The thing with trust is, once it's broken, it's a most difficult thing to restore. Because, however hard one would try to make amends afterwards, you would always keep seeing the potential downfall in the relationship, and be able to point out any possible way your alleged "friend" could screw you over again, and again, and again.
The Master realized this all too well. He also knew that it would be unwise to provoke the Doctor, who still held the key to the only Tardis in existence.
But he didn't care.
If the Doctor was really coming after him, it would be like the good old times again. It would be back to the scheming and plotting, to the complexity of mutual loathing and understanding, and the seething undertone of tension between them both that would undoubtedly lead to another deadly confrontation. He wasn't afraid of it. He welcomed it. At least, everything would go back to how it was before, and he would know how to deal with the "old" Doctor, the one who he considered his nemesis and he had learned to hate. It would be like slipping back into an old, comfortable jacket that he hadn't worn for a long time, and his current life, which he found most confusing and almost impossible to adjust to say the least, would finally be over.
He had taken the Doctor sonic screwdriver, and after a bit of tampering, he was able to remove the biolock from the device. After a short walk down the hillside, he arrived at the Artemis temple. In the middle of the night, the plaza in front of the great temple was deserted, except for the hordes of stray dogs and cats searching for scraps between the cracks of the pavement. Quickly, he climbed the steps up to the platform, and in front of the entrance of the inner sanctum, he whizzed the sonic over the primitive, but efficient locks of the massive wooden doors till it sprung open with a loud click. He entered the vast chamber, which was now lit by rows of oil lamps, bathing the alabaster walls in a warm golden glow. The Master glanced around. For once, there were no bothersome priests or priestesses in sight. He crossed the great hall to the statue of Artemis. After removing the lose slate at the statue's feet, he retrieved the wooden box and opened it. The alien egg lay between the empty eggshells, shedding a dim, green glow over the Master's face. He grinned and picked it up with his thumb and indexfinger, holding it against the light of the oillamps. The creature inside the sphere spun angrily around like an mini tornado.
"There you are! I knew I would find you here!" The Doctor's cheerful voice echoed through the vast space.
The Master almost dropped the egg on the marble floor.
"Oh careful with that!" The Doctor said, casually strolling towards him with his hands in his pockets, as if the Master hadn't just pushed his face into toxic smoke only half an hour ago. "You nearly made an omelette out of it."
"How did you-" The Master halted, and shook his head in both dismay and irritation. He really didn't want to know, but the Doctor was in a most talkative mood.
"That formula you scribbled on the bench-top." The Doctor explained. "I saw you calculating the grams of dry sodiumborate powder that were needed for the solution. Only the molecular weight you used was not correct. The compound you wanted to add was heavier, 45 grams heavier to be precise, which is exact the molecular weight of sodium triclorideborate. Combine your solution with my mixture, and it would create a narcotic gas." The Doctor halted in front of him and stared at the little white sphere in the Master's hand. "You were not the only one who made an antidote on the side and hid it in the buffer. I took a good sniff of mine while you were busy adding the finishing touches." The Doctor held out his hand. His face turned stern and decisive.
"Give me that egg." He demanded.
A cocky grin spread over the Master's lips, and slowly, he shook his head.
"I'm serious Master. Hand it over. What do you want to do with it anyway?"
"Let's call it a safety measure. Something I would like to keep for a rainy day."
"That thing inside - that mind-controlling parasitic creature." The Doctor pointed angrily at the shimmering sphere in his hand. "You want to use it to harm someone. I can't just let you keep it."
"Isn't that a bit over-precautious?' The Master scoffed. "I don't even have someone specific in mind yet."
"You drugged me to get all the way back to the temple to get it. You must have a plan for it. I know you. Right now you're thinking up something dreadful that would probably turn out into yet another disaster."
"You give me far too much credit Doctor. I'm really just making it up as I go along."
"Why are you doing this?" There was a hint of disappointment in the Doctor's voice. "You're acting out like a spoiled brat! Is it because of the drums? Because they are no longer there to tell you what to do? Is that what this is all about?"
"Stop it." The Master muttered.
But the Doctor wouldn't stop. Not now he was getting close to the truth. "That's it, isn't?" The Doctor remarked. "If you're not fighting me, you just don't know what to do with yourself. If you're not the old Master, the insane rambling madman who plots and murders on the drum's commands, you're nothing. You're rather Rassilon's string puppet than a complete nobody."
"I said stop it!" The Master grabbed the Doctor by the collar of his coat and shoved him against the statue. "Stop trying to get inside my head again!" He hissed. "Like you know what's going on! You don't know me! You don't!"
He held his gaze on the Doctor, eyes unblinking. One look at him was enough to make his anger flare up like wildfire. What would he know about fear, or grief, or remorse? The good and righteous Doctor, had he ever done one single thing in his entire life that he actually regretted?
The Doctor stayed calm. He had to, for the Master's sake.
"When I was in the tower with you." He said softly. "I entered your mind. I saw a part of you that made me understand you better. I took you out of there for a reason. I wanted to help. I still want to help."
The Master let go of him and tore away.
"Listen. I'm not here to fight you, or to punish you, or any of those things." The Doctor said, more firmly now. "If you seek punishment for all those horrible things you've done, you won't receive it from me. You want to make amends? Stop messing around, and help me." He pleaded. "Help me to find out what's wrong with the senator's daughter. Help to me to get Wilf back with his family. That's what you should do with this immortal life of yours. It's nothing to be afraid of. It's nothing threatening. Don't you see?"
The doctor paused, and looked at the Master, searching for a sign of understanding.
"It's a second chance. Seize it. Run with it."
"Is that what I should be then? A second Doctor?" The Master remarked sarcastically.
"You're still the Master." The Doctor stated. "The one that the bright eight year old boy who gazed in the Untempered Schism never had the chance to become. Unlike him, you do have a choice now."
The Master lowered his head, swallowing hard.
"Give me that egg." The Doctor said in a gentle voice, and held out his hand.
The Master kept the white sphere clenched into his fist as he held it above the other Timelord's hand. The faint green light shimmered between his fingers.
"Master." The Doctor urged.
"I could…I could help you." The Master considered.
The Doctor let out a sigh of relief.
The Master swirled around, and with one badly aimed throw he hurled the egg at the bronze statue of Artermis behind him. Instead, it headed for one of the two marble griffin statues that flanked the Goddess. A puff of green smoke escaped when it hit the marble and shattered into crude pieces of shell.
"Why did you do that?" The Doctor exclaimed.
"Oh don't you see Doctor?" The Master responded gleefully. "I'm seizing the moment. Like you said. I'm running with what's been given me." He cocked his head to the side, his grin fading. "Let's face it. You can't make an omelette without cracking an egg or two. Let's just say that I'm taking this recovery plan of yours in consideration." He started giggling insanely. "Today, I am afraid - is pretty much a relapse day."
The green smoke released from the egg, slowly rose up in delicate silky slivers, and entered the beak of the stone griffin.
And then the Doctor couldn't believe his eyes.
Where there had been white polished marble feathers, colours were emerging, a magnificent blue with an almost metallic shine of insect shields. It spread over the statue, the stone gradually eaten away by the blue stain. The beak became a sharp yellow. The gilded eyes became blue orbs that stared into the world with a growing awareness. Within a few seconds, the four meter high creature became alive. She unfolded her magnificent wings, the tips almost touching the ceiling, and called out at the two Timelords, producing a strange powerful sound that was like the roar of a lion and the call of an eagle.
"Oh, you-" The Doctor uttered with a look of sheer wonder. "Look at you. You are absolutely magnificent!"
"Deadly." Corrected the Master, and started backing away from the stone creature.
The griffin's right claw came down, sending the earth trembling underneath their feet. Placing herself right in front of the Timelords, the stone beast called again, sounding more threatening and more malicious.
The Doctor suddenly felt a hand weighing down on his shoulder. He glanced at his side and saw that the Master was leaning on him for balance while was fiddling fervently with the straps of his sandal.
"What are you doing?" He asked in puzzlement.
"I'm taking them off." The Master answered, keeping a nervous eye on the griffin. "It's quite impossible to run with these."
"Don't be daft! You can't outrun a griffin. She's got wings!"
"Wasn't planning to." The Master managed to loosen the last strap, and tossing the sandals away, before swirled around. "I just have to outrun you!"
"Right." The Doctor mumbled as he watched with a raised eyebrow how the Master fled out of the inner sanctum. He turned back to the mythical creature who was approaching slowly with the azure blue feathers in her neck raised up high in a threatening display.
"Listen to me." The Doctor tried. "My name is the Doctor. I don't know exactly what you are, but I think I know what you want. Listen to me. This planet is taken. You can't stay here, but I can help. If you and your friends would come along with me, leave this world and the senator's daughter alone, I have a machine that can travel in time and space. I can bring you somewhere safe. A planet that is uninhabited, where you can live, and spent your days in peace. What do you say?"
The griffin bowed her head towards him and shrieked angrily. A claw flashed out and missed the Doctor's head by just the length of a hair.
"What are you doing, you idiot?"
The shout came from above. The Doctor glanced up to see the Master standing on the gallery on the second floor that was only accessible from a flight of stairs outside the inner sanctum. He raised his eyebrows, pleasantly surprised. At least the Master didn't left him to fend for himself. Maybe he was finally reaching him.
"Don't just stand there like an attractive eat me! sign. You can't reason with it!" The Master yelled. It was true, the parasite adapted itself to the intelligence of the host, which in this case, had not much more than a stony birdbrain to work with. "Get out of the chamber! NOW!"
The Doctor finally stopped staring at the creature and made a run for it. The griffin stretched out her wings and leaped into the sky. Just when the Doctor came close to the entrance, the griffin landed right in front of him and with a mighty lash of her tail, swept down the front row of columns. They went down like a short line of dominos, and smashed into the wooden doors, blocking the exit. The Doctor swirled around to dash back to the Artermis statue. The griffin turned around also, and took to the air, her talons flashing. Feeling the hot breath of the creature in his neck, the Doctor ran into the arcade. The griffin followed him, but being too large to pass between the pillars, she smashed the tip of her right wing into one of the columns, where it shattered in pieces.
"You're still made out of stone." The Doctor muttered, as he glanced back over his shoulder and dodged the broken marble that rained down on him like hail. The griffin screeched and dived down at the Doctor, who ducked just in time to prevent himself from being beheaded by the razor sharp talons. He then turned a 90 degrees, and started zigzagging around the line of columns. The creature flew after him, but was incapable to make the sharp turns without smashing into the obstacles. She screamed in rage when she lost a larger piece of her left wing, tipping her off balance. It was followed by a sudden dive and a crash into another pillar that broke off her entire left wing. Ground-bound, she quickly rose back to her fours to continue the chase. Her powerful hind legs propelled her forward and cut down the distance between her and the Doctor in just a couple of heart beats. The Doctor was back at the statue when a claw hit him and sent him rolling. Lying on his back, he saw the Master looking down at him from the balustrade before the griffin's massive head loomed over him and slammed her claw on his arm.
The Doctor struggled to free himself, but there was no escape, he was pinned down on the spot. With his free hand, he rummaged through his pockets, but to his panic, he couldn't find his sonic screwdriver. The griffin cocked her head to the side and glared down at the Timelord with a vicious glint in her dark blue eyes. She lowered her head, beak open and her bloodred tongue sticking out, ready to strip the flesh from her prey's bones.
"Stop wriggling!" The Master yelled with panic in his voice. "Just...just don't move!"
"What?" The Doctor shouted back. He could hear the blood rushing through his veins. "How's that gonna help!"
"Listen, I know this!" The Master replied. "I know what they're after. You'll be fine as long as you do exactly as I say. Trust me on this!"
"Trust you?" The doctor blurted out. "I'm sorry, but are you serious?"
"Shh, keep your voice down! Be very quiet, and breathe. Breathe slowly, but deeply."
"Last time you told me to breathe…"
"Oh never mind that! And would you just stop talking!" The Master shouted back in frustration. "Listen to me for once! Breathe, Doctor. Breathe. In and out. In…and out."
The Doctor took in a deep breath of air, and slowly he let it escape from his lungs. In - and out. In - and out. The griffin angled her head and blinked her blue eyes.
The Doctor's duel hearts rattled madly inside his chest. In – and out, he kept reminding himself. Oh for once, let the Master turn out to be reliable. He didn't want to end up being gobbled up by a ridiculously large BC version of bigbird.
In -and out.
In -and out.
The griffin brushed with her beak over the Doctor's shirt and flared her nostrils.
It was as if she was picking up a scent.
In -and out.
And then the giant stone bird started to cough.
The Doctor had never seen a bird cough before. He supposed there was always a first time for everything. It looked rather painful, as if something was stuck in the griffin's throat or as if she was trying to remove a furball. The Doctor flashed an anxious look at the Master.
"Oh good. She picked up the traces of CO2 in your breath." The Master said with visible relief. "Now, keep absolute still."
The griffin opened her beak. A green, mucous-like substance glided over the soft surface and dripped down the tip where it dangled right above the Doctor's face, clinging on to the tongue by a thinning thread.
"Oh you got to be kidding me." The Doctor muttered, and tried to turn his head away from the drop of nasty slime.
"Keep still!" The Master hissed. "Don't you see? It's not done yet. The eyes are still blue. It's still retreating out of the statue."
The Doctor sucked in a deep breath to steady his nerves. It wasn't easy. His limbs felt like spring coils, ready to jump. He watched with growing disgust how the green mucous gathered into a thick blob at the tip of the griffin's tongue. As it happened, the dazzling blue colour in the feathers of the mythical creature started fading away, and slowly, it turned back to the white of marble. The blue was also draining away from the eyes, and they became once again gilded orbs.
The Doctor finally understood what the Master was trying to do.
As the parasite was leaving its old host and was about to enter a new one, the griffin was slowly turning back into stone, leaving it harmless.
"On my signal, roll to your right. Don't let the parasite touch you." The Master instructed. "Trust me Doctor. You'll be fine."
"I trust you." The Doctor finally replied with a small smile of relief, and he meant it with whole his heart.
Without a second thought, the Doctor rolled to the right. The green blob splashed apart on the marble next to him where it immediately reassemble itself into a wormlike form. It crawled in the Doctor's direction.
Just when it was about to creep onto the Doctor's back, a red laserbeam shot through the air and incinerated the creature in a puff of black smoke.
"And bull's eye!" The Master exclaimed triumphantly and punched the air.
The Doctor slowly turned on his back. "You killed it." He muttered. Stunned. He gazed up at the Master.
The Master's smile vanished from his face. "Oh don't start." He groaned. "It was a mindless parasite! It was about to crawl into your head and make a migraine cocktail out of your grey matter."
"That's not the point." The Doctor huffed. "You killed it with a laserbeam. You stole my sonicscrewdriver and turned it into a murder weapon!"
"I just borrowed it for an upgrade."
"Oh hush!" The Master responded with a fierce tone in his voice. "You and your incessant nagging. Don't use the paradox machine to tamper with the timeline Master! Oh you shouldn't mind-control these pea-brained Earthlings Master! Stop decimating my pet race Master! You know what Doctor? I just saved your sorry bones from being picked clean by that giant monster, although I really shouldn't. The only suitable way for you to act is to kiss my feet and worship the ground I walk on!"
"Master!" The Doctor shouted impatiently.
The Doctor shot an anxious look over the Master's shoulder, meaning someone was standing behind him. Finally getting the clue, the Master slowly turned around. He removed the safety lock from the sonic screwdriver and held his thumb on the laser button, ready to fire.
A spike shot through the air and pierced his hand. The Master uttered a scream of pain and surprise, and dropped the sonic on the floor. The silent, red-haired woman from the kitchen appeared from behind a pillar. The Master bald his good hand into a fist and was about to hit her when a long black spike protruded out of the tip of the woman's indexfinger. It elongated at an astonishing speed and only stopped when it was almost sticking into the Master's neck.
Dea Pompous stepped out of the shadows and picked up the sonic screwdriver that had rolled in front of her feet. She studied the device. "I was right. You're definitely not from around here." She said and smiled confidently when she came closer to the Master, who stood motionless and with his head raised up to avoid being stabbed by her accomplice.
"In fact, I go as far to say that you are not even from this planet." She nodded at the redhead, and the Master felt the spike sting in his flesh. "Tell me, finally, what kind of delicious creatures are you?" Dea asked.
"If I tell you. I'll have to kill you." The Master replied with a stony grin.
The spike shot out, penetrating his flesh and making him cry out in agony.
"Please! Don't hurt him!" The Doctor pleaded.
Dea looked down at the troubled Timelord. "It's just a flesh wound." She stated coldly, and to the Doctor's horror, she dug her finger into the wound, making his victim squirm. A fresh gush of blood dripped down the Master's neck, staining the border of his tunic crimson.
"Stop it! Just stop it! Please!" The Doctor shouted and struggled to free his arm from underneath the statue, but it was now locked in its position, fixed down by the griffin's stony grip.
"Don't react so dramatic Doctor." Dea replied with a malicious grin. "I thought you were a physician, you should know better. She didn't hit the major arteries. The blood loss will weaken him, but your friend will survive."
She rested her hands on the balustrade and leaned forward. "Actually, you should more be worrying about yourself." Dea said, her blue eyes flashing dangerously. She lifted the sonicscrewdriver and pushed in the red button. A laserbeam struck the stone griffin and blew the left part of the statue apart. Pieces of stone rained down, forcing the Doctor to shield his head with his free arm.
"Don't!" The Master yelled. He pushed forward and was about to grab Dea by her neck when the sharp sting of the spike reminded him painfully of his own injuries.
"Be careful there Marcellus. Corda does all the butchering in the kitchen. She knows exactly where to cut." Dea said with a devious smile, and fired for a second time.
"Doctor!" The Master's hoarse cries were lost in the explosion that followed when the laserbeam collided with the griffin's head, sending down a violent avalanche of stone and marble that completely buried the helpless Doctor.
When the dust settled over the sacred chamber, the statue of the griffin was gone. Except for the pile of stone ruins, nothing else was left of it. The Doctor was trapped underneath the rubble, buried alive.
The Master's eyes grew wide when Dea slowly turned to look at him. A cruel smile played at the corners of her lips when she saw the expression on his face.
"You took one of ours." She justified. "It's only fair if I get to take one of yours in return."
The Master clenched his fists, ignoring the pain and the blood gushing out of the fresh wound. He was devastated, shocked to the core. The Doctor…the Doctor was gone. His mind could not accept it. It was an idea too frightening and too absurd for him to comprehend. He glared at the frail frame of Dea Pompous who stood before him, radiating such confidence and indifference, as if nothing had happened, as if she had simply evened out their losses by wiping another small and insignificant life from the face of the planet. The way she looked at him, it made his blood boil. It made him want to wrench her petite little neck till it popped like a string of Chinese fire crackers. It pushed him to break every bone in her scrawny little body and crack her skull open like a bloody egg.
He was about to grab hold his tormentor in an angry attempt to do all that, when he sensed a stir of life coming from underneath the rubble.
Doctor? He closed his eyes, the ancient telepathic bond between them provided a lifeline for the Master to find him. Faint like the light of a far away star, he could still sense his presence, and he could still feel the soft beating of his twin hearts resonate in his own.
"There's no point in grieving over his death." Dea said, making the mistake to take her captive's sudden silence for sorrow. "I promise you'll be joining him soon enough." She added in a low voice.
The Master opened his eyes again, and calmly, he stared at her. His face was devoid of emotion other than a deep loathing.
"Let's take him to the others." Dea told Coda. "It's around feeding time. Our sisters are hungry."
The following morning in the villa of the senator, Magnus Pompous was rising from his bed and was about to head to the aula for breakfast when he heard the commotion in the hallway. He was amazed when one of his servants rushed with a flushed face.
"What's the matter Gaius?" The senator asked.
"Dominus! It's the Doctor. He wants to see you."
"The Doctor? At this early hour?" The senator muttered, surprised. "Well, tell him to wait in the aula. I'm not properly dressed yet to receive him."
"Yes dominus, right away." The servant was about to head out again when the door to the senator's bedroom swung open and the Doctor came rushing in. His face was bruised. A vicious cut ran across his forehead. His clothes were torn and dirty, and he was close to being frantic.
"My friend, what happened to you?" The senator asked worriedly.
"Exploding griffin. Had to crawl out of tons of rumble. But never mind that. I lost them!" The Doctor rambled on, his eyes wide with worries. "I lost Wilf and the Mas…Marcellus. I was at the Artemis temple when they took Marcellus. The explosion knocked me out. When I woke up again and went back to the Tardis, Wilf was gone. I can't smell Marcellus. I don't know what they've done to them."
"Your uncle and Marcellus are gone?" Pompous asked, ignoring the rest of the Doctor's ramblings on purpose, particularly the comment on him being unable to smell his slave. "But who took them? And why?"
The Doctor ran his hands through his hair in despair. "Your daughter Dea, have you seen her?"
"But…I don't understand, what has any of this to do with my daughter?" Worried, Pompous left the room with the Doctor and rushed to Dea's bedchamber. When knocking and calling brought no reply, he let the servants open the door with a spare key. They found her bed empty, with the sheets lying on the floor in a bundle.
"Where is she?" The senator turned to the Timelord in shock. "Doctor, where is my daughter?"
The Doctor tried to remain calm. He had to if he was ever going to get the message delivered to the panicking senator. "Senator, do you remember the pearl earring that I took from Dea?"
The senator nodded cautiously.
"It wasn't a real pearl. It was an eggshell of a creature that's not from this world. The creature has hatched and crawled inside your daughter's head. It's what's making her ill. That's why she's acting so strangely. She's infested with a parasite of the mind!"
"She's possessed by a…monster?" Pompous stammered.
"No, yes, well, something like that. She's in great danger, and so are my friends."
"Where is she?"
"I don't know. She's no longer in control of her own body. She does what the creature wants her to do."
But can't you do something Doctor? Can't you save her?"
"Oh yes, yes I can. But only if I know the name of the parasite. The race of alien. The Master told me they were Stergegs, but of course he lied. That's just a made up name to keep me from becoming suspicious."
The Doctor started pacing up and down the corridor. "Senator, you witnessed the changes of your daughter at first hand. You're the only connection left available to me. Tell me, is there anything strange that you can recall about her, anything odd?"
"I don't know…what am I supposed to tell you? I've told you everything I know."
"Think senator! Think! I could be something small, something you wouldn't even notice if you didn't look it right into the eyes everyday. Give me something to work with…"
The senator shook his head, ashamed that he could not provide the right answer to help his daughter. The Doctor was about to hassle the poor man again when his eyes fell on the row of marble busts that lined the corridor. The stone head of Dea Pompous stared back at him with her questioning eyes. They were large and dark.
"Your daughter has blue eyes." The Doctor turned to the senator. "Her eyes used to be brown, but they've turned blue."
Just like the stone griffin's.
"My physician told me that changes in the coloration of the eyes could occur long after birth." The senator answered nervously. "I didn't think it was worth mentioning. He has assured me that it was a natural thing. Only…"
The Doctor raised an eyebrow. "Only?"
"It also means that the noble bloodline of the Pompous family might not be so pure as we want to believe."
"That's why you kept your daughter out of sight." The Doctor opted. "You were afraid that people would notice." A grin appeared on his face. "Oh Magnus Pompous, you proud, stubborn man, that's it!" The Doctor swirled around and dashed out of the corridor.
"Where are you going?" Pompous asked.
"I need to head back for some supplies. Let me tell you, there is nothing wrong with dark hair and blue eyes. It's a winner combination. Now creepy crawlies in the brain-department, that's a whole different matter. That's a big big worry."
"Doctor?" The senator shouted, understanding very little of it, he was close at the brink of despair.
"Don't worry!" The Doctor answered as he headed out. "You'll get your daughter back! I finally know what these creatures are!"
"They're Timewarps." The Master explained reluctantly. "The notorious hybrid creations of the Krillitanes. They were bred to conduct biological warfare against the Krillitanes's enemies. They were forbidden by the Shadow Proclamation, and the laboratories where these abominable creatures mass produced were subsequently destroyed. Their race only survived because some of them were smuggled out in time." He paused and stared at Wilf through the bars of his prison, a miserable expression on his face. It was simply too depressing to count how many days he had spent in a cage by now. If he didn't know any better, he would suspect that Rassilon was behind all this…and was laughing at all of his misfortunes.
They were kept inside a dark vault somewhere deep underneath the earth. He could pick up the smell of mould and decaying vegetation. There were a handful of other prisoners, most of them slaves, shivering bundles of human misery tucked away in the shadows who were too frightened to question their own fate. The Master preferred them that way. At least they knew when to shut up. Unlike the Doctor's human companion.
Considering the circumstances, Wilf had remained rather calm and had been asking the necessary questions ever since he found out that the Master was imprisoned in the other cell. At the first, the Master wasn't too reluctant to speak to him, considering he was bored and in much need of a verbal punching-bag to get rid of his frustrations of his capture. However, as Wilf found out more and more about what happened, the Master's willingness to respond to the old man's query quickly dwindled.
"So you did know what those things were. You just made up another name for it to trick the Doctor." Wilf said accusingly, after taking in a large part of the story. "That's the most stupid thing you could have thought of! What did the Doctor ever done to you? Why do you want to hurt him?"
"I didn't want to hurt him." The Master sighed. He wouldn't know what was worse, the prospect that he was going to be fed to a colony of hungry Timewarp maggots or being locked in here with the Doctor's obnoxious surrogate dad.
"And as for what he had ever done to me, he did enough."
"I don't believe you. You're a dirty liar."
"Am I now?" The Master settled down on the floor between the cowering prisoners. Leaning back against the damp walls while resting his head on his hands, he shut his eyes in an effort to block out the filthy cramped room and Wilf's incessant ramblings.
"The Doctor saved you. He never asked you to thank him. He doesn't expect anything from you, but at least, have the bloody decency not to betray him."
The Master was actually relieved when he heard the footsteps approaching his cell. He sat back up and watched with little interest how Balcuba appeared, followed by Coda. The two women each carried a long butcher knife. Balcuba showed her crooked teeth in a wide grin. "Fetch me a human." She said, waving her knife in front of the terrified prisoners.
Coda walked up to the Master and pointed with her knife, gesturing at him to get up. He rolled his eyes and glared back at her.
"I'm not human, you dimwit. You want human flesh, try him." He nodded at the terrified man sitting next to him who immediate started to beg for his life in a mix of Latin and his tribe's language. Coda glanced back at Balcuba, who returned a shrug. It really didn't matter to her who ended up on the chopping board first.
"Right then, get the skinny bugger upstairs." She ordered, and went back out into the corridor, leaving Coda to force the prisoner out of the prison cell.
"Wait! Where are you taking him?" Wilf shouted, following the whole commotion with alarm. "Don't point that knife at him. Can't you see he's terrified! Let him go!"
"Oh put a lid on it, you old fossil! It's your turn soon enough." Barked Balcuba as they left.
"Those two women…what do you call them? Those awful Timewasp creatures, what are they going to do to that man?" Wilf asked, turning to the Master for explanation.
"Timewarps. Not wasps. Anyway, those long pointy knives should be a give away."
"They…they are going to hurt him?"
The Master shrugged and leaned back against the wall. "The Timewarps are a colony forming species. They have a stringent hierarchy in which the survival of their race always comes first. Those who have successfully occupied a host will devote their whole life in taking care of their developing siblings. Unlucky for us, they need a huge amount of energy intake to grow. They also happen to prefer to prey on their future hosts, so that they can absorb traces of their DNA into their own to make the transition into their host's bodies more efficiently. Which in this case, means that they've developed a certain craving for human flesh."
"You mean…they are going to eat him?"
"Not those two. They are not the ones who get to eat. Do please pay some attention. No, they are going to prepare him, cut him up and liquefy him. And then they feed him to their baby sisters for supper." The Master explained in a matter of fact voice.
"But…that's….that's horrible!" Wilf stuttered, horrified. "They're gonna murder that poor lad?"
"You do have trouble grasping the whole Timewarp concept, don't you?" The Master replied dryly. "YES. They are going to kill him. Now shut up about it!"
"How…how could you say that? How could you let them take him away without trying to do something about it!" Wilf pointed accusingly at the Master. "That man is going to lose his life!"
"Why the hell should I care?" Blurted the Master, raising his eyebrows in disbelief that the old man was blaming him for that wretch's fate. "Does it even matter? The man was already dead and his bones turned to dust when you were still an infant wetting your mother's lap. He was supposed to die like this. If the Doctor didn't maroon us in this backwater of a place, those harpies would have killed him anyway."
"Oh I wish the Doctor was here, at least he would have tried to help." Wilf muttered to himself.
"Why are you so bothered?" The master asked. "You don't even know him. It's just one insignificant man. A blip in the continuum of human history. He's nothing."
"A human life is not just nothing." Wilf answered angrily. "There is no such thing as an insignificant life. The Doctor, he would understand. But I'm sure I'm just wasting my breath on you."
The Master stared at Wilf with a look of incredulity, then burst out in cynical laughter.
"You really should have been his dad." He laughed, shaking his head. "It's like I'm hearing the Doctor." The Master moved closer to the bars and tapped on his temple. "You both burned out the same fuse up here." He said with a grin as if he was replying to a very good joke.
"I should never helped you out of that cellar." Wilf replied. "I was right about you. The Doctor said you couldn't help being like that because of the drums. He said it drove you mad and made you do all those horrible things. But he was wrong. Even without the drums you wouldn't have turned out any differently. You are an egocentric monster."
The Master's sarcastic smile slowly turned to stone.
"There's not even a bit of good in you. You're just…rotten. You have a rotten, evil soul!"
The Master suddenly reached out into the adjacent cell and grabbed Wilf by his shirt.
"Don't try this." He hissed dangerously. "Keep talking like this old man, and I swear, if those harpies are not going to kill you, I will."
Wilf's old heart rattled inside his chest when he saw mad resentful anger burning in the Timelord's eyes. He immediately shut up.
After a long, burdened silence, the Master finally let go of Wilf and turned his back on him.
It was a great relief for senator Pompous to see the Doctor return so quickly. He had order his servants to search the entire villa and the surrounding streets, but they had found no sign of his beloved daughter. He had just sent them out again to look in the forum, public buildings and the harbour, but he feared more bad news. Even Dea's servant girls didn't know where their mistress had gone. It seemed that she had just disappeared from the face of the earth without leaving a single trace.
"Doctor! Any sign of my darling Dea?" Pompous asked as soon as the Doctor walked in.
"I'm sorry senator. I haven't been looking for her. I had to go back to the Tardis to mix this up." The Doctor showed a phial with a purple liquid inside.
"What is it?"
"It's an antidote." The Doctor popped it back in his pocket. " One drop of this and the Timewarp will be expelled out of her system."
"Timewarp. It's how they're called, those parasites that have taking control over your daughter's body and mind. I finally found out what they are when I realized that Dea's eyes had turned blue, just like that of the griffin. There are a million species of mind parasites out there, but only one can change their host's eye-colour into cobalt blue. And once I know the name of the beasty, I know how to treat it." The Doctor grinned confidently.
"But how is that going to help? I can't even find my daughter!" The senator panicked.
"That's not difficult. Not when you know what you are looking for." The Doctor replied, his eyes wide. "Now, what are we exactly looking for?" He muttered to himself. "We're talking about a creature that lives in a colony, and takes care of her siblings. Timewarps always have a nursery, you could call it a nest, a secret place under the earth for their sisters who are still in the larvae form to grow up in relative safety." The Doctor started pacing up and down the room, his mind buzzing. "They have to be fed at least twice a day, so it has to be easily accessible, and yet hidden. Raising no suspicion among their human hosts." The Doctor sudden stopped dead in his track. He gazed up at the senator. "The Master. He said something about the smell of garum. How it smelled differently. And he came back, didn't he?" The Doctor rambled, running his hands through his hair, his eyes flew wide in realization. "Oh, why didn't I see it coming? He came back here to check on the garum!"
"Doctor, I've completely lost you now. Please, tell me what's going on?" Pompous begged worriedly.
"Senator! Can you show me where you keep the pots?" The Doctor asked urgently.
"The pots! The pots of home-made garum, liquamen, putrefied fish sauce, what ever you call it!" The Doctor shouted impatiently.
"But…what does that have anything to do with saving my daughter?"
"I'll get to that. Just show me the way, quickly!"
When the women came back down in the vault the prisoners scrambled away from the bars like a flock of frightened chickens in a coop. Only Wilf was brave enough to stand tall and reason with them. The Master, sitting quietly in a corner of his cell, observed the foolish old man without saying a word.
"We need another one." Balcuba. "The first one is too skinny. One hour in the pot and there nothing left but bone. We need a fatter one." She put her hands on her side and eyed at Wilf.
"You two. Don't you come in here and take another one of us. I know that you're alien and all, but this isn't right. You can't go around murdering people!"
"Oh we can't now, can we? And why not? I've seen the amount of meat that you people devour. I should know, I've been preparing meals for that fat git who calls himself our master ever since we're stuck here. You humans are out to wipe out all of the species that are living on his planet."
Wilf backed up when she opened his cell and stepped inside.
"As I see it, this is a dog eat dog world in which the strong prey on the weak. So why would it be wrong, old man, to feed on the most feeble specimen of the human race?" She said in a low whisper, aiming her butcherknife at Wilf's throat.
Wilf's adam's apple moved up and down as he swallowed in fear. "Because…because it's just wrong. It's wrong to murder people. I won't let you take them."
"So, you're offering yourself then?" She grinned. "Fine by me." She grabbed hold of his arm and pushed Wilf in the direction of the door. "Coda, get this old fool upstairs. He's not the most appetizing one, but at least there's a good amount of fat on him."
"Wait! You can't do this!" Wilf objected, but the silent redhead came for him and dragged him half out of the cell. "Hands off! I won't let myself be turned into soup by a bunch of fishwifes! Let go of me!"
The flash of a knife shimmered in the darkness. Coda was about to strike her struggling prisoner in the belly when a hand snatched her wrist and held it down. She glanced back, more surprised than alarmed.
"Don't you dare." The Master whispered in such a hostile voice that it sent up the hairs in the back of her neck. "You don't want him."
A charming smile suddenly appeared on his face. "Look at him." He pointed out. "He's as old as the hills. He looks like hell. His meat is bound to be dry as bone and eating him would be as enjoyable as chewing on a piece of leather. It's gonna take ages to cook him."
"Excuse me?" Wilf commented.
Balcuba glared at the Master. "Maybe that annoying git is right. Coda, let go of the old loon and grab a younger one."
"Hey! Hey! Wait!" The Master shouted when he saw that Coda was about to pick out another prisoner out of Wilf's cell. He jumped to his feet and banged his hands flat on the bars to attract her attention. "You want to give those adorable little maggots of yours a good feed, why not try something different? Something more nutritious and delicious than yet another meal of tedious, boring old human." He smiled as a mad plan was taking form inside his head. "A different species perhaps. Something much more superior. More intelligent and noble, with more admirable traits that you would like to get incorporated in your race's DNA."
"And what would you suggest then?" Balcuba scoffed.
The Master raised his chin and spread out his arms as if to present himself to them.
"You got to be joking." Balcuba replied. "Mind you, I'm not too keen to see our hope for the next generation turn into complete nutters."
"The state of my mental health is not the trait that I most price." The Master replied calmly. He raised his hand, and slowly, he turned it to show his palm to Coda and Balcuba.
"Wait a minute." Balcuba mused. "Sister, didn't you cut his hand during his capture?"
Coda glanced at Balcuda and nodded.
"But…if that's so, where's the scar? There's no sign of it."
The Master's smile grew wider in confidence. He cocked his head to the side and showed the women his neck. Although the collar of his tunic was still caked with blood, the hideous wound that Coda had inflicted on him had completely disappeared.
"That's impossible…" Balcuba mumbled and without realizing, she stepped away from him. "What kind of man are you?"
"I told you. I'm not human." The Master replied, the mad smile vanished as his face darkened. "I'm a Timelord. I'm over 900 years old. I am immortal. And I've seen and have destroyed and have taken more lives that you two wretches could possible ever imagine."
The two women stared back at him with their eyes wide as they were slowly overtaken by fear. The Master shut his eyes for a moment and inhaled deeply. It had been a thousand years, but still he could relish in that most delicious of smell pure terror. He opened his eyes again and clapped loudly in his hands. "Now." He spoke, grinning madly from ear to ear. "Wouldn't that make me the most highly priced, and most delicious creature at your disposal?"
"Take him upstairs to our sister." The slight tremble in Balcuba's voice betrayed her nervousness. "She would know what to do with this freak."
"Hey. Don't! Keep your hands off him!" Wilf objected, but he was shoved back inside the prison cell.
"What are you doing?" He asked the Master while Coda removed him from his cell and bound his wrists behind his back. "You shouldn't have told them who you are. These monsters are going to kill you now."
"Just try to keep yourself out of trouble, and wait for him. It shouldn't take him much longer. He should have puzzled it out by now." The Master replied, giving Wilf a meaningful look.
"Why are you doing this?" Wilf asked, baffled as he realized what the Master was trying to do.
"Because now, it matters." The Master said, and turned from Wilf, letting himself being led away by the two murderous screws.