by TardisGhost [Reviews - 78]Chapter or Story
A long patch of silence fell over the group. The Master didn't look pleased, despite the stunned reaction. No, to me he looked and felt just… tired. This hadn't been a speech of motivation, it had been one of contempt.
"Clearly not a pacifist then," Cobb murmured, coughing awkwardly. "Come. You might want to have a look at something."
We followed his hand-wave to a table in the middle of the room from which a hologram emerged. A technology that still impressed me, even though I had seen them a few times already. Earth didn't seem to find the right method to reproduce those yet. This one showed a map of sorts, a path through the corridors maybe.
"Does this show the entire city, including the Hath zones?" asked the Master, studying the map.
Donna nudged the Master. "This'll help us find Martha."
"Wrong," he answered sweetly, smiling even. "That brat can take care of herself, believe me. And if not… no loss for me."
"We've more important things to do anyway," said the general, before Donna could voice a protest. "The progenation machines are powered down for the night shift, but as soon as they're active, we could breed a whole platoon from you three."
A quick look from me landed on Jenny. "No thanks. I really don't want anyone with my DNA running around."
Donna also looked not very pleased. "I'm not having sons and daughters by some great big flipping machine." She scowled and waved her hands over the people around. "Sorry, no offence, but you're not… well, I mean, you're not… real."
The general gasped, looking us up and down. "Ground-born then. Never thought I'd see some in my time of service."
Jenny scoffed at Donna, nodding in the Master's direction. "You're no better than him. I have a body, I have a mind, I have independent thought. How am I not real?"
Donna gave no answer, obviously digging for the right words. The Master did it for her. "Because you're nothing but a set of data. You have no own experiences, no own opinions and wishes. Maybe you're flesh and blood and maybe you're real people. But you're just… wrong."
"Oh, that was a little harsh," Donna mumbled.
The Master rolled his eyes. "As if that isn't what you thought too."
Jenny's lip quivered slightly, but then she held her head high. "Might be all true. But we do make our own memories. With time. Same as everyone else. We only start a little later. So what makes you better than me?"
"Well said, soldier." Cob nodded appreciatively. "We need more like you, if ever we're to find the Source."
The Master took the opportunity to ignore the girl again. His attention returned to the general. "Source? Source of what?"
"Did they teach you nothing?" He shook his head. "The breath of life." And when the Master only raised an eyebrow, Cobb continued, "In the beginning, the great one breathed life into the universe. And then she looked at what she'd done, and she sighed."
Jenny smiled. "She. I like that."
"A creation myth," said Donna, head tilted.
"It's not a myth. It's real." The general regarded her with a strict look. "That sigh. From the beginning of time it was caught and kept as the Source. It was lost when the war started. But it's here, somewhere." He waved at the map. "Whoever holds the Source controls the destiny of the planet."
At that the Master nudged me, smiling like a mischievous school boy. "See? I told you there's something to get from here."
I couldn't help but grin back, but then noted, "They have no clue where that Source is, though."
"Mhm, that proposes a problem, yeah." He turned to the general. "I'm a technician, highly skilled. Let me have a look at that map."
Cobb grunted. "If you break anything, we'll execute you. All of you."
"No need for that. This thing just isn't calibrated correctly." The Master tapped against a small control panel, plugged in a wire and turned some knobs until a new set of corridors appeared over the old ones. "What have we here? It's only visible on this exact frequency."
Donna curiously observed the map. "What is it, what's it mean?"
"That must be the lost temple." A younger soldier called out, excited. "The Source will be inside. You've shown us the way."
More people started to gather around the newly revealed display of corridors. "And look, we're closer than the Hath. It's ours."
Cobb straightened and cast a long look over the soldiers. He had a pleased smirk on his face, his hands clasping behind his back. "Whatever is inside that temple will surely help us to defeat the Hath. And if they are all gone, this world will be ours!"
Many voices cheered, weapons were raised in celebration of a victory that was yet to come. Until Donna coughed and tugged at the general's sleeve.
"S'cuse me, but that sounds as if you want to murder them all."
The general tore his arm away and gave her a dark glare. "That is precisely what we want to do."
"But all that talk about peace!"
"There can't be peace for as long as they still exist."
"But… but that's not right!" cried Donna. Her look wandered around, seeking for help.
I gnawed on my lower lip, not knowing of anything that might be of help here. If they wanted to fight then there was nothing I could have done about it.
And the Master clearly had other plans. He held his head high, sure of himself.
"Since it was me who revealed the missing part, it should also be me who gets a fair share of whatever you'll find there. Believe me, you can benefit from my strength and knowledge in more ways than this."
"And I," answered Cobb, "say you can rot in a cell before I let you dare to take this away from us!" A bunch of soldiers moved closer; we all got grabbed by multiple hands, even more pairs for the Master, who wasn't eager to be held. "Take them. I won't have them spreading treason. And the woman is too pacifistic for my taste."
"You will regret this, General," hissed the Time Lord. "This isn't the first prison I escaped from and it won't be the last."
Cobb took his rifle, smiling grimly. "We'll see how that goes. I have an army and the Breath of God on my side. What'll you have?"
The Master laughed darkly. "A strong will to shed your blood and hear your neck snap in my very own hands. How about that?"
"And take that one too!" The general pointed at the surprised Jenny, ignoring the threats. "Can't trust her if she's from him."
"Oi! I'm on your side! I want to fight with you!"
"You're a faulty product." Cobb gave a hand wave to escort us away and then simply left.
The soldiers lead down another corridor, not speaking a word to us. Here and there they muttered something among them. After minutes of this it was Jenny who spoke first, her voice timid.
"But they are my family."
The Master scoffed. "No, they are not, girl." He sounded full of spite and disgust, and it surprised me that he was answering at all. "They aren't better than my kind. They just throw you away if you don't fit into their definition of perfect."
I glanced up. The Master wasn't looking at anything specific, only staring ahead. Why wasn't he struggling? He would be able to distract everyone enough to get away, being stronger and swifter than the rest of us.
But he stayed.
Soon, we reached a new area with various doors.
"Not all in the same cell." One soldier pointed at Donna and Jenny. "Those two in there. And the others over here. Don't make a fuss and you'll be treated well. The war is over soon, then we can let you out."
No one said a word when we were brought to the cells. They were not the type I would have expected, though. No bars and no see-through window in the door. There was a small sofa, a table and also another door that probably led to a bathroom. There wasn't much space, just enough to pace around. Also no bed, but the sofa was better than a bench. Their kind seemed to have developed a concept for treating prisoners well. Either that or they were using unfinished apartments as substitute.
"Don't make a fuss and we'll treat you well."
With that last comment we were left alone. Neither of us spoke a word. There was surprisingly little to say. So I flopped down on the sofa that stood against the wall and stared into nothingness for a while, trying to process everything that had happened.
The Master sat down too and took out a small glowing tablet with symbols and numbers on its display.
"I think I might know what this source is," he eventually announced. "If I'm right about this place then it's a colony planet. Might be of value after all."
"Don't be so smug," I grumbled. "We're prisoners, in case you forgot."
"Haven't." He shrugged and poked me with a grin. "It's not the first time and I always get out, in the end. Give it a little time."
I groaned and dropped backwards, glaring at the white ceiling.
"Now you wish you would have stayed in the TARDIS, eh?"
The Master giggled and went back to do whatever with his tablet. My mind drifted around, processing the events from the day. Would the Doctor notice that we were missing and come to fetch us? And then there was this girl that was made of the Master's DNA, but wasn't… what? I didn't know much about clone technology. For me it was still only a Scifi concept that didn't work properly in my own time.
Then there was Martha. A woman with more fire in her that could do anyone good. I didn't know much about her, except that she had been wandering the planet for the whole erased year when the Master had taken over the earth. A brave thing to do, for certain. She had every right to be mad at him, to hate him.
And then there was… I sighed, my hands folded in my lap. I wasn't sure how to address it, but there was also no way I would just let it slip.
"You lied," I muttered after some minutes.
At first, the Master didn't budge, didn't appear to be even aware of my words.
"About Lucy," I slowly continued. "You did beat her."
"And you didn't tell Jones."
"No." I breathed in deep, trying to sort the many thoughts in my mind. "So…"
It took him a while to answer. "So what?"
"What happened?" I glared at him, eager to get his full attention.
Finally the Master lowered the tablet and tossed it next to him. His eyes fell on me, burning with anger and darkness. "What happened? You know what happened." His words were like rolling thunder, deep and quiet and so filled with maliciousness that it made me shiver. He leaned a little closer, looming over me like a dark cloud. "I'm a monster. I hurt people for sports. You should know better than most."
I swallowed at the suffocating aura he projected, my body suddenly screaming at me to get out of his reach. There was, however, one thing he was right about.
"Yeah, I do know better." I slightly lowered my head, glaring at my fingers instead of at him. "I know you don't care about humans. And yet… you put a lot of effort into making Martha… no me… believe that you didn't hurt that woman on purpose."
Shyly I peeked upwards, still feeling the threatening presence of his, still sensing the anger in him. But now I wasn't so sure at whom it was directed. The room around us was unnervingly silent; I heard the faint noises of ventilation and somewhere sounded a quiet sigh of metal.
"Normally you brag about every little bad deed of yours." If he wasn't going to say anything, it was on me to break the uncomfortable silence. "Except for this one. That's why I didn't say anything. There's more to it. And… and I trusted you had a good reason."
The Master shot up from the sofa, pacing around the small area; three steps from one side of the room to the other. A caged tiger. He opened the bathroom door, only to slam it shut a second later without having thrown in more than a swift glance. He then tapped against some spots of the walls, listening for weak parts, or maybe just busying himself.
"You liked her." It appeared that this was going to be a monologue. But I also wasn't fond of saying nothing. "Because… She knew who you were and what you planned to do, and yet she still stayed."
The Master lowered his hand, raised to knock against another stone on the wall. Not a word came out of his mouth. It felt to me as if I had found out a strange truth, one that ran deeper than I could understand at that moment. Maybe this also was the reason why he had allowed me so close to him. Because, no matter what he had done and no matter who he was… I refused to leave.
When he actually spoke, the sound of his voice was so surprising that I winced.
"Come here," he demanded softly.
I grunted, annoyed. He would just go about and evade any kind of answer again, for sure. Still, I got up and joined him. There was a small window I hadn't noticed so far, probably because the area outside was bland and lifeless. Grey mixed with grey; there was nothing but dry ground and rocks for kilometres ahead.
"I see why they don't live on the surface," I mumbled, searching the landscape for anything that wasn't dead.
The Master's sudden presence in my back made me wince once more. He snaked his arms around my chest, one hand gliding up to my throat, staying there, loosely, his mouth against my ear. "I fought in a terrible war, little light," he almost whispered. "The Time Lords resurrected me, only to put a weapon into my hands before I could even remember my name again. 'Go and kill. That's what you do best'." His hand slightly closed around my throat, not a threat, just a gesture. "And so I did."
His words made me shiver. Resurrected? Had he been dead? And did his people really have a way to bring one back from the other side? Him fighting, it explained why he had behaved like a general out there, although I imagined him to be more of a lone wolf.
"It was nothing like the wars you know. We fought, wielding time itself as our weapon, we bent reality to the point of breaking and far beyond. One moment you got shredded into bloody pieces, the next you stood in another place, safe and sound. One day you would have a battalion of soldiers and the next half of them had been erased from every time line." He took a long breath. "I burned through some regeneration and in the end… everything went to hell. And I ran."
Not all of it made sense to me, but what did painted gruesome pictures into my head, pictures that could impossibly be as horrifying as reality. How would it feel, I mused, to awake from death - although that I knew - but to not even remember who and where you are, just to get told, here is a war, go and fight it for us.
And what then? What do you do?
The only thing you can do. You go out. You fight.
And you break.
I squirmed in his grip and the Master let go of me. He took an immediate step backwards, his gaze carefully observing me. Sometimes he really reminded me of a wounded animal, scared of showing his bleeding spots to anyone out of fear they might take the chance to finish the job.
Just like myself.
So I followed his step, standing a hand's width away, uncertain what was appropriate and what not. But the pain in his hearts was too loud and I couldn't stand there doing nothing. When I reached out to tug at the cloth of his shirt, he winced subtly, and when I moved to boldly wrap my arms around him, there definitely was more than one second where I felt how he stiffened and twitched, how he wanted to do nothing more than push me away and slam me right into the next wall.
He did neither.
Instead, he let out a strangled noise that could have been a laugh or a sob. "What the heck are you doing?"
"'M sorry." My voice was a bit muffled by his clothes. "That must've been horrible."
It took him several seconds to react, his answer being a snort and he wrapped his arms around me with slow hesitation, holding me tight. "I didn't want your pity, lil' lumin."
"You're not running."
I shook my head, squeezing him. How often had he asked that exact question already? How often would I have to give the same answer until he believed it? There was another sigh and the Master gently rubbed my arms, pushing me away. I looked up and into his eyes that reflected the faint light, or maybe the past that had never stopped to bore its tendrils into his hearts.
"You're still hurting," I breathed, making him cringe.
"And you're too empathic for your own good."
The same thing the Doctor had told me.
"Maybe you… and her… It's the only thing you have in common. She also didn't run." Now that he had started to open up, the Master simply continued without me probing, even though he was looking elsewhere. "I guess… it felt good. To have one that doesn't run. After she saw the end of the universe… I could have locked her away, could have sent her somewhere else. But…"
"You didn't want to be alone."
He nodded. "And one day she was so hysteric, I snapped and shoved her. She fell on a table… got bruises everywhere. It was just this once. Since then she had been almost completely apathetic. Worse than if I had hypnotised her." He let out a strangled laugh. "What irony. She would have been less damaged had I hypnotised her from the start."
I didn't know what to answer to that admission. Maybe he was right, maybe not. He definitely was sincere about it, though, given how much effort he put into explaining instead of boasting.