Spoilers through Series 6, including 6x08 "Let's Kill Hitler." River Song, infamous convict and war criminal and the Master, infamous megalomaniac and madman, become predator and prey, across the stars and the millennia. Chapter 1 of 3, set in same verse as Find the Map and Draw a Straight Line. Trigger warning for domestic (sexual, physical and emotional) abuse.

Just a Crosshair

by lostlikealice/thinkatory

Automatic transcript of audio diary of Prof Yana, 9.9/Yalta/80 (9.99345.12)

There is so much to do, I can hardly think of sleep. Those who call themselves nurses and caretakers at the base declare I will work myself to death if I continue to work at this rate, but this project must move forward. Were there others with my skills, I might deign to rest. There is only me.

In the last days of the universe, humanity goes to war.

Yana was unlucky enough to be a brilliant young man in wartime, born to a desperate people. So - well, he made weapons, for whatever refugees were willing to feed and clothe him. He's not proud of the fact, but he won't deny it if pressed. In these final days, pretensions, ideals and superstition aren't of much use.

To his core, Yana has wished every day that he can remember that humanity would put survival before the suffering of others, before it's too late. One day, the moment will come when the whole universe folds neatly into nothing, and the last generation of humanity will have spent their whole lives fighting for control of a universe which holds wonders they never got around to enjoying.

But there's no time for dreams when both sides insist on beating away at the war drums, with their never-ending beat. This is the indelible mark on the collective soul of humankind, the inevitable conclusion – self-destruction.

He doesn't think about it much. It's not the biggest problem he's forced to face.

Yana's been set to the task of ending the war once and for all, no matter the price - and after that, it's become clearer each year that he is the only one capable of saving those who remain from the darkness sweeping across the sky like the legend of the Reaper cutting down civilization after civilization. It is, at once, unsettling and thrilling, to have such an opportunity, and leaves little time for things like conversation and levity.

He knows it should frighten him. It doesn't. The total destruction of the enemy is just a task, one he is more than capable of achieving. Alone. "Set it down there," he says at the sound of the door opening, distracted at his makeshift chalkboard, his hand against his face as he thinks.

There is dead silence for a moment, not even the sound of a thoughtless attendant doing his or her job, and his anger flares. He wheels to face the intruder and it is most concertedly no one he has ever met, and that... is impossible.

As it happens, the woman standing there is beautiful - more importantly, her army fatigues must predate 9.99 if he recalls his history, so she must be an eccentric as well. He doesn't realize he's staring until her eyebrows raise, her arms cross her chest and she tilts her head back to appraise him, blonde curls falling back against her neck as she sends him what might well be the most condescending look he's ever received.

"Well?" he retorts to that look of hers, but the imperious tone he'd aimed for gives way to the confusion that's really the overwhelming feeling at the moment.

"Sorry," she says smoothly, relaxes - fractionally - and crosses the distance between them to shake his hand, her eyes never leaving his face, searching for something, heaven knows what. "Mistook you for someone else. I'm River Song."

"Quite good, Miss Song," he answers automatically, already bored, and turns back to his calculations. "Well, carry on. Everyone has their duties."

"I'm with you," River Song says, plain as day, teasing, and saunters to his side to examine his work. "Oh, you're a bad, bad boy, aren't you?"

It's a rhetorical question, but his answer is stiff, unamused. "Actually, I'm rather good."

"Watch your mouth or I might not help," she retorts.

How tedious. "I doubt you could."

"Watch me."

Yana steps aside, and gestures for her to go on and get a closer look at his work. River appraises the chalkboard for a moment, and finally asks with more curiosity than judgment, "Do you have any particular reason to destroy what little's left of humanity?"

"Tabula rasa," he says, with too familiar weary cynicism. "With all that this generation has seen, Miss Song, do you not think we deserve that much?"

She examines his equations. "That depends on the 'we'."

"It certainly does," Yana says, and ignores the apparent violation of this woman's eyes on his work. There are more than enough options if he wants to dispose of a spy, after all. "Go on then, clever girl. Tell me what I'm working on."

"You're trying to generate a delta wave," River says; her bluntness catches him, and he turns to find a plainly arrogant smile on her face as she goes on. "Don't know what you'd call it, but back in my day we called it Van Cassadyne energy – broadcast enough of it at the right frequency, it'll fry the brains of every living creature in its path. Of course, you'd have to turn off the shields on this entire base for two whole days to sustain enough energy to charge the wave. How do you plan to sort that?"

He turns away from her, at a loss, and snatches up his recorder. "You," he orders her, "get back to work."

"Sir," she answers briskly, snaps the proper salute, and in his irritation he can't decide if he wants to slap the mild grin from her face or encourage it.

Automatic transcript of audio diary of Prof Yana, 9.9/Yalta/82 (9.99351.12)

Theory behind weaponized delta wave is sound, but as I am left to cobble together the necessary equipment from what little is left on the base, the conversion of the most basic electrical power we are capable of generating on base into Van Cassadyne energy seems beyond our capabilities at this time. We seem to be lacking something vital. Quite what is lacking is the question, and one we may be unable to answer.

The costs may be irreparable, but I was not courted into this position to surrender at the prospect of a challenge. I may not have a choice besides. This damnable woman seems determined to see this project through.

I am, actually.

If it's not too much trouble, River? This is my office.

It's the stress of the impossible situation he's in. He finds himself out of breath, dazed, and filled to the brim with emotion with no provocation. Yana has always been a man of good humor and temperament, perhaps not often beloved, sometimes cool or detached, but always warm enough.

Now, rage chokes him at inopportune moments. Fear clouds his mind and drives his heart into his throat, and it is River Song who anchors him.

"Focus," she says, her hand tight around his wrist, and her face is so set, stern, determined, that he can't help but remember what is at stake.

"There's a legend," he says, and looks through her, past her, at the carcasses of all the technology that came before them. "About the man who split the atom. Have you heard it?"

"You're all the same," River says, the rare impatience flaring in her tone, and she puts her hands to his face, tilts his gaze to her. "Look at me. Focus. Do you want to win?"

"He said 'I am become Death, Destroyer of Worlds'," he says to her radiant face, and he finds himself doubting whether she's real after all. Perhaps his mind has furnished the project with a brilliant, comely woman to drive him to complete the task he, the genius born in the wrong time, the end times, was born to accomplish: end the last of all wars, and bring mankind to Utopia. "Or so said the books, at one time."

She releases him, clearly still uncertain, and then she smiles at him. "Fine," she declares, and pulls him to his feet by the front of his shirt.

He recoils despite himself in the shock of it, stuttering out "What - what is the meaning – "

"You need to eat, and sleep, and quite possibly even feel human." Her lips graze his cheek, her hand grazes his hip, and he doesn't protest, doesn't question, and doesn't allow himself to think twice. He brings her closer. "So take me on a date," she whispers.

"Right," Yana says, faintly, and takes her hand in his. "Come along, then."

Automatic transcript of audio diary of Prof Yana, 9.9/Yalta/89 (9.99360.12)

It has been brought to my attention that this base may no longer be secure. However, Project Delta is deemed successful, with all enemy forces neutralized, so the Utopia Project has requested my aid in contacting and reaching colonists that likely no longer exist. I have sought out and achieved larger challenges, and at the very least I must truck no longer with death.

Yana is silently contemplating his single trunk of belongings, his former lab, and the life to come, when he hears footsteps down the corridor. It is a sign that he should – really, must – move on that his military training has him tensed with a hand on his gun at the mere thought of a visitor, even on his last day.

(Someone has been listening to his tapes.)

It's River. She wears black, her shoulders bared, and she looks so young, so human. "You're going to do it," she says from the doorway, keeping her distance.

"River," he says weakly, overwhelmed by the vulnerability, the pain, in the unflappable River Song's face; is she frightened of him, of what he's done? "Come with me."

She smiles, sad, frustrated and forced. "You don't need me."

What is – I demand - The slow-burning rage he's tried so hard to fight has an outlet now. "I do," he retorts.

She tosses something in his direction. He catches it, barely, and looks at it: a pocketwatch. He's confused, and furious, and his frustration grows with each second. Jokes and riddles at a time like this? "I know you," she says, with absolute and serene certainty.

"River!" Yana shouts crossly, but she disappears into the corridor. He instantly bolts to catch her, not hearing her footsteps, certain she'll be forlornly waiting for him on the other side of the door, only to find the dimly-lit corridor empty as the day she first sauntered into his lab.

Unwisely, he punches the wall, his hand throbbing in time with the pulse in his head.

It's enough to make a man go mad.

Transcript of attached TARDIS hologram file, GMT 21:38 1.3k23/4

This is Emergency Programme Six. If you're seeing this, Doctor, it means you've probably stolen your TARDIS back and ruined my beauty of a paradox machine. Too bad - it was a definite improvement.

The Doctor in the TARDIS, the Master defeated, the same old story, you and I: isn't it good? Oh, I missed it. The games, the intrigue, the women, the latex; I did love a good masquerade. They don't make masks like they used to, but it's so easy to hide in plain sight with these people. 21st century; idiots, brilliant, useful idiots.

I took the opportunity to catch up on what you've done since you destroyed Gallifrey, and the Daleks (the thought just makes me tingle; you can be quite masterful when you try) and I must say, for a once-triumphant hero, your life is positively BORING. Does it always have to be women, all the time? And don't you ever play with your toys?

But listen to me gab on. You're probably thinking, isn't it pitiful, Koschei suffering a crushing defeat at my hands again, if only he would look to the side of light and life and puppies and rainbows?

Just remember, Doctor: I'm the best enemy you'll ever have, and I'd never take that away from you.


It is far too easy to get a job under Harold Saxon (or that's what the rumors say). Within two days, she's on the Valiant development team, with Lucy Cole Saxon hovering and clinging to her husband's arm as Mister Saxon orates senselessly to the tune of equally senseless applause.

River claps and smiles, and wonders what the others are hearing courtesy of the Archangel Network – if they're hearing anything at all.

To Saxon. The first, most obvious thing about him is the twitch: a rhythm of four against his thigh, the desks and tables, his foot absently tapping - an endless rhythm he's tapping out like some subconscious code he's desperately and constantly trying to get across.

The next, of course, are that he's charismatic as hell, and a bloody genius, not necessarily in that order.

"What did you say your name was?" he asks her as she's reassessing blueprints, more concerned with her bust than with her work, and all the better for it.

"Pond," she says, with the best subtle touch of a Scottish burr, and sends him a smile of servile humility. "Melody Pond."

(She was born too late, and meets everyone too early. Ironic, considering her penchant for good timing, but she supposes there must be a tradeoff.)

There's a full office around them, a crowd of scientists and engineers busy to the point of frenzy, but for the first time in six years, no one stops or stares when she says her name aloud. It's almost a respite, or it would be if the bloody envelope in her pocket would stop weighing so heavily on her mind.

He glances up from her breasts and her blueprints, bored, the same look as ever, and she exhales. "Right," he says to the room at large, "let's get on with it. Boys! Come along, I've got something to show you that you're going to like. Very exciting stuff..."

As Saxon goes on, everyone files out of the room, with Lucy Saxon the last one out, smiling and posing at the men with a bland sort of mania in her eyes. River stays behind, the TARDIS key's chain brushing against her neck as she thumbs it and swivels in her oh so wonderfully 21st century wheeled chair. Once the sound of footsteps fades, she pulls the envelope and screwdriver from her pockets, only departing once she's completely at the ready.

The envelope is TARDIS blue, the instructions on cardstock, and she reads them once more, in case, as she stalks through the fiftieth floor of Archangel Tower. "I hate you sometimes," she says aloud, to the Doctor or the principle of the thing.

Sometimes it really feels like their timelines dovetail together so constantly that he's always there for her, with her, whether she wants him or not. Sometimes it seems like it's only her, and one madman or another with instructions, plans, or doomsday plots needing ending.

Transcript of TARDIS console video feed, GMT 05:40 1.3k23/5

[A rattling sound as footsteps sound across the control room's floor, pacing one direction and the next. Finally the pacing stops and a rhythm of four beats starts once, twice, three times against the console, strikingly loud in the hollow silence left in the absence of the TARDIS's hum. Then, he speaks in a hiss.]

I know, I know I know, so much left to do, but there's nowhere to run, he's always everywhere. Come on, Theta – come on. Why can't you let me win, this once?

No. No, it's my turn. You'll see. I'm going to show you – just wait, Doctor, you just wait!

There's more truth in the book than anyone would imagine, but he's always been one for the cheap shot, the easy joke. Without the book he might never have found Lucy: someone serviceable, maybe, but not someone as bright-eyed and keen and so very fun.

She sees straight through him, and it's good. He knows in that second that Archangel hasn't worked on her, but she's looking, she's smiling, and she's still intrigued. Oh, very good.

His father never allowed him to have a pet. It's all very cathartic.

Lucy laughs when he says he'll show her the stars, and makes a joke about visiting the van Gogh collection (her favorite, of course), and it's worth every Earth Girl moment of inanity when he shows her what he is, what he's done, and what he's going to do.

(She makes a sound when he touches her, when he pins her against the chair and makes her breath flutter in her chest; it's a whimper or a moan, trapped between terror, desire, and pleading. It's perfect.)

Basically, it works.

The problem is, it's too simple. It's working out too well thus far, and he can practically hear the Doctor's voice (any number of them, at that) going on about sowing the seeds of his own destruction. The Doctor is out there, doing something. Archangel has never been 100 percent, and it might (might) work on the Doctor, but there's not exactly a surfeit of Time Lords available at his beck and call to test it on.

It has to work. He's brilliant, and the Doctor is trapped at the end of the universe. Probably. He's only being paranoid.

Best to do background checks on everyone anyway. He makes a note of it, and rolls his eyes as his phone lights up. "Saxon," he answers dutifully.

"Sir," the woman on the other end retorts, with professional casualness, "just ringing to confirm that the results of Project Citadel arrived in your inbox."

"Right, e-mail," the Master says, bemused for a moment, and flicks through a number of tabs (the internet is so amusing, but anonymity has always been the ultimate guarantee for fun, he's always said) to reach the right one. "There it is! Good for you – ah, Pond."

"Sir," she repeats, her flattered tone thick with amusement. "I do my duty for Queen and Country."

"As do we all," he says, instantly dismissive; patriotism may be useful, but it's boring. "But back to work with us all. I'll glance over it once I've time and get back to you about any continued interest Defence has in your project."

"I'll look quite forward to it, Mr. Saxon."

He contemplates her sultry tone, her teasing, and makes a mental note of the name. M. Pond. Clever, saucy, now all he needs is a look at her to decide how much fun this could be. "Carry on, then," he says, in one of his more masterly tones, and returns the phone to its receiver.

(It's getting louder. He finds moments disappearing into the sound of the drums, the sound of his heartbeat, but these stupid apes are easy to predict, and no one's noticed, except for Lucy. It's getting louder, and he can taste the acidic start of panic and hysteria at the back of his throat each time the world gives way to the drums.)

Surprising enough that Project Citadel got funding, really, considering how mad the prospect was, but now it's got results that must have been faked, he has to figure; more than a handful of empires couldn't find Gallifrey with technology ten times the quality of Earth's, after all. And yet, once he's double-clicked the file and opened the photos…

It's nothing short of shocking that a lot of ruthless humans in this timeframe managed to put together a telescope of this quality by stripping everything alien for parts and piecing it together like a child's puzzle, nonetheless fix it on the right location. Though the telescope is out of its depth and the pictures are blurry, the surrounding constellations are the ones that shone above his father's lands on Gallifrey; there's no mistake.

As for Gallifrey, nothing. There's nothing.

The thought flashes through his mind before he can stifle it, crashing right through his blank fury – what if you and the Doctor are all that's left? – and all he can hear is the rhythm of four, the heartbeat of a Time Lord, and perhaps of the last.

It can't be gone, the Daleks haven't won; the Daleks are gone. So then –

(Coward, you ran, come on and fight, coward, you fool, the drumbeat rattles off to him.)

No. It's not his fault. The Doctor is the one who saves the world; he's saved the Time Lords before, time and time again, but what use is he if he picks adventuring blondes and handsome captains as though Earth of all planets deserves mercy more than Gallifrey itself –

Well. He smiles. The plan is right there in front of him, obvious.

"Not the worst idea in the world," the Master muses aloud, and entertains himself with another children's show on yet another browser tab as he begins to doodle and brainstorm on a legal pad.

"Harry," Lucy calls lightly, sidling inside his office, "I thought you might – oh, Harry, are you all right?"

Her concern is touching, but really. He doesn't even look up.

"Sit," he orders her, offhand, and she does, with her sly look, like she hopes he'll take her right on the desk. "I know what we're going to do."

Transcript from Valiant security feed Rm 24, GMT 01:22:45 01/05/2009

[There is a faint whimpering in the background of the feed. Thirty seconds in, just as one might dismiss it as their imagination, there is the clear, broken sound of sobbing, and a panicked effort seconds later to restrain the outburst back into silence.]

WOMAN: It doesn't have to be like this.

LUCY: You don't understand. I'm his wife – his queen. He needs me.

WOMAN: Like a dog needs his bone, by the look of it.

LUCY: (sharply) What would you know?

WOMAN: I know that you deserve better. I know that you know that, too.

LUCY: You don't get to speak to me this way, you – Song

WOMAN: (bluntly) I've come on behalf of your father.

LUCY: (shocked silence) I –

WOMAN: You know what you have to do. Yes? (LUCY doesn't answer; the only sound is of the WOMAN clipping gauze with a pair of medical scissors, and LUCY's sharp breath inward.) Clever girl.

River dreams of the Doctor (to tell the truth, she's never stopped), her Doctor, but through the nearly two years of archiving, manipulating, mind-numbingly difficult work he's made her do, he's never said a word. They've met over and over again in the midst of the flurry of TARDIS blue envelopes, but the version of the Doctor who's sending them is keeping his distance.

She aches for him, physically. She dreams of meeting him just so she can tell him off, know he's listening and actually knows how he's wronged her, so she can smack the taste from his mouth or cling to him like the young naïf that she's ashamed to admit she still is in some ways, adventures besides. She wants to feel her footfalls on the TARDIS floors and know that she's home.

Another envelope arrives for her at the McMansion she's squatting in while she's waiting for Christmas Day 2009 and the usual disaster that apparently ensues.

Merry Christmas, River! I have presents:

1. 40.880295,-111.643066, 23/12/2009. They'll have what you need waiting for you.

2. Christmas Day, Naismith Mansion. You'll know what to do.

3. Don't interfere until then. Do nothing. Don't leave the ship.

4. I can't say it enough times, I know how you are: Do. Nothing. Have a Christmas turkey and call your mother.

5. Stay gorgeous.

It's the Doctor. Of course he has to be ridiculous.

Breaking into Henry van Statten's underground alien museum base isn't a problem; the only guard who manages to find her in time gets a dose of hallucinogenic lipstick and goes about his way.

The newly-arrived, not even inventoried Chula ship is ugly, but surprisingly durable, for a race that doesn't care much for individual warriors so long as the cause goes on. River supposes that quality is sort of a necessity when you're as infamous as the Chula.

Once she's comfortably back in the UK, she indulges herself for a moment in irritation at the Doctor for a moment for keeping her in a bloody shielded and nearly invisible space junker like she's some sort of teenager with a curfew, but the ship seems content to keep making her cocktails, hors d'oeuvres, and the occasional meat pasty.

The Doctor giving orders: the usual. The Doctor acting like an overprotective father: annoying. The Doctor telling her to sit still while he gets up to god knows what all by himself for the entirety of Christmas Eve: impossible.

"'You'll know'," she says to the array of Londoners outside of her ship. "Because getting sloshed at the console while you prance around being mysterious is just – "

Naturally, the ship picks up a massive energy signal from a few kilometers off, and she knows. Whatever this is, this is it, and she's got to go.

Her stomach goes leaden as she lands in the courtyard of Broadfell Containment Facility.

(I killed him, but he's still here, Lucy whispered through the bars. He's in my head, every night. He's never left, and he'll never die, even after all he's done. Why does he survive when everyone else dies? What gives him the right?)

River steadfastly ignores the beeping from the console as she's preparing to disembark, until the calm female voice the console's adopted in her presence casually states, "Reporting high levels of toxic materials. Safeguards enabled for loss prevention purposes." The doors lock shut as she reaches to open them, and she swears, loudly. The voice goes on serenely, "Explosion anticipated in thirty, twenty-nine, twenty-eight – "

"Computer, report chemical composition of anticipated explosion," River snaps out.

"Sensors indicate biological meta-crisis underway in close proximity to basic materials for Dalekanium gene-splicing bomb."

The problem with being clever is that you know what's going on - maybe even how to stop it - and the only responsible thing to do is put your bloody life on the line.

Do nothing, the Doctor said. The Cult of Saxon's about to try and bring Harold Saxon back by sacrificing his widow, poor Lucy, and Lucy's reckless and human enough to trust River and the mad ideas the Doctor's been feeding her. And once Lucy drops the bluff and shows her hand, everyone's going to die.

"No," she says faintly, but the Doctor's voice is in her ear, like always. Trust me. I'm the Doctor.

Do nothing, his handwriting loops as she stares at the cardstock again. Do. Nothing.

"Computer, we're leaving," she announces to the ship in general, and hops into the captain's chair to steer the piece of junk off to the Naismiths' London mansion.

Transcript of attached Vortex manipulator hologram, NEMT 05:39:21 1.45

It's me. It's River. Listen to me now, it's important, you have to listen: everything is going to turn out fine. It's all going to go terribly wrong not very long from now, but you'll sort it. You'll find a way. You always do.

When the man crashes through the skylight of the Naismith mansion, River instantly springs to action, setting the computer on the task of hacking the security cameras while she scrambles for her TARDIS diary. She flips instantly to the well-worn pages of the spotters' guide, and there he is, pretty, delicate features, a grim set to his face, a certain misery to him.

She touches the page. "Oh, Doctor," spills from her mouth, hushed, and she shuts the guide before she can dwell any further. The cameras are feeding into her screen, and that's him, with a...

With a gun?

She raises her eyebrows at the screen. "Oh, Doctor," she says again, anything but impressed, and waits for a sign, for something, for the moment that'll scream to her, do something.

Then the planet appears in the sky, and that's got to be it.

"Do something, do something!" she shouts impatiently at the Doctor, jumps to her feet and moves the touchscreen away from her view into the house. "Computer! Launch!"

"Launch sequence in ten, nine – "

"Now!" she snaps off, and steers the damn thing above the broken skylight, throwing the extra cloaking shield up because the last thing she needs is an earful from her Doctor because an earlier version of him caught wind of later plans. "Equip tractor beam!"

"Insufficient energy," the ship computer tells her. "Please retract cloaking device or end stealth flight mode to equip additional – "

"Shut up," River says blankly, unable to tear her gaze away from the look on the Doctor's face, and then the gunshot rings out. She's screaming no before she can stop herself, and everything goes straight to hell in that instant – she throws switches and grits her teeth and does everything she can to save him, throwing off the shields, raising the tractor beam and vanishing into the sky at warp speed without a second's hesitation.

She doesn't stop until she's halfway through Earth's atmosphere and dizzy from the anguish and adrenaline, and realizes what she's done.

"Oh," she says, slowly, and dares to turn around to see what or who exactly she's dragged away from what might well be the original timeline.

"You're not Chula. ... Aren't you...?" Harold Saxon pronounces as he attempts to pry himself off the floor. In the instant he figures out even the start of it, who she is, astonishment, then nothing short of the start of glee crosses his face. Then the strain of the explosion on his already mutated body sends his eyes rolling into the back of his head, and he hits the floor.

Transcript of PharmLab 426 Diagnostic #b, Case #1352985A/S Designated: Gene Therapy. Physician: Doctor R. Song. 5465.295 NEMT 13:29:10

This is Doctor River Song, performing GT Diagnostic #b on Case #1352985A/S, or Mister M. Aster. Subject entered PL426 after reaching critical cell death caused by unknown trauma that left his DNA mutated beyond the help of the body's own self-repair. Subject has undergone extensive GT (see Diagnostics #e and #a for further information on most drastic treatment) and based on medical status of the subject condition seems to have stabilized. This diagnostic is to be performed to confirm this hypothesis and conclude whether further GT is required to restore subject to PL standard.

[Doctor, if you really want to know this, ask me, but I doubt the transcribing program you've given me has any clue what half of these words mean, nonetheless how to spell them.]

Well. Damn.

Two years have flown right by River as she's thrown herself into the Doctor's inexplicable instructions, with only envelopes to guide her on the way. She supposes even after the years she's spent repenting at the altar of the Doctor, flying the TARDIS with the ship's most gentle guiding touches, she deserves a cold shoulder every once in a while.

The machines monitor only one of them, but the Master's two hearts are beating in their steady rhythm of four, his face impassive and blank as it's been since the day she started administering hourly tranquilizers to keep him unconscious. They won't be able to stay here much longer, and the only question that remains is what else can she do. He's not recovered enough to regenerate, but should he be? Why would the Doctor want her to save a man like this?

Because anyone can be saved.

No. She'd been conditioned to hate and kill the Doctor, but it hadn't been her choice, and she'd never destroyed whole worlds because she thought it would be a good time. The Doctor had tried his best to save her, but she couldn't be saved, she couldn't be reached until it was too late because of who and what she was, but the Master is something else entirely.

He's a monster.

(Melody Pond, murderer of the Doctor, judge, jury and executioner to one of the last three known Time Lords in existence. The joke is too depressing to wait for the punchline.)

At least if the Doctor was here, she'd know what to do. "I know he thinks himself the eternal optimist but between you and me, I think he might just be mental," she says to the inert madman in the stasis tube.

Do what you have to do, by any means necessary, River, he's scribbled on the same old cardstock. She fully plans on searching out and destroying any and all stationery she finds the next time she's on the TARDIS, if the Doctor leaves her alone long enough.

But she does what the Doctor says, as always. She takes the risk, she gives of herself. This is why the Time Lords existed, why she exists, to guide and guard the universe and do what needs to be done to keep things going as they ought to.

It's the least she can do.

Dead men don't dream.

Still, he's dreaming. In this dream he remembers his name, feels it at the core of his being, and knows it's still his. There are too many names he's taken on to commit his crimes, too many epithets he's earned along his path of destruction. Only one of them is real and true.

I'm not dead, he says to the grey nothing ahead of him, the formless existence that he's a part of now. I survived. I SURVIVED!

"It's not as easy as that," a voice says, one he recognizes in that instant, and he turns to face it.

Then the light is blinding. His eyes ache from the newfound sensation of light burning along his neural pathways, and there's a woman standing over him with a gun casually clasped in her hand.

"Oh, you made it," she says. She doesn't necessarily sound (or look) pleased at the fact.

"Doctor," escapes his mouth, and then he remembers. "Pond. Pond."

"Song," she retorts, and her mouth is suddenly against his; his mind spirals from the contact and before he can speak, she says simply, "Don't fight it. You'll remember everything."

"Women," he says, weary, cynical, disdaining, then the hallucinogen takes hold and he finds himself lying contentedly in the red grasses of Mount Perdition.

Transcript of attached Vortex manipulator hologram, NEMT 02:42:57 1.20

This is log number one of what should be, if luck takes my side, a significant number of entries comprising my contact with the Time Lord known as the Master.

Any being viewing this hologram ought to shut it off now and find the Doctor. It'll be anything but easy, but it's more important than you could possibly imagine. Go. NOW.


If you keep away from me any longer you are so very dead. Now watch: this is going to be good.

The Master is staring at her like he's contemplating how she might taste, how he could hurt her, what he could do to her given the chance, and River simply levels her gun at him and smiles brilliantly.

He rolls his eyes at her gun, but stops shifting to sit up as she draws back the hammer. "River Song," he pronounces, with acidic enthusiasm. "Well, it has been a while – one hundred trillion years, am I right?"

"Oh, you remember me, how sweet," she coos, her eyes refusing to leave him like he's a Weeping Angel.

He glares right back at her. "You knew what I was. You knew who I was, and you let me suffer in that human body?"

River laughs; this is too good. "Oh, I wouldn't call most of what we did suffering – "

"You're going to give me answers." The Master stands and in a flash is in her face, pressing the gun up into the air just as she fires, and she screams as he sends a blast of energy through her body, burning the flesh of her wrist as he grips it. "TELL. ME. EVERYTHING," he shouts over her screams.

River is laughing again, because it's just too funny, and the fury on his face is worth the shattering pain he sends through her again. "Do you have a death wish, River?"

"No," she answers, and drops to her knees, still laughing away at him. "Do you?"

He pistol-whips her in answer and takes the clip out of the gun before he throws it away. "This is the Doctor, isn't it," he accuses her. "Him and his Earth girls."

River smirks up at him, hateful, predatory, and waiting. "Is it ever that simple?" she asks rhetorically.

"Oh, I'm finished playing your games, River. Had a blast," he declares sarcastically, "thanks for the boost, but places to destroy, people to kill, that sort of thing." He throws the clip behind him and bolts out of the lab.

She's smiling so hard her face aches in protest, and applies the nanogenes to her burns at a casual pace.

He's collapsed in the corridor when she arrives there two minutes later, no worse the wear, blue energy curling around him in wisps, his body desperately attempting to reconstitute itself. "Mine," he snarls at her as he sees her, and attempts to reach out to destroy her, cannibalize her, but she seizes her second gun and shoots him in the shoulder with the tranquilizer.

"An admirable effort," she admits to the unconscious Master as she pulls him up off the floor. "But you're going to have try a lot harder than that to get away from me." His feet are dragging as she hauls him along. "We've worn out our welcome anyway, I think. About time to find somewhere more suited to our needs. Ooh, I know, New Earth! You'll love it."

When he wakes up strapped to his seat on the escape pod off of the PharmLab asteroid with more belts and buckles than could conceivably be necessary, he simply says, "I hate you."

"Oh, we haven't even started," River says, supremely teasing, and tosses her head of curls. "Come on, sweetie, work with me." She punches the button marked BURN and cackles as the Master tenses, thrown forward against his restraints. "Oh, good girl! Let's roll."

Translation of Justice Department Bulletin released 1.25 NEMT as obtained from Judoon forces: