When Donna had adjusted her eyes to the dim lights that came from the flickering torches mounted on the wall, she discovered that she was back inside the tomb beneath Dagonmourn. Shocked by the realization, she swirled around, but there was no sign of the Doctor and the others, and her gaze was only met by the ancient statues, who stared back at her with their empty expressions chiseled in stone. She was completely alone, and at the far end of the chamber, swirling like an evil black eye, was the cursed portal.
"Oh no. I am not going anywhere near that thing again." She said to herself, recalling what had happened last time. She hurried to get away from the distorted eye of harmony as far as possible when she suddenly heard a voice, a young voice, calling out her name.
She shouldn't have looked. No good ever came from looking, she knew that much from cheap horror flicks and from traveling with the Doctor, but she just couldn't help herself. Something about that voice made want to see. So, against her instincts, she slowly turned around, and with her heart hammering inside her chest, she peeked.
A young man was standing behind her. He was standing inside the mirror.
"Who are you?" She whispered, slowly and hesitantly, she leaned closer to take a better look at him.
He was very young, probably still a teenager. He held a blue bike by his side and was beckoning her to come over.
"Donna please." He begged. "You have to help me."
"Help you?" The boy confused her. He was dressed in faded jeans and a green T shirt. With his skinny arms and legs and a head full of bouncy curls he looked like any ordinary teenager, and she was sure they have never met before, but somehow she had a very strong feeling that she knew him. "Why do you need help? Do I know you?"
"Oh come on Red, this no time for jokes!"
"Oy! It's miss for you! Why are you calling me Red? No one calls me that!" She suddenly had a terrible sense of dejavu. She indeed knew him, and she had remembered him before, but then that knowledge had slipped away from her. Regaining that lost piece of information seemed somehow to be very important.
"There is not enough time!" The boy shouted, and looked over his shoulder. He was clearly frightened of something. "They're coming!"
"Who? Who are coming?" She approached him, her own fear was completely forgotten now she noticed how distressed he was. I really care for this boy. She thought. It makes no sense. How can I care this much? I don't even remember his name. What's happening to me?
"You know who they are. I've told you about them." There was raw fear and desperation in his voice. "Those pale men without faces. The ones that came for me when I was a child. They're back! Donna they're back!"
She slammed her hands on the mirror surface, but the barrier was as solid as a mirror ought to be. "I can't get to you. This is like a brick wall. I can't reach you."
"Donna! Help me please! Please!" The boy begged.
"I can't help you! I am sorry, I want to but I can't!"
Donna's heart stood still when a shadow was cast over the mirror interior. The boy screamed and the air around her suddenly turned ice-cold. She stood helpless and mortified as an invisible monster clawed it's way over the other side of the portal to hunt down its ragged breath that was pushed out of her lungs formed frosty clouds in the air. She sensed a presence, a great evil, cold and menacing, sweeping over her, draining her of her courage. When the oppressive darkness finally passed and the light returned, the boy inside the mirror was gone. Only the blue bicycle was left behind. It lay on one side. The front wheel was still spinning.
Donna trashed awake, drenched in sweat. The name of the boy was caught in her throat like a scream, echoing inside her head till it became as disintegrated as the remnants of the dream itself. Above her, hovering like a friendly moon, was the Doctor's face. It was upside down, and looked at her with one questioning eyebrow raised.
"Donna? All you all right?" He asked not without concern.
Who ever that boy was, however important, the memory of him yet again failed to leave an impression and was soon completely removed from her consciousness, just like the last time.
"Yes. Yes I am fine." She got up and winced when she felt her neck and back crack. Sleeping on the couch of the Tardis library wasn't exactly good for your spine. She took in the black and white office dress that the Doctor was holding out to her.
"Before you going to ask, the answer is no." She replied cheekily. "I don't think it will work on you. How do I say this, you just don't have the right curves for it."
"It's for you." The Doctor gave her a brief smile. It was the first she had seen in weeks.
"What's this for?" She asked, pulling a face.
"We're going to pay a visit to the department where Felix Grant is doing his research. By the way." He added. "I have no doubt what so ever that you will look far lovelier in this than I would. I don't have the right legs for dresses. Although they do know to appreciate the beauty of a pair of hairy legs in Scotland."
The Rachel Boekbinder's research institute for regenerative science was on the 12th floor of the Erasmus university, and this time, the Doctor and Donna didn't get inside that easily. It was Saturday, and in contrast to yesterday, the building was almost deserted, so the guards had more than enough time to bother strangers. They had to identify themselves using the Doctor's psychic paper to get to the elevators and gain access to the research facilities on the higher floors.
"It still amazes me that they keep falling for this." Donna said to the Doctor while were standing in the elevator. "I mean, if you think about it, what is health and safety doing here? Nobody is going to make an appointment on at 8:30 on a Saturday morning."
"Well I don't know, they usually drop by when you least expect it, don't they? Anyway, it doesn't really matter what you tell the guards, as long as they get a good look at the psychic paper and it works like charm."
When they stepped out on the right floor, Donna was surprised to find the whole department bustling with people. The Doctor gave her a cheeky look. "Scientists hey, they never seemed to know when to stop." He wandered down the corridor pass the restricted area sign and right into one of the labs like he owned the place. Donna followed him on his heels. She had kind of imagined that this would be more like an undercover sort of job, and was feeling increasingly awkward as she and the Doctor were gawked at by the staff. "Excuse us. We're from health and safety." She mumbled almost apolitically, as if that would explain everything. Maybe it was time for the Doctor to bring out the physic paper again.
"Excuse me, but can I help you?" A man she recognized to be one of the speakers from yesterday came up to them. He didn't look too pleased.
"Ah. You must be professor van der Kamp." The Doctor grabbed his hands and shook it enthusiastically. "I am dr. John Smith from health and safety, and this is dr. Donna Noble, my colleague. We came here to inspect your lab!"
"What? On a Saturday? In the early morning?" Professor van der Kamp lifted his glasses.
"Yeah." Donna said, secretly giving the Doctor an I told you so look. "You know us, dropping by when you least expect it."
"Forgive me but do you have anything to identify yourself?"
"Yes! Yes we have." Donna poked the Doctor in his ribs.
The Doctor flashed the psychic paper in the man's face. For a minute or so, the professor read what ever he thought was written on the empty sheet of paper, and nodded.
"Forgive me for asking, but we usually get a letter well in advance from your office to warn us that you are coming."
"Yes new policy I am afraid. The office wanted us to try the element of surprise. We're desperate to catch you off guard." The Doctor rambled, giving him a toothy grin. Professor van der Kamp smiled nervously back at him, but was clearly not at ease.
"So." The Doctor continued in a more serious mode. "No time like the present. Can you show us around in your lab?"
Cathy woke up the next morning on Rob's couch. She had a killer headache and a nasty taste in her mouth as if she had just licked the sweat from a camel's armpit. Disorientated and groggy, she followed the noise of loud snoring through the apartment till she found Rob sleeping in his bedroom with his clothes still on. She hesitated if she should wake him, but then she recalled the crazy things that she had said to him last night. Feeling quite embarrassed, she wrote him a thank you note instead, and left it on the coffee table before she sneaked out of the apartment.
Arriving at her own terrace house she found the front door left open. There was a noise of a vacuum cleaner coming from the street level flat, and she assumed it was misses Lauren, keeping herself busy with her pathological way of housekeeping. Climbing up the staircase to get to her flat, she was met by one of misses Lauren's cats. The black and white feline was staring at her with his tail sweeping and curling into a question mark. Cathy didn't really like cats that much, and she certainly didn't want them in her home. It seemed that misses Lauren's pets had two sets of morals, they were clean and tidy and all sweetness with misses Lauren, and they were obnoxious and aggressive when Cathy was around. Oh, and for some reason, they considered her apartment to be some sort of giant kitty litter box. Better not to let this one slip pass her. But as she discovered fairly quickly, the front-door to her flat was left open as well, and the black cat sneaked inside as soon as it she approached.
"Oh no, not again." She moaned. "Misses Lauren, one of your cat got in!" She shouted down the staircase. She had to catch him before he ruined her carpet and furniture, but she really didn't like getting those nasty long cat-claws hanging in her skin again. "Can you please help me to get him out?" She shouted, and saw the black cat flee into the living room. She followed, only to find him leaping up the legs of a strange man who was facing the window. The cat climbed on his shoulder like he was a tall friendly tree and peeked back at her with a look of pure discontent.
Cathy was unpleasantly surprised. "Who are you? What the hell are you doing here?" She studied the stranger. He was tall man in a long coat that was broad at the shoulders and thin around the waist. His blue eyes shone bright in his pale complexion.
Before she got an answer out of him, misses Lauren appeared, balancing a tray with cups of coffee and a plate of biscuits up the stairs. "Ah you have already met the new tenant. Good. Good. Cathy, this is mister Oakdown. He came to see the apartment this morning and has just decided to take it. Isn't that wonderful?" She cheered.
"No…not really." Cathy mumbled, but not loud enough to be heard above her landlady's chatter.
"Here you go." Misses Lauren said as she handed the cup over to her guest. "Careful now, it's quite hot."
"Thank you misses Lauren." He replied politely while he stroked her cat. "What a delightful pet you've got here."
"Oh my Tommy is such a sweet thing. Mind you he's getting quite old, but he's still a little tiger sometimes and can get a bit moody."
"Really, you wouldn't say by the look of him." And as if on signal the damned cat started to purr like a well-oiled engine.
"Ah, look at you two." The landlady said, touched by the sight. "Getting along so well! It's almost a miracle. Cathy doesn't like Tommy much, do you Cathy?"
"Misses Lauren. Can I speak to you for a moment?" Cathy managed to get her landlady out of the room and into the kitchen where she hoped that they were out of earshot.
"Something wrong dear?" Misses Lauren asked innocently.
"Are you really going to rent out Grace's room to him?"
"It's not Grace's room anymore. She moved out yesterday remember?"
"Please misses Lauren, I don't want to share the flat with him."
"What's wrong with mister Oakdown? He seems like a nice person."
"He's a man. I don't want to live with a strange man. Can't you wait till a woman shows up who wants to rent the flat?"
"Cathy dear, I do like you, and I don't want to upset you or anything, but you know you can't pay the rent on your own. You need a flatmate, and mister Oakdown has already agreed to pay for four months in advance. That's more than you still owe me darling. I am sorry but I need the money to fill up my retirement pension. At least Grace was always in time with the payments."
"I know, I know, and I am sorry." Cathy sighed, realizing that she didn't have a leg to stand on. "I swear I will try to pay you this month." Although she had no idea where to get the money now she was out of a job. She would be lucky if misses Lauren didn't kick her out, let alone that she could complain about her enforcing her awful choice of tenant on her.
"Oh dearie, it's not too bad. I am sure you will grow to like him once you get to know each other a little better. He's a very polite and charming, you will see. Go in and sit down. Talk to him." She shoved her out of the kitchen and into the living room, where her new roommate was making himself quite at home and was lounging in her favorite chair while Misses Lauren's cat snoozed on his lap, all rolled up like a content little ball of fur and purring like an idiot. Encouraged by her landlady, Cathy forced herself to smile at him and shook his hand.
"Hi. I am Cathy Summerfield." She introduced herself, rather awkwardly.
"Martin Oakdown. You may call me Martin, if you please. So we are going to be flatmates." It wasn't so much as a question, but more of an announcement.
"So misses Lauren told me. Yeah. So uhm, where are you from?" Cathy asked, trying to start up a conversation.
"What do you mean?" He asked, calmly sipping from his coffee.
"Well, you don't sound Dutch. I mean you speak Dutch, but you've got an accent."
Do I?" He gazed at her with one eyebrow raised, pulling a face like the notion was completely ludicrous to him. "Hmm. I must say I haven't practice it for a while. It has never been one of my favorite languages. Too many Rs that are violated beyond repair, and your O's are pronounced in a very funny way."
"Right…" Cathy muttered, as she swallowing the insult. "So you're not from around here then?" She concluded.
"Oh no." He snorted, as if the idea alone was preposterous. He put the cup down and crossed his legs while he spread his arms over the back of the chair. "No I am not." He added, giggling.
A long awkward silence followed in which they just kept staring at each-other…Or rather he kept staring at her with his sharp blue eyes and she didn't know where to look to escape his gaze.
"Maybe we should go through the house rules before you decide." Cathy tried.
He furrowed his brows. "Didn't you hear your landlady? I have already decided to take the flat. I've even already paid."
"Yes I know, but maybe we should go through them anyway, to make this whole flat sharing experience more pleasant for us both." She forced herself another smile. She was actually starting to feel her jaws. "So you'll get Grace's room. That's the room at the back, and we share the kitchen, living room and the bathroom. Now I am used to that the top shelves in the fridge are mine, and Grace always took the lower shelves, so if you don't mind, you can have the lower shelves and the vegetable drawers if you like. I tend to turn in at 11. If you're going to use the livingroom after that, I would really appreciate it if you keep quiet and if you watch telly, turn the sound volume below 6. That's what Grace used to do and we got along fine. Now about the use of the bathroom –""
"Oh this is absolutely excruciating." The Master moaned under his breath, and slapped the cat off his lap in irritation.
"I am sorry, did you say something?" Cathy asked.
"Yes." The Master replied, accentuating each word with an air of exhaustion. "I said you were absolutely excruciating."
Cathy cocked her head and knit her brows together. "Wh-?!"
"Enough." He snapped his fingers and time inside the tiny flat stopped immediately. The cat was caught in a midway jump between the chair and the table, while Cathy was stuck with her nose wrinkled up and her mouth half open to pronounce the remaining letters of the word "what".
"Thank Gallifrey." The Master muttered to himself. "Finally, a moment of peace. If I have to listen another second to that mindless gibberish my head is going explode." He studied Cathy for a moment, wondering how on earth a woman like that was ever going to be any use to him. She reminded her too much of that loudmouth Redhead that was now tailing behind the Doctor all the time, and wasn't she supposed to be clever? He sighed and contemplated his options. It would be so much easier to get inside her head and just force her to do what he wanted, just like he did with that old woman from downstairs, but unfortunately he needed to preserve her. Any manipulation, however small, had a chance to turn these frail humans into catatonic vegetables. It was crucial that Cathy's mind remained intact. It seemed extremely fragile to him as it was already: Cathy Summerfield wasn't exactly what you call the brightest star in the galaxy. In fact, the Master regarded her perhaps one step higher on the intelligence scale than a glass of seamonkeys. He just couldn't take the risk. He needed whatever small brilliance that was hidden inside this chaotic mess of a woman. He also couldn't stand the bloody thought of keep listening to this endless drivel either, which left him only one other option.
He tilted his head up and forced time to speed up. He couldn't do this nifty trick everywhere and every time, and he could certainly not do it on a grand scale, but at certain time points where events were not so important and were not fixed, he could manipulate it just enough to make life a little easier for himself. So he sat back and enjoyed his coffee, while Cathy continued to talk and talk and talk to him in a high pitch chipmunky voice, while the cat darted from the table onto his lap to the floor and on the table again like it was high on catnip. When he finally saw her close her mouth for a long period of time, he simply tilted his head again and time slowed back down to normal speed.
"Right." Cathy inhaled deeply. She had gotten quite flustered after her long speech, but these things really needed to be sorted out before he could move in. Her new flatmate actually turned out better than she expected him to be, at least he was a good listener. "That's all I have to say. What about you?"
"Hmm?" The Master had a slightly distracted look on him when he gazed up at her.
"Do you have something that you need to share? Anything that I should know about you? Like any bad habits?"
"Oh, well, let me see." He paused, pretending to be thinking it through. "Oh I do like to play loud instruments. I mean you should see me on the drums at 4:30 in the morning, it's like I am on fire!" He laughed before he continued. "What else? Oh I used to do cocaine. I am not too shameful to admit it, especially since I was prime minister of Britain at that time, which meant I could do whatever the hell I liked. I've stopped though, because I couldn't afford it anymore, and to be honest I found the supposed exhilarating effects rather marginal. I was also a practicing cannibal for a few months, but I couldn't quite adapt to the trampy life style that was associated with it, so I gave that up as well. Oh, and also my doctor has more than once diagnosed me as a homicidal psychopath, and before you ask, no I am not in therapy and I am not taking any medication for that, not at this moment." He gave her a wide toothy grin and winked at her.
"But enough chitchat about me." He continued, since Cathy's only reaction was a baffled wide-eyed silence. "Let's talk about the more important things in life." He leaned forward, suddenly showing real interest in the conversation. "How is work treating you?" He purred in a most friendly voice.
"Work?" Cathy mouthed, still wondering if he had been joking to her or that she was really so unfortunate to get a genuine nut-job to share her flat. "I am sorry, but can we go back to that bit about you being a part-time cannibal?" She asked worriedly, just when her phone started to ring.
"Because I am sure that I must have misunderstood you, and I don't want to-"
"Aren't you going to answer it?" The Master interrupted her. "It might be important."
Not as important as sorting out whether you're a scary weirdo. Cathy thought, but the phone kept ringing rather urgently. Maybe it's the hospital and something is wrong with Anne. Getting concerned, she got up and picked up the horn. "Hello, Cathy here."
"Cathy, it's me!" Rob spoke through the phone. "Where the hell have you been? I've been trying to call you on your mo-." He stopped, and slapped himself, suddenly remembering that she didn't have her mobile with her last night.
"Oh Rob I am sorry. You were still sleeping so I thought I better left you alone. I wrote you a note, I left it on the table before I went out."
"Yes, yes. Never mind that." Rob said, sounding quite stressed. "Listen Cathy, Lance called. He went back to work to finish his cell culture experiment this morning. You will never believe this, but he found Duinkerk in the storage room nearby the service elevator. He was lying on the floor."
"Oh no. Did he call for an ambulance? Is he all right?"
"No not really." He paused for a moment, trying to think up a way to bring this to her gently. "He is dead Cathy."
"What the hell happened? Did he have a heart attack or something?"
"Possibly, but I wouldn't say that that was the primary cause of death. The professor was missing his head. He was decapitated. They found bits of his brain lying all around the hall next to the vending machine."
"Oh my God." She gasped. "That's horrible!"
"Cate, I know what you said last night doesn't have anything to do with this, but the cops are now in the department and are investigating this."
"What, the police? Why? Why the police?" She panicked.
"Well I am no expert, but probably because it's quite unnatural for someone to die this way. At least I don't know any medical conditions in which your head spontaneously explodes." Rob explained, trying to restrain his sarcasm. "Listen Cathy, and try to stay calm. They are calling everyone in. We have to report ourselves at the police station."
"What? But I didn't do anything!"
"Yes I know. That's why I told you to stay calm."
"I only was saying that I wish he was dead. I didn't really mean any of it."
"Cathy! Please! This is no time to lose your head!" Rob urged, wincing at the unintended pun. "Just go to the police station. I will be there waiting for you outside. We're going to do this together, and everything is going to be fine. Okay?"
"Okay." Cathy nodded fervently.
"And?" The Master asked after she hung up.
"Was it important?" He asked.
"Uhm yes. Yes it was. I need to go." She grabbed her coat and bag and rushed out of the living room. Before she went out of the door, she remembered something and turned around. "If you are really going to stay, would you be so kind to –"
"Yes I will kick the cat out." Came his reply. "And I will lock the door before I go."
"Thanks." Cathy murmured, wondering if her new roommate was now turning out to be a psychic as well, and ran down the stairs with two steps at the time.
TBC, meanwhile please comment or review.