Chaos had broken out in the streets below the tower. People were running around in fear while large crowds had gathered on the launching platforms where the spaceships of the Timelord defence force were waiting for them to board. Martha was just helping an elderly couple to get on board when the sky suddenly lit up with a blue blaze of light. Dalek spacecrafts smashed into the protection shield, right above their heads. The refugees panicked, and the stronger members of the colonies started to push their way through to get to the front of the line. Martha gazed up, and saw how one after another, the Dalek space-cruisers flew into the same spot in the protection shield till it was so weakened that one of them finally broke through in a flaming, glowing ball of fire.
"They've breached the shield! Situation reaches critical, evacuate immediately! Get everyone inside the ships now!" The Timelord commander ordered. Before she could get out of the way, Martha was pushed on board with the frantic flow, just when she saw the Doctor rush by with Anne and Vinnie. She called out to him but the doors of the spaceship closed before he could notice her.
He came down to the underground chambers and found that the secret silo was bustling with nervous activity. Final attempts were made by the engineers to shut down the system, but whatever they tried, it had failed so far.
The head engineer grabbed the Master by his arm when he rushed by. "It's no use! The manual controls don't work! The Spear is going to launch in less than four minutes! What do we do sir?"
"Move out of my way." The Master snapped and pushed his subordinate aside to gain access to the keyboard. He immediately started to enter a string of commands that would backfire the energy into the zero-gravity chamber. It was something that the Doctor had attempted earlier, but instead of causing the antimatter to collapse on its own in a relatively harmless way, this operation would, now that the launch had started, trigger an explosion that would wipe out the entire colony, taking the cursed Spear with it.
Four minutes. The Master thought. That's only 240 seconds to get Anne out of here. Doctor, You better not fail me my old friend.
For a moment, he was convinced that his mad suicidal plan would succeed, but then the fateful message; OPERATION CANNOT BE TERMINATED appeared on screen. Feverishly, he checked the system, and discovered that the cables in the conductor that guided the energy to the missile had become overheated and had melted into one, leaving the entire system stuck in a one-way circuit. He yelled out in frustration and was about to smash his fist through the screen when a blast hit the dashboard. The whole thing blew up, flinging shards and mangled plastic into his face. Shielding his eyes with his arm and turning around, he was just in time to dive behind a pillar when the room was struck by a second assault. From out of the darkness of the tunnels the Daleks entered. Blue sparks slivered over their armor plates as they materialized in the underground silo in their hundreds. Their distorted tin-can voices shouted in terrifying unison.
"This way." Vinnie told the Doctor when they finally reached the Agora library. "Our lord's Tardis is hidden right in the center of the ground floor." The Vinvocci servant guided them through the labyrinth of silver data shelves, followed closely by the Doctor and Anne. They reached the circular open space in the middle.
"There is nothing here." The Doctor said.
"It's hidden. Placed out of our time stream. You have to use my lord's seal ring." Vinnie explained hurriedly.
"How do I do that?"
"Turn the seal upside down." Anne told him.
The Doctor tried to twist the seal. It gave way and turned anticlockwise. A groaning noise rose up, followed by the materialization of a very familiar blue wooden box.
"But that's a police box!" The Doctor noted.
"I've told him a million times, but he always forgets to shut down the chameleon circuit. It's set on random. You never know how it turns up." Anne replied, unaware of the coincidence.
"It's looks exactly like my own Tardis."
Maybe it really is fate who decides over us." Anne answered in a sad voice.
They were startled by a series of explosions. The great dome of the library cracked like an eggshell and parts of the ceiling came tumbling down in large deadly chunks. They crashed into the rows of data shelves, splintering wood and sending pieces of twisted files flying everywhere.
"Unlock the door!" Vinnie squeaked in panic.
"There is no lock!" The Doctor replied. But then he discovered a seal that matched the one on the Master's ring. He held the ring in front of it and a magnetic pull drew the two together with a loud click. He put his shoulder against the door and pushed. The door slammed open and the three of them hurried inside to safety.
The Daleks troops advanced relentlessly, opening fire, aimed only to kill. The remaining Timelord soldiers who had stayed by their lord chancellor's side immediately returning fire, but they were heavily outnumbered. One by one they fell, and after the last of the armed men went down, the Daleks opened fire on the unarmed engineers and massacred them in front of the horrified Master. The Master had expected to die too, but the Dalek's deadly rays were not intended for him. After the smoke of the gunfire had cleared, leaving the scent of spilled blood heavy in the air, he was the only one left standing. Surrounded by Daleks, he backed away while his enemies closed in, making the circle smaller and smaller, till he could see his own frightened reflection in their armors.
"What do you want from me?" He yelled at them. There was a silence. Then the deadly wall of steel parted, and a red Dalek approached him. His eyepiece scanned over his features to make sure that they had taken the right prisoner.
"YOU ARE THE LORD CHANCELLOR OF AGORA I." The Red Dalek proclaimed.
" Yes I am." The Master confessed bravely.
"YOU ARE THE CREATOR OF THE SPEAR."
"THEN YOU ARE THE ONLY ONE WHO CAN DESTROY IT."
"Yes." The Master breathed in relief. "Yes indeed."
"LET HIM LIVE. FOR NOW." The red Dalek ordered.
The line of Daleks parted, letting him through. The Master rushed over to the consoles and immediately started working on the program. The red Dalek came to him.
"DO YOU HAVE A PLAN?"
"Oh I won't call it a plan, it's not even half a plan." The Master replied. "Let's hope the other half comes up while I keep working on the first part." He added while his fingers kept flying over the keyboard, reprogramming the course of the Spear.
"I won't lie to you. I can't shut it down, and I can't even blow it up without taking the rest of creation with it. So I have to disarm it. There is only one possible solution left."
The 3D navigation screen lit up in the middle of the room and showed the newly planned course of the Spear. The destination of the launch was now appointed to be Vela Pulsa, the neutron star, right in the eye of the Hydra constellation.
"WHAT IS YOUR PLAN, TIMELORD?" The red Dalek inquired impatiently.
"Call me a lunatic, but I'm going to try to shoot a star out of the sky." The Master said with a resolute look on his face.
The Tardis console room was an mirror image of the Doctor's own Tardis, and it didn't took him long to master the controls and start up the engines. They dematerialized just in time before the entire roof of the majestic dome came soaring down and buried the library in tons of debris. Out of direct harm's way, the Tardis still had to fight the gravitational pull of the Agora colony's hundreds of planets and the Doctor was manning the controls and holding on to the steering for dear life. The Tardis was violently leaning over to the left and right when Anne suddenly let go of the railing and made her way across the console room.
"Milady? What are you doing? Come back!" Vinnie shouted. "I'm sure it's not safe to move around yet."
Anne could no longer bear it. Her thoughts were with her husband left behind on the doomed colony. The idea that they were abandoning him was quickly driving her to desperation. She rushed over to the doors and pushed them wide open.
They were in space. In the distance, the Master's beloved colony was burning. Fleets of Timelord spacecrafts loaded with refugees rushed by, abandoning the safety zone, while the entire Dalek Armada descended upon Agora, spreading death and destruction in their wake. She screamed when a large Dalek spaceship rocketed through the artificial sun and exploded.
"Anne, stay away from the doors!" The Doctor yelled. He ran over to her and grabbed her by her arm.
"Doctor, look!" Anne pointed to the tower that was still standing. A red laser shot out of the top and went on a straight line out of the colony into the direction of the Hydra constellation.
"What is he doing?" She whispered, realizing that this was her husband's doings.
"He's recalculating the course of the launch. The Spear was never intended to make it far. It was only to be used as a doomsday device." The Doctor stared at the beam and raised his eyebrows high. "But…if he could make it go all the way to reach its exact opposite, the Vela Pulsa neutron star in the head of Hydra constellation, then all the antimatter would collide with matter without generating any surplus of energy. Both stars will be annihilated without so much as leaving a puff of smoke….Oh Anne! Your husband is a bloody genius!" The Doctor shouted, just when the Tardis suddenly jolted to the side. The Doctor and Anne grabbed on to the handles as the doors swung wide open and left them both swinging with their feet in outer space.
Quite understandably, Anne screamed again.
"Hang on." The Doctor said. "Look, it's going to be all right! Just…just don't look down!" He told her while he swung his feet up till he could reach the edge of the Tardis floor. "And for mercy's sake, stop screaming in my ear!"
"WHAT ARE YOU DOING? THE LAUNCH COORDINATES ARE NOT IN LINE WITH THE COORDINATES OF THE TARGET OBJECT."
Which was the Dalek way of telling him that it was a bloody lousy aim. It sounded almost polite considering their murderous reputation. But the Master was not making a mistake. It was impossible to get the antimatter star to the neutron star at the other side of the galaxy without hitting anything else first. The Master had programmed a primary thermonuclear blast just seconds before the launch of the Spear to clear the way, but that blast wouldn't have the power to keep shielding off the dangerous antimatter bullet all the way to Hydra. To make sure that the Vela Pulsa wouldn't hit anything in its course, the Master needed to calculate not a direct, but an indirect route.
He was aiming the deadly Spear at the nearest wormhole.
"STOP! STOP IMMEDIATELY AND EXPLAIN YOUR PLAN! WE CANNOT COMPUTE YOUR ACTIONS INTO A RATIONAL OUTCOME."
"That's why you are just a bunch of boring metal dust-bin calculators, and I, am the Master." He remarked before he stabbed the final key.
What happened next was nothing less than a very artful game of intergalactic golf.
The first blast erupted from the underground silo and burned a path through the jam-packed cluster of refugee planets. Miraculously, it passed through the colony without hitting a single one of them, destroying only a handful of stray asteroids that literally were vaporized by the impact and were blown out of the way. Only seconds later, the Spear followed, bursting out of the giant conduction barrel like a blue flame. It tracked the path of the initial blast and crossed the colony till it reached outer space before it plunged into a nearby wormhole.
"WHERE DID IT GO?" The red Dalek commander shouted after the Spear had disappeared from sight. "WHERE IS IT? WHERE IS IT?"
"Oh keep your metal hats on." The Master mumbled. "It should be coming out soon. Any time soon. Expected to appear…right…there." He pointed out a spot in the center of the Andromega constellation, which was made visible on the holovid as a dense shimmering cloud of white dots. Out came the shielding blast, followed by the neutron star. Both shot out again into outer space, leaving Andromega intact till it reached Poseidon's gate where they plummeted into another wormhole.
"I AM WARNING YOU, TIMELORD. IF YOU FAIL TO DISARM THE SPEAR-"
"You will what? Kill me? Really? You better be fast then." He sneered, and kept his eyes on an empty spot in space that lay in close proximity of the Hydra constellation. His fingers tapped nervously on the console, counting the seconds.
Please please please. He begged. Please let it work.
The red Dalek was running out of patience. "YOU WILL PAY FOR YOUR INSOLENCE! YOU WILL PAY FOR YOUR DEVILISH CREATION!" He barked, and raised his laser canon.
Just when the red Dalek was about to shoot the Master in sheer panic, the dark spot above the head of the sky serpent dawned with a familiar blue light.
"Doctor! Look at the sky! Something is happening!" Anne stared with bewilderment at the amazing spectacle that unfolded before her eyes. Meanwhile, the Doctor had managed to tiptoe his way back inside onto the floorboards. With sweat dripping over his forehead, he looked up in the direction of Hydra, and saw the blue antimatter star blast out of the second wormhole and into the head of the sky serpent, heading straight for the Vela Pulsa. When it almost reached its final destination, the leading light of the first blast finally burnt out, leaving only the Spear to finish the last leg of their journey. Realizing what was to come, the Doctor sucked in a deep breath and shut his eyes before he used his body mass to swing himself and Anne back inside the Tardis. The door banged shut behind them when they both landed and rolled over the floor. Anne grabbed hold of the railing while the Doctor managed to grab on to the console. The Tardis shook violently and reeled back. The doors swung open again, revealing Vela Pulsa's final moments. The antimatter star collided with its matter-based opposite and exploded into a blinding white light that lit up the serpent's head for over a million light years of distance to see, then the radiant glow was sucked back into the imploding center, becoming smaller and smaller, till it became only a sharp pinpoint of light, before it vanished into nothingness.
The Doctor pulled himself up and stared at the black space left behind. "He did it." He muttered, a smile of relief slowly spread over his lips. "He really did it!"
"And...snake's eye." The Master said quietly to himself.
"YOU HAVE SUCCEEDED. THE SPEAR IS DESTROYED. THE DALEK RACE IS SAVED FROM EXTERMINATION." The red Dalek declared in a voice that sounded as close to being joyful as it was possible for these creatures.
"Well, you know what they say, every up must have its downside." The Master replied. His badly timed sarcasm was met by hostility. The Master sighed as he faced the row of raised guns. There was no use in trying to fight his way out. He was alone against hundreds. He held his hands up in surrender and gave the red Dalek a scrutinizing look.
"So…what will happen to me now?"
"YOU SAVED US." The red Dalek said, rather unexpectedly.
"Yes I did. Albeit reluctantly. But I doubt I will get bonus points for doing you such a favor."
"YOUR MISCONDUCTS AGAINST US ARE NUMEROUS. YOU DESERVE NOTHING LESS BUT TO DIE FOR YOUR CRIMES."
"But I just saved you whole awful lot!" He mocked, but inside, his hearts were trembling.
There was a short moment of contemplation.
"NO." The red Dalek finally replied in a cold voice.
The unexpected answer brought shivers down the Master's spine. "What do you mean?"
"YOU ARE A WARRIOR. A KILLER. LIKE US. MURDER IS IN YOUR BLOOD. TIMELORD OR DALEK. IN YOU I CANNOT SEE THE DIFFERENCE."
Alarm bells started to go off inside the Master's head. "What are you going to do to me?"
"YOU WILL BE MADE INTO AN EXAMPLE." The red Dalek replied, letting the other Daleks close in on the helpless Timelord like a pack of hungry wolves on an injured deer.
"What are you doing?" Vinnie asked worriedly as he watched the Doctor fiddle with the numerous keys and switches on the Tardis dashboard.
"I'm trying to establish a communication-line with the other Timelord spaceships. I have to find out what happened to Martha. The threat of the Spear might be over, but the Daleks have now taken control of the colony and with that the lives of those who are left behind, including your master. They need our help."
"You're not trying to head back, are you? The colony is lost. It's swamped with murderous Daleks. Going back is suicide." Vinnie argued.
The Doctor didn't answer him. The lines with all of the colonies military bases remained down, so he had no idea what was going on. Meanwhile, Anne was close to being driven mad by anxiety, and was about to beg the Doctor to go back to find the Master when the Tardis finally managed to establish communication with one of the nearby Timelord spaceships.
A male voice cut through the static. "This is Alfa one speaking. Alfa one. Seeking the Doctor."
"Yes, that's me." The Doctor moved to the intercom. "Alfa one, Alfa one, this is the Doctor."
"We've got an Earthling on board. She's looking for you."
Snowy lines split the screen before it cleared and showed Martha's face.
"Martha! Are you all right?"
"Yes Doctor, everyone on our ship is unharmed. Although it's a bit crowded. We've got over 10000 people here. Even the bathrooms are filled up. I can't move around without accidentally stepping on someone's foot."
"And the other ships?"
"We've just established communication with the six nearby ships. Each of them are carrying around roughly the same number of refugees. The leading officer here told us that at least 30 more of these vessels made it out of Agora."
"What about the lord chancellor? Does anybody know what happened to him?"
Martha solemnly shook her head. "We've got the communication back on with the command center in the tower, but no one's replying. What we could pick up from the security cameras is that the whole place is taken over by the Daleks. We've intercepted parts of their communication and managed to unscramble it. It seems that they have taken a high-profile prisoner. They are transferring him back to their flagship."
"We really should head back." Whispered the Doctor, and shot a worried glanced at Anne.
"You have no idea how glad I am to hear you speak these words." Anne replied with a strong-minded look. The Doctor grinned and readied the Tardis for their return to the colony when a blast hit them. It shook the vessel with such force that all onboard swayed on their feet. When the Doctor checked the navigation systems, his hopes for a quick rescue of his friend vaporized into thin air when he saw what had caused the impact.
Although it had suffered considerable damage, the Daleks had raised the defense shield back up again. It was made visible by the blue translucent shine that packed in the entire colony like a massive soap bubble. The Tardis had hit the thermal wave that was caused by the reboot.
"The Tardis can't get back in. The shield is impermeable for Timelord technology." The Doctor said, defeated.
"We can't leave him." Anne whispered. "They'll murder him." She caught the anguished expression on the Timelord's face. "Doctor, we can't leave him behind!"
The Dalek flagship had corridors that looked like the inside of a reptile, all pink and yellow and liquid, the walls were like a strange living membrane that was stretched over an arcade of bones. It was how it would be, or so he imagined, if one was devoured by a serpent.
He was locked inside a metal cage that was fitted on a cart, being wheeled as a trophy of war through the Dalek domains. His hands were fettered in chains. His head stuck out of the top of the cage, ready to be slain. The red Dalek ventured arrogantly in front of the procession like a general who had returned home victoriously. The Master, fearing the worst, had in his hearts already bid farewell to his beloved wife, and prayed in silence that his suffering would be soon over.
For suffer he most certainly will.
They came to a great cavernous hall that was the control room of the Dalek flagship. Here, the crimson walls beat like a quivering heart and transparent pipes ran like veins and spread a cloudy pink liquid over the entire ship. In the center of the room sat the Dalek emperor on his throne of bones and metal. Shed from his armor, he was a nightmare turned to flesh. He cast his one blood-shot eye down at the prisoner with much disdain.
"YOU WRETCHED ABOMINATION." It said in a fierce dark voice. YOU VILE CREATION OF OUR MOST TREACHEROUS FIENDS. NOW YOU STAND IN FRONT OF THE VICTORIOUS LORD WHO HAS SLAIN SO MANY OF YOUR RACE, DO YOU NOT TREMBLE?"
The Master raised his chin and spat on the floor. "What do you think?"
"YOU ARE STUBBORN AND FOOLISH. I BLAME YOUR STUPIDITY TO THE WEAKNESS OF THE FLESH."
"Pride is not weakness. Nor is my contempt for your whole stinking race." The Master replied hatefully. "It helps me to stand up facing you and your awful company."
"YOU HATE US."
"Oh I am sorry, did I give that away? How rude of me." The Master smirked. "But you're right, I hate you and your kind for all that you stand for, and you know what? The only thing I would regret if I was to die now is that I have not butchered thousands more of you!"
"AND YET, YOU SAVED YOUR MOST HATED ENEMIES FROM DESTRUCTION."
"I saved my loved ones. I did it for them. For her. I could have cared less than a grain of stardust for you vile monsters. I would have spat on your graves."
A deeply distressful sound came from the bowels of the Dalek emperor, like a hyena howling while it grinded its teeth on rocks, and it struck the Master with unease as he finally realized that the Dalek overlord was in fact laughing.
"Why are you laughing? Stop it! Stop mocking me! If you want to take revenge then just do it!"
"YOU HAVE EXTERMINATED THOUSANDS OF MY FINEST SOLDIERS."
"And you have massacred millions. We were trying to make a stand against you. We were fighting against the darkness."
"AND YET RIGHTEOUS TIMELORD. YOU HAVE KILLED."
"Only to defend the innocent, only because it was necessary." The Master justified.
"LIKE US. YOU ARE A WARRIOR. A GLORIOUS SWORD OF DEATH THAT CUTS THROUGH LIVES SO VERY EFFICIENTLY."
"I'm nothing like you." He said with great resentment.
"YOU ARE WRONG. WE ARE SO VERY ALIKE. I LOOK AT YOU, AND SEE MY DARKNESS REFLECTED IN YOUR HATEFULL EYES. I RECOGNIZE YOUR RAGE. YOUR AMBITION AND GREED. DOES IT FRIGHTEN YOU, TIMELORD. TO SEE IN ME, A PART OF YOU?"
"I'm not." The Master shook his head ferociously. "I'm not you. You are a monster. I'm a man who can care and love, and knows the difference between right and wrong."
"THOSE ARE THE WEAKNESSES THAT SETS YOU APART FROM US?"
"They are not weaknesses. It took me a long time to realize-" He bowed his head and swallowed. "But if I knew none of these things, I would not be anything better than a stinking Dalek."
"THEN YOU MUST FEAR LOSING THEM."
His hearts turned to ice. "What do you mean? What are you going to do?"
"YOU ARE A MOST PERFECT WARRIOR. ONE IN A TRILLION. THE CREATION AND DESTRUCTION OF THE SPEAR HAVE PROVEN YOUR GREAT WORTH. YOUR GENIUS SHOULD NOT BE WASTED. IMAGINE, TIMELORD, WHAT YOU COULD DO. IF ONLY YOU WERE PURGED FROM YOUR WEAKNESS. IF YOU WOULD BECOME PURE AND GLORIOUS DA-LEK."
"No! No you can't!" He drew madly on his chains. "Murder me if you must, stand me against a wall and pull the trigger, but don't make me into…into-"
"A MONSTER?" The Emperor laughed. "IF THAT IS WHAT YOU BELIEVE WE ARE, THAT IS WHAT YOU SHALL BE COME. THE VERY BASE BEAST THAT YOU LOATHE AND HATE."
"No! I beg you! Please don't! Don't do this!" The Master pleaded. "Have mercy! Anything. Anything but this!"
"WHEN YOUR FLESH IS CUT AND GROUND WITH YOUR BONES INTO THE PASTE THAT FIT A DALEK'S ARMOR, I WILL SEND YOU OUT TO DISPERSE THOSE WHO WERE ONCE IN YOUR HEARTS. YOU WILL SPILL THEIR BLOOD WITHOUT SHEDDING A SINGLE TEAR. YOU WILL FEEL NOTHING AND BE GRATEFUL. THAT IS ALL THE MERCY YOU CAN EXPECT TO RECEIVE."
The master cried out in desperation when they removed him from in front of the Dalek emperor's throne and brought him into the next chamber.
In front of a blue dashboard composed of glittering dots that were connected by a confusing tangle of lines, The Doctor was manically scanning the channels, trying to intercept a Dalek communication line.
"If we could find done, we may use it as a link to guide the Tardis back inside the colony." He explained to the others. "It would be dangerous, and the Tardis would receive some serious blows, but at least we will get pass the defense shield."
"And this will work?" Anne asked.
"It has to." The Doctor mumbled and drew a line between two dots. A spark lit up and the blue dashboard vanished to be replaced by a snowy picture that showed the threatening frame of the red Dalek commander.
"WHO DARES TO HACK INTO OUR CIRCUITS?" His red eyepiece moved down till it found the Doctor. "WHO ARE YOU?" He demanded to know.
The Doctor stood up tall while Anne and Vinnie backed away from the screen.
"My name is the Doctor." He said, while his mind worked like mad to think up a new plan. Not only were they discovered, it wasn't his intention to establish a two-way link. A two-way link was just useless, because it was easily -
"WE HAVE BLOCKED ALL OF YOUR SHIP'S SIGNALS. YOU WILL NOT ABUSE OUR SYSTEM TO RETURN TO THE COLONY."
"That's exactly what I was afraid of." The Doctor mumbled.
"WHY DO YOU WISH TO RETURN, DOCTOR?"
Before the Doctor could answer him, Anne rushed forward, her cheeks red and moist with her tears. She was terrified, but ber worries for the Master's safety had made her overcome her fear.
"Because we need to rescue my lord and husband from the clutches of your soldiers. Please, you've conquered our colony, and the Spear is destroyed. We are no longer a threat to you. You have your victory. So now I beg you. Show mercy. Have mercy with this weeping heart of mine and let my beloved lord go."
"Anne, don't. The Daleks don't even know the concept of pity. Your pleading is only making it worse." The Doctor whispered urgently to her.
"YOU ARE THE MASTER'S WIFE?" The red Dalek inquired.
The Doctor looked at her and shook his head, urging her to deny it.
"Yes. Yes I am." Anne uttered in one breath.
The Doctor shut his eyes in desperation. There was a heartbeat of silence, before the red Dalek answered.
"THIS THE EMPEROR MUST KNOW." He said in a low voice. "IT WILL AMUSE HIM."
The chamber in which his life would end was as black as the cold ground that buried the dead in their graves. A huge, hideous Dalek stood waiting for him. His black body armor was coved by spikes, a row of knives adorned its helmet, while it stalk arms had long, claw-like fingers made of razors. At first the Master feared that he had been brought before his butcher, but then the frightening creature split in two, opening like a coffin to receive him. His breath caught when he realized what lay in store, and he struggled when the Daleks took him out of his cage and forced him inside the belly of the black Dalek. When his flesh touched the metal, spikes shot out of the walls. He howled pitifully as they pierced his limbs, fixing them in one place. Then the lid was closed and latched, leaving in him inside in darkness and agony.
"DO YOU HEAR ME TIMELORD?"
The voice of the emperor, followed by his image on a small screen that appeared in front of him. In the dim light of the projection, his eyes caught sight of two needle-like probes that were only inches away from his corneas, ready to make the connection with the single eye-piece of the black Dalek abomination and his brains.
"I HATE YOU!" His screams were muffled inside the thick armor of steel. "If you think this is enough to turn me into one of you, think again. I swear I'll kill you! I WILL KILL YOU ALL!"
"THAT IS THE RIGHT MINDSET TO MAKE THE PERFECT DALEK SOLDIER." The emperor said with cruel amusement in his voice. "BUT BEFORE PERFECTION, THERE MUST BE PURIFICATION. WE WILL BURN AWAY THE WEAKNESS OF YOUR FLESH."
The small screen showed him what was happening outside in the black chamber, with the black Dalek in which the Master was now imprisoned in the center, hanging from a set of heavy chains. The floor beneath the hideous effigy slowly opened up, revealing a pit with at the very bottom, a liquid sea of boiling lava.
He went mad with fear. The sight of the fiery pit evoked memories of the cruelties he had suffered by the hands of Rassilon. Horrifying images flashed through his mind, the cage set aflame, the singeing of his flesh, the scorching, blackening skin.
"No! Not like this! I don't deserve this fate! I don't deserve this!"
In front of his eyes the black Dalek was lowered into the pit, and already the metal around his feet was getting hotter. He struggled, biting his lip to force his mind from the pain as he tore his hands free from the pins. With the blood streaming down his wrists, he bashed on the lid, but it held tightly. The temperature was rising inside the claustrophobic space, and the air became difficult to breathe. He screamed, weeping tears of frustration and rage. He didn't deserve this. He had fought so hard, and lost so much. All he had left was his pride and integrity, that little inch of himself that made him better than them. Better than he once was. And now, even that would be taken from him.
Anne's face appeared to him as if in a dream. He struggled to clear his mind from the singeing heat that crept up his body. Anne, she was really there, and her tears were wept for him.
"REMEMBER YOUR WIFE'S FACE." The emperor tormented him. "REMEMBER HOW YOU FEEL NOW. NEXT TIME YOU MEET HER, YOU WILL KILL HER AND FEEL NOTHING."
"Stop this! Stop this immediately! Let him go you foul monsters!" Anne cried into the intercom.
"AND WHAT WOULD YOU DO, YOU USELESS LITTLE CREATURE? WHAT WOULD BE YOUR WRATH IF WE DON'T SPARE HIM?" The emperor laughed.
Anne stood frozen in front of the screen, overcome with a great hopelessness. The Doctor stood next to her, caught in miserable inertness as he had run out of plans. With the Tardis incapable of reaching from the Dalek's flagship, his friend's life was truly left at their mercy, and he knew very well that these metal-hearted fiends knew none.
He and Anne were forced to witness the Master's cruel death, and both could do nothing to save him.
"YOUR TEARS AND HIS SUFFERING AMUSE ME. BUT YOU ARE NOTHING. A SPECK OF DUST IN THE PADDLES OF TIME. YOU WILL BE FORGOTTEN. YOUR DEATH REMEMBERED AND MOURNED BY NONE. BUT HE, HE WILL BECOME OUR GREATEST WEAPON. OUR DEVINE INSTRUMENT OF DEATH."
"He won't allow that to happen." The Doctor said. His eyes caught a familiar face in the console room. A little girl in a white dress that he had not noticed before. She had just appeared out of thin air inside the Tardis. Invisible to the others, she was looking at him with accusing eyes. Her appearance had sparked his memories and joggled awake his brains from the dangerous passive slumber. "He's too clever to let himself to be turned into a murderous monster. To be turned into your Dalek slave."
"HE IS OURS. TO BE FORMED AND MOLDED INTO OUR OWN PERFECT IMAGE."
"You're wrong. He's a fighter, a brilliant renegade Timelord with an epic contempt for everyone and everything but himself. He may have forgotten this in this mad world, but I'm here to remind him." The Doctor stared at Rachel who nodded and smiled.
"You finally remember what I've told you." She said with great relief.
The Doctor gave he a little wink. "I promised, didn't I?"
"I once promised my friend that I would never abandon him." He told the Dalek emperor. "No matter however incredibly pigheaded he is or how stupid his mistakes. He's my responsibility. So here I am. Facing you, the Dalek emperor and the entire murderous army of space dustbins at the end of civilization. I'm here to help him wake up." He said determinedly.
"Doctor!" The Master's scream pierced through the intercom. The black Dalek was now lowered within an inch of the restless lava stream. The air inside was now insufferably hot, burning his lungs. The clothes on his body caught fire and the flames melted the fabric onto his skin.
"TOO LATE." The emperor roared in triumph. "THERE IS NOTHING YOU CAN DO."
"Doctor." Rachel pulled on his sleeves. "You must let me go to him. He has to listen or he will never wake up again."
"I know, I know! But how am I going to do that?" The Doctor licked his lips, pulling his hair back like crazy. "I can't get you any closer to him. Even so, we've tried this before. He would just shut you out the moment he sees you." He paced up and down, waving his arms in frustration. "Oh if only I could get inside his thick skull! If only I could get inside his mind!" The Doctor stood frozen on the spot. A memory came back to him, the Master and him, arguing on board of the Tardis, right before they landed on the Infinity. The Master rushing to the door. His hand on the door handle. The mindtrap snapping shut…
"That's it!" The Doctor screamed with wide-eyed brilliance. "The mindtrap! We're linked by it. We're still are! Rachel. I can get you there, and this time, he will listen to you. I'll make sure of that." He ran back to the console.
"What's going on?" Doctor do you have a plan?" Anne asked.
"Oh yes!" The Doctor grabbed Anne and grinned. "And this time, we'll go home. All of us. I don't know where your home is…if you truly exist…but…" he planted a kiss on her forehead. "He loves you. And I thank you for that. For making him capable to love." He let go of a very perplexed Anne and took Rachel by his side. Crouching down, he stared into her very serious-looking little face. "Now." He told her as he placed his fingers on her temples. "Close your eyes. This might sting a bit. If you're in the dark tunnel and see a light appear in the distance, move towards it. Don't look back till you reach the other end."
Inside his metal tomb, the Master was suffering. The flames had cooked his flesh halfway to the bones, his voice was lost, his vocal cords like two lumps of boiled meat, sitting useless inside his ruined throat. Drifting in and out of consciousness, he dreamt he was already dead and paying for his sins in hell, but then the fierce agony of his scorching flesh remembered him that he was still alive. It was in those final merciless moments when Rachel came to him. The little girl who had haunted him his entire life entered his mind like a pale, ghostly mist that slivered through an open window in the night. And although he still feared her, for even his agony could not wash out the centuries of dread, her presence was strangely soothing, a cooling hand on his blistering skin. Perhaps it was only fitting that his angel of death from which he had ran away all his life, would finally catch up on him, and spread her wings over his grave.
"Your head." Rachel whispered in a voice filled of naïve innocence. "It's so crowded. It's like wading through a thick soup of thoughts." She looked down at him. Her young eyes filled with compassion. "How can you still think when you're in so much pain?"
It was impossible to answer her. His tongue was cooked and stuck to his jaw. She put his mind at ease. "Don't say anything. Just listen. Listen to what I have to say, and the pain will end."
He whimpered, what remained of his hearts struggled inside his chest. She came close, and whispered into his ear the secret she had carried for so long.
"You can undo it. Just order her to end this. Order her to unmake this world, and we can go home." She said softly.
His metal tomb broke from the chains and tumbled into the lava lake. It plunged into the molten liquid and disappeared beneath the surface.
"Call her. You are the only one who can stop this. Order her to stop! Call her or you'll die!" Rachel urged.
The burning lava spilled into the coffin through the many cracks and creases, and ate away his flesh. With the last thought his damaged body was capable of before dying, he finally gave in and screamed for her.
The pain transformed into a blinding light, and in that light, he was drawn out of the darkness and the fiery pits of hell and cast back into the land of the living.
The eerie room bathed in the blue light of Alfa Omega's presence. The slender humanoid cocked her head to the side and observed the Master as he woke, bathing in sweat, with a scream that carried her name still stuck in his throat. His eyes flew open. He looked around and found the Doctor and Rachel waking up on the floor not far away from him, as if they were shipwreck victims washed upon the shore after the storm. They were all unharmed. He cast his eyes up at Alfa Omega, his head spinning as he still adjusted his memories of that other world into this reality, and wretched.
"You are still affected by the suddenness of the transfer. My advice is not to exert yourself." The blue host informed him in a friendly way.
The Master sprung up and took a swing at her, but his fist cut through her image with only causing a slight stir in her projection.
"Master don't!" The Doctor struggled back up, his hand soothing the back of his neck. His joints ached as if he had just awoken from a bad night sleep on a stone bed. "She's just a program. She can't help it."
"Don't hurt her!" Rachel came to her defense. "She was just following your orders. You shouldn't have broken the mirror. It mixed up all the rooms. If you want to blame anyone, blame yourself."
Rooms. There were supposed to be three of them. He wheeled around. They were back on the Infinity, back inside the white-washed cabin facing the three red doors. Two were drawn wide open with thick brown smoke billowing out, filling the air with the smell of burned wiring. The third door remained closed.
With the anger of what had happened to him still smoldering inside his guts, he decided to act, and before the Doctor could intervene with the mind trap, he ripped the fancy design swan-neck lever from the console and stabbed it between Alfa Omega's black alien eyes. His hand trembled as the current crept inside his neurons and rushed in a stream of freezing cold energy into his head. "Open it!" He told her in a low threatening voice. "Obey me and open that cursed door!"
The light in her eyes dimmed. "Door three is locked. Door three cannot be opened. Door three is locked. Door three cannot be opened." She repeated in a soulless voice that followed the systematic drone of her dying digital heart.
The Master closed his eyes and forced his will upon her. Blue sparks erupted from her body and slivered like a nest of serpents towards the locked third door. The impact blew it right from its hinges. Rachel cried out in vain when the violence of the blow destroyed the blue hostess in the process.
The Master ran inside, spurred on by a mad hunger for vengeance, he was ready to strike down whatever or whoever he may find inside the last room. The Doctor following closely, determined to stop him from doing anything stupid.
The room was nothing more than tiny, with a console sitting against the wall. It's many dials and screens lit up like Christmas lights. Except for that, he found a second door at the other end and a very frightened looking human engineer trembling in his chair.
"What is this?" The Master muttered in astonishment. "Who the hell are you and what are you doing here?"
The rage in the Timelord's eyes was enough to send the young man fleeing in the opposite direction. He tumbled out if his seat, and before the back of the chair hit the floor, he had torn the other door open and had rushed right through.
"Hey! Hey! YOU! Stop!" The Master jumped after him and reached the other end of the room, just when the door slammed shut. He was about to pull it open when the handle melted into the door panel. He stepped back, and witnessed with frustrated bewilderment how the entire frame started to disappear into the wall.
"Stop! Come back! Come back!" He banged his fists onto where the door had disappeared, venting his anger to whom was on the other side. "You can't just vanish! Not after all that you've done to me! I order you! Face me! Face me you cowards!"
He bashed on the wall till his fists were raw and bleeding, and the Doctor could no longer bear watching him like this.
"It's all right." The Doctor told him in a soothing voice as he wrapped his hands in bandages. "We're back, right where we started. Nothing happened."
The Master just glared at him in silence. From the wounded look in his eyes, the Doctor knew that it wasn't really so. That world, however unreal, had changed him more than the last hundred years that he had spent incarcerated in Rassilon's prison.
The Doctor could only hope that it would be for the better.
"You're right." The Master finally said, his hearts aching as he spoke out the lie. "Nothing happened."
Later, the two Timelords went back into the third room to study the console. It turned out that it functioned as a calculator of possibilities, running a program that could compute from the current conditions the most possible result and warp the time and space inside the second room to fit the calculated outcome. The more the Doctor studied the workings of the machine, the more he was impressed.
"This thing can create a mini cosmos around whoever desires it and keep it inside the four walls of a tiny room the size of a broom closet." He rambled excitedly. "The energy drain on its processor alone must be incredible!"
"It's made on earth in the 30th century." The Master said in a flat voice, for he didn't share the enthusiasm of the Doctor. "Now call me disdainful towards your pet race, but I can't imagine these humans building or inventing something as sophisticated as this, even at the very their height of their civilization."
"Undoubtedly, this machine is Timelord technology." The Doctor answered.
"And it has fallen into the hands of a bunch of blundering apemen." The Master said, not without spite.
"But why Rachel? Why did they take her?" The Doctor mused. "This machine was never meant to mess up our lives. We just happen to stumble right into it. It was built for her to keep her out of her own timeline. To what purpose?" The Doctor rubbed the back of his neck in contemplation. "Maybe she's someone important?" He opted.
"Maybe she will become someone important." The Master remarked. "She's kind of clever for her age."
"Oh she has to be more than that. What if she is irreplaceable? A gem in the stream of history without whom the whole world would turn out quite differently?"
"And they would know, because unlike the other fools who cannot look in to the future, they have this great machine which can calculate the best possible outcome for history's course." The Master added, looking back at the Doctor.
"Rachel is Jewish." The Master explained. "She told me once, in a dream. She came from a time on Earth, somewhere early in the 1940s, when it became dangerous to be who she was."
"The second world war." The Doctor said. "The Jews were murdered by the Nazis in the holocaust."
"They must have taken her from her timeline to protect her. To ensure her survival. Because if they didn't…"
"Rachel would have been murdered." The Doctor said softly.
"But who has built this ship to save her?" The Master asked. "Cui bono? Doctor? Cui bono?"
The Doctor remained silent. He rest his eyes on the logo of the Infinity Corporation, the triangle shape with the merging of Alfa and Omega, and had worried thoughts of his own.
They decided to take Rachel back to her own timeline. Both of them avoided the subject of what they feared would happen to her when she went home to her parents. The Doctor kept reminding himself that he shouldn't become Lord Victorious again to decide unwisely over people's fate. The Master, however, wasn't so troubled by these Timelord morals.
Rachel was alone, sitting on the steps of the cylindrical staircase during her return journey, staring quietly into the breathing hearth of the Tardis. She had seen many strange things in her life. Although technically she was still eight years old, her unusual experiences on board of the timeless spaceship combined with six hundred odd years in which she had haunted the poor lord chancellor had aged her mind like a barrel of exquisite wine. She understood more than anyone in her time, and still she was shedding tears like a child. Rachel hardly looked up when the Master came to sit next to her. Although the young girl's tears unsettled him, he held his arms close to his body, for unlike the Doctor he was unfamiliar with giving comfort to others.
"Why are you crying?" He asked bluntly. "Aren't you happy to go home?"
Rachel wiped her nose. "I don't cry about leaving the Infinity. I was truly sick of that place. I cry because of what happened to Alfa Omega."
"That's the most idiotic reason to waste your tears." He spoke, but his voice lacked confidence. "She took you from your parents and made you prisoner. You should be rejoicing that she's gone."
"She couldn't help it. She did what she was made for. I don't blame her. And she was my friend."
"Oh don't be ridiculous, she wasn't a real person, just a very annoying program." The Master replied.
Rachel looked at him. "If that's so, why were you so sad when you returned? Why did you refuse to listen to me when I wanted to tell you to get us out of that world? That wasn't real either." She told him flatly, without further judgment. "Alfa Omega was real to me. And that is reason enough to be sad for her."
The Master returned her gaze. "By Gallifrey, you really are clever." He told her with a shadow of a smile. "Perhaps even a bit too quick-witted for your own good." He watched the change on Rachel's face. "Is that a smile? Really? Well well well, I am amazed, I thought all you could do was scowl at me."
"It was only because you wouldn't listen." She explained.
"You've should have met my mom. You both would have gone along just fine."
"Master, do you know what will happen?" Rachel asked. "Did you and the Doctor find out anything when you examined that machine?"
"Are you worried?"
"Not about me. It's more my mom and dad, and Eliza. That's my little sister. She can't speak yet but she bites like a lion cub." She said with a proud smile. "When I left, they were taking people away. People like us. Even if they did nothing wrong."
"The world isn't a fair place." The Master told the little girl quietly. "But that's why we should try to shape this world, and make it fair. Because if you don't stand up for yourself and fight back, no-one is going to undo the wrongs for you."
Rachel stared at him. "You do know what's going to happen to me and my family." Rachel finally said softly.
The Master nodded, his expression grim. "The question is, do you want to do something about it?"
It was a quiet morning in early autumn when the Tardis landed in the small path of grass right in front of her flat. Rachel stepped out and breathed in the air of wet leaves and damp earth, while the weak light dawning at the horizon cast dark shadows over the grass. She sighed as she felt the burdens lifting from her heart. Finally, she was home.
Behind the window of the street balcony on the second floor, a shadow stirred the curtains. Rachel glanced over her shoulder at the two men who emerged from the blue box.
The Doctor crossed his arms and smiled back at her. "Go on then. Go ring the bell."
The Master just gave her a little wink, as if to remind her of the secret they both shared.
"Rachel? Rachel is that you?" Her mother's voice made her heart cry out for her. She ran back to her house, the long lonely years quickly forgotten with each step till she reached the front door. Hopping on her toes, she rang the doorbell with the tip of her fingers.
Hastened footsteps rushed down the stairs, and before she could ring a second time, the door flew open and she was swept up in her father's arms.
"Rachel! My little sweetheart. Where have you been? We thought you've been taken away by the Germans." Mister Boekbinder said. "We were worried sick."
She cried of relief into her father's bathrobe that smelled of shaving cream and cigarette smoke. Over his broad shoulder, she saw her mother, standing in the corridor with her little baby sister in her arms. Her eyes were red and rimmed with tears.
"Two months. I thought I had lost you. My little girl." She whispered, and lavished her with kisses.
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to make you so worried. I'm so sorry." Rachel said, and kissed her parents and baby sister back. "I promise it won't happen again. Nothing bad is going to happen to our family. Not ever again."
The happy reunion was only interrupted by a strange sound that cut through the early hours of the morning like the wind sweeping over the quiet hillside. They all turned into its direction. It appeared to Rachel's parents that it strangely originated from an empty spot on the lawn where the grass was slightly flattened. But Rachel herself, because she knew what had been there, caught the final glow of the small flashlight on top of the Doctor's Tardis, just before it disappeared into the first sunbeams of this one fine autumn day.
Back inside the Tardis, hurling through the timevortex at unimaginable speed, the Master finally dared to break the long silence that had prevailed since they had left. "So, where are we going now?" He asked, acting indifferent.
"What do you think?" The Doctor replied. His fingers were already feeding in the new coordinates.
"I would imagine that you want to find out more about the illustrious Infinity Corporation. Track it down and see if it leads to the culprit."
"Finding out about the secret company that was responsible for kidnapping a little girl from her timeline? Yes. Do we need to do it right away? No." He gave him a look. "There are more urgent matters at hand." He told him, and pulled a lever to send the Tardis into the future.
"Don't you want to know what is going to become of our little Rachel?" The Doctor asked, raising his eyebrows with a knowing smile.
"We know what happened to her." The Master replied with raised suspicion.
"Oh yes, the great prediction machine. But I was not talking about how things should have been." His smile disappeared from his face. "I was talking about how things turned out after she met you."
The Tardis engines stopped, and the Doctor went over to the door in four long strides. "Come on then, don't you want to see what you have done?" He asked in a tone that left the Master in doubt whether he was actually angered or pleased.
Outside, the day was clear, and autumn was still in the air. Only now, the world had seen more than 70 autumns pass by since both Timelords had last set foot on its soil. Cars filled the streets, and on both sides of the park where the Tardis had landed, high rises dominated the sky. Above them, a helicopter circled around the single historical building in the direct neighborhood.
"The year is 2012, October the 24th. We're in Stockholm where the greatest minds of science will tonight be rewarded with the Noble price." The Doctor told the Master as they made their way across the lawn. They reached a road where at the other side a gathering of journalists and photographers were jostling around the marble staircase of the monumental town hall. The arrival of a car with darkened windows triggered a canon of flashlights.
"And there." The Doctor pointed out. "Is our Rachel."
An elderly lady in a white dress stepped out and made her way over the red carpet. Time had changed her, but her eyes were still burning with a brightness that would pale most stars in the sky by comparison.
"It's her." The Master said. "It's really her. She still got that little sparkle in her eyes when she smiles." He turned to the Doctor, pleasantly surprised. "The Noble price?"
"Yep." The Doctor nodded. "For her work in the field of neurobiology. She is one clever, clever girl." He added admiringly.
"Is that why they tried to save her? Because they knew she would turn out to become a great scientist?"
"It's not only that. Apparently, she discovered a way to map neurological connections in the human brain. Mind you, what she did was only frontier work, but scientists after her will use that knowledge to push forward, and they will soon be able to map a thought, or study the pattern of a memory. Do you realize what that means? In a couple of generations, the human race will be able to make a map of a man's soul and preserve it in any way that they see fit."
"But if that's true a man could live forever." The Master murmured, furrowing his brows. "The whole of human history shall be rewritten by this."
"And it's all because of you." The Doctor said sternly as he watched Rachel disappear inside the town hall. "Because you didn't want her and her family to die. You warned her, didn't you?"
"I gave a choice. Understandably, she chose to live. What did you have to offer her? A grisly end in a chamber filled with toxic gas?"
The Doctor said nothing, but turned around and headed back with his hands inside his pockets.
"If you want to punish me. Do it!" The Master yelled, and ran after right him.
The Doctor just gave him a stern look before he entered the Tardis.
"Oh come on! You didn't drag me all the way here to see what became of Rachel and applaud my actions. You wanted to show me, how yet again, I've screwed up your precious universe." He slammed his hands on the console to prevent the Doctor from activating the Tardis. "Speak to me." He hissed. "Speak out your mind Doctor. Tell me how worthless you think I am."
"Give me your hand." The Doctor told him.
The Doctor grabbed the Master's right hand, and a cold shock went through them both.
"There." The Doctor told him, turning his palm up and showing it to him. "The mindtrap. It's lifted."
"You removed it?" He asked, almost reproachfully. "Why did you do that?"
"Because now I know I can trust you."
"For grief's sake, I just meddled with the course of human history." The Master snorted. "How is that anything good in your eyes?"
"You want me to judge you?" The Doctor said, his hearts bursting with the things that needed to be said. "You want me to tell you that you're doing this world a great insult by existing, that you're a monster and that you're not worth saving? I won't tell you that, because it's bloody well not true!" He pushed the Master with his back against the console, his eyes blazing.
The Master stared back at him for a while before a mad smile crept over his face. "Come on then, hit me! It's what I deserve. What are you waiting for, you coward!"
"Why do you hate yourself so much?" The Doctor asked.
The Master burst out in laughter. "Why wouldn't I?" He giggled resentfully. "Look at me. I am pathetic. I am no longer the villain, and I am not the hero, obviously. Who would dare to call himself the hero of this piece in the presence of you, oh Righteous One." He added with dark sarcasm that tasted as bitter as bile in his mouth. "I can't even make amends, can't save a little girl's life without screwing up the lives of millions of others. I'm nothing." He sank down through his knees and bowed his head, finally letting the pretence go.
"In this world, I'm nothing." He muttered sadly.
"You're not nothing." The Doctor said, breaking the silence. "I know this. You know why?"
The Master just glared at him, still stuck in misery mode.
"When I went through the archives of the great library, back in the other world that you've created, I discovered what I would have become without you. I couldn't find any reference to my mad heroic tactics. I was nobody. It was as if I didn't even exist. You see, the truth is…all those wonderful things that I've done, all those planets and civilizations I've saved, all those people I've helped, everything really, either good or bad, that has ever happened to me, was because of you. If it wasn't for you, if you haven't been driven mad by the drums, I would never have felt responsible for what happened. And I wouldn't have gone out there, trying to save the universe, because everything I did, I did it to make amends. Because I knew I couldn't save you."
The Master stared at him, calmed and moved by his words. "So you became a hero, simply out of guilt?" He mocked half-heartedly. A pause. "Did you then. Did you manage to save me in the end?"
"I didn't lie to you when I told you've changed." The Doctor said. "And I wouldn't give up on you, even if you don't see it."
"Who am I Doctor?" The Master's voice sounded lost and painful. "I don't want to be the villain, not anymore. So who the hell am I?"
"You're my opposite. My antimatter. You're my friend without whom I cannot exist. You are my responsibility."
A faint smile broke through the misery on the Master's face. "And you are a psychiatrist's wet dream." He shook his head. "I thought that I was mad, but your mental problems rank right off the top of the list."
"Two madmen and a Tardis. Now the universe is in real danger." The Doctor held out his hand to the Master, which he took.
"So you trust me?"
"For as far as one can trust a madman." The Doctor said wisely. "But yes, I'm afraid I do." As a gesture of goodwill he stepped aside from the Tardis controls and gestured to the Master that he may take over.
The Master stepped forward. He stroked over the dashboard like a rider easing a new horse that he was about to ride. A little smile curved the corners of his lips.
"Doctor." He told him as he pulled the lever down for departure. "For your own sake, I hope that you're right about me."
The banquet was served in the great hall where the Noble price laureates were seated at the head of the long table. Halfway through the first course, Rachel suddenly left her seat and rushed away to the nearby bathroom. There, she vomited in the sink for a good 10 minutes before her stomach finally settled, and she was capable again of lifting her head towards the light.
She had a migraine attack.
She was used to them, although they had grown worse over the years. Ever since she was brought back home they had haunted her, just like she had once, albeit unknowingly, haunted the Master. She stared at her own reflection in the mirror and grimaced.
Such an old face. All wrinkles and tired skin. Although, she already had been old in spirit when they returned her to her parents. It had been her mature mind that had saved her family by convincing her father to leave the Netherlands and flee to neutral Sweden. The encounter with the Master and the Doctor had changed the course of her life.
But so had the drums.
With a trembling hand, she shook the pills out of the bottle. Small and red, she thought them rather useless and didn't understand why she still took them except that it had long since turned into a bad habit. She swallowed a handful and bit them in the middle, letting the bitter taste fill her mouth before she washed it down with water from the tap. It was then that she heard them again. The drums. The four knocks that had come to her when she was a child and had stolen her away from her parents. Her breath stalled and she cast her eyes around the room, but no one else was there.
She turned back to the mirror. The sound grew louder. It always did. It hurt her head, and had probably caused her migraine problems, but it was also this sound that had inspired her to work, filling her mind with fantastic ideas that had pushed her towards the great scientific breakthroughs. Both her ill health and her brilliance, she owed it all to that alien, hostile sound. She closed her eyes and listened to that rhythm of four, ancient and cold, a dead man's hand warming itself by the fire of her living light, speaking to her through the cracks of time. A low evil laugh echoed inside her mind.
Lowly human mortal, listen, listen to the drums, the never-ending drumbeat, and follow their commands. Gather my scattered essence from the dust of time, capture my majesty to rebuild my soul so I may rise again and let my glorious light burn the stars from the sky!
Rachel looked up into the mirror. In her large dark eyes, the reflection in her pupils showed not her face, but the vortex, coiling like a serpent through the Eden that was time and space.
In the darkness that now consumed her, the drums resumed relentlessly.
That's it people. Sorry it took me so long to finish this. Expect both madmen to return in the next installment of this series, called: "Before Harry met Lucy." Meanwhile, please comment or review. It keeps my spirit up.