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Rassilon Falls

At the last moment between flight and impact, the Doctor pulled the ship sharply upwards, bent down to open a hatch in the floor of the ship- a typical means of entrance and exit when the ship had landed-, looked briefly up at Wilf one last time, and then leapt from the ship, hurtling through the air for a few seconds before he crashed through the glass dome on the mansion's roof as the ship hurtled back upwards, his suit tearing and skin being grazed and ripped by the glass shards around him, his body shaking as he struck the floor below him, the impact slowed by the glass just enough to stop the fall being fatal- the last thing he wanted was to regenerate from another fall-, as he raised the gun to aim at the figures standing before him.

The Master standing behind him (glimpsed in the brief moments between his entrance and his impact) was no surprise, of course- he was only surprised that the Master was still wearing that black hoodie; with access to the mansion's resources he would have thought that his old friend would have assumed something more stylish from Naismith's wardrobe-, but it was when he took in the sight of the figure before him dressed in the robes of the Lord President that he realised the situation had just become much worse, prompting him to briefly lose his grip on the gun at the impossible sight.

The man standing at the front of the small group of Time Lords appearing in the room before him and the Master... the man dressed in the robes of the Time Lord presidency... the man who had orchestrated this insane plan to restore Gallifrey...

He'd almost have preferred it if it had been Romana; it might have been terrifying to see what his friend had become in her third incarnation as she prepared for the War, but at least she'd been willing to listen to him towards the end, even if it had taken actually witnessing the Faction putting their plans into action to realise the scale of the mistakes she'd made.

But Rassilon...

Just the thought that the man before him had somehow managed to escape the anti-time prison that he, Charley and C'rizz had left him in after their return to this universe was enough to make him sick; he'd known that the Time Lords were desperate, but bringing back the man who'd tried to defy all the natural laws of evolution and turn him into an anti-time-contaminated assassin...

If he needed any further proof that the Gallifrey of the future was a nightmarish version of the world he'd known, this was it; bringing Rassilon back after he'd nearly unleashed something as potentially devastating as Zagreus on the universe was nothing short of insanity...

"My Lord Doctor," Rassilon said, a mocking tone in his voice as the Doctor fought to get back to his feet, agony flooding what felt like every part of his body. "My Lord Master... we are gathered here for the end."

"Listen to me," the Doctor gasped as he stared up at Rassilon, gradually moving backwards so that he was on his knees rather than simply lying sprawled on the floor- at least nothing seemed to be broken; he just felt sore-, "you can't-!"

"It is a fitting paradox," Rassilon continued, all trace of the benevolent figure who'd aided his first five selves during Borusa's mad quest for immortality pushed aside in favour of the megalomania that had driven him to create Zagreus, "that our salvation comes at the hand of our most infamous child."

"Oh, he's not saving you," the Doctor spat; he didn't know if Rassilon took that statement literally or if it was just a statement, but either way it was time to correct that. "Don't you realise what he's doing...?"

"Hey, no, hey!" the Master yelled, pointing accusing at him. "That's mine! Hush!"

Staring at the figure before him- most likely unaware of the man's true identity; pictures of Rassilon wouldn't count for anything given that this was definitely a new incarnation, and during his brief time in the Dark Tower the Master had been more focused on threatening the Doctor's first three bodies than in getting any sense of Rassilon's mental presence before he was knocked out by the Brigadier-, the Master spread his arms to indicate his other selves.

"Look around you," he said mockingly, as his 'clones' turned to face Rassilon and the other Time Lords. "I've transplanted myself into every single human being... but who wants a mongrel little species like them? Because now I can transplant myself into every single Time Lord!"

The Doctor allowed himself a brief moment to wonder how the Master expected to accomplish something like that- the Immortality Gate was currently on the other side of the temporal fissure that Rassilon and his 'advance guard' had opened to arrive on Earth in the first place-, but concluded that it didn't matter; judging by the tension in Rassilon's stance, he was preparing himself to strike back.

"Oh yes, Mr President, sir!" the Master continued, mocking scorn evident in his voice. "Standing there all noble and resplendent and decrepit. Think how much better you're gonna look as me!"

Rassilon didn't bother to respond verbally to the Master's taunts. Instead he raised his left hand, revealing a thick metal glove that put the Doctor in mind of a knight's gauntlet, and pointed it at the Master as it began to glow a brilliant blue. Instantly, the other Masters' heads began to flick rapidly from side to side, the heads of those Masters not wearing the full-head-helmets of Joshua Naismith's security staff vibrating too quickly to see their faces, the Master's indignant protests only just audible over the sound of the transformation...

Then, as soon as it had begun, it was over, and the Master was unique once more, with Naismith's staff all staring in confusion at their surroundings.

"On your knees, mankind," Rassilon said, staring in cold contempt at the people around him; the Doctor doubted that Rassilon was even that bothered about their response at this point given that what he was planning was nearly inevitable at this stage, but it was most likely the principle of the thing more than anything else...

"Th-that's fine," the Master said, clearly trying to re-assert his self-perceived authority. "That's good, because you said salvation! I still saved you; don't forget that!"

"The approach begins..." Rassilon said, looking upwards as the world began to shake, an almost rapturous expression on his face as he took in what was happening.

"The approach of what?" the Master asked, leaning in slightly to whisper to the Doctor in a low voice (For a moment the Doctor was almost reminded of the times when he'd used that same voice back in the Academy when asking Koschei for a few quick pointers on Cosmic Science, but that thought was swiftly pushed aside).

"Something is returning," he said, his teeth clenched as he fought to control his fear at the events now taking place, staring in frustration at his old friend. "Don't you ever listen? That was the prophecy; not someone, something!"

"What is it?" the Master asked, clearly growing increasingly desperate to get an answer.

"They're not just bringing back the species!" the Doctor yelled, furious at his old friend's ignorance of the implications of his actions; the incarnation that had fought him for so long in his third incarnation would have realised what was happening long before now. "It's Gallifrey! Right here, right now!"

Even as the Doctor spoke, he sensed the revival of old senses in the back of his mind... the old remnants of the telepathic link to the rest of his people, the link that had been so brutally severed when they died, the link that he'd long ago stopped himself from registering on a conscious level...

And, if the Master's horror-widened eyes as he fell to his knees were any indication, he was just as aware of it as the Doctor was.

"Aha!" he said, clearly trying to salvage something from this mess as Naismith and his staff ran from the mansion in fear as the shaking continued. "I did this! I get the credit! I'm on your side!"

The Doctor couldn't believe his former friend at times; the entire planet was shaking itself apart, and all he could do was try and score points with a species that he'd tried to destroy in his original quest for more lives before going on to sell the secrets of the Matrix itself...

For a moment, the Doctor's attention was drawn to the sound of someone running into the room rather than running out of it, his eyes automatically falling on Wilf- faithful old Wilfred Mott, coming in to help at the last minute-, but then Wilf turned towards one of the Vinvocci-glass-shielded radiation booths, a scientist still trapped inside it, and the Doctor was forced to re-evaluate his brief hope.

"Wilf, don't!" he yelled desperately, only to be forced to watch as Wilf stepped into the empty box and hit the button, freeing the scientist but almost certainly condemning himself...

"But this is fantastic, isn't it?" the Master's voice said, drawing his attention away from Wilf and back to his rival, once again wondering whether the Master even cared about what he'd done beyond the chance to 'beat' him at something. "The Time Lords restored!"

"You weren't there in the final days of the war," the Doctor said, the brief vision Compassion had shown him of the conflict that would have resulted if the war had been waged beyond the first strike against Gallifrey. "You never saw what was born... but if the Time Lock's broken than everything's coming through! Not just the Daleks, but the Skaro Degradations, the Horde of Travesties, the Nightmare Child, the Could-Have-Been King with his Army of Meanwhiles and Never Weres- the war turning to Hell!"

The Doctor knew even as he spoke that he'd exaggerated some features of the war more than he might have done- he'd only received a vague impression of what the Could-Have-Been King was capable of, although he was fairly sure that it had been connected to beings similar to Gabriel and Tanith-, but it made the point he was looking for; breaking the Time Lock could result in nothing good.

"And that's what you've opened," he said, staring in contempt at his old friend. "Right above the Earth... Hell is descending."

"My kind of world-!" the Master grinned, staring upwards in eager anticipation.

"Just listen!" the Doctor protested; if he could make the Master see sense when simply dealing with the Nestene Consciousness, making him understand the danger he faced on this scale had to be possible. "Because even the Time Lords can't survive that!"

"We will initiate the final sanction!" Rassilon proclaimed, the Doctor lowering his head in shame as he heard the pronouncement that he'd only glimpsed at the end of Compassion's vision, the proclamation that proved how far his people would fall...

"The end of time will come at my hand!" Rassilon continued, the victory in his voice and the cold certainty on his face reflecting the insane resolve for his people to prevail over all else that had driven him to try and transform the Doctor into his own killer. "The rupture will continue until it rips the Time Vortex apart!"

"That's suicide!" the Master interjected, with the tone of a man who knew that he was stating the obvious but didn't know what else could be said.

"We will ascend!" Rassilon continued, his arms spread wide as he spoke, fanaticism blatant on his face. "To become creatures of consciousness alone! Free of these bodies... free of time and cause and effect... where creation itself ceases to be!"

"You see now?" the Doctor asked, glaring at the Master; he wasn't even sure if Rassilon's talk of 'ascension' would have worked or not, but even if it had the consequence of the Time Lords surviving the war that way was too high to pay. "That's what they were planning... in the final days of the war. I had to stop them!"

"Then..." the Master said, the slightest trace of fearful tears in his eyes as he stepped forward, spreading his arms as he spoke, "take me with you! Lord President, let me ascend into glory!"

Even as the Master knelt down, however, the Doctor knew what Rassilon was going to say next.

"You are... diseased," the first Time Lord spat contemptuously at the Master. "Albeit a disease of our own making."

For a moment, Rassilon stood in silence, as though to ensure that the Master understood his statement, before he spoke again.

"No more," he said simply, raising his gauntlet once again...

Only to be cut off as the Doctor, once again on his feet, took the safety off the gun in his hand, pointing it directly at Rassilon's head.

The bullet might not kill Rassilon- he had no way of knowing if Rassilon's new body had any regenerations left to it or if it was little more than a means for him to lead-, but it would at least disorient him long enough for the current connection to be shut down, possibly even allowing a few Time Lords to escape Gallifrey in the moments before the Lock re-sealed itself without any taints of Rassilon's madness affecting their TARDISes...

"Choose your enemy well," Rassilon said, his cold gaze fixed on the Doctor. "We are many; the Master is but one."

"But he's the President!" the Master added, and the Doctor knew without looking that his friend was smirking. "Kill him and Gallifrey could be yours!"

Gallifrey could be yours...

How often had that been used as an offer to tempt him to stay?

His assumption of the Presidency to defeat the Vardans, Flavia's offer after Borusa's mad quest for immortality- he was starting to wonder if Rassilon had set the Game of Rassilon up to simply eliminate others who might seek immortality in the belief that only he deserved it-, Darkel's suggestion after his defeat of the Valeyard, even Quences's own plans for him, in those long-ago days in Lungbarrow...

No.

Even as he turned around to aim his weapon at the Master, he knew he couldn't do it; he wasn't a man who could wield that power the way it would need to be wielded to save his race from what they'd become.

"He's to blame, not me!" the Master said, his tone clearly panicked, before he realised what the Doctor was doing.

"Oh," he said, indicating his own head with a brief nod, "the link is inside my head! Kill me, the link gets broken, they go back!"

It was almost simpler this way, the Doctor had to admit; the Master was already dying, he'd just be making sure the process happened when it would be best for all concerned....

"You never would, you coward!" the Master retorted, only for the Doctor to continue to stare at him, remembering all those other occasions when he'd been in this position.

He'd hesitated to shoot Davros, all those long ago days in his fifth incarnation, and the universe had only experienced further pain as a result; wasn't death sometimes necessary...?

"Go on then," the Master said, the hesitation and fear in his voice only slightly noticeable. "Do it!"

Even the faint tears in his opponent's eyes at the thought of his approaching death couldn't deter the Doctor's aim; the Master's plans had gone on for far too long...

But this wasn't the Master's plan...

"Exactly!" the Master said, fear replaced by triumph as the gun was once again aimed at Rassilon. "It's not just me, it's him! He's the link; kill him!"

"The final act of your life is murder," Rassilon sneered at the Doctor, all traces of the old wisdom that had led the early Gallifreyians on the path to mastery of time pushed aside by his insane quest for survival. "But which one of us?"

Which one of us?

That was the question, wasn't it?

Kill the Master, the former friend who'd caused him so much pain and grief over the years... the man who had used Victoria, Jo, Adric, Kamelion, Mel, Ace, Chris, and Grace as nothing but pawns to be discarded... the man who had caused him to lose two of his lives... the man who had conquered Earth for a year... the man who was only a pawn himself in this latest scheme...

Kill Rassilon, the man who had used his compassion for Charley to turn him into a weapon... the man who had corrupted his own TARDIS to turn against him... the man who influenced the evolution of an entire species to try and escape his prison... the leader who had led Gallifrey to become the Time Lords...

Two choices...

Both impossible...

Hello, Snail, a voice whispered in his mind.

Glancing to Rassilon's left, the Doctor's eyes fell on a woman dressed in red, lowering her hands from her eyes, short dark hair around an old but still attractive face, looking tearfully at him.

The Doctor's hearts froze.

Innocet...

The only one of his forty-three family members to ever show him kindness as he grew up, the only one who never pressured him to be anything more than what he wanted to be, the only one who'd even come close to understanding him...

She was there...

And for a moment, as he stared at her, the Doctor remembered the first time he'd been in a position to make one of two life-altering choices...

Glospin's accusations that he wasn't a true member of the House of Lungbarrow...

The fight between the two that ended with Glospin fleeing in a rage...

His own subsequent flight from Gallifrey, refusing to stay and face his accusers...

Both of the options available would have condemned him then; he'd simply chosen the one that would have allowed him to be free to travel everywhere else he wished, even if Gallifrey itself was cut off from him, rather than return to Lungbarrow and face Glospin's accusations.

Back then, he'd believed that he had only two options.

This time, however...

He watched as Innocet's eyes flicked briefly towards the generator holding the white point star, and inspiration struck.

He had a third option....

It was risky, of course, but if it had a chance of working...

The first time he'd made one of two impossible choices like this, he'd believed that those two options were all that was available to him.

If his travels had taught him anything, it was that nothing was ever that simple; there was always a third alternative (Even if sometimes, such as when he was face-to-face with Davros/Grandfather Paradox, the third option was almost as bad as the other two)...

His decision made, the Doctor turned around to aim his gun at the Master once again.

Time for Door Number Three, he thought grimly.

"Get out of the way," he said simply.

For a moment, the Master was smiling at him, the insanity and animosity of centuries fading for a moment to reveal the boy who'd accompanied him in their first exploration of the Matrix all those years ago...

Then the Master ducked to the side, his face no longer blocking the shot as the Doctor fired the gun into the Key Generator, dislodging the white point star and setting the circuits ablaze as the energy shorted out.

"The link is broken!" the Doctor proclaimed, turning back to stare intently as Rassilon, wind whirling around them from the energy being drawn in as the Time Lock reasserted itself. "Back into the Time War, Rassilon! Back into Hell!"

For a moment, as the two old rivals stared at each other- the man who had sought to preserve Gallifrey over the man who had chosen to preserve the wider cosmos-, the Doctor heard a brief, vague scream about Gallifrey's fall, but ignored it; the more immediate issue right now was Rassilon raising the gauntlet...

"You die with me, Doctor!" he said bitterly.

"I know," the Doctor replied simply.

He couldn't even look at Innocet one last time as she hid her face behind her hands once more, his gaze fixed on the enemy who had committed unspeakable crimes against the universe to try and preserve his people beyond the constraints of the natural order, the gauntlet glowing all the more intensely as the light of the temporary time corridor Rassilon had established to Earth began to draw the Time Lords back into the War...

"Gout of the way," a voice said from behind him. Looking back, the Doctor just had time to see the Master rubbing his hands together, his gaze fixed on Rassilon.

The Doctor didn't bother to question his old friend; as soon as the Master launched his first blast of his own life energy from his hands, the Doctor had dived out of harm's way, the blast striking Rassilon in the chest and causing him to lose the concentration necessary to control the gauntlet.

"You did this to me!" the Master roared, continuing to pour his own energy into the assault as he roared at the man before him. "All of my life! You made me!"

As he began to launch further blasts at Rassilon, the Master drew ever closer to the glow of the time corridor, becoming inceasingly indistinct as he approached his enemy, the brilliance of the corridor making it hard for the Doctor to even see what was happening, the pain of his damaged body still his primary concern as he fell to the ground once more, trying to shield himself physically and mentally from the pain and anguish of the screams of his Time Lord brethren dying in the War all over again...

Then the light faded, the power of the nearly broken Time Lock dying down around him, leaving him lying on the floor, staring at his outstretched right hand.

His unchanged right hand.

His hands, his clothes, his face... even his hair... they all... felt the same.

He hadn't regenerated...

"I'm alive..." he whispered, almost unable to believe it as he struggled upwards so that he was resting on his knees, small pieces of glass being brushed aside as he moved, disbelieving sobs shaking his body at the realisation of what had happened...

Then the sound of four knocks broke the silence that had settled in the room, and the Doctor's jubilation faded.

Wilfred Mott... trapped behind Vinvocci glass... in a machine that would release a lethal radiation burst as soon as anyone touched anything to try and get him out.

This was it.

The moment that the Ood and Carmen had predicted would take place.

Just as his fifth self had died to save Peri...

Just as his last self had given his life to save Rose...

He would now give his life for Wilf.

He wouldn't be the Doctor if he did anything else.

He couldn't bring himself to reflect on the irony of the situation as he turned to look at Wilf; this marked the third time that one of the Master's plans would result in the loss of a life without the plan's central goal being his death...


AN: To those who want to know, Gabriel and Tanith were enemies of the Seventh Doctor in the novel "Falls the Shadow", serving as the physical manifestation of the pain of the spirits who had been erased from existence due to the actions of time travellers erasing the timelines that would create them

AN 2: Regarding Rassilon, the Eighth Doctor confronted Rassilon in the audios "Zagreus" and "The Next Life", where it was revealed that Rassilon lived on in the Time Lord Matrix- the repository for the knowledge of all deceased Time Lords-, seeking to vanquish the race that would have evolved to surpass the Time Lords by sealing them in the universe of anti-time and subsequently contaminating the Doctor with anti-time to become his assassin against them. The Doctor was able to resist the anti-time infection long enough to be cured of it by his companions, subsequently banishing Rassilon into the anti-time universe for good, but given his presence it would appear that the Time Lords of the Time War were able to rescue him to lead them in the Time War

AN 3: For those who don't know, Innocet was the Doctor's Cousin, introduced in the Seventh Doctor novel "Lungbarrow", where the Doctor returned to his childhood home of Lungbarrow. I acknowledge that the popular theory about the woman is that she was the Doctor's mother, but in the most commonly-used versions of the Doctor's birth- neither of which have been expressly confirmed as his true birth-, he was either generated from the genetic looms that all Time Lords come from or he was the child of a Time Lord father and a human mother, so the woman obviously cannot have been the Doctor's mother if the first is true as the Doctor would have never had a mother, and in the second instance it's unlikely that a human woman- regardless of her heritage- would have been allowed any kind of say in the final fate of Gallifrey at such a crucial moment; with this in mind, Innocet made the best candidate. The reference to the incident with Glospin refers to the First Doctor's confrontation with his Cousin Glospin, who claimed to have discovered evidence that the Doctor wasn't a member of the House of Lungbarrow and was thus an unknown 'outsider'- the full implications of this weren't explained- before he was forced to leave the Doctor; faced with a choice between returning to Lungbarrow and facing his accusers after having already been banished from the house or leaving the accusations for good, the Doctor chose to take the TARDIS and leave Gallifrey, rather than try and find an alternative to clear his name and preserve his family