Disclaimer: I own at Guitar Hero! Hear that? Own! Don't own Doctor Who, though.
Warnings: Whoa! A warning on "Bloopers"? o_O Actually, this whole chapter's kind of weird (well, it's a bit different to the rest, I think) - but specifically, the warning is for violence. Nothing graphic, and it's only brief, but I thought I ought to say something, just in case.
Since the outlawing of RPF, there had been precious little work for roadies. A scattered few had found high-paid employment in the Wrestling archive, and rumour had it that a number were still swinging spotlights from rigging and shifting amplifier stacks in a black market niche of Justin Bieber RPF thriving in the X-overs archive – but for the most part, they had hung up their leather jackets, removed their oversized earrings and retrained as set supervisors or props technicians.
For the out-of-work former roadie currently on her hands and knees in the depths of the TARDIS, three screwdrivers in her mouth and a massive wrench in one hand, a rare chance had been presented to load up her van and head for the Doctor Who archive. She had never worked in a sci-fi archive before, but the Director's request had sounded more-or-less along the lines of what she expected from the genre, and she had accepted the job without hesitation: to fill a dimensionless corridor in a transcendentally proportioned time capsule with grey fog.
"Oh, they use all these long words, but they don't really mean anything," her colleague had reassured her as they heaved a massive barrel of dry ice into the back of the van. "Probably just means it's bigger on the outside or something."
Unfortunately for the pair of them, forgetting their copies of the "FanFiction Pocket Dictionary of Sci-Fi Technobabble" was not the worst of their problems. Nor was the fact that it seemed the Director hadn't been exaggerating when he had stressed the importance of arriving on time to the set, to the thousandth of a second – although the roadie had never before been three weeks late for production for pausing to sneeze before opening the TARDIS door. Nor were the characters – even though apparently only one was human, one could have single-handedly made the "FanFiction Pocket Dictionary of Sci-Fi Technobabble" obsolete, one had a rather unnerving tendency to vanish the moment anyone's back was turned without explanation for her sombre and cryptic statements, and one had surveyed the roadies with a glint in his eye that made them feel disconcertingly like prime beef steaks in a butcher's window.
No – what really had the roadie gritting her teeth and cursing under her breath was the rusting block of metal and wires she was wrestling with. Alone, at that; her colleague had headed off down the corridor nearly an hour ago looking for a wall socket, and she had neither seen nor heard from him – or anyone else for that matter – since.
And still, the long-disused smoke machine offered not even a vapour. With a growl, she swung the wrench to clang violently against the side of the machine; several dead moths and a large spider dropped out, and she yelped in alarm and jumped to her feet. The screwdrivers clattered to the floor, but the sound seemed almost half-hearted in the silent corridor, dying away as if afraid to disturb the eerie stillness. A moment later, her heart leaped into her mouth at a crackling voice that burst from the walkie-talkie in her pocket.
"We are go to seal off the medieval kitchen."
Undisturbed for seven years in the pipes of the smoke machine, the spider must have felt just as bewildered as the roadie to find itself in a dimensionless grey corridor of a time capsule; the roadie might have felt some pity for it if it had not, on righting itself, headed for her exposed toes in her slashed leather boots. She stepped backwards hastily, but the temporal-spatial layout of the corridor must have shifted again and she stubbed her heel painfully on the sharp metal corner of the smoke machine.
"Oh…smeg!" she swore, and flung the wrench at the spider. "That sci-fi enough for you?"
"Hello there?" The Director raised a hand in a cautious wave as he caught a glimpse of a figure some way ahead of him. At least the roadies must have gotten the smoke machine working by now – a thick, shrouding mist was steadily filling the grey corridor, and the Director could barely see further than he could reach. "Wilf, is that you?" As he drew closer, the figure became more distinct, discernable even in its white blouse and skirt.
"Is the time upon us?" the Woman asked when he reached her.
"No, we're not quite ready to go yet," the Director replied, turning this way and that to try and work out how far he had come. "We've lost Wilf – you haven't seen him around here, have you? He's supposed to meet you first."
"The soldier will find himself when he is called to advance," said the Woman solemnly.
"Yes, but I need to find him, otherwise we won't get any advancing done." A sound reached the Director's ears that could have been distant swearing, and he swung around, squinting through the fog.
"'Forward he cried from the rear, and the front line died,'" the Woman pronounced gravely behind him.
"Isn't that…?" He turned back, but the Woman was gone.
The set supervisor's footsteps sounded strangely muffled as he raced down the corridor, clutching two walkie-talkies in sweating hands. One of the gadgets was emitting a faint hiss of static, but the other was half-crushed and cracked as though it had been stamped on hard by feet in solid boots. He couldn't be sure how long he had been running for since he had entered the obscuring fog that now filled the corridor and was starting to escape into the rest of the TARDIS. When he eventually ran into – quite literally – a sound engineer replacing a panel on the wall over a sheet of soundproof insulation, he was red-faced and puffing for breath.
"Where's…have you seen…the Master?" he gasped. The sound engineer shook her head.
"Haven't seen him all day. Did they find Wilf?"
"Locked in…kitchen…didn't get out…" He waved the walkie-talkie to indicate that he had called the Director, but in his haste, he brandished the broken one, which fell open and dropped several springs and two batteries on the floor.
"Whose is that?" the sound engineer asked, eyeing it curiously.
"Props engineer. Supposed to be supervising the Master…fixing the timeline navigation apparatus. Can't find either of them anywhere," he groaned. Concern passed across the sound engineer's face and she raised her own walkie-talkie.
"Director?" she called into it. "Do you know where-"
"Not now, not now," the Director's voice crackled irritably. "Don't ask me to find anyone else 'til I've found myself – I mean, where I am – I mean…O.K., nearly there. The Doctor's letting Wilf out of the kitchen – could someone pop down and let the Writer know we're nearly ready?"
"I thought she was with you." The sound engineer and the set supervisor exchanged glances.
"No – she's down in the med bay revising the last few chapters," the Director answered. "Anyone know if that timeline navigation apparatus is fixed yet?"
"That's what we're trying to say – we've lost-"
An audible curse was abruptly cut off as the Director disconnected his walkie-talkie; there was a tense silence, and then another voice gradually phased in like a badly tuned radio.
"-nyone seen those roadies?"
The lights were dimmed in the medical bay of the TARDIS. In the centre of the room, sat cross-legged on the floor, the Writer was chewing the end of a bright green biro and frowning thoughtfully. Before her, she held the fanfiction manuscript open to a page somewhere near the end, and music blared in her ears from an iPod that lay on the ground beside her.
She raised her head to survey the blank wall in front of her, and then bent over the paper and scribbled something in a margin; a moment later, the wall contained a rectangular window that looked into a darkened containment room. With a satisfied nod and a flourish of the pen, she underlined several words and reached for the iPod to turn up the volume of the music.
"'The lunatic is in the hall…'" she sang to herself, clicking the pen absent-mindedly. As she ran her finger along the text that followed, the lights flared brightly, causing the glass of the window to reflect the contents of the room. Had she happened to glance up at that point, she might have seen the dark silhouette framed in the doorway to the corridor. Moving with an almost feline grace, his footfalls making almost no noise despite his heavy workboots, the Master approached the Writer from behind. In one hand, he held a steel spanner, which he hefted to test its weight and then raised above his shoulder…he swung hard, and seconds later, the Writer slumped forward and crumpled to the ground, unconscious.
Grinning to himself, the Master reached over the Writer's arm and plucked the fanfiction manuscript from her limp hand. He dropped the spanner and began to flick through the pages to the end.
"Oh, that's very old-school you." Startled, the Master spun around to see the Director entering the medical bay, alone but still facing him with a disappointing lack of apprehension. "Mind you," the Director continued, "this is the chapter where you hypnotize someone, isn't it? You're bound to have a few of your earlier traits showing through today." The Master scowled.
"As long as I won't be going back to plastic daffodils and killer armchairs…" He paused and added lightly, his tone that of casual indifference, "Will I get a chance to take over the world this time round, anyway?"
"Can't tell you that." The Director held out his hand. "Now give that back – you know the rules."
"Just the last page," the Master protested, clutching the fanfiction manuscript protectively to his chest. "Last line, then."
"Won't do you much good, the way it's written at the moment."
"What? What's that supposed to mean?" The Master looked around the room with sudden alarm. "This is a medical bay - who's going to die? Am I going to die? Oh…" He wrinkled his nose in disgust. "Please don't tell me the Doctor nurses me back to health."
"I doubt you'll be happy with anything unless you conquer at least half a galaxy," the Director said. "So why don't you just wait and see?"
"What about the drums?" the Master persisted with increasing desperation. "They're all talking about fix-it fics over at FanFiction HQ. The constant noise – you have no idea…" There was a trace of pity in the Director's eyes as he moved forward, reaching for the manuscript.
"You need to concentrate more by this chapter, remember," he said warningly; the Master opened his mouth to retort, but was cut off by a rush of energy that glowed through his skin.
"That's not-" he attempted, but could barely get the words out before his flesh became translucent once again. Life force flashing painfully through him, he raised his hands to his head and the paper fell from his hand. The Director picked it up and pocketed it just as the Master recovered.
"Come up to the grey corridor when you're ready," he said, patting the Time Lord on the back, and he departed, pulling out his cellphone to ring for a medic to attend to the still out-cold Writer.
Pale, seething with anger, the Master glared after the Director with loathing blazing in his eyes.
"That's not fair!"