17th October, 1978, 11:21am
Those soldiers still standing point their guns at the man who walks in. The Master doesn’t look in the slightest bit bothered.
“Tell your soldiers to lower arms,” he says, sounding bored.
The Doctor stands slowly, and makes a point of peering around the Master. “You seem to be unaccompanied.”
“Oh, my clones have taken your base. Their last order was to overrun you. If you kill me, there will be no one to countermand that.” He smiles, smug and sure of himself.
Alistair flicks half a glance the Doctor’s way; the Doctor doesn’t take his eyes off the Master, scowling fiercely. There is a long, drawn out silence.
The Master takes a couple more steps into the room and looks down at the wounded. “Dear me, Captain Yates, you don’t look at all well. I hope this stalemate doesn’t drag on too long.”
Alistair knows well that he cannot allow concern for one of his men to override the security of the nation, but, for the moment at least, the Master does appear to have all the cards and he won’t be protecting the country with pointless posturing either. “Very well,” he says after another moment, “at ease.”
The soldiers around them begrudgingly relax.
The Doctor still hasn’t taken his eyes off the Master. “What do you want?” he demands.
The Master’s smile brightens, and Alistair sees the shiver of tension that runs down the Doctor’s spine. He shares it. That expression has never exactly heralded anything good.
“My dear Doctor, are you telling me that you don’t know?” he taunts.
The Doctor’s expression tightens for a fraction of a second, then he deliberately relaxes and smiles himself. “Oh, I know that you’ve been sending clones rampaging around the Home Counties, and if you think that base you’ve set up in the Chislehurst caves is a secret, you’re sadly mistaken. What I don’t know is why you’ve decided that marching into the most highly defended military base on the planet is a good idea.”
“Was it defended?” the Master asks with deadly politeness. “I hadn’t noticed.”
This time it is Alistair who feels his face freeze with an effort not to give anything away. His heart is pounding, impotent fury dumping more and more adrenaline into his bloodstream. The Master’s gaze is riveted on the Doctor, just as the Doctor’s are on him.
Alistair risks a step forward, if they can take the Master hostage…
“Don’t move Brigadier,” he’s suddenly holding the silver device Alistair has seen in action too many times, and with a grimace he stops.
“I thought you were about to gloat about your success, Master,” the Doctor snaps, and the Master swings his attention back to him.
“Gloat, Doctor? Surely not.”
The Doctor’s teeth grind audibly together.
“Perhaps I just wanted my own military base,” he continues in the same insufferable tone.
“What are you doing in those caves? There’s nothing down there that can interest you.”
There’s another silence. “Very well, I will make you a deal, Doctor. I will explain my terrible plan for you - in small words if you need me to,” the Doctor’s teeth squeak together again, “and I’ll let the Brigadier here collect his injured. All I ask for is your TARDIS.”
“My-” the Doctor looks behind him almost reflexively at the police box in the corner before spinning his attention back to the Master. “It doesn’t work, as well you know.”
The Master gives his shark-like smile again. “It will work for me, Doctor. It is your mind that is flawed, not your TARDIS.”
The Doctor doesn’t answer.
“Come now, Doctor. You must see that you have no choice. If I must, I can simply wait until my clones destroy you all and then help myself to the key.”
“Oh, very well.”
“The key then, Doctor. If you please.”
The Doctor’s scowl is back in full force. “I think not. Your explanation first.”
The Master pauses. “I will let you collect the injured, as a gesture of good faith. But I want the key, Doctor. You will simply have to trust me.”
The Doctor gives a long, slow blink, and nods jerkily. He pulls a key out of the inside pocket of his jacket, and throws it petulantly to the floor.
The Master’s expression turns vicious, enjoying the capitulation, but he stoops to pick up the key, twirling it between long leather clad fingers as he closes his eyes, putting his hands to his temples. His brow furrows as though he is concentrating hard and after a moment he says, “Very well, Brigadier, your stretcher parties may pass safely.”
“How are you doing that?” the Doctor demands sharply.
“Now, Doctor, I offered to tell you my plan, not disclose all my secrets.”
The Doctor’s mouth pulls but he subsides.
“Brigadier?” the Master gestures courteously towards the door, as though he has the right to allow anything in Alistair’s own headquarters.
Alistair’s lips thin, and he longs to go himself, but he knows this is where the real danger is. “Steele,” he orders the nearest Private, and one he’d noticed had been calm under fire, “you’re temporarily in charge. Take the men, take everyone you can find and-” the Master shakes his head. The Brigadier has never wanted to punch anyone so much in his entire life. “Bring anyone you can find back here.”
Steele looks between his commander and the Master. “Yes, sir,” he answers, and Alistair hopes he has enough initiative to see if there is a way to get out of the building without getting anyone else hurt.
“Well?” the Doctor demands as the soldiers hurry out.
For a moment the Master looks as though he is considering milking the moment, and Alistair fingers the butt of his revolver once more, but then he shrugs fluidly. “Very well, Doctor, my nefarious plan.” He moves deeper into the laboratory, walking over to the workbench, where he picks up a couple of items and makes a show of examining them. “You’ve been impressed with my clones, I take it?”
Alistair starts to say something, but the Doctor clamps a hand down hard on his arm, and he falls silent.
“Oh, yes,” he says casually, moving up to the Master and taking whatever it is he’s fiddling with out of his hands, “very impressive. Organic clones of course are terribly difficult to create,” he adds as an aside to Alistair, his tone making it clear the exact opposite is true, “only the very cleverest of scientists can make such complex creations.”
“Mock if you must, Doctor, but I have been refining the formula. My organic clones are stronger and more resilient than any other others of their type, and I have been creating something new.”
The Doctor’s expression sharpens, “Something new?”
The Master puts his hands flat on the workbench and leans in. Alistair takes advantage of his distraction to begin edging behind him. “Yes, Doctor. Using the techniques of the organic clone replicator, I have created an amorphous mass.”
“An amorphous mass? Whatever for? That’s nothing but a blob.”
“Is this a teletropic scanner?” the Master peers closely at the contraption the Doctor had been fiddling with earlier. “This is really most ingenious, Doctor, my compliments.”
“Thank you. Now tell me about this amorphous mass.”
“Oh, well, as you say, Doctor, a blob is most accurate. It will roll across the world, absorbing anything in its wake. It can’t be stopped by bullets, heat, cold….In fact, it’s quite unstoppable, Doctor. Even if the humans manage to blow it up, all they’ll get for their trouble is smaller masses. And it grows, Doctor, with each absorption. It should only need to absorb say 10% of all human habitation and it’ll be so large that it will start exerting a gravitational field of its own.”
Alistair takes another step towards the Master’s unprotected back. He’s holding his breath with the desire not to be heard.
“But why do such a thing?” the Doctor gestures wildly.
“Why not, Doctor? I am tired of this petty planet and the humans you love so much. Nothing here has convinced me they are a worthy species.”
The Doctor looks horrified, “And for that you destroy them?”
“Not necessarily. I have a way to end the destruction if humanity would rather give me the planet instead. In either case, not quite yet. That’s why I need your TARDIS, you see, it’ll take my amorphous mass about, oh, 40 years to grow, and I have no intention of waiting here that long.”