Russell knew he had to remember.
The details were hazy at best, Colleen couldn’t remember any of it. The poor girl, all that she’d been through… and now this.
"Well, well," the Master chuckled, still holding tight to Colleen, "Now that we’ve removed all distractions, perhaps we can get to work, hm?"
"You know we’d rather die," Russell spat, the moisture from his mouth crackling on the electrical barrier that kept him from his wife.
"Why is it that they always say that?" the Master pondered out loud, "Am I really that bad? All I want to do is ensure the best possible life for myself, isn’t that what everyone wants?"
"They don’t usually commit genocide to do it."
"I’ve never committed genocide," the Master replied, shocked. His indignation, however, soon turned into a wicked smile.
"Not completely, anyway."
Colleen gave a whimper and the Master held her a little tighter, drawing the broken shards of the sonic screwdriver closer to her ivory throat.
"How can you live like this?" Russell cried, his heart aching for his wife’s safety, "All that knowledge, all that power… your people are like gods to us, and yet you do the most horrible things… why? All that potential, all that–"
"All that, all that!" the Master cut him off with a mocking tone, "Is that all you can say, you insipid little parrot? Didn’t they used to say that on your planet, that someone was ‘all that?’ Well, yes, I suppose I do think that I am ‘all that.’"
He laughed a bit more and hugged Colleen a little closer, leaning down close until his nose was nearly touching the area near her jugular vein, parallel with the makeshift weapon. He saw the muscles in Russell’s face tighten, and he grinned.
"You sound just like him, you know, another one of his little pawns, believing the noble lie. You talk to me of genocide, but tell me… did you fight with the Doctor, side by side, battle by battle? Were you there to see his butchery at Serresenaw, or the way he sent so many Time Lords to their deaths overcoming the Dalek stronghold at Korrhum? Do not speak to me of genocide when you ally yourself with the one who murdered two entire races!"
"That’s not true!" Russell screamed.
"DON’T YOU LIE TO ME!" The Master boomed back, shaking the very walls of his TARDIS, "I CAN’T FEEL THE PRESENCE OF GALLIFREY! MY HOME IS GONE!"
"Why do you care?" Russell shouted back, hearing some of his hair sizzle on the barrier as he leaned forward, "You tried to destroy the planet! You fled the Time War! You left your people to die!"
"They were not my people," the Master shot back bitterly, "Merely my unsubjugated."
"What?" Russell blinked in disbelief.
"You don’t think I got a name like ‘the Master’ because I chose it, do you?"
"Actually, I did."
"The only thing I chose to do," the Master grinned, struggling a little as Colleen squirmed, "Was to MAKE them call me ‘Master.’ First in my class, of noble birth; scholar, athlete, philosopher. I was the most remarkable candidate to come out of the Time Lord Academy since its founding. I would have been Chancellor, President over the high council… but I preferred to be… Master. Master over all, ruling Gallifrey like the Kings and Queens of old, my will absolute!"
"Because you were good in school?" Russell raised his eyebrows skeptically.
"Because I deserved it!" the Master hissed, "but the Doctor, that low-born idiot, that half-breed, that pusillanimous creature and insult to our race… he robbed me of my right. He took my kingdom from me!"
Russell suddenly had a mental flash of that little orange world in a bottle, all the while with Jim Croce in his ears. He answered almost involuntarily, as if he hasn’t meant to say it out loud.
"… but Gallifrey isn’t gone…"
The Master’s eyes grew wide and his jaw grew slack with shock.
His arms had gone slack with the shock as well, and Colleen took the opportunity to use a few tricks taught to her by an old friend. She drove an elbow into the Master’s midsection and brought her hard-soled shoe down onto his instep. The Master howled in pain, staggering backwards, giving Colleen the option for escape. She chose, instead to reach for the console of the Master’s TARDIS, and the fearsome weapon of the Master’s known as the Tissue Compression Eliminator mere instants before the Master could grasp it. She pointed it at the Time Lord and, without a second thought, fired.
Meanwhile, the Doctor was in complete misery. He sat on the floor of the console room next to his disabled TARDIS, head in his hands. How could he have been so stupid, so careless? He had been arrogant, proud, just like the Master, and what did it get him? His companions, gone. His ship, damaged. The Master’s plan? Who could say. The Doctor sat there, cursing himself over and over. What made him better than the Master now? He had been pompous and preening, maybe even more than his old enemy, and now Russell and Colleen… he could only shudder to think of what horrors lay in store. He knew that his friends would resist, and he knew that the Master did not tolerate resistance…
"What have I done?"
He wished for something, anything, to help him, but nothing came. The only break in the oppressive silence were occasional bouts of his coughing. No ghosts of Doctors past, locked away in the myriad of TARDIS corridors, no wise words from former companions, even the TARDIS was silent, robbed of its usual hum and activity. The Doctor took the chocolate brown porkpie hat from his head and stared at it a while, casting it aside with a frustrated snarl.
"Stupid old man."
He leaned back and shouted to the echoing ceiling.
"You’ve certainly put yourself over the barrel this time, haven’t you? Haven’t you?"
There was no answer. The Doctor let his head sink back down.
"Stupid old man."
Silence reigned again for a few moments as the Doctor sulked in the dark. Then, like a firefly, a tiny blue light began to blink from across the room. It bathed the console room in a weak blue light, causing the Doctor to raise his head and identify the peculiar source of power in an otherwise powerless ship. Like a child, the Doctor crawled the few feet across the floor to the light, which was emitting the blue light from underneath the band, tucked inside the hat. The Doctor picked up his hat gently, as if afraid to ruin the magic, and gingerly fished out what the blinking object. He identified it immediately as a piece of cyber-technology, a shining piece of silver with interlaced circuitry and dazzling technological beauty. It was shining from a single blue light in the center, a tiny thing that seemed to fill the room now that it had been uncovered. The Doctor’s face was perfectly blue as he regarded the tiny piece of metal.
"A cyberman wouldn’t make this," he mused to himself, "It’s too beautiful. That pattern isn’t be from Mondas, either."
The metal and circuitry had been molded into a triangle, a Celtic triangle made of several different shapes, all in one continuous line. There was a place on the design where the lines intersected, forming a cradle for the tiny blue light that was still blinking merrily. The Doctor held the tiny piece of silverwork in his hands and smiled. He knew what it was.
He rose to his feet, neatly sliding one of his two-tone spectators into the hat and, with one deft movement, flicking it upwards into his free hand. With a flourish, he popped the hat back on his head and headed back to the center console. He carefully placed the Triquetra into a small aperture on the console, and almost immediately the ship took to it. Suddenly, the entire console room was glowing blue, a glittering ocean of light, and with a triumphant sound, the TARDIS sprang back to life. The Doctor gave a shout of happiness as he ran his hands over the console of his old ship, smiling broadly.
"Remarkable girl, that Colleen. Simply remarkable."
The Triquetra in the aperture gave a small creak and then cracked in two, crumbling into a fine silver dust as the light grew dim.
"No!" the Doctor shouted, trying his best to harvest the tiny grains of silver, "no, no, no, no! How am I supposed to track her if… oh, damn it all!"
He threw another fit and sulked into a chair near the console, pulling a sour face.
"Fantastic. Just fantastic! I’ve got my ship back, but I don’t know where in time or space or Heaven or Hell they are! If only I hadn’t been so brash, so foolish, if only I hadn’t destroyed my sonic–"
He slapped a hand to the breast pocket of his camelhair coat where the sonic screwdriver.
The realization dawned on him, and he suddenly sprang up from the chair and began running around the console, constantly chattering the word "sonic" over and over again. It’s said that a TARDIS was originally meant to be piloted by several Time Lords, and now, all alone, the Doctor was a dervish around the console: flipping switches, turning dials, pressing buttons, and several other tiny tasks.
"Sonic, sonic, sonic! I can track that sonic signal, I know I can. No one makes a sonic screwdriver like me! I can track them through space and time, because I know the Master won’t destroy it. No, he’ll want to keep it as some kind of war trophy, no doubt. Arrogant to the end! Well, I’ll show him how arrogant I can be, won’t I, old girl?"
He patted the console and the TARDIS seemed to coo in approval. The Doctor slammed one lever into place with a triumphant "HA!" and the ship took off. The Doctor looked up with pride, seeing the time rotor in action, and smiled.
"Good old Mr. Garamond, and his very insensible shoes!"
The TARDIS sped off for time and space unknown, hot on the heels of the Master and his prisoners.
Colleen Garamond, formerly Colleen Ciradh, was a quiet woman, of that there was no mistake, but at no point was her quietness ever an indication of her lack of thought or involvement. As a 19th century woman with cybernetic implants, she was constantly in conflict with herself: a brain that ran faster than a leopard with sensibilities that more befit a kitten. She was kind, and generous, always willing to help or to do the work that no one else wanted, but always quiet and standing in the background of her own volition. It was a result of the tortures she endured at the hands of a Cyber-Controller in what seemed like a place so long ago, it was those pains that kept her silent, that kept her kind and courteous when others may have grown bitter or greedy. She had been raised in a good family, all of them gone now, starved by a ruling nation who gladly exported grain from Ireland while its people starved by the wayside. Colleen Garamond had lived a difficult life, that much is certain, but her faith and her beliefs in propriety and piety kept her going strong, if usually silent.
She spoke very little, but not because she didn’t have anything to say. She reacted, she participated, her face spoke volumes of emotion and experiences in its smooth, freckled, forever-young surface. She simply didn’t speak because she was afraid to. She never knew what thoughts would be hers, and which would be the thoughts of the metal men who slaughtered her neighbors and attempted to assimilate them. Even the word "assimilate" wasn’t hers, yet it was in her mind somehow and she understood it. She understood so much, yet so very little, as the heart of her heart, not her cybernetic one, sought to reconcile with the powerful mind she possessed. She’d done much to keep the mind busy, of course, and the TARDIS proved to be a playground perfectly fit for her: so many books to read, so many rooms to clean to a spotless shine, so many animals to tend in the onboard zoos and menageries. And then, there was Russell, her husband. He had always been so understanding. He never demanded that she talk or that she participate; if anything, he was usually telling her to put the broom and mop away and sit next to him. When she was with him, she always felt so comfortable, it was like wherever they were, it was that beautiful, silent, black and white garden on a far off planet. Everything was calm and simple and easy to understand when she was with him… and yet there was always the fear, always the worry that she wouldn’t be able to control her implanted parts, her heart, her brain, the augmentations to her muscular and skeletal system… there was always a fear that she wouldn’t be able to control what she said, or did, and as she looked at the Master, weapon in hand, her cybernetic mind agonized over the decision forever. Forever, of course, to a cyberman.
Russell knew he had to remember.
It was the single most terrifying sight of anything he’d seen in all the time he’d spent traveling in time and space. After Colleen fired on the Master, the console room of the renegade Time Lord’s TARDIS was bathed in a bright golden light as energy seemed to explode from the Master’s body. Golden threads and flecks dance about him from head to toe, swirling in a maelstrom as the Master they knew slowly died and was replaced before their very eyes. The screaming was nearly unbearable, because it seemed like two people screaming at once. One voice they recognized, the other was higher, reedier, and unfamiliar. Colleen and Russell both watched, aghast, as the Master’s face began to warp and change in the golden light, twisting and bending with different ages, hair colors, nose shapes, and so on. Finally, however, it appeared that the current Master was gaining the upper hand, as he began to laugh so loud that it seemed all the glasswork on his lab table would burst. It wasn’t simply him laughing, either, but the laughter of his voice and several other voices, possible future or past Masters, all in horrible unison. Finally, with a shout, the Master brought himself to his feet and thrust both his arms out. In a swirling spike, the golden energy flew clear across the control room to the laboratory area, where it appeared to be swallowed up into a tall, black, box-shaped device in the corner. The machine began to hum, and suddenly it seemed as if the entire laboratory came to life: beakers began to bubble, test tubes were filled, and the piping between it all was buzzing with activity and flowing with peculiar liquids, and all the time the Master, still as he was, was laughing. He rounded on Colleen with a mad, hungry glare in his eyes. The Irish girl’s nerve failed her, and she dropped the TCE in fright. The Master grabbed her roughly by the wrist and wrenched her over to where Russell still stood, powerless within the deadly barrier.
"You should keep better track of your woman," he said with a malevolent chuckle, "She’s just bound to get into trouble, you know…"
He threw her to the floor and, with the push of a button, a new barrier was erected around her, trapping her. The Master approached them both, replacing the TCE in the pocket of his long, black coat.
"I suppose you’re wondering what all this is about," he said, almost merry as he flippantly threw a hand about him, gesturing to the laboratory, "As I told the Doctor, I am creating life."
"Is this the part where you give the whole evil plan away?" Russell shot back, sounding bored. The Master regarded him with a bit of frustration, as if Russell had caught him in the cliche.
"Well," the Master replied, a little huffy as he came closer and closer to Russell, "I was going to tell you, but you’re being so very rude, I suppose I ought to just get on with your… punishment."
"Just get it over with," Russell swallowed hard, summoning all his courage, "There’s nothing you can do to me…"
The Master cut him off with one extended index finger in a black velvet glove.
"Ah, how true. You are brave, you are stoic, you are the handsome hero of this tale, are you not? The Doctor has taught you well, I see. Very well," he gave a little, flourishing bow, "I concede. You are the good and noble man, and nothing I can do will remove that. However…"
He walked away from Russell, his heels clicking on the metal floor all the way to Colleen.
"I do wonder," he said, running a finger so close along the barrier that the electricity crackled between it and the glove, "How you might react if I were to…take care of your little wife first…"
"Don’t you touch her, you son of a…"
"Or what? You’ll kill me? Your woman already tried, Mr. Garamond–"
"That’s Doctor Garamond to you, pal."
"In fact," the Master continued, unhindered, "She very nearly triggered a full regeneration. Luckily, I have my little contraption in the corner," he gestured to the box, "And the energy fits so very well in there. I should thank you, actually, Colleen, my dear…"
Something about the way he said those last three words made Russell’s blood boil.
"I was fully planning to trigger a regeneration effect in myself, but now I don’t have to bring myself to inflicting self-harm. How wonderful, hm? Now…"
He walked back to the console and pressed a button, making sure to keep the TCE pointed at Colleen the entire time she was out of the containment barrier. Colleen was still mostly human, and it was her human fears, the fears of simple, innocent farm girl far out of her element, that kept her from fighting back. Russell knew he had to remember, even though he’d take lifetimes trying to forget. He wanted to forget how the Master strapped his wife down to a table and, while she was alive, began harvesting parts of her: her flesh, her organs, little by little, molecule by molecule to add to his damned scheme. He mentioned more than once about how he was planning to populate an asteroid into his own personal kingdom using the Panaceaen fog and something called the Hand of Omega, and Russell wanted so much to not hear, because to hear the scattered bits of the Master’s plan was also to hear, and to see, as he tore his wife apart, piece by piece… but still, somehow, through a perversion of Time Lord science and technology, she still lived, and she continued to look over to Russell, helpless, alone, and impotent, and she kept telling him not to worry, not to cry, and she continued to hold the Celtic cross her mother gave her that hung around her neck close to her heart… until the Master finally took away her arms. Yet still, she lived. The Master kept her alive, and he kept her alive so she would have to watch as he did the same to Russell. And finally, when it was all done, Russell looked over at his wife, and she looked over at him, and she smiled, because she was with him, and the world was simple and easy to understand again. Through torrents of tears he couldn’t stop, Russell smiled back, and the pain of the situation, not of the physical loss, is what allowed everything to go mercilessly black. Even as he kept whispered to Colleen "I love you, I love you," his mind was continually chanting something else, and it was simply the word:
This is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to write. But don’t worry, folks, there’s still one more episode, I promise 🙂