THE LAST TEMPTATION

The tall man with the curly white hair, in the elegant cape and smoking jacket, walked into the quiet of the church. He sat down in the nearest pew and looked around him, obviously admiring the Gothic architecture and enjoying the way the sun shone in through the stained-glass windows.

After a few minutes another man, dressed all in black and with a dark beard and swarthy features, came in and sat down next to him. "Good morning, Doctor," he said in a friendly manner.

The white-haired man looked at him in amazement. "What the deuce are you doing here?"

"I could ask you the same question," chuckled the dark man. "Not a believer, are you?"

"No, not as such," said the Doctor. "But I like to come in here every so often and enjoy the peace and quiet. I meditate, if you like. This place really is like an oasis of calm. What about you? What brings you here? I mean, what does the Master want in a church?"

Instead of answering, the Master pointed at the crucifix that hung at the top of the church. "Do you know I once went back in time and visited him?" he asked casually.

"You didn't!" said the Doctor. "I've thought of doing it myself, but I never really had the opportunity. You met him?"

"Oh, yes," said the Master. "You see he really was one of the best moral teachers this planet ever had. The religion he founded did a lot of bad things – wars and persecutions and so on – but he himself preached this….." The dark face assumed an expression of disgust. "…..This nauseating message of 'love one another' and 'do unto others as you'd have them do unto you.'"

The Doctor smiled. "As you say, one of their best teachers."

"So I thought that without him – without his teachings - the mob who live on this planet would behave even worse than they do already, which would suit me fine. So I went back in time and tried to persuade him to give up."

The Doctor stared at the Master in horror. "You did what?"

The Master laughed out loud, then stifled the laughter hurriedly as an old lady in a nearby pew turned round to glare at him. "It's in the Bible!" he chuckled. "In the Gospels, no less. Remember how Jesus was tempted in the desert?"

"That was you?" the Doctor asked in amazement.

"Exactly. I went and visited him while he was fasting in the desert before he started his preaching. He – well, it was obvious who he thought I was, and I didn't disillusion him. First I tried to persuade him he was only human – asking if he could turn the stones into bread, and all that. No reaction. Then I hypnotized him into thinking he was on top of the walls of the Temple, and dared him to throw himself off. I said that if he was really the son of God, then surely God would send his angels to save him. But that didn't work either."

"Thou shalt not put the Lord thy God to the test," quoted the Doctor, remembering.

"Then I dragged him into my TARDIS and took him to the top of Mount Scopus, where you can get a really good view of the whole area. I told him he could rule all of these lands in partnership with me if he wanted. He refused again, saying 'My kingdom is not of this world' – he said that again later on, you know, to Pontius Pilate. And then…."

"Then what?" asked the Doctor, interested in spite of himself.

The Master sighed. "I tried to hypnotize him more deeply into becoming my slave. You know – 'I am the Master, you will obey me' – it works on nearly all of them. But not on him. He just looked at me strangely and quoted the First Commandment."

The Doctor grinned. "He thought you were demanding that he worship you. And he replied, quite rightly, that he and his people had only one God."

The Master's lip curled. "You and he really are a lot alike, you know. Stubborn….. to the end!"

"Why, thank you, old chap," replied the Doctor. "That's quite a compliment. So I take it, after all that you gave it up as a bad job, and put him back in the desert?"

The Master nodded. "I've never been so humiliated in all my life! An illiterate human peasant….. defying me!"

The Doctor chuckled. "Well, he obviously was more than that. But – enjoyable as this has been - you didn't come here just to reminisce about the past, did you?"

"No indeed", said the Master. "I'm going to offer you what I offered him – a partnership. You and I could rule this planet together, Doctor – and probably others as well. We are superior to these people with their primitive religions and their primitive technology. We could be like gods, Doctor. We could be supreme. This is your last chance, Doctor. I urge you to accept my offer."

The Doctor nodded up at the cross. "He was too sensible to accept your offer – and so am I! The answer is never, Master – and you know it."

The Master sighed, and stood up. "Very well, Doctor. I will not be responsible for the consequences of your foolishness." He seemed about to leave, but then he looked back at the Doctor, and his expression seemed to soften slightly. "How many years have we been fighting, Doctor? And I wonder…. Where will it end?" Then he turned and stalked out of the church.

The Doctor remained sitting, looking up towards the cross. "Where will it end?" he repeated softly.