He ran back up, dashing through the undergrowth, headfirst, diving into the tangled branches, crashing through thick weed, slipping over the muddy ground, falling down and getting up again. There was no time…No time to stop and hide. No time to think. The avenging beast was just behind, still in hot pursuit, its burning torches and flashing wands demanding his blood.
He heard them shout at him, curse his name, venting their outrage to the stars.
The skull-like face of Redgrave in his final moments flashed before his eyes, followed by the death throes of the human tramp as the last of the blows robbed him from his life.
Vicious and Vile. Immoral and Evil.
"Stop it!" He screamed.
But it didn't stop. Ravenius appeared, fear struck and begging for his life. Bardson's burnt body, all blistering and oozing crimson puss.
Loathsome and Low. Wicked and wrong.
"I said stop it!" Yelling it up to the sky and pressing his hands on his ears.
But the acquisitions kept coming in a repetitive rhythm of four, drumming inside his mind, burning into his brain. This was not what he had wanted. With fear, the guilt had returned, and it's tearing his hearts apart.
He reached the part of the woods where the trees became less dense. Larger parts of the forest's roof were open. In the west, an orange glow faintly shimmered. It paled the stars and looked like a fire burning in the sky.
The further he went uphill, the more brilliant the light became, and soon the night's stars had faded out of the sky, while the shadows on the forest floor grew shorter and shorter.
Through the network of tree trunks and low hanging branches, he saw a great open space appearing at the edge of the woods. A sea of red grass that bathed in the orange glow of the two setting suns stretched out before him. On the top of the hill was the lone silhouette of a man. His long coat was billowing behind him in the wind.
The Master dashed out of the woodlands and ran up towards the Doctor, who was very relieved to see him again.
"Master!" He exclaimed. "Finally! There you are, I was so worried!" He reached out his arms like he was trying to catch him, but the Master kept his momentum, rushing forwards and pushing the Doctor away from his side.
"Get your filthy hands off me! I HATE YOU!" He screamed in frustration and anger. "This!" He pointed with a trembling finger at the darkness of the woodland behind him while he stared at the baffled Doctor with tears welling up in his eyes. "This is all YOUR fault! You left me! You fucking coward! YOU LEFT ME!"
"Oh dear." The Doctor muttered, realizing the state he was in. "Master please! Listen! You're just confused, and right now, it's very dangerous to be confused! I checked your status reports. You really have to stop this or the damage to your neural system will be irreparable! Master!"
But the Master wasn't listening, for from out of the woodland appeared the avenging mob. He backed down a few steps, still looking at the Doctor with wild, frightened eyes, then swirled around and dashed over the hill to the other side.
"No! Master! No! Stop! You've got to stop! I can't terminate the program if you don't come with me! Please!"
But it was already too late. The Master ran down the slopes, pushing through the field of red grass. The acquisitions of the others who condemned him rang inside his mind like the thunder of hooves echoing over the racetracks.
Mad and diseased. Ill and demented.
Freak and monster. Killer and murderer.
He desperately wanted it to stop, but no matter how far or how fast he went, he couldn't outrun it. Those ugly, satanic voices kept chasing him.
With every step he took, the suns were climbing. To his jumbled logic, it was as if he had run back in time. Not only had he seen the midnight sky transform into night fall and sunset, now he felt as he was also heading back to the beginning, to the very place that the Doctor had wanted to show him before. For down in the valley lay his childhood home, his Father's family house. Oakdown hall was still there, waiting for him to return. This time the Master didn't hesitate. He took the narrow path that slivered over the fields down into the garden where the ancient silver Oaks stood majestically, their foliage glittering in the early evening glow. He found the doors to the mansion open, as if welcoming him home. As he passed underneath the spandrels, he gazed up quickly at his family's coat of arms, before entering the hallway and disappearing inside.
When he was still a young boy, before he was taken by the elders to the fractured mirror that showed the cracks in the fabric of time and space. Before they named him Master. Before he became the Master. Before he went mad and everything went to hell, he used to hide in his father's library whenever he had done something wrong that made his mother angry. His father, a gentle man with limitless patience, would always shield him from his mother's rage. The broken antique vase was, in his father's eyes, never too expensive. His mother's pearls, although irretrievable from the bottom of the well in the garden, weren't irreplaceable. To him, kindness was always a better parent than hard discipline. When his father wasn't home, the Master would still come to the library whenever there was trouble. At the back of the endless rows of bookshelves, was a cabinet where his father kept the curiosities that he collected from visiting other times and planets for his diplomatic duties. The young Master would climb inside, and lock himself up in the dark with all the wonderful little trinkets that reminded him of him, and stay there till his mother stopped looking.
He found that he still fitted inside that small cabinet. With his knees pulled up and digging into his ribcage, he sat there quietly with his hands covering his eyes.
Alone in the dark, he held his breath. He hadn't heard that voice for such a long time. It must have been lifetimes.
"Koshei, is that you?"
The wetness that ran between his fingers reminded him to wipe the tears from his face.
The door to the cabinet swung open. Late afternoon light flooded inside the tiny cupboard. The tall silhouette of a man stood before him. A man that he had purposely forgotten, because he was lost to him so long ago, but was now once again sharing the same space with him, breathing the same air.
The Master gazed at his father, speechless for a moment as he tried to swallow the rest of his tears.
"Oh my dear boy. Why are you hiding in there? What happened?" Lord Oakdown was visible taken by his son's distress. The Master silently slipped out of the cupboard, bowing his head.
His father embraced him.
"I thought you were supposed to be at the Academy right now. It's a little early for spring break. You didn't run away again did you?"
His father looked him in the eyes, his face showed great concern, but he wasn't angry with him. He never was.
"You know your mother will be stressed out again when she hears of this." He said with a smile and placed his hands on his son's shoulders.
"Now tell me. What have you done now? Did the headmaster send you to the tower again? Is that why you ran away, Koshei?"
His father's gentle smile broke him. His resolve crumbled like a sandcastle in the waves.
"Oh Koshei." His father muttered and took his son back into his arms. "What's the matter my dear boy? Shh, Stop those tears. There is no need for them. You're back home now, with us. You're safe."
"I'm sorry sir. I didn't mean to." He cried.
"What happened? Was it those sounds inside your head? Did you fight with the other boys?"
The Master shook his head. "I…I did something."
"What Koshei? What did you do?"
"It's…horrible…It's all horrible…I can't…"
"You can just tell me, my boy." His father said firmly. "Tell me and I'll make sure that it will be set right again. I'm your father, there is no need for you to be ashamed."
The Master swallowed hard and gazed in his father's eyes. He couldn't. He just couldn't tell him. There were no words to describe what he had done. No language for deeds so foul and crimes so brutal. Uttering a single word about it would feel like he was condemning himself.
"If you can't tell me. Then show me." His father spread his arms and gestured for his son to come closer. The Master wavered, but was finally overwhelmed by the older Timelord's gentle encouragements. He leaned forward, letting his father's hands guide his head towards his, and allowed their minds collide.
A Timelord didn't have to open up entirely when sharing his thoughts and memories with others. If he wanted to, the Master could have slammed the door shut to one thing or the other, leaving out the parts that would hurt and incriminate him the most, and show his father the things that he would have wanted him to see. How he had struggled as a child to fit in, trying to act and pretend to be normal while deep inside he knew he was never going to be the carefree eight year old again from before his initiation ceremony. How the drums had followed him from the un-tempered schism, and had assaulted his sanity, slowly grinding away his old self like the waves polishing the pebbles on the beach, till there was nothing left but tiny grains of sand. How Theta had been his sole refuse and comfort in the agonizing years in the Academy, and how even that had been taken from him. How much it grieved him that the Doctor had left after breaking their sacred friendship.
He had wanted his father to understand all this, but what he wanted wasn't just his sympathy. What he craved for the most was his father's forgiveness. Theta had betrayed him, by giving up on him when he needed him the most. He hoped with whole his hearts that at least in his father's eyes, he somehow, was still redeemable.
So he opened up his mind completely to him, and showed him everything.
Memories and experiences passed through a telepathic connection, a bond that was as strong as the connection they shared in bloodline. They found their way into the older Timelord's head, and for once his father truly saw the world through his eyes. Every sick thought, every bad thing he had ever done, the people he had killed, all of his victims, future and past, who he had maimed and tortured, his ruthless ambitions, his selfishness, his madness, all compiling into the ugly truth that resided in his deepest, darkest self.
Lord Oakdown's grey-blue eyes snapped open. The contact was abruptly broken when he tore away from the Master, recoiling as if he had burned himself on a hot surface. He stared at his son, his eyes were wide in shock and horror.
"Sir?" The Master whispered, frightened. His voice was so small, it was as if he had reversed into his eight year old self.
Once he saw his father's face contorted in disgust and grief, all hope he had cherished for earning his forgiveness just vanished.
Lord Oakdown leaned back on his study desk. His frame quivered with hurt. Such demonic visions, such mindless violence and hate. How could all that exist inside a young boy's head? How could this have happened to his dear Koshei? The things he had seen, the awful, terrifying things he had come to known about his son, they broke his old hearts in pieces.
"Father." The Master tried, his voice trembling. Lost for words, he said the one thing that came close to what he really wanted to tell him. "I'm sorry."
Lord Oakdown dared not to look at him.
"I know what I have done was wrong. Theta showed me. You showed me that it was wrong. I won't do it again, I promise." He broke down and let the tears run freely down his face. "Please. You have to hide me. They are looking for me. Don't let them find me father."
Weakened by the revelation and overcome by the horrific truth, his father struggled to keep standing. The Master rushed over to support him, but the old lord pushed him away. He opened the drawer of his desk and took out his silver seal ring studded with a bloodstone that carried his parliamentary seal, the multiple concentric circles that represented the emblem of the Timelords in the House of Lords. One day, the Master would find himself reproducing an exact copy of this ring from his memories to function as an emergency vault for his life's essence. The real one would by then be long since lost to him, never to be retrieved.
Realizing what his father was about to do, the Master eyes widened in disbelief.
"Oh no sir, please don't."
Finally looking up at his son, lord Oakdown was heavily aggrieved for what he must do. It was his duty as one of the elders.
"You must understand. I have to let the elders know. Never has there been in Gallifreyan history such a heinous crime committed by a Timelord. Such an unnatural, beastly act. Such barbarism." He paused. A heartbeat of silence seemed like a century.
"Murder." He spat out the word as if it was contaminated. "Murder!" He lamented. "My own son! My own flesh and blood. Oh, Koshei, how could you?"
"Father please!" He was desperate, and his mind was deserting him. There was nothing clever left to say, no cunning act that could reverse this disaster. Why didn't his father understand? He trusted him, and was honest with him. He showed him everything, so why couldn't he forgive him?
"I don't know what they would do to me! Please, I beg you."
"It's those sounds." His father said grimly, with his eyes rimmed with tears, he brushed over his seal ring with trembling fingers. The seal began to cast a green glow into the darkening room. "Those drums inside your head. They must have poisoned your mind. I knew it. I knew it from the moment you came back from your initiation. You were changed, but I denied it, the foolish, stubborn old man that I was. I kept telling myself that you weren't ill, that you weren't somehow damaged by the un-tempered schism. Not you, not my bright shining Koshei. Not my beloved son. I should have acted, maybe then all of this could have been averted. Instead, I have let my pride decide over my son's fate."
He beat on his chest as if he was stabbing knives into his hearts and shook his head ruefully. Bitter tears dripped down his nose and splashed on the glowing ring.
The Master was close to being hysteric. Not only did his father refuse to forgive him, he was about to betray him by exposing his crimes to the elders. He didn't understand. How could he do this to him? He knew what he had done was terrible, he still had that bit of common sense left in him to realize that, but this was his father. He used to be able to tell him anything, and he would accept him as he was, without judgement, without condemning him like all the others did.
But now he was just like the pretentious Doctor who couldn't stand the sight of him. The loathsome, vicious, and vile creature that he was, that he had become. It was his own fault, really. He had scared them away by showing the monsters that lurked inside his mind. Accustomed to see the mask that he wore so diligently to hide his true self, only for gaining their acceptance, they turned their backs on him the minute his strength and mind faded and he could no longer sustain the lie.
"You can't!" He screamed, his voice hoarse. "They'll punish me for what I've done."
"And rightfully so!" His father replied with a sudden fury and severity that cast an eternal darkness over the Master's hearts. "What you've done is despicable and dishonourable. You have shamed our family's name! As long as Gallifreyan justice prevails, you deserve all the punishment that you'll get!"
A silence fell between them. Lord Oakdown's stern expression melted when he saw the shame in his boy's eyes.
"Look, son. I can still plead for you to the elders for leniency."
"You're lying!" The Master shook his head frantically. "If they catch me they are going to execute me! I've seen the look in headmaster Redgave's eyes. He's out for my blood. He won't just let me go."
"I won't let that happen to you!" He father said firmly. "I will explain everything. Let them know that it is that sound inside your head that had twisted your reason and made you insane." He grimaced when the words passed his lips. There, he said it. His son was mad.
"Look at me son. You need help. You can't go on like this. I promise that once they know what made you do all this they won't be too harsh on you."
The Master felt numb and dead like a fallen tree in the depth of winter. He watched with hollow eyes how the green glow grew into a projection of the elders' sanctuary chamber that was hidden deep inside the citadel. A dark void of a room, with high vaulted ceiling, circular in form, with in the middle a long table. The elders were seated around it, all dressed in their ceremonial robes. The Master had once cherished such aspiration to sit amongst them one day.
How foolish he had been, dreaming his madman's dreams.
"What would they do to me?" He finally dared to ask.
"They'll just…send you away."
"Away? You mean like how they send me away to the tower?" The tears were still streaming down, but a mad smile broke through his grief-struck face. "Only now, it's forever. And you will let them take me, and lock me away, alone, in the dark. Because I'm damaged. Because I'm mad. Because of what I did, am I no longer your son? "
"Koshei." His father sounded heartbroken. "It's not only your fault. It's also mine. I've failed you. I'm sorry."
The laughter that broke through his tears sounded frenetic and hollow. "You always are. Both of you." The Doctor and his father, they were always so incredibly sorry for him, but it seemed that neither of them ever meant it. The faces of the elders became clear as the connection established itself. Soon, they would be able to open the communication portal. Soon, they will hear from his father's mouth what the Master had done. Cries of horror and outrage would follow, and they would demand retribution for all the horrific things crimes that he had committed.
He couldn't let that happen.
He couldn't let him destroy his life.
Ravenius' laserscrewdriver burnt like a dead star, cold and icy in his hand.
When his father turned away from him for a moment, he fired the weapon at him. Once was enough to send the old man collapsing on his knees. His trembling hand dropped the seal ring. It bounced once on the ground before it started rolling over the floorboards. The Master stopped it with his foot. While he reached down to pick it up, he felt like he was wandering inside a dream, with all motions slowed down, and with every tiny detail in the room carrying some sort of significance. He turned to see how the projection of the elders' chamber slowly vanished as his father's mental connection with the citadel weakened, and was finally lost.
As if he was wounded, he stumbled over to his father.
He was lying on his back, staring up at his son. Paralyzed from the waist down, his breathing was laboured. The tiny red hole that the laser had burnt inside his lungs seemed hardly deadly, but it was.
His father was dying, and when a Timelord dies, his body would try to cheat death by regeneration. Already, lord Oakdown's face was shrouded by a calm, golden glow.
"Where is your Tardis, father?" He asked as he forced his hearts to turn cold, knowing that the lord's seal ring was also the Tardis key.
His father kept his eyes on his fallen son. For a moment, it seemed that he wasn't going to tell him anything. But then his mouth opened and weakly, he whispered his answer to him.
Perhaps the old lord had resigned to his fate. Perhaps, the guilt he had felt for failing him had overtaken his hearts, or perhaps, in his final moments, he had realized that his love for son was stronger than his pride, and he had been finally able to forgive him, even for the greatest of his sins.
Whatever the reason it was for his father to offer him a way to escape, the Master would never know.
A mad, joyless smile crept over his tear-strained face.
He knew that his father had spoken the truth.
"Four." He whispered, and shot him, just moments before he regenerated.
The endless flight of stairs seemed…well endless. The Doctor was getting out of breath and the others were starting to lag behind. Maybe it wasn't such a good idea to propose a healthy jog for the first 200 steps or so to keep morals high. Judging by his companions' long faces, the mood was sinking faster than quicksand.
"Oh God. I think…I might have…burnt up a lung." Aurelia wheezed. She threw her head back and stared up where the ceiling was supposed to be. Still, even after such a long climb, no more was revealed than the cloudy haze that they had seen from below. "Oh! This thing goes on and on forever!" She shouted, disappointed.
"Oh don't say that." The Doctor shook his head, resting his tired leg muscles by leaning with his backside against the wall.
"That would be pointless. If anything, this tower isn't pointless. Everything in here is built with a purpose. Like this staircase."
He felt something sticking in his back so he turned. A rusted cable, thumb-sized thick, ran over the dark stones and disappeared inside a crack. He furrowed his brows. Up until now, the wall of the octagonal tower had been bare. With his eyes he followed the cable running over the tower, where it went straight up, cutting through the flight of circular staircases like a tree trunk growing through the foliage till it disappeared into infinity. He turned and looked around. From different spots on every single one of the walls, similar cables emerged from the stones and went up towards the sky.
"What is that?" He muttered, intrigued. He grabbed hold of the cable and tried to tear the plastic casing off. A shock went through his fingers sending him jumping backwards. "Ough!" The Doctor exclaimed, just before a second spark hit him. The amount of electricity he received was enough to make his hair stand up in crazy spikes.
"I said ough! Stop it!" He let go of the wire, but a third spark ignited and slapped his bum like a miniature bolt of lightening.
"Stop it! I get it, I get it, don't mess with the wiring!" He held up his hands above his head. Seemingly content with the Doctor's surrender, the angry sparks suddenly seized.
"You know, you remind me of one of our hamsters in the lab." Aurelia smirked. "The one that got out of his cage and thought the computer wiring looked rather scrumptious. Actually." She leaned forward to the Doctor and sniffed. "You smell like him too. Fuzzy we called him after his little accident. He kept chasing after his own stubby little tail in circles."
"Fuzzy was one lucky rodent if he didn't have to mentally deal with you afterwards. Let me see, shock therapy or Aurelia's incessant moaning. Oh, I think, I'll go for the first one every time." The Doctor replied, raising his eyebrows at her as her face turned sour. "Anyway, I don't need to act like a mindless vandal or like a demented hamster to get to know what's going on here." He held his sonicscrewdriver up and beamed a cheeky smile at the others. "I've got this."
He whizzed the sonic tip over the cable. Where the blue light hit the casing, the wiring inside became visible. The Doctor turned the end of the laserscrewdriver, and a projection appeared that looked like a display of an old-fashioned computer screen with a black background and green letters.
"Oh look at that." The Doctor muttered, fascinated. "A DOS operating system, gosh, this is truly ancient."
"What is it?" Neil asked, being unfamiliar with the term.
"DOS. Short for Disk Operating System. Used to be one of the first operation systems for the computer. Invented somewhere in the booming eighties of the 20th century, somewhat bothersome to use, people had to learn pages of commandos before they could even start-up a program, so it was quickly abandoned for something more simple. Not that DOS wasn't simple, the language of the program it-self was written in binary coding. Now you've got what? The octal numeral system?"
"Hexadecimal." Will answered. All of today's software is written in hexadecimal coding."
"Yes Exactly. So that would make this very old-fashion, and very outdated. Now why would someone, or something who's in possession of the technology to build this tower, this Arc that has the capacity to survive even the destruction of an entire planet, write an operation program in binary form?" The Doctor mused. "There are hardly any advantages to it. Except…"
"Except for what?" Will asked.
"Well, it's hardly an energy drain, is it? If you've got only a limited source of power, and you don't want to run something incredibly complex, you might as well use binary coding…" The Doctor's face lit up. "That's it!" He whizzed the sonic over the screen. Numbers appeared, flowing down in a long list. "These cables, they don't just disappear into the walls. They tap into them, draining energy out the building itself."
"What do you mean?" Neil asked in confusion. "How can you get power out of a building?"
"It's the twin red giants burning up in the sky. The energy of their beams of sunlight is captured by the dark stones of the tower, trapping it as heat inside these walls before these cables convert it into electricity. The amount that is generated is absolutely tiny, not even enough to lit up the little red standby light of a 21th century espresso machine, but still…it's brilliant!" He felt the hope that he had kept inside his hearts swell as he considered who could have possibly created such a thing to aid in his survival. Only one sprang to mind.
"But why is all that energy needed? There's hardly a light bulb in sight." Neil commented.
Well, It was needed to run a simple operation program, obviously."
"And what is it exactly operating?" Will asked.
"Good question. What is it operating? Now, as always, the devil is in the detail." The Doctor whirred the sonic tip over the screen, scrolling further down. The screen flickered and the endless list of numbers seized. The sound of a MAC starting up suddenly rang out of the walls as if invisible speakers were incorporated inside, followed by the black screen being replaced by a baby blue startup display showing the MAC symbol with a grey bar in the middle that slowly filled up. The others stared at the Doctor.
"I can't stand DOS." He explained and shrugged. "Gives me a headache to remember all those commands. Anyway, it won't take too much energy to boot this up. He won't notice a thing."
The desktop appeared. "Ah, there you go. Let me see." The Doctor mumbled, and started going through the files. "31% of the energy is needed to run the operation system itself. Would be a tad less of course considering the MAC operator. Still, wouldn't be far off. 12% used on data processing and data storage, and 5% for operating a life support system." His hearts leaped up when he realized the meaning of this. Then his eyes were drawn to an unusual reading. "11% is used to run a program that is currently active." The Doctor cocked his eyebrows in surprise.
Neil looked worriedly over the Doctor's shoulders at the information displayed on screen. "You mean someone is sitting behind a computer terminal upstairs?"
"Oh that freaks me out." Aurelia shivered. "Does that mean he can see us?"
"It's not for surveillance purposes. There are no signals coming from down here travelling up to feed the program." The Doctor stared at the data of program 110012 that was displayed in front of him. "No, there seems to be only one input and one output source, which is all the way up there." He stared at the ceiling.
Could it be? Could it really be you?
He was about to dig for more information when an angry spark ignited from the cable from where he was tapping into the system. The Doctor reeled back just in time to avoid another nasty shock, but had to watch helplessly how the electrical current scrambled the information on the holographic display before it was turned off. He whirred his screwdriver over the wires, trying to retrieve the signal, but it seemed that it had been shut down permanently.
"Doctor, it looks like someone really doesn't want you to mess with it." Neil tried, noticing the fixated and determined look in the Timelord's eyes. "Maybe you should leave it alone."
The Doctor glanced up at the top, his eyes following the wires that all led to the same source. They seemed to be everywhere now; he couldn't turn around facing any of the tower walls without deliberately searching for them. Neil got it all wrong. The more this strange place tried to hide its secrets from him, the more obsessed and stubborn he became to find out what that great secret was. He started climbing the steps with a renewed strength coursing through his body, and replied to the others with the only word that could summarize all of his excitement, fixation and hope.
"Allons-y!" He yelled as if it was a battle cry, and charged at his opponent, the never-ending staircase that reached all the way up to the nightmare child.
He found him in library, sitting on the floor in a foetal position, huddled away in the corner furthest away from his father's body. Sensing him near, the Master looked up. His were eyes red. His cheeks were stained with the salt of dried-up tears, but he was no longer crying. There were no tears left in him. The Doctor wanted to say something to comfort his grief. He couldn't think of anything.
The Master glanced down at his father. "He's dead." He said in a mater of fact voice, as if to explain to him his father's silence, the strangeness of him lying on the floor, eyes still opened wide, still gazing into the cold void.
The Doctor nodded solemnly. "I'm sorry. It wasn't my intention to let you remember all this."
"Oh I don't blame you. How can I? You do what you have to do. It's what you're for. I'm just not clever enough." He swallowed a lump from his throat. "I forgot about him. Haven't remembered him for hundreds of years. Those drums, they can be such a curse and such a blessing at the same time."
Softly, he rocked his body back and forth, keeping his eyes fixed on the corpse.
"It's different now. I might live another hundred years, and I still won't be able to forget that face again."
"You have to come with me." The Doctor urged. He knew that the Master was suffering, but he couldn't allow him to dwell in his disastrous memories for much longer. The intruders had found their way into the Arc, and one of them had even attempted to tap into the system. The careless vandal had almost damaged it beyond repair. He had to return to the main system core immediately and made sure that it wouldn't happen again. Meanwhile, the Master wasn't exactly getting any saner.
"Listen to me. Your neural pathways are severely damaged. We need to terminate this program immediately."
But the Master didn't move from his place. Willingly hypnotized by the movement of going back and forth, back and forth, he let the soundless lullaby cradle his grief to sleep.
There was more to this.
He recalled how he had stumbled to the back of the library, a murderer guilty of patricide. He found his father's Tardis, a marvellous machine in its prime disguised as his study in the corner of the chamber. He activated it with the seal ring, making the Tardis' core appeared with the rest of the console room. Sensing his crimes like a loyal steed would smell the scent of his owner's blood, the beating heart of the machine churned and whizzed as it tried to throw off the Master's control. He had to beat it back into submission, breaking the Tardis' will by damaging its non-vital systems and by erasing the databank that contained all of his father's memories. Finally, he left Gallifrey in the stolen Tardis, the noble son of a Lord, turned into a fugitive and outcast, banished by his own people, his name damned by the other Timelords for eternity.
His life was never the same again.
"I have been alone ever since." He whispered, his eyes staring vacantly into the far distance. "Nothing but the sound of drums to steal my sleep, a companion of death and misery." He paused for a moment.
"I saw how the light dimmed in his eyes. It was the most beautiful thing, so elusive and fragile. Still it burns inside my brains like a flame."
Caught in his madness, he continued in a bizarre mantra, the prose of a poem of a long-dead Russian writer tangled with his own words.
"The night. The street. The lamp. The light glows pale. The light glows dim. But still the light goes on. Live another hundred years, another hundred turns. The night. The street. The lamp. And still the light goes on."
The Doctor crouched down beside him and looked him in the eyes. "It's your guilt. You didn't know you could feel remorse, but you can, and now it's ruining your mind. It's killing you. Master, I know it's hard. But you can't keep up like this. You've got to snap out of it."
"Begin again each morning, we know the words by now, a light, a street, a lamp, a light that never dies." He whispered, and stared back into the Doctor's eyes.
He swallowed and blinked.
"Please." He begged, his spirit crushed and broken. "Please. Take me back."
The room disappeared. It was swallowed whole by a dark void that left nothing standing except for the Doctor and the Master, as if they were the only two beings left in a dark universe, long after the light of the last star had dimmed.
A sudden jolt, followed by a heavy weight that pulled on the Master's feet, and the surroundings began to change again. A net resembling a computer matrix was formed. Lines were drawn, composing walls, and floors, and ceilings. A paper-thin layer of colour and texture swept over it, filling in the shapes as if a child was busy with a large crayon to colour a print. First, the large surfaces were covered; a smudged, greenish black to fill in the coarse stone walls, a mix of dirty brown and yellow to spread over the straw-covered floors. Then the details followed. A door corroded down into a skeletal frame. The rusted bars of cages lined up at the side of the corridor, sitting in shallow niches that were hacked out of the walls. The flickering flames of the torches that lit the path to his cell. People started to appear, ghosts created out of thin air before their frames solidified into guards and inmates. The prisoners screamed frantically and reached out for the Doctor with their faces pressed against the bars, and madness swirling in their frightened eyes.
The Doctor stared at all of this. It greatly worried him how everything had changed for the worse. He studied the Master who stumbled towards the end of the corridor with his head bowed, seemingly untouched by the appalling circumstances. Two guards marched over to them. They were both dressed in late 18th century military uniforms. With rapiers dangling from their belts, they saluted the Doctor in strict unison.
"You brought back the prisoner sir?"
The Doctor nodded solemnly. Knowing what was to come, he didn't want this to continue, but was left powerless. The truth was that although it seemed that he was in control of the situation, he never truly was. Even back in the simulation of the 1950s asylum, it was the Master who decided, albeit unconsciously, how this world turned out to be. He could make this place as comforting and as peaceful as he wanted, a sanctuary for his damaged soul, an image of heaven even, would he have believed in such a thing. But the Master's mind wouldn't let him. In his hearts, he didn't believe he deserved anything better, so he created a world of nightmares and imprisonment, and of suffering and darkness. It was a merciless punishment bestowed on himself to appease a sense of guilt that seemed impossible to satisfy, and was always hungry for more.
And each time the Doctor failed, the Master's creations became more vicious and more unforgiving on himself.
He glanced one last time at the Master, who's stared ahead, eyes unblinking, in cold acceptance of his fate.
"Take him away." The Doctor ordered with pain in his hearts.
The guards grabbed the Master by his arms and dragged him to a chamber at the back where a fire was burning in a brazier. They took his clothes from him, leaving him shamefully naked and shivering of the cold, but he didn't offer any resistance. They fastened iron chains around his wrists and fastened a rusted collar around his neck. He didn't even attempt to set himself free. A brutal blow on the side of his head, and he was down on the floor. The second blow from the other guard landed on his chest and two of his ribs snapped. He hardly gave a whimper. They continued to beat him down like a dog, kicking and hitting him in his stomach, his legs and arms, his face, his groin. During this entire ordeal, not a single scream parted from his lips.
Finally they hauled him back up. His body was bleeding, and was reduced to a painful sack of bruised, raw skin and broken bones. Head down, he watched how his toes dragged over the filth while drops of blood dripped from his broken nose and splashed on the floor. They tossed him in his cell, a tiny rusty cage that was barely large enough to fit in a human being. The ground was covered by a pile of dirty straw that was swarming with lice. He crawled in a corner, desperate now to be left in peace. Hiding his face in the shadows, he felt the rough tugs on his collar and wrists as they chained him to the wall. Then the door slammed shut with a loud metallic clang, and he was left to himself.
The Doctor watched over him through the iron bars from the corner of the corridor. Tiredness had mercifully settled over the Master and he had finally fallen asleep. At least now, the Doctor hoped, he would be free from his suffering for a short while. He longed to stay and to guard him from the monsters he knew were about to come. But he couldn't, so he turned away with a heavy heart and strode down the darkened corridor.
There wasn't much time left before the Master started to dream.
As the Doctor walked passed the crowded cages with screaming madmen and cowering inmates, his body flashed once, then twice, as if he was an image that was caught in static. A third flash, and the Doctor walked on, but now he was in black and white, with the colour drained from his clothes and skin. Another flash, and his frame became transparent. By the time he reached the other end of the hallway, he could only be seen as a distortion in the fabric of this reality, a ripple of air that made a vague suggestion of his existence.
One last flash, and then he disappeared.
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