Cake and the Rani by Primsong



Summary: In which the Master takes up baking, Three disapproves of his culinary planning and Ten loses his britches, with the Rani's help. No TARDISes were harmed in the making of this fic.
Rating: All Ages
Categories: Third Doctor
Characters: Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, Other Character(s), Other Character(s), Sergeant Benton, The Doctor (10th), The Doctor (3rd), The Master (Delgado), The TARDIS, The TARDIS, UNIT, UNIT
Genres: Action/Adventure, General, Humor, Series
Warnings: None
Challenges: None
Series: All Cake and No Clothes, Tales for Three
Published: 2009.08.22
Updated: 2009.08.22


Index

Chapter 1: Chapter 1
Chapter 2: Chapter 2
Chapter 3: Chapter 3
Chapter 4: Chapter 4
Chapter 5: Chapter 5
Chapter 6: Chapter 6
Chapter 7: Chapter 7
Chapter 8: Chapter 8


Chapter 1: Chapter 1

Author's Notes: This is a story that grew out of an exceedingly unlikely beginning, in which my dear and slightly deranged fellow fans at a forum called 'Death by Asprin' engendered a request for a story featuring Ten, naked and covered in cake, chained to Three with both of them captive by the Master. Now some of you may have had the vast enjoyment of reading JJPOR's resulting crackfic, "Let them Eat Cake" - and if you haven't I highly recommend it - this one isn't as cracky, but if you have any curiosity of how in the world such an ungainly scene could show up in a quasi-serious tale, and if you wanted there to be an explanation for how Ten could have ended up that way, you are invited to read on.

I've never written for Ten before, so I thank my beta, Evelyn, for her checking over the dialogue for me. It being me, fair warning that it's also nearly completely lacking in smut, lest anyone's expectations be disappointed.


1.

There was a shudder and a deep hum.

The Doctor, who had been only half-paying attention to his TARDIS' console sent the book he'd been perusing spinning off into a corner as he made a leap for it, slamming his hands down on a pair of glowing buttons. Nothing changed, in fact it worsened. The floor began to tilt, the hum deepened until it felt like his very bones were vibrating; he clenched his teeth and tried again.

"What's got you, old girl?" he gritted, turning knobs and pumping a lever up and down. "Come on, whatever it is you can pull out of it, come on…" His eyes went to one of the readouts and widened at what they saw. "But…that's not possible!"

--

"Ah, did we catch him at last?" the Rani purred, patting her TARDIS' console proudly. "Though I did think that random time jump around this miserable little planet would have netted him even sooner than this; easy as placing a trap in front of a mouse hole." She leaned forward to toggle on a switch and stepped back to consider the image she was rewarded with: a blue box, neatly held within a custom time-bubble all its own.

A smile curved over her lips as she sauntered through the doorway to see it herself. "Now I can finally get that filimental osmotifier back and get on with my work. The Master has gotten far too confident, hasn't he, thinking he can outwit me."

--

The Doctor was flying in a ballet around his console, pulling out all the stops he could think of to no avail. Sparks began to pop as his TARDIS strained to free itself.

"Oh, that's not good, not good," he said, slapping a lever back down to quell more popping. "I don't have too many of those left." He stopped, still breathing hard from his own efforts as the console sighed to a weary rest beside him. "Looks like we'll have to try another tack, won't we? …. And I'm being towed right along with her. Why?"

He flipped the scanner screen back on. There she was, real as real and just as he remembered her right down to that look on her face. He wasn't sure how it had happened, but it was very plainly the Rani. Standing in front of his TARDIS, which was apparently inside hers. He toggled on the audio.

"Hullo, Rani."

A slight frown creased her forehead. "Doctor. I knew it was you; I've been looking for you."

"Oh have you?" he said. "What a coincidence. A manufactured one, apparently, but a coincidence nonetheless."

"Let me see you."

He reflexively half-ducked behind his own console at the thought. "See me? Don't you think it's a little early in our relationship for that sort of thing? In fact, if you don't mind, I'll skip the kiss on the cheek and just call it a night."

"Oh Doctor, Doctor," she shook her head. "Always so suspicious of my intentions."

"And why shouldn't I be?" he said, lifting a panel on the console and peeking beneath it to see if there was any way to create a bypass for more power. "You've hardly given me much of a chance to better my first impressions."

"Are you alone?"

"There, see? That sort of question can get you into all sorts of trouble all by itself."

She gave an irritated sniff. "Well, it's certainly you. That'll have to do for now." She turned her back on the blue police box and marched back out of the room. The door slid shut behind her.

The Doctor frowned quizzically, waiting to see if she would come back, maybe with something to illustrate why in the world she'd gone to the tremendous effort of holding him this way. He wasn't sure exactly how it was being done just yet, but he could tell it was taking a tremendous amount of power to maintain a localized partial time-stasis like this.

"What possible use could I be to her?" he wondered out loud as he knelt to pull up a panel from the flooring. "Well, strike that. Actually I can think of a few dozen possibilities right off the top of my head but… no, can't say I care for most of them, as nice as it might be to have a bit of company I don't think we're talking tea." He fished around in a slot and pulled up a wad of cables. "Of course, she wasn't really that interested in me, was she? No, I think I may be only a tool…" He shook his head as he set about trying to jury-rig a way out of the trap. "Predictable."

---

The Rani smoothly operated the controls at her own console, allowing a small satisfied smile as rematerialization took place. Perfect timing, of course. She quickly set the frequency and fed power to a set of small wine-red crystals that would align her with yet another TARDIS' communications system.

There was a pause, then she spoke very deliberately. "I know you can hear me. And yes, I know where you are."

An irritated but cultured voice responded. "Why do you think it matters to me that you know where I am? Your timing is off, by the way. You're too late."

"No, I don't think so," she replied smoothly. "I'm right on time. You've had a chance to stir up the humans and you've played with your new toy long enough; those filaments have a limited capacity for use. I want that organism back before your childish world dominion attempts use it up."

"Ah, but that would be most impolite of you," the voice responded. "It's been most diverting and I've invented so many amusing new applications for it. In fact, I was just thinking how nice it will be when I have not only this little toy, as you so quaintly call it, but the rest of your collection as well."

"Impossible," she snapped. "You know you won't take me by surprise like that again. I know you're trying to trace my signal even now, but you won't find it."

"No?" The voice was confident and silky.

She ignored the implied insult, knowing he was bluffing; no one could accurately trace a temporally crystallized signal. "Besides, I've picked up a little toy that'll give you far more amusement. And I'm willing to trade."



Back to index


Chapter 2: Chapter 2

2.


The Doctor nudged his cloak back and carefully edged up to the corner of the alley, flattening himself against the bricks as he waited for an elderly couple to finish passing by with their small dog at the end of a leash. The dog glanced over at him curiously and wagged, but he was otherwise unnoticed. So far so good. The scent of fresh bread wafted out from the building as he slipped over to the side entrance and listened for any movement inside.

Hundreds now, he thought grimly, and that was only the confirmed cases. The catatonia left its victims after only a few days, but the foreign element in their brain-wave patterns remained. They'd finally traced it to an altered yeast by-product, and then to this one bakery, he just wished he could have found it sooner. Who knew how many more were still to fall victim?

Stealthily, he unlocked the side-door and checked for any alarm systems, visible or invisible. Finding none, he cautiously slipped inside.

--

The Doctor dropped the grating back into place and scrubbed at his temples with annoyance. No way to punch free from the inside; it looked like a venture out would have to be the way of it.

"Not that I really want to go touring the Rani's TARDIS," he grumbled, giving his own console a pat. "But it looks like an external power interruption might be the only way. Unless we want to just sit here and play tiddlywinks until she remembers we're here."

His let his long legs carry him to the door before he could change his mind. Taking a breath, he opened the door and peered around the edge of it. Seeing no one, he cautiously tested the glowing barrier, then crossed it. As he expected, it held his TARDIS but not himself.

"Now…" he muttered. "Which way?" For lack of any other direction, he decided it would be most prudent to simply not go the way the Rani had gone. He randomly chose one of the two remaining doorways, waving cheerfully as he entered just in case there was a hidden camera. It being the Rani, there probably was but whether she was watching just then was a matter of conjecture.

This particular set of corridors were a rich mahogany brown, the wood inlaid with occasional patterns resembling molecular structures. It was beautiful in a faintly disturbing way. He worked his way along, trying to identify the underlying conduits, listening at every doorway, curve or stairwell.

Working downward, he ventured into a new section, this one a soft golden tone with a wainscoting in subtle burgundy tapestry. No matter whatever else he might think about the Rani, she always did have an elegant taste in décor. It reminded him enough of a fancy hotel that he half-expected to find a maid's cart.

Instead he found an animal's skeleton.

The bones were white and fresh, and strapped to a small trolley as if they had still been in use by their owner not all that long ago. With a small shudder, he edged around it and after a brief look in the doorway to ascertain there weren't any yet-living creatures that might be in need of assistance, he moved on.

Footsteps, just ahead. Darting into the next room over, he was relieved to only find various bits of plants and racks of petri dishes. Quickly hunkering down behind one of the racks, he tried to shield his presence as he watched the doorway through the shelving.

The Rani quietly paused at the doorway; he could just see her. She stalked past, continuing down the hall.

The Doctor let out a breath and stood up, then inwardly cursed as his shoulder caught the edge of one of the petri dishes. It tumbled, with him fumbling after it as it spun, spraying its contents into the air. He caught it just before it hit the floor and quickly placed it back on the shelf, brushing at his jacket where bits of who-knew-what speckled him like powder. He waited a moment, but there being no symptoms of it being anything dangerous, he moved on.

The hall was vacant again. He worked his way over to the nearest stairway, an elaborate geometric spiral that resembled a DNA strand. After a brief hesitation, he softly headed upward. Something plinked to the steps. Surprised, he looked down to find it was an Argulian coin. Bending to pick it up, another coin clinked down beside his feet.

He looked up. There was nothing there, just the waiting doorway beckoning above. Frowning, he abandoned the coins and headed up the steps again. Plink. Clatter. He kept going.

Reaching the top, he paused, flattening himself against the wall while he surveyed the hallway. Tink tink, clunk. He looked down at the stairwell. The steps were sprinkled with coins of all types, paperclips, small bits of paper, a small round mirror, a tiny padlock, a pen, a broken electroscrutinizer.

Suddenly connecting the dots, he clamped a hand to his pocket. Sure enough, there was a hole! A hole in his pocket? This fabric wasn't easily torn… He fingered the edge of the hole and the fibers crumbled beneath his touch. Clunk, clunk, clunk... A yo-yo eluded his fingers and fell, bouncing to the steps.

He darted out of the stairwell and into the nearest room he could find. It was thankfully unoccupied. "What in the name of Rassilon…?" He bent to examine his pocket and heard a small ripping sound as his suit jacket tore across the back of his shoulders, his jacket elbows fell away in tiny bits.

Clunk. A torch fell from his other pocket, followed by an old dime store novel, some allen-wrenches, a toy car and an already-crumbling clip-on bow-tie. His cuffs were falling away in brittle bits. This wasn't good.

--

The Doctor scanned over the contents of the bakery's back pantry shelves. The little storeroom had yielded nothing unusual yet, but he neatly sliced the corners of flour, sugar and soda bags, shaking samples of each into tiny plastic bags for later testing, just in case any of them contained any type of catalyst. Pocketing these, he brushed off his velvet cuffs and moved on to the dim, unattended kitchens themselves. The countertops and floors were a mess, half-used tubes of frostings, assorted cakes and masses of rising sweet bread-dough sat on every flat surface. Where were the workers?

The kitchen was quiet. He moved to a large set of louvered folding doors that presumably would contain yet more supplies and after listening briefly, frowned. Yanking them open revealed what he had feared it would. He'd found the workers.

Two women and a man lay in a heap on the floor, covered in flour. They appeared half-starved and dehydrated, but they were breathing. Kneeling, he briefly checked their pulses and laid a hand on each head. "Just like the others," he murmured. "Susceptible to even the slightest hypnotic suggestion once they came out of it. Well, we can fix that for now."

He snapped his fingers. "Awake," he commanded them shortly. "Go out the back way, then to your homes." Their eyes popped open and they weakly began staggering to their feet. "You will not harm anyone. You will go home, eat and drink, then sleep in your own beds until you are rested. Do not come back to the bakery. You are to forget any prior instructions, these supercede them. When an antidote is announced, you will partake of it."

"Yes, Master," mumbled one of the women as the three of them began walking for the door.

The Doctor frowned after her. "I can't tell you how much I was hoping you wouldn't say that," he said. "But it figures."



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Chapter 3: Chapter 3

3.

The Doctor tried to gather up all of the fuzz-and-crumble covered whatnot that had come from his now non-existent pockets, scooping the best of it together into a bin he'd rather unceremoniously emptied out on the floor. Every movement sent new showers of flaking material drifting to the floor.

Apparently, he noted, that petri-dish powder's microbes consumed cloth fibers. Thankfully, it didn't seem to be doing anything to his skin so it wasn't whatever had eaten that unfortunate animal down to the bones - still, the lack of propriety could potentially get awkward in mixed company.

He pulled open drawers looking for something, anything, that he could use to cover himself. "What is this, the Rani's 'clear plastics only' room?"

Carrying his bin with him, he ducked into an adjoining room where he faced a small hygienic decontamination chamber. He gratefully snatched what turned out to be a somewhat short silk kimono and shrugged it on. Checking the length, he shrugged it back off and wrapped it around his middle instead. Bits of fuzz from what had formerly been his suit were getting everywhere.

"What are you doing?"

He froze in the middle of knotting the sleeves together and looked up to find the Rani standing in the doorway with carefully contained amusement dancing behind her eyes, and an energy gun in her hand. She tilted her head, measuring him up.

"I, um… hullo, Rani. You look lovely. Nice robe you have here. Perfect fit. Regulan silk, isn't it? Ooh, I say, where did you pick up a quality weapon like that?"

She didn't respond to his banter. "You've been into one of my culturing rooms, I see," she said dryly. "And you've regenerated again, haven't you? No, I don't want to know about it," she continued, holding up a hand to stop whatever his response would have been. "As long as it's still you, I don't really care what you look like."

"Thank you… I think. Now look, if…"

"I'll do the talking. You always did have too much to say. I'm just engaging in a little business deal so you don't need to flatter yourself that any of this is personal."

"I see."

"You will. You have fifteen seconds to put your arms behind your back, wrists together, and we'll do this with dignity, or I'll stun you and chain your neck to your ankles after you're out. Which shall it be?"

The Doctor took a breath and then gave her a smile. "You always were the persuasive one." He turned, allowing her to snap cuffs onto his wrists. "Out of curiosity, how did you find me?"

"You left a trail," she smirked.

He looked down at what was left of his trousers as they continued to flake off onto the floor. "Ah."


---

The Doctor moved into the front of the bakery, keeping low to avoid being seen from the front windows. Rows of buns, small cakes and sweet-drizzled breads sat on metal trays instead of in their display case, woven baskets that normally displayed fresh baguettes stood empty. Boxes were scattered about in various stages of being packaged up for shipment. He briefly scanned over some of the labels; yes, the Master was plainly readying to spread this altered product over a much wider area. No surprises there.

He was about to move back to the kitchens when he noticed what looked like a plant-light at one end of the shop, the bluish glow lighting what appeared to be a plastic cube with something inside it.

Humming curiously went to it, examining the cube. It had something inside it that looked very much like a form of fibrous reindeer moss. A black apparatus lay beside it with a slot that was evidently meant to cradle it. "Recharging an organic catalyst?" he wondered. "This doesn't look like the Master's work. I wonder where he got it?"

He gave the apparatus a quick prod, then reaching into his pocket, pulled out a small tool with which he shortly managed to pop out a slender tube from the side of it. Stuffing the tube in his pocket, he inserted a ball-point pen in its place and closed it back up. "Well, that will help for the moment…" Replacing it, he suddenly froze, listening, then crept back around to where he could see the kitchen area.

The Master came out of the large double-level oven that stood to one side and marched straight for the little cube where it lay beneath its light. The Doctor slowly lowered himself behind a stack of boxes and watched through a crack as his adversary plucked up the little cube and inserted it into the apparatus creating something rather like a fishtank-pump-meets-terrarium-meets-gun. Chuckling to himself, he went back into the kitchen and aimed it at a large metal tub of dough in the process of rising, then frowned. Twiddling the cube around, he aimed it at the tub and tried again, then chuckled softly.

"Used up already, is it? Well, no need to tell her that, is there? Not until after this game is done. Ah," he said, lifting his head like a hound that scents its prey. "He's nearby, I can tell. Oh he'll regret the day he went to her to try to hound me. I think I'm really getting the better prize out of this deal, ah yes." He tossed the apparatus in his hands cheerfully and went back into the large double-oven. There was a grinding sound and it faded away.

The Doctor slowly stood, considering this thoughtfully. "Now that was interesting. I wonder who 'she' is?" he wondered aloud. "And what's the prize?"

--

"A deal is a deal."

The Master frowned down at the limp, chained man at his feet. He knew it was the Doctor, but he'd never seen him in this form. The brown hair, for instance, was a bit of a surprise. "Even aside from his being taken from his proper timestream and doubled up to mine, how do I know you haven't already ruined him in some way?"

"Oh come now," the Rani said with impatience.

"Why did you stun him then, if it wasn't to hide something?"

"Because this regeneration of his won't quit talking, as you'll find out soon enough."

"Well, I have to admit that's all too likely. He never was good at holding his tongue, was he? Even with that accounted for, it doesn't explain why you apparently confiscated his clothing."

The Rani put one hand to her hip and held the other out, palm up. "I did my part. I never promised you a particular regeneration, or a particularly well-dressed one. Hand it over."

The Master hesitated. The Rani's eyes narrowed. The Master apparently made a decision and shifted his own stance to bow elegantly, handing the apparatus with its nestled cube into her hands. "But of course. Just as promised."

She snorted and turned back to her own TARDIS, pulling out the cube and holding it up to the light as she did so.

The Master snapped his fingers at the hover sling that held his unconscious and oddly attired prize. It hummed and followed his heels as he stalked back into his own TARDIS. As the doors closed behind him, he heard the sound of the Rani's departure as well and smiled to think he had fooled her with the usability of that weapon.

He reached for his console, glancing down at his new acquisition thoughtfully. "So Doctor, how far ahead in your timestream were you? I do wonder how your already being where I am will affect your sanity, given time?" The Master was unsure if his own would not withstand a similar event.

There was of course, no response. He raised an eyebrow. "Shall we find out?"

Back to index


Chapter 4: Chapter 4

4.

The Doctor barely had time to consider whether to stay or to leave and gather more resources first when the decision was made for him by the Master's TARDIS rematerializing in the kitchen again, complete with double-oven appearance. He quickly backed, sidling around the front of the store to where he had a view of the kitchen without having the Master between himself and a route of escape if necessary. One never knew what the Master might emerge with when he came out of his TARDIS and it was better to be prepared.

His adversary didn't come out immediately. After several minutes had passed, the Doctor was just beginning to ponder leaving again when the door abruptly opened.

"Where are you going?" a man's voice asked from inside the doors. "Up to no good, I'd warrant?"

"I've a little food distribution to see to," the Master replied with a restrained cheerfulness that made the watching Doctor instantly suspicious. "You do me so little honour, and here I've been generously feeding the poor. Ah!" He rubbed his hands together. "Just the last of a little game I've been playing with toys, or so I've been told." He added a dramatic sigh. "Everyone is forever underestimating me."

Walking over to the louvered pantry doors, he snapped his fingers. "Bakers! Up! Your Master has returned."

There was no answering movement. His brow furrowed and he reached out to tug one of the door-panels open, then stopped, considering the empty space where his hypnotised workers had lain. Slowly backing up, he studied the shuffle of footprints on the flour-spattered floor and smiled.

"Having a problem?" the voice inside the oven asked.

"A problem? Oh no, no. Quite the opposite, I think. A golden opportunity is more like it."

"Probably not so golden for whomever is at the other end of it," the voice continued, "If you're anything like I remember. I say, we're on Earth aren't we?"

The Master looked annoyed. "She was right about your talking too much," he said. "I hardly require your commentary, as you'll have no choice in the matter."

"Maybe, maybe not," the voice prattled on. "Though I must admit you seem to have the upper hand at the moment…"

"Quiet!" the Master snapped. He made a gesture and the oven doors swung shut.

"Oh, that's good!" the voice continued as it was muffled inside. "Very good. Just run away…"

The bakery was silent. The Master stood still a moment, as if listening.

"You may as well come out, Doctor. I know you're there," he purred in a satisfied voice.

The subject of his invitation didn't move.

The Master clasped his hands behind his back, still looking well-pleased with himself. "Very well. Perhaps you'd be interested in knowing I've picked up a… what shall we call him? A guest? Or perhaps you might prefer the term 'hostage'? I think he's someone you know quite well."

The Doctor became concerned. Had the Master taken one of UNIT's men? A highly-placed individual leader? He hadn't recognized the voice he'd heard, though at the same time it had struck a strangely familiar chord in his mind, not quite like something forgotten…

"I'm quite willing to introduce a bit of persuasive discomfort to him, if you insist on being stubborn about this," the Master continued. "It wouldn't bother me at all." He pulled a small weapon from his pocket and turned back towards his TARDIS.

If he hadn't heard the man himself he would think he was bluffing, but under the circumstances…well, it was all too likely the Master wouldn't be bothered. The Doctor didn't want some innocent's distress on his head.

"Very well," the Doctor said with annoyance. He kept his head up, stepping out into the open with confidence, as if he had been intending to do so anyway. "I see you've decided to become a bit of an entrepreneur. Never thought I'd see the day you'd be running a bake shop of all things, and with such interesting products."

The Master smiled at him smugly. "I try my best to please my customers."

"Yes, I've noticed that. One bite and they'll follow you anywhere, is that the idea?"

"You just don't realize what you're missing. I have an idea. Why don't we have a bit of tea and cake and talk this over like civilized beings?

"No, thank you." He leaned back against one of the tables and crossed his arms. "You know, thanks to you the men I work with haven't had any biscuits or cakes for some time. They're getting rather weary of crisps."

"Ah, crisps - what an idea, thank you; you always were bright. I'll have to remember to find a way to utilize the potato crops next."

"I suppose if anyone could give a new meaning to 'potato blight' it would be you. But neither of us are here for pleasantries; I know what you're up to, and you know I know it. Are you thinking to trade that hostage of yours for free passage to continue? And who is he?" he demanded.

"Now there's the problem," the Master said. "I have so many ideas on what to do with that hostage I can't quite decide which to do first. I'm sure you'll understand, being a shining light of brilliance in your own way."

"Oh am I?" the Doctor said dryly. "You're hardly one to be handing out insipid flattery without purpose. And you haven't answered my question. I'm not inclined to play your game at all if you won't define the stakes." He shifted his stance.

The Master knew what that stance could mean. "How about we start off with a taste, just a small sample of what I have in mind?" He pulled the compact weapon from his jacket pocket and smiled as he flipped it on, obviously pleased with himself. Turning slightly, he waved a hand and the oven doors obediently began to swing open.

"A positronic psychic stun-rod?" the Doctor observed, raising his brows. "Surely a bit of overkill, old chap? Humans don't need that type of power to…"

"Oooh, that's not…right," said the same man's voice he'd heard before. Frowning, the Doctor peered past his adversary into the open doors and found a lean, spiky-haired young man kneeling just a little back from the doors, his arms bound behind him. He appeared whole, though nearly naked, and was staring not at the Master but at the Doctor himself with something akin to dismay followed by a flicker of anger. "Overstepping yourself a bit, are you?"

"What?" the Doctor said, completely baffled. He had no recollection of ever meeting this man, yet there remained a indefinable familiarity with him. A very strong resonance, as if he were facing long-lost family. No, he had never cared much for his family; this was stronger.

"I meant him," the man supplied shortly. "Trying to get a two-fer, are you? Double your money's worth? And you expect me to cooperate?"

"Oh, you'll cooperate," the Master responded smoothly. "Now quiet!" He turned away from the man to face the Doctor he was more familiar with. "Know him?"

The Doctor was wary. "Should I?"

"Yes, why should he? And why should I be quiet?" the man was asking. "You always were too dismissive of others, you know that? Don't you think I should have some say in this ridiculously over-the-top scheming to…"

The Master whirled back and raised the rod towards him. The man raised his brows along with it, but closed his mouth.

"Come now," the velvet-coated Doctor was saying firmly, stepping forward as if he would circumvent him. "No need to threaten. It sounds to me like the chap has something to say; I'd like to hear it." Beyond the Master, he could see the kneeling man had a coiled length of chain about his ankle keeping him inside… and that his eyebrows were moving very significantly.

The Doctor blinked as he caught the message being sent. The Master was turning back to him, rod still in hand, his other hand starting to gesture towards the doors again as his mouth opened to say something.

"Hai!" He jumped forward, ducking to the side in a fluid movement intending to come up beside him to flip him and remove his weapon. At least that was the plan.

The man in the TARDIS suddenly lunged forward as the Doctor and Master were borne back towards him, leaping to the farthest extent of his chain, he head-butted the Master in the back. The Master's hands flailed, ricocheting between the two of them. There was a tremendous bang as they slammed into a metal rack full of cakes, splattering all of them with the multicoloured contents. In the confusion, there was a zzzzt.

"Oh no," the Doctor groaned, seeing his younger self collapse to the floury, cake-bespattered tiles in a heap of velvet, his white hair covered in white icing. "No, no, that's not what I…" Overbalanced, he fell to one side, his chained leg stretched out behind him, mangled cakes flattening beneath him.

The Master was climbing back to his feet from out of the mess, just beyond his reach. He scraped off a generous wad of cake and shook it to the side with a splat, then gave a little chuckle. "Not what I was planning, but it will certainly suffice. Ah, Doctor, tsk tsk." He looked from the sprawled velvet form to the ill-clad one now covered in icings and cake. "So, would you like to help me make him - or should I say you - more comfortable, or do I need to use this lovely little tool again?" He waved the psychic stun-rod. "I think you'll find both of yourselves in better shape if you cooperate."

The Doctor sighed. "When did this get declared Cooperation with Evil Lunatics Day? I don't remember reading this on the tin." Seeing the Master's expression hardening he squelched and staggered his way back to his feet inside the TARDIS doorway. "All right, all right…I can cooperate along with the best of 'em, bring it on."


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Chapter 5: Chapter 5

5.


The Doctor shifted, resurfacing from the unconsciousness the psychic blast had delivered to his synapses. His senses were coming back into focus and something was in his hair. He tried to lift a hand to brush it away but found his hands wouldn't move. His eyes flew open.

He was in the Master's TARDIS. Someone was behind him where he lay on the floor, their wrists bound along with his. They were humming part of an aria from Carmen.

"You're awake," the person behind him said. The young man, the one he was still somewhat in denial about acknowledging to be who he knew him to be.

"Let's hear'La donna è mobile' next," he said.

"Nah. Rigoletto had nothing on the Master. Besides, he hasn't a daughter."

"Speaking of which, why isn't he gloating over us?"

"He went off to clean up. I don't know if you remember, but we all had a bit of a roll in the cakes. That velvet jacket you're wearing is probably ruined. The Master got a great purple birthday greeting on his chest in reverse."

There was a pause. "Seeing as you were here first, care to fill me in?"

There was another pause. "I can't tell you how sorry I am. I'm so, so sorry he pulled you in on this. I should've guessed it when I saw which regeneration he was in himself. At the same time, it's like old home week, you know? How're the chaps at UNIT?" The reply was evasive.

He couldn't tell if he was frustrated or relieved at the lack of direct contact with his mind. "Do I want to know exactly which regeneration you are?"

"Tenth body," the younger-appearing man supplied. "Been a while. So if I fill you in, it'll only be selected bits relating to this situation of course."

"I'd prefer it."

"Yes, you would. I'll make up for it; I'll throw in a few tips about cleaning crushed velvet for free."

"Will it explain why you're so lacking in appropriate attire?"

"What, do you think I go around in nothing but the Rani's kimono all the time?"

"The Rani?"

"Contact."

---

"Hello, Doctors," the Master's suave voice greeted them. "I assume you've enjoyed this little interlude and are getting nicely acquainted with yourselves."

They both craned around briefly to see him.

"Much better," the spike-haired chatty one decided. "Very much in the persona, so to speak. Do you keep an entire closet of those jackets?"

"You never were too creative when it came to fashion," the velvet one added. "More's the pity. But the gloves help."

Ignoring their commentary on his appearance, the Master gave a brief, confirming tug on the chain that still held the naked one's ankle then tapped something in his hand. They glanced up, expecting his psychic-rod again but this time it was something more familiar.

"That's my sonic screwdriver," both of them protested.

"Or rather, it's my…yours…the earlier one," the brown-haired one corrected, fumbling.

"Didn't your mother ever teach you not to steal?" the velvet one asked, almost more offended at the thought of his pockets having been rummaged.

"I'm merely using it as a small example of collateral," the Master smiled. "Your Brigadier knows you wouldn't easily be persuaded to give this up. It will be most useful to prove my case."

"That being?"

"That if he doesn't withdraw his men immediately and stop all interference, they'll never see their precious scientific advisor again." He pronounced the title with distaste.

"What, are you jealous?" the chatty one inquired. "I think it's really that you want them to call you the grand pooh-bah of science on this planet. Am I right? Jolly fun getting to see you being all evil again, by the way."

"Pooh-bah?" asked the velvet one.

The Master's gave him an odd look then looked down at the velvet one. "Regenerative stability deterioration?" he surmised.

"No, he's apparently just enjoying his stay. I, however, wouldn't mind the use of my limbs."

"Ah. Now, if you'll excuse me…" Their captor stalked over to the doors then glanced back. "The doors won't open for you, by the way, my TARDIS won't permit it. Just in case you allow any ideas to germinate in those heads of yours." He exited, and it closed up behind him.

"Germinate?" the brown-haired one echoed. "Did he really say germinate?"

"He did. And I think it rather prudent that we use this time to find a way out of the greenhouse, as no doubt he'll come up with something rather more secure for us before long. You know, old chap, I'm afraid I missed the bit where I ended up this way. Any idea what type of lock is holding our wrists?"

"It looked sonic to me. He's still using the one that he got from the Rani, so it can't be voice-patterned. Possibly a wave frequency pattern."

"A frequency, hm."

"Believe me, I've tried sustained notes in all the ranges possible with vocal cords, and then some. We'll need something else to generate it. I can't tell you what I'd give to have my TARDIS…our TARDIS, I mean. We'd get this off in a trice."

"She's back with the Rani, correct?" The velvet one felt the man behind him sag a moment. "And mine is back at UNIT. So that's out. How's that ankle-chain of yours attached?"

"I don't know. Events have been moving rather rapidly. Here," he grunted, trying to readjust so he could see it, then gave a little bark of laughter. "I recognize that model. I used to have an entire box of them, somewhere. Come to think of it, so did he. Simple vocal imprint. If I recall, your regeneration was one of the best at voices. Think you can you sound like this version of the Master?"

"Goodness, he was in a hurry, wasn't he? I can give it a try," grinned the white-haired dandy. "But what would he say to set a box full of locks on short notice? Oh never mind. I know what he would say." He paused, cleared his throat and intoned in a voice that made the other Doctor grin in self-admiration:

"I am the Master. Open."

Click.

"I don't believe it." the elder one said, shaking the cuff from his ankle, sending small chunks of drying cake across the flooring. "Can you believe it? I don't."

"Not really. But then I never did understand his stunning level of narcissim. All right, up we go then," the velvet one said. The two of them struggled to lever themselves upright, back to back.

"Whoops."

"What is it?"

"My er…loincloth is slipping."

The younger Doctor chuckled. "Well, at least we haven't too much of an audience. Though I would suggest you…oof… borrow my cape if we meet up with the Brigadier. All right, let's get over to that console."

---

Back to back they shuffle-hopped over, moving with caution in case of proximity alarms. Standing sideways, they both scanned over the visible readouts and control settings.

"A neubulizing oscilloscoptic spatial teg!" the dandy admired. "Very nice. I had to cobble mine up from bits."

"I remember that now," the other said. "Has it blown up yet?"

"No."

"Ah. Sorry."

"On my side, there." The two of them shuffled over to the array of knobs they wanted and stared at them where they gleamed, so close and so far away. "Any ideas?"

"Teeth?"

There was a hum and a faint crackle. A voice suddenly came through the console's speaker, and it wasn't the Master's.

"Master! Yes, it's me. Did you expect otherwise? Did you really think your childish deception wouldn't come back to bite? I assure you I don't find this amusing."

"The Rani!" the brown-haired Doctor whispered as the two of them flinched away from the vidcam. They could just see a tiny image of the Time Lady in question. She was waving a ball-point pen in her hand.

"I fully expect the missing piece to be replaced, in working condition, mind you, within the hour. I'll give you one chance to explain yourself. Then I assure that you'll be facing severe consequences. And don't think I'm bluffing. Out."

The tiny image disappeared, replaced by a blinking dot.

The older, chatty Doctor was grinning. "Think we should tell him he has a message?"

The other was thinking. "She'll be in touch, will she? And that's where your TARDIS is."

The grin vanished, instantly replaced with an intensity that focused on that blinking dot. "Of course. Bend with me. This way!"

"What are…" The dandy bent almost backwards, allowing his elder self to lean over the console, craning his long neck out to a set of tiny sliders beside the blinking vidcom screen.

"Ephh, affph. Bend to the left. I can…almost… almost….phht phht, God what a taste, doesn't he ever clean this console? Mmlhh. There, look, it's traceable!"

"What?" Bits of white icing skittered around the knobs as his other self turned his head, trying to see.

"The message she sent - oi, she must have been in quite a temper. She's left off the crystal cyphering."

"Well, that's a welcome break. Can you get a fix on it?"

"Mmmpluh. There."

"But how to get there?" he pondered. "This TARDIS won't respond to anyone but the Master."

"One thing at a time. Let's see if we can get this cuff-chain opened, shall we? Back that way again." They shuffled together around the circle and contemplated the array of knobs once more. "Can't do this one with teeth."

"Yes, some digits would be useful, wouldn't they?" the velvet one said.

"Digits!"

"What?"

"Digits! Toes! Here, lift me up!"

"Turning, the dandy allowed his elder to brace against his back, giving him a small flip upward then balancing. There was a fumbling behind him and he bent further, bracing his legs as he took the full weight of his companion on his back. He edged back towards the console, nearly tripping over a cake-crusted kimono.

"Got it!' the Doctor on his back was saying. He was running his toes over the knobs, turning and adjusting as he went.

"Nice to see I've found a way to put unexpected nakedness to good use," smiled the younger one.

A high tone vibrated through the room, then a lower one. The tone raised again, this time ululating rapidly beyond hearing.

There was a pop. "Fabulous!" the older one proclaimed, rolling from his younger self's velvet back. He held up his newly freed hands. "I'm much too clever for myself sometimes."

The dandy was returning his grin. Shaking out his arms, he quickly shrugged out of his cloak and whipped it around his other self, even as he was stooping to snatch up the kimono.

"Now," he said, clutching the cape around him as they both turned back to the console. "Time to find the Rani."

"What good would it do without a TARDIS? Are you thinking to lure her here? I doubt the Brigadier would appreciate having both of them to deal with at once, but how else…"

The brown-haired one held up a finger for quiet and grew very thoughtful. "It's the Master's TARDIS, true, but isn't there a reset on the imprint?"

"Only if its Time Lord is dead. Not much use there, is it?"

"I think I can do this."

"Do what? You can't convince it he's dead, at that level of psychic circuitry only the truth will matter. Deception is impossible."

"In my time, he is," the other said grimly.

The white-haired one grew quiet at this, shying away from any details. "Well, go on then," he finally murmured.

Back to index


Chapter 6: Chapter 6

6.


The Doctor's eyes were closed, his face drawn in tense lines as he held the node from the psychic circuitry to his temple. The other Doctor watched with concern, both for his future self's safety and for the return of the Master.

"Dead," muttered the younger-looking man, his chin dropping to his chest as he bowed forward. "I saw him die." He slowly bent forward, his thin shoulders bowing beneath the cape as if under a weight.

The lights, not overly bright to begin with, fluctuated, then dimmed.

The Doctor straightened up, still holding the circuit. He opened eyes, dark with emotion, and reached for the other circuit that lay waiting.

"Mine," he whispered. "For now."

The lights flickered slightly, then suddenly came up brightly. The console hummed and he ran his hands briefly over the controls. Setting down the circuits he ran a hand over his already unruly dark hair, then looked back at the concerned face of his younger self. He flashed him a brief, reassuring smile. "We're on our way."

They watched the console moving. "Of course the irony of being the master of the Master's TARDIS, however temporarily, knows no bounds," he added after a moment.

His companion was flicking sticky crumbs from his velvet jacket. He took a breath. "I'll have to agree with you there, old chap." He glanced up intently as the unfamiliar TARDIS smoothly rematerialized, then reached out a hand to flick at the scanner.

They both looked over at the resulting image. There she was, his own TARDIS, still waiting within the bubble of time-stasis, that unexpected net the Rani had so neatly trapped him in. Both of them paused just to admire it for a moment, sharing a look of pride and affection that only they could truly understand between themselves.

The dandy sighed and rubbed at his forehead. "I can feel the additional tension in the timestreams even from here. We better make the most of what we have."

His other self was already smacking the door control. "Right-o. I'm off!"

Leaving himself to guard their ill-gotten transportation, the Doctor pelted down the corridor, the borrowed cape swirling out behind him. It was actually a lovely feeling and he remembered now why he had enjoyed wearing one in the first place. Retracing his steps as rapidly as he could he finally skidded to a halt by a small room. There! The bin that held the contents of his former pockets! It was right where he'd last seen it, near the decontamination chamber. He did a rapid pawing through the bin's contents, relieved that everything seemed to still be there, even his sonic screwdriver.

"Of course, it's only been here a few minutes, in this time…she's still busy with me." he muttered to himself. He wished he had time to pop through that chamber and be rid of the sticky cake remains that were still bothering him. Shaking his head, he stuffed the bin under his arm and sprinted back down the corridors.

"We don't have long," he panted as he came back. The other Doctor was still there, watching over the two TARDISes and the surrounding corridors warily. "I'd almost reached the junction for the power last time, it's just down that way. Right below the second juxtational cable set."

His younger self nodded. "I can take care of it, you get to the TARDIS and wait for the power interrupt." He started to turn away.

"No, wait! This one'll snap back to the Master as soon as I'm gone. If I so much as set foot in my own first…"

The other paused, and rubbed at his chin. "You'll be taken out of its sphere and hence would no longer be in control of it. I understand. Hm."

"Here, take my key." He rummaged in his bin, pulling out a silver snuff box. Popping it open, he shook a key into his hand. He looked up at the other Doctor apologetically. "Didn't have any shoes," he explained. "You're me, so it'll work. You take her, then wait for me."

"Then you wait while I get back to the Master's TARDIS."

"Why take that rattletrap back? I can take you."

"The sooner we're apart the better, and I'm not sure I really want to spend too much time in the old girl, seeing as we're already pushing the limits by our proximity."

The spiky hair nodded, understanding. "But once it snaps back, it'll be in his control again. The doors won't open."

"Oh yes they will. Have you forgotten the manual power override? It appears that design hasn't changed at all from one model to another. All we have to do is have you hard-schedule a power shift before you go."

"I'm such a genius."

"I know."

Back to index


Chapter 7: Chapter 7

7.

The Doctor stood before the battered TARDIS, the familiar-yet-unfamiliar key in his hand. To have her here before him, alive and fully functioning made his hearts lift and beat faster than they had in some time.

He patted the doorframe. "At least it's a comfort to know I do eventually get it going again," he said wistfully, then turned his attention back to where his other self was vanishing down the nearby corridor. He waited as long as he could bear it, then inserted the key. The door swung open at his almost hesitant touch. He stepped forward, his other self's bin tucked under his arm, and then stopped.

"Good…heavens. What the blazes has he done to her?"

Retracing his steps at breakneck pace once again, the Doctor leapt down a stairwell turned left and sprinted. He shot past the trolley with its unfortunate skeletal occupant and half-skidded around a corner to finally stop before a piece of innocently rounded wall with a gilt-framed painting of a tyrannosaur sunning itself on a rock. Running his hands over it briefly he grinned and poked the tyrannosaur in the eye. The picture vanished, replaced with a small rectangular panel that opened easily. Considering the assortment of fat cables the branched out from the box before him he grabbed onto one and gave it a firm twist. It didn't move. Grimacing, he braced his bare feet on the wall and set his shoulders into it, twisting and pulling with determination until, creaking in protest, it suddenly gave way.

Normally he would have waited around a bit to enjoy the satisfying display of multicoloured sparking he had produced, but not this time. By the time the cable had finished swinging against the wall, he was already out of sight again.

Back in the waiting blue police box, his younger self stood, monitoring the power levels. Seeing it shimmer in fluctuation he quickly stabbed buttons on the battered console, lights shining across his white hair as the console responded to leap to its previous time and place. The Rani's net dissolved about them and they moved.

Ducking his head he deliberately tried to not see what that previous time and place were. He didn't know how far ahead this later incarnation of himself had come from, and he didn't want to know. The less he knew the better. "I might already be having nightmares about her console room being in this state," he muttered. Ruffled cuffs danced over the settings, turning her back to pick up her more temporally-appropriate pilot, trusting in its homing desire to ensure the directions would take.

Staggering out of the corridor doorway, the Doctor's face lit up in a huge grin at the sight of his TARDIS rematerializing back into room again, right on time. The door opened and the velvet version of himself looked out with relief. As he approached he had to grin again: the other Doctor was holding out a new suit of clothing for him, fetched from his own wardrobe.

He took the folded suit gratefully. "Never thought I'd be so glad to see that."

"Well, I would like my cloak back and it hardly seemed gentlemanly to send myself out in nothing but that kimono," the other observed as they rapidly paced back to where the Master's TARDIS waited.

Incredibly grateful that he had his sonic screwdriver back, he step-hopped into his trousers as he went and kneeling by the Master's console, popped a panel to hard-set a scheduled power-shift. Behind him, the other Doctor was pitching their discarded cuffs and chains into a disposal chute. "Better safe than sorry," he noted. "Might as well spare some other innocent creature their use."

A quick laser-soldering did the trick. Waving the puff of smoke away with a little cough, he clambered back up and began shrugging into his shirt and jacket as his younger incarnation gave the discarded cape a few sharp shakes to remove the last bits of cake before slinging it around his own shoulders again.

They only had moments before the Rani realized something wasn't right. He took a couple steps toward the door and stopped to look back. Well," he said, taking a breath. "I suppose this is good-bye." He held out a hand.

The dandy smiled at him and returned the gesture in a good firm shake. "Yes, I suppose it is. It was simply capital to meet you, very encouraging to know I'll be traveling again someday."

"Yes, well, it's an adventure I'll grant you that," hedged the other. "And yes, it really was fantastic to see you, I must admit. But enough self-admiration…"

The dandy shooed him towards the door. "Yes, yes. Go on, and quickly."

He nodded and headed out the door. "Give my best to the Brigadier!" he called back over his shoulder. He stepped out, running for his beloved blue box where she stood waiting for him, and was gone.

The change inside the remaining TARDIS was instantaneous. Around him the Doctor could feel the tension returning, the lighting changing, the door sweeping firmly shut to keep him in. The Master's TARDIS was wakened from its dream, so to speak and it sought for its Time Lord. The Doctor carefully braced himself against one of the walls; it was likely to be a rough ride back.

---

The ride was rough. He winced as the usual protocols for passenger comfort were ignored, the disorienting, disturbing stretching and swirling of the vortex running past his vision like strings of glutinous gossamer, the machine vibrated and whined around him as he grit his teeth, bracing against the roundels nearest the doorway.

It rematerialized. At least it had been brief.

He looked around the room, waiting. Sure enough, the power surged and waned in warning that it was going to shift into a scheduled low maintenance mode. Everything began to power down until only the dimmest lights were still glowing, the usual small sounds receding into silence. He grabbed up the crank handle that he'd already pried from its place in the wall and inserted it into the slot, rapidly turning it to crank the doors open. Stuffing the handle back into its place in the wall - why not confound the Master just a little more if he could? - he squeezed through the narrow opening.

There was a hum as the power came back up. The doors swung shut behind him, so quickly he barely managed to pull his cape out of the way.

Moving around the empty bakery, he slipped out the front door, letting it softly close behind him. It didn't take much effort to locate UNIT: they were moving men in at both ends of the long brick alley, their attention being on the side-door where the Master was just re-entering.

The Doctor waited a moment to be sure the Master hadn't seen him, then headed for the Brigadier.

"There he is!" Sergeant, Benton hailed cheerfully as he came up to them. "See, I told you the Master was bluffing."

"Perhaps," the Brigadier said non-committally. He turned toward their approaching advisor. "Obviously that black-coated bounder was at the heart of it, just as you suspected," he called out. "What do you suggest we do? He tried to claim he was holding you, by the way."

"He was. In fact, I don't think he's going to be too pleased to find I'm not where he left me," the Doctor said with a twinkle. "And as to what to do, for the moment, stay put. I can handle this." He glanced down the alleyway and brushed at the mess clotting his jacket self-consciously; it had been easier when he was the only one seeing himself.

Benton smiled at the gesture. "What happened to you, Doc? You look like you've been attacked by a bake-sale."

"Something like that."

"What about that bread?" demanded the Brigadier.

"The what? Oh, yes." He'd almost forgotten his original reason for going in. "The device he was causing the yeast mutation with is gone, all we have to do it block the distribution. I'll fine-tune that antidote as soon as we finish up here."

"What about the Master?"

"I expect he'll be on his way once he realizes this game is ended." He suddenly frowned and turned, heading back to the building.

"Wait, Doctor - where are you going?"

He glanced back at them. "Well, I have to catch him before he leaves, don't I?" he said reasonably. "That devil still has my screwdriver!"

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Chapter 8: Chapter 8

Author's Notes: A tip of the hat to JJPOR, from whom I borrowed an imprecation - it just seemed to fit.


8.

The Master came back into the bakery and kicked aside a box of the mutated yeast-cakes. It was obvious there wasn't much to be done on this front, seeing as the men he'd confronted had seemed all too confident there was an antidote for it. The Doctor's doing, no doubt. Still, what was one half-finished attempt at dominion when he would easily prevail the next time? After all, next time his adversary wouldn't be available to help those puny humans with their pathetically simplistic grasp of science.

He already had him captive, after all. Two of him, in fact. The very idea made him swell with pride. He truly was the Master, and he would make the Doctor bow to that fact, once and for all.

He was pacing back towards the apparent double-ovens, cracking his knuckles in anticipation of the repartee he would shortly enjoy, when a grinding sound made him pause. A new walk-in freezer faded into view on the other side of the room.

The Rani stepped out. She didn't look happy. "You're out of time. Where is it?"

The Master blinked at her, then carefully schooled his face into a congenial impassivity. "My dear Rani. So nice to see you again."

"Don't give me any of that small talk," she snapped. "The rod. You took it out and replaced it with this." She pulled an Earth-style ball-point pen from a pouch at her waist and held it up significantly. "Did you really think I wouldn't notice such a childish prank?"

He blinked at her again, this time in honest confusion. "That looks like a pen."

"Of course it's a pen," she said. "What it isn't it the matrical tube from my filimental osmotifier. You have ten seconds to either hand it over or explain yourself."

He put up his hands apologetically. "I really don't know what…"

"Nine."

"I kept my part of the…"

"Eight."

"… bargain! I didn't touch…"

"Seven."

"… that tube! But wait…"

"Six."

"…I did shortly find…"

"Five."

"…the Doctor here!"

"Four."

"A pen! It had to be him!"

"Three."

"The Doctor did it!"

"What?" the Rani said, frowning angrily. "Are you saying you not only stole my equipment, you left it laying around so the Doctor had his hands all over it as well?"

The Master's jaw shifted.

She waved her hands in the air. "Could you be any more asinine?!"

"But!" the Master said, scrambling to set it right. "We have the Doctor. Both of him."

"What do you mean, both of him? You didn't…"

The Master smiled smugly as a cat, regaining his confidence. "I have his current regeneration as well. They're in my TARDIS. No doubt he can tell us where he's put your missing toy."

The Rani narrowed her eyes at the use of the term. "Open it up."

The Master hesitated. He had really wanted this particular moment of glory alone, but finally he turned and waved a hand. His TARDIS doors opened.

Pacing in, followed by the Rani, he called out ahead. "Doctors! I've a little surprise for you, a visitor…"

He stopped.

"Well? Where is he? Or them?" the Rani asked from the doorway.

A little flustered in spite of his suavity, the Master cast about the room for any sign of the missing prisoners. There wasn't even a chain to be seen. There was icing on his console, and one of the panels was laying open. The readings showed no other people on board. He went very quiet and after gathering himself a moment, strolled back to the doorway.

"They seem to be…"

"Missing? They got away, didn't they?" the Rani interrupted icily before he could spin a lie.

He followed her as she turned back to the kitchen.

"You…idiot! You imbecile!" the Rani ranted at him. "I hand him over to you practically on a silver platter and you can't even hold him in your own TARDIS!"

"It was only a moment…" the Master began, attempting to keep his face cool and composed, a losing battle in the face of such a crushing disappointment.

"Didn't you take any precautions at all?"

Stalling for time while he tried to decide on the best way forward, the Master held up the Doctor's sonic screwdriver. "You and I both know he never goes anywhere without this, one of them was already entirely stripped. What else would you have me take?"

The Rani suddenly reached out and smacked the sonic screwdriver right out of his hand, sending it skittering under the metal countertops where, unknown to them, it bumped up against the Doctor's shoe. He grinned down at it and quickly scooped it up.

"One just wasn't enough, was it?" she said angrily. "Oh no, you had to double his chances of outwitting you! I won't have this obsession of yours affecting my work anymore." She reached for the leather belt-pouch she wore and pulled up a vial, clicking it into a slender atomizing gun.

The Master frowned cautiously. "What is that?"

"Something to make your idiocy stop. Don't worry, it'll be quick, you'll be down to your basic skeletal structure in less than a minute."

The Master's eyes widened and he backed towards his TARDIS. "You wouldn't dare."

Her face was hard. She raised it up.

"Stop, I beg you!" said a voice and it wasn't the Master's.

They both stared as the Doctor stepped out from his concealment, flipping his cape back out of the way. "There's no need for all that. Leave off on the poor fellow. Look, I have your missing bit right here," he pulled the small tube from his pocket and waggled it in the air. "No need to make the poor chap regenerate over such a little thing."

The Master glowered at him with a strange blend of disbelief, disgust, anger and begrudging relief flickering over his features. "How dare you…"

"Besides, he might be worse next time," the Doctor pointed out very reasonably.

"Agreed!" said the Rani. "His pathetic hide would have been a waste of this anyway." She shrugged and smoothly returned the vial to her belt-pouch.

"I do not agree," said the Master, scrambling for any shred of control or dignity in the proceedings. "What advantage can he possibly have? Why are you letting him take you for a fool?"

"I know fools," said the Rain icily, measuring the Master with her eyes. "Occasionally I even find they have their uses."

"What advantage do I have?" the Doctor asked. "Tut-tut, I just saved your currently rather miserable and misguided life. You've a rather sorry way of saying thank-you."

"Hand it over," the Rani was saying, holding out her hand.

The Doctor tapped the small tube thoughtfully. "Certainly, my dear. Certainly, if you will promise to move on from here and leave Earth alone."

"Gladly," the Rani said with disgust. "I've lost too much time over this unwelcome interruption as it is."

The Doctor stepped forward and handed her the tube with a little bow and a smile. "And I do hope you'll try to keep your experiments from our mutual friend in the future. I've no desire to have to keep mopping them up."

"Doctor…" the Master's voice warned.

The Rani raised her brows and suddenly tossed her head back in a laugh. "Ah Doctor, always the charming one. You almost tempt me to keep you for myself for a while. Well done." She gestured at the Master. "Unlike that one. If you like, I'm half-inclined to capture him for you instead, if you want him."

"No, thank you," the Doctor said with a glance at his scowling adversary. "I'll be content if he'll be doing the same and clearing off. This world has enough of its own troubles without his adding to them."

The Rani was already going back into her TARDIS. "Well, I'll leave you to iron that one out yourselves. I have work to do. Until another time…hopefully a very long one…." her doors closed and the walk-in freezer faded out to grinding sound.

The Master still looked like thunder.

The Doctor turned to him, rubbing a finger over his chin. "Well, it got rid of her, didn't it? Sorry about the wounded pride thing, old chap. Couldn’t just let her kill you there."

The Master didn't comment. He reached into his pocket and pulled up a small silver weapon. The Doctor stepped back.

The doors all burst inward.

"Hold it right there! Hands up! Stay where you are!" shouted UNIT's soldiers as they poured in, guns at ready.

"No, no, don't shoot him…!" the Doctor was protesting, getting between them and their intended quarry. "You don't need to protect…"

The Master was already vanishing into his TARDIS. There was a familiar grinding sound and the ovens faded away.

The Brigadier pushed his way in past his men. "Was that…?"

"Yes, he's gone," the Doctor said in disgust.

The Brigadier looked around the cake, bread and flour-spattered kitchen. "Now what?"

The Doctor looked around the bakery and ran a hand over his sticky hair. "You wouldn't happen to have any tea?"


~~ Fin ~~

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