by TardisGhost [Reviews - 79]Chapter or Story
"You planned this?" I muttered as it became obvious that the Master wasn't the least distressed by the Doctor's vanishing.
"Improvised. He wasn't supposed to leave the cell just yet." He shrugged and strode to the door, donning his cowboy hat with a bright grin. "But it's too late to sabotage it anyway. Come along, little light."
For some reason it sent a chill down my spine when he called me that. I wanted to protest, tell him that he was wrong and that there was no light within me, only an ever growing, all consuming darkness…
But as soon as I stepped out the doors it was all forgotten and swiped away by the monstrosity that had replaced what once used to be a simple, but dirty road through a town made of wood.
Whatever I had awaited it wasn't this, couldn't be this. Nothing in my mind was prepared for an abomination that wasn't possible or palpable, as if all the unnamed horrors I had imagined in the darkness had come to life and found a form to show itself in picture instead of vague haunting emotions.
Along the houses now stood a row of strange machines, metal constructions with wires and tubes, lowly humming with the sparks of electricity. Inside every contraption lay one of the many inhabitants of this town, wrapped in leather straps and wires, hooked to the frame that seemed to make them all one. None of the people was conscious, all lying there with closed eyes and unmoving, streaks of electricity dancing over their bodies and bouncing back and forth between different machine parts. Crackling static filled the air and a tension that was too real and thick to be imagined, all underlined by the eerie double illumination of sunlight and the cold glow of the still present moon. It had returned to the sky, blue and unnerving and now, as I dared to take a longer look, also seemingly about to… fall apart. Stripes of blue and grey crumbled away from the celestial body, evaporating to dust that slowly fell into the cosmos.
"What in the…" I breathed out, frozen in place, unable to wrap my mind around the image.
Then I saw the Doctor, dancing around one of the strapped down people, obviously trying his best to find a way to free them without doing more harm. Next to me trod the Master, playing with the Doctor's sonic screwdriver that he had nicked. A satisfied smirk sat on his face.
"Tell me it's pretty," he demanded. "A true piece of art, isn't it?"
Suddenly I had the urge to step away. No. To run. My eyes darted over the surreal scenery, my mind begging me to wake up.
"Let them go," I half croaked, half squeaked.
The Master snickered and pocketed the screwdriver. "No"
Then he sauntered to the Doctor, pulling out an old-school revolver that he pointed at the other man.
"You really don't want to touch anything. This stuff is quite delicate and we both don't want it to blow up on us, do we?"
The Doctor spun around, ignoring the gun. His eyes were filled with terror and anguish. "Why?" was his first rasped out response. "What could you possibly gain from… from… this?" His hand waved over a bunch of machines. "What are you planning? A new kind of Toclafane? Something worse?"
The Master sighed and pursed his lips. "You still don't get it? That's so not fun of you."
"Nothing of this is fun, Master! And what do you think I'll do now?"
"Och, I don't know. Maybe let me free?"
Was that what this was about, I wondered. But it made no sense, given the scene around me. Those weren't just hostages. He was doing something with them… to them. For maybe the first time in my life I felt literally sick to the stomach because of the horror I witnessed. There wasn't much to shock me, not much I couldn't cope with somehow. But this… this was so beyond my comprehension, so beyond anything human…
The Master raised the revolver higher, pointed it directly at the Doctor's head. "I am now master over an entire reality. If that's not funny then I really don't know what could ever be."
"Please," begged the Doctor. "This is insane. Even for your standards."
Was I imagining it or did the Master's hand slightly tremble after those words? Had the look I saw when I stepped closer been so hard and cold the entire time? For a moment it felt as if he was clinging to an incredibly thin line of control to not shoot the Doctor right in this very moment.
It was an instinct, an unconscious decision that made me reach out and wrap my fingers around his free hand, his knuckles white, the fist firm. And for a moment there was only the sound of dancing electricity and nothing else.
"You have no right to call me insane, Doctor," the Master finally ground out, spitting the name like venom. "Now move away and don't touch a thing. You can watch in horror when it's ready."
Having no other choice, the Doctor moved and I felt the Master relax, his fist opening and… his hand slipped into mine, squeezing it shortly before he let go and walked the Doctor back to the sheriff's office.
I stood there, alone and wondering if I had just stopped him from something stupid. But then again was all of this truly… insane? No, probably not. I didn't dare to touch anything or anyone, but also couldn't get accustomed to the surreal scene. The energy that danced across machines and people was literally palpable, tickled my skin and unnerved me.
What did he need all this energy for? It was so loud, the dancing lights too bright and rapid and overwhelming, stinging in my ears and eyes and hurting in a way I seldom experienced. But now the sensory overload simply swiped my awareness away and drowned the world in something that might be pain.
I jumped when there was a hand on my shoulder, only now realizing I had pressed both hands over my ears and had closed my eyes. The Master stood next to me, carefully tugging at one of my hands. I let them both fall, immediately punished by the electric hum and crackling.
"They are screaming," I muttered, unsure if he could hear it.
He could. "They can't. It's just energy. But…" He tapped a finger against my head. "My senses are much finer than yours. Nothing here should overwhelm you like this."
"Too much. 's just too much. I swear they are. They are screaming in the electricity." I glared at the Master with wide eyes.
He looked around, observed the abomination that was his work and then stretched out both hands towards me.
Again I winced, stumbled backwards and against one of the machines. A bow of electricity danced over my body, crept into my skin and illuminated the veins there in an eerie blue light. I gasped, but didn't feel pain, only heard the screeching again, the outburst of agony and… no… no. The Master was right. It wasn't from the people inside. The noise came from somewhere else, somewhere much farther away, much deeper into a place I had no name for.
A hand grabbed my collar, tore me away from the machine. The electric spark shot from my body into the Master's, ran through his veins for a second and then, luckily, vanished into the ground. His eyes widened slightly as he let go of me.
"They can't scream," he muttered, his tone uncertain. "They just can't."
"You heard it?"
He nodded, swallowed and glanced around again. His look hardened, however, and he shook his head. "Not screams. No. That sounded like something else. Something older…"
Something from beyond the depths of insanity.
"I need to get away," I mumbled. "I can't stand it. Too loud. Too much."
Abruptly the Master straightened and marched to the sheriff's office. Not knowing what else to do I simply followed, hoping that this was the general idea anyway. And it seemed to be.
As soon as the doors closed behind us the noise vanished and I pushed out a sigh, dropping into the nearest chair.
"What's with you?" asked the Master and in the sudden silence even his low voice seemed to be too much. He dropped to his haunches in front of me, head tilted and looking curious.
"Just a… sensory overload," I told him, although I wasn't completely sure if that was it. Since I travelled with the two of them, those overloads had become less and less the more I got used to all the ruckus. Not that I'd ever be safe from having those, but still…
"How's that possible? Humans have such limited capacities…"
"Yeah, I know," I grumbled. "And mine are sometimes just more limited than others'." Just a side effect of autism. Nothing you'd need to think about."
Nothing he'd even be interested in. Or so I thought.
"What's that even?" he asked. "You keep saying that word as if it's your eye colour or something."
Perplexed, I gaped at him, my state momentarily forgotten. "You… don't know? I thought… how can you not…"
The Master got to his feet again, rolling his eyes. "Why would I care about every nonsense a human spouts? Are you sick?"
"Uh… no? It's not a sickness. My brain's just off."
He blinked. "Off?"
"Yeah… well… it grew weird, it's wired incorrectly. And that is all too much to just explain now." I rubbed two fingers over my eyelids and smirked. "Just… I don't know… Google it."
The Master snorted. "You don't seem very 'off' to me. And if your brain is overstimulated… that's easy to fix."
He turned around, marching to the door to the basement and vanished there, only to reemerge a minute or so later, the Doctor in thaw. This time the other Time Lord wore handcuffs.
"A better room, eh?" The Master gave me a wink and gestured to me to follow them.
It took me a while to understand what he even meant, but then remembered I had been complaining about the cells. So was he actually bringing his prisoner to a nicer location?
Whatever it would be, the Doctor resorted to silence while we were on the move through the eerily decorated town. I did my best to keep my head low and my eyes glued to the ground so I wouldn't have to look at the scenery.
In the end we entered one of the smaller houses and the Master made sure all doors and windows were properly locked, before he handed me a small key.
"For his handcuffs," he elaborated. "Can't have anyone say I'd treat my prisoners badly." He chuckled as if it was the best joke in a century and strode back to the door, another, bigger key in hands. Only then did I realize he was planning to leave me here, too.
"Wh… why do I have to be-"
"Because-" swiftly he turned to me, eyes serious- "I just saw your reaction and I don't want to risk you meddling with anything while I'm not looking. Besides-" his hand came up to cup the side of my face in a weirdly gentle manner- "In here it's quiet. And certainly not as boring as in the cell."
The Doctor was still silent, leaning against the staircase. When our eyes met he didn't react at all, but his face turned dangerously dark when he looked at the Master.
"That frown will burn itself into your pretty face if you're not careful," the Master mocked and straightened. "No need to be so angry. I'm not doing anything bad." He barked out a laugh and turned to leave.
"But what if anything goes wrong? This all looks super dangerous," I protested meekly and followed. I didn't want him to leave, my guts turning at the thought of anyone spending time out in this abomination of a construction.
The Master halted, faced me and smiled."Oh, then this is the right place anyway."
He ruffled my hair, nodding towards the other man. "There is no safer place for you than with him. Be patient. I'll fetch you soon."
And with that he left. The sound of a shutting door and a clicking lock the only remnants of his presence.
I stood there, frozen in confusion until I heard a cough.
"Would you…?" The Doctor held out his cuffed hands and I remembered the small key I had.
"Oh, yeah, of course."
Quickly I turned and fiddled with the cuffs until they sprang open. The Doctor rubbed his wrists, smiling happily, despite the weird situation.
"Thanks. I was actually worried you'd leave me in those."
"Huh?" Dumbly I blinked at him. "Why would I?"
"Och, dunno. It's not so clear whose side you're on in this."
The smile was still there, but now I also sensed a kind of uncertainty, maybe even a threat? Of course, all of this must look tremendously strange to him. The way the Master treated me, even though he didn't trust my loyalty. A loyalty I myself wasn't even sure I had. Especially not after what I had seen outside.
I swallowed a lump in my throat and looked up at the Doctor. His gaze and everything from before let a panic of sorts rise up within me.
"I'm sorry. I really am. Had I known what he's… I… I don't even… Those machines! They creep me out. It's… this is a nightmare, isn't it? What happened to the moon anyway? I didn't know. I swear, I didn't. If I had… I… I… gods, I would have tried at least… or…"
"Hey, calm down, Lucy." The Doctor grabbed my shoulders. "You're not in trouble. Not more than I anyway. You couldn't have stopped him, believe me. He wouldn't have let you."
"But… I could have talked him out of it?" My voice was far too high, pleading. "He put you in a nicer place, so maybe…"
The Doctor shook his head. "Nah, it's not your fault. Really not. I just wanted to be sure you didn't help with all of this."
I winced at the mere thought and stepped back. "N… no! I didn't!"
His face dropped and my heart sank, simultaneously wanting to jump out of my chest. If he believed I was even partially responsible then the fragile friendship we had developed would burst like a vase on the floor. He'd hate me, drop me somewhere, leave me behind in a place I couldn't return to. Or maybe someplace even worse.
"Lucy?" He held up his hands, palms facing me. "I believe you, don't worry. No need to panic. I'm not doing you any harm, okay? Just breathe."
I did. Pushed out the air and inhaled too sharply, my lungs burning. Maybe he told the truth, maybe he just wanted me to feel safe so… so… so he could do what? No… he wasn't her. He wouldn't do that to me, would he? I closed my eyes and forced my breath to steady. There was no reason to panic. My mind was simply overloaded.
"See? That's better, innit?"
I nodded and opened my eyes again, seeing him standing in the same spot, thumbs hooked into his pants pockets. His eyes wandered over the room, the stairs, his head probably already searching for a way out.
"I… I really didn't…" I stammered, voice faltering.
"I know." The reassuring smile was back. "I mean… there was a little doubt, just before, but you have to excuse me that little bit." When I nodded he continued. "You seem in no shape to do anything harmful anyway. Can I help you cool down somehow?"
I shook my head, rubbing my arms. "Dunno. Just a bit of quiet. Pillow… I want a pillow," I mumbled, barely noticing what I even said there.
"Oh, there is a sofa in the other room." The Doctor nodded towards a door. "Rest a little, I'll analyse some data meanwhile."
"Yeah… I'll do…" Drowsily I went to said sofa and flopped down on it, grabbing one of the pillows there to squeeze it tightly. That helped. "What data, though? He has your screwdriver, doesn't he?"
"Yup." The Doctor popped the 'p' with a smile and sat down right next to me. "But just in case this would ever happen I prepared a tiny little, nifty cute device he wouldn't look for. 'S not a sonic, but all data I scan goes there, too." With that he got out a small thing that looked almost like a smartphone, but it was only a quarter of their size and had some circular engravings on its back. "It's okay? Me sitting here?"
I blinked confused, before I understood. "Oh, yeah. You're not bothering me. It's… nice not being alone."
"Great!" He beamed down at me and started fiddling with his device. "I'll wake you if something happens."
I hummed tiredly and hugged the pillow tighter. Suddenly a tiredness overcame me I couldn't fight any longer. This definitely was too much at once. This all wasn't fair, especially not after what he had promised. I sunk together some more, leaning my head to the Doctor's shoulder.
He stiffened and shifted a little, as if to make it more comfortable for me. "Uhm…"
I snapped awake instantly. "Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't want… if that's bothering you, I… I…"
The Doctor let out a small laugh. "No, no, it's okay. It just surprises me. You're normally the distant type. Guess you never quite trusted me, hm?"
"Uh… yeah… true. Sorry. Guess, I do now." I closed my eyes again.
"Oh? How come?" Carefully he lay an arm around my shoulder.
How weird. It didn't feel awkward or wrong. Accepting a little comfort from a friend. It actually was nice and reminded me of… well, he had said to make sure I wouldn't feel lonely, after all.
"Cuz he said 'm safe with you," I mumbled, barely aware of the stunned silence that followed.