Shadow of a wing by TardisGhost



Summary: There are stories told throughout the universe. About a lonely wanderer, who travels time and space. No one knows what he is searching for, but wherever he appears, chaos is ensured.
Rating: Teen
Categories: Tenth Doctor
Characters: The Master (Simm)
Genres: Action/Adventure, Mystery
Warnings: None
Challenges: None
Series: The Crow and the Beast
Published: 2019.03.27
Updated: 2019.07.29


Index

Chapter 1: Dragon's nest
Chapter 2: Submarine Dome
Chapter 3: Brown
Chapter 4: A brief moment of rest
Chapter 5: Glass Forest
Chapter 6: Owls and robots
Chapter 7: Singing Planets
Chapter 8: Green menace
Chapter 9: The crow
Chapter 10: Epilogue


Chapter 1: Dragon's nest

Author's Notes: A/N: This is a thing I had swirling around in my head for quite a while now. The chapters will all contain separate stories, but also have an overarching plot. I'm not sure how often I will update this. Probably whenever I get a new idea. So stay tuned! OwO


The universe is vast and full of mysteries, spread across the stars and all of time itself. It is said that there was once a race that was able to sense time. But now they are long gone and nothing is left of them but stories, whispered tales as old as the stars themselves.

There is one story that stands out of all the others. One that might have started in this place, or somewhere else entirely.

It was a rainy day. The waters of the yearly Grillbarin monsoon covered a great deal of the junk wastelands. The people of Maluchir had lived there since they could remember and even their children learned to search the waste for usable things all day.

One such a child, clad in a bright yellow rain coat, was just about to stuff an old but still functioning radio inside his pockets, when he heard an unfamiliar noise. It sounded like the huffing and panting of an old machine. A humming filling the air.

When the child turned around he suddenly faced a rundown advertising pillar that most certainly hadn't been there before, even though it fit perfectly into its surroundings. The door squeaked slowly open and out stepped a figure, clad in a long black coat that reached down to its ankles and had a hood that covered their face.

The figure was bigger than any Maluch and took a good look at the pillar they had just stepped out, before turning around and taking in the surroundings, before their gaze lastly fell onto the child.

"You're not whom I'm looking for..." a dark, male sounding voice spoke to himself. "Wrong time again." The guy kicked the pillar and cursed under his breath, then turned around again. "Ey, you!"

"M... me?" the child wondered.

"Not the brightest around, eh? You don't happen to have a Chronokinetic loaded Kolfur cable in all that junk?"

"I... I don't know what that even is, Sir." The child straightened and he looked up to the man, rain dripping down from his yellow hood. The child's face was turquoise in color and the upper half of his face was covered by a chitin plate. Only the eyes were uncovered.

"Of course not. Would have been too easy." The man kicked some junk away.

"But Mum could know. She knows the wastelands better than anyone else!"

The strange figure tilted his head and seemed to think for a moment, before he nodded. "Alright. It's a chance at least. If I can repair the winding module this journey will be over in no time."

"Great! We didn't have visitors for ages!" The child jumped up in joy, producing a big splash, when he landed back on his rain boots. He then swiftly took the man's hand and tore him along.

"Don't... do that..." he mumbled and tore his hand away.

As the child looked behind, he could get a peek at the face underneath the hood and found brown, somehow sad looking eyes there.

"I'm Chipu by the way. The oldest son of Chapputi the Wise," the boy blabbered. "Do you have a name? And what are you even? You look so different."

The man didn't answer though, so Chipu stayed silent until they reached the village.

"Welcome to Mellakar!" he said proud and spread his arms, grinning wide when the stranger let out an appreciative whistle.

They stood in front of a tall mountain which's peak vanished into thick clouds. And on top of it lay the gigantic skeleton of a Chermobol. Its wings once spread as wide as the mountain was tall, its tail lay crumbled at the bottom, serving as the hull for countless houses, as did the other bones. Ramps of wood and metal lead up and down the skeleton, connecting all the different layers of the village.

"Mum has an inn in the maw," Chipu explained, as he lead the stranger to a lift that brought them a mile up the mountain to a gigantic, open mouthed skull. Its once deadly teeth were now decorated with orange lamps and inside the maw stood a big wooden building.

"Chipu!" a loud female voice came from ahead, as soon as they entered. "What are you doing here already! Don't tell me you tore your raincoat aga... Ohh! Who is that?!" A thin woman approached them, wearing the same chitin plate over her face and two thin antennas on her head. "Haven't seen another species around here for ages. Can I bring you something? Sit down! There is a fire over there! This weather is awful..." she went on, as she vanished into the neighboring room.

The stranger strode towards the fire and sunk down onto a stone bench in front of it. After what seemed to be hesitation he finally pulled down his dripping hood and Chipu sneaked to him to take a closer look. The man had blond, almost white, hair and a beard framed his mouth. His hazel brown eyes now stared into the fire, and although Chipu had never met one like him, he could sense that he was dangerous.

Shortly after the woman came back and sat a small bowl next to the man. "Eat. It will warm you up," she offered friendly.

"Don't have any money," the stranger just said, not averting his gaze from the flames.

"Don't be silly, dear!" the woman let out. "Who would charge a traveller for a soup during the Grillbarin! Especially one from another planet."

Without saying another word or moving his head, the man reached for the bowl and busied himself with it for a while.

"Why are you sad?" Chipu suddenly asked, then looked hastily away when his eyes met that of the stranger. Maybe he had just imagined it before.

"You shouldn't talk to me, shrimp," the man growled. "The only reason I haven't burned this place yet, is because I need this component... Well... and because of all that stupid rain here."

The boy opened his mouth to counter something, but then closed it again, out of fear. He didn't want to leave the fire though and stayed, carefully observing the stranger, until his mother returned.

"Was it good?" she asked in a friendly tone.

The man raised and stared the woman down for a second. "Your son said you might know if there is some Chronokinetic loaded Kolfur cable in all that junk out there. If so, hand it over to me."

"Hand it... over. Yes..." the lady said, as if in trance, but then slowly shook her head. "No, I'm afraid there is no such thing. We used to have those... but after the invasion of the Ghaluwan... they took everything with them that could even remotely be used to manipulate time. Since then our species is stuck here..."

"Ugh, what a waste of time." He sharply turned around and was about to leave the building, when Chipu ran after him.

"What have you done to Mum? Why is she so strange?" he cried.

"Nothing, you dumb brat. She'll be fine in a minute." He tried to kick the boy out of the way, but he evaded.

"Why are you so mean?! The last traveller from beyond was nice and kind. But you... you are evil!"

A humorless laugh escaped the stranger and he grabbed the boy at his collar to lift him up into the air with a nasty grin on his face. "Yes, and I'm very good at it. Be glad I just hypnotized your mum, and now buzz off." He let go of the child and it landed on the ground with a loud thud. But then he turned around again and stared down. "Who was this last traveller?"

"Leave him be," the mother suddenly stood between them. "If you leave now I will forget this and don't call anyone."

"What... traveller?" The stranger strode closer. "Answer."

"We... know not much about them. It's just a story. From long after the invasion, but still over a thousand years ago. It is said they helped slaying the Chermobol. It brought peace to our people... for the first time in centuries. But their name got lost to time, I'm afraid. That's all."

"Mhm... not helpful."

"They say this traveller had sad eyes," Chipu murmured from behind. "I was hoping you could be them."

"Not much of a helping person, I'm afraid," the man laughed.

"But who are you then?" the boy finally stood up and came closer. "If not all travellers from beyond are nice... we should tell people."

The grin on the stranger's face could barely be more malevolent and he chuckled to himself.

"I am the..." but then he paused, and there was something strange in his eyes for a moment. "No one," he murmured and put up his hood, before he opened the door to leave. For a second he hesitated, and without turning around he suddenly chuckled darkly, as if he had been reminded of a joke, then he murmured, "I am the Reaper."

With that he vanished into the rain and was never seen again.

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Chapter 2: Submarine Dome

A pair of black booted feet showed out from under a hexagonal console. It looked like a table, sticking out from the middle of the room, a green glowing tube with crystals inside hung above it. Actually the whole room was bathed in a slightly greenish glow. The walls were decorated with sharply angled shapes and lights, from which the color emitted. All of it gave off a slightly gloomy and, one could say, alien vibe.

"Great," a grumbling voice murmured.

Shortly after a blond head appeared from under the console, belonging to the man who had decided to call himself the Reaper. For now. He used to wear a different name, one he was rather attached to. But things had... changed. Time had passed. And right now it seemed more fitting to travel anonymously.

"That's a fine hopeless plight," he grumbled and threw a cable into a corner. "That stupid piece of trash wouldn't even work with a new cable. And with Gallifrey gone..." He grunted annoyed. "Seems like this will take a while longer than expected. I hope you don't mind a few... technical issues."

For a moment he stood still, head slightly tilted and listened into the silent air. After a while he sighed and shook his head.

"In case you hear me," he said, a slight hint of hope reverberating in his voice, "It means I can't wind time back and forth. And since your little... issue... distorts my coordinates... Well, it means I can find out where to go... but not exactly when." Again he listened for a few moments, before he rubbed the bridge of his nose. "I can only jump, but finding the right time this way will take ages... probably makes more sense to track the signal to the next place and hope I get closer in time."

The Reaper turned around, flicked a few switches on the console and pulled a few levers, before the noises of the engines filled the room, followed by familiar landing sounds. For a moment he closed his eyes and just listened.

"I'm talking to thin air, right?" he almost whispered, then rammed his fist against the console. A moment later he stared at his scraped knuckles and abruptly turned around to leave the TARDIS. Travelling through all of time and space... it was a nice thing. But with lots of the tech malfunctioning, or not working at all, it wasn't that much help.

While opening the doors he grabbed his coat from a hook and stepped outside, getting greeted by a nightly and very dense forest. A pale crescent moon shone through the tree tops, illuminating the path ahead. The Reaper followed the way, listening to the sounds and having an eye on his surroundings.

But apart from some wild life there seemed to be no one around. It definitely was the wrong time again. The question, though, was, how wrong? It felt like the trace was old, but he needed confirmation, before jumping to the next spot.

Sometime later the path ended at a big lake, and if it hadn't been night, he would have missed the light, shimmering from below the surface. Something was down there. A glowing animal maybe? He kneeled down and stretched over the water, but couldn't get a closer look at it.

Somewhat intrigued he glided a hand into the water to see if it would harm him. But it was just normal water, not acidic and even drinkable. Thinking about it for a moment, he stood still. Then he decided to let his curiosity win, took off most of his clothes and shoes and jumped into the lake.

The glowing came right from its middle, but also from very deep below. Good thing he had a respiratory bypass. This would make diving a lot easier. A bit of time passed as he calmed down his breath and heartbeat, then he took some slow, deep breaths and descended below the surface.

There were lots of plants in the way and a few harmless fish. And then, after a patch of weed, the source of the light came in sight. It emerged from a glass dome, several feet in diameter, but altogether not that big.

And inside was... his eyes widened at the sight. There was an actual city inside! Tiny in comparison to himself, but quite modern looking. Skyscraper-like buildings rose almost to the glass above, tiny vehicles flew between them and on the ground there were countless tiny people running busily around.

They looked a bit like a mixture of humanoids and bugs. But why were they living at the bottom of this lake, instead of on the surface? Wouldn't that be a lot easier? Were they even aware of the fact, that something like that existed outside?

With a grin the Reaper tapped on the glass, letting sudden chaos spread among the population, when they glared up at the monstrosity, that he must be presenting to them. He wondered if the dome had a weak spot somewhere, before pulling out a longish device, that looked like an especially technical screwdriver.

A button-press later its tip suddenly emitted a laser beam that burned a tiny hole into the glass. Just enough to peak the panic below, but not letting the dome crack. A few drops leaked inside though, hitting the people below and probably drowning a few of them.

With a mean chuckle he watched, until he started to feel the rising urge for oxygen. Before he left, his gaze fell upon something right next to the dome. There, engraved into a fancy looking stone, was a symbol. One the Reaper knew all too well. One, that told him, that he indeed was too far into the future again.

So he pushed himself off the ground and shot back up to the surface, taking in some long and deep breaths of the nightly air, before he climbed back to the shore, picking up his clothes. No one was around, so there really was no need to put them on again and get them all wet.

After a last look to the glow in the lake he trudged back to the TARDIS, wondering where this journey might lead him next.

Back to index


Chapter 3: Brown

There were so many advantages to having a functioning chameleon circuit, the black coated man thought to himself, as he stepped outside his time machine to assess that it had turned into some really cool looking machine-like totem.

He stretched and sniffed into the air to determine at least a vague time, before he took a closer look at his surroundings. It seemed as if he had landed right inside a village of some sort. One that was made out of metal scraps and machine parts, and was abundantly... brown. The parts, the cloths, the ground, even the few plants he could make out. Everything was of different earthen tones.

So it was no wonder that his black clothes stood out, which lead to a whole group of villagers gathering around him in an instant. They were peculiar looking. A bit like humans, but with a lot sharper facial features. And it seemed as if not a single one of them was free of augmentations of some sort. Either that or they actually had evolved to become part machine by nature. This trait gave them a broad variance in sizes and shapes. Not to mention that they also were completely brown.

A bunch of them ran in front of the crowd and held out sharp long machine spears. For a moment the Reaper thought about getting out his laser screwdriver and simply kill them all, but that might be unproductive in his attempt to find out, if he was in the right time.

"Who are you?" one of the creatures demanded. "How did you get here and what is your purpose?"

A somewhat malevolent grin appeared on the traveller's face as he held up his hands in an almost mocking manner.

"Who I am is none of your business," he sneered. "Same as how I came here. But since you ask so nicely... " He poked the spear tip with a finger. "You folks have not happened to see someone like... uhm... well, someone in color?"

"Only the gods are allowed to wear those, son," an old, raspy voice appeared next to him. "So you are either one of them, or a stranger."

Everyone looked to the tall thin woman that had appeared next to the Reaper. She wore a thin dress, more a collection of lose brown rags, and was almost more machine than flesh. She gave him a warm and somewhat knowing smile and held up a hand, so the guards would lower their weapons.

But before she could speak another word, there was a sound of horns coming from somewhere else. And everyone started to look uncomfortable, some even panicked and ran.

"The Hrashzad are coming!" people screamed from all around, while armed people ran in a certain direction.

"Seems like an unsuitable time to be here," the Reaper drawled and turned around to enter his TARDIS.

He didn't get far, before strong metal hands gripped his hood and tore it down, then grabbed his arms to hold him in place. Even his Time Lord strength didn't help against these, leaving him with nothing but mean curses to throw at the guy who held him.

"You came out of nowhere in that thing," he nodded towards the totem. "And now the Hrashzad attack for the first time in years? You called them!"

"Oi, let me go, you primate!" He struggled and punched around him. "You can't treat me like that! I am the Ma..."

A metal fist hit his stomach and knocked him out immediately.

When he came to consciousness again he could still hear chaos going on around him. Screams and commands and tears. The smells of smoke and fire and electricity punctuated his nose as he sat up and rubbed his stomach. "I'm so going to murder them all," he mumbled to himself.

"How about you help," the same raspy voice from before answered.

As the Reaper spun around and onto his feet in the same move, he found the woman sitting behind him, cross legged and in some kind of meditation pose. They were in the shadow of a machine-scrap pillar, with no other person around.

"Not a helping person," he grumbled and straightened. "Answer some questions and I'm gone. I've got nothing to do with your enemies."

"The woman opened an eye and smiled, before closing it again. "The spirits told me so, yes. They also tell me you carry a dangerous tool with you. One that could cut a hole into the shell of the Ushinagoi."

"Mhm... no." He folded his arms in front of his chest. "It's not as if I'd run out of options soon. I'll simply jump somewhere else. Good bye!" He slightly bowed down to the woman, wiggled his fingers in front her closed eyes and marched to his TARDIS.

He took a last look around to see if there might be anything worthy of stealing, but as he determined that everything around was mere junk... he saw the head of a gigantic worm rise above the buildings. Alright... gigantic might have been a bit undersized. That things was as thick as a sky scrapper! And right in the middle of its head sat a house sized green crystal... that had an all too familiar symbol engraved.

For a moment the Reaper stared at it, then he started to laugh. "You're crazy! Absolutely crazy, you know that?" With another chuckle he cast a last look at his TARDIS, then turned away and got out his laser screwdriver. He wanted that crystal!

As he reached the walls of the city, he saw that the creatures they had spoken of before had to be those spider-like metal monsters, that were crawling around everywhere. Each of them as big as a horse and quick and agile as cats. The Reaper shot a few and realized their hulls didn't shield them at all from his laser. But there were so many of them, it wasn't really satisfying.

Instead he climbed up the wall and took a closer look at the worm. Apparently the thing wasn't only thick, but also long. It spread several miles in length and maybe even more, since a part of its body was covered by sand.

Then it snapped around, twisted and curved in impossible ways, and suddenly its head was right in front of the Reaper, the gigantic maw opening slowly and revealing several rows of sharp teeth.

"Oh shit," he let out, then jumped to the side, before the thing bit a huge piece out of the wall.

Metal parts, sand and wires rained down on him and he had to run a good distance to reach a spot that wasn't crumbling anymore. The worm seemed to be quite content eating the buildings around, so the Reaper straightened and aimed his laser right at the head.

It shot right through, without meeting any resistance. The monstrous being let out a hurtfully high pitched scream and twisted around. But the Reaper didn't hesitate to shoot again, while evading the twisting and tossing body, that hit against the city, letting everything it merely touched crumble.

Another shot hit right into its maw, letting a last violent shudder run through the enormous body, before it, finally, lay still for good.

After that silence spread. And a few moments later the rest of the monsters started to run away as if they suddenly got scared.

"Good job, son," a raspy voice suddenly said.

The Reaper spun around, while wiping some sweat away from his forehead. The strange woman stood tall next to him, a smile on her lips. He couldn't even say something, when he got grabbed by metal arms again. This time though not to hold him in place, but to heave him on top of a chanting and cheering crowd, who carried him all the way to the head of the worm, before they sat him down and, one by one, they suddenly all bowed before him.

"Now that's an appropriate greeting." He grinned from ear to ear, folding his arms and straightened to be as big as possible. "And now..."

"...you can ask your questions, son," the woman from before cut him off with a smile that indicated, she knew that his next words would otherwise ruin the mood. "But first tell us, what do they call you?"

"Actually..." He looked at the dead leviathan next to him, then shook his head. "I am the Reaper." With a chuckle he turned to the woman, awaiting her not to have a clue what that meant.

But her face turned serious for the very first time, and a moment later even she lowered her head. "We heard stories of you," she whispered. "A long, long time ago, there was a child from the stars, who took on the worm before you. But they weren't able to slay it, so instead they put a seal onto its head." She pointed at the crystal. "They also told our people stories from the world they came from. They told many things, and also from a god, who roams eternity to collect the souls of the dead."

"Mhm, is that so..." He grinned even wider. "Well, then how about you all obey your master of death!" With a chuckle he widened his arms. "Cut that crystal out of that ugly head. I want a piece of it."

And they did, before they celebrated the victory for an entire day.

When night had settled the Reaper had bathed enough in all that fame and was about to sneak back into his TARDIS. If it weren't for the tall woman, that stood in front of it. "You never asked your questions, son."

"You answered them already. I'm too far ahead in time." He shrugged, fidgeting around with the hand-sized piece of crystal. "Step away, you won't keep me from leaving."

"No. No one will." She smiled her knowing smile and it made him feel as if she knew a lot more about him than she told. "You are not alone on this journey. Remember that when you face eternity."

She pushed herself away from the totem and trudged towards her people without another word or even a look, leaving a perplex Time Lord behind. He shook his head and entered his TARDIS, happy to finally get all the dirt from him. Even his black coat had taken on a brownish color from all the sand.

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Chapter 4: A brief moment of rest

"Again too late..." The Reaper kicked against the console. "And always so much that no one can tell me how much! That's infuriating!"

With a grunt he hung his coat on a hook and went to get some rest. This had been the twentieth planet today and he was angry and exhausted.

Some places there wasn't any sign at all of what he was looking for. So he probably was way too early. He had tried jumping forwards, but it always seemed as if he was several millennia away from the right time. No matter how hard he tried, never did he hit the right time. So jumping from place to place was his best option still.

He wouldn't run out of them anytime soon. There was content from over a thousand years of travelling through all of time and space to cover.

But how long would that take?

With a deep sigh he sunk down on the sofa he had put in the console room a while ago. It didn't really matter. There was not even a choice not to go on. If he wanted his timeline to stay intact, that was. And he hated to have no choice. Especially not when it meant to...

Whatever.

The Reaper grabbed the book he had left there and tried to rest his mind for a while. His hand brushed something he still had in his chest pockets from a few places ago. Oh, right. There had been this young idiot merchant of whom he had snatched the glasses to annoy him. With a grin he put them on and looked back at the pages.

"Mhm... that's actually more convenient."

There was a slight vibration in the air, subtle and barely noticeable. His head snapped up from the book, turning all around. It was definitely not imagination, so he closed his eyes to focus on it. The vibration came back, a tiny little bit stronger, made the hair on his arms stand up a bit. It was... like the faint echo of something that could become a sound at one point; having a somewhat amused tone to it. Almost like a giggle.

The Reaper suddenly smiled. "What? Do I look funny with those?" He slid the glasses further up his nose and grinned. "I probably do."

For a while he listened to the silence, but nothing else happened. Had it been imagination after all? No matter how often he tried, there never was an answer.

The words of the machine woman came to his mind... 'You are not alone on this journey'

If only. Some days, like today, he could swear there still was something in here. But most of the time there was nothing at all.

"You really could talk to me, you know," he sighed. "Just once..."

Silence.

His eyes glared at the pages without seeing the letters on it. Some time later he then shook his head and sighed, leaning his head back. After all the years he had been on Gallifrey it was strange to be on his own again. Even though he had always loved to travel in solitude, now it weighed on him for some reason. Well... not some.

"You've been travelling all alone for this entire time, haven't you?" he asked the silent air. "Are you... lonely? Mhm... I bet you are. How else could it be..."

It could be imagination, but there was a slightly vibrating distortion in the air again. In theory it could stem from the machines. They produced all sorts of energetic pollution. Especially since he wasn't able to repair some of them.

But there was this slight sting of hope. It was possible after all. Either that or he had simply exchanged one madness for the other. It was so unbearably quiet without the drums. Maybe his mind invented stuff to keep him from going crazy again.

So he started to red once more, this time though aloud.

And for a brief moment it was as if he could feel how someone sat next to him, listening.

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Chapter 5: Glass Forest

Glass...

The whole planet was littered with it. Not ordinary glass, but more like a crystalline substance that looked alike. It shaped bubbly trees of indescribable, twisted forms. A whole, dense forest of it actually. Even the grass on the ground was made out of that stuff.

There also was a light humming filling the air, reverberating through the ground and every single object. As if the glass was singing.

The Reaper was standing next to an especially wide glass tree, that actually was his TARDIS in disguise.

Glass...

A grin appeared on his face.

Then he picked up what looked like rocks - also made out of the same substance - trudged down the hill and started to throw them right into the trees. Laughing meanly, he enjoyed seeing them splinter into actual dust, and it didn't take long for him to clear a small circle of everything even remotely solid.

Now the whole ground was covered in fine glass dust. He squatted down and took a handful of it, letting its grains run through his fingers. Something strange was happening to the stuff. It seemed to react to his thoughts somehow, slightly taking on the shapes of things he had in his mind.

Focusing on the image of an apple, the Reaper observed the dust. And really, it quickly took on the appearance of the fruit. Moments later it crumbled together once more, only to form into sharp needles, that now rose into the air around him.

Interesting... Maybe he would be able to build some sort of weapon out of this stuff. So he got out a small sac and shoved the dust inside.

When he turned around there were people standing behind him. Tall and incredibly thin, each and everyone of them looking differently. Some with arms and legs, others with many more limbs. Their movements were stiff, as if they weren't quite used to move on their own at all.

"And what have we here?" the Reaper let out in a snarky tone.

One of the figures stepped forward and raised a limb, that might have been an arm. It had no mouth, but the humming all around grew louder and denser.

"What? I don't speak breakable," he snickered and moved past the group. "But tell me... has someone else been here lately?"

Another figure waved a hand with a few too many fingers to be useful. They stepped deeper into the forest and at one point they showed their visitor a small clearing, on which the glass replica of an all too familiar police box stood.

"Ugh, why was he here?" The Reaper wrinkled his nose in disgust and stepped closer.

The box was surrounded by various other objects. Stacks of books, models of solar systems, a few different animals from different planets... all of them made of the same glass. Someone obviously had taken their time to play with it. Then he saw the symbol that was etched into the door of the blue box and realized, that it hadn't been the Doctor, who had visited this place.

Turning around, the Reaper suddenly found himself surrounded by the thin creatures. There were hundreds of them now. One raised an arm, that was nothing more, but a long, pointy stick and pointed it at the sac the Reaper still held in his hands.

"Oh, want that back?" He scratched his head. "Nah, I'll keep it. You've got enough of that stuff around here."

The humming in the air grew thicker and more intense, almost angry. But the man only laughed, picked up another rock and threw it hard at one of the guys. They exploded into dust immediately, but that only made the others teetering closer.

"Freaking zombies, that's what you are," he chuckled and rammed his fist into another one. He barely had to touch them. "Huh? That's too easy."

With a bored yawn he started to walk through the masses, waggling his arms around to break as many of the creatures on his way back as possible. They moved so slow, by the time he had reached his TARDIS, they had fallen behind.

Grinning satisfied he entered the ship and threw the bag onto the console.

"Interesting places you're picking there," he said into the silent air, before setting new coordinates.

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Chapter 6: Owls and robots

This time his TARDIS had turned into a piece of ancient, overgrown... thing. It was hard to determine what purpose it might have served at one point, but it was safe to say, it wasn't of natural origin. And now that he looked around, he found himself inside a dense, green forest, that was littered with all sorts of old tech pieces. All of this must be several hundred years old... at least.

Was he too far ahead in time again? The Reaper sighed and picked up a stick to poke around in some of the old machines. They were all corroded, barely discernible and useless.

No trace.

His instincts made him look up. There had been a sound, too quiet to actually hear, but his fine Time Lord senses detected it anyway. The sound of wings.

Carefully he looked around until he suddenly came face to face with an... owl. It was big and its feathers were a mixture of brown and green, which perfectly hid the animal in this environment. It sat only a meter away on a low hanging branch and stared at him.

The Reaper poked out his stick to shoo the thing away, but it grabbed the wood with its beak and tore it out of his hands. Since he hadn't been awaiting any resistance, he hadn't held very tight onto it. Pff... stupid animal. He stuck out his tongue and grimaced at it.

"Hoot!" it made and tilted its head.

With a chuckle the Reaper hooted back and mimicked its movements in a mocking manner.

"Hoot! Your kind is a bit dumb! hoot!" the owl suddenly spoke.

"Huh?" he glared at it dumbfounded, then pointed a finger at it. "Hey! You talk!"

"Hoot! So do you." It flapped its huge wings. "Stranger. Hoot!"

"Well... since you're here. Are there any people around?" He scratched his head and pointedly looked at their surroundings. "Anyone who could know about this place? And whom I could talk to without feeling as if I'm going crazy again?"

"Hoot! Your kind has many words. Hoot! Maybe you are not so dumb. Hoot!" It flapped again and turned and twisted its head in all sorts of directions.

"Call me dumb again and I'll have you for dinner," he grumbled. "So?"

"Hoot! Follow."

They silently wandered through the woods, under large trees, covered in moss and other plants. Scattered around where the same old machinery parts from before. Whatever they used to belong to, it had been everywhere at one point. Some were small and barely noticeable, while others raised high up and were overgrown by moss and draped with vines. A small swarm of grey birds had settled into the corroded holes of one such giant.

"Hoot, be silent." The bird landed on a branch nearby, its head stretching unnaturally long and towards another collection of machinery parts that stood grouped together between some trees.

"What for? There is nothing around but birds."

The Reaper wrinkled his nose, but then he felt a slight vibration running through the ground and pressed himself against a tree. Something was approaching.

Not long and a thing that clearly was no bird entered the scene. It was some kind of robot, almost as large as the trees around, stalking on two thin legs through the undergrowth. Those legs ended in what looked like an oval shaped capsule of some sorts. Cables were loosely hanging from its broken shell and here and there sparks fell down, dying long before they hit the ground.

"You are big. Hoot," the owl said and tried to keep its hooting low. "Can you make it sleep? Hoot."

"Can you stop saying 'hoot' in every sentence!" he hissed. "It's so annoying."

"Hoot!" It came back indignant.

A low, robotic almost-scream came from the robot ahead. It stopped in its path and emitted a series of other, threatening sounding noises.

They both pressed themselves at the tree again, not eager to learn how dangerous this thing actually was. Careful not to make any more noises the Reaper pulled out his laser screwdriver and pointed it at the crack in the capsule.

"What do you do? Hoot," the owl did its equivalent of whispering. Which wasn't that quiet.

"Shhh," he put a finger in front of his lips.

Then he blasted a few rapid shots. All of them hit, making the hull literally explode and emanate an ear-piercing, metallic shrieking sound, before the robot started to tumble around and then fell with loud noises. Only to lay still from then on.

"Pfft, that was too easy." He pocketed the laser again to approach the machine. "Uh, not bad. That must have been a really advanced species... Well... Didn't help them as it seems." With his laser screwdriver he cut out a few parts and let them vanish inside his coat pockets.

"Hoot. My ancestors. Hoot." The owl landed on the ground next to him. "That's what they tell. Hoot."

"Probably not." The Reaper chuckled meanly. "A high civilisation of owls? Don't make me laugh."

"Hoot! Hoot!" the bird protested.

"So... where are the people you wanted to show me? Is it far?"

"Hoot... No people. Hoot! Just Walkers and Flyers. Hoot! But the Walkers are bad. They kill us. You killed a Walker. Hoot!"

His look turned angry and now he pointed his laser screwdriver at the owl. "You tricked me! Damn poultry!"

The bird hooted a few more times, while evading his shots. Eventually one hit its wing though and it crashed to the ground. With a few quick steps the Reaper was at it, grabbed some of the countless vines and wound it around the protesting animal.

"And if you don't stop hooting, I'll put one of those into your sodding beak."

"Hoo..." The owl struggled, but couldn't get free. "Let me go. Hoot!"

With a nasty grin he straightened, hands on his hips, and watched the struggling, and still hooting owl. "You can't say, I haven't given you a chance, you know."

He snickered, then lasered down another, thinner, vine.

"Hoot! Stop it! Don't leave me here! Hoot! Please! Hoot!"

"Okay. You choose. I'll either leave you tied up. Or," he pointed at the owl, "I'll take you along and have you for dinner. So?"

"Hoot!" the owl protested.

"If you say so..." The Reaper shrugged and tied the vine around the bird's head and into its beak, leaving it unable to make proper noises. "Maybe you're lucky and one of the Walkers finds you, before you rot..." Happily smiling he wiggled his fingers at the owl."Bye bye!"

With a last look he kicked against the dead robot, before his gaze fell upon the strangely grouped-together machinery parts. From closer it almost made the impression of a shrine of sorts. There even was a dead trunk sticking out in the middle of it, almost like an altar.

Curiously he trudged closer and found the shrine to be decorated with black feathers and smaller machinery parts. And in its middle sat a small translucent cube, that held... an ordinary notebook. Small, roughly the size of a hand and with a grey cover.

His curiosity now peaked, the Reaper tried to open the cube with his laser and found it to be working easily. The small book fell into his hands and as he opened it, it got clear that the cube had protected it from any decay. Its pages were filled with crude sketches of this place, of various birds and different kinds of those parts. Also with the thin-legged robots. And on the last page... Not that he needed more confirmation, but there it was again. The familiar symbol.

Only now did he realize that he was smiling, even though it was the wrong time again. It was a sad smile and somehow also not.

Carefully he pocketed the small notebook, then made his way back to the TARDIS.

Back to index


Chapter 7: Singing Planets

"This takes way too long, you know that?" the Reaper blamed the silent air and stared at his time counter. "That's already... four Gallifreyan years... You should think I'd get at least a bit closer..."

As usual he got no answer. And as usual it made him... angry? Not quite, but he couldn't really name the emotion.

"Well, another day, another planet. Can't deny it's an interesting assortment of places you lead me to so far." He smiled to himself, grabbed his black coat and opened the door. "Take care of the TARDIS while I'm gone."

With a sigh he closed the door behind him and found himself in a modern city. It reminded him a bit of some of the Asian places he had been on earth. Many of the houses had similar pointy roofs, but were taller and overall thinner than the ones from earth.

It also seemed as if they were preparing for some kind of festival, since the streets were filled with banners, colourful lanterns and decoration made out of orange paper. There was a thin, calm river nearby overarched by a slightly bent bridge. On it stood a few delicately carved metal benches, most of them occupied by probably tourists.

There were a lot of different species around, so the planet must be advanced enough for space travel. Or they at least received visitors from beyond. Not few of them looked similar to Time Lords, although that wasn't unusual. Evolution went many ways on different planets, but there were some patterns that repeated themselves more often than others.

"Oh, what have we here," a female voice resounded from behind, and as the Reaper turned around he saw a humanoid woman, clad in some kind of loose kimono of different yellow and orange tones. Her fiery hair flew elegantly over her shoulders, and a brazen grin graced her face as she approached him. "My, you're a handsome one." She boldly trod close to him and trailed a finger down his chest. "Looking for... something?"

Growling annoyed he grabbed her wrist. "Go, look somewhere else."

"Oh, how rude," she said sarcastically and audaciously hooked her arm into his. "Let's take a walk."

For a moment the Reaper was a bit perplex about that, but then he pushed her rudely away. "Aren't there enough people around you can pester?"

"None that are so... interesting." The woman chuckled and winked. "And handsome too."

It wasn't as if he disliked being complimented, quite the opposite, but there were more urgent things on his list. And an annoying harlot, or whatever they called themselves here, wasn't even on it. Although...

"Say, you don't happen to offer some more... useful services?" He turned towards her. "I'm foreign here."

An eager glint sprang to her eyes. "Oh, sure. There are some interesting sights around, I can show them to you." Swiftly she was at his side once more. "But that will cost extra."

"Oi, why does that cost me something?" the Reaper protested.

"Because it's my time I'm offering," the woman chuckled. "Payment in advance, by the way."

He huffed and grinned. "Well, then goodbye. I don't have any local money."

With that he simply left her behind and moved across the bridge, making his way through masses of people that were enjoying the festival. The streets were filled with booths, that sold all kinds of wares and snacks. It reminded him of another, similar place he had visited a long time ago. And as he eyed some of the snacks, he wished his own thievery skills would be a lot better. Well, at least those species here reacted to his hypnotism, so he wasn't in need of any money to get himself covered with pockets full of exotic food.

"Oh, a thief," a sarcastic voice said from behind, while he was munching on some kind of fried whatever on a stick. It was the same woman from before.

"Stop following me," he grumbled. "Isn't your time way too precious for that?"

"Normally," she admitted with a smile. "But there is... something fascinating about you." With a last step she was in front of him and swiftly took the stick out of his hand, biting salaciously into the remaining piece.

"Oi! Not my snacks!" the Reaper whined.

"I saw you. You have enough of them." She leaned against his chest, her hands wandering down to his pockets. "I'd accept those as payment."

"Will you leave me alone, if I get you some?" He grinned mean and sarcastically at her. "Or do I have to kill you?" Faster than she could react, he had grabbed both of her wrists and pushed her against the back of a booth. "And I'm being nice here," he warned.

It surprised him to find no fear in her eyes. Instead there was only a sad smile and she didn't even struggle. A few moments later he let go of her and plainly moved away. He couldn't stand this type of people.

"I get it... you're not into women, right?"

He grunted annoyed. "My species is too advanced to make silly differences like these."

"Mhm... I see. Maybe you're from an asexual species then?"

"A what?"

He stopped on and threw an angry look at the woman, but then he had to grin all of a sudden. Somehow she actually amused him.

"Well, you seem to have no interest at all... so I assumed..."

"I honestly don't think any of those terms are... fitting for my kind." He shrugged. "What about showing me around? I can hypnotize most folks around, just tell me what you want," he offered with a grin.

The woman laughed with a hand in front of her mouth. "Alright, why not. Mhm... can you get me that scarf over there?" She pointed towards a booth that sold fine, silken clothes.

It didn't take him long and he returned with the item in question.

"A blue one?" she asked. "Mhm, I thought green would be more fitting."

"No." He carefully lay the scarf around her neck and tied it to an elegant knot. "This one fits quite right. Gives a pretty contrast to your hair."

Her slightly flushed face made him smile. He hadn't even hypnotized her, but somehow she seemed to be charmed by him. Somehow the way she reacted so innocently was familiar, although so different, and when she stretched towards him he let her. Light green eyes glinted at him and for a moment he saw a different face there, didn't react when she leaned closer to delicately kiss him. Only short and it made him snap out of his thoughts and grab the woman's shoulders to push her way.

"Don't... do that," he mumbled and stepped aside.

"Oh, I'm sorry," the woman said with a smile. "Didn't know you have a girlfriend."

He gave her an indefinable look and an arched brow. "I don't."

"I'm a bit telepathic, you know." She chuckled. "And I clearly saw a face. Pretty one, you can be lucky." She winked.

A cold sharp sting went through his chest at her words, followed by anger about her insolence.

"None of this is your business," the Reaper grumbled, but then offered her his arm. "And now, tell me about this place. What's this festival about?"

Almost a bit hesitantly she took the offer. "You came here without knowing? I thought the whole galaxy is informed." She let out a bright laugh.

"I came from... farther away. Much farther."

"Looking for your girlfriend?" she mocked.

"I don't have..." He sighed annoyed. "Anyway. Where there any weird happenings lately? Anything special? Something people would remember, preferably forever."

A chuckle made him look at her and the woman smiled at his confused face. "You really don't know, hm? Alright, listen. You're at the exact right place. This is the festival of the singing planets. It's a phenomenon that happens every fifty years. It's very predictable, so people come here from everywhere to witness it."

They were crossing another bridge and she leaned against the parapet, looking over the river and playing with the new scarf.

"Witness what?"

"The singing planets of course, silly." She chuckled. "We are almost at midnight, it will happen any moment."

"When did this start to happen?" the Reaper asked.

"Ah, that's the great mystery. No one knows exactly. It's at least one or two thousand years in the past, but there are sources that tell, it occurred way before that time." Her eyes wandered over some small boats that were crossing the river. "There are only stories and legends."

With a deep sigh the Reaper leaned with his back next to her against the parapet and for a while he glared at the barely visible stars above them. It was too bright here for them to be visible well.

"Too late again," he mumbled.

"Who are you?" the woman asked in a quiet voice. "I'm sorry. I wasn't quite honest."

"Huh?" He looked down and at her.

"I saw more than just a face," she admitted, and when there was no reaction, she continued, "I saw a symbol, over and over again. A bird, stretching its wings."

He swallowed and looked away. "On another planet they call this bird a crow... What else?"

"I heard a drumbeat. Always repeating, four times." It made her shiver. "And a few vague images of a war. That's all."

"I should kill you," he drawled lazily and stared at the stars again.

They stayed silent and after another minute passed ,the people around got strangely quiet all of a sudden.

And then it started. First it was so faint it could have been a trick of the senses. But then it got gradually louder. Music. Ethereal and foreign.

The Reaper realized fast what it actually was. It was the sound of an actual planet, but amplified a million times to be audible by everyone. And it wasn't only the sound of one. It was the whole solar system, vibrating, humming in tones that made one's hearts ache. Beautiful.

"It's fascinating, isn't it?" the woman asked with a smile.

"Yeah... I wonder how she did that," he mused.

"You know, who created it?" A disbelieving and slightly sarcastic look was on her face.

"I'm rather sure of it." He smiled vaguely and got out a small device with a monitor from his pockets. It recorded the sounds for a few seconds, then he let run some programs over the frequencies and when he finally found the right spectrum, he showed the screen to the woman.

"That's the same symbol. The bird. That's impossible! You would have to be at least over a thousand years old. Or a time traveller."

"Maybe it's both," the Reaper offered with a chuckle.

"I don't know why... but somehow I believe it." She smiled again and slid a bit closer to him. "You don't happen to have some spare room in that time machine?"

He glanced at her and found a look in those eyes he knew too well. The urge to travel, to see what lies beyond, to escape whatever pitiful live it was that waited here. One single time he had agreed to that begging, so so long ago.

"You don't even know who I am," he said with a dangerous glint in his eyes, turned towards the woman and grabbed her scarf with a nasty grin. "I'm a monster. I don't care about anyone but myself. Especially not about a random whore on the streets. You were fun for the moment, but don't overstay your welcome."

A smile whizzed over her face. "A sad monster. But I get it. I'm not wanted here."

"No. You never were." He let go of the scarf and sharply turned away.

But she didn't leave and instead nudged him. Her eyes countering his venomous stare with an amused glint. "When you can travel time, there is no need to hurry."

He rolled his eyes. "Still not interested."

"But I am. Shhh..." She put a finger in front of his mouth as he wanted to protest. "Let me give you a special offer. It's a way too nice evening to spend it all alone. And I'm not in the mood to ruin it with... customers." With a chuckle she ignored his raised eyebrows. "I offer you my company for the whole evening. Nothing else. And in return..." Her eyes wandered over the booths. "You can show me more of you magnificent hypnotism." She blinked cheekily at him. "What do you say, pretty boy?"

The Reaper burst out into a laugh, honestly amused. Then he nodded. "I very much enjoy showing off. I'll take the offer."

And he held out his arm to her once more, both sauntering back into the masses to enjoy a night of mischief, accompanied by the gently singing planets.

Back to index


Chapter 8: Green menace

It was a big, greenish slime monster.

Literally.

The Reaper stared at the thing that he had just stepped on and wiped his boot disgustedly on a patch of dry grass nearby. Then he grabbed a stick and poked the wobbling mass.

It still moved.

Face contorting in even more disgust, the Reaper pulled out his laser screwdriver and chose its highest setting, aiming it at the creature afterwards to vaporize it.

There was one thing he had learned from human videogames: No one ever needed oversized slime monsters.

His way lead further down an empty street, framed by deserted brick stone houses. No one was around, but here and there he could make out more of the green mass dripping from lanterns or grossly filling the gaps in the cobble stone. It took quite the amount of caution not to step into that stuff.

And to make everything a lot worse, there wasn't even the slightest hint of what he was looking for. Not a single person around, no weird inventions or other conspicuous things, and also no crow symbol.

So he probably was way too early again, which meant it would make sense to simply turn around and get away from this mess. But right as the thought manifested, the Reaper turned around a corner and came face to face with another slime monster, a bit darker in colour and almost as big as himself, and also at least twice as wide. It stretched and bent and produced all sorts of extraordinarily unpleasant squelching sounds.

Quickly he aimed his laser at the creature while taking some big steps backwards. Few shots later he had to face the fact that it wasn't of much use though. The smaller ones got vaporized, the big one... only got angry and started to throw parts of itself at the Reaper.

"Ewww! Come on, that's disgusting!" He jumped around in a zigzag to evade the stuff, all while shooting more laser beams at the creature. "You're supposed to be level 1! Not the end boss!"

Another sickening squelching sound was behind him, and before the Reaper could jump out of the way, he got completely engulfed by the green substance and sucked into the inside of another big creature.

It felt cold and he couldn't breathe inside that thing, so all his focus was on getting out again as soon as possible.

And then burn the whole place to the ground!

Angrily he flailed around, his movements slowed down by the slimy substance. His laser only produced small holes, never big enough to escape, so he reached inside his pockets and got out some bangers. Risky, but he'd rather get injured slightly than to suffocate in slime of all things!

The laser screwdriver ignited the bangers and the Reaper stretched out his hand to place them a bit away from him, silently thanking his respiratory bypass that was now kicking in.

Seconds later there were several detonations and finally the creature fell apart, spluttering slime and the Reaper over the ground, where he greedily sucked in some air, before he jumped to his feet to get away from any possible threat.

More of the creatures had gathered around, most had the size of footballs or small children, while some were as big as the two he had just encountered.

And then they suddenly stopped moving as a huge shadow fell upon them all. The Reaper gulped and looked upwards, while pulling several threads of slime from his hair. His eyes slowly widened in terror.

There was another slime creature. Only that this one was bigger than most of the houses around. It made its way towards him simply by sliding through the buildings, absorbing the other monsters around and growing slightly with each and every single one of them.

It took him a whole two seconds to close his open hanging mouth, then he carefully stepped backwards, made sure the way was clear, and ran.

His TARDIS greeted him with warmth and safety, even though her passenger was dripping green slime everywhere.

Panting the Reaper leaned against the closed doors, contemplating whether or not he should get back and detonate the whole place. It was disgusting enough to deserve it.

Really. Why did he even contemplate it?

It didn't take long and he had gathered his finest collection of explosives, piled them together and stuffed them into a big net. Then he got the TARDIS into flight mode and brought her hovering over the abandoned town, where the huge boss slime was busy absorbing his smaller versions and leaving green goo at everything it came into contact with.

The Reaper kicked the net out of the doors and let it drop right into the monster.

"Ohhhh.... this will be..." He grinned widely and pressed a button in his hand. "...spectacular!"

Few seconds later there was a loud rumbling in the air, followed by the biggest explosion the Reaper had seen in quite a while. Fire and slime splashed in all directions, now covering the entire surroundings.

Including the TARDIS and her inmate.

Disgusted he looked down at himself, only happy that the stuff at least didn't smell like anything.

"Pah!" He banged the door shut and marched back to the console, grinning into the air. "And you think I'm bad at defeating boss monsters!"

And there it was again, this time almost audible. A slight vibration next to him, as if the air was giggling. He didn't imagine it!

"Yeah, yeah, laugh at me. Dripping green goo everywhere. That you like, eh?" He chuckled and got accompanied by the voiceless giggle once more.

His hearts jumped and a smile stretched from ear to ear.

After all this time his ghost was still here.

However, for now he needed fresh clothes and a very long, hot bath to get that slimy stuff off of him.

Back to index


Chapter 9: The crow

For quite a while he Reaper tested around with different frequencies, being almost absolutely sure that the ghost was still with him. If only he could manage to make it visible. Or at least feed it enough energy to communicate.

Even though he knew this wouldn't solve the main issue, it would still be comforting to know...

Slowly he let his tools sink and sighed. Maybe it would be a bad thing. The state his ghost had been in when entering the TARDIS certainly wasn't anything he wished for anyone. And being unconscious about it might still be better than having to be fully aware.

By the Time Vortex! Was he really thinking about not doing something bad and selfish?

Did it even matter in the end? Not fixing the loop would only erase something he couldn't get back anyway. Wouldn't it be better to just let it vanish?

But no... in this particular case the Reaper decided to be very selfish.

To distract himself from all these useless thoughts he tuned his TARDIS to the psychic link and let his ship find new coordinates. Not that he had much hope left, after years of finding exactly nothing. But at least he could continue trying.

There was an electric nudge in the Reaper's mind when he pressed a button on the controls. Confused he glanced around, halfway awaiting to see his ghost somewhere, but found nothing but the empty room and silent air. As his eyes came back to the monitor, there was something unusual though. He had followed the link for so long now it was immediately imminent that those coordinates didn't match.

Something had changed them and now his TARDIS was landing.

Sure, his old lady could have a mind of her own from time to time, but she usually didn't just drop him off somewhere random. Not like the stubborn and disobedient TARDIS of a certain other Time Lord.

"Do you have something to do with this?" he asked into the silent air, since the first time in years actually hoping for an answer again.

And as the Reaper didn't get any, he sighed and decided to have a look. Automatically his hand reached for his black coat and hesitated for a moment. The thing had become quite worn and a bit tattered here and there over the years. Maybe he should get a new one, even though all the memories of this journey were now part of it. Stories, woven into the very fabric of the attire.

Shaking his head about those thought, he shrugged it on, drew the hood deep into his face and stepped outside.

The TARDIS had become an additional door at a large building this time. Loud noises came from nearby, screaming and laughing and chattering filled the air. Was this...? The Reaper strolled around for a bit, finding a large place that was filled with probably hundreds of children, somewhere around the age of maybe six to ten. It was always hard to tell with humans. But they were all tiny at least.

Why in the universe had he landed at a human primary school, of all places?

It made not much sense to him, but he continued to saunter around anyway, trying to stay out of sight from everyone. A figure like him would surely draw too much attention. There was a small patch of trees nearby. More decoration than anything else, but at least a shadow he could hide in and observe the surroundings for a bit.

Not much later an annoying bell rang from somewhere and the noises of playing kids slowly vanished, leaving only the sounds of a usual summer day behind. With folded arms he leaned against one of the trees, letting his mind wander and ponder over the weird location.

Something bumped into him, a squeak resounded, followed by a thud and an "Ooouch!"

The Reaper opened his eyes and saw a kid picking herself up from the ground and rubbing her bum, then throwing a mean glance up to him.

"What?" He gave the child an eye roll. "You bumped into me. Piss off."

"Pfff," the girl made and folded her small arms. "Grown-ups aren't even allowed here." She then tilted her head and observed him curiously. "You look weird."

He decided to ignore the brat and simply closed his eyes again, waiting for her to disappear. After a few moments he heard her mumble, "Huh, normally they remember me longer."

"What?" he dug deeper, now suddenly very interested.

The girl jumped in surprise and almost fell onto her bum once more, eyes widened with surprise. She was rather small, barely reaching his waist, and had blond short hair that were held in a small ponytail. Big, bright green eyes stared up at him and she waved a hand around. "Do you still see me?"

"That can't be," the Reaper mumbled dumbfounded, then laughed out loud, making the kid jump again. "Yeah, I see you. And no, I won't forget you."

Her eyes got even wider at his words, but also a bit scared, darting around as if to look for an escape route. Then they wandered back and thoroughly over him, the tattered coat, his face underneath the hood. She gulped and took a step closer.

"I know who you are," she whispered conspiratorially and grinned. "You look like the Grim Reaper from my books."

That made him laugh once more and he folded down his hood while stepping towards her to take a closer look. She must be counting maybe eight years, certainly not much more. "No doubt. You're the one I've been looking for." He smiled.

The girl gaped at him and swallowed hard. "Oh," she made and took a deep breath. "That makes sense. I'm a ghost after all."

"Well, not quite this you. Actually a slightly bigger version." He held a hand a bit above his chest. "Not... much taller though." With a grin he cocked his head. "You're rather tiny, even fully grown."

The girl furrowed her brows and pursed her lips.

"Not very pretty either," the Reaper continued to mock, very amused by the faces the girl made. "Quite boyish and you'll be horribly insolent."

"Pfffff," the girl made and turned her head away, sulking with folded arms. Then she turned back and stuck out her tongue. "And you're a wanker!"

For a tiny moment the Reaper stared at her, then burst out into such a loud laugh that the child jumped away a few steps. "You..." he chuckled and wiped away a laughing tear. "...don't even know what that means, eh?"

The kid blushed a little, but then squinted her eyes at him and seemed to try to look mean. "Miss Cragher was super mad at Tony when he used that. So it has to be something really bad." She pointed at the Reaper. "And you suck!"

He snorted and had a hard time not to laugh again. This was too good. He almost didn't want to leave so soon. But whatever had made the TARDIS bring him here had been an error. At this age she didn't even have the link yet, so it didn't make much sense. Which also meant he should leave.

With a wide and nasty grin he stepped to the girl and flicked her forehead. "We'll meet again, brat. Good Bye."

"You're... not going to take me away?" she asked puzzled when he plainly wanted to leave.

And something clicked inside his mind. Something very painful. Was that the reason he had landed in this time? It couldn't be.

"I don't want to be a ghost," he heard her mumble from behind. "Everyone forgets me always."

"You're not a ghost." Not yet at least, he thought with a sad smile and turned around. "It's a glitch in reality that makes people forget you. A curse, if you will."

"What's a glitch?" She cocked her head.

The Reaper shrugged. "Nothing to be concerned about... yet. Go to the library and find out."

The girl sulked again and glared at her feet. "Only the grown-ups can go there."

"So?" He snickered. "They don't see you."

She looked up again and obviously something clicked in her little head, followed by a wide, roguish smile. "Ohhhh! Of couse!" Happily she hopped around. "There are sooooo many books!" She spread her arms. "It must be... a hundred!"

"Far more." The Reaper nodded with a stern face, remembering how her future self would spend almost half of her life with her nose between pages.

But her face got serious again a moment later and she glared up. "Are there books? I mean... at that place you take the souls you collect. Mhmmm... how is it there?"

"There is... no such place." He looked away. "Where I go there will be death. But after that... I don't think there is anything else. Your atoms just spread and become part of the universe again." A vague smile curved his lips. "I guess that's not too bad."

Once more he glared at the child, a lump forming in his throat, together with an ever growing feeling of dread. It was so easy. His ghost had brought him here for a reason. Was this what she wanted him to do? Even at that young age he could see a deep sadness sitting in her eyes, created by being forgotten and abandoned by everyone around.

He had to swallow and blink a few times, before he squatted down in front of her. "Listen, little crow," he said quietly, only then remembering that she hadn't used that name as a child. "Gin."

"Hey, you know my name!" Her eyes lit up.

"Sure." A sad smile played on his face and he put both hands on her small shoulders. "Time can play with you, make your head dizzy and turn everything in ways you don't even want to think about. But it always... always leaves you a choice." A sting went through both of his hearts as he looked into those eyes. Still a child, but already clever. He really wanted to end the ghost's suffering. But hell! He was still himself, and that meant he would be selfish with this. "I'm going to give you a choice. And you have to be careful with it, okay?"

Gin nodded, curiosity on her face. "What about?"

"You life." He felt her wince subtly, but not retreat. "Listen carefully. If you don't want to be a ghost... I can..." He had to swallow and blink to get out his next words. "I could take your soul now. And you wouldn't have to suffer for a single day longer."

"Why does that make you sad?" the girl almost whispered, glaring into his eyes without the slightest bit of fear.

"Because then your timeline would end right here and now. We would never meet in the future." Another sting pierced his hearts and he hung his head, murmuring, "I wouldn't even remember you."

A minute passed. Maybe less, maybe more. Gin shifted and finally stepped closer and leaned down a bit to look him in the eyes. "Are you... crying?" she asked softly. And then, without a warning she, wrapped her small arms around his torso, as far as they reached.

He was too startled to move, not used to be treated like that at all. For his entire life the Reaper had done his best to keep people away from him. Had been cruel, cold and unapproachable. And it had worked. Always. Except for this one stubborn human, who had refused to leave his side.

His hands were slightly shaking when he finally closed his own arms around her. So many years he had searched for her, knowing what he would have to do the day he found her. "I can't do that any longer," he breathed.

Why had she brought him here? This was cruel. He didn't want to do this.

"Huh... why's your heart beating so fast?" the girl suddenly wondered, ripping him out of these thoughts.

A smile whizzed over his face and he let go of her, took one of her small hands and placed them on his chest. "It's not." He moved her hand to his second heart and saw her eyes widen, her little mouth forming a silent 'Oh'.

"Well, death can't be like humans, right?" She smiled widely and stepped back. "You're a sod." Her voice and eyes were both filled with a grim determination. "But you have warm eyes. And if forgetting me would make you so sad... I don't want that." She shook her head and stemmed her fists into her hips. "And when I'm older, and maybe not that big and not that pretty, I want to meet you again."

The Reaper took a deep breath and smiled sadly, unbelievably glad that he wouldn't have to erase her completely. But it also meant...

"Then my search for an older you isn't over yet."

"Huh? So we haven't met yet? But you said..."

"Mhm..." He got to his feet and stared in the direction of his TARDIS. "That's the fun with time travel. Next time you meet me... it will set everything in motion to lead up to this moment."

"That's good!" Gin cheered, but got serious immediately when she saw his face. "But that also seems to make you sad."

"Yeah..." He forced a smile on his face, but couldn't hold it there. Instead he muttered, "Next time I meet you... I will have to take your life." Once more he swallowed to get the lump in his throat to vanish. It didn't. "Because if I don't... it also would erase this timeline."

"Oh. That's dumb!" the girl protested. "But you're the Grim Reaper. I guess it's your job."

More often than not he couldn't be bothered less about an ending life. Death was following in his shadow like a twin brother, a constant reminder of a long gone curse. Without realizing it at first, the Reaper started to tap a steady rhythm of four beats against his leg. Only the child's curious look made him aware and he stopped this old habit.

"I have to erase your memory of our encounter, little crow," he said with an apologetic smile. "It's not good to know about your own future."

Gin pouted, but then nodded. Even at that young age she didn't seemed to be stupid. The Reaper let himself down to his knees and cupped her small face with both hands, his thumbs gingerly pressing against her temples, while he fixated her eyes. Then he remembered... about how she herself had told him once about this encounter, but had described only tiny snippets and as if they stemmed from a dream.

"I will make you sleep," he muttered and sent his words like a command into her mind. "When you wake up, most of this memory will be gone. It will feel to you like a dream."

The girl's eyes started to get heavy and shortly after her lids closed and she slumped together. Before she could hit the ground though, the Reaper caught her. "There will be times where you are certain you can't handle life any longer," he said and let his words sicker into her unconsciousness. "And when you sit there, at the edge, watching the sun set... don't take that last step. Wait. There will be a blue box. And it is the most important thing that you find it, and stay there." He knew this would happen anyway, but he still wanted to make sure.

Usually it would be a bad idea to simply drop her nearby, but since the glitch made her literally invisible to everyone, she would be safe.

Instead, though, the Reaper held her small body in his arms for a while, watched the peacefully sleeping girl, that one day would turn into a peculiar woman, perfectly able to turn his life upside down without him even noticing. Who would one day end up as a literal ghost, lost inside his TARDIS, unable to even speak anymore.

"I will find you," he murmured, his voice shaky. "And make sure you won't have to be a ghost. That's a promise."

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Chapter 10: Epilogue

The Reaper was incredibly tired. Of travelling aimlessly, of chasing a ghost and never landing anywhere in time. Years of his own timeline had passed, he wasn't even completely sure how many, and he couldn't get any closer. The coordinates always were too distorted.

It was no use to continue like that. He had to find a way to fine tune the signal from the psychic link. Somehow. As if he hadn't thought about it over and over again without any result.

With a sigh he closed his eyes and leaned against the humming console. His thoughts wandered back. Back to his most recent years on Gallifrey, no, further even.

There had been a young woman. A human and a companion of the Doctor, his favourite enemy. She had tried to free the Doctor when he had managed to capture him once. But somehow, instead, she had ended up travelling with the Reaper for a while. They had been... close? Something like that. He really wasn't too eager to think about it.

But back then there also had been the drums in his head. And there was Rassilon, most accursed of all Time Lords, who had been responsible for this torment. The Reaper had gotten his revenge. But in exchange he had been stuck on Gallifrey after the Doctor had sealed it away.

Of course he had been able to flee. He always got away somehow. And he had spent some quality years just being... him. Although sowing destruction and madness over the universe didn't feel as satisfying anymore, without the drums to drive him. And alone.

But one day... he had met this human woman again. Somehow she had simply materialized inside his TARDIS. But something...

...Something was wrong, he realized as he stepped closer to the figure. It was her, no doubt. But it was as if he couldn't see her clearly. And then he remembered the glitch, and that the Doctor's TARDIS had frozen her time stream to prevent her atoms from dissolving.

She heard or maybe just sensed his presence and turned around, no, flickered like a candle flame, like a loose collection of particles, waving in all directions. She had short, blond hair, looked a bit boyish and her bright green eyes fixated on the Reaper.

"I know you," she whispered.

"I'd be damn pissed, if you'd simply forgotten me," he mocked and tilted his head. "Freezing you didn't quite do the trick, eh?"

"Freezing... mhm..." She reached out a hand as if to touch his chest, but her atoms spread around him, like water flowing around a rock, and she took it back. "Who are you?" the woman asked and looked up to him. "I don't remember."

Those words sent a nasty sting through his hearts. Sure, he hadn't been bothered to look for her after Gallifrey... but that...

"You... don't remember? And still you materialized inside my TARDIS?"

Puzzled she looked around, as if she would realize only now where she was.

"How old are you now?" the Reaper asked with a raised eyebrow. "Must have taken quite a while to get that bad."

"I..." She hesitated and thought for a while. "I don't know. There are memories. So many of them." Slowly her hands reached for her head, but she couldn't even touch herself anymore, and for a moment she stared at her fingers. "A thousand years. More. Probably. Maybe a lot more. I don't know." Then she looked back up and asked again, "Who are you? It feels like you were important."

Again it stung. Why? After all these years... He stepped closer and tried to cup her face, but his hands went right through her and he retreated, swallowing a mean lump in his throat. "I don't know anymore," he admitted finally. "Without the drums... I'm... no one."

The woman started to flicker some more, as if she could barely hold herself together any longer, and she pinched her eyes together as if in pain. "I'm fading again," she muttered. "Am I dead?"

The Reaper shook his head and swallowed again. "No. I'm... not sure you can even die anymore. Not in that state. I can't... I can't even release you from that."

"But you have to. I... there is... it was important." She shook her head. "The eye of the storm. You have to be there. To... remember. To close the loop."

Something clicked painfully in his mind. Of course. It made sense. Her life was a paradox. Taking it would make him remember. A memory strong enough to ripple into his past and enable the whole ordeal in the first place.

"That's cruel," he spat out and looked away while folding his arms in front of his chest. "Not even I would construct a loop like that."

Then again, if he would refuse, his whole timeline up to this point would change. They would never meet and none of the things from back then would have happened.

"Whatever. It's so long ago," he grumbled and kicked against his console. "What do I care? You're just some random human. Why would it bother me to kill you?"

With a sinister scowl he glared at the phantom, but it seemed as if she couldn't comprehend his words. Instead her matter waved and flickered violently, before standing almost still for a vague moment.

"Not enough energy..." She looked around some more. "I'll just stay here for a while."

And then she was gone. Just like that. And from then on he hadn't seen any sign of her ever again. There were only those rare occasions, where he could feel the energy around him shifting unnaturally, had hoped she would still be there. Somehow. So he wouldn't have to take on this journey all alone. To find a younger version of her that was still able to die properly.

"Master!"

He snapped up from his reverie and looked around, surprised to hear this name. No one, not even he himself, had used it for years. Hearing it now felt weird and... wrong.

"Master!"

There it was again.

"Where are you?" he asked into the air, while turning.

Somewhere the air flickered, slowly getting darker, and after a while a silhouette formed, became a young human woman, that smiled widely. He stared at her, unsure if he was hallucinating. Relieve flooded his mind a moment later.

All this time... he hadn't been alone.

"Tzzzz, had some fun letting me think I'm going crazy again?" he sneered and pursed his lips.

"How long was I gone?" the woman asked and looked around, seemingly much more aware of her surrounding than the last time. "I was inside your systems for a bit. It... I don't even know how I did it. Probably got lost in there for a while."

"Yeah... a while." He snorted. "Wait... did you pull me into your childhood some days ago?"

"Uh... did I?" She tried to rub her neck, but then remembered that she wasn't solid anymore and scowled at her hand for a moment. "I tried to stabilize the signal from the link. I think I managed now. There is one point that is... I don't know if it will work, but... but..." Her matter started to flicker again and her eyes became empty.

"Well... let's try that then, shall we?"

With a look to his controls he found a new set of coordinates there and got his TARDIS moving. Without turning around he grabbed his coat and stepped outside, finding himself on a beach in the middle of the night. Nearby he found a small fire lazily shrinking down to embers. And in front of it...

He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, then muttered, "There you are."

--- oOoOoOo ---


Back inside he got the TARDIS to some new coordinates. "If I'm forced to do this... And I'm honest here, I hate it... then at least I'll do it someplace that is worthy of an ending. And you! You will stop suffering like that. I forbid it!"

He pointed a finger at the ghost that was still standing around and she looked into his face, her eyes confused and somewhere else entirely.

"Who are you?" she asked, her voice weak and tired.

"Tch, seriously. That's getting annoying." He stepped towards the woman and poked into her swirling matter. "Once and for all, and this time you better remember!"

He stemmed his fists into his sides and grinned from ear to ear.

"I am the Master! And I will get my possession back now."

With that he left, not letting himself take a last look at his ghost.

It was time to prevent this from ever happening.

--- The End ---


A/N:
Hey there! I hope you all enjoyed this little random adventure. In case you are confused as to what exactly happened... this was a side story to my other fic The Master's Game. So if you want to learn more, head over and read that. ;D

Thanks for reading and reviewing!

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