Earth loomed ahead, the most beautiful and terrible thing he had ever seen, its oceans sapphire blue, its land emerald green and desert tan, its poles brilliant with thousands of tons of ice, and pale white clouds dancing in the thin bluish haze of its atmosphere. And in a few short minutes, it would all be so much dust and fire.
He turned his eyes to the controls watching the numbers and codes swim across the screens as his fingers flew, trying to shut out the incessant and escalating whine of the antimatter stabilizer as its load propelled the ship towards the helpless primeval Earth; code after code, solution after solution his mind supplied to him, but none were right, not one of them halted Earth's slow advance or lessened the failing whine of the stabilizer.
With a sharp cry of disgust he turned from the banks, twining his fingers together in the hopes that the contact would drive the fruitless codes from his vision and reveal the true answer lurking beneath- and the stabilizer whined and Earth grew nearer, and time ran like water through his fingers.
"Something's missing. There's something I've forgotten." he muttered to himself. "But maybe. . . ." A sea of numbers parted to reveal the ocean floor, the path to salvation- he whipped around and typed as fast as his fingers could, muttering the final computations beneath his breath, saving the world by inches and degrees, only a few final computations away-
And the console exploded.
He leapt backward, looking for the cause of the disturbance; to his right, a Cyberman spent its last iota of power howling as it died, as it stumbled and fell, its gun dropping with a sharp clatter to the floor. Even death could not stir him now. Fingers smarting from plastic shrapnel, he turned back to the console- smoking, ruinous, melted and blasted- useless. All the life drained from him, as though it didn't want to hang on those last few minutes and be forcefully removed by the impending massive collision. His lighted eyes dulled, his shoulders slumped, the tight set of his mouth faltered and fell away.
"Well," he said, looking up to see Earth now rushing towards him at impossible speeds, "now I'll never know if I was right."
The antimatter engines screamed and wailed, and Adric loosed his long-dead brother's belt from around his waist, holding it to his chest as the last bastion of comfort in a world that was suddenly and unexpectedly falling apart. He should have gone home, should never have gotten himself into this mess, should have listened all those times when the Doctor told him to stay behind- he shouldn't have stowed away on the TARDIS at all. He had failed- he had tried, and he had failed. Failed the crew, failed those Earth-soldiers, failed Earth, failed Tegan and Nyssa, and, worst of all, he had failed the Doctor. He should have left with the crew, should have let the door close- the very least he could have done was come through on his promise to come back, but even that was impossible now; the very least of consolations was already far beyond his reach. All he could do was wait, stand and watch Earth approach, knowing that they would destroy each other. . . .
Another sound, faint at first, slipped in behind the overwhelming scream of the engines, a familiar sound, rhythmic and soothing, the screeching of the TARDIS materializing.
Adric was running before he even realized he'd heard the sound at all, leaping through the open door and hearing it slam shut behind him, and then the screeching of time and space bending out of the way as the TARDIS departed the doomed ship. "I'm sorry." he gasped, pulling himself from the floor, every muscle in his body shaking violently, tears longing to spill over his eyelids. "I tried, but I couldn't get the last code. A Cyberman shot out the controls. I'm so sorry, I failed you, I failed everyone. . . ."
"No need to apologize, Adric. Earth is really in no danger at all."
Terror turned his bones to water, squeezed his heart and filled his lungs, cast blackness before his eyes and clenched his throat in its hands. That voice was not the Doctor's, and there was only one other Timelord he knew of who still traveled this universe in a TARDIS.
"Expecting the Doctor, were you? No, your precious Doctor wouldn't risk his ship to save you. Come, sit down, you're looking pale."
"No," Adric stammered, frozen in horror. A strong, gloved hand grasped his arm and led him to a seat, where it placed him. He couldn't bring himself to look at the face, not that face; as long as he didn't look, maybe it wasn't real.
"But not me. I'm far too fond of your astounding mind to let you go to waste. Still hesitant about joining me?"
"Never," he croaked, staring at the gold embroidery on the black vest before him. He didn't even need to look at the face. He knew it well enough.
"My dear boy, I just saved your life. A little gratitude wouldn't hurt, you know."
"I'd rather be dead!" Adric cried, leaping to his feet- or trying to. The hand was still on his arm, and it was unimaginably strong, forcing him back into the chair with very little apparent effort.
"I understand the sentiment, but no. I've gone to quite a lot of effort to keep you alive."
He struggled, knowing it was stupid and futile, knowing it could only possibly make things worse- but the part of him that knew things and the part that was fighting the iron grip were in different places, and no longer speaking to one another. So he lashed out, punched and kicked, dragged himself from the chair, screamed and scratched, bit the hand that covered his mouth until blood flooded in between his teeth and stung his tongue with its bitterness.
But then the Master hit back.
The first blow shattered two of his ribs; he felt them snap like dry twigs just before a terrible white-hot pain flooded from the breach and filled his side. Adric screamed, and the hand that had been clenched in his teeth curled into a fist and punched his throat, silencing him instantly. He fell to the floor when the Master dropped him, choking on his own windpipe, gasping for air, burning up on the inside from the pain of his broken ribs. Just for good measure, the Master kicked him in the head, and right after the pain flared to life, everything went dark.