Note: Once again, big thanks to Koscheithepianist for beta-reading the chapter.
The ground floor of the abandoned building turned out to be an old diner, with a rundown bar and stuffy seats and table arrangements, all covered under a thick layer of dust and grime. The Doctor sat on the floor with his back against the wooden paneling of the bar with Martha next him. They had been hiding for the last six hours and it was already getting dark outside, but still they could hear the Timelord commander shout through the amplifier from time to time, reminding the good citizens of Agora I to not hide any members of the rebel squadron.
"I can't believe this." Martha muttered softly, still quite shaken by the previous experience. It was the first sentence she had spoken in hours. "They just opened fire like…like they were facing a troop of armed enemy soldiers." She looked up at the Doctor who was testing an old chocolate bar that he had found for its potential to serve as supper. One lick was enough to make him decide that it wasn't exactly suitable for consumption.
"This thing tastes like soap." He muttered disapprovingly, pulling a face and rubbing his tongue over his sleeves. "Oh wait." He peered at the wrapper. "This is soap. Fancy that!" He told Martha with a big dorky grin. "A bar of soap that's made to look like a chocolate bar! Ha! The crazy things they come up with these days!"
Martha stared at him like he's gone mad.
"The world outside is ending and you're shocked by a novelty soap bar?"
"Oh the world isn't ending, it's serious alright, but at least it's not that serious." The Doctor sighed. "I should know. I've been to a couple of world endings, and it's usually a lot hotter than this."
"I don't even know where my friends are." Martha muttered, ignoring the Doctor's weird rambles. "Things happened so fast. I hope they didn't get themselves killed."
"Don't worry, those soldiers only received orders to do the necessary arrests and to scare the crowd back into submission. Those shots you heard were just warning shots, they could have easily hit someone but they didn't. But of course, people are still getting thrown in jail. That's bad enough."
"It's all my fault." She said, ruefully. "I never should have rallied them up for a demonstration. I mean, what's the point? That purple guy in the front row was right. I should have kept my stupid mouth shut!"
"Oh no. No, you absolutely shouldn't!" The Doctor said, horrified that she would even contemplate it. "What's the matter with this place?" He said, knitting his dark brows together. "Everybody I know who normally wouldn't take anything for granted even if was written in stone have all suddenly turned conforming. I know alternative universes can sometimes be comical like that, but this is on a whole different level than, let's say, the reality in which there are more left handed people than right handed people, or the alternative universe in which people have wet doggy noses. What is this, a universe in which everyone has suddenly lost their backbone?"
"What are rambling about?" Martha replied, more desperate than angry. "Don't you see that we're in trouble? Well I'm in trouble. You're a Timelord. Someone is bound to bust you out if you get arrested."
The Doctor thought of the Master and decided that she was probably right. He better not mention this to her.
"So, what's your story then? Why were you looking in the library for the heavily censured stuff? Being one of them, don't you automatically have access anyway?" Martha asked.
"We're not all privileged, just because we happen to be Timelords." The Doctor thought about her reaction for a moment. "Actually, what you just implied was pretty racist." He added, a bit offended.
"I caught your data-transfer with the digital librarian when I accidentally walked through your information beam." Martha continued. "You were trying to access information on the Spear of Vela Pulsa, didn't you?"
"Yep, I was. You don't happen to know anything about it?" He half-joked, while stretching his legs and sweeping his arms over his head. Sitting still for hours wasn't easy for him.
"Well, as it happens." Martha rummaged through her backpack and fished out a folded piece of paper. "I know a thing or two about it, yeah."
The Doctor looked pleasantly surprised.
"I know someone who maintains the solar colony's sewage system for a living." She carefully folded out the paper over the floor, revealing a map of the underground consisting of a complex labyrinth of tubes and tunnels. "One of the tunnels around the palace collapsed last week and he was sent out to do the necessary repair work. His boss told him to use one of those sonar scanners to make sure that he wasn't going to hit any old pipelines once they started drilling. When he switched it on, the scanner detected a whole network of corridors containing a huge amount of metal that stretched over the entire area underneath the solar complex. When we looked into it, we also detected massive energy surges, running into the direction of the palace underground." Martha pointed at a spot on the map that was marked with a red X. "It's going right there, to a location straight underneath the Beacon of Pharos where the energy readouts suddenly vanish. My friends and I made plans to go and investigate, but I guess that's never going to happen now." She added, not without regret.
"Oh I wouldn't say that. Everything looks pretty well connected." The Doctor said, scratching the back of his head. "If we are able to get into the sewers, we can head straight to the palace in one go."
"But how are we supposed to get down there? You want to stick your head in the toilet and see if you can flush yourself?" Martha said with slight irritation in her voice.
The Doctor gave her a very strange look.
"I'm sorry. I didn't…Never mind. Just tell me what you want to do, and I will help."
"Well, we're certainly not going to try that, although I must say, what I had in mind does come close." The Doctor answered, raising an eyebrow at her as he got up. "Ah! Look at that. Lucky us!" He exclaimed as he improvised on the spot. "They've been busy trying to tear down this place in the old-fashioned way, with lots of sweat, muscle, elbow grease and this!" He picked up a heavy looking hammer from a forgotten corner and beamed a dazzling smile at Martha.
"This should do nicely." He said.
Seated on his throne, the Master had been listening to the lord Valkory's report on the Nomads scientific transfer for over half an hour now. Before that, he had a council meeting with the elders of the six most influential races in the Agora colony, and had listened to their petitions for at least half an hour each. Still, if you would ask him to summarize what he had heard this afternoon, the Master would not be able to recall a single word. The reason why he failed to pay any attention to his advisors, was because he was too occupied to stare at what appeared to the others as an empty spot in the center of the great hall, and had become more and more anxious about the strange phenomenon as the afternoon crawled by.
The others have noticed the Lord Chancellor's strange behavior, and malignant rumors of tiredness and stress were already spreading like wildfire around the court. None of them, of course, could see what the Master saw, and didn't have to endure what he endured.
"Enough!" The Master suddenly yelled, jumping right out of his seat as if bitten by insects, his eyes stayed focused on the invisible thing in the middle of the chamber. His subjects stared silently at their lord.
"My lord Chancellor?" Valkony asked hesitantly.
"I.." The Master stood frozen on top of the platform while beads of cold sweat rolled down his temples. He blinked his eyes, hoping that the ghostly vision would finally cease, but no matter how hard he wished it away, or how many times he shut his eyes and opened them again, it kept haunting him.
She kept haunting him.
He muttered something that sounded like a half-hearted excuse, and left the reception hall in a great hurry, leaving his subordinates very much in doubt of his lordship's sanity.
Rushing down the corridors, he ran into his wife Anne, who caught and steadied him in her hands.
"What's wrong?" She asked, instantly worried after one look at his face. "Are you ill, my lord? You look horrible."
"'It's…I've seen her again Anne!" His voice quivered, and he licked over his dry lips nervously. "The little girl I told you about, the one who keeps coming back to haunt me in my dreams, she was in the great reception hall, standing right underneath the dome in bright daylight!"
"Easy now love. Easy. It's just a fearful vision. Did you try to look away, or blink your eyes?"
"Of course I tried!" He hissed. "I tried all of those things! It didn't help! I'm telling you Anne, she keeps following me around! She's driving me insane!" The Master whispered, pressing his fingers on the sides of his head in desperation. Anne gently cupped his cheeks. "Look at me love, look at me. Calm down. Don't do this. Don't lose your calm in front of the court." She stroked over his damp hair.
"Now…Look around. She's no longer following you, is she?"
The Master glanced fearfully over her shoulder down the corridor in the direction of the grand hall. It was blissfully empty. He shook his head and let out a sigh of relief. Anne gently brushed a strand of hair away from his face.
"See? She's gone, like a frightful shadow, fleeing for the light at the break of dawn. There's no need to be afraid."
She whispered his name to him while the Master held her tight, keeping her close to him and burying his face in her long, swanlike neck. "Oh don't let go." He rasped. "Just…hold me a little longer." He took in the scent of his beloved wife, her sweet sweat with the frail scent of lavender, and closed his eyes. For the first time since the little girl had appeared, his troubled and frightened hearts found a rare moment of peace.
It took them some time to break out the toilet pot and make a hole big enough to squeeze through, but by the time the forum was cleared for the night, Martha and the Doctor both found themselves in the underground sewers, well on their way to their secret destination.
"We should have tried one of those manholes to get in." The Doctor said, sniffing his coat and wrinkling up his nose. "I'm sure this strange toilet duck smell is going to stick on me like bees to a beehive. Might as well throw these away now." He added sourly. He felt the wetness soak inside his trainers as they sloshed through the tunnels, wading against the foul smelling brown stream. "Actually, I might as well go look for a complete new outfit." He sighed.
Martha stared at the strange tall man for a moment, wondering not for the last time where on Earth this wacky Timelord came from.
"Look, I must apologize to you. I shouldn't have been that rude back in the diner. My mother has taught me better than this. There's no excuse for bad manners, even if you are a Timelord." She told him.
"Your mom? Oh, you know, I can actually imagine her saying that. She can be quite strict." The Doctor smiled, remembering how frightening Martha's mother could be sometimes, but then again, most his of companion's mothers were. "How is she? How is the rest of your family?"
"Dead." Martha answered, without so much as looking at him. She kept going, keeping her eyes on the path ahead of them.
"Oh." The Doctor felt a painful sting in his hearts. "I'm really sorry." He said, realizing, not without grief, how often he had already used those words in this strange, twisted version of reality. The longer he stayed, the more he became conscious of the fact that this was how a universe without his interference would have turned out to be, and it only made him feel more responsible. His Timelord instinct told him that he hadn't just disappeared through a hole in the timevortex and rolled into another, more frightening parallel universe. This was his universe. He belonged here. Something had gone horribly wrong with it that somehow involved the Master being who he was…and it regretfully had affected Martha and her family in the most tragic way.
"You don't need to say sorry. It's got nothing to do with the Timelords anyway." Martha said quietly. "My mum and dad, they died on the very first day the Daleks invaded Earth. They were doing Christmas shopping when the Daleks blew up Oxford Street and wiped half the city London from the map."
Martha told her story like it was a blunt fact, as if it was something she had learned by heart, like numbers from a table. She had to deal with her parents' death this way, otherwise she wouldn't be able to carry on by her own. "It was the first time they did anything together for a long time. I was so glad for mom. I actually had hoped that they were getting back together again. I've never thought of losing them both." She fell silent for a moment. A fat rat scrambled away before her feet and scuttled up a pipeline.
"My sister Tisch and my brother Leo, they went out to look for them. I was a medical trainee in Saint George Hospital at the time, and after the first explosions, injured and dying people were rushed into the ER by the minute. It was absolutely horrible, and when I finally had Leo on the phone I urged them to stay where they were and not come to the city center. They didn't listen of course. Tisch never listens." A sad smile curled her lips that quickly faded as the found memories of her sister were replaced by the ache of her loss.
"They never found their bodies. Not of my parents, nor those of Tisch or Leo. There were stories though, horrible stories, that the Daleks had rounded everybody up, and those they didn't kill were deported to their spaceships. They said that they processed them, turned them into one of them to strengthen their numbers. I hate those stories, just can't believe that they are true." Martha paused, staring at the grime on her boots, she needed a moment to compose herself.
"It's not true, is it?" She gazed at the Doctor, her large brown eyes rimmed with tears. "Please tell me it isn't."
The Doctor stared back at that beautiful kind face, and his hearts were struck by sorrow.
"No, it's not." He lied.
Martha looked at him for a moment. "You're a very bad liar." She finally said, and picked up her pace.
"Martha." The Doctor called, rushing after her.
"It's all my fault." Martha said softly, hot tears were running down her face. "I was supposed to be the doctor in the family, and I couldn't save any of them. I was too chicken-shit to go out to find them. I stayed in the hospital and kept telling myself that I was needed at my post, while outside, my entire family was being massacred!"
"Martha, it wasn't your fault." The Doctor pulled her by her arm. She spun around, her eyes filled with a world of hurt. He knew he shouldn't, but couldn't bear to see her like this any longer.
"What if I told you that this, none of this should have ever happened?" He said. "Would you believe me?"
"What?" Martha sniffed. "What do you mean?"
"I mean the Daleks, and the Timelords, the destruction of Earth, the Agora refugee zone, and the murder of your family. What if I told you that none of it should have happened at all?"
"I would tell you that you're crazy but probably in a much better place than the most of us." Martha replied, quickly wiping away her tears.
"Oh wonderful, beautiful, skeptical Martha Jones." He told her. "Your mother, Francine, she is one of the bravest and most scary woman I've ever met. She calls you at least once a day, even if there's nothing going on and she only lives half an hour away from your flat, she still calls because she loves hearing your voice. That's how much she loves you. Your sister Tisch, she's supposed to be your big sister, but you think of her of your little sis and care about her the same way because she is always getting herself into trouble. And then there's your little brother, Leo –"
She stared at the Doctor, her brown eyes wide in amazement. "How do you know this?"
"I told you. I know you. Somewhere and sometime in that other universe, you and I have met and were really good friends. And I came to know, admire and love you for the wonderful person that you are."
"But that would mean that you're from some kind of alternative universe." She studied the Doctor with an incredulous look on her face before she slowly shook her head. "Oh no, that's just too crazy. You could have dug up that information from the Timelord archive. You could have found their names in there, it doesn't really prove anything."
"You wanted to become a doctor."
"Now I told you that, didn't I?"
"You wanted to become a doctor because when you were little, you fell off the swing in your uncle's garden. Your mother and Leo took you to the hospital and the doctor made an x-ray of your injured arm. The moment he showed it to you, and you saw that ghostly image of your own bones, you were absolutely fascinated, and you knew that you wanted to become a doctor. You have worked very hard to become a good doctor ever since."
"Please. Stop it." Martha said softly, looking away.
They walked side by side in the dark. The Doctor started to regret that he had mentioned Martha's old life to her. He had wanted to lift her spirit and give her a little bit of hope, but instead, the thought of what she had lost had only shaken her resolve.
They reached the end of the sewage tunnels. A round concrete tube, which was large enough for them to stand upright in, went in the direction of the palace. Rusty gates prohibited entrance. Just when Martha was about to turn the corner, the Doctor pushed her back and pointed at a security camera hidden away in the ceiling. He put his fingers on his lips, took out his sonic, and fired. A puff of smoke followed when the beam hit the lens and short-circuited the wiring. He then quickly unlocked the gates with the same ease and they went inside.
"So." Martha said softly as she walked beside him. "I know it's bonkers to believe any of it, but if it's true what you've told me…"
"Uhuh." The Doctor mumbled, arching his head and scanning the ceiling for any more hidden cameras. "Sorry, wasn't really paying attention, but yes?"
"Can you stop them?" Martha asked hopefully.
"The Daleks." Martha sighed. "And the Timelords. Can you make everything better than it is right now? Can you do that?"
Martha didn't know why she was asking him this. This weird and wonderful man, who had just stumbled into her life, except for his name and the fact that he was a Timelord, she didn't know anything about him. But there was a strange familiarity about the Doctor, and it had given her such comfort to hear him speak about her beloved family, about her. It was as if she could trust him, and really, really knew him.
The Doctor answered her question with a wide smile. "You know, I believe I can." He said, and gave her a little wink.
The tunnel quickly narrowed into something resembling a ventilation shaft in which they could barely squeeze their way through.
"Whatever is hidden down here, it produces a lot of heat." The Doctor grunted, after they had crawled through the narrow claustrophobic space for what seemed to be ages. "I'm practically bathing in my own sweat in here."
Martha, who was crawling close behind him, wrinkled her nose in response, but lucky for her, they finally stumbled on a grid that emerged into an open space on the other side. The fittings were rusted through and soon the Doctor had the grid fiddled loose and dropped it on the floor in a loud clatter. There was no place to turn, and it was a bit difficult to slip out headfirst, but eventually they managed to get out. They were standing in a long corridor that seemed to stretch out for miles in each direction. A large metal cylinder ran right through it, and the Doctor went over to investigate.
"What's this?" Martha asked curiously. "It looks like a massive water pipe."
"No doubt it isn't." The Doctor said, whirring his sonic screwdriver over the steel surface and inspecting the readings. "Unless the Master forgot the mention his ocean sized pool he keeps in the cellar. This thing is transporting energy. Massive amounts of it."
"Who the heck is the Master?" Martha asked. "And why should he have a swimming pool down here?"
"Oh never mind him. We've got something big to crack." The Doctor said, clapping his hands, he jumped back up and started to run in the direction of where the energy flow was heading. He was about fifty feet away when he noticed that his companion was lagging behind.
"Aren't you coming?" He shouted back. Martha shook her head sternly. "Not if you don't tell me who that Master bloke is." She told him. Somehow she realized that it actually did matter.
The Doctor sighed and scratched behind his ear. "Alright." He muttered after a moment of hesitation. "But you have to promise not to freak out if I tell you. And I don't want to hear any of that racist Timelord stuff either, you understand?" He pointed out.
Martha granted him a broad smile and ran after the Doctor.
"Right then, spill the beans." She told him. They were jogging through the corridor with a healthy speed. Martha was barely able to keep up with him.
"Actually, I can keep it short. The Master is the Timelord Chancellor. He is, or was an old friend of mine. Now, satisfied?"
"Not really! He's your friend? Our Lord Chancellor? The guy who censors about everything and who had just sent out his troops to kill us? You've got a lot more explaining to do than this, mister!"
"I told you, they were not trying to kill anyone. It was just a cautionary operation to keep the population from causing trouble."
"Oh like that really makes the difference! Next thing I know, you're gonna tell me he's actually a very warm and caring person."
The Doctor didn't answer her. The corridor was flying past him, and he felt each heartbeat resonate in his head while hot blood rushed through his veins. Flashes of memory started to come back to him. In his mind, he saw the Master, standing on top of a garbage mount, screaming his lungs out at him, his body ravished by a brutal force that was ripping him apart. He came back from the dead, but still, he was dying.
"How did you end up here with him the first place?" Martha continued, failing to notice the chance of expression on the Doctor's face.
A second memory came back to him. He was lying on the dirty floor of an abandoned warehouse, his body convulsing in pain while the Master studied him thoughtfully. He crouched down beside him, his expression filled with melancholy and sadness. The Doctor looked at his tormentor, and actually felt sorry for him, for he knew he was so very confused and scared. And after the Master had vented all of his madness and anger at him, he had asked, no begged him to listen. Listen to the drums, and to feel what he felt, every waking moment of his life. The Master brought his head close to his. The moment their minds collided, the Doctor listened, and finally knew how it was to surrender to insanity, and to carry the burden of such loneliness and bitterness inside one's soul. It broke the Doctor's hearts.
"Doctor? Doctor! Are you actually listening to a word I'm saying?" Martha complained, waving her hand in front of him. The Doctor blinked his eyes and gazed back at her wildly.
"He came back!" He said, wiping his hand over his face. "In the real universe. The Master was dead. His wife shot him, that's why I was so surprised to see him here again. But he actually came back from the dead last Christmas. His body was ravished by dark forces, flashing in and out of Skeletor mode beyond his control, and it turned him in some sort of mad cannibalistic maniac, but still, in general, he would definitely qualify as living."
"And that's a good thing then?" Martha opted, visibly confused.
"Not exactly." The Doctor muttered. "Because….There was this prophecy. Someone told me I was going to die, and that death would announce itself by knocking four times. I thought it was the Master who would be responsible. Only he wasn't…or was he?…Oh something happened! Something that I just can't remember…Actually, there's quite a lot I can't remember. It's like there are these massive holes inside my memory that need to be filled up with something or someone for my recollections to start making any sense again. But I just can't figure it out." He looked at Martha for help. "What do you think?"
"I think I wish I had never asked you anything about that Master bloke in the first place." Martha panted, getting seriously out of breath by now. They were reaching the end of the corridor where it emerged into a huge silo-like structure. Her mouth dropped open in amazement as she stared around and took in the size of the underground chamber. "This place must be even bigger than the whole palace complex combined." She gasped as they were slowing down their pace. In the middle of the chamber, the steel cylinder joined a network of tubes that arrived from 17 other corridors. They all vanished into a massive hole in the middle of the room. The Doctor went over to the barrister and stared down. He tried to catch a glimpse of the level below, but found the pit to be almost bottomless. He picked up a pebble and threw it in. He didn't hear it hit the bottom for over a minute.
"That's one hell of a long way down." Martha remarked.
"Yep, and there's no pool down there either." The Doctor said. "That's rather disappointing. I like a large pool. Have one myself in the library. Still, we've got this funny looking thing here, sticking out in the middle." He leaned so far over the banister that it actually scared Martha and knocked on the metal surface a couple of times. "Solid steel walls, going all the way up." He remarked.
"Going up where?"
I would guess into the Beacon of Pharos. I've seen something like this before. It kinda resembles the Pharos Receptor on the planet of the Nomads. But I'll take other suggestions if you come up with anything better." He craned his neck and stared at the point where the huge center tube vanished into the cave's ceiling. "Strange though." He mumbled, while putting his hands inside his pockets.
"Well, strange that I didn't burn myself when I touched the core unit really." The Doctor said, walking around the cylinder and studying it closely. "Remember how hot it was down that corridor? That's because of the huge amount of energy that was being conducted through that tube, and this centerpiece has 18 of them connected to it. There should be a massive energy surge going through this thing, producing enough heat to carbonize an egg." He put his hand flat on the metal surface. "Instead, it's even slightly cooler than a fridge." He muttered, puzzled.
When the Doctor and Martha had almost made half a turn around the large cylinder, they came across an insert porthole that looked a bit similar like those found on a submarine. Two bright searchlights hanging from nearby posts were aimed at it. The Doctor looked through the round windowpane, and saw nothing but pit black darkness.
"No." He mumbled, his face turning pale. "Oh no."
"What? What is it?" Martha came forward and took a look inside. "What's so bad about it?" She responded. "I can't see anything in there."
"Oh there's something in there alright." The Doctor swallowed hard and stared back at her with a mixture of awe and horror in his eyes. "Martha, with those strong lights fixed on this, wouldn't you at least expect to see something?"
"Now you mention it. Yeah. At least you should be able to see the inside of the cylinder, even if it is empty." She gazed back him, and realized that she had not yet seen him so worried before. "Only…it's not really empty…is it?" She asked him while a nasty feeling crept up on her.
"No. It's not." The Doctor took out his sonic and whirred it over the porthole. The beam of blue light revealed what was hidden. Martha saw the inside of the cylinder, which was cavernous and mostly empty, but right in the middle, suspended in the air, floating static and perfectly still, was a single piece of rock the size of an apple. It had the darkest color of black Martha had ever seen, and it seemed to absorb all the blue light around it, wrapping it inside a halo of darkness.
"There is a black piece of rock, floating inside like there's no gravity or anything." Martha mumbled, astonished by their finding.
"It's not just a rock. It's a neutron star, the compressed core that remains after an average sized star burns up and dies."
"Are you serious? There is a dead star kept inside this thing?" Martha replied. "But that can't be. I don't remember much from my physics lessons, but I do remember that my old teacher mister Gibbons told me that neutron stars are like a million times heavier than our sun. If that's one, we and everything in this solar system should have been sucked inside and compressed into atoms by now, that's how much gravity that thing should have."
"Someone has been paying attention." The Doctor mumbled, impressed. "But mister Gibbon has never heard of the Timelords. This spider-web monstrosity was built to counteract it's gravity, hence the massive amount of energy needed to keep it in balance. That's why we were sweating ourselves silly back in the corridor, and why the rest of the center cylinder itself remains cool, all the energy has been used up to keep that thing stable, and it happens so efficiently that even the thermal energy is not wasted."
"Is this it then? Is this the Spear of Vela Pulsa?" Martha asked.
The Doctor just looked back at her, his expression gloom.
"What? It can't be that dangerous. I mean I know it's unstable and all but…how on Earth can a dead star be used as a weapon?"
"Oh you obviously have never seen Star Wars." The Doctor replied. "Actually, that wasn't a real dead star, just a ball of rusty metal shaped like a planet in outer space with a giant laser gun hidden inside. Look, it's not the neutron star that we should be worried about. I mean sure, if this thing destabilizes, it would cause a major catastrophe and the whole of Agora I will be blown to bits, but it's hardly the kind of stuff that would worry the Daleks. They have seen weapons like this before, and let's face it, if you have your territories stretched out over thousands of galaxies, what does the loss of a couple of Daleks in a remote border area mean to the Dalek Emperor? Absolutely nada-nothing. Now, if we're speaking about something that could destroy the entire universe, that would definitely make them quiver in their armor panels. The real poison in this doomsday weapon is not the fact that it is an unstable neutron star, but that it isn't a real neutron star at all."
Martha shook her head fervently. "Oh I really am not getting this."
"That dead star. It's not made out of rock, or even matter. It's composed of antimatter."
The Doctor ran his fingers through his hair impatiently, struggling to find a way to explain this to her.
"Okay, remember what I told you about alternative universes? There are billions of universes, billions of realities, in which you and I exist but that are not exactly the same as ours. They differ in wide ranges, from tiny little details such as what you had for breakfast this morning to major differences…"
"Like how in this reality, my entire family is murdered by Daleks, and in yours, they are still alive?" Martha said with bitterness in her voice.
The Doctor stared at her. "Yes. Yes, it's like that. Now imagine an universe so extremely different from ours that it's actually the complete opposite of this reality."
"What? A world without Daleks and Timelords?"
"You have to think more radically than that. Imagine a world in which the planets and the stars still exist, we still exist, but we are the negative version of ourselves…Oh, I know! It's like when you take a picture with an old-fashioned film camera, after you develop the film rolls, you'll have your full color photo shots, but you also have the negatives with the strange reversed dark colors."
"Okay, I get that, but why is it so dangerous? Except perhaps that it doesn't really belong here, I guess."
"This chamber in which it is kept is not only zero-gravity, but also vacuum sealed, and that's because if only one tiny little molecule of antimatter, even if it was something as simple as an antihydrogen molecule, would come in contact with matter, it would destabilize so quickly and so violently that it would initiate a chain-reaction that would trigger an explosion with a force equivalent of a thousand atomic bombs detonated at once. With that amount of antimatter floating in there, you can only imagine the worst."
"You said the Daleks wouldn't be afraid if it wasn't that their own existence was stake." Martha muttered, her face paling in shock.
"When this thing comes in contact with anything, anything at all from this world, even if it was only a tiny little oxygen molecule, it would explode and cause the destruction of our entire universe."
Martha swallowed hard. "We have to do something. The Spear is too dangerous to exist, even if it's controlled by the Timelords." She panicked, feeling her heart bounce wildly in her chest. "What if the Daleks get their hands on it? We must shut it down, and with we…I mean you."
"Me?" The Doctor asked, a bit surprised. "You want me to fiddle with that? One little wobble and it heads for the sides of the cylinder. And have you even seen the controls?" He pointed out the gigantic console that sat like a small mountain on one side of the bedrock. There were at least a hundred buttons, dials and switches on it, and of course, not a single one of them was clearly marked. "It's like trying to unarm a bomb that is wired up to a gazillion cables when you're blind idiot with only one arm and no fingers. It's plain suicide to attempt anything like that."
"So, you can't do it?" Martha asked. She was losing hope.
To her relief, the Doctor returned her a mischievous grin. "Oh, I didn't say that." He dash over to the keyboard and started to hit the keys and meddle with the switches like crazy. "I said it was difficult, and very –very dangerous." Martha stared around in panic when an alarm suddenly went off and several red warning lights on the console started to flash violently. "Like I said, dangerous." The Doctor muttered and hit a large round button with a flat hand, shutting down the warning lights and the alarm. "But it is not impossible." He grinned and stared back at Martha with that sly intelligence in his eyes that she had slowly grown to love, while his fingers kept on typing at least a 100 words a minute. "You know why?" He asked.
Martha shook her head in amazement.
"Because I'm bloody brilliant!" The Doctor smirked, and entered the last in the long line of commandos with one push on the enter key. He had expected the whole system to back fire into the zero gravity chamber, causing the antimatter to become so unstable that it collapsed on its own, but instead, the alarms went on again, and this time, he wasn't able to shut it down.
"It's locked!" The Doctor yelled after trying all of the controls.
"Doctor!" Martha pointed at the eastern corridors. Large groups of Timelord soldiers marched out of the tunnels with their laser guns presented in their hands.
"Right. Too brilliant to recognize a booby-trap, apparently." The Doctor mumbled, backing away from the controls. "Time to go."
He pushed Martha in the direction of one of the western corridors, but before they even reached the entrance, a shot was fired. A red laser beam hit the floor, right in front of the tip of the Doctor's right shoe. Knowing perfectly well that the next shot wasn't going to hit harmless concrete, he immediately stopped dead in his track. Martha, who had kept running, turned and glanced back at him.
"Doctor? What are you doing? They're gonna catch us!"
The Doctor grimly shook his head. A red laser dot shimmered threateningly on the back of his neck.
"I'm afraid that they have finally run out of warning shots." He said calmly, and slowly, he raised his hands up in surrender.
"I have to say, you guys are quick. I had that thing like what? Activated for less than 10, 20 seconds tops and you were marching in there already like you lot had been waiting just around the corner." The Doctor said, granting the two officers who had arrested him and were currently dragging him down the glass corridors of the crystal palace, a cheeky grin. "Your crime ratings should be most admirably low."
"The Lord Chancellor appreciates efficiency." One of the soldiers replied without looking at him.
"Of course he does." The Doctor replied, suppressing a groan. "Wouldn't have expected it otherwise."
They boarded a glass elevator tube, the three of them squeezed into the tiny cabin that was barely large enough for two. The Doctor's slender frame became stuck between the two beefcake officers, leaving him barely space to wriggle his toes, let alone trying to escape. The door slid open and the three of them pushed out with all the grace of a quivering block of spam dropping out of a tin can. He could have imagined a more dignified entrance.
They were inside some sort of spacetraffic control room on the top floor of the Pharos Beacon. Large windows panels covered every available wall space, and the room was buzzing with the background noise of the computer consoles and the constant rattling of the engineers, diligently typing away on their keyboards. In the middle of this exceptionally well-controlled activity stood the Lord Chancellor, looking down at him as if his men had just dragged in a little lump of furry death out of a compost hope for their lord and master to inspect.
"Well, hello there, again." The Doctor said. "I see you've been busy."
"So have you." The Master replied. He dismissed the two officers and took one step closer to the Doctor, his chin raised.
"You stink." He remarked dryly, experiencing what he would call nasal napalm.
"We went through the sewage tunnels beneath the palace. Have you been down there? It's disgusting. Someone should really sort out the plumping."
The Master ignored his senses and leaned closer to the Doctor. "Do you want to ruin me? Is that your brilliant plan?" He said, raising his voice so loud that the ground control officers peered up from behind their monitors. He cleared his throat and quickly composed himself. "I told you not to meddle with those terrorists!" He whispered, close to being furious. "Why don't you ever listen?"
"You were oppressing the refugees. You sent out soldiers to frighten and arrest innocent people!"
"Just unbelievable, for the last time. They are terrorists!" The Master replied, still keeping his voice low, but quickly losing his patience. "They are a civil menace! A threat to the colony's safety!"
"And what would you call that doomsday device in your cellar, the Spear of Vela Pulsa? Your personal assurance for public well-being?" The Doctor objected.
The Master stared at him with a deep loathing burning in his eyes. "Oh the ever-inquisitive Doctor, nosing around like an ordinary sewage rat to impress his rebel Earth girl. You didn't break anything down there, did you?"
"I found enough antimatter to blow up the entire universe in seconds, Master if this is your best idea of maintaining this dangerous peace, than please think again."
"The Spear is the only thing that stands between us and the bloody Dalek curse. Of course, it's easier for you to judge than to act, isn't it?" The Master said, his anger further fueled by the Doctor's criticism. "Where were you, when the races of the universe needed their savior? Where were you when Gallifrey threatened to fall?"
The Doctor stared silently back at him, unable to respond these moral allegations. "What did you do to Martha?" He finally asked.
"Martha who?" The Master replied, his voice carrying a sarcastic tune.
"Martha Jones. The woman they arrested together with me."
"You really are thickheaded, aren't you?" The Master said, rolling his eyes.
"Where is she?" The Doctor pressed on.
"Thrown in jail together with the others. And that's where you're heading if you won't stop making a complete fool of yourself!" He pointed accusingly at him.
"I won't stop till you let her go." The Doctor replied defiantly.
The Master gazed at him with a look of incredulity and defeat on his face. "I thought your return was a blessing, Doctor. I must admit, I was facing a difficult time lately, and I needed help. I was hopeful that you could stand by my side and aid me in my duties, but now…" The rest of his words remained stuck in his throat. There, standing near the elevator shaft, right behind the Doctor, was the little girl in the white dress, her large blue eyes questioning his moral intentions.
The Doctor noticed the sudden chance in the Master's expression. He turned around and saw the little girl staring at both of them. "Oh ello." The Doctor said, a little surprised, but then again, he had been surprised throughout the entire stay in this mad world.
"You…you can see her?" The Master asked, his eyes growing wide.
"Who? She? The little girl? The one who is standing right over there?" The Doctor pointed out without taking his eyes off her. Funny place to be for a human child. He bended forward, hands resting on his knees, and smiled kindly at her. "My name is the Doctor, what's yours?"
"She can't-" The Master muttered, shaking his head violently.
"What? She can't talk?"
"My name is Rachel." She replied with a timid little smile.
"Oh no.." The Master muttered, shutting his eyes and counting back from ten. It was like watching the Doctor shaking hands with his worst nightmares. "Oh no no no no no!"
"Well, nice to meet you Rachel." The Doctor continued, unaware of how much distress her appearance was causing the Master. "What are you doing here?"
"You can hear me? You can hear me speak?"
"Yes of course. Loud and clear. Why else would I be talking to you?"
Rachel turned her gaze on the Master who had moved as far away from her as possible. She raised her hand and pointed at him.
"Well, he can't hear me. I've been trying to talk to him for a very long time now, but every time I say something, he tries not to listen, or runs away."
"Really." The Doctor glanced back at the Master, who was now standing with his back against a nearby console, his face drained and as white as snow. "That's not very polite of him. What were you trying to say?"
"I tried to tell him to stop this." Rachel answered. "We can't be all in the same room at the same time. It drives her crazy."
"What room?" The Doctor asked, caught in confusion. "And who is she?"
"Room number 1 on that white spaceship. I went in there because I didn't know who you are, and Alpha-Omega told me to hide. I didn't know it would cause so much trouble."
"Me and the Master, we were together on a spaceship?" The Doctor raised his brows in astonishment.
"At least I believe it's a spaceship. There were stars and everything when you looked outside the windows."
"Would you just stop talking to her!" The Master yelled, finally losing his last nerves. "She's a ghost, a – a figment of my imagination! She isn't real!" He screamed so loud that the entire crew was now staring at their fearless leader in silence. The Doctor turned around and finally noticed how horribly terrified the Master looked.
"It's alright Master." The Doctor told him, in a kind, soothing voice that most of us would reserve for people who were standing on the ledge of very high buildings. "Why are you so afraid of her? She's not an invention of your troubled mind. You're not mad. She's really here." He was about to ask Rachel to repeat what she had told him, but when the Doctor turned around, the little girl had vanished.
The Master's response to the Doctor's surprised face was one that bordered on a nervous breakdown. "Ha!" He laughed, pointing at the other Timelord with mad grins and wide eyes. "I knew it! I told you! She is just a ghost, a monster under the bed, that's what she's is!" He tapped nervously on the side of his skull while pained grin spread across his lips. "It's all inside my head, and now, somehow…it also got into yours."
"But….She was there. Just now. I saw her. I heard her." The Doctor muttered. "She can't just have vanished without a trace!"
"Oh Doctor, I might see her because my imagination runs wild, but I've got a whole solar system to run and I've been working myself close to exhaustion, so what's your bloody excuse?" The Master scoffed. He then noticed the awkward silence and the thirty pairs of eyes in the room that were all focused on him.
"What are you all looking at? Go back to work!" He ordered, but everyone ignored him, finding it impossible to look even a moment away from his quickly reddening face. "NOW!" He barked, finally scaring his subordinates back into action.
"She said something about a room." The Doctor muttered, digging through his damaged memory like crazy." She told me that we went onboard of a spaceship to investigate. You and I, we were traveling together…" The words had barely left his lips or it started to conjure up images inside his head, flashbacks of lost recollections that flooded his system and filled up the many holes that were punched inside his memory. It was as if a movie of his past experiences was shown to him on high speed. He saw the gate of immortality, the drums, the link, the white-point star, the return of the Timelords, Rassilon and the Master's revenge that saved his life. The black planet, the crystal lake and the tower of the nightmare child. The Judoons, the lady Shadow Architects and mister Fox, senator Magnus Pompous and his ill-fated daughter, exploding garum pots and a blood-drenched Master, holding a knife in his hands with the lifeless body of Dea Pompous lying at his feet…
The Doctor blinked his eyes fervently, eagerly waiting for the rest of his memories to return, but the film ended there and then, leaving a gap between them dropping Wilf off in Wessex Lane, and him alone, waking up on the silver wasteland planet in a much-altered universe. Although frustrated that he could he could recall what the girl just told him, at least the Doctor now finally remembered enough to see his old opponent and friend in an entirely different light.
"Master, listen." The Doctor said while his hearts hammered inside his chest and harbored a most chaotic mix of excitement, relief, thrill and terror. "I know that you won't believe me, but this place isn't real. It can't be real. I lost part of my memory when I woke up here, but I remember it now. That little girl has helped me to remember. You and I were traveling together. Something happened and this reality is a diversion of our own universe that was created as result of it."
"What are you rambling about?" The Master said dismissively. "By Gallifrey, has she scared you so much that you've lost your mind?"
"Oh but it's true! You're not the Lord Chancellor of the Agora refugee zone, you can't be. There was never a truce, both the Daleks and the Timelords were destroyed at the end of the conflict and the Time war itself was sealed inside a Timelock. And you, you are a renegade Timelord, you never took on the political duties that your father had set out for you. You never had the chance to do so. You fled Gallifrey when you were 16. Can't you remember what you've done?" The Doctor pleaded.
"Of course I can't! What you're telling me is a whole lot of nonsense!" The Master responded furiously. "Nightmare fabrications of a - a madman. A base effort to slander my good name! Me? A shameful, renegade Timelord? That's preposterous!"
Please listen, listen!" The Doctor continued. "Something has changed the course of history, of the entire universe, something that you and I are responsible for, but mostly, it has to do with you. Somehow, you didn't became the man you were supposed to become, and that had affected the outcome of the Timewar!" The eyes of the Doctor suddenly became wide as he worked it out. "The drums!" Oh of course, it must be the drums!" The pulled his hair and marched up and down like an over-caffeinated stockbroker on a nicotine-rush. "You told me that you had only heard them once. Once! But that's not right, that's not enough, no…you were supposed to be haunted by them till you were driven to madness. It was supposed to destroy your sanity and turn you into a bloodless murderer, but that didn't happen, so now –"
The Master punched him so hard in his face that the Doctor reeled and fell down, landing on his back on the floor. Dazed by the blow, he finally fell silent and looked up at the Lord Chancellor. A stream of blood oozed out of his nose. The hand that had struck him hung by the Master's side. It was clenched into a white-knuckled ball of bone and sinew.
"And all this time since you came back, I thought you just had trouble adjusting." The Master said, his voice was deceptively calm, but his hands were trembling with anger. "Even when you were causing problems, I still tried to convince my betters that you wouldn't be a danger to our cause. I told you to stay away from the rebels, but you wouldn't listen…" He crouched down opposite the Doctor while shaking his head.
"But now, I finally realize." He sighed and stared him in the eyes, placing his hand on the Doctor's chest.
"Doctor, you must be mad if you believe this." He told him with real pity in voice.
"No. Oh no. Don't play reversed psychology on me. Please, you don't realize how serious this is!"
"Oh I do." The Maser nodded gloomly, he turned around. "Guards! Restrain him."
The two men who had dragged him up into the control tower now grabbed the Doctor under his arms and hoisted him back on his feet.
"Lock him up in the psychiatric ward. Ask for that human doctor, dr. Fendman, to examine him."
"Hey, I am not the mad one here! What are you arresting me for?" The Doctor struggled feverously when they pulled him away from the Lord Chancellor. "Master! If I can remember who I was than so can you! You must know in your hearts that this is wrong! Rachel! You saw that little girl! Like us, she doesn't belong here! And you saw her!"
"Gag him." The Master ordered, sucking in his cheeks.
"Oh no, don't do this! Don't do this, you crazy crackpot! Li-" The guards, lacking anything better at hand, grabbed a sheet of paper from a desk and crumbled it up before shoving it in the Doctor's mouth. The Master rolled his eyes before he waved his hand dismissively.
"Take him away, but don't hurt him." He stressed, watching them remove the troublesome Timelord with a concerned expression on his face. The guards and the Doctor were only a few steps away from the elevator shaft when a massive explosion shook the tower and sent everyone inside the control room reeling towards the walls.
"What the HELL is going on now?" The Master shouted.
"It's the planet Ankhasmodea, sir." Answered one of the engineers behind the dashboards with slight panic in his voice. "It has arrived 86 minutes before its calculated arrival time. It hit the protection shield!"
"And it's entering the solar system way too fast!" The Master said, observing the readouts on screen, he dashed over to the row of windows on his left hand side. There, pass the thin yellow shell of the fake sun, and behind the multitude of refugee planets that were queuing in their assigned orbit around the center solar colony, a giant blue planet was pushing through the eastern border with an incredible force. The impact with the colony's protection shield caused such friction that the whole surface of the planet lit up, casing the blue globe in a white flame. This dazzling ball of white fire was in a collision course with at least 4 different planets. The Master put his hands flat on the console to steady himself. There was no time to panic. Everything he had worked so hard for was now at stake.
"Put down the shield in section 00121! Reduce Abrhamu, Safara, and Yabu's orbital elliptic circle by 1,326%. Do it now!" He ordered, following the path of the blue giant with anxious eyes as he made his calculations. "And turn the orbit of Xerxes with an angle of 12 degrees" He added, while his men rapidly adjusted the magnetic fields to get the planets out of the new arrival's way.
The Doctor was still standing near the elevator tube with his hands constrained behind his back. He finally managed to spit out his paper gag. "What is happening?" He asked staring at the incoming planet with an incredulous look on his face.
"What is he still doing here?" The Master turned, infuriated by the distraction. "Get him out of here immediately!"
"This isn't making any sense." The Doctor said with his gaze fixed on the window.
"This is what happens when a new planet enters the orbit. There is nothing for you to be concerned about. I have it fully under my control." The Master replied sternly.
"So you get a free escort of Dalek spaceships with every new planet you purchase?" The Doctor asked, pulling his eyebrows up and nodding at the window, meaning that he really should take a better look.
The Master whirled around. Behind him, the large windows facing the eastern border showed a most frightening sight. Through the hole in the protection shield that was opened up for the refugee planet, a massive Armada of Dalek spaceships was invading the solar system. The sinister warships hovered around the blue giant planet like a flock of black flies buzzing around a dead animal.
"Raise back the shields! Raise them back up!" The Master ordered. "Send out special squadron 4 to 9 to Ankhasmodea immediately, that planet needs our protection!" His voice quivered, he couldn't to lose that planet to the Daleks. Right now, the fate of the Timelords, indeed of the entire universe, rested in his hands.
The lower panels of the Dalek warships opened, and a squadron of Dalek spitfires emerged. With blasting engines, they headed down towards the blue planet, ready to enter its atmosphere. Two scouts diverted from the group and launched themselves at the heart of the solar system, blasting in parallel lines right into the artificial star, it was aiming for the crystal tower, causing fright and terror in the control center.
"Everyone! Stay at your posts!" The Master yelled, running over to help and stabbing buttons on the panel. "Rocket missiles, we have them, now let's use them!" He said, looking manic.
The wall panels opened outside of the great tower, and just before the two Dalek kamikaze spaceships were about to crash into the solar, a series of missiles were launched and the suicide ships were shot down, just seconds before they were about to smash into the room. The blast of the explosion made the tower tremble on its very foundations while it immersed them in a bright flash of white light and hurled red-hot fragmented pieces of incinerated Dalek spaceship against the window.
"So, you're sure you have this thing fully under control?" The Doctor tried tentatively, watching the Master crawl from underneath huddle of turned over datafile cabinets after he was flung against them by the blast. "If you want, I could, you know, offer a hand…"
The Master held in his breath and pressed his lips together till they disappeared into a narrow line.
"Get him out of my sight!" He ordered.
Hi there, I'm happy to tell you that the next chapter will be up this weekend, on the 30th of October, and the final chapter will be up on the 6th of November.
best wishes, H