"A Map of the Soul" belongs to a series called: "A Timelord and his madman", from which the first installment was posted in January 2010, directly after the final episode of the 10th Doctor. It is a sort of alternative season 5, in which the 10th Doctor has fortunately survived the events of "The End of time". Wandering alone through space and time in search of the Master (Simm Master), he finally succeeded to save the Master from the Timelock in the first story of the series called "His Silent Mind". Other installments include (In the right order): "Judoon Justice", "A Murderous Feast", "Shattered Worlds", "Before Harry met Lucy", "The Most Happy Bride", and "This Reflection of Me". If you're interested in the rest of the series and don't want to miss out on the Doctor's and the Master's previous adventures, hit the author button and find the links on my author page.
In the previous story "This Reflection of Me", the Doctor and the Master have been traveling together as equal companions and friends for the last twenty years. They have recently picked up Donna while they are following the trail of the newly resurrected Rassilon, who has merged his essence with the Tudor queen Anne Boleyn and is using her as a corporal vessel to sustain his existence. The Doctor and his companions end up on Saltsea, a planet where the dominant race of people are once created by the Timelords to guard a terrible secret that lies hidden in the heart of an ancient tomb. We learn that during the great Timewar, the Master, resurrected as the Nightmare Child, was sent out by the desperate Timelord council to defeat the guardians of the tomb and to collect the hidden powers that lay dormant there. After finding out that the treasure he was looking for was actually the essence of Omega, one of the Timelord's founding fathers, the Master quickly decided to claim the prize for himself. His greed and arrogance ultimately led him to his demise, for Omega's lifeforce was too powerful to be contained within the Master's mortal body. In the end, the Master was forced to regenerate and to sacrifice his own Tardis to save his life. His mission a failure and marked by the Timelords as a traitor, the Nightmare Child disappeared from the pages of history.
Now many years later, the Master, who has lost the haunting sound of the drums inside his head, but is becoming increasingly unstable due to the burden of his reawakened conscience, tries once again to gain access to the tomb. The torture he has once suffered by Rassilon's hand has inadvertently made him immortal, so he could now absorb Omega's essence and turn himself into an invincible force to fight Rassilon. However, the transformation was violently interrupted, and the Master died, only to regenerate into one of his previous incarnations, the Nightmare Child (Cumberbatch Master).
Before the Doctor or Donna could lay eyes on his new regeneration, the Master escaped in his rediscovered Tardis. Hellbent on revenge, he set out to find Rassilon.
This story begins with a flashback to a scene from "Before Harry met Lucy". The Doctor encounters River Song who reveals to him the Ood's ominous prophesy of the future, warning him about the imminent resurrection of Rassilon…and the rise of the Nightmare Child.
A Map of the Soul
The light of the stars started to fade and dawn was soon to arrive. The Doctor and River Song ventured through the woodlands. As they made their way between barren trunks and prickly undergrowth, they were greeted by the frail birdsongs of the very first morning birds.
"Listen. Beautiful, isn't it?" River whispered. "It's like the ancient forests of Indra." She glanced back at him, hopeful to see a sign of recognition on his face. But this was a much younger Doctor, one who had not known her long enough to remember the good times they will have on the little dwarf planet.
"What did the Ood elders exactly tell you?" The Doctor asked. He had been so caught up in his own troubled thoughts that he had not even heard River's remarks.
"Not much." River replied, trying to hide her disappointment from him. "You know how they are. Oh come sit with the elders of the Ood. Come share the dreaming. When it comes to the interpretation, they could explain very little to me."
"Well, they've always been a race of very few words." The Doctor answered, remembering his own last dream session quite vividly. "What did they show you? Can you recall any of it?"
"It was all a bit hazy. " River shut her eyes for a moment, trying to dig deep inside her memories. "I saw the symbol of three, marked as a merging between the Greek letters alpha and omega in a triangular shape. It has started to show up everywhere. Not only here on earth in the 21st century, but also in space and time, throughout the entire history of the human race. It hasn't been there before."
"That's exactly the same symbol that we've seen on the Infinity." The Doctor muttered. The Infinity Corporation, does it have anything to do with that?"
"All I saw was a spaceship, apparently abandoned except for one little girl. A human child."
"That's Rachel." The Doctor told her. His hearts sank when he realized that the prophecy of the Ood elders had already begun to take shape in their own time stream. "What else, tell me what else did you see?"
"A woman, red hair, feisty attitude, a bit too noisy for my taste. She is going to get married, and on her wedding day, she's wearing a pearl earring. Only, it's not really a pearl. It's something else."
"Red hair, loud mouth, Donna! I could be Donna! But…why? Why Donna?" The Doctor muttered to himself. He racked his brains but he couldn't figure it out right away. "Alright." He encouraged her, while storing the information up for later. "Go on, tell me more!"
"A young man, a scientist perhaps. Certainly a bit creepy looking, with a sickly pale complexion as if he hardly ever sees daylight. I saw him sitting behind a microscope, conducting some kind of experiment. Outside the lab, there is a marble slate mounted on the walls commemorating the founder. He's working in the Rachel Boekbinder's Institute for neurological science." She paused for a heartbeat to let the information sink in. "The elders told me that these three people were somehow connected, they said they were like the fine threads in a web, feeding the black spider in the middle. They are the key to the events that will follow."
"Tell me more." He said, with growing anxiety.
"The Restoration of the four. The drums shall rise again. I saw another woman, chestnut hair, piercing green cat-eyes. A proud and noble queen, she once stood on a scaffold, facing her own execution in front of an angry mob, but she was saved, only to disappear again, the white bride hidden in the dark and lost in time."
She looked at the Doctor, who urged her to continue.
"The elders told me that she will be the spark that lights up this inferno. The Master of old will return, the bloody rise of the nightmare child, bringing with him the drums, the destruction of all of creation, and ultimately…your demise." She paused, and studied his face. "That last woman. Do you know her?"
"No. Not yet." The Doctor replied worriedly.
"And the others?"
"Some. Well, actually, most of them. Oh this horrible! I was there all the time, right by his side. I didn't think it could do any harm to let him tweak the time-stream a little. Well that's what you get if you pretend to be lord victorious, just for a second. You destroy the bloody universe!" He stopped rambling and gazed back at her in shock when the horrible realization hit him. "I've done this. All that the Oods have shown you, I'm to blame."
"It's not your fault."
"I've let him save Rachel. I've allowed this to happen. I should have stopped him."
"You can still prevent it. If you would just let me –"
"No! I know what you are going to say, but no! Let me help him. Let me do this my own way." He picked up pace, eager to find Lucy and the Master.
"Doctor, wait!" River yelled as she watched him ran out into the fields. In the dim morning light, she could see two figures approaching. The Doctor turned to her before they were in hearing distance.
"Not a word about this to Master. Do you understand?" He told her urgently.
River sighed. She had a very bad feeling about this, but she knew the Doctor. There was no way to change his mind. At least…not yet.
"All right." She grudgingly agreed. "I won't tell him."
She would never forget the day her parents died.
It was a perfect summer day, hot but with a cool salty breeze from the nearby sea. Cathy was 8, her little sister Anne only 6. They were on holiday in France in Normandy and were driving through the countryside to get to the little seaside cottage that his father had rented for the summer. The two girls were sitting in the backseat of their family car, a tiny white Fiat with round windows that reminded Cathy of some sort of metal igloo on wheels. The windows were rolled down, and the exciting scents of a young summer swept inside the cabin as they drove over a narrow single lane road through the farmland.
"How are you holding on back there little Cate?" Her dad checked on her through the rear-view mirror. "You're not too bored?"
Cathy shook her head. Her two pigtails swept from side to side, and she lifted her bunny doll up for her father to see. "Not at all! Casper here has invented a great game for us to play."
"Really? That clever bunny! What are the rules?"
"Well, Casper is going to pick out something that he sees from outside the window, and we have to guess what it is. He will give clues, like tell us what color it is or what it is made of."
"Sounds like a real fun game. I bet you're very good at it."
"I am better at it than Anne, but that's not so strange. She's younger than me." Cathy answered wisely. She looked to her side at her sister who was very busy trying to fit the head of her favourite toy animals in her mouth.
"Cathy darling." Her mother spoke to her over her shoulder. "Do you want us to join in to make it a little more interesting for you?"
"Oh honey, just let her be." Her father muttered, suppressing a sigh. "Why are you always so concerned when she plays with Anne? It's completely innocent. It's just her age."
"I just don't want her to get into trouble. That's all." She snapped. It was hot in the car and she was not in the mood for any long arguments. "Cathy, do you want mummy to sit in the back with you to keep you company?"
"No." Cathy was a little bit confused why her mother wanted to keep an eye on her while she obviously has been such a good girl. "We're fine, aren't we Anne?"
Anne didn't say much and chewed on the plastic pony that Cathy had given her to play with. She kicked her little feet up in the air and accidentally hit the back of her mother's seat.
"Cathy." Her mother told her sternly. "Will you stop doing that? It's very annoying."
"I didn't do that. It was Anne. I guess she is bored." Cathy replied innocently.
"You know very well that Anne cannot do this." Her mother sounded aggravated, and Cathy, fearing that she was getting into trouble again because of her younger sister, turned to Anne.
"Stop it. I said stop it!" She pushed her younger sibling's legs down, only to get one of her red shoes in her chest.
"Cathy I am warning you!"
"But it's her fault! It's Anne, she just doesn't listen."
Her mother gave her father a long, tired look. "Innocent you said? I think it has been going on long enough. She's not three anymore."
"Don't do this honey. Not on our holiday." Cathy's father warned.
Her mother shut her eyes, breathed in deeply, and counted back from 5 till another jolt shook her chair. "Stop it Cathy! Stop it I said!" She shouted.
"But it wasn't me! It was Anne! Why am I always getting blamed for things that I didn't do." Cathy complained, sobbing now, and getting frustrated with the unfairness of it all. "Look at what you've done, mummy is getting very angry with us." She told her troublesome little sister.
"That's it, Cathy what in God's name are you doing back there –" Her mother finally took the effort to turn around to talk to her when she suddenly froze. Her eyes widened in astonishment, her mouth dropped open. Words came tumbling out, but Cathy would never hear her finish the sentence, for at that exact same moment, a grain lorry came thundering around the corner of a dirt road. It had remained hidden from her father's view by the surrounding walls of grain and appeared so sudden that he had no time to hit the brakes. The tiny car smashed head-on into the monstrous vehicle. Cathy screamed when the hood of the car disappeared underneath the lorry. The front window exploded into the cabin in a cloud of shards. Metal was crushed against metal. Her father was instantly killed. Her mother sliced her head open on the warped frame of the front window and bled to death in the following minutes that it would take for the ambulance to get to the crash site, and little Cathy herself, who always refused to wear seatbelts even if her parents begged her, was catapulted right out of her seat. She flew through the air, weightless for a short moment, until gravity reclaimed her, and like a fragile little bird made out of glass, she was shattered by the impact with the unforgiving ground.
Cathy fought her way back into consciousness, gasping for breath as the last traces of her nightmare slowly dissolved into reality. She woke up in her bedroom, her legs and torso entangled in sweat-soaked linen, blinking her eyes into a narrow strip of daylight that shone through a gap between the drawn curtains. There came a brief knocking on her door before Grace poked her head around the corner.
"Are you all right?" She asked hesitantly.
Cathy rubbed her hand over her face. "I-I am fine." She answered, but her voice was shaking.
"Are you sure? You were screaming like the flat was on fire."
"I am all right." A pause. "Just another one of those awful nightmares."
"At six thirty in the morning?" Grace whistled. "Must be new record." She gave her a smile that was full of sympathy. "Do you want me to fetch you a glass of water?"
"No. I am really okay." Cathy rolled out of bed and examined her battered alarm clock that had once again proven itself to be completely worthless. "Six thirty. Shit! I was supposed to get up much earlier!" She picked up her clothes from the floor before making a mad dash for the bathroom. Grace watched her go with an amused look on her face. "Do you want me to make you breakfast Cate?" She shouted at her over the sound of a running shower.
"Yes please!" Came the reply. "Two lumps of sugar, no milk!
After a short shower, Cathy reappeared in the tiny kitchen that was at the back of the apartment. She was fully dressed for the day, but her hair was still dripping wet. It left damp patches all over her shirt. Grace was sitting at the table, munching on a piece of marmalade toast. She pushed a steaming mug of coffee in her direction. "Here you go, one stomach churner straight up, bon appetite."
"Thanks." Cathy just had her laptop plugged in when she realized that she had lost something. As she searched frantically through the mount of mail and advertisement leaflets spread out over the kitchen table, Grace just sighed and held out a data stick in the shape of a plastic cow to her. "Looking for this?"
"Thank God!" Cathy said with great relief. "I thought I had to remake the whole bloody presentation again!"
"Seriously Cate, what are you going to do without me?"
"Oh I don't know." Cathy quickly plugged the data stick into her computer. "Probably die and get eaten by one of misses Lauren's cats." She realized with a sense of mild panic that she was only half-joking about this, and gazed worriedly at the stacks of carton boxes in the hallway with all of Grace's stuff neatly packed inside. Today was moving day for her flatmate.
"When are they coming?"
"Around 1, 1:30. Something like that. Anyway, it's not much." Grace shrugged, sipping from her tea. "You know I don't have any large furniture. We could have probably moved everything ourselves if wasn't that John doesn't want to get his hands dirty and get stains over the seat covers of his precious new car."
"God I am really going to miss you." Cathy complained, meaning every word of it. "The flat is going to feel so empty."
"Don't be silly. You'll be getting someone new moving in soon enough." Grace laughed. "Misses Lauren will take care of that."
"I know, but I don't want anyone else. I want you. I know you. You're nice. Who knows what I will be getting now. He could be a complete slob, or worse, a coke sniffing serial killer, who drinks blood and likes to play the drums at 4 in the morning."
"So you're looking out for a bloke then." Grace grinned at her joke. "You're fed up with living with other hens."
"It's not exactly for me to say what I am going to get. Besides, it's Rotterdam. I don't expect any normal people to show up."
Cathy gulped down a mouthful of very bitter tasting coffee. She really must try to do something about this caffeine addiction of hers. This stuff makes her stomach turn into a solid brick.
"You know what you should do? You should find yourself a boyfriend, like me. Preferably a rich one, with a gorgeous apartment in the city and a great view over the river." Grace said with a dreamy look on her face. "John has a few workmates from the office who are not too bad to look at. You should meet up with them. See how they are like."
"Yeah, well not interested." Cathy murmured. "I don't want one of my friends to arrange a pity date for me. I have not sunken so low, not yet."
"Oh come on Cate. You're a lovely girl. You should go out more. All you do is work work work! Your job is paying you horribly, why don't you cut yourself some slack and spend a bit more time on getting your life back on track instead of locking yourself up in the lab all day?"
"Research does not pay out in coin, but rewards us with knowledge." Cathy replied wisely, although she had questioned the validity of this wisdom more than ever so often, especially at the end of every month, when her bank-account seemed to irrevocable sink into deep red numbers. At the end of the day, however noble the profession, a girl needs to pay her rent.
From the corner of her eyes, she caught the time on the Hello kitty clock, and almost choked on her coffee.
"Shit shit shit…I am late!" She poured the rest of it down her throat and yanked the data stick out of the laptop.
"Why is this so important? You have a lab meeting every Friday." Grace commented, watching her wrestle into her coat.
"This one is special! If I can't do this right I am in such big trouble. I just can't be late! Not today." She rushed out into the hallway and snatched her bag from the hook. "Call me later, yeah?" She said apoplectically before she rushed out, only to reappear seconds later to run right back into the kitchen again.
"Keys." Cathy and Grace muttered simultaneously, as Grace held them out for her to take.
"God I am so going to miss you!" Cathy muttered gratefully, and planted a kiss on her friend's cheek before she turned on her heels and rushed out.
"That girl is going to forget where she has put her head someday." Grace said to herself as she listened how the front door of their apartment slammed shut.
"Where are we going?" Donna asked as she watched the Doctor steer the Tardis down the timevortex. The control room was unusually dark, and lacked the cheerful atmosphere that she remembered from before. Even the Tardis core seemed tired, its up and down motion joyless, emitting a light that was not much more than a pale green glow. She did not doubt that this was a grim reflection of the Doctor's own state of mind.
"The Tardis found something." The Doctor didn't lift his eyes from the keyboard as he spoke to her. His mood had not much improved since they've lost the Master. "A relatively small disturbance in the timeline. It's not easy to pick up. Not nowadays anyway. There are hundreds of disturbances everywhere at anytime." He added with heavy hearts, realizing that Rassilon's influence was growing stronger. "But this is the one that we need to follow." He said, nodding to himself for reassurance. "This is the one that will lead us to him."
"Him…?" Donna dared to ask. If only he would finally start to share his grief with her, she thought. Open up a little. It didn't need to be much.
The Doctor looked up from his computer screen and just stared at her. Even after all this time, he couldn't make himself let his name pass his lips. For now, all he could share with her was a burdened silence.
They landed on a large green lawn in the middle of what appeared to be a city park. The Doctor was the first to get out of the Tardis, followed by Donna, who stepped out, eyes blinking into the sun. She was surprised by the familiarity and peacefulness of the surroundings, so much had she grown accustomed to the alien landscape of Saltsea.
"Alright." She said, glancing around and trying to sound optimistic. "There are cars and skyscrapers, people walking their dogs, and airplanes in the sky. I take it we're back then?" She concluded, not without a deep sense of relief.
"Almost." Muttered the Doctor. "The year is 2020. We're in Rotterdam in the Netherlands in a not too distant future." He stuck his hands in the pockets of his trousers and made his way across the park towards a 25 storey high public building at the very edge of the green scenery.
"What exactly are we looking for?" Donna asked, coming after the Doctor.
"A scientist. Someone who's working on neuroregeneration. A bit creepy looking apparently. I don't know his name, and only have this faint description of how he looks like, but he should be here. At least that is what the Tardis thinks after it has extracted the clues supplied by the white point star."
As they approached the entrance of the building complex, he pointed out a large blue banner that hung nearby. The Erasmus University is welcoming students for the new summer lectures of 2020. Donna read.
"So the Tardis thinks we can find your creepy scientist in here?"
The Doctor nodded again and brought out his psychic paper, just in case. "A scientist in an university. That makes sense. Back to school it is." He added, forcing a smile that seemed more desperate than cheerful to Donna. She rather he didn't pretend. It was more than clear to her that without the Master, the Doctor was slowly falling apart.
It turned out that it wasn't that difficult to get in. For a start, they didn't even need to show their IDs. There were simply too many people around for the security guards to care. The central hall was packed with students, freshmen who came in early, standing in line to get their study books on a discount. There were also busloads of international students from Eastern Europe and Asia who were here to attend the summer courses. They spend a great deal of time in the hall, looking very lost. Donna found the whole experience actually quite pleasant. After all the death, blood and madness of Saltsea, she was so glad to be part of something normal. At least there was nothing scary about a whole bunch of bright-eyed young people who were enthusiastic about their studies.
"This looks promising." The Doctor pointed out a message board that was set up next of the entrance to the lecture halls.
"Regenerative medicine. The future is now." He read out loud. Donna saw him scowl when he picked up the logo of the company that had sponsored the event. It was the Greek letter alpha merged with omega in a triangle, the unmistakable symbol of the Infinity Corp, the 21st century equivalent of the brotherhood of the Watcher who were so keen on resurrecting their lord and master Rassilon back in 18th century France.
"He's here. " The Doctor whispered. "We're getting closer."
Joining in with the flow of students, they entered a large lecture room that was built like a theatre or a music hall, and picked out seats in one of the upper rows.
"I don't get this." Donna told the Doctor. "What would Rassilon wanne do with 21st century Earth science? To you guys this stuff must be like child's play, right?"
"Don't be so condescending about your own race. Human science may not be so backward as you think. Well at least the field of medicine isn't. Right now it's actually decades more advanced that it should have been."
"What are you talking about? How is that even possible?"
"Long story." The Doctor muttered, glancing over his shoulder and studying the other attendees carefully. He seemed distracted and evasive on the subject. "Something to do with a little girl. It happened a while ago." A lump caught in his throat. He just couldn't tell her. The recollection of Rachel Boekbinder was too much connected with the Master.
"Did something bad happen to her?" Donna asked, not aware that she was opening up an old emotional scar.
The Doctor shook his head. "No. Not bad. Something wonderful that should not have happened."
Obviously, the Doctor's answer was more puzzling than it was revealing. Donna wanted to ask more, but refrained from doing so when she saw the rueful look on his face. It wasn't her fault. She didn't know that it was because of the Master that Rachel Boekbinder had survived the horrors of the holocaust. The little girl should have died in the second world war, but the Master saved her by telling her to convince her family to flee to England. At first the Doctor had naively believed that this act of kindness had little consequence in the great schemes of things, but as events unfold it had become more and more clear to him that he had been horribly wrong. It was Rachel's prolonged existence that had enabled her to make her great contributions to medical science. Using her extraordinary mind she had propelled the field forward, accelerating the knowledge and driving technology to a point when almost everything was possible. The cruel reality was that Rassilon had tricked the Master in taking part in the design of his resurrection, and he, the Doctor, had allowed it to happen. He will never be able to forgive himself for that.
"Finally, something that is possibly interesting is happening!" Donna whispered a tad too loud, fed up with the waiting. The Doctor snapped out of his train of thoughts and paid attention to the lecturestage below. The lights dimmed, and the audience stopped talking as the first speaker appeared. A spectacled man in his late fifties with thinning grey hair, he looked like a pompous professor of some sort. His welcome speech was long and very-very boring, making it almost impossible for Donna not to get bored again. Soon she was distracted and was glancing around in the audience, taking in the faces of the other attendees half hidden in the dark. She had been watching the Doctor closely. Even back in the central hall, she noticed that he was constantly looking around, and searching. Although he had never really told her, she knew that the Master was still alive. Hell bent as the Master was on revenge, she was pretty sure that he would be following the same tracks in order to find Rassilon, which meant that the Master could be here, right now, sitting in the dark with them.
He might even have regenerated. She thought. That's why the Doctor is studying every face that the sees around here. She remembered how captain Jack had once explained to her that a regeneration for a Timelord was like dying and being reborn into a different person. Everything was changed, the face, the hair, the voice, even the personality. If that was true, how were they supposed to recognize him? He could be anyone. He could be one of the speakers who were up next or one of those students sitting right behind her.
The Doctor will know. She reassured herself. I may not be able to pick him out of the crowd, but the Doctor can. He can sense him. She had seen him track down the Master at Saltsea when the two men were miles apart. She was convinced that the Doctor would recognize the Master straight away…if only he was really here.
Cathy was making her way through the central hall to the elevators, passing by security and zigzagging through the chaotic flow of students.
"Come on, com on." She muttered impatiently as she kept punching in the up button, waiting for an elevator to come down. It was useless of course. The medical faculty of the Erasmus university had all of its research facilities of all of the 15 departments stacked on top of each other in one single narrow high-rise, while lecture halls were spread out in two wings on the third level. Of the six elevators that were available for the scientific staff, two were out of order for as long as she could remember, and the other four were running on their last legs. She was 15 minutes late already when she caught a lift. When she finally reached her floor she didn't even bother going to her office but rushed straight into the conference room instead.
"I am so sorry, I am really really sorry!" She apologized as she shrugged off her coat. "It was the subway. I was stuck for half an hour, technical issue with the switchgears..." She stopped rambling and sat herself down quickly when she noticed the look her supervisor was giving her.
"Right." Professor Duinkerk spoke. "Now that doctor Summerfield is so good to make time in her busy schedule to join us, let us continue with the discussion." He nodded to her colleague, a tall young man in a T-shirt and baggy trousers who was standing in front of the presentation board with his hands in his pockets.
"Robert, please continue."
Cathy stuck up her hand.
"Yes doctor Summerfield Duinkerk sighed, not exactly thrilled with the interference.
"I am sorry, but are we still keeping the order of presentations according to the schedule? Because if we do, I was supposed to give mine around now?"
"You were not here in time." Duinkerk told her. "We've changed the schedule, and you're now last. If we have enough time left that is."
"Robert, could you continue?"
Cathy gave up and sank back in her chair. He has to give me another chance. She thought, trying to calm her panicking self. If Duinkerk wanted to decide whether he should sack her or not, at least he would have to make this decision based on a thorough evaluation of her work, right? Even if the old goat really has it in for me he still has to play it fair.
But when she finally did get her chance to present her data, it was right at the end of the meeting and she was only allowed half of the time of her peers. Since it was getting close to lunchtime, most of the audience had lost interest, and kept checking their watches and yawning extensively. She tried her best to keep at least the professor interested, but even he made no efforts to keep up the pretence of paying attention, and was busy with answering emails on his Iphone.
"That would be quite enough. Thank you Cathy." Duinkerk said without diverting his attention from the tiny screen on his mobile. He had not even seen her last slides.
"But I am not finished. I still need to do the summary and the conclusion."
"Yes well, we can probably live without that." Duinkerk said, getting up and signaling to the rest that the meeting was officially over. "Thank you everyone, wonderful work, except perhaps for doctor Summerfield." He added quite deliberately, and finally looked her in the eyes. "I need to speak to you."
"Yes." She felt the air being pushed out of her lungs as she crossed the room to get to Duinkerk.
"Not now, I've got more important things to do. Come around my office after 6." He said before turning his back on her and leaving.
"That was God-awful Cate." Robert came over to her with his laptop tucked under his arm. They worked in the same lab and shared an office together. Rob was a good bloke, not like the others who, sensing the tension between her and the professor, didn't like to socialize with her too much.
"You really know how to get under old cheap goat's skin every single time, don't you?" He teased her.
"Oh he absolutely hates me." Cathy sighed. "I might as well start clearing my desk and forget about this. No way he's going to let me stay now."
"Maybe you should change your research subject a little. Make him more interested in what you do. Why don't you think up something that's more his cup of tea just for a side-project, like research on spinecord regeneration after injury or something?"
Cathy gave him an irritated look. "What?"
"Why not?" He shrugged. "You know how to do it. It would be practically the same experiments for you."
"You mean I ought to research something that will attract sponsors and earn him more money?"
"Yes. Now be reasonable here, cash is what makes the world go round. Even in the world of science. You can't do research without it Cate."
"I am not going to add a new subject to my research. I have not enough time as it is. Besides, you know my project is worthwhile. I believe it's worthwhile. I just wish I could make him see it the same way as I do."
"Well, maybe you should take him to see your sister."
Hurt and anger appeared on her face, and she turned away from him.
"Cate? Wait!" Realizing he had gone too far, Rob came running after her. "I was just trying to cheer you up."
"Well you failed miserably. That was not even remotely funny." But she slowed down to hear him speak.
"I am sorry okay? Really."
"All right then, apology accepted." A pause as she thought of something. "But you have to buy me lunch."
"You're broke again?" Rob guessed.
"Yessss." Cathy replied, slightly embarrassed.
"No problemo." Rob replied with a broad smile. "If that will make you happy, I'll gladly pay your chicken curry wrap for you. Now let's head downstairs before they run out."
"The next speaker is something of a legend, a young genius, who has single handedly put this university on the global map. A man whose work is internationally renounced to be at the very frontier of what is capable in regenerative medicine, and who has been awarded many times for his contribution on stem cell research. The youngest professor of our faculty, a most remarkable young man, please put your hands together to welcome our esteemed colleague and my protégée, professor Felix Grant."
An excited applause came from the audience that had been so far been slowly nodding off to the string of tedious lectures. Donna woke up and sat straight up in her seat to watch a thin geeky looking man climb up on the stage.
"Felix Grant. I read about him. The Tardis showed me some of his news articles." The Doctor mumbled.
"Sounds like he's Jesus in here." Donna whispered back.
"To these people in the audience, he might well be." He replied, keeping his eyes fixed on the young scientist.
"What?" Donna scoffed. "Did he cure the blind or something? Heal the cripple and walk on water?"
"Just watch and listen. Although I must admit, getting two out of three right is not bad."
"Thank you so much for this warm welcome." Felix spoke to his admiring audience, standing tall, proud and vain. His voice had a strange calming quality to it, like the soft murmurs of a snake. "You are more than generous." He raised his hands to hush down the excited crowd. "Although as a scientist, I do believe in the power of numbers, my teacher and dear friend professor van der Kamp -" He pointed out the spectacled elder gentleman who had introduced him, and the audience applauded as he took a bow. "- he has once taught me that one well chosen picture can say more than a thousand words. He also taught me that a good scientist should be able to explain his work to anyone in no more than 1 sentence, no matter how complex the subject, or how ignorant the audience." He chuckled at his own joke, and amazingly the audience laughed with him. "Well, I am not only a remarkable scientist, but also a most excellent student."
"God he's really full of himself, isn't he?" Donna muttered.
"That's why I'll be following the professor's advice. I will only show you one thing today, and that one thing, will blow your mind." He paused, prolonging the suspense. "Let us behold, the future of regenerative medicine."
A presentation slide was projected on the massive screen behind him. It showed a photo of a normal white laboratory mouse. It was balancing on its hindlegs on Felix's hand.
Murmurs and whispers started to come from the audience. A girl with glasses and pigtails who sat in the front row raised her hand.
"Is this a joke or something?" She asked. "That's just a ordinary mouse."
"What are you, a fresher?" Felix regarded her with contempt. "I hope you don't aspire to become a molecular scientist. You wouldn't be considered commendable for the job. For your carrier I would recommend something more simple, a surgeon perhaps."
The audience laughed and the girl sank back in her chair, trying to become invisible.
"An ordinary appearance does not guarantee an ordinary organism. Genetic modifications can be invisible, working silently in the background with every cell division that occurs within the body. What is remarkable about this little animal is not how it looks like. It's what it potentially can do. Ladies and gentlemen, this specimen as lived for more than 11 years now."
A gasp came from the audience and people started to whisper loudly. "Absolutely astonishing." Muttered someone behind Donna.
"Why is this such a big deal?" Donna asked the Doctor. "My granddad's dog lived till he was 12. My great aunt May's cat even made it to 11 and would probably have outlived her if it hadn't been run over by her neighbor."
"That's not the same thing." The Doctor explained to her, shaking his head. He too seemed stunned. "Dogs and cats are expected to live for at least a decade, but not rodents, not mice. If a mouse is 2 years old than that will be the equivalent of a human being living up to 100 years. 11 years is at least 5 times longer than the maximum live span of these animals. Methuselah mice, trice over, that's what Grant has made."
"So how is this miracle achieved?" Felix continued. "Two words. Continuous regeneration. A capacity to heal and restore damaged organs that has been lost to us mammals, but has been retained to some degree in lower lifeforms such as reptilians and amphibians. But no longer." He stressed with a finger pointing up in the air. "With genetic manipulation, we have generated the ultimate stem cell, capable to replace any type of damaged tissue. After treatment, this mouse has not become only ageless, but has also become virtually indestructible."
The slides started to alternate, showing the results of a series of animal experiments in which the mice were subjected to all kinds of man-made injuries, from wounds cut in out in their skin to the severing of the spinal cord.
"Oh this is too horrible to watch." Donna muttered, feeling absolutely repulsed, she turned away. She noticed that the Doctor seemed shocked as well, but then quickly realized that the brutality of the methods was not that what most horrified the Doctor. It was the results. Every time the stem cell treated mice were challenged with an injury, the animals fully recovered without so much as leaving a single scar behind. They even managed to re-grow their limbs after Grant had them amputated.
"Doctor…" Donna said, finally noticing a pattern here. "These mice can almost heal as fast as the Master could. Now why does that worry me?"
"Because it's a complete violation against nature." The Doctor ranted condemningly. "Sure, humans will eventually be able to slow down the aging process and use stem cells to replace failing organs, but this technology is millennia before its time. They shouldn't have made this progress so quickly." He paused and swallowed. "This is all Rassilon's doings. He's guiding him, this Richard Grant, forcing him to prepare the world for his return."
And I in part am responsible for this. He though as he watched with growing anxiety how the astounded audience gave Grant a standing ovation at the end of his lecture while the screen behind him faded into the ominous trademark of the Infinity Cooperation.
Cathy waited till long after 6 when she finally dared to go down to professor Duinkerk's office. She found the door closed and locked from the inside. She wouldn't dare to disturb him so she went back to her desk. Except for Robert and a foreign exchange student who didn't speak a word of English, the lab was now completely deserted.
"God dammit." She heard Robert curse all the way from corridor as he stumped into their office. "Those stupid elevators are bust again. There is only one left that is working. How can they fuck up 5 elevators at the same time?"
"You should have taken the stairs. It was probably quicker." Cathy mumbled, lost in thought and staring at a paper on her screen that she rewriting for the umpteen time.
"You know what? I did! I climbed 20 stairs to get from the 4th floor all the way up here, just to put my samples back in the fridge and to get my coat to go home. How is that for efficiency?!" Rob had to stop talking for a moment to get his breath back. "God I think I am going to have a bloody heart-attack." He complained.
"Uhuh." Cathy muttered, still staring absentmindedly at her word document. "See you tomorrow Rob."
Finally noticing what was going on, Robert sighed and turned her chair around so he could talk to her face to face. "Hello!" He snapped with his fingers. "Contact Cathy, Contact!"
"Sorry." Cathy muttered, blinking with her eyes. "Miles away, wasn't I?"
"Let me guess, you didn't get to speak to old cheap goat yet?"
"No…the professor is probably still in a meeting or something. You know how busy he is."
"Did you knock on his door to let him know that you are still waiting?"
"Wouldn't want to disturb him…his door was locked." Cathy admitted almost shamefully.
"How long are you going to sit here?" Robert sighed again. "You are a nervous wreck already. Another hour of this and you turn into a catatonic zombie. Go see him now and get this over with."
"What if I piss him off again? I don't want to get sacked straight away."
"Cathy, listen to me. Be rational about this. He's not going to fire you. Not while you still have that grant money to fund your research. So stop worrying."
"You know what –" She said, thinking this through. "You're right. I still have 2 years left from my Rachel Boekbinder's grant. Technically, I am funding my own salary. What is he going to do, take that away from me and give it to another researcher? Ha!" She rose out of her chair, laughing nervously.
"That would be ridiculous!" Rob added and pushed her out of their office into the direction of Duinkerk's room.
"Absolutely preposterous!" Cathy said, more to convince herself than that she was actually convinced. She shuffled down the hall. "I mean what was I thinking!" She slapped her head and glanced back over her shoulder, only to see that Rob was still behind her, giving her two thumbs up, accompanied with a big fat smile. Feeling mightily stupid, Cathy returned him a somewhat docile grin. She then took in a deep breath to gather her courage and knocked on Duinkerk's door.
"Come in. You're late. I said 6 o' clock." Came Duinkerk's response.
This time the door was unlocked. She went in and found him sitting behind his large mahogany desk, typing away on his computer.
"I am sorry." The apology rolled off her tongue before she even noticed it. She couldn't help herself. It was like a reflex, as soon as she set eyes on the man's sour face she had to simply apologize for existing. "I am so so sorry. I though your door was still closed and you might not want to be disturbed so I decided to wait till you –"
"Sit." Duinkerk ordered without looking away from the screen.
She plopped down the chair as quickly and as obediently as a well-trained poodle.
"So." He finally stopped typing and gazed up at her, which was considering the way he looked at her, not necessarily a good thing.
"So?" She repeated, feeling very small indeed.
"I have discussed your funding with the other staff members."
"We have made a decision whether we should extend your research contract or not."
"And the answer is no."
"No." She mumbled, slowly, like a demented parakeet.
It took a moment, but then the message started to really sink in.
"Believe me, it was not an easy decision, but we went through your recent achievements and we had to conclude that they are not up to the high standards that we have set out for this institute. You haven't published one single report last year, but have spent at least 50000 euros on experiments that yielded very dismal results. You have no grant money of your own –"
"Except for the Rachel Boekbinder's grant." She quickly pointed out. "I wrote that grant to fund my research."
"Yes, well. The department has decided that it would perhaps be better to spend it on a different project that has more potential."
"A dif-different project?" She couldn't believe what she was hearing. This must be a bloody nightmare.
"Yes. I am afraid that your work is not very much supported by the department. It's too basic. The clinical implications are too unclear."
"Hang on. I am trying to map the biological processes of brain cell interaction. How can this lack support? My research is based on the pioneering work of professor Boekbinder! This is the Rachel Boekbinder institute of neurobiology! It even says so on the marble plaque behind you on the wall. The whole institute is founded on her discoveries!"
"Stop lecturing me on our founder, miss Summerfield." Duinkerk fumed, rising up from his chair and looming over her. "I am very much aware of what kind of institute this is, but however important her work may have been, it's outdated. It doesn't attract sponsors and it is not innovative enough to generate new government funding. Face it, no-one is interest in your work except for you, and in these difficult economical times I have no desire to waste more money on some talentless researcher's private little hobby." He sat down again and straightened his jacket. His pudgy face had gone red, but otherwise he was back to his restrained self.
"So that's it." Cathy muttered, feeling numb and horrible. "I am sacked?"
"That is indeed the right conclusion miss Sumerfield."
Cathy got up from her chair and shuffled to the door. Reaching halfway, she turned around and was about to say something, but gave up when she saw that Duinkerk had returned his attention to the computer screen. According to him, this conversation was simply over.
A smitten of hope lit up, and she turned around.
"I shall sign the papers on Monday. If you will be so good to clear your desk and lab space before the afternoon? I've got another foreign exchange student coming. We're desperately in need of space. Oh and close the door on your way out. There is an awful draft."
"I can't believe this." Cathy complained to Rob as she sipped down her third rum and coke through a straw. "Why is this happening to me? Why?"
They were sitting in their favorite bar on the university campus. It was Friday night and the place was packed with students and young academics. They came down here often to bitch about Duinkerk, but tonight, Cathy mainly needed Rob for a good cry on the shoulder.
"I am a nice person. I don't deserve this. Why does this sort of thing never happen to someone with a shitty character?" She moaned while leaning heavily with her elbow on the table as she swayed her drink around dangerously. "Is it because I am not clever enough?" She opted, as doubts sneaked in with the alcohol stupor. "Oh God, Maybe he's right. I am too dumb for science."
Oh don't go listening him." Rob said. "Cate, you're clever. You're the brightest girl I know."
"He called me a talentless researcher mucking about with her hobbies."
"Your work was fine. It's still fine. You should take the data and go somewhere else where they appreciate what you do and just continue."
"Oh don't be ridiculous!" She lamented. "I have no chance. Nobody would want to hire me now. Not with the economy turning out so bad and me without proper references. Besides I am 31. I am too old be picked out for a beginning postdoc job. I should have been an associate professor by now, just like you, but I got nothing. I am a bloody failure." She looked sadly into her glass that was empty except for the melting ice cubes. "Another rum and coke please." She ordered.
Rob shook his head at the barman. "You can have a coke." He told Cathy. "But definitely no more rum for you."
"It wasn't so bad if he didn't say that my research wasn't worth anything. How can that be true if it can help Anne? I only went to study biology because of her."
Her pride dented and her sense of purpose lost, she stared into distance, completely miserable. "After the doctors finally found out what was wrong with her, and told me why she can't wake up. I thought, maybe I can think of a way. There is still a chance. Maybe I can…" She shook her head. "Oh who am I kidding?! Who am I to think that I could actually achieve something that matters to anyone?"
"Don't say that! Anne is very lucky to have you. But you got to be sensible Cate. I know what you're trying to do here, but even if you continue to work on Dr. Boekbinder's theory for another 40-50 years you will only be halfway in bringing your little sis back."
'And what do you suggest, that I follow my aunt Bernie's advice and pull the plug on her?"
"No, no of course not. I was just saying, you got to start doing things for yourself. Stop neglecting your own life trying to save hers."
"I have no life. My work is my life. I've no money, no family, well at least no one awake, and no friends."
"You've got friends Cate…You've got friends who care very-very much for you."
Cathy just stared back at him. "Right." She muttered, not getting the hint at all.
"I want another rum and coke." She slurred, feeling increasingly very sorry for herself.
Rob just sighed. It was no use talking to her now. "Let me bring you home. You had quite enough."
It wasn't after he had dragged a very uncooperative Cathy half-way through the city and arrived at the doorstep of her apartment that he realized that she didn't have her keys with her.
"Where the hell did you leave them?" Rob asked as he rummaged through her bag.
"They're in there. Somewhere." Cathy slurred, feeling sick. "Or…Come to think of it…I might have left them in our office. On my desk."
"Oh are you kidding me?" Rob replied, irritated as hell.
"Just remind me…I need to clear out my desk on Monday…That old cheapgoat Duinkerk told me so. You know I never even dared to call him cheapgoat before, not outloud, but now it doesn't matter anymore. I can call him anything I like. Dungkerk, Dungface. Old cheapgoat dungface…that's what I should have called him, right in his face! You know that the PhD students used to say that he was so bloody cheap that he replaced the copperwires in the lightbulbs by pulling out a coin?"
"Yeah I know that story. Look I've tried the doorbell but nobody is answering. Where's your flatmate? What's her name…Grace. Is she not in?"
"I hate him." As if on cue, she gagged and a sour taste filled her mouth that made her feel even sicker. "God I hate him. That stupid, vain little turd of a man. I bloody HATE him!"
"Yes Cate, I know, but I need to get you inside. You need to lie down. Can I call someone? Do you have Grace's number on your cell phone?" He looked for it but couldn't find it. He really didn't understand why women were putting so much useless stuff in their bags. He even found a freaky plastic cat that started to cry like it's being skinned alive when you squeezed its head. "Your landlady is not answering either. It's like everyone went out to boogey tonight, just to piss me off."
"God that stupid bastard." Cathy carried on with her tirade, completely oblivious to Rob's problems. "That, stupid, sour little man. You know what? I wish he was dead! That's right, dead! You heard me cheapgoat Dungface! Deader than a dodo, that's what you should be. Good bloody riddance!"
"Aha." Robert muttered, noticing the weird looks that they got from the people who passed by in the street. "Don't mind her. She's drunk!" He told them. "She doesn't mean any of that!"
"I mean every word I said, that man should be hung up by his balls and get beaten up like a fucking pinata!" She lurched forward and vomited in the gutter, scaring an elderly lady who was walking her dog into turning straight around and walking away from them quickly.
"Oh-kay now." Robert suddenly realized that it was perhaps a better idea to stop trying to get into her apartment, and haul her drunken ass off the streets. Luckily, his flat was only a short ride away on tram 9. He knew that there must be a stop somewhere just around the corner.
"Let's get out of here before the police comes to get us, shall we?" He mumbled, and dragged her away.
Duinkerk shut down his computer after he had finished his last email of the day. He turned off the light in his office and took his coat from the hook. The large window near his desk lit up with the many lights of the city's skyline, with the blue cable bridge that spanned over the Maas river glowing like a heavenly harp. There was no doubt that the view from the 23rd floor was truly spectacular, but professor Duinkerk didn't notice it. In fact he rarely looked out of his window anymore. To him, the panorama outside was just like moving wallpaper. His head was too filled with numbers to be distracted by the stunning view.
He locked his office and stepped down the corridor with his suitcase in his hands, passing by empty offices and laboratories on his way out. I should do something about these lazy postdocs and students. It's only 7:30 in the evening and the whole floor is already deserted. When he was working for his phD, he was always in the lab, slaving away till at least 9 every evening. What were these young people thinking nowadays? That science was a cozy desk-job where you could show up from 8 till 5 and discover the next penicillin by accident? For God's sake, where was the ambition? The devotion to work hard and stay long to get things done? They're all lazy slackers, that's what they are. Aggravated he pushed in the button to call up one of the elevators.
It took a while before he noticed that four of them had signs taped on the doors to indicate that were out of service. Of the two that were left working, one seemed to be permanently stuck on the 7th floor.
What is going on with this bloody university? Can't we even afford to keep the elevators running anymore? Why do I even keep paying for services if there aren't any! He waited for another 10 minutes or so, then decided that he better used the service elevator instead of waiting here till he died of old age. He made his way to the back of the building, and went behind the storage room where the gas and liquid containers were kept. There he punched in the button and waited.
There were footsteps coming from behind him, echoing down the corridor.
"Who is that?" Professor Duinkerk turned around, spooked by the sound. A man stepped calmly out of the shadows. He was tall and lean, and had an avid look in his sharp blue eyes.
"Are you a repairman?" Duinkerk asked. He didn't look much like one, dressed as he was in a long blue coat and a crisp white shirt. "You're not allowed up here. This is a restricted area that is accessible only for the scientific staff. Can't you read the signs?"
"Of course I can." The young man replied, still perfectly calm, still looking at him, like a snake that was contemplating how best to devour his meal. "I just don't care. I came here to see you, professor Duinkerk."
"How do you know my name?" He noticed that there was something strange going on with the man's hands. He kept closing and opening them rapidly.
Suddenly, they started to emit an eerie red glow. Duinkerk dropped his suitcase and reached for his Iphone, ready to call for help.
"I am afraid that wouldn't help." The stranger told him with a grin. "Think about it. When you call the guards downstairs, they first need to climb up what? 22 stairs? To get all the way up here, that's going to take at least 10 minutes, 7 minutes at a minimum if you're so lucky to not get the fat ones to answer your distress call." He came closer, his hands outstretched and moving over the walls without touching them. As he approached, the pipes in the wall and the metal tubes in the liquid nitrogen cylinders started to rattle violently in their hinges.
"Let me tell you, and I am being fairly generous in my calculations here, you just don't have that much time."
"Who are you?" Duinkerk's heart was drumming inside his chest. He had never felt so afraid before in his whole life. Ancient instincts that had been lulled to sleep by a lifetime of easy living, of microwave meals, remote controls, and central heating, were suddenly reawakened and screamed at him to run for his life. "What do you want from me? Is it money? Do you want my money?" He clumsily took out his wallet and flung it at him. "Take it. Take it all. I don't care. Just don't hurt me! Please."
"It's a bit too late to start being generous now, don't you think?" The grin on the man's pale face was one without compassion. He cocked his head and studied him, no scrutinized him, like he was some laboratory mouse, soon to be dissected. "I know your kind. You think that you are so clever, don't you?"
He smirked, and the bare pipes that ran over the surface of the wall closest to Duinkerk sprang open and blew an angry hiss of gas into the professor's face. "Just because someone gave you the title professor it doesn't mean that you really deserved it. Your kind are always so full of themselves, vainglorious in the belief of their own high intellect and abilities, while in reality, you are all stuck in meaningless routines, shackled to a fossilized way of thinking." The smirk disappeared. "Admit it Edgar Duinkerk. No innovation will ever come from such small minds, and no greatness shall ever be achieved by petty men like you. Deep in your heart, you know that. That's why the only ambition left to you is to thwart any young talent who dares to grow in the shadow of such poisonous and useless weed. "
A pipe from the cylinder with liquid nitrogen exploded and the professor shrank back in fear, shielding his face from the freezing gas that escaped from the leak. The idea was truly preposterous and defied any scientific logic, but in his mind Duinkerk had no doubt that it was him who was causing all this. This frightening young man with his strange, glowing hands and cold reptilian stare was tearing the whole storage room apart.
"Who are you?" Duinkerk asked, convinced that the man was the devil himself.
"I came in behalf of dr. Summerfield."
"Summerfield?" He was so frightened that he did not immediately associate the name with one of his employees. "Summerfield…Cathy? You came for Cathy?" He ducked when another pipe burst behind him, spraying his back with icecold drainage water. "Who in the devil's name are you?" Duinkerk shouted, getting to the end of his nerves. "Who are you to Cathy? His brother? Her angry boyfriend?! What do you want?"
"Funny you should say that. If you feel you need to know why all this is happening to you, let's just say that I am a great admirer of her work and want to become a patron of her arts. We share a common goal, dr. Summerfield and I." His face turned into something more sinister, a demon that came leaping out of the dark. "And right now, you professor, are standing in my way."
He raised his hand in front of the terrified professor's eyes. Duinkerk felt the hair on his skin rise, as the air around the stranger seemed to warp and fold, and then bulge into a wave that rolled right into the two metal cylinders standing next to him. An explosion followed, and a cloud of freezing gas blasted out of the leak and hit him full in his face. He wanted to scream, but the blast immediately froze him from the neck up, turning him into a human icicle before his lungs had expelled the warmth of his last breath.
The Master observed his creation with a grin and rolled his head over his shoulder to release a most satisfied crack. Then he walked up to the professor and snatched his Iphone to check on the last number that was dialed.
"What do you know, that spineless git did phone for help after all." He made a small circular motion with his hand. A pipe broke off from the wall and came flying into his waiting hand.
"Let's make an end to this before the cavalry arrives." He held the bar like a golfer would hold a club, and with one wide swing, he decapitated Duinkerk. The deep frozen head flew across the corridor till it hit the wall at the other side. It smashed apart like an overripe melon.
If little Rachel could see now what I have done. If he could see what I have done. But he forced himself to get rid of those thoughts immediately. He didn't want to be reminded of the Doctor. He was different now, a new man, free of the heavy burden of a conscience. There was no need to feel remorse for what he had done. He didn't have any.
He dropped the bar on the floor and stuck his hands inside his pockets. As he strolled away he whistled a cheerful tune to himself. Behind him, the headless body of the professor collapsed on the floor, spilling out a fountain of blood.
Next chapter will be posted on monday next week. Meanwhile, please review or comment if you have the time. It keeps me motivated. Next chapter will be posted on