27th March, 2016, 12:19pm
“The Intruder Alert sounded,” Kate bursts into the old laboratory, “Osgood says the incursion took place in-” she trails off, eyes darting between Jo, Benton and the Master. Her gaze locks onto the TARDIS in the corner, and, almost against her will, her eyebrows arch slightly.
“Kate! Isn’t it wonderful?” Jo gasps. “The Doctor’s here. He’s come back.”
“The...Doctor?” Kate questions, she looks at Jo closely, searching for a hidden clue. She can’t read any message in her expression. Her face is open and happy, but her eyes are a little too wide, a little too bright.
“Yes, the Doctor.” Benton echoes.
His eyes are the same. Kate nods slowly, and then gives a smile of her own. “It’s wonderful to meet you, Doctor. Again.” She offers her hand.
“You have me at a disadvantage,” the man gives a pleasant smile. “You must have met a later version of myself. Kate, wasn’t it?” He brings her hand to his lips. “Enchante.”
It takes everything Kate has not to flinch or pull back, but she cannot tip their hand this early, she cannot risk being put under the Master’s hypnosis herself. Not while she doesn’t know why he’s here, and there has to be a reason for his theft of the Doctor’s TARDIS. Instead, she gives her most girlish giggle, the one that she really despises herself for having in her arsenal at all. “Dad always said you were charming...when it suited you.”
He eyes her narrowly for a moment and then the smile widens fractionally. “Miss Lethbridge-Stewart. Yes, I see the likeness.”
She’s gambling that he will enjoy having his old nemesis’ daughter giggling like a schoolgirl at his affected old school charm and won’t bother to put her under his control, not at the moment anyway. “Can we...Can I give you a tour, Doctor? The old place has changed since the last time you were here, and I know you’ll want to meet our new scientific advisor.”
He hesitates for a second, and Kate fights the urge to tense, but the files and psycho-analysis hold true. The Master cannot resist gloating and showing off his superiority and he cannot resist the opportunity to swan around the headquarters (that UNIT had once gone to a lot of trouble to keep him out of) as an honoured guest. “Of course. My mission can afford to wait a few more moments.”
The door opens once more, and Josh comes in behind them. “Ma’am, you didn’t report.”
“It’s alright, Josh,” Kate says with composure. “This is the Doctor, you can have the all clear sounded.”
Josh takes a step into the room. “The Doctor...wow!”
“Captain Carter,” and this time she puts a bite into her voice, “the all clear. And tell Osgood we have a guest.”
He snorts, “Oh, yes. Osgood won’t want to miss this.” He pulls out his radio and sounds the all clear, before moving back towards them. “It’s an honour, Doctor, truly.” Even Josh’s usual laconic expression is edging towards hero worship, Kate has to get him on his own long enough to ensure that he doesn’t fall into a trap. She makes a note to have all of UNIT’s old enemies regularly reviewed by everyone.
“We’re about to give the Doctor a tour, Josh. Perhaps you could show him around while I tell Osgood-”
“Oh, I won’t hear of it, Kate. I can’t wait to spend time with my old friend’s daughter. You must have plenty of stories about him.”
Oh, she does, and it’s her father’s voice she can hear in her mind now, cautioning her to keep her true feelings hidden until they can get the Master contained. She gives the high falsetto giggle again, and she sees Josh’s eyes cut briefly to her, but there’s no suspicion in them, only the wry amusement she had felt towards him a moment ago. “I can let Osgood know to expect you both, Ma’am.”
“Us all,” the Master corrects, putting an arm around Jo, “My companions will accompany us too.”
Kate looks at him closely for a moment. The Master is fearsomely clever, she has no intention of underestimating him, but there is nothing in his demeanor that suggests he does know that she isn’t as fooled as she’s pretending, and she does need to know why he’s here. “That would be helpful, Josh, thank you.” She wishes she could pass on a message. “And Josh?”
He turns in the doorway, insouciant smile back in place. “Yes, Ma’am?”
There’s absolutely nothing she can say that doesn’t risk giving the game away to the Master. “Tell Osgood to use her inhaler,” she jokes lightly instead.
Josh’s smile widens. “I’ll sit with her and keep her from getting too Osgood-y,” he promises.
It’s the best she can do, at least Josh is armed. She’d brought a weapon too, grabbing it after the alert sounded, and Osgood always has plenty of toys handy, even in a temporary workshop like the one she’d set up on the top floor.
Kate follows as Josh leaves, taking the lead, half a step ahead of the Master, and heading into a different part of the building. There’s little here of security value - well, there are plenty of paper reports, but she assumes the Master has easier ways of accessing those in a digital age. He’d actually been on site for half of these incidents anyway. She sees him looking around in interest. “This isn’t your primary Headquarters any longer.” It isn’t a question.
“No,” Kate weighs what she can and cannot risk giving away, “We’re based in London now. It’s lucky we were here at all really. This base is mostly used as a storage facility.”
“Kate just brought us in to look over some old records, Doctor. We’re going digital.”
It raises the hairs on the back of her neck at how normal Benton sounds. If she hadn’t recognised the Master, she would have no way of telling the difference. At best she might have scanned him and would have been taken in by his Timelord physiology anyway. She pushes that tendril of fear away as unproductive, she has recognised him and, of all the things that might still go wrong, at least that isn’t one of them.
The Master stops at one door, “The Brigadier’s old office.”
Kate hasn’t even been in there herself yet. “I-” She hears her dad again in her mind, voice soft and clear as he wiped a cut knee in the corner of a playground after being tripped by some childhood bullies: You’re fine, Katie, no need to cry and show that kind of weakness. She hasn’t thought of that in years, she had wanted nothing more than to sit on the ground and weep until he picked her up and held her, but that quiet statement and surety of her strength had given her the confidence to run straight back into the park and back to the swings. It works now too. “Would you like to see?” Her voice is perhaps a little tight, but steady.
The Master nods once, and Kate unlocks the door.
The office, like the Doctor’s laboratory, is untouched. The desk has a dust sheet on it, and the Master pulls it back in a move that raises a cloud of dust that fills the air with a musty smell of disuse.
Kate has a visceral sense memory of standing in this office as a little girl, bored and frustrated, but not allowed to go anywhere else because daddy’s work is top secret, I can’t have you just wandering around, you’ll have to be patient. Almost in a dream, she takes the few steps across the floor, shoes leaving imprints in the dust, and draws a finger down the old rotary telephone, the only thing left on the desk. She remembers him talking into it, irritably waving at her to sit down and get her homework out while he gave reports and instructions. Then she blinks the memory away, she has a situation of her own. This is no time for nostalgia, she can indulge herself later.
When she looks up, the Master is sitting in the chair behind the desk.
Kate swallows down both her first and second comments, even though what she wants to do is grab him by the lapels of his suit for daring to sit in that chair, as though he would ever be accepted as UNIT’s commander in chief. He runs a hand consideringly over the polished wood of the desk and Kate abruptly knows, without a shadow of a doubt, that if whatever plan it is that he has comes to fruition, this is the place he will use as a base. At least initially. She will not allow that to happen, whatever she has to do.
It’s actually Jo who speaks, “Doctor!” she sounds scandalised, “You can’t sit there! That’s the Brig’s chair.”
“She’s right you know, Doctor,” Benton chips in.
It crosses Kate’s mind that he’s much quieter than Jo - normal, but even so - and to wonder if his old UNIT training against telepathic control is fighting the Master. If so, he might be an asset later, if she can shake the Master’s concentration.
A flicker of cold rage crosses the Master’s rage, but he stands smoothly. “You’re right of course, my dear.”
“Where next, Doctor?” Kate asks, rage making her voice hoarse. “We’re a bit of a skeleton staff, just here for administration, but I can run to some cheese sandwiches and a cup of tea.”
“Kind, but no thank you, I’m here for business not pleasure, Kate,”
Kate decides that really really hates the way he uses her first name, as though they’re friends. The Doctor, the real Doctor, virtually never does that (occasionally, and only when he wants to really make an impression on her). He always treats her like a professional. She’s quite glad that she doesn’t have to sit opposite him and make polite small talk over tea.
“No, you mentioned a scientific advisor. We should speak to him.”
“Her!” Jo chirps up cheerfully. “You’ll like Osgood, Doctor, she’s just marvellous.”
Kate’s heart constricts in her chest. Osgood is their best chance of taking out a Timelord, but she’s also inexperienced at undercover, and is anything but military. She doesn’t think the right way to deal with a mind like the Master’s. She’s too nice. The Master - Missy - had been able to kill one of her Zygon doubles, and Kate doesn’t want to lose her Osgood.
She hates losing her people.
But despite all of that, despite the risks, she needs Osgood. She smiles a bit tightly and leads the Master towards the stairs. She pauses at the fire doors, and puts her hand on the wall, brow furrowing.
“Something wrong, Kate?” Benton asks.
“These cracks and scorch marks. There was some kind of explosion here, but I’ve definitely never read anything in the files. This building was never breached.”
Benton steps up beside her and looks the marks over. “Are you sure? This isn’t recent. I’d say this must be about 50 years old.”
Kate fights the impulse to look at the Master, but he speaks anyway. “The timeline is in flux. This must be damage done in the time I’ve left. I must speak to your scientific advisor, it is imperative that we prevent too much damage from being done. A battle here or there makes no real difference, but if UNIT were to fall or someone to die long before they were supposed to, well…”
He does a very credible impression of concern, and even knowing what she knows, Kate can’t deny that her instinct is to help him. If her dad dies in the past, she’ll never have a chance to reconcile with him, to learn about his life’s work, and even putting personal considerations aside, he had saved the world so many times. Earth needs him as much as she does.
She takes her hand off the wall, “This way.” Her steps echo in the stairwell. “What is it that you’re fighting in the past?” She doesn’t ask about her dad, no need to show that kind of weakness.
“A terrible menace.” He shakes his head. “A clone army has taken over this Headquarters. There is no way out. I left the Brigadier to fight and came here.”
Kate can feel him watching her and this time lets him see her flinch. He needs to believe that she trusts him for her next question, and she can think of no better proof of that than a display of her fear. His eyes feel as though they are peeling her skin off. “Why?” she asks dryly. “What do you need here?”
“I’m not entirely sure you’d understand, my dear, and I don’t have time to explain twice.”
She bristles a little at that.
“Don’t be rude, Doctor. Kate’s a scientist too,” Jo objects.
The Master looks at her curiously. “A scientist?”
They’re at the attic door of Osgood’s workshop now, saving her from being forced to answer. Kate pauses for just one more second and breathes out a quick prayer, then she pushes it open.
“Osgood,” she strides in, projecting as much confidence and command as she can manage. “The Doctor’s here; he has a crucial task for us.”
Osgood bounces forward, her familiar enthusiasm and smiles in place. “You! But-!”
“Inhaler!” Kate snaps, cutting off the definite wheeze in her voice.
Osgood instinctively obeys the order and cuts herself off to breath from the small blue inhaler. Her eyes seek Kate’s, looking for what Kate had seen in Jo, she supposes. Kate stares back at her and wills Osgood to be as brilliant as she knows she can be.
“Doctor,” Osgood coughs a little and puts the inhaler back in her pocket. “It’s amazing to meet you,” she sounds a little stilted, but her smile hasn’t wavered. “I’m such a fan,” she continues, “You’re, well, you’re wonderful.”
“I’m flattered, my dear,” the Master looks around the workshop curiously. “An advanced setup you have here, even if it is a little sparse.”
“Oh, yes. This isn’t my main workspace, we’re based in the Tower of London, normally.”
“Oh, umm. No. Actually, no. Not the real Tower. It’s our...codename for the Headquarters, you know what soldiers are like.”
There’s something predatory in the Master’s expression, and Kate tenses, but he just pulls up one of the chairs, crosses one leg over the other, and says, “Perhaps I should explain my purpose here.”
Kate moves to stand next to Osgood, facing him, and Jo draws close to the Master’s side, ever the loyal companion. Kate hopes she can get her out of the way when the time comes.
“I’ve done a sweep, Ma’am,” Josh appears from the back of the room, “It seems that the Doctor is our only guest.” He turns his attention to the Master, “Whatever you’re fighting back then, you’ve escaped it for the moment,” he says earnestly.
“And perhaps while you explain, Mr Benton would get us all some tea,” Kate says.
Before he can object, Benton has already turned. “No problem, Ma’am,” he says, reverting to old military instincts as the tension sharpens, “I remember where the kitchens are.”
Kate congratulates herself on getting one hostage out of the room. “Perhaps you should help him, Josh,” she pushes her luck and hopes the Master won’t object.
Josh falters slightly, “You want me to make the tea?”
“Was I unclear, Captain? I am capable of listening to a military briefing alone, you know.”
Josh’s expression goes blank, but he salutes and follows Benton without another word.
“And now perhaps we can get on,” the Master sounds impatient.
“Of course.” Kate answers. “Tell us what you need us to do.”
“I assume you kept all the technology that was left here when this base was abandoned?”
“The base wasn’t abandoned,” Kate starts, but as she says it, she feels doubt. She’s read the reports, this place was abandoned in ‘78 after the massacre that killed all the staff, she knows that.
Osgood looks at her.
Kate clings to the thought that they must allow the Master to believe that he has won, it’s the only way to get the information they need, whatever her own uncertainties. She squeezes Osgood’s hand in the dash dot dash dash beats of a morse code Y.
“Of course, Doctor.” If you know her well you can hear the strain and fear in her voice, but Kate doesn’t think the Master will be able to tell. She gestures to a rack of shelves at the back. “They’re all boxed and labelled.”
“Thank you,” the Master stands again, and makes his way to the shelves.
“What do you need?” Osgood asks, “Maybe I can help. I’ve been through most of it.”
“There should be a teletropic scanner.”
“A device,” he measures a distance with his hands, “about this high, made mostly of junk and,” his lip curls slightly, “taped together.”
This time Osgood doesn’t look over her shoulder at Kate, she edges a bit near to the Master. Kate is feeling that grey fog at the edge of her brain once more.
“There’s something like that in that one,” she points to a middle box on the top shelf and the Master pulls it down and looks into it for a moment.
Then he abruptly looks up from the box he’s peering into and gives her a vicious smile. “Are you feeling it?”
“Feeling...feeling what?” Kate gasps, fighting to keep her composure. No need to show that kind of weakness.
“The timelines are changing around you. Your whole life is about to be different.”
The memory of being a fourteen year old stood at her dad’s graveside slams into her. He’d disappeared, the grave had been empty, there was never anything in it, and she’d never known what had happened to him. “No,” she moans, “no, stop.”
The Master pulls a collection of seeming junk out of the box. “The Doctor’s teletropic scanner, if I could trouble you for a screwdriver, my dear?”
Osgood is flickering in and out of reality like some kind of ghost. Kate staggers over to her and makes a grab for her partially translucent form.
“Come now, Miss...Osgood, wasn’t it. Before you cease to exist, or at least, exist in this place at this time. A screwdriver.”
“Doctor, help her!” Jo cries out, panic in her voice.
“Now. I think the time for that charade has passed, everyone here knows who I am. I am the Master,” and he turns the machine in his hand on.