I felt a hand gently ruffling through my short hair, deliberately making a mess of them. Tiredly blinking I lifted my head, glanced at the Master and very suddenly realised what exactly had just happened. A furious blush crept up my neck and all over my face. Hastily I pushed myself away from him.
The Master let me, watched for a mere second, then burst out laughing.
"You should see your face!" he cackled.
I tried to smack his arm, but he simply evaded, still giggling to himself. Not that I was actually mad at him, it was just funny trying to land a blow somewhere for his dumb behaviour. But neither trying to stomp on his foot, nor poking him at least, was of success, so I gave up, folded my arms and resorted to scowling at him with pursed lips.
"Was that really necessary?" I grumbled, barely able to keep a smile from my lips.
The Master calmed down and poked out his tongue through his teeth. "Stupid question. You should have literally felt the effect."
He was right. I knew perfectly well why he had kissed me, even though I wasn't so sure about the technical background. This whole telepathic stuff was still confusing to me. What it had done, in the end, was undeniable, however. The beast was gone, I was alive and well. Still I kept the frown on my face and growled a little to myself.
The Master poked my head with one finger, grinning from ear to ear. "Oh, stop sulking. And don't pretend you didn't like it."
"Pfffffffff..." I let out, not deigning him an answer.
"What's going on?" The Doctor's voice tore us out of the silly banter. He seemed to have regained his consciousness and had lifted himself from the ground. In that moment I was quite happy he had slept away the previous... situation. He still seemed a little groggy. The blow must have hit him hard, the thought now making me slightly uncomfortable. "Lucy, are you... is that thing still in your head?" He groaned and rubbed his own, glancing from me to the Master.
"I got rid of it," the other Time Lord simply told. "No idea where it went, but it's not here anymore."
The Doctor sighed and gave me a long look, as if to make sure it was the truth. It was hard to tell what he thought. I knew this was actually the moment meant to apologize for my action before. However, seeing he wasn't even hurt and considering his behaviour towards me... I couldn't be bothered less.
The two Time Lords glared at each other for a good minute. The tension in the room was almost worse than it had been with the entity around. None of them moved, no one spoke a word. The small interruption I had caused couldn't make their fight undone.
And then, as I tossed glances back and forth, a smile spread on the Master's lips, amused and weirdly honest. "For all my attempts to murder you, it's only fair enough that you try the same. In your own way."
"You know it's not like that," the Doctor answered with a certain sadness in his voice. "I don't want you to die."
At that the other Time Lord laughed. Cackling to himself he crossed his arms over his chest. "I know! Dumbass. You only try it when you're certain I'll get out of it... relatively unscathed."
Perplex I glanced at the two. The whole situation made not much sense to me. There was a small, almost involuntary smile, twitching the corners of the Doctor's mouth upwards. He shrugged his shoulders, hands buried in his pants pockets.
"You always get away."
"'Cause I do," the Master agreed, nodding in my direction. "So make sure to treat my pet a little nicer from now on."
With that he turned around and marched to the door, leaving us behind. The Doctor and I exchanged puzzled glances. How could the Master know how the other man treated me? Had he seen it in my mind? Or did they simply know each other so well that it was obvious to him?
Meanwhile the Master had left the room, vanishing down the corridor with swift steps. I looked away from the Doctor and followed suit, the other Time Lord right behind me.
"Where are you going?" the Doctor asked as he caught up. "You know I can't let you harm any of them for-"
"Ugh, can't you just shut it, Doctor?" the Master groaned. "Eh, silly question. 'Cause you can't."
"Oi! You might not care, but you know it's wrong! Just listen inside you, Master."
"No. There's only the sodding drums," the other Time Lord spat and rounded a corner. "Not that you'd believe it." He cut off the Doctor as he wanted to answer. "Besides, I'm not interested in your humans, right now. I'm heading to the elevator shaft. They should all be there."
"Why would they? What do you want there?"
"Satisfying my curiosity."
"But why the elev- ohhhhhhh!" Suddenly it dawned on the Doctor. He sped up his steps.
"What?" I wanted to know. "What is there?"
"Something beyond powerful, lil' lumin. Listen."
I did, although I had no clue for what. "I don't hear anything."
The Master chuckled and winked at me. "Exactly. Don't you miss it? The constant noise?"
"What noi-" My mouth fell shut as I understood. "The drill stopped."
"Yup. And whatever possessed you must have come from the core. Must be something that lay dormant until they reached deep enough to wake it up. Otherwise it would have shown itself earlier."
We reached a room that was mostly built into the ground. Natural walls of stone surrounded us, decorated with wires and tubes and ventilation shafts. Machines also stood tall, monsters of metal and plastic, with too many levers and buttons and displays.
The crew really was gathered here. Ida, Danny, Toby and Zach, at least. They stood near a wide hole in the ground. A huge, thick metal construct stuck out from it, containing the now silent drill and an elevator.
"...should not risk anything!" Danny demanded with a stern face. "We already lost someone, today."
"And if we don't go down, it will have been for nothing," Ida countered and gestured towards the shaft. "This is what we came here for! We made it through, that's all that matters."
"Ida's right," Zach seconded with folded arms. "But Toby's right, too. The symbols the cameras have picked up... We shouldn't risk too much."
"What symbols?" the Master demanded to know as we all stepped closer.
Everyone tensed and moved a little away, all faces wearing hints of fear on them. Danny spoke first, his look dark. "What the heck are you lot doing here?"
"Not breaking your neck," the Time Lord growled forebodingly.
"We want to help," the Doctor tried to sooth the previous words. "It's in all our interest to fins this mysterious powery power source, isn't it?"
"Not interested in helping. But the sooner this all is done, the sooner we can come back for the TARDIS, am I right?" The Master glowered at the humans around.
"Yes, you are," Zach confirmed grudgingly. "But we're not going to risk losing more crewmates because you want to speed up things." He pointed at the hole in the ground. "The power source probably is of alien origin. Our cameras picked up structures that are unlikely to be natural. And also more of the strange symbols Toby's busy translating."
"Have you been successful with them?" the Doctor wanted to know, excitement swinging in his voice. "My ship couldn't translate it. Means it's old. Extremely, impossibly old."
Toby shook his head. "No. Not yet. Translating a completely unknown language takes a while. Especially one that is alien."
Ida hummed understanding. "It's risky for now. First we should send some drones scouting, then-"
"I'll go down."
All eyes shot to the Master. He stood there, arms folded and a look on his face that left no room for discussion.
The Doctor squirmed, opened his mouth to speak and quickly closed it again. He tried once more, this time succeeding. "Then I'll go too! Can't wait to find out what's down there and since you all don't wanna risk anything..."
"We barely know you, Doctor," Zach tossed in, a sceptical look on his face. "We can't trust either of you."
"No," I mumbled into the silence that spread. Surprisingly, everyone looked at me and I shrunk together somewhat. But didn't have I enough of being overlooked? Scowling I straightened myself and stepped forward, pulse racing, hands sweaty, but I managed. "We're disposable. And it's not as if any of us could flee with whatever is down there. Besides..." I smiled and thumbed behind me at the Master. "He's my responsibility. Didn't you say that? So it clearly should be me who comes down with'im."
"You're not babysitting me, ape!" the Master spat. "But you're right. Fleeing isn't an option and doing any harm down there would be suicide."
The crew members exchanged glances. Eventually Zach nodded and Ida also didn't seem to hate the idea, even though she made sure to be in the next group to go down there.
"I'm not going to miss out taking a look myself," she sternly commented. "But Lucy's right. As mean as it may sound, we have nothing to lose by letting them down first. Although it's a shame."
"Humans," the Doctor remarked with a wide, admiring smile. "Always so full of curiosity. Flying all the way across space, right below a black hole, drilling into the heart of a planet. You are amazing!"
The Master grunted annoyed, but Ida seemed flattered and smiled. "Doctor, I think you should stay with us."
"What!?" he exclaimed. "No! I want to go down! I volunteer!"
"Yes, but out of your bunch you're the only one I'm somewhat trusting. We need a reliable person to recall the events, when we're back home. And, just in case, a brain like yours might be helpful in a dire situation."
"Believe me," the Master sneered, "He's not the brain of this group. Certainly not!"
"Oi! Master, stop it!" the other Time Lord whined. "So far I foiled every single one of your plans, don't you forget that!"
"Yeah..." He snorted out a short laugh. "With sheer luck and dumb coincidences. Nothing to do with intelligence."
"Okay, okay, stop!" Zach trod between them and tossed dark glances this way and that. "The two of you are definitely not going down together. But I agree with Ida, you two will go." He pointed at me and the Master. "See it as a way to redeem you. Or to prove that we can count on you, whatever."
An hour later we were briefed and ready to descent. Both, the Master and I were clad in orange space suits, since there would be no oxygen inside the planet. The thing was surprisingly comfortable and not at all bulky, as I had imagined space suits to be. Even the oxygen tanks weren't that heavy, but that was mostly due to the fact that we wouldn't stay long.
Ida had explained how everything worked, how we would be driven down inside the small elevator next to the dormant drill. She handed us some tools, too. A gravity ball, some communicators and a scanning device to gather data about the power source, should we come across it.
"What do you think to accomplish?" the Doctor asked calmly. "I don't think whatever is down there lets you run off with the power source."
The Master chuckled and shook his head. "Wasn't the plan."
"Don't tell me you'll try and blow the whole thing up!"
"Geeze, of course not, idiot!" the Master shot back. "That would blow me up as well."
"Maybe... but I know for a fact that you didn't just change into the helping type." The Doctor frowned. "Something makes you go down. And I'm rather sure I won't like the reason. As always."
"And as always you're so, so wrong, Doctor."
"We're ready!" Zach called out.
I put on the round helmet, letting Ida check if everything was alright. She did the same with the Master and then signalled us to step into the elevator.
"Do you think the beast is down there?" I quietly asked him.
"Well, I certainly hope so."
The Doctor's eyes widened. He had clearly overheard us. "No," he hushed. "You can't cooperate with that thing, Master. Whatever it is, it's not-"
"Wrong, Doctor." The other Time Lord chuckled.
"But... what do you want, then?"
I glanced up, curious about the answer. There had to be a reason for the Master to take this risk, and to make sure he would be the first to go down and face whatever was lurking in the dark. A mechanical rumble went through the cave, then the elevator slowly started to move, gliding down surprisingly smooth.
"I tell you, what I'm going to do," the Master told grinning, while we vanished into the ground. "I'm going to kill that thing."