Masterplan, Part One

The face on the projection was no longer the metal, emotionless facade of a Dalek, but the laughing face of a handsome man, his hair and neatly trimmed goatee nearly black to match the coat he wore. His laughter came in great peals as it echoed around the TARDIS, and the way it reverberated nearly drove Russell mad. Through it all, the Doctor stood firm, his face showing a mixture of disgust and disappointment as he waited for the infernal laughter to cease.
"Oh, come now, Doctor," he showed his teeth in a dazzling grin, "I knew a day when you would appreciate a ruse of this caliber."
"One should never impersonate a Dalek," the Doctor shot back darkly, "The entire universe knows that one boundary of good taste."
"Except, of course, for me."
"Except for you, Master."
"I do like it when you use my name," he continued to smile, "I’m also pleasantly surprised to see that you have a stockpile of terraforming fog disinfectant onboard your TARDIS. Always prepared, Doctor?"
"I visit some rather unsavory places," the Doctor replied off-handedly, "but none more caustic than the presence of your company."
"Oh, don’t be so angry, Doctor. At your age, you’re bound to get wrinkles."
"Enough!" the Doctor spat, "What are you doing with the fog? What could you possibly want with something that heals people?"
"You think I can’t be philanthropic?"
"I know you to be more philatelist than a philanthropist," the Doctor adjusted his cuffs, his voice hiding none of its disdain, "I can’t possibly imagine you helping anyone that isn’t yourself."
"Ah, but that was so long ago, Doctor," the Master said with a sigh, "before we became the last two children of Gallifrey, before our race was wiped from the very fabric of existence… how does that old song go? ‘You don’t know what you’ve got, until it’s gone’ or something like that?"
"I’m not one for pop culture," the Doctor continued to snarl, "What do you want with that fog?"
"Excuse me!"
Russell felt his knees wobble as he stepped between the two bickering Time Lords.
"How can you both stand here and argue while people are dying, have died back on Panacea? How can you have a petty little…spat among all of that carnage? How can you stand it, both of you?"
The Doctor bowed his head slightly, and the Master broke into another Cheshire grin.
"Well, why don’t you tell him, Doctor? Why don’t you tell him what I know, and what you know?"
"Let me guess," Russell said, his arms folded, "That both of you somehow knew, in your glorious cosmic wisdom, what was supposed to happen today. You knew that those people were supposed to die, because that’s the Nature of Time or some such baloney… am I right?"
The Doctor nodded slightly, and the Master chuckled.
"My my… you have become so strong in the time I’ve known you, Mr. Garamond."
Russell stabbed his index finger toward the projection screen.
"That’s Dr. Garamond to you, pal."
He walked over and put a comforting arm on the Doctor’s shoulder.
"And a great, strange little man once told me that just because you know someone dies, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t grieve."
"And that is why you always fail, Doctor," the Master’s words were bitter and harsh, "Your grief and your human emotions nearly drive you mad. It’s why you ran away so long ago, wasn’t it? You just couldn’t stand the lack of… love?"
"You weren’t any better, Master," the Doctor replied. His head rose slowly as twin shards of blue ice shot out from under the porkpie brim.
"You ran away, too."
"I was stifled," the Master snorted, folding his arms, "The Time Lord Academy was no place for someone of my talents."
"The Sulphir Plains of Barkhum are more appropriate," the Doctor retorted. The Master clucked his tongue and shook his head.
"Is this what we’ve been reduced to in our old age, Doctor? Shouting back and forth like impotent old men? This is not the way the last of our race should be. We had such power, we had such knowledge, and yet we limited ourselves. Why? Arrogance and ego, nothing more. The Time Lords of old believed that by limiting themselves, it made them aware of their own power, and therefore made themselves more powerful. They believed themselves to be minor gods, when they simply could have taken the stars in the palms of their hands and become gods themselves! The true foolishness of the Time Lords was not their adherence to the laws… it was their refusal to break them!"
The Master held out his hand to the Doctor, almost beckoning.
"Doctor, I know you agree with me. You did the same thing I did, you rebelled against their rules and their laws, their foolishness. Come with me, let us make Gallifrey what it always could have been… what it should have been! Let us make our people great again!"
"With the crown resting squarely atop your head, I suppose?" the Doctor shot back with biting sarcasm, "One thousand years, Master… one thousand years we’ve been in each other’s presence, from the nursery… and you still don’t get it. Why don’t you ever understand, Master? When will you ever understand that I simply… don’t care? I was the best student at the academy, and I didn’t care. I was elected President of the High Council, and I ran away. I was given the opportunity to end the Time War… and I hated it! Don’t you understand, Master, can’t you understand? I don’t want it, I never wanted it… and I never understood your hunger for it. The power, the influence, the ability to bend and crush others to your whim… why do you want it so? The only reason I’ve fought you, across galaxies, across dimensions, across time itself… is because someone has to be there to stop you. If you just learned to let it go, Master, to put aside your grudges and your hatred and your hundreds of years of seething lusts… I would never bother you again."
He walked a bit closer to the projection screen until he was nearly as tall as the Master’s goatee.
"I gave you that chance, Master. When you returned, I wanted so much for you to have finally learned. I figured… I figured that the destruction of two civilizations, including your own, might affect you, might teach you… I gave you a fresh start, a new TARDIS, anything you could want to live a decent life… but you just couldn’t resist, could you? The liquor that you consume is just too potent to give up, and it is a taste I simply cannot stand. Please, Master… we’re the only two left… just… call off whatever plan you’ve concocted this time, just let it go. I don’t want to fight you anymore, I don’t want to have to feel that feeling… just… for God’s sake, be good."
The Master’s lip curled into a derisive sneer.
"Listen to you. ‘For God’s sake.’ How repulsively human. You say you don’t care, Doctor, and you wish to raise yourself above the arrogance that ended our people… but you are more arrogant even than them."
"It is not arrogant to not want to fight."
"It is arrogant to think yourself above the fight!" the Master shouted, "We are adversaries, Doctor! Nemeses! We cannot help but fight! Without one of us, the other would surely waste away! You cannot deny that I am as much you as you are me!"
The Doctor looked at him blankly for a few moments, as if attempting to reason the statement, then suddenly spasmed in a surprising fit of chuckles, which led to another round of violent coughing.
"Well," he said, wiping his mouth, "Nobody’s perfect. Very well then, Master. Explain to me your newest and no doubt greatest plan, and I will stop you, as I always have."
"So confident!" the Master chortled, "And yet minutes ago you looked ready to cry. Are you quite well, Doctor?"
"Bit of a cough, but I’m learning to manage," the Doctor replied flatly.
"You even wear a beard, just like me. How intriguing…"
Without changing his expression, the Doctor pulled a sonic screwdriver from the inside pocket of his tan coat and immediately shone the blue light all over his face. In a trice, all the hair had fallen out onto the floor. This caused even more unsettlingly jovial laughter from the Master. The Doctor’s voice remained cold and flat.
"I believe you were leading up to the big reveal, Master. Pray, don’t keep us waiting."
"Oh, you will find out soon enough. But first, why don’t you come aboard my… borrowed ship?"
"Doctor," Russell asked under his breath, "where on Earth did he get a Dalek ship if they’re all… you know…"
"Precisely!" the Doctor shouted, causing all in attendance to jump back, "You are so very smart when you want to be, Mr. Garamond, it’s a pity you don’t try to think more often. He raises a very good point, Master: how did you get a Dalek ship if I burned the Daleks out of time and space? Surely you didn’t spend all that time and a ridiculous amount of money building replica ships and little, tiny replica Daleks to fit your… Master plan, did you?"
The Master looked a little uncomfortable in his silence.
"Doctor, that was a terrible joke," Colleen said softly, reprimanding the strange man for both his terrible timing in the wake of tragedy and his penchant for bad jokes.
"The only bad joke is here," the Doctor said, pointing at the Master’s projected face, "This cruel clown is hopping about the galaxies masquerading as the scourge of the universe, and for what? To steal a little terraforming fog?"
"Did he really make a replica of a Dalek warship?" Russell asked, trying to look into the projection to see detail. The Master began to shift in his seat, uncomfortable at all the unsavory attention.
"Of course not," the Doctor scoffed, "His TARDIS just has the Gallifreyan equivalent to rhinestones and sequins: a working Chameleon Circuit."
"What does any of this have to do with a bog-eyed lizard?"
"Everything, Mr. Garamond. You see, when Time Lords travel in time, they don’t want to upset the balance or throw turmoil into history. As such, we built our ships with the ability to change their appearance, disguise, and blend in. My TARDIS spent a good many years in a 20th century scrapyard as my granddaughter and I learned about humanity."
"Liar!" The Master shouted, "You stole that old TARDIS off a trash heap and ran, like a scared little child! All those rumors about you, who you used to be and who you really are… what rubbish!"
The Doctor ignored him completely and continued talking to Russell.
"The TARDIS got stuck as an old police telephone box, and I’ve kept it that way ever since. The Master, on the other hand…"
He turned back to the projection to see the Master glaring at him.
"You’re certainly not taking this seriously, Doctor."
"At my age, I can’t afford to," he shot back an aside, then launched back into a proclaiming voice, "The Master, on the other hand, has decided to turn his TARDIS into a replica of a Dalek warship, no doubt to inspire terror and fear and allow him to get away with all sorts of terrible, nasty things, am I right?"
It was now the Doctor’s turn to grin at his old enemy, but it wasn’t a grin of a amusement, more a grin of the pride leader challenging a daring young cub. The Master stayed silent, glowering. The Doctor kept on talking, and Russell noticed as he did that the smile from the Doctor’s face fell little by little, word by word, until it was a mask of pure anger.
"But to what end? That is always the tricky part. You’ve had all sorts of schemes in the past, haven’t you? How many have died for your whims? How many civilizations have been irrevocably altered and damaged because of your ideas? How many times has the very boundaries of our universe been stretched to its limits by you and your terrible plans. HOW MANY, MASTER? HOW MANY PEOPLE HAVE YOU KILLED, JUST TODAY?!"
He collapsed into another fit of coughing, swearing dark oaths between gasping breaths and hacking coughs. For a while there was nothing but coughing and cursing heard around the TARDIS, and finally there was silence… but not for long.
"Oh, Doctor… perhaps, it is finally you who does not understand. For today, I did what I did not for the pleasure of snuffing out life… but for creating it."
"Nothing is worth murdering dozens of people," Russell said, helping the Doctor as best he could.
"That wasn’t life they were living," the Master sniffed, "It was a cruel parody. That fog was an umbilical cord for useless, milksop urchins. They didn’t deserve the miracle of that fog… but, what I intend to do with it… yes, THAT will surely be a miracle!"
The Doctor shrugged Russell’s long, thing fingers off his shoulder and straightened his shoulders, looking face to face with his ancient foe. His eyes were red and lidded with the ferocity of the coughing, but they still peered sharply out at the task ahead, almost as if lying in wait, or suspecting an ambush. The Master never spoke of creating life, the Doctor thought. In faith, he had never seen the Master show mercy to a single living being. What was it he was planning? He straightened the porkpie hat on top of his head and blinked twice, hard.
"Show me."

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