Smoothly the elevator rattled down into the pitch black depths of the planet's core. There was no noise beside the rumbling of the machines and the sound of my own breathing inside the helmet. Aside from a tiny lamp above our heads there also was no light to illuminated the shaft, nothing to indicate how far below our destiny lay. Only the timer inside my helmet told that we were in here for almost ten minutes.
"-kzzzt- You're okay, there?" the Doctor's voice asked through the communicator.
I picked mine up and pressed the button at its side. "Yup. All quiet and boring."
"Good! –zzzzt- We might not respond in a while. Or, well, we will. But things got a little busy. The Ood started to act up and..."
"-kzzzz- Move, Doctor!" Zach's voice rang from afar through the com. "We need to get to section 22. It's sealed and they won't come in so easily."
"You heard the man! Ida's still in the elevator room. And Jefferson is guarding the door and hallway."
The Master chuckled and shook his head, picking his own communicator up. "Can't leave you alone for one second, Doctor," he mocked. "Was actually hoping it would be me to get rid of you..."
"Ha! Don't fret. I'll find a way to protect everyone. You know me."
"Yeah, I do," the Master mumbled and smiled to himself. With that the communicator went dead and silence spread again, only interrupted by the noises of the elevator.
I did not ask. The relationship between the two Time Lords seemed a lot more complicated than I could fathom in that moment. Enemies, but still friends, fighting each other to the blood, not bothering to endanger their lives and still hoping the other would survive anyway.
My thoughts got interrupted as the elevator landed on the ground with a rough thump. The door rattled open, leading us outside into absolute darkness.
"The gravity globe," the Master said, holding me by the shoulder, before I could step outside. "You don't want to accidentally fall into a hole, do you?"
I reached down and picked the sphere from the elevator ground. It had roughly the size of a soccer ball and was smooth to the touch. As Ida had instructed I tossed it into the air, where it flew upwards for a bit, before suddenly illuminating our surroundings. The sphere kept hovering in the air and even followed us around.
The light was bright enough to reveal an enormous cave, with lots and lots of layers into the depth. Bridges of stone connected them, decorated by ancient stalagmites and stalactites, thick as trees. And not only that. Where we exited the elevator, there were giants of statues carved into the rough stone walls. Devilish faces, horned heads and more of the strange symbols.
I glared open mouthed at the scenery, slowly turning around myself o take everything in properly. Even the statues were more fascinating than scary, despite their eerie depictions.
"That's... wow," I simply let out, finding myself at a complete loss for words.
The Master stepped next to me, his eyes wandering over the scene. "Yeah, indeed." An odd smile was on his face, or was it simply the light? "The universe is still able to surprise me."
We reported back to Ida. I told her as best as I could about what was down here and heard in her response how much she envied us right now.
We didn't walk far. Maybe a hundred meters. I picked up the com again, while the Master kneeled down next to a huge round gate on the ground.
"Hey, Ida. We found some kind of hatch. It's really big and round. The Master looks for a way to open it."
"Are there more of the symbols?"
"Uh, yeah, there are. The whole hatch is full of them. How's it going with the Ood?"
Ida was silent for few seconds, before the com crackled again. "Not good at all. We have reports of several deaths. It's as if they are... possessed. Their eyes are glowing red. I've never seen that before."
A tremor went through the ground, making me sway and almost lose my halt. Luckily it was over fast and I recovered. The connection to Ida was cut, however, and I couldn't get through again. I glanced over at the Master, who was busy studying the symbols, as the ground shook once again, but subtler and...
"It's opening!" I let out.
A line appeared, splitting the hatch in half. Each side slowly started to retreat backwards, revealing a bottomless, black chasm underneath. Only when the ground had completely opened did the tremors stop.
Carefully I trod next to the Master to the edge, leaned over and glared into the abyss. All light from the gravity globe simply got swallowed after a while, leaving us with nothing but a gaping maw of blackness. A strange sensation tugged at me, as if there was something calling, urging me to move, to... fall. The Master grabbed my arm, even though I hadn't moved.
"The call of the void," he mumbled darkly into his beard. Perplex I blinked up at him, but his eyes kept glued to the hole. "Feeling the impulse to jump... May it only be to satisfy your own curiosity..."
"Oh, that. Yeah... it's a weird phenomena." I tugged at my arm to get free and he let go. "So, how do we get down there?"
The com crackled. I tried to get a signal, but no words came through. Then the ground shook again, making us stumble backwards to not fall into the chasm. This time the tremor was even worse. We heard stones fall all around us, large junks of rocks, crashing to the ground; one of the statues nearby developed a fine crack across its face, giving it a horrifying grimace. Then there was a loud bang, a snap and the whistling noise of something falling. The tremors stopped, but seconds later something crashed to the ground nearby, swirling up dust and dirt. It came from the direction of the elevator and we hurried back, finding it to be completely destroyed by the fallen heavy metal cable.
"Must have snapped," the Master concluded and picked up the frayed end. His gaze wandered upwards. "No communication, no elevator. Great." To my surprise he chuckled, but there was no humour in the sound. "There. In the end you get what you wanted."
"M... me? Why?"
He tossed the cable at me and I caught it, blinking puzzled down at it. It was really heavy, thick. For it to simply snap there must have been quite the force at work. Or maybe the Ood? Were the others safe?
"What do you think? There's no way back. And those oxygen tanks won't last forever."
I swallowed, glancing up into his face. "That's nothing I wanted." The realisation that we were stuck down here didn't quite reach me, yet. It was too sudden, too unreal.
We would die down here.
Simply suffocate... The rational part of my mind knew it, but everything else... Slowly I started to walk back to the hole, dragging the cable along. The Master followed and I continued to speak, shaking my head. "And I certainly don't want anyone else being dragged into anything."
"How nice of you," the Master mocked. "Care to explain what you want with that cable?"
"Just checking. We can toss it down the hole and see how far it reaches."
"We'd have to get it back up."
The Master chuckled. "Oxygen. Remember? We're running out of time. Well, you have to be a lot more worried about it than I. To my knowledge, your kind doesn't possess a respiratory bypass."
"Eh... no. Never heard of anything the like. What's it supposed to do?"
"The short version?" He watched as I still dragged the cable along. "I will survive much longer without air than you could."
"Hm..." I made and pulled out some strands from the cable. Inside were several thick metal wires, strong enough to hold my weight. I bent and twisted them in a way that I could somehow wind them around me and secure the whole thing with some straps around my shoulders. I practically wore the cable like a backpack.
The Master simply watched, obviously aware of my plan. Only when I was done did he raise his voice.
"Sure about that?"
I shrugged and stepped to the edge of the chasm. "I'll suffocate anyway. Up again's no option."
"You think there is something down there to help?" he mocked."How big are the chances?"
"Almost zero," I confessed quietly. "Still better than doing nothing. Besides..." My eyes were glued to the darkness in the pit. I swallowed. "Curiosity. Can't help it... the thought of dying without knowing what's down there... it's...well... killing me."
The Master let out a groan, ignoring my chuckle. "Don't start with the puns again," he begged.
"Aaaaw, why not?" I asked, poking out my tongue, then glanced down the pit again to hide my grin. "You know... Having that elevator cable makes me remember... Do you know why a ghost would ride an elevator?"
"No! And I seriously don't want-"
"Because it lifts their spirit."
I barely had time to giggle at his exasperated groan. Something hit my back, the world suddenly rushed past me as I fell into the darkness of the chasm until the cable stopped my fall with a rough tug, pushing all air out of my lungs for a moment. Dizzy and confused I hung there, legs and arms moving without finding a halt, my brain struggling to comprehend how I could hang in the air without my feet or hands touching anything.
It took only a few seconds. Then I stared up at the small spec of light from the gravity globe. The figure of the Master stood bent over the chasm's edge, holding the cable. He chuckled to himself.
"I told you to stop," he said nonchalantly.
"You didn't have to kick me down!"
"We won't last so long. Was the last chance to do that."
I grunted and rolled my eyes. "Well... at least I can make puns with no end, now. Can't kick me twice."
"One more and I let go," he warned.
"Spoil-sport," I grumbled, somewhat pissed, but actually more amused. "Okay, let me down. Slow!"
He did. The cable scratched against the stone, bringing me ever so further into the darkness. The light above me shrunk, the Master's silhouette faded, and for several minutes there was silence between us. After all, what was left to say?
Deep within us, we both knew that this was the end. Not that I could speak for the Master, but he must have known it, too. No word came from Ida, no contact from the Doctor. The display of the oxygen tanks sinking without mercy. And yet if felt completely different to the night at the sea, by the fire. Surreal and far away, as if someone else was hanging there, in the darkness.
I lifted my head, barely able to see the entrance of the chasm anymore. There was only a tiny dot, a blinking star in an empty night sky. I remembered the communicator and picked it up, pressing the button. Static greeted me, waiting for my voice to break the silence.
"Master?" I uttered.
There was no answer, but my descent halted for a moment. I heard something crackle through the static, then the cable continued to slide down. Maybe he had activated the com, maybe he had thrown it away.
"Seems like saving my life was in vain, in the end," I spoke quietly. There was a weird urge to talk, no matter if he listened or not. "All I got from it... " For some seconds I fell silent, then tried again. "Nothing changed, you know. I'm still the same person. I still belong nowhere. And I still have no clue whether or not you hate me. And if you do... No, you wouldn't have kept me alive then."
The cable slowed and eventually stopped moving altogether. My communicator crackled.
"That's it," the Master told, ignoring everything I had said before. "You reached the end of the cable."
"Haven't touched any ground yet," I informed him, feeling a sting in my chest. "No idea how far it still goes. Might be miles, or just a few meters."
"Yeah," came the only answer, the word breathed out like a sigh. "I'll pull you back up."
Another crackle of static.
I nodded, then remembered he couldn't see that. My eyes fell on the display in my helmet.
"There isn't even enough time. Only a few minutes of oxygen."
"When you brought me back... I really hated you for it," I told quietly. "And when that thing possessed me... I didn't even know I was carrying so much hate and contempt inside me. Not all of it was from myself... but... lots of it." Somehow I knew the Master wouldn't deign me a comment on my words, so I simply babbled on, knowing it would be the last thing I'd ever speak. "But I also got the chance to see some truly amazing things. A real black hole... who would have thought. And this whole cave system, down here. It's amazing. It really is. I'm thankful I was able to see that."
The number steadily decreased. Time was running up.
Static. "Hm?" His voice sounded unwilling, as if he didn't want to speak to me at all.
"What for?" he grumbled.
"For those few moments. Just a few... They were nice. I didn't have much of those in my life. And now I had several in such a short time." With lots of bad strewn in-between, but in those last moment I refused to let them ruin the good. "That's all, I guess. Going to cut the straps."
Silence. A crackle, followed by nothing. I got out a knife from and started to cut through the straps I wore like a backpack.
I halted, my heart thudding in my chest. He had never used my name until now.
"Yeah?" I choked out, feeling tears prickle my eyes.
"This is a command," he uttered darkly, his voice sounding strangely hoarse. "Hypnotism and all that, remember?"
I did. I remembered that it worked only partially with me. And also that he needed eye contact for it to work at all. He knew too, of course. But in that moment we both decided to ignore it.
A last time I heard the crackle through the static, while I worked the straps. The Master's voice reverberated through the darkness, low and almost pleading, but too quiet to make it out for sure. His words, however, were clear.
The straps finally severed. My grip around them loosened.
A/N: I actually had a way funnier draft for this... It's a fine line to walk with those self-inserts... The funnier version would have been way more... me, but would have totally ruined the mood from a story perspective. (maybe I'll add it as a little bonus for you. xD )