else would I do?"
Seriously, what else, did that gullible idiot think, would happen, when you release a monster from its cage?
"I didn't let you out to torment yourself like this."
"Well, you were the one who thought I was sane." He chuckled hysterically.
"Why can't you stop remembering this? Just for once." The Doctor remarked with bitter frustration in his voice. "It's driving you straight back to the madhouse."
"Maybe I belong there." The Master answered with fake indifference. "Beast ought to be put in cages." He added with his voice dripping of sarcasm and self-loathing.
The Doctor did not respond, but turned his eyes away from him for a moment.
"There are places where you can go to get better." He said after a short silence. "Things that you can remember without turning yourself mad. People who you can seek to offer you redemption. Why do you keep stumbling around in the dark while you could just get out of it and look into the light?"
"Because these people, these things and places don't exist!" He snapped back. "They never had."
The Doctor took a deep breath.
"The slopes of Mount Perdition." He finally said in a gentle voice. "Back home on your father's land, with meadows of crimson grass stretching as far as the horizon. Do you remember that place?"
He did remember, and it cut right into his hearts. "Indeed, my father's estates. They used to be…" He searched for words to describe it. None of them ever truly did. "…magnificent…before you burnt it to the ground. It all burnt." He knew that his anger had no rationality, that it wasn't the Doctor's fault, but still he accused him of destroying their childhood home. "You saved your precious universe, but Gallifrey is gone!"
"Gone but not lost. Not here. Not in this place." The Doctor said. A warm wind swept across the empty warehouse, catching the trail of the Doctor's long coat.
"Go outside, and take a look for yourself."
The Master pressed his hands on his eyes and shook his head ferociously. No. Not another one of his dirty mind tricks. He had enough of being played like a puppet on strings, being dragged from one act to the next, while the Doctor controlled the script. However, he knew that he was helpless. Once the Doctor started there was no way of stopping him. The soft warm breeze brought the smell of the meadows, sweet wet grass and wild flowers mixed with the musky scent of pine trees from the higher grounds of the mountain. He could hear the wind rustling through the sweeping fields.
"No! Stop it!" He demanded, but his loss cut through his voice. "Stop it!"
"Just one look. I know that you want to remember. Besides, you're already there. It has always been there."
Although anxious, his hearts still secretly yarned to see his childhood home once more. Slowly, he lifted his hands from his eyes. Gone was the skeletal warehouse interior and the stiff tramp's corpse on the ground, the ugly evidence of his disgrace. He was now kneeling on top of a slope, surrounded by tall stalks of wild red grass. Beneath him, rolling down gently like a maiden's frock, were the pastures of his father's land, a sea of crimson that waved gently in the wind. For a moment, the Master's breath stalled.
"I'm home." He whispered. He turned back to the Doctor.
"We're back home."
The gentle smile that the Doctor gave him pulled his heartstrings. "That's Oakdown Hall, right over there." The Doctor pointed down in the valley, where a stately home sat in the middle of a beautiful garden that overlooked the vast stretch of farmland. It was a three level white Victorian, with large windows adorned by mullions and transoms, and with narrow, smaller windows that gave the appearance of sentinels. The front of the building stretched lazily over the entire breadth of the garden. On top of the parapet roof stood groups of Tudor style chimneys like guards. A curvy path lined by silver oak trees lead to the magnificent entrance of the house.
"Why don't you go down the hillside. Follow that path. Knock on the doors and see your family again."
For a moment, the Master was speechless. The dear memories of his childhood were evoked with the greatest of ease, and cut right into his soul. There stood the ancient silver oak tree that grew under his bedroom window. Its twisted old branches had once carried him as a boy when he searched for bird nests in the seemingly endless, careless summer days of his youth. Above the double door entrance was the family coat of arms in the spandrels, the emblem of his father, a sturdy silver oak, merged with that of his mother, a slender snow griffon, was proudly displayed on the shield. The rising smoke from the chimneys carrying the smell of burning wood brought him back to the kitchens, where he and Tetha first tasted his grandmother's robin-berries jam on a slice of fresh baked bread.
How he longed to return to that safe place of warmth and comfort. To forget about the ugly ghosts in the attic. To stop appeasing his fears and darkness, and just regress to that childlike state, to a world which was still uncomplicated and uncorrupted.
"Wouldn't you like to see your father again?" The Doctor asked. "After all these years, he's still waiting for you to come home."
He closed his eyes, and in his mind, he could see his father sitting in the library reading one of his much-treasured volumes from his vast collection. The smell of old printed pages and worn leather lingered in the chamber like the memory of an old dear friend.
"I…" He swallowed. The words became stuck inside his throat. Why did the Doctor brought him back here to see this? His eyes stung with tears.
The narrow path that slivered down the slopes to Oakdown Hall looked inviting, the silver foliage of the oaks rustling in the breeze summoned him home. All it took for him was to take the first step in this ascend, to follow the thread that pulled on his hearts. He closed his eyes. The clattering silver leaves and the windswept hills sung his favourite childhood song. He listened, and for a short moment he finally found peace.
It was just then, at that exact moment, that he heard it again, that sound, the drums of his past. It sliced through the tranquil moment like a knife, and killed his need to return to his Father's house. His eyes flew open, hearts racing. He rose and ran in the direction of the drums, his feet flying over the fields.
"No! No! No! Don't go there!" The Doctor's cries rang behind him, but they were for him to be ignored. He had been searching for that sound for so long. Ever since they had taken it from him, and had condemned him to his white-walled prison, he had felt lost and dead inside, his mind in decay and ripped apart. Now the sound had finally returned. He could hear its comforting rhythm, and embraced it with open arms like a lost lover.
"Master! Come back!"
The doctor didn't understand. He can't go back. Never. He didn't know how awfully silent it was inside mind. His head cleared from the drums was a cesspit of darkness with memories and monsters. He could see so clearly into it, now that the veil of drums had lifted, like he had seen the beast in his reflection when he murdered the tramp. He feared it, and he had been slowly going mad because of it. Such a different kind of madness it was, one without the strength and the joy, but one that weakens the soul and murdered the thrills of living. But no longer did he have to be without his precious drums. There, on the other side of the hill, he could hear them clearly. Calling him back to war and bloodlust.
His kind of insanity.
The Doctor ran after him. He reached the top of the hill where he couldn't go any further, and was forced to let him go. He watched helplessly, following the Master descend down the slopes. The smile on the other Timelord's face was one of deranged joy, an addict chasing after his obsession.
"Master!" The Doctor yelled after him. "Please, come back! You can't remember that! It will destroy you!"
The Doctor's warning echoed over the valley, but his words were scattered in the wind before it could reach him.
The steering was useless. Neil grabbed the wheel and tried to force it to turn, but the thing was locked and wouldn't budge even for an inch. They were entering the planet's atmosphere at dazzling speed. The windows burnt with a fierce white glow as frictional forces generated such high temperatures that the air around the heat-shield combusted. The cockpit looked like a crazed funfair-ride, with red and green and blue warning lights all flashing at the same time in Neil's face while an orchestra of claxons blasted in his ears. Soon the red clouds parted and the surface of the planet became visible, a hostile landscape of black solid rocks and rubble. The cruiser was heading towards it. Falling like a comet, the point of the ship pointed downwards at a frighteningly steep angle.
"We're gonna crash!" Will yelled.
"You killed us, you maniac!" Aurelia cried, staring accusingly at the Doctor, who watched the approach of the black planet's surface with a seemingly total lack of fear. Ignoring Aurelia, his hand slipped inside his coat's pocket. He wrapped his fingers around the remains of the white point star as he closed his eyes and listened.
"Doctor!" Neil screamed. If someone could still reverse this and prevent it from becoming a fatal disaster, it would be him. "We're very near the surface. Unlock the steering or we will die! Doctor!"
The Doctor's eyes flew open, with his sonic screwdriver immediately ready in his hand, he aimed it at the wheel. A sequence of green lights flashed over the pilot display, and the steering was reactivated just in time for Neil to pull up with all his might. The cruiser tilted upward, and for a moment, the entire crew was pressed flat with their backs into their seats. Aurelia shrieked. The Doctor held on to the white point star, and looked out of the cockpit frontwindow at the swirling red sky. The faint rhythm of drums coincided with his own heartbeats.
Neil finally managed to steady the ship. It levelled out as they flew over the strange, bleak landscape of Pevogla, while their velocity quickly dropped to cruising speed. The young scientist let out a sigh of relief and slacked back into his pilotseat. The dials and information panels on the cockpit-display reported that everything was back in control, with every system still operational and functioning normal, except for one.
The autopilot-landing system was still running. The Doctor had not switched that off.
The ship landed on a vast flat plateau nearby what looked-like a dried up riverbed. As soon as they hit the ground, the Doctor left his seat and headed for the exit door.
"Hey, don't go outside yet! We don't have the readings on the atmosphere composition!" Will uttered.
Without a reply, the Doctor pulled the lever down to unseal the cabin-door, pushed it open and disembarked the ship. Will looked at the others. Pale faced, and still angry with the Doctor, Aurelia spun her index finger at the side of her head. Neil shrugged, and followed the Doctor outside.
The world at the other side of the slope was a ravished landscape, consisting of twisted metal and steel, and trenches carved into the blackened earth with bloody crowns of barbed wire, a stark contrast from what was lying at the other side of the hill. The Master saw a vast troop of soldiers approaching, a million dome-shaped helmets blazing in the sun. Their battle chant resonated through the valley, accompanied by the beats they produced as they beat their fists.
"Son-tar-ha! Son-tar-ha! Son-tar-ha!"
It was maddeningly loud and distracting. Cursing under his breath, the Master charged down towards them, pressing his hands on his ears to block out the noise. Although in his confused state he still had the faint notion that he was descending into a battlefield and into hell, his ranting mind was occupied with only one thing, which was to follow the drumbeat, to find and catch it, and to seal it back inside his head where it belonged. He had no use for the Sontaran's battle cry. To him it was but inconvenient static noise. It became worse when the Sontaran's enemy appeared at the top of the hill behind him. He recognized the clash of steel boots marching in machine-like unison. He knew that rotten, electrically charged smell of over-heated wires melted with brain-tissue, the stench of a human electrocution. He turned and saw a vast army of Cybermen marching down the slopes, their steel breastplate armours glittering in the morning light, and their right arms stretched forward with clenched metal fists, ready to take aim.
"Orders of the Cyberqueen. Delete all hostile Sontaran elements! Delete! Delete!" They rattled in an unsettling sing-song voice. The sheer number of them accumulated their exclamations into deafening electronic static.
A rain of gunfire erupted around the Master as the Sontarans opened fire. Missiles were launched into the sky, shrieking like old witches as they passed close over his head, and smashed into the wounded earth were they exploded in blazing balls of fire. A bomb went off close to his right and sent his ears ringing, and for a moment, his world was silenced. Frightened that he may have lost the trail of drumbeats, the Master stumbled on. His knees quivered, a piece of shrapnel had embedded itself in his skull, and warm blood oozed from the head wound, and trickled down in his eyes. He barely noticed it. Disorientated and frustrated, he tried to retrieve the signal while pushing through the blizzard of bullets and explosions. To his relief, his hearing was slowly returning. The loudest screams of the dying Sontarans started to penetrate through the thick membrane of silence.
Unnoticed, he had wandered to the bottom of the valley where a whole platoon of humanoids was waiting for incoming the cyborgs. Heavily armed, they stared at the injured Timelord who appeared in front of them with little more interest than a rhinoceros would have for a fly swarming around its tail.
"Halt! We have an intruder." The Master suddenly found himself at the wrong end of a line of Sontaran laserguns. "State your intent!" A Sontaran general ordered.
With his eardrums still wallowing in pain, the Master could hardly hear what the commander was telling him. He wasn't exactly listening either. He finally had picked up the sound of his beloved drums again. They came from behind the platoon, rising from the wall of dirt that the humanoids had dug as a last refuge of defence against the cyborgs. With a dazed, wide-eyed look, he wandered forward, seemingly unafraid.
"Halt! Do not proceed!" The Sontaran commander barked. "Stop, or we will open fire!"
There was no way they could stop the Master. The sound was like a drug, the lure of Odysseus sirens. All around him the world was coming to an end, but he had only ears for his precious drums.
The general fixed his eyes at the slopes where the approaching Cybermen were closing in on his army. The deadly blasts of blue energy beams fired from the cyborgs wiped out entire troops of prime Sontaran soldiers. He was wasting precious time on this insignificant, pathetic little alien.
"The intruder has obviously lost his mind. Dispose of him!" He ordered. The humanoids opened fire, and the Master dropped on the ground to avoid the blasts. Although his throat ran dry with fear, the call of drums still compelled him to hoist himself up and start running toward the source.
"Ha! A madman's tactics!" The commander barked. "Fire again! Eliminate him! Then we can proceed to glory!"
But before the soldiers could finish the Master, the cyborgs broke through their defences with a battalion of towering fighting-machines that moved with lightening speed on their six spidery arms. Laserbeams shot out of the single gigantic eye sitting in the middle of the podshaped body, and incinerated half of the Sontaran troops that were under the general's command. The Master escaped and ran through the white clouds of ash that was blasted into the air, breathing dead Sontaran soldiers into his lungs.
The trenches from which the call came, was now only half a mile away from him. He ducked when a claw descended from above and punched a Sontaran soldier to the ground. The humanoid screamed when a second claw, equipped with a sharp javelin at the end, came rushing down for him and impaled his body. Blood splattered on the Master's face, but he didn't care. This world had long since stopped making sense to him. All that mattered was that drumbeat. He stumbled on, his vision blurred by the coagulated blood in the corner of his eyes. Just a few steps more, and he would have reached the barbed wire fence surrounding the trench.
It may that his mind was in shock, and was playing tricks on him, for he saw human figures crouching behind the barbed wire. A group of young men peered over top of the dugout. Their faces looked familiar.
He abruptly halted and blinked his eyes. One of the giant cyberpods approached from the side, but his mind didn't register the imminent danger. Instead, it was turning madly, trying to recall who these young men exactly were. A claw descended, rushing towards the Master. One of the lads rose from his hiding position and yelled out his name. Wide-eyed, brown haired and with expressive brows, the tall boy steered the Master's memory into the right direction. He finally recognized them. These were the faces from his Timelord peers at the Academy, and the young lad who was yelling at him was Theta.
The sound of drums abruptly stopped, leaving the Master to hear and see the deadly chaos in which he was trapped. His friend's calls finally reached him.
"Master! Watch out!" The young Doctor yelled. For reasons that were unclear, his friend was still in the form of his tenth regeneration, while the others looked exactly like he remembered them when they were still in their first. But the Master had little time to contemplate. The cyberpod's claw slammed in his chest and he fell backward, hitting the rubble. Lying pinned down on his back, he stared right into a large circle of light looming above him. A second claw was descending, carrying a javelin that was aimed at head. Realizing what was about to happen, his hearts trembled with fear.
"No!!" Theta screamed.
A shadow appeared from nowhere. A man with a wild red beard who carried a silver rod grabbed hold of the Master. Just before the spike reached the defenceless Timelord, the man smashed his wand against the cyberpod's metal leg, and broke the white point star at the tip. A bright light erupted and they both vanished, leaving the mechanical claw to stab a hole into the dirt.
A female computer voice rang in his ears.
"Attention, transmission to the Sontaran solarsystem aborted. I repeat, transmission to Sontaran solarsystem aborted. Expedition cancelled. I repeat. Expedition cancelled."
He regained consciousness in a large round chamber in the mid of an upheaval of voices and sounds. He was lying on the floor on his back. Theta's face was hovering above him, his brows frowned in concern. The Master stared in his friend's frightened eyes for a moment, noticing how strangely young they were, still unaware of bitterness and pain. The man who had saved him from the cyberpod's attack stood nearby, a respect-demanding figure dressed in a traditional Gallifreyan robe, he recognized him as one of his old tutors. From the look of it, he wasn't so much worried as he was displeased.
"Master? Mas…Koshei? Do you hear me? Please wake up."
He swallowed the taste of blood away. "Don't call me Koshei." He grunted.
A smile of relief washed over the Doctor's face. "Oh, you're awake." He looked up at the older Timelord. "Headmaster Redgrave. Look! He's fine!"
Hoisting himself up, the chamber swirled in front of him, and he had to take a deep breath to fight off the nausea. With hooded eyes he glanced around. They were in the transmission chamber, a large octagonal room, with three circular rows of seating surrounding the transmitter, which was a giant crystal pillar that triangulated the vibrations from the white point stars that were embedded into the bio-print pads in front of every seat. Groups of young men were standing around, chatting among themselves. Being barely 18 years of age, maturity was something that still needed to be refined in these young minds.
"This is the last time I'm joining a field-group with team disaster over there." A boy remarked. Ginger-haired and his face ridden with freckles, the Master recalled that he was the headmaster's own son. His name was Redgrave. The other boys in his company laughed. A tall lad with dark eyes and glasses, who named himself Ravenius, and a bulky bully named Bardson. "Bloody freak." Redgrave said, and glanced sideways at the Master.
Master Redgrave shot his son a severe look. The lad immediately stopped his teasing and left the chamber with his friends.
Redgrave tightened his grip on his wand and gazed down at the two lads. "You foolish boy!" He shook his head. "What were you thinking, running into the battlefield like that? You know the rules for these kind of expeditions, never intervene with the course of events! The war between the Sontarans and the Cybermen was supposed to last for hundreds of years. You could have done something thoughtless just then and there that would have stopped the war in its beginning, altering the course of time!"
"But sir, it's not the Master's fault." As always, the Doctor came to his friend's defence. "He didn't do anything grand that would endanger the history of the Cyber-Sontaran wars. It was an accident. He already got himself injured. You shouldn't blame him."
"Young master Doctor." Redgrave senior fumed. "Keep yourself out of this matter!"
"But sir, it isn't fair! He didn't do anything!"
Baffled, the Master stared at the Doctor, who was still his friend at the time in the Academy. How strange it was to see this 10th regeneration of Theta pleading for him. He particularly liked the fact that the Doctor seemed to be less articulate than he was going to be in the future, and was resolving to the standard kiddie arsenal of "not fairness" to try to convince the older Timelord. Let him go on a little longer, and the Master was sure that the Doctor would start stamping his feet on the floor to get the headmaster to listen.
"Even if he didn't alter the timeline, he endangered the safety of the whole class with his reckless behaviour!" Redgrave removed the white point star from his rod, and threw it on the floor in front of the Master. He turned to him. "If it wasn't for my intervention, you would have been killed in the Sontaran galaxy, 500.000 years in the past. Your father would have held us responsible." He thundered on, knowing very well that Lord Oakdown had powerful friends in the House of Lords. The Master meanwhile, had picked up the discarded damaged star. In the middle ran three thread-thin breaks that radiated from the centre towards the edges. The headmaster was right to be furious. The star could have completely fractured during their escape in the timevortex. The old nag had risked his own life to save him.
"And I will probably ask my father to force you to resign if you don't stop ranting and spewing spittle in my face." The Master replied calmly, and smirked. "My son has a nasty head-wound? How come? Oh my dear papa, it was headmaster Redgrave, he struck me with his wand for no good reason."
Master Redgrave sucked in a deep breath of air. His face was quickly reddening, but he managed to stay in control. Well, at least he refrained himself from slapping the insolent boy around the ears till they rang like the bells of the citadel at midnight. He waved angrily with his hand.
"Get hem to the healing unit." He said, with his teeth clenched and his jaws tightened. The Doctor lifted his friend from the floor. "And keep him out of my face!" The headmaster told him. The Master widened his smirk in response, and stared back at Redgrave senior with a defiant glint in his eyes, while the Doctor made sure that they both got out of the headmaster's sight as quickly as possible.
His wounds healed quickly under the blue light of the bio-cell accelerator, and he was back on his own feet in no time. In fact, it took longer to stand in line to get the Tetanus-shot from the nurse-droid than it took to heal. Back outside of the medical-unit, the Master caught his own reflection from passing windows. Like the Doctor, he was still in his last regeneration. Displeased he stared at the popular politician gone homeless bum face, with the dirty blond hair and the rough stubble on the chin. Mad Harold Saxon, ruler of the wastelands. The dirty black hoodie that he was still wearing completed the look. He pulled the corners of his mouth downward and sighed. So this was how it felt to be cursed. Even now he couldn't change and leave this cursed form behind.
His friend didn't understand why he was so ill-tempered, but then, the Doctor had seen and pulled him through darker days.
"Oh don't look so glum, the headmaster didn't say anything about punishing you. From the look of it, you came away with a fright and a frown."
"I wasn't worried about that." The Master rolled his eyes at his friend. Although he realized that this conversation was locked in time and this wasn't really the past, and therefore it didn't exactly matter what he said to him, he still yielded to their usual bantering. "My dad won't allow him to hurt a hair on my head." He gloated despite of himself. "One snap of his fingers in the House of Lords, and old red beard is out of here before you can say -ruined academic career-."
"You wouldn't." The Doctor said, frowning in disapproval. "Well, you shouldn't. Actually, whatever you think of headmaster Redgrave, he still saved you from being turned into Cyber-kebab. So you ought to show some gratitude."
"Pff." The Master snorted. "He chose to become the headmaster. It's his duty to guard the safety of the pupils in this dusty institute, even if he hates their guts." He smiled cheekily, before continuing. "I swear. As soon as the last day of school is over, I will never set foot in this back-ward shithole ever again, unless it is with a company of demolition-droids, swinging a giant iron ball to tear this place apart."
"Master." The Doctor raised his brows as he recognized the signs. "Stop it. You're ranting again."
"I know I'm ranting, but don't tell me you don't feel the same."
They were crossing a long stretch of corridors that framed a large atrium. The late afternoon cast red beams of sunlight on the manicured lawn, and the line of columns threw tall shadows over the stone slates that were laid out in the corridor. The Master stepped over a grandly decorated slate that commemorated the erection of the ancient Gallifreyan institute in a time that lay so far in the past, that none of the Timelords who were still alive remembered it.
"Let the Lords of old keep safe this house of knowledge and learning." He read aloud in a mocking voice. "Ha! More a mindless prison of academic stagnation! And this." He gazed down at the motto that was inscribed in the emblem of the school. "To observe and rule. What nonsense!" He scoffed. How could one be so naïve to think that you would be able to change anything for the good by merely observing? How could you rule without interception or ownership? If anything his long years at the Academy had taught him, it was only that the universe was a chaotic mess, a gruesome place where misfortunes befall the ones who were perhaps the most undeserving, and where luck smiled on the most cruel and ruthless ones because they had the clear state of mind to conquer the weak. Theta however, seemed to had been following entirely different classes, for his view on it all was one filled with star-struck amazement and childlike-goodwill. It was therefore the young Master's firm belief that he should keep himself close by the Doctor's side. Such a young gullible soul with a moronically friendly nature was easily taken advantage of, and should be protected by someone who had his wits together. Funny enough, the Doctor secretly thought the same way about the Master. Young Theta wouldn't leave his beloved childhood friend, not for all the fantastic wonders and sights of the universe. The Master needed him, because he believed that is dear friend was somewhat mentally unstable.
"Wait till my father introduces me into the House of Lords." The Master continued, and sighed. "Things are going to change around here, mark my words." He turned to his friend. "You should come with me you know, after graduation. It's not like your mom has any plans for you."
The Doctor shrugged. "She mentioned an apprenticeship in the guild of clockworkers. You know my uncle Bezerk, the one with the glass eye, he's in the trade."
"What, time-watching? Yeah, right. Like you're gonna do that!" The Master studied the Doctor's face. The deflated look in his eyes when mentioning his mother's grand plans for his future said it all. "Come on Doctor. I know you. Sitting behind a desk all day to stare at the ticks and turnings of tiny wheels, you will never be content what that!"
"I don't think I'm made for politics." The Doctor sighed apologetically, and scratched the back of his head. "To be frank, I think I will offend most of the counsel members, simply by showing up. All that stiffness and awe for tradition. It's not me, really." The thought alone was suffocating. "But you, you should definitely go." The Doctor nodded. "Make your dad proud."
The Master was about to drop an alavanche of arguments on him to convince him otherwise, but their conversation was interrupted by a pellet of rock that hit the Master at the back of his head.
"Hey, you two!"
He turned around, irritated. Sitting on the stone balustrade between two columns were Redgrave junior and his gang. They had been busy working on their assignments on Sontaran warfare, sharing the data from their holovid copies from the library using the earphones that directly linked their minds together. The Master cocked his head to the side and gave the young man a foul look. He had never liked the little shit, who was pompous and devious beyond words, gloating every waking minute about his dad being the headmaster of the Academy. In fact, if it wasn't for that little, rather unfortunate "accident" that happened to the Master during the initiation ceremony, they both could have been best of mates, considering the overlap in character.
"Yeah you. I was calling you. The nerd and the freak!" His entourage giggled like a bunch of hormone-ridden schoolgirls.
"Master." The Doctor grabbed his friend's arm. "Don't."
He shook off the Doctor's hand and walked straight up to the gang.
"You." He addressed Redgrave with a dangerously low voice. "Stop calling my friend a freak." He was aware that the Doctor was a bit too tall and skinny for his own good, and his limbs were awkward, like they consisted mostly of knees, but this slimy stain of an excuse of a Timelord wasn't even good enough to mention his name, let alone insult him.
Redgrave stared at the other lad with slight bafflement. "I meant you. You're the freak, Oakdown! Idiot!" The others followed the bully's example. "Idiot! Idiot!" They repeated, laughing in the Master's face, like a flock of demented parakeets. He stared back at them, biting his lower lip till he tasted blood. The Doctor appeared by his side, and tried to pull him away from the mocking bastards.
"Don't listen to them." He begged. "Please, let's just go."
The Master shook his head. "What did you call me?" He asked, his voice flat.
Redgrave leaned forward, removing one of his earphones. "I said that you're a freak." The smirk he gave him was one of pure repugnance. "You know who everyone around here calls you?" He picked up a stick and tapped it against the column four times. "Four-beat-freak. The Master of migraines." A cruel smile appeared on his lips, while his friends started chanting the loathsome words in unison.
The Master rolled his head over his shoulder, and smiled back at his tormentors.
The Doctor's hearts skipped a beat. "No! Master! Don't!"
He swung out at Redgrave. His fist made a satisfactory dent in his smug freckled face, and he could hear the lovely crack of splintering bone when his knuckles wrecked his nose-bridge. The impact propelled the gingerhead with his back on the lawn, rolling over the grass while nursing his broken nose and wallowing in pain. The Master jumped after him over the balustrade and kicked the lad in the belly, making sure he hit the liver to achieve a good case of internal bleeding.
"No! No! No! Master!" The Doctor yelled, horrified by the violence. "Just stop!"
But the Master wasn't listening, and wasn't worried about the violence either. Al he wanted was to make sure that Redgrave was never going to use that nasty tongue of him again. Almost out of breath of the effort, he threw back his head and laughed hysterically when he saw the bloody wretch crawl away from him, desperately trying to dodge the vicious blows. At the other side of the balustrade, Redgrave's mates grabbed the Doctor by his wrists and twisted them at his back. Ravenius held on to him, and yelled at the Master, who turned his head and saw how Bardson hit his friend full in the stomach. The Docot let out a cry and bended double in pain.
"Hey!" The Master shouted, his voice trembling. "Get your stinking hands off him!"
Bardson spat on the floor and hit him again.
Gritting through his teeth, the Doctor looked up at the Master. "Oh no! No, please don't bother!" He shook his head in pain. "Just…do something sensible. Get the Headmaster!"
Instead, the Master uttered a mad cry and jumped at the larger boy, thrusting him to the ground. He was about to strike out when Bardson kicked him his stomach and send him rolling over the stone slates. He landed with his back against the balustrade. For a moment he was busy counting stars, and Bardson pushed his boot against his throat, pressing on his windpipe. Suddenly, filling his lungs with air was becoming rather troublesome.
From the corner of his eyes, the Master saw Redgrave stumbling towards him.
"He broke my nose! Hit him!" He screamed with his face red and bloated with anger. "Hit him! Teach this piece of shit a lesson!"
Bradson cracked his knuckles, and the Master, who was choking to death and thought he was rushing towards an imminent regeneration anyway, was preparing himself for another necessary trip to the medical unit, when he suddenly felt the pressure on his windpipe decrease. Bradson and Redgrave clutched onto their ears and sunk down their knees. The Master turned his head and saw the Doctor, wrestling himself free from Ravenius's grip while aiming his sonicscrewdriver at the bullies. The wavelength it was sending out was picked up by the boy's headphones. Amplified a thousand times, it wrecked havoc on their assaulters' eardrums. The Master stared at the Doctor, who came over to his friend and offered him a hand.
"Brilliant." The Master said with sincere admiration. He brushed the dirt out of his clothes and stared down at the defeated bullies, who were clutching at the headphones in their ears, but seemed incapable of removing them. "A sonic wavelength that interferes with neural signalling." The Master muttered. "Ingenious. Almost devious I would say." And he slapped the Doctor on his back with a wide grin. His friend stared back at him accusingly.
"Oh come on. They deserved it!" The Master moaned. He couldn't believe that the Doctor was trying to make him feel compassionate for these clowns. "In fact, if I could just borrow this for a moment."
He grabbed the screwdriver out of the Doctor's hand, and twisted the back, recalibrated the wavelength and amplified the magnitude, before he aimed it at Redgrave, who suddenly let out a loud cry of pain. His body started to spasm frantically.
Master! What did you do? Stop that!"
"There was still some room for improvement, don't you think?" The Master told his friend with a cruel glint in his eyes. "Oh yes, this is much better."
"No! That's enough! You'll injure him!" The Doctor tried to get the sonic back from the Master. But the Master was far too much enjoying the look of agony on Redgrave's face. He threw the weapon over to his left hand and back again to keep it out of reach of his friend, while keeping his aim at the headmaster's much-hated son.
"Master! Stop it! Just stop it. Just think!"
"Nah, who wants to think if you can have fun!" He laughed and pushed the amp up a notch, sending the volume of the signal through the roof. He could almost hear poor Redgrave's eardrums split under the assault. The lad was now literally clawing at his ears. A trickle of blood ran down his earlobe.
"Please Master, come to your senses. You're hurting him! Stop it!"
But the Doctor's pleading fell on deaf ears. The Master was actually contemplating how to multiply and spit the signal to get the rest of the gang, especially that brute Bradson, a taste of his bitter medicine, but his revenge was cut short by a sudden blast that hit his hand. The Master let out a cry, more in surprise than in pain, and dropped the Doctor's sonic screwdriver. The seizure-like motions of Redgrave immediately stopped, leaving the wretched boy in tears of pain and humiliation. The Master turned and saw how headmaster Redgrave senior strode towards them, his red cape billowing in the wind and his rod with a new white point star flashing crimson. The unforgiving fury that swirled in the older Timelord's eyes was still capable to stir a flutter of fear inside his defiant hearts.
From the look of it, he wasn't going to get away with it this time with merely a fright and a frown.