Propositions for Peace
The dark street of a neutral, strategically unimportant world, held in temporal suspension while the rest of the universe passes it by. A single street light is lit, and beneath it, on an aged wooden bench, sits a woman dressed in simple clothes.
Romana waits, still and silent, watching the darkness.
A figure steps into the small pool of light granted by the streetlamp, dark-haired and pale-skinned. He clasps his hands behind his back and looks down at her, appearing perfectly unimpressed. "Tell me, Madame President, is this your usual way of conducting politics?"
If Romana is surprised by the Master's sudden and silent appearance, she chooses not to show it. "As a matter of fact, yes," she says, standing up.
"It could get you into a great deal of trouble back home," he observes.
Romana shrugs, unconcerned. "We're at war, not even my opponents would be foolish enough to attempt a coup when our planetary security is at risk."
"My, you really are as naive as your detractors suggest," the Master says.
She ignores the taunt, prefers to be direct. "Does that mean you're not willing to listen to me?"
"Of course not. I wouldn't travel millions of parsecs just to insult you." He glances up at the streetlight. "Please, do tell me why we're having this badly lit rendezvous."
Romana meets his eyes with a level gaze. "I...Gallifrey requires your help."
"Does it indeed?"
"We're at war."
"Yes," he says with a weary sigh. "I had noticed, Madame President. In fact, I do believe that the entire civilised universe had noticed."
"You're still a Time Lord, even in your present...condition. We have particular responsibilities, ones that we cannot escape, no matter how far we might run from our ancestry."
A hint of a smile, and he says, "I can assure you, particular or otherwise, there are no responsibilities that I feel obligated to regarding Gallifrey."
"But you did."
"I believe that you and the Doctor formed an alliance of sorts, one that kept a charged vacuum emboidment open, and just so happened to save the universe." That, at least, was what the Doctor had told her. She hopes he didn't lie to her.
"A mere ruse, one that the Doctor, in his typical trusting manner, fell for." He takes a step towards her. "It cost him a regeneration."
"Are you threatening me?" Romana asks quietly.
"Why not? I could kill you if I wanted to."
She glances at his hands to see that a slim black weapon, a vicious gun that compresses tissue, has appeared in them. "I'm afraid you won't find that as easy as you believe," she tells him.
"Oh really?" he mocks.
Romana shrugs and half-turns away. "By all means then, shoot me."
"As you wish, Madame President."
The Master aims the TCE and fires.
The energy field hits Romana, and ripples harmlessly over her personal force shield. She waits a moment before speaking. "There, you see? I am not quite so naive as you believe, nor do I trust anybody. That is the price I pay to maintain my position."
The weapon vanishes.
"Oh, you'll pay a lot more than that before your term is through," the Master tells her. "You are a particularly active President; Gallifrey doesn't like active Presidents. And Time Lords tend to react very badly to the sort of power you seek to wield."
She smiles thinly, arches an eyebrow. "You speak from experience, I assume?"
"Rassilon, Morbius, Pandora...all Presidents of Gallifrey who were very active sorts of Presidents. And they all reacted very badly to power."
"I feel the irony of hearing you of all people tell me this is being missed."
"I'm not dead," he says. "They are. A crucial difference."
"Oh, but you will be. Very soon, if your current state is anything to go by. That Trakenite body won't last another five years." Her tone is deliberately goading.
"Finding another will be a simple matter."
"Of course. Then another, and another, and another...a parasite existing in a dead man's body. Surely that can't be the sort of existence that you want?"
"You have a proposition, naturally."
She smiles again. "Gallifrey requires your help," she repeats.
"Well, I do like to keep an open mind. Please go on."
"We need an ambassador, of sorts."
"Diplomacy is not exactly my forte."
"I don't need a diplomat. What I need is someone to send a message, right to the heart of Skaro."
"I hope so. I don't have any agents available with the experience to get behind Skaro's frontlines, let alone get back out again."
"Is that concern for my welfare?" he asks, apparently amused.
"I doubt you'll agree to a suicide mission."
"So what guarantees are you going to give me?"
She pauses, but she has already made her decision not to lie. "None," she tells him.
"A little optimistic, don't you think?"
"You're intelligent, resourceful, ruthless, experienced-"
"You flatter me," the Master interrupts.
"Not at all. You also have an unparalleled determination to survive, and I can ensure that you do survive...if you can make it back to Gallifrey."
He is silent a moment, she watches him. Finally, he says, "It's an interesting offer...but why not send the Doctor? You can't claim to be keeping your hands lily-white anymore, but he does tend to handle these sorts of things for you, doesn't he? I mean, he'd hardly refuse you now, Madam President."
"Oh, I think he would." She knows that he would, can imagine the expression of horror on his face if she'd dared to mention the idea to him. "You see, what I want you to deliver is a timonic fusion device."
"Ambitious," he says, and she can't decipher any reaction at all in his expression.
"We are losing this war," she says, and instantly berates herself for needing to justify her decisions, even to this monstrous creation of her people.
The Master steps a little closer, forcing her to look up at him and she doesn't like it at all. "The Time Lords broke their word to me once before, I would hate to think they would do so a second time," he says.
"Detonate the timonic fusion device in Skaro's capital, return to Gallifrey, and you will be given a new life cycle. And, naturally, your freedom."
He nods. "If you've lied to me, be assured that I will survive, and I will find you, Romanadvoratrelundar, and I will take great pleasure in relieving you of each and every one of your remaining regenerations."
She's succeeded, she realises, and hides her relief. "So you'll do it then?"
He bows. "Naturally, Madam President," he tells her. "Your wish is my command."