For those who have reviewed my previous chapters: thank you all for taking the time for doing this. It's much appreciated and very motivating.
When Donna opened her eyes again, the first thing she saw was how the officers and paramedics took the terrified young man outside to the street. There they cut the restraints from his wrists and ankles before picking him up from the wheelchair and dragging him to mister Foks. When he struggled, one of them hit him hard on the side of his head with the back of his baton.
"Gently mister Baines." Foks commanded, raising his chin up as he waited with his hands kept on his back. "We don't need to act like brutes here, even if we are one in your case. Remember, we need him alive to stand trial."
Donna was terrified. When the strange officers ran back into the house and came anywhere near her, she shut her eyes and pretended to be asleep.
"Bring him here mister Baines, let me take a look at him."
Mister Foks studied the wretched Timelord's face.
"The notorious Master. How strange it is to finally meet face to face." Mister Foks mused. "You have made quite a name for yourself sir. There are whole sections in the court's archives that are dedicated to you solely, all reporting on your numerous crimes. I studied them all, back when I was still a student at the university. My teachers didn't understand my fascination. With them being of Judoon origin, it wasn't quite surprising that the real genius of your work had eluded them. But I recognized it. I saw the raw and savage brilliance of your achievements." Foks leaned in on him, his hot breath smelled like mints. "I couldn't help myself. I became quite obsessed. You have such an astounding immoral mind." Foks shook his head, his eyes carrying a strange glint of adoration. "You have committed such utter disturbed visions of felony and such thoroughly thought through nightmare offences. You sir, are a magnificent criminal masterpiece, a Shadow prosecutor's wet dream."
The Master stared back at him in silence with veiled and tired eyes.
"Or perhaps, I should say, you had an astounding mind." Foks frowned. "I must admit that I'm somewhat feeling disappointed. You see, I had rehearsed this meeting with you, over and over again in my head, countless of times. I had expected myself to be overwhelmed by your intelligence. Left in awe by your sharp replies and cunning evasions. Instead, I'm looking down at a hollow shell, a shadow of the man you once were."
The Master lowered his head, and stared down at his dirty feet.
"Still, maybe I shouldn't be too hard on you. It's obvious that your mind is gone. After what had happened to you, I guess it was to be expected." The polite smile returned to mister Foks's face. The Master shrunk back when mister Foks stepped forward, his blue eyes shifting into a blood-drenched shade of red. A memory stirred inside the Master's quiet mind. A 2000 years old memory that had been once instilled into his brain by the Doctor's guardian angel, a vision of his possible future that was now turning into frightening reality.
Mister Foks's eyes were two burning spheres of cobalt, shimering in the dark, staring right into the Master's soul.
"Oh I can still see it in there, hiding so very quietly." Foks said in a low and dangerous voice. A sly smile appeared on his lips. "I can see your soul sir, and it's all intact. Even most of your memories are still in there, tucked away like precious gems, and so very lovingly restored. By the good Doctor perhaps? Was he the remarkable healer who performed this miracle on you?" Mesmerized by the burning embers in mister Fok's eyes, the Master hardly dared to blink. His body was frozen by an irrational fear that clutched onto his hearts with the cold dead hands of his numerous victims.
"You know, I'm glad he did." Mister Foks whispered. "This would make my upcoming task at the court of justice so much easier." His eyes slowly turned back to their normal color. He beckoned at mister Baines.
"Hook this monster up to the transmission line." He ordered, while he kept staring at the Master with a pitiless expression on his face. "Tell the others to clean up this mess." He gestured at the wrecked door and hallway of the Noble's residence. "And don't forget to wipe that bothersome woman's mind. I don't want us to leave a single trace."
Mister Baines dragged the Master away. Weakened after the expose to mister Foks's inquisition into his soul, the Master stumbled and fell to the ground. Mister Baines looked down at him without even so much as a trace of sympathy.
"Get up." He ordered.
The Master tried, but wasn't fast enough. Baines lashed out and bashed his baton down on his spine.
"Mister Baines!" Foks shouted, irritated once again by the mindless brute. "What are you doing? Stop that immediately!" He strode over to the Judoon officer. Baines turned and left the Master shivering on the pavement, gasping in red-hot agony.
Meanwhile, a Judoon medic went inside the house to find Donna, but she was no longer lying on the floor near the staircase. She had fled the house through the backdoor of the kitchen and was rushing down the alley in a state of panic. She only came to an abrupt halt near the corner of the junction. It suddenly occurred to her that she had been running the wrong way. She had been heading back towards Wessex lane, right where Foks and his men were. Frightened, she glanced around the corner. They didn't see her, but she did notice the Master, lying on the pavement only a few meters away from where Foks and Baines were standing.
Donna wanted to turn on her heels, but hesitated when she saw him slowly struggling to get up. She couldn't just leave him with those brutes. With fear in her heart and an agitated mind that wondered what the heck she was doing, she went over to the Master while mister Baines and mister Foks had their backs turned. Luckily, they were too busy arguing to notice her sneaking by.
"Please. Get up." She whispered urgently. She feared that he might not be able to stand up, but somehow, despite of the pain, he managed.
"Quickly. Come with me." She dragged the Master behind him as they ran back to the alley and disappeared around the corner.
Donna rushed down the narrow corridor with the Master limping by her side, leaning heavily on her, but getting quicker with each step.
"You're hurt." Donna breathed, noticing with alarm the spot of red on the fabric of his trousers that was gradually expanding over his left knee as he moved. "We can't outrun them, not like this."
Reaching the crossing with Garland road, she spotted the sign for a tube station. Donna took the Master's hand and led him towards the entrance.
"Where is he? You idiots! I told you to link him up to the transmission line. How could you brain-dead morons let a prisoner who has a bloody leg injury escape?"
"You told me to have a word with you." Baines simply answered, failing to even notice that mister Foks was trying to shove the blame upon him.
"Sir, the redhead, she is gone too." The Judoon policeman reported.
Mister Foks, although usually a very restrained and composed man, was now quickly loosing his temper. Nostrils flaring, and with his hand clenched into a white-knuckled fist, he was about to hit Baines in the face. It was only that he stared at that impassive, almost robot-like expression on the Judoon soldier that he realized that his act of retaliation would probably hurt him more than it would mister Baines. He cooled down and composed himself.
"Sir?" Another officer reported.
"Yes?!" Foks hissed, with his eyes still fixed on Baines.
"Found him sir, they're heading down to the nearby tube station."
"Well. Don't just stand there, get him back!" Foks sneered.
In the underground station, Donna, who was relieved to find for once, her commuter card tucked away inside her pocket, swiped it across the checking post and pushed the Master through the portal to get him in first. Then she glanced around, and after making sure that no-one would see her, she vaulted the barrier. They rushed down the escalator with Donna up front. The Master was now stumbling behind her, the leg injury was playing up, and the blood-soaked layers of bandages that Wilf had wrapped around his knee started to loosen and come off. Still he kept on going. They ran down the platform where rows of people were waiting for the incoming train. As they pushed further down the line, shouts coming from the back made Donna look over her shoulder. The Judoon policemen had followed them and were heading down, just when a train pulled into the station. The doors slid open. Donna moved the Master into the coach and shoved him down in front of the window seats to keep him out of sight. The other commuters who were already on the train, glanced down at the strange duo scrambling over the floor, but quickly averted their eyes when Donna glared up at them. As they waited for the doors to close, the first officer passed the door next to them. Seeing the reflection of the Judoon policeman in the glass panel, the Master let a go of a frightened whimper and scattered back till he bumped against the leg of a female office worker.
"Look at where you're going!" She complained and quickly moved away from him. She shot a demeaning glance at the cowering Master while she checked her tights for any stains.
"Oi! He's just scared!" Donna fumed, unable to control herself. "Never seen a disabled person before, have you? Why don't you just go point and laugh."
The woman blushed and looked away.
"There he is! He's on the train!" The Judoon officer waved his baton at them. Donna could slap herself, but just as their persecutor wanted to jump on the carriage, the doors closed.
The noise of the Judoon officer hammering on the mechanic doors frightened the Master so much that he coiled up and hid his face in Donna's lap with his hands pressed on his ears. Finally, the train started to move out of the station. The Judoon officer chased after it, pushing and shoving people aside till he ran out of platform and had to watch the train vanish inside the black tunnel.
Donna sank down with her back against the glass divider, trying to retrieve her calm. She glanced down at the terrified young man. "It's alright." She told him, and gently stroked his hair. "It alright now. They're gone. Whoever they are, they're gone."
The other commuters, having witnessed what appeared to be a policeman chasing down the odd couple, left in a hurry. They got off on the next station or moved to another section, leaving Donna and the Master in an almost empty carriage by the time they reached the first above ground stations.
To Donna, this was absolutely fine. She hadn't found back the strength in her legs yet to pick Frederick up from the floor anyway.
Glancing down at the man who she had just saved, she wondered why those horrid men were after him. When she looked in his eyes, she could not imagine that they were right about him. He couldn't really be that dangerous. Mad maybe, but a murderer? Besides, gramps would never lie to her, would he?
"Who are you?" She muttered. She noticed how he kept fiddling with something that was stuck around his left wrist. When she grabbed his hand and held it still for a moment, a white bracelet slipped down from under his sleeve.
Just when she was about to take a better look at it, the Master pulled away. He brought the wristband to his mouth and started biting on it, trying to rip it off like a dog chewing on a bothersome collar. Donna saw a small green light flashing in the middle of the bracelet.
"Oh this is getting way too weird." She sighed as the consequences of what she had done slowly hit her. "Look at me. What am I doing?" She rambled. "I just ran off with a madman. I mean no offence, but I hardly know you."
She clutched her forehead, and stared at the seemingly harmless blinking signal on the bracelet, but remained unaware of its function.
"And where am I going with you?" She mused. "I am certainly not going to take you to my flat. Shaun would think that I've lost my marbles. And I can't bring you back to Wessex Lane."
A thought hit her, sending her right back into panic mode. "Gramps. He's going to come back home with those violent maniacs still waiting at the door. I've got to warn him!"
She grabbed her mobile and dialed her grandfather's number. For a long time, the phone just rang without a reply, and she started to wonder if those men had already got to him.
"He doesn't pick up the phone." She said with tears shining behind her eyes.
The Master looked back at her with a morose expression on his face.
"Please gramps." She whispered. "Please."
The Doctor was just about to slow down the Tardis for landing when he picked up the sound. He perked up his ears. "What's that?" He said and furrowed his brows while he looked around.
"I think it's me." Wilf said, and reached for his mobile. It was playing a jolly little jingle as he fished it out. "Someone's calling." He checked the display.
"Oh, it's Donna!" Wilf glanced up at the Doctor. "Can I answer it? I mean, with us traveling in the timevortex and all, I won't be calling her back in another 30 years or anything weird like that?"
"Well, there could be some delay." The Doctor answered, pleasantly surprised by the way Wilf's mind worked. "But only a minute or so, nothing too serious. Go ahead." The Doctor encouraged.
Wilf punched in a button. "Donna! Is that you?" He said with relief clearly sounding through his voice.
"Gramps! I thought they took you! Thank God you're still okay."
"What do you mean? Who are supposed to take me?"
"Those men, the ones who came at our door and demanded to take Frederick here back to some maximum security madhouse. They were dressed like the police, but they were so odd. I didn't trust them. I wouldn't let them in, and they just kicked in the door and dragged Minnie's grandson out into the street. They hit him gramps. They were hitting him like mad. What kind of horrid place did his parents sent him to?"
"Donna, are those men still there?" Wilf asked, alarmed.
"No, no, we ran away. Jumped on a train at the nearby tube station. I called because I was afraid you might run into them. They said he was a murderer." Donna glanced at the Master. "They were lying, right?" She whispered into the phone. "You didn't take in a homicidal maniac who has just escaped from an asylum, and I didn't just help him to get away, please tell me that."
"You did the right thing, sweetheart." Wilf answered, although he didn't know what to say about the homicidal maniac part. "I'm proud of you."
"Ask her where the train is heading. What is the next station?" The Doctor yelled from behind the controls.
"Is there someone with you gramps? Where are you exactly, there some very strange noises coming through." Donna asked worriedly.
"Uhm, Donna my sweet, tell me where you are. Tell me which station you are heading."
"I dunno. I just jumped on the first train that came in. But wait. Uhm." She looked up at the colorful map of the London tube system that was displayed above the doors and windows. "We've just passed Clapham South, so we must be on the Northern line. I think the next station is going to be Balham."
"It's Balham!" Wilf yelled back at the Doctor, raising his voice above the Tardis's engines while muting the speaker with his hand.
"Then Balham it is." The Doctor said determinedly, and steered the Tardis around. "Tell her to wait for you on the platform. We're heading their way."
"Donna, get off the train at Balham. Wait for me on the platform."
"What do mean? How do you get there? Gramps? Tell me where you are!"
"Don't tell her!" The Doctor shouted, as he fought the turbulence with both his hands on the steer. "Hang up Wilf."
"Donna, just wait for me there, sweetheart. I'll be there, I promise!"
With a pain in his heart, Wilf ended the call.
"He hung up." Donna said, astonished. "He just hung up."
The train jolted as it slowly pulled into the next station. Donna stared out of the window and saw the sign for Balham pass by. She put away her phone. Her throat was dry of nervousness.
The doors opened to a platform that seemed deserted. No-one got on or left the train. The Master suddenly raised his head and sniffed the cool fresh air that drifted into the carriage. He recognized that scent. He crawled back up and stumbled towards the door.
"Hey, were are you going?" Donna said, heading after him.
The Master stepped out onto the platform, his feet breaking the thin layer of ice that had crusted on the stones. Squinting against the low afternoon sun, he looked around, searching for that one familiar face that he trusted. He found him standing at the far end of the platform near the staircase, next to the old man who had rescued him from the cellar. When they caught sight of the Master, they both headed straight towards him.
"Gramps?" Donna muttered as she recognized one of the two approaching men. "Gramps, is that you?" She was just about to step out of the carriage when a bright unnatural light burst into existence, followed by a distorting in the air that resembled the rippling motion of water when a stone was dropped into a pond.
She gasped when mister Foks and his followers appeared, right in front of her eyes as if by magic. The whole group was bathing in the afterglow of plasma light that had carried them all the way from Wessex Lane.
"How? How could you just turn up like that?" She stammered. Her head suddenly started to hurt.
Mister Foks looked up from his tracking device. This time, he had made good use of the technology at hand and the limited number of destinations of the London tube line to find the fugitive. Without so much as a glance at Donna, he pinned his eyes on the Master, snapped his fingers and pointed at his target.
Two Judoon officers rushed over and grabbed the Master by his shoulders and wrists, twisting his hands behind his back.
"Let go of him!" The Doctor yelled. He shot worried glances at Donna, who was swaying on her feet with her head clutched between her hands. "Wilf, get Donna out of here."
"Oh no, she's not going anywhere till we have wiped her head clean." Mister Foks said. Gesturing at mister Baines, the tall man stopped Wilf by grabbing him by his arm, preventing him from getting any closer to his granddaughter.
"What are you doing you swine?" Wilf shouted. "Let me through!"
Mister Foks stepped forward, facing the Doctor. "You must be the other remaining Timelord in existence. The Lady Architect informed me about you. The legendary Doctor. A name that is as illustrious as the Master's name is infamous."
"Leave my friend alone. The Master is my responsibility, not yours." The Doctor replied with a stern expression on his face.
"Your friend here is a dangerous criminal who is persecuted by the intergalactic court of the Shadow Proclamation." Mister Foks laughed. "You cannot claim responsibility over him. I'm here to apprehend the Master and bring him to justice. As for the human female –" He put his nose in the air and sniffed her scent. "There is something odd with the female." Mister Foks mused, heading over to her with his hands resting behind his back. "Keep an eye on the Doctor." He ordered, and two of his men immediately grabbed the Timelord, holding him back.
"No! She's got nothing to do with this!" The Doctor said with panic rising like bile in the back of throat. "She didn't commit any crime. In the name of Judoon Justice, I order you to leave her alone!"
"Oh, I'm convinced that she didn't commit any crime, but I'm just not so sure now about you Doctor."
Mister Foks leaned in on Donna, who was now propped against the side of the carriage in front of the entrance. Her long red hair was draped in clammy strands in front of her flushed face.
"Wha-What's happening?" She asked, her voice trembling and frail. "I can see, I can see these things, these creatures. It's so weird." She blinked her eyes as the forbidden memories rushed back to her. She gazed up, and stared at the Doctor. "You were there." She muttered, half-dazed by the pain. "I saw you. I…I remember you…"
"Donna, please, stop! Shut your eyes! Don't look at me!" The Doctor pleaded.
"Oh, why wouldn't she?" Mister Foks said with a righteous flush burning on his cheeks. "She is, after all, your creation. A frail female of the human race caught in a Timelord metacrisis, an abomination that goes against all the unwritten laws of the universe. You know as well as I do that she shouldn't be allowed to exist."
"Hey! Who are you calling an abomination? Have you recently taken a good look at yourself you little shit?!" Wilf fumed.
"Remember to wipe that old man's head after we're done here, mister Baines."
Mister Foks ordered without taking his eyes off Donna.
"She is burning up, Doctor. She won't last long if she keeps looking at you, but she can't help herself, can she?" A cruel smile played on his lips when he noticed the horror on the Doctor's face.
"It wasn't her fault. She didn't want to, she didn't ask to become part Timelord and part human. Please, let it stop." The Doctor begged. Oh please, let it stop.
He glanced at the Master who was standing the closest to Donna.
Master, if you can hear me. Don't let him do this to her. Please, please help her.
The Master shook his head and stared at the Doctor in desperation. His mind damaged and frozen, he was unable to think of any possible way that he could be of any help.
The train. The Doctor answered. It's leaving. Get her back on the train.
Mister Foks, who was unaware of the Doctor's telepathic connection with his prisoner, studied Donna's agony with as much empathy as an average tax-collector would have for someone who had committed fraud.
"Such an agonizing slow death." He considered, and crossed his arms over his chest. "Perhaps I should hurry it up a little, just for efficiency's sake."
He gazed into Donna's eyes. His pupils changed into the color of dark wine. They glistened lazily like hot lumps of coal. His penetrative gaze made her rock unsteadily on her feet. It made the strange and fearful images come into her mind more violently, the Daleks, the Oods, the Vespimorph, all rushing back and clouding her head that started to burn with a dangerously high fever.
"Stop it! Stop it immediately!" The Doctor yelled and struggled against the Judoon soldiers. "YOU'RE KILLING HER!"
"DONNA! Stop it! Stop it you swine!" Wilf cried.
"Just cleaning after you, my dear Doctor." Mister Foks said in a matter of fact voice.
The doors of the train started to close. It was right in that moment that the Master managed to struggle free from one of the soldiers. He swirled around and with a precision of aim that astounded both Wilf and the Doctor, he punched the Judoon right in his left eye socket, sending him reeling away from him. The second soldier grabbed his baton and swung out, but the Master ducked down and dashed to mister Foks, ramming his shoulder into his back. The impact sent the Shadow prosecutor tottering backwards. He collided into Donna. She fell right through the closing entrance into the carriage, just a split second before the doors were completely closed.
The train started to move out of the station. Wilf and the Doctor watched with relief and worry in their hearts how Donna scrambled back up from the floor, shaking her head as she headed back towards the windows. Seeing her grandfather standing on the platform, she banged on the doors and called out to him.
Then the train disappeared out of sight.
"She will be alright. Don't worry." The Doctor muttered, noticing how upset Wilf' was. "He didn't get to her. Soon she will fall asleep and forget about all this. She will forget that she has ever seen me."
And thank you. He told the Master with sincerity and gratitude in his eyes. Thank you for saving her.
"Mister Baines." Mister Foks called, scrambling up from the platform with the corners of his mouth turned down in extreme displeasure. "Take these Timelord goons into custody. And this time, make sure that you hook them up on the transmission line first before you start swinging your fists at them."
He stood up straight, tidied his collar and brushed the dust from his suit. When the Judoons dragged the Master away he gestured them to halt.
"I'll make an exception for this one." He punched the Timelord hard in the solar plexus, making him bend double in pain.
"Hey! Keep your hands off him!" The Doctor yelled while the soldiers hooked a transmission belt around his waist. Mister Foks was hardly daunted by the Doctor's protests. He readjusted his cuffs and snapped his fingers. The Judoons fastened a similar belt around the Master's waist.
"Do you want us to leave the human behind?" Baines asked.
Foks glanced at Wilf for a second or so.
"No, take him with us." He ordered. His mind was already working on the case ahead with lawyer-like efficiency. "I may be able to use him later on."
"Hey! What are you doing?!" Wilf protested when the Judoons fastened the transmission belt on him. "What's that thing you've put around my middle? What's it for?"
Mister Foks completely ignored Wilf. "Gentlemen, using this term loosely. I think we're ready to return to the fleet and report to her Lady Architect." He took out the tracker and hooked it up to his own transmission belt. "On the count of three. One, two and – start transportation."
"Oh my- " Wilf muttered, but before he could finish his sentence, his physical form vanished from the station.
The Doctor and Wilf were locked inside a cell on board of one of the Judoon's spaceships. As soon as the soldiers left, the Doctor started pacing around impatiently in front of the bars like a caged lion, anxious to get out.
"You can't do this!" He yelled, and slammed his hands flat against the bars. "In the name of the Shadow Proclamation, I demand to speak to someone in higher authority!"
"As long as you at it, you might as well ask for our phone call as well." Wilf muttered and sank down on the narrow cot. "Those bastards took my mobile. There's no way I can call back to Donna now to check whether she's alright." He added worriedly.
The Doctor sat down next to Wilf. " Don't worry. She's fine. They won't come after her."
"How come you're so sure?"
"Too much paperwork." The Doctor explained and gazed at Wilf. "Before they can take anyone from the registered races into custody, they need to have the right papers ready to make an arrest. With something as complicated as a metacrisis charge, it would take ages before they get the warrant ready. By that time, Donna has probably already died of old age."
"Hah! That's bureaucrats for you. They're the same everywhere, aren't they?" Wilf laughed, rather joylessly. He was still apprehensive but the Doctor's explanation seemed to lift some of the weight from his shoulders. "What about us?"
"We should be alright." The Doctor sighed. "They have nothing against you, obviously. And the only thing that I can think of right now that could do me any harm is probably the huge amount of parking tickets that I've failed to pay up for the last hundred years or so." He rubbed in his eyes tiredly.
"Oh, you'll be amazed how many places in the universe are designated no-parking zones. At least I manage to land in each and every single one of them with the Tardis every time."
"And what about the Master?"
The Doctor remained silent for a while, and stared ahead with a morose expression on his face.
"Huh, that bad hey?"
He looked back at Wilf, his hands folded in front of him with the tips of his fingers resting on his lips.
"Tell me Doctor, these rhino-aliens, what do you call them? Judoons? If they are really what you've told me, some sort of space police who guard the law and peace in the known galaxies, why is it then such a bad thing that they have finally caught the Master? It sounds like that they are the good guys, just doing their job, and the Master, well he doesn't exactly have a clean slate, does he?"
"You're telling me that he deserves to be punished for his crimes, is that it?"
"Yes." Wilf thought about it for a moment. "I guess so. Shouldn't we all when we commit a crime?"
The Doctor shook his head and laughed bitterly. "If the Master was forced to pay up for all the things that he did done wrong in his life, he will probably have to die a hundred times to make amends. You only saw him at the end, back in the Naismith mansion, I was there to prevent most of the damage that he otherwise would have done. You haven't even seen him at his worst." He stared back at Wilf with a haunted look in his eyes.
"The Master, he had murdered millions. He had killed without remorse, even those who were the closest to him." The Doctor paused, feeling the darkness that he had witnessed inside the Master's mind, rising inside him, like a cold draft of stale air from a underground tomb from which the slate had been lifted.
"There was no end to his madness and his cruelty." He added softly.
"But if that's true, why are you still defending him?" Wilf asked. "I don't understand you Doctor. You're the most righteous man I've ever met, and still, you keep choosing the side of that little monster. Why do you keep doing that?"
"You can't judge him like that." The Doctor muttered, and covered his face with his hands. "You've never seen him before all this, you don't know how he could have been. I have Wilf." He stared right into the old man's eyes, begging him to understand. "I knew him. I knew how he was before all of this madness started. It wasn't entirely his fault."
Wilf slowly realized that the Doctor was somehow feeling responsible for the Master's fate, and was seeking penance for failing him in a way that Wilf could never grasp. He cleared his throat and decided in his down-to-earth wisdom, not to question the good Doctor about his motives again.
"So, what would happen to him now?"
The Doctor lifted his hands and stared at the pipes that ran across the ceiling. "They will put him on trail in the Judoon justice court. If he is to be found guilty by the Judges of the Shadow Proclamation, he will probably be executed for his crimes."
Wilf pondered over this for a moment. "Back at the mansion at Christmas, you couldn't kill him. You couldn't kill the Master, even when your very life depended on it." Wilf gave the Doctor a meaningful look. "I guess you wouldn't let those Judoon soldiers kill him now."
The Doctor shook his head slowly. His head was filled with gloomy thoughts.
"Are you sure that he doesn't stand a chance? I mean, don't they need to gather evidence to built up the case? Get all the witnesses here to support their accusations? This could take years, right? Like you said, masses of paperwork to be done before it can even start. In the meantime, you could easily think of something to get him out. You've always got a trick or two kept under your sleeves. Isn't that right, Doctor?"
"That's not how the Judoon Justice system works." The Doctor answered in a soft voice.
"What do you mean? I know it's supposed to be different with them being aliens and all, but they still call it a court. You still need to provide evidence to push in the charges. Am I right?"
"They don't need to gather any evidence, and they don't need to find any witnesses. They don't operate like that. All they need is the accused, his memories, and his sense of guilt."
"I don't think I can follow you, Doctor." Wilf muttered.
The Doctor sighed. "The judges of the trail can come to a verdict, simply by judging the criminal by what he remembers of the crimes that he has committed. They can judge him on his conscience. They might not need to use anything else. It's not exactly like that, but something like that."
"Well then, the problem is solved! The Master will be found not guilty for sure. They can't convict him. Not now he can't remember a single thing of what he had done. And as for a conscience, I'm in serious doubt if the Master ever had one."
The Doctor stared quietly ahead.
"Doctor? He can't, can he?"
Sadly, the Doctor shook his head.
Wilf rubbed his eyes. "Maybe it's time that you tell me exactly what happened to the both of you in those two short months that you went looking for him. This is getting too much. I don't understand anyone of you."
It was hard for the Doctor to speak about the Master. With everything that had happened between them, how would he ever be able to describe accurately, in mere simple words of any language, what he really felt? But the Doctor also wanted someone to understand. He desperately needed someone to know, why he was doing all this, why he felt responsible for the Master's life, and why deep in his hearts, he still blamed himself for everything that had happened to his friend from the day he ran away from the Academy.
"For starters, it wasn't just a couple months for me." The Doctor began. "It was more like decades." The Doctor gazed at Wilf's astounded face. "Oh yes, Wilfred Mott." The Doctor said with a little smile. "It's been more than twenty years since I last said goodbye to you in front of your house on Wessex Lane. But that's time travel for you."
"Twenty years? I can't believe it!" Wilf shook his head in amazement. "Where have you been all that time?"
"I was with the Master, trying to keep him from slipping away from me. It took me twenty years to get him back, bring him to some sort of conscious state. If you think he looks bad now, you should have seen him when I first found him, back on that doomed planet, locked away in the dark tower." The Doctor paused for a short moment, seeing it all again in his mind's eye, the black planet with the red sky, the miserable, unworthy remains of what once was Gallifrey.
When he finally continued, Wilf listened, and slowly but gradually, the old man finally started to understand the many ghosts that haunted the Doctor's mind.
The Judoon soldier who entered his cell carried a long pole with a metal grabber at the end that looked like a rusty collar. The Master was alarmed and glared restlessly from underneath the narrow cot where he was hiding.
"Xo, so, zo, ro, so!" The soldier ordered, but off course he couldn't do as he was told. Not only was he far too frightened, he also had forgotten every single word of the Judoon language that he had once spoken fluently. Without wasting another breath on the prisoner, the soldier used the metal grabber to seize him, and he felt the metal grabber snap shut around his neck before he was dragged out of his hiding place like a disobedient dog. Half-choking on the collar, the Master stumbled after the Judoon, trying to keep off the weight on his injured leg that had finally started to heal. He was led down into a confusing maze of corridors before they entered a small chamber with tilted walls. Every surface of the room's interior was covered by large shards of crystals, polished up till they shone like mirrors. In the middle of the room was a high chair, bolted to the floor. The Judoon pushed him into it. When the Master resisted, he beat him mercilessly on his injured leg, leaving him howling in pain. The Judoon then continued dutifully by disconnecting the pole, but left the collar on the prisoner, and clicked the metal cuffs on the arms and legs shut around his wrists and ankles. Lifting his pain-dazed head, the Master saw how the sharp white light from the ceiling was caught by the mirror-like shards in the walls, and was dissected it into all the different colors imaginable.
The Judoon pushed down a lever, activating a strong magnet at the back of the chair. The Master's head was forced back as the metal collar connected with the magnet, fixing his head on the spot. He couldn't turn or look away from the crystals.
"Jo, ko, wo, xo, xo, do!"
The Master stared back at him with frightened, white rimmed eyes.
When the soldier left the room, the Master caught his own pitiful reflection in the shards. He saw a trembling young man, mad with fear, who strained the bonds on his chest with every ragged breath of air that he sucked down through his mouth.
The room started to spin, slow at first, but picking up speed till the individual shards disappeared into one blurry flash of harsh light. It was as if he was stuck in the middle of a demented merry go round, with him the unmoving center point. Struck by nausea, the Master wanted to shut his eyes, but was prevented to do so. Something was forcing him to look ahead. Images appeared in the mirroring shards as human shadows cleared from the light, moving like jerking marionette dolls on tangled strings. They came closer, and closer, till their faces finally came out of the shadow and became recognizable to the terrified Timelord. They were the faces from his nightmare hallucinations. In the light of the claustrophobic chamber, the color of their skin continuously shifted from corpse blue, to gangrene green, to blood crimson. The Master, strapped down in his chair, watched helplessly how they approached while his limbs jerked and shuddered against the restrains.
One by one, the ghostly figures stepped out of the mirroring surfaces in spasmodic motions. They opened their dark mouths, hungry for justice and screaming for blood.
The Master looked into their hollow, fury-filled eyes, and losing his last grip on reality, screamed back at them insanely.
She came to him as if in a dream. Her face white and luminous, like a deep-sea pearl. Her gown black, like the sky at midnight.
"Why do you keep defending him?" She spoke the question with a quietness and serenity that suited her wisdom and age, but it also carried a touch of childlike curiosity, as if she was trying to learn.
The Doctor sat on the floor with his back against the wall facing the bars. He glanced up at the Lady Architect who had appeared in front of the cell. The lights were out, and Wilf lay fast asleep on the cot next to him. Although the Doctor had confronted her before, and had been able to face her unyielding pursuit for justice without giving in, he knew he wouldn't be able to evade her inquisitions now. When the Lady Shadow Architect looked into your eyes and asked you a question, there was no possible way for you to lie. Her gaze looked right into your soul and demanded the raw and straightforward truth, however painful. Even a 900 old Timelord couldn't prevent her from extracting the most honest answers from his fortified hearts.
"Because…he has changed." He replied truthfully, in a soft voice.
She shook her head slowly. "That cannot be the only reason."
The Lady Architect crouched down in front of the Doctor's cell. The fabric of her dark gown rustled like the dead leaves on tired autumn branches. She stared at him with questioning eyes.
"Like you, I've lived a very long life. I've seen people appear at court, whose hearts were set out to defend the worst kind of monsters. Tyrants, war criminals, murderers. They protected them, because they could still see some good left in them. They believed that the criminals themselves have become conscience-stricken and have changed for the better."
"Oh, but he has changed. I know he has. Please my Lady, the Master has already suffered so much, you might not know it, but he has. You have to be lenient. You have to be, because…"
Because…I've failed him."
"Others have pleaded with me, burdened by their guilt of how they have never been able to prevent that what had happened in the past. They come to court with a deep-rooted belief in their hearts that they are somehow responsible for how fate had shaped their loved-ones into the dark twisted souls that they have become."
The Lady Architect slipped her hand between the bars and gently caressed the Doctor's face.
"I believe I can recognize those noble same motives in you, my good Doctor. But there is still more."
He turned away from her touch, and stared silently ahead.
"What is the real reason for you to keep defending him, Doctor?"
"Because…Because I know that it could have been me." The words came out in one ragged breath. "We were the two last Timelords in the existence who were not locked inside the Timewar. Rassilon and the elders, they needed a link to escape, they could have placed those cursed drums in either one of us, but they chose the Master. It had cost him everything." The Doctor explained, his most, deep-felt confession of the heart finally poured out of him like a strong river current that breached the shores. "His sanity, his family, his life, everything he once believed in, everything he once stood for was destroyed in that one brief moment in front of the Untempered Schism."
The Lady Architect slowly shook her head. "My dear Doctor, that was a fixed point in time. It was an event that could not have turned out differently. The choice would have always been the Master, because it was you, who sealed the Timelords inside the lock and ended the Timewar. They could never have chosen you."
"I know." The Doctor wiped the tears from his eyes. "It's paradox, a hideous and cruel contradiction in cause and result. But somehow, this paradox had to be created in the first place, and there was a moment in the beginning, in which there wasn't a conscious choice. We both had equal chances. Rassilon might as well have just tossed up a coin to decide." The Doctor forced back his tears. "Head or tails, tell me oh pitiless merciless fate, who shall it be?" The Doctor smiled bitterly. "It could have been me, but in the end, it was his life that was ruined."
"And you feel responsible for that?"
"What if I tell you that I've known him from before any of this madness had affected him? That I've once stared my young friend in the eyes, that determined eight-year old boy with his head filled with great dreams and his hearts bursting with love, and had known for certain that he would grow up to become a magnificent Timelord? Would you then understand? Would you then know the full extent of my guilt?"
The Doctor glanced back at her, his eyes shining with remorse.
"He could have become anything or anyone, he could have become the Doctor, and I could have become the Master. It was me who has prevented that. I realized this after I found out the truth behind the drums. That's why I still defend him. That's why I can't let you judge him on his crimes. Because you'll be judging me as well."
Taken by the Doctor's confession, the Lady Architect slowly rose back on her feet.
"These are not rational arguments, Doctor."
"I'm not pleading to the rational mind, my Lady. I'm begging you for your compassion."
Her eyes lingered on him for a moment. Without another word, she turned away from him, and disappeared, as if she was dissolved in the darkness in the waking hours after a deep sleep.
The fourth and final chapter will be posted on Saturday the 27th of March. Please review and comment if the story pleases you. It motivates me to continue.