"This is bad, I mean really bad." The Doctor muttered as he examined the results of his last experiment.
"What is? Let me look." Donna glanced at the strange structure that was displayed on the computer-screen. The Doctor had taken the stolen stem cell sample back to the Tardis to run some tests. She was pretty annoyed with herself that after 24 long hours of waiting for him to come up with an answer, she didn't really know what she was looking at. "What am I supposed to see here?"
"It's DNA." The Doctor explained. "I've extracted it out of the cells to take a better look at the genetic code. See this helix structure on the right? That's human DNA. Looks perfectly normal. Now, compare that to the structure to the left."
"I am still not sure." Donna muttered, but then it struck her that the human DNA was composed out of 4 different colored blocks, whereas the DNA structure on the right was composed out of 5. "Wait a minute! I know! It's got an extra color!" She answered, pointing it out on the screen.
"Exactly, five instead of four. Human DNA, in fact all DNA of all the living things on this planet only has 4 types of building blocks."
"What? A red, a yellow, a blue and a green one?"
"Yes, I mean no. Oh forget about the colour, that's just a way to depict it." He rambled on, pacing around the Tardis core while his mind turned. "Look, DNA on earth is composed of four types of molecules called nucleic acids. Each color represents one of them. The DNA extracted from Grant's stem cells somehow has one extra type."
"So, it's like what? A mutation of some sort?"
The Doctor fervently shook his head. "A mutation simply means a change in the sequence of DNA. This is something else entirely."
Donna sighed and pulled the Doctor aside. "Oh can you stop running around like an idiot! I am getting dizzy. Just stand still, and explain it to me will you?"
"This is not from earth. In fact I only know one race that uses five building blocks to code their genes." A grave expression appeared on the Doctor's face. "This is Timelord DNA."
"If this is Timelord DNA, then what the flip is Grant doing with it? How did he get it in the first place?"
"Well I suppose you can synthesize it, make it up from scratch." The Doctor ran his fingers through his hair as he thought it through. "But it would almost be impossible to make the new sequence functional. It would be like trying to write something sensible after adding 5 new letters to the alphabet. It's a complete new language, you will not know what you're writing. However clever Felix Grant may be, it would take him a million years to decode this." He started pacing up and down again, his feet trying to catch up with the speed of his mind. "No, he could absolutely not have done this on his own, which means…"
"Rassilon." Donna opted, speaking out loud what the Doctor had already figured out.
"The Infinity cooperation." The Doctor nodded. "They're sponsoring his lectures and his research. It wouldn't surprise me if they gave him more than only financial backup."
"But what is he trying to do with it? Turn us all into Timelords drones?"
"Oh I don't think so. Rassilon is not yet corporeal. If there is anything he must desire the most right now it is certainly going to be that. He wants Grant to built him a new body that is strong enough to house the essence of a Timelord."
"But he has already taken Anne's. Why can't he just stay in there?"
"You know why." The Doctor replied. "You know what happens when you try to force the mind of a Timelord inside a human. Timelord metacrisis! Anne must be kept dormant or she will burn up. To Rassilon she is no more than a temporary storage vessel before something more permanent comes along."
"But Felix Grant can't just do that, can he?" Donna opted, still shocked and finding this hard to believe. "He can't make Rassilon corporeal, playing doctor Frankenstein with mice is one thing, but building a Timelord?"
The Doctor gazed grimly at her. "We must find out how much of the DNA sequence is already known. If the sequence is complete, we are all in serious danger."
"What about Anne? Does Felix Grant or the Infinity Corporation have her as well?"
"If they have her then she must be kept in stasis. The Master put up a shield to protect her mind from Rassilon's presence, but that is never going to hold forever. It's a race against the clock. The body must be ready before the mind shield has completely disintegrated, or Anne will die and Rassilon's essence will just disintegrate in a matter of seconds. All of their efforts will be in vain."
"But then there are two ways for us to stop this. We either find and destroy Rassilon's DNA so Grant and his army of white coats can forget about rebuilding the dead Timelord, or we try to find Anne..." Donna paused as she realized what that would actually mean. She looked up at the Doctor. "Oh no…You would never do that." She mumbled, convinced that the old Doctor, the dangerous Doctor who had so very mercilessly unleashed his deadly fury upon the Racnoss, would never return. "Besides, the Master will never let you harm her."
The Doctor gazed back at her, knowing what she meant. She was absolutely right. The Master's love for Anne was too deep, even death and regeneration could not have chanced that. "No…No he won't." He replied quietly.
And that will be our undoing.
"Did you get everything I asked?" The Master inquired, without looking up from behind the microscope. During the 8 hours that Cathy had been at work, he had transformed the tiny kitchen in their flat into something between a laboratory and a war zone. Cathy stepped cautiously over the piles of paper notes, broken glassware, and strange boxes filled with God-knows-what.
"What have you done in here?" She asked, searching in vain for an empty spot on the kitchen table to put her bags down.
"I've been working. I brought some of my stuff here that we need for the experiments. By the way, your kitchen is very badly equipped."
"That's because it's a kitchen and not a laboratory." She inspected the place. The kitchen had not exactly been spotless, but this was so much worse than it usually was. It was hard for her to believe that she had not accidentally wandered into a dumpster. "It looks like a bomb has exploded." She complained.
"I repeat my question. Have you got the things on my list? All of your notebooks?" He glanced at her sideways.
"I have them right here." She suppressed a sigh, realizing that it was no use nagging at him, and dumped her pile of labjournals on top of another pile, causing a landslide.
Fully ignoring her mild form of rebellion, he snapped his fingers at her impatiently. "Enzymes, cells, bio-solutions?"
She took the boxes out of the plastic freezer-bags and showed it to him. Most of it contained tubes of biological reagents that were used in the lab for DNA cloning, digestion enzymes, plasmids, that sort of stuff.
"I hope you have everything you need now, because I really don't feel comfortable going back and plundering the stocks for a second time." Cathy confessed.
"You probably will have to. This lot is not going to last forever." He mumbled after a quick glance. "I don't want you to go back during the day though. In fact, I don't want you to go to work at all."
"What?!" Cathy couldn't believe her ears. "You are telling me to quit my job?"
"Not quit. Just stay low for a couple of days. You don't want to attract any attention to yourself while I am around. You might get into trouble."
"What trouble? What are you talking about?"
"You don't need to know, just do as I tell you, and put those boxes in the fridge. You know how quickly this stuff loses its reactivity."
Why do I even listen to this lunatic? Cathy thought, as she gathered the boxes to store them away.
"Did you go out?" She asked him instead, trying her best not to sound too aggravated with him.
"I thought you said you were going to take care of dinner tonight?"
"Did I?" He looked surprised. "I must have not been paying attention." He sniggered.
Cathy suppressed another sigh and opened the fridge. A horrible smell immediately assaulted her nose. Something black and fury lay in a small puddle of blood on the meat-shelf. It took her a moment for the horror sink in. "There is a dead cat in here." She finally said, trying hard to remain calm.
Yes?" He replied, seemingly not all affected by that strange message.
"There's one of misses Lauren's cats, in the fridge, dead!"
"I needed a test subject. You don't want me to go out and pluck a tramp from the streets, do you?"
"That's the black one, what was he called…Tommy. You killed Tommy. I though you liked Tommy?"
"Didn't like him. Hated him. He kept scratching his nails over my trousers. I just pretended to like him to not seem rude to our landlady."
"And it's not rude to kill her cat and stuff it in the fridge?"
"Look how many times are you going to pose the same question in a slightly different way to me? Yes, I killed her dammed cat. Don't scream!" he pointed out, fearing that one of her horrible high-pitched squeals was very imminent. "It's not like it's going to be dead forever."
Cathy crossed her arms over her chest and stared accusingly at him. "What? You're going to bring it back to life?" She felt a nervous giggle tickle the back of her throat as she said it. I am living with a freak, who kills other people's pets and believes he's doctor Frankenstein. This is absolutely bonkers.
"You don't believe I can?" He gave her a frosty look that told her to be very careful now with what she was about to say.
"It's not that." Cathy replied softly. She suddenly remembered the sagging skin and the skull-like features of nurse Veels in the hospital, and the vase of flowers growing back into buds.
"Good." He mumbled, placing his focus back on whatever slap of suspicious-looking meat he was studying under the microscope. "Now stop fretting and take care of dinner. I am actually starving."
Cathy just wanted to scream in frustration, but decided that it was probably no use anyway. Counting slowly back from ten, she did what she was told and went through the cupboards. It was only now that she noticed that her own stomach was growling. Maybe she could make something simple. She found a can of bean in tomato sauce that she thought she could use.
"No beans for me thank you. Can't stand beans." He muttered under his breath.
She sighed, counted once again back from ten, then reached out for a package of pasta.
"Don't care much for pasta either. Can't you get something fresh from the shops?" He opted. "I've checked. There's not much left in the fridge. I only found a cucumber, a couple of tomatoes, and a piece of chicken breast that has probably absorbed a few nauseating odors by now, being stuck on the same shelf as our late Tommy. Not exactly what you call appetizing."
Cathy deliberately dropped the pack of pasta in the sink. "Tell me." She said in a voice that sounded surprisingly agitated in her ears, considering that she was trying very hard not to upset her scary psychopath flatmate. "Have you recently lived with someone for a very long time?"
He finally looked up from his work and stared at her, curious and alert. "Why do you ask?"
"Because if you have, it must have been someone exceptionally kind." She bitched. Turning back to the cupboard to find something-else to cook, she was lucky that she didn't catch the change of expression on his face.
He rose from his chair and walked out of the kitchen.
"Where are you going?" Cathy asked.
"I am going out. I've been locked in all day. I need some fresh air." He replied, clearly in a foul mood, and shrugged on his coat.
"What about diner? I thought you said you were hungry?" Cathy called after him, but he slammed the front door close without a further reply.
He left the flat and walked out of the street. It would probably not last, but he was very aware that he still walked like a man who had recently returned to the world. His stride was careful and deliberate, and he relished every step. The fresh air did him good, and after a while his anger cleared. Still, he didn't feel much for returning to the apartment. Cathy would still be there, and he wasn't sure that he would be able to walk out for a second time before he lost his temper and accidently killed that woman. So he followed the tramline till he reached the long stretch of boulevard along side the river. There he stood for a while, facing the black shimmering water below as he watched the sun disappear behind the city's skyline. Soon it was dark, and the lights on the Erasmus cable-bridge switched on, transforming the great metal structure that sat across the river into a gigantic blue harp, bathing in a heavenly glow. The Master took a deep breath, inhaling the smell of diesel oil and slightly polluted river-water rising up from the river shore. He wondered if he was smoker. He used to enjoy smoking cigars, but never was addicted to them. Now he could murder someone for a stick of nicotine. Recalling his past-self automatically brought back memories of the Doctor. One seemed to be hopelessly inseparable of the other, and it caused his mood to darken again. He sighed and leaned over the railing, trying to distract himself from these most depressing thoughts.
Suddenly, he glanced up, a spider sensing a tingling. A quick inspection over his shoulder, but he only saw a pair of young lovers, strolling hand in hand over the deserted boulevard. No one else seemed to be there. But then again, the Master knew the Doctor better than anyone else. He smiled, and calmly he spun around, put his hands deep inside the pockets of his long coat and began to walk all the way up to the bridge, cautious to adjust his pace to ensure that the footsteps that fell in synchrony with his own were not fading. When he reached halfway across the river, he quickly turned the corner and hid behind one of the massive steel cables.
There he waited.
The footsteps that were following him continued till it was but a few feet away from where he stood. Then they stopped.
Silence. Only the sound of passing traffic, and the river flowing below their feet.
Hiding in the shadows, he could sense him. Loneliness and desperation was hanging around the Doctor like a dark shroud of mourning, the aura of a tattered, broken man, worn threadbare by grief.
Realizing that the other Timelord would let them both stand like this till the end of time if he stayed silent, the Master decided to speak first. "What happened to your manners Doctor?" Trying to sound casual as he stepped out into the light. "Don't you say hello to an old friend anymore?"
"Master." The Doctor paused, taking a good look at him. "So you want me to say hello then?"
"You've been following me around for at least 3 streets now. It's the least you can do."
"Hello." The Doctor said, lacking in his usual cheerfulness. "So." He took in a deep breath.
"So…" He echoed, trying to sound confident and at ease with his presence. "You look thin. Still no time to fix the microwave?"
"Obviously." He answered, folding his hands behind his back.
"I am sorry." The Doctor uttered. The Master noticed the sadness that lingered in his eyes and wished that he would not look at him like that. He didn't know what to do with his compassion.
"Oh please, don't pull a face like someone died." He finally said, in an effort to make the Doctor stop feeling sorry for him. "It's not that bad. I'm actually enjoying this. Hell I am enjoying this a lot." He laughed lightheartedly. "I was so fed up with the old me that I practically did a little celebratory dance when I woke up in this body. There was so much guilt in that man." He paused, remembering all the misery and despair. "So much grief…I can't understand how I could have ever lived with such a heavy burden on my shoulders without being completely destroyed by it."
"It's what made you human." The Doctor was still studying him, taking in this new Master, trying to figure out what made him tick.
"You know very well that you and I are not. We should not be troubled by it."
"I see." The Doctor muttered, slowly realizing that he had become much worse than he had feared. "And now you're what? You believe that you've become immune to it all? You don't feel any remorse?"
"To be frank I don't feel anything." The Master replied, grinning. "Isn't that great? It took me two days to realize that this man, this shining new man that I have become does not do emotions. My mind is completely sound, making rational decisions based on facts and clever deductions, not on whatever emotional turmoil that happens to rule the more primitive regions of my brain. It's an absolute improvement." He proclaimed. "A liberation of the soul."
"Oh I am sorry." The Doctor said quietly.
The Master grimaced and looked away, not willing to be part of the Doctor's sorrow. "You're starting to sound like a broken record." He complained, then continued on a lighter note. "Did you notice I am taller now? I used to look up to you, literally, now I can see the top of your head." He stood on the tip of his toes and looked down on the Doctor. "You have no idea how strange this is. Oh, and I think I've spotted a bald spot. Right there." He pointed out.
"What are you doing here?" The Doctor asked, ignoring the foolish charade.
"I can pose the same question to you. So I assume the white point star is still working? You're still hot on Rassilon's trail, continuing your life-long act as the justice crusader?"
"And you are still out on revenge?"
"Oh absolutely." The Master grinned, showing a hint of his mad old self.
"I thought you said you've turned into a rational man." The Doctor criticized him.
"A rational mind for an irrational problem. It's not a contradiction."
"Your thirst for retribution has nearly killed you last time. Have you not learned anything?"
"I was nearly a God!" The Master hissed in his face. "If it wasn't for that snot-nosed brat I would have succeeded. Still, I kept a little souvenir." He looked down, closing and opening his hand. The motion gathered a field of red energy that illuminated his face with a hellish glow.
Shocked, the Doctor backed away from him as if the Master had just pulled out a gun. "You've got Omega's powers." The Doctor stammered.
"Only a part of it." The Master mused and watched how the raw energy slithers and crackles between his fingers. "The rest was lost when I was stabbed in the back during transition. It still serves its purpose though. You should see what I can do with this Doctor. It makes you wonder how incredibly powerful Omega was. Compared to him, Rassilon was absolutely nothing, an useless worm to be squashed under his feet."
"What's happening? What are you doing?" The Doctor yelled, alarmed by the shifts in reality that he sensed around him. The red glow intensified, burning brighter and brighter, till it swallowed them both in a white blaze of blinding light.
He could no longer see the Master. He wasn't even sure that he was still there. Then there was a hollow boom, followed by a crimson flash. The ground underneath his feet shuddered. Gravity was momentarily lost and the Doctor fell.
Then for a short moment, only unconsciousness.
When he regained his senses there was soft ground underneath him. Hesitantly, the Doctor scrambled back up.
"What did you do to me?"
As he looked around, he realized that he was no longer on earth. Red blades of soft grass slipped between his fingers and above him, the sky was the color of burnt crimson with beds of pink clouds drifting by.
"What do you think?" The Master was beside him. They were standing op top of a little hill overlooking a valley covered with woodlands of silver birches and purple oaks. A pleasant breeze caressed the flowers and grass at their feet, turning it into a swaying sea of mesmerizing colors. "Don't tell me that you're not impressed." He commented, not without a sense of pride.
The sight of the familiar landscape stretched out before the Doctor stabbed his hearts with a sense of deep melancholic lost. "Is…Is this Gallifrey?"
"New Gallifrey, to be more exact." The Master corrected him. He smiled mischievously. "I brought you here to show you what I can do. For us. For our people."
"What…you've made this? All of it?" The Doctor asked, truly astonished.
"Bare in mind it's not perfect yet, but it's not bad for a couple days of work." He beamed another smile at him, and for a moment, all the enmity that had existed between them just evaporated. The Master had truly wanted the Doctor to enjoy this. In fact, to him, there was no point in recreating this if the Doctor never got to see it. He took in a lungful of air and breathed out deeply. "Oh that smell!" He roared. "That wonderful, beautiful smell! A field full of Elk flowers in the first month of summer, I used to love that so much." He plucked a leaf and inhaled the scent. "Not quite right though…needs a touch of sweetness, and the sky-" He looked up and studied it, furrowing his brows. "I don't know…seems like the hue is not entirely right. A red sky is fine if you do it correctly, but it's so easy to make everything so dark and depressing. Maybe a touch of yellow…what do you think?"
"You've remade Gallifrey?" The Doctor blurted, still stunned by the idea.
The Master looked at him with a big roguish grin. "Oh don't look so surprised, you knew that Omega was the creator of the Timelords. If I have inherited some of his capabilities then of course I can do the same. Now, what do you want me to create next?" He popped the joints in his fingers with the anticipation of a child eager to show his best friend his new toys. "I don't want to start on the animals too soon." He mused out-loud. "Not before the plants have fully rooted. You don't want the herbivores eating themselves into a famine straight away. It's a delicate business, setting up an ecosystem."
"You didn't inherit Omega's powers. You stole it." The Doctor said accusingly. Suddenly he realized that the ground felt strange and soggy. Lifting up his shoes he noticed that the grass blades were bleeding red sap.
"Ah…" The Master muttered, trying hard to hide his own disappointment. "I've hoped that it wouldn't happen so soon."
The grass shriveled, turned black and died. In the valley below, the bark of the trees turn black as well, and in their crowns, the leafs dropped from the branches with the lightest touch of wind.
"What is wrong with this place?"
"Nothing." The Master answered, but of course he couldn't trick the Doctor. "All right I fess up." He sighed, raising his hands in mock surrender. "It's not that stable. Oops, there goes the good impression that I wanted to give you. Well at least I had you in absolute awe for me for what? A good 10 minutes? Ha!" He slapped his hand flat on his knee and smiled smugly. "Still worth the effort!"
"This place is falling apart. Even the planet's atmosphere is disintegrating." The Doctor criticized worriedly.
"Oh keep your socks on. We're not in any real danger. We can pop back to earth within an instant. I can see to it. It is such a waste though." The Master muttered sadly, as he watched this fake world that represented so much of his beloved childhood vanish before his eyes.
The planet was stripped of the Master's creations, and turned from an Eden-like paradise to a lifeless wasteland. The Doctor found himself baking in the heat of the twin suns that scorched the red rock under his feet. Except for the two unforgiving stars, there was only black empty space above their heads.
"Master, listen to me carefully." The Doctor told him, realizing that this was his last chance to divert him from this catastrophic course. "I've met Omega, I've once fought against him to stop his return from the void. If that power you yield is obtained from his essence than you really shouldn't want it. It's like the drums Rassilon had implanted in your mind! It will corrupt you heart and it will destroy your soul!" The Doctor warned.
"Don't be ridiculous! I am in absolute control! If the transition would have been complete I would have already avenged myself by now!" The Master vented, sounding regretful. "I would have plucked Rassilon out of the time stream, giving him flesh and bone for me to torture. I would have given him a million regenerations just to grant me the satisfaction to kill him over and over again. Now I have to wait, and let history take it's course, but wait I shall, knowing that it makes the actual moment of retribution taste even more sweetly." He glared at the Doctor with eyes filled with steel resolve and rage. "When I find Rassilon, I I will take from him whatever life force he has left, and then I shall finish what I have started. I shall become a true God."
"Listen to yourself." The Doctor snapped, repulsed by his revelation. "You're insane! You've completely lost your mind!"
"Au contraire Doctor. I am more rational than I ever was in any of my previous incarnations. I know that you are afraid, but let me assure you, I bear you no ill will. Not against you, and not against the rest of the universe. All I desire, is some form of justice. Retribution on those who have wronged me so deeply and deserve nothing less than my brutality." There was savageness in his plea that came close to religious conviction. "But my rage shall not be against you...Stand by my side Doctor." He offered his hand to his oldest friend. "Together Rassilon won't stand a chance."
The Doctor shook his head, horrified to hear these disturbing echoes of Omega's will in his words. "And you, with your great rational mind is going to decide over who is just, and who is wicked?"
"Think about it Doctor. Think of what we can do!" He tried with an almost deranged sort of excitement. "Together our capacities are unlimited! You think that we've achieved so much in the past, think again. With my transformation complete, we could raise Gallifrey out of the ashes. We could bring the Timelords back, and usher our people, our civilization into a golden age of peace and prosperity. We could rewrite Timelord history, rid it of all wrongs, and exterminate all of our mortal enemies." He paused when he finally noticed the horrified look on the Doctor's face. "Well…isn't that what you want?" The Master tried, puzzled by his firm rejection. "Isn't that what we have both fought for?"
"I'm sorry…" The Doctor whispered. He was speaking to the man who was no longer there. The friend he now finally realized, had truly lost. "I thought I could still save you, but I was so wrong." He gazed up at the Master who had replaced his beloved companion.
"Who are you?" He asked him, embittered and shaking his head in grievous anger. "What kind of monster have you turned into? How can you believe in something so atrocious, that you alone have the right to decide who will live and who will die? You madman, no one has that right!" He told him, furious.
The Master did not seem be the least affected by the Doctor's tirade. "So I assume you reject my offer? You won't help me?"
"Help you? If anything, I am more convinced then ever that you should be stopped and locked away in a box somewhere at the end of the universe. At least then you won't be able to harm anyone!"
"Doctor, you better understand this clearly. If you're not with me, than you're against me." He stepped up to him with a deadly look in his piercing blue eyes. "Are you're sure that you really want to be an enemy of a God?"
"You're not a God yet." The Doctor told him, standing his ground.
"No…not yet." The Master blinked and gazed away. "So, that means it's back to the old ways then." He gave him a polite grin, then turned his back on the Doctor and started to walk away with his hands folded on his back. He didn't want him to sense his disillusionment. "Remember what we used to do Doctor?" he shouted back at him. "Before you came to free me from my prison? We used to play such exciting games."
The Doctor watched him go with weeping hearts, but otherwise remained silent.
"I bet you still know the rules."
The Master was now but a shape in the far distance, dissolving with the darkness like a shadow. Only his voice remained with the Doctor, echoing in the empty void that had been their shared vision of their lost home.
"Last one of us who stays alive wins."
Left alone, the emptiness surrounding the Doctor began to turn back into substance. The sights, sounds and smells of a warm city night slowly returned to his senses, till he once again found himself standing on the cable bridge, his long coat sweeping in the wind.
There was no sign of the Master except for an eerie echo of his last words that rang like an endless warning in the Doctor's mind.
TBC, meanwhile please review and comment.