Prisoners. Hundreds of them. As is standard procedure they were far out of sight... several yards underground in a narrow, reeking metal tunnel that had been crudely bored out of the earth, with no room to move. Nor anywhere they'd want to go if they could.
Creatures from across the multiverse... few could speak any others languages... but there was one who was of massive intellect. He could have talked to all present. He just hadn't opened his mouth yet.
The Master sat, a grey, tired-looking figure, in tired-grey clothes. They had most likely been black once but any sense of menace they once held had long worn away. The same could be said of his hair, which was now grey, matted and shoulder-length, framing a withered, pale, skull-like face that was hidden underneath his haggard beard and eyebrows. Idly, he cast a glance aside at the next person in line.
"What are you looking at?" demanded the grey-skinned cripple irritably.
"You," said the Master simply "Is there a problem?"
“Yes! I should be here I am their creator I made them I do not-”
"Yes, well you are here!" spat the Master "And you've only yourself to blame. Creating the most effective race of killers in the Universe? What were you thinking?" the Master shook his head in disbelief "You not once considered the possibility that a sad old, blind, cripple like yourself wouldn't be a target?"
“You will not speak to me like that!”
"Why not? You're defenseless, now. Ooh, I wouldn't like to think of what they'll do to you in there..."
The Master sighed, and glanced to his left side to see if there was anyone more interesting to have his last proper conversation with. Unfortunately, it was just an Ogron commander. Ogron's were terrible bores and he'd crossed them far too many times to trust them an inch... reluctantly he turned back to Davros, who was continuing his ranting.
"This CANNOT be a unified mission! There will be those who will oppose it. AND I SHALL BE THEIR LEADER!"
"Do be quiet!" the Master said angrily "I think your biggest design flaw was not including a 'Volume' dial. I can tell you I'm not looking forward to this trial..."
"What is your identity?!" demanded Davros suddenly "I do not recognise you"
With a smirk the Master stared into Davros' empty sockets "I am the Master, and you will obey me..."
"I do not understand!"
"Sorry," the Master mumbled "Old habits die hard. But I am a Time Lord. The greatest Time Lord, in fact. I have effectively conquered the Universe at least half-a-dozen times."
"Bah! If you were ruler of the Universe I would know it!"
"Well, of course you would!" snapped the Master, before speaking slowly and clearly as if to a very young child "You see, I conquered the Universe but couldn't quite maintain control. If not for one rogue factor I would have had success each time..."
"And what factor is that?"
"The Doctor. You may have heard of him. A morally upright moron, who is in other regards unfortunately quite exceptionally intelligent. Sometimes I think his only purpose in life is to frustrate me."
"I can assure you I know the feeling..." growled Davros through gritted teeth.
"So I gathered," said the Master, smiling again, splitting his cadaverous face in half "The Doctor has crossed paths with the Daleks many times... I am surprised he is not a guest under this tribunal, in fact..."
"I believe there are reasons for his exemption..."
The Master finally sat up, an eyebrow raised "Really?"
Davros' face was like a grotesque carnival mask, through a combination of both horrific injuries and the weathering of time. But even in the dim, insubstantial lighting of the Dalek Halls of Justice, there was something... maybe in the way he held himself, the Master didn't know... but he saw that Davros was uneasy.
"The Doctor's interference helped lead to my capture, as you may well be aware..."
"Taking sides in a civil Dalek conflict? That's stupid... even for him!"
"The circumstances were...unusual."
"They always are with him," the Master made a long sigh, his mind drifting off... imagining crushing that smug face with his bare hands, one of his favourite images... after a few moments he snapped out of it and realised that Davros had gone on talking.
"I'm sorry, what were you saying?"
The agitated Davros banged a quivering fist onto his casing. "GRRR! Even in my last moments of life I am surrounded by incompetents!"
"Oh, just get on with the story, you melodramatic sock puppet!"
Having lost his dignity long ago, Davros had little difficulty in swallowing his pride and soldiering on. "The Doctor's inadvertent help to my enemy's cause has began a political move towards allying with the Time Lords..."
"But that's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard!"
"Yes. But it is happening. Even now as we speak. Why else do you think this court has been formed?"
The Master furrowed his brow "I thought it was a side-effect of your interference with the mindset of the Daleks... an imbalanced Neuron shift creating a sense of moral obligation..."
"That is the story circulating, yes," hissed Davors "Did you seriously believe it?"
The Master shrugged defensively "It was hardly far-fetched..."
Davros began beating against his casing "I-DO-NOT-MAKE-THOSE-KIND-OF-MIS-TAKES! I-DO-NOT! I-DO-NOT!"
"Very well!" hissed the Master. Much to his relief Davros regained his composure instantly. The long row of prisoners trailing away behind them had started to take an interest, and he wanted nothing to do with any of them... let alone the Dalek guards.
The Master decided a slight change of tack might be in order. "So... the Time Lords are favouring the Daleks? It was not that long ago they tried to erase you from Time itself.."
"Yes," Davros smiled slightly "My creations, however, could not be undone so easily..."
"Hmmph. They could have... if they came to the right man for the job. But I digress," he added quickly, before Davros had the oppurtunity to rant again "What could the Daleks possibly have to offer the Time Lords? The Time Lords have the greatest technology in the universe."
"In general, this is true, yesss...but there are some fields in which we Daleks have felt need to experiment more..."
The Maser raised an eyebrow "Oh, really? Weaponry?"
"They want your guns... so they're expecting a war?"
"It would seem so."
The Master raised an eyebrow "I really should have been taking a greater interest in the affairs of the High Council. Politics have become far more interesting since my last visit. But... trading with the Daleks..." he bit down on his thumb in thought "Not an easy step to take. These waters would have to be tread carefully... has there been any formal communication?"
"From what I understand, a Gallifreyan emissary is arriving today."
"What?!" The Master was dumbstruck "They must be expecting quite a war to act so rashly... a Time War. Never in our history... never in anybody's history..." A smile crept across his face "But even so... into the depths of Dalek power. They could only send someone... expendable. But dependable at the same time. A reliable agent. And there's only one person who matches that description..."
The Doctor sat, silent and alone in the cavernous interior of his TARDIS, a sad and tired figure. His gaze locked onto the clear, domed device perched on the console. What was he thinking? How could he have agreed to it? Well, he was pressured into it, it was true, but how could he have allowed himself to be pressured into it? Would they really have put him on trial? Again? Probably. But he'd been through the nonsense so many times already... he heaved a long sigh. What was done was done. The teleport control could not be dismantled. Rassilon knew he tried his hardest...
But still... he was uncertain. This mission? What did it mean... not what it was for, he knew that, understood it all very clearly and was trying not to think about it at all, thank you very much...but on a grander scale just what did it mean? In agreeing to work for the Time Lords again... was it the end? Did that mean that he was no longer Time's Champion?
Something told him the answer was yes. And that same something told him he should probably watch his back.
He glanced around, at the library, the statues, the columns... it was a thing of beauty, that much was true...
"I should have held out for me than a renovation, though..." the Doctor said glumly. He wasn't at all satisfied to hear the echo his voice made. No companions. Oh, no. The Time Lords could only be responsible for one piece of cannon fodder on a mission like this...
The room shuddered. He'd arrived. The Doctor somberly adjusted his brown coat, and slapped his trusty straw hat onto his head. Then he pulled his most sincere, diplomatic smile and walked out the door.
The instant he'd stepped out he nearly had a heart attack at what welcomed him.
*WEL-COME! WEL-COME! WEL-COME!*
The Doctor smiled feebly "Yes, it was lovely, thank you. I'm the Doctor by the way."
"Oh... we have?"
"You don't say?"
"Well obviously!" the Doctor realised he hadn't altered his expression since the conversation began. He shortened his stiff, fake, smile; hoping it would look more sincere. If the Daleks could even tell..
After an uncertain pause the Doctor nervously asked "Did you want me to laugh?"
"Well, I've always said you can achieve anything if you put your mind to it." The Doctor tried to ignore the unblinking eye of the Diplomat's eyestalk... it felt like it was boring into his brain... "So," he began, aware that the silence was not going to be abated "You want me to see your Justice system at work, then?"
*FOL-LOW! FOL-LOW!* chanted the surrounding Daleks. After the Doctor appeared hesitant they haltingly added *IF-YOU-PLEASE*
The Doctor started to follow. Briefly he wondered if he was making the biggest mistake of his life.
"So... this is all an elaborate act?" asked the Master "The Daleks are simply seizing the opportunity provided by your defeat to revise their image? They really think they can appear civilized?"
"It is very cunning. Indeed... I wish I had thought of it myself. The Time Lords are the only true rivals to Dalek Supremacy."
The Master snorted. "I think your pride in your own creations is a little...overzealous. But at any rate, it will certainly be interesting to see the outcome."
"That is assuming you live to see it," Davros whispered coldly
"Don't worry about me," the Master said with a chuckle "I've never let a small thing like death stop me. But you, well..."
He broke off and looked over Davros' shoulder. Hesitantly, Davros rotated his chair around slowly, and was not surprised at all to see a Dalek staring him in the face.
The Doctor noted that the Trial Chambers had a glass ceiling, and many Daleks had gathered to look down into it. They seemed to be under the impression that justice was a spectator sport.
There was a long, loud groaning as the grand doors slid open, revealing a shrivelled, ancient grey-skinned creature. Half-man, half-dalek.
"Davros," said the Doctor flatly. Not for any reason. He watched as the figure was escorted into the centre of the room without a flicker of emotion. No observer could have guessed the thousands of feelings running through his mind.
*YOU-HAVE-BEEN-CHARGED-WITH-SAB-OTAGE, SED-IT-ION, AND-MO-BI-LIZ-ATION-A-GAINST-THE-DA-LEK-SUP-REM-ACY. HOW-DO-YOU-PLEAD?*
It was the Supreme Dalek himself, a fifteen-foot tall monstrosity in the centre of the room that had spoken in booming tones. It was surrounded by tiered rows of Daleks in individual capsules - the Doctor idly thought they looked a little like egg cartons.
"Not guilty!" Davros tried to shout his words dramatically, but his body was old and decaying, so he managed a fairly feeble rasp.
"In that I am no common criminal. I demand the immunity of the court!"
*ON-WHAT-GROUNDS?!* roared the Supreme Dalek. The Doctor found himself covering his ears, but quickly removed his hands to hear Davros' next words.
"I am your creator! I made you! Without me you would not exist!"
"I am your God!"
*NO! YOU-ARE-MERE-LY-A-BEING-WHO-HAP-PEN-ED-TO-CRE-ATE-US. YOU-HAVE-BEEN-ACK-NOW-LED-GED-FOR-THIS. BUT-YOU-HAVE-COM-MIT-TED-WRONGS-AGAINST-US-ALSO. IT-IS-FOR-THAT-YOU-ARE-NOW-AN-SWER-ABLE.*
"Wrongs? I showed you force! Power. The Daleks are so superior to all other beings in the cosmos that it is only against yourselves that you can truly face any adversity - and without adversity you cannot grow."
"The one fault - I made your minds too precise, too logical. Adept at science, yes... but the science of war is altogether different. Logic does not enter the equation do much as any general would like. And if nothing else, you have proven that you have short memories. Not to remember the Movellans..."
The Doctor, watching high above could sense the change in the room, could feel the rising static of Dalek minds firing with passion. Davros had struck a nerve - they would never forget the Movellans.
"A primitive, simplistic race of rogue robots designed with pure functionality in mind by the Cetenes. Faulty programming and poor fail-safes had a high cost, though - their planet was wiped out overnight, and the Movellans armed themselves with weapons and knowledge. The knowledge to manufacture themselves in great numbers. The knowledge to breed. In stolen crafts and ramshackle operations they terrorised their native system, and soon conquered it. But they were desperate to survive. Desperate... and weak."
There was a loud bang as Davros slammed a fist against his console.
"And they brought your *empire* to it's knees!"
At these words the Gallery broke out into frenzied screams: EX-TER-MIN-ATE, EX-TER-MIN-ATE, EX-TER-MIN-ATE!
The Doctor went cold. Things had not changed that much...
"Eh, you tha Masta!"
The Master gritted his teeth. So it was an Ogron he knew after all. Commander... Shu'gak? Novf'dok? No matter.
"I'm sure have me confused with somebody else."
The Ogron grinned, revealing black gums and yellow teeth. "No m'stake. You change d'face, b't know 'o you is."
"Really? Very clever of you."
"Nat really. 'Eard you talkin' to d'cripple mom' ago," the commander grinned again.
"So know we've re-acquainted ourselves what's next? I suppose you want to beat me, break some of my limbs, something vulgar like that?"
"Nah, nah, nah!" the Ogron shook his face furiously "Had a good chance t' shoot ya in d'back fiddy years 'go. Me own fault for not takin' it, eh? 'Sides, ya get yo'selve kill'd in couple'a'min 'nyway."
The Master sneered "Well I can't imagine you'll fare much better."
"Oh, nah. I gettin'out. I only 'ere cos I was wid Davros' lot, but 'twas only d'money."
"This is a purge, you idiotic monkey," he spat with contempt "I doubt anyone will get out alive."
The Ogron gave a harsh, barking laugh. "Dey need c'mmanders. D'daleks don' like to tell it but Davros got 'em bad - lickin' dey woun's now. Dey need c'mmanders."
The Master frowned. "Why? The Daleks are going to war, too?"
The Ogron gave his grin again "Y'could say that. Y'could."
The lights of the hundreds of Daleks flashed, on and off, at varying speeds. The Doctor noted with irritation that the glass in front of his face was beginning to fog up. This was affecting him a lot - but should it? Just one sentient, just one... he'd seen so many die. He had caused so many to die... and yet this one being... this one evil little being that he had tried to kill himself not so long ago... It wasn't right. He hadn't felt this way for a long time... so very long...
There was a long electronic tone that thundered around the large chamber. A verdict had been reached.
*DAVROS... YOU-HAVE-BEEN-FOUND-GUIL-TY-BY-THE-DA-LEK-SU-PRE-MACY-ON-ALL-CHARGES. FOR-THESE-CRIMES-THERE-IS-ON-LY-ONE-PUN-ISH-MENT*
*EX-TER-MI-NATE, EX-TER-MI-NATE, EX-TER-MI-NATE!!*
The Dalek sentinels moved forward, and herded Davros into the large Extermination Cell set up on a dais opposite that of the Dalek Supreme.
The Doctor, however, had seen enough. He turned his back on the frenzied cries of the Daleks, and walked away...
"Dey 'lmos' done," said the Ogron, grinning again "Be yo'turn soon!"
"Last request?" breathed Davros "A last request?"
His shaking hands balled into tiny, impotent fists. With his last ounce of strength he bellowed as loud as his faltering throat would allow "YOU ARE NO CREATIONS OF MINE!!!"
The Diplomat General of the Daleks had found itself caught up within its sterilised emotions, watching The Creator being torn apart cell by cell in the Extermination Cell - indisputably a piece of history in the making - that he had forgotten to focus on The Doctor. Every Dalek knew about the Doctor - some even doubted that he could be a true mortal being - so it was nearly worried. Nearly because of the various emotive suppressants flowing into its brain, but even so it knew it had reason to be concerned. It moved at Maximum Speed, seeking the Doctor, to see if he had somehow pulled out a Bendalypse charge and was planning to destroy the entire building...
So was very surprised to find the Doctor, head in his hands, rocking on his heels in a corner.
"It's over..." he muttered
A minute raising of the head, a small acknowledgement of the new presence "As much as it ever could be," he said darkly "I... felt his pain"
"Yes... but it's like blood from a wound... once the skin's broken... I can feel death. Do your legends mention that about your old friend, Ka Faraq Ghatri?"
"Well, maybe they should. I... feel death. But... it hasn't been like that. For years. Until now. Do you know what that means?"
*NO* It was a very true response.
"It means that this really is the end."
*YOU...* The Diplomat's mind was working overdrive to think of an appropriate response to what was essentially gibberish *YOU-WISH-TO-END-YOUR-VI-SIT-HERE?*
The Doctor nodded. "You have no idea."
The harsh laughing of the Ogron commander - whatever the idiot's name was - was the only sound as the Master waltzed boldly into the judication chamber, graceful in spite of looking like he'd been pulled out of a gutter.
Records of that day presented to the Time Lord council stated that he listened calmly and quietly as his list of evil crimes had been read out. This was a complete lie.
As the crimes were rung out - first the usual suspects: mobilization, dishonour of treaties - he chuckled. Then when the charges began to mount in extravagance - planetary irradiation, abduction of alien races, alleged genocide, theft of astral bodies, paradox incursion - he began to laugh out loud.
*SI-LENCE* called the Bailiff
It became apparent that he would not stop, so the list continued, with the Court disregarding the Accused's hysterics. They had amassed a catalogue of all of the Master's recorded crimes, and it was very extensive. Some accounts say it took half an hour simply to speak them. And by the end the Master had fallen to his knees and was wheezing like a steam engine.
"Oh, dear me!" he said, wiping away tears "I forgot about that last one... but still, even you can't say the Foamasi didn't have it coming!" But the Master, like a magician somehow casting a sleight-of-face, had soon wiped the grin entirely, his cat-like eyes glimmering with passion. "Sadly, your petty list of my atrocities was missing one major infringement... well, actually I lie, because there are HUNDREDS of wrongs I remember but no others now live who could possibly accuse me. You see, apart from the Genocide of the lonely, peaceful Trakenites, Political Disruption of the Traken Union and Assassination of the Keeper of Traken - trivial misdemeanors by my standards, I'm sure you will agree - I also committed joint charges of Murder and Theft against Tremas, Consul of Traken!"
"Oh, it will be clear enough... once you know what I stole from him. Do you wish to hear it?"
A chuckle "I have always enjoyed a captive audience..."
"Very well." The Master took this opportunity to pause, and relish the tension building in the air. Idly, he glanced skywards through the glass, and was disappointed to not see the Doctor. Ah, well, a re-union could wait...
"I stole his body. And you see it even now! All you will achieve with this farce here today is the long-delayed cremation of a dead man's body which I'm sure even you witless drones can see is far past its prime!"
"This is pointless, don't you see that?" the Master spat at them, his eyes growing wide "You threaten a dead man with execution!"
"No," he paused again, stroking his chin "My defense is that I have powers greater than you realise. And that if you kill me now - I will return. I will return stronger than ever before. And I will ensure that every last one of you is wiped from existence, confined to the realm of legends and fairy tales." He grinned like a shark "It shall only be small, bed-wetting whelks of children that shall ever fear you again!"
The Dalek Supreme raised one of it's large arms in a signal, and instantly in response the Bailiff fired at the Master's left leg. It burst into a white fire but in seconds fizzled out again, leaving nothing but a carbon stump which soon crumpled into dust, leaving the Master sprawled on the floor. The pain would have been unbearable - the Master lay with firmly clenched teeth, his breath in strong hisses, sweat running down his weathered face - but soon he was laughing again. Not with hysteria, but with joy.
"That's the spirit!" he cried "Yes! Cast aside the ludicrous facade and acknowledge yourselves! Your cruelty, your malice, your hatred... become what you were made to be!"
"This trial, this court.. your entire "Supremacy"... just a means to an end. Very clever... for Daleks, that is."
The grin vanished from the Master's face. "Not quite."
He raised himself up onto his elbows, and firmly grasped the stump of his leg with both hands. Then he began muttering in strange words that no Daleks could remember, and that did not appear in the court records. He then breathed in deeply and... there was a noise. A very strange noise that you'd know if you heard it (but you probably never will) that was the sound of muscles incubating, gestating, and maturing in seconds, mingled with the noise of bone growing and skin spreading, at thousands of time of the speed it would ever normally happen. Within a minute he had a leg - a red, raw leg with veins that looked like hoses and only half a foot, but it was still a leg. A leg where there'd been nothing but thin air just moments ago.
Shakily, the Master stood.
"More than just a Time Lord, my friends," he said proudly, surveying the whole court in one gaze, noting the sense of uncertainty in the air, the electronic residue of thousands of minds struggling to make sense of what they had just seen... "That is the conclusion of my defense."
"Yes. And that may well prove to be your greatest failing."
The psionic network between the Dalek Supreme and his court was activated once again - the data was transmitted to each member, their assessment passed, that data was passed on, relevant arguments were passed back... it was an incredibly complicated procedure in even simple cases.
But the Supreme Dalek spoke again in precisely 2.1 seconds.
The Master nodded knowingly, and strode into the Extermination Cell. "This is where you want me, isn't it?" he asked innocently.
The Master hadn't expected this. For a moment he didn't know what to say... but it was a very short moment.
The Doctor winced "It was callous, brutal, immoral, and a parody of true justice. So I'm sure the High Council will approve."
The Doctor shrugged glumly. "Well, that's life, isn't it? Or existence, rather. Did you know ever planet wants to be flat? Every planet. That's why mountains sink. But when the mountains sink they push the plates, and when the plates his other plates they make new mountains. It goes on forever, like ironing a shirt and getting it wrong. Isn't that depressing?"
There was only silence in response. He was hardly surprised - the poor ruthless, killing machine had only been given a crash course in how to have a real conversation. With another sigh he reached into a pocket and pulled out the TARDIS key. Back to Gallifrey it was. Like a lapdog. How depressing.
But before he reached the TARDIS a voice rang out behind him: *HALT! HALT!!*
He froze dead in his steps, the key fell from his hand, jangling as it hit the metal floor below. So this was it? The end...?
After a few moments the Doctor realised he wasn't going to die after all. He didn't know what to think of that.
It wasn't at all long before the Master's ashes were swept up and given to the Doctor, and he was informed it was his duty to the deceased to deliver him safely to Gallifrey.
And then he did understand. This was the end. He was in a world that had no need for champions. A world that would soon be torn apart, with him in the middle.
Politely he farewelled those who had always been his enemies, and he knew would soon be his enemies again, and left Skaro.
It came as no surprise, that within 12 hours of relative time he had been killed. Time had surrendered her champion.