By Craig Young

Four hundred million years ago, on an alternate world with a much slower rate of evolution and environmental/geological change than our own, an advanced reptilian civilization inhabited Earth. It exercised dominion over the vast supercontinent of Pangea and the ocean of Panthalassa that washed its shore, these beings that would one day be known as 'Silurians' and 'Sea Devils'.

But then the astronomers of this species detected an intruder planetary body that had entered our solar system, an airless dead white world a little over two thousand miles in diameter by our measurements. It was found that the intruder would converge on Earth's orbital path and that its momentum had been sufficiently slowed to permit its capture. Of course, this would cause incalculable damage to the planet's ecosystems.

Many of the Silurians and Sea Devils retreated to underground or undersea places that had been calculated as safe from the impending cataclysm, to undergo cryogenic suspension and await revival when the planet was habitable once more by their species standards. Sadly, there were fewer safe zones than the equations and projected stress indicators had suggested.

Over the millions of years that followed the ravaging of the biosphere and the extinction of the Silurians that were present, small warm-blooded furry creatures evolved to fill the recovering and vastly altered world. Thirty-five million years ago, an anthropoid species emerged and rapidly became the dominant species.

Surviving pockets of Silurians and Sea Devils thawed at irregular intervals, but disease and perdition took their toll. It is recorded that the last three surviving facilities faced the Time Lord known as the Doctor in the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries.

What no one suspected, reptilian or human, was that there existed a last redoubt. The Silurian/Sea Devil Planetary State sent a covert expedition to locate the likely fracture points on the incoming mass and shatter it before it reached their world. All to no avail, as contact was lost several months after the establishment of an outpost. The base's armaments have survived, intact, to the present day.

In a period designated 'Third Century of the Second Calendar', whose controlling interstellar empire did not keep accurate records (totalitarian states never do), a young black woman had just confronted her mortal enemy and taken her vengeance for the murder of her father, her adopted sister, her beloved tutor and lover. Another woman, with a clinging black dress stained with blood and elegant short-cropped hair that framed an exquisitely sculpted face, lay dying.

A bizarrely modulated tone began to echo through the deserted concrete bunker, and the outline of a grandfather clock began to materialise. From it stepped a form, wracked by coughs and bent over in pain.

The Master was all too aware that Tremas' body was succumbing to the inevitable processes of Traken ageing, and that it would be necessary for him to find another body to occupy. If it died before he could disengage his bio-energy field matrix from it, the Master would be trapped. That was one drawback to what other natives of his world vulgarly called 'bodysnatching'; one was all too dependent on the limitations of the form that one occupied.

It had to be here, he was already too far along the degenerative cycle to permit any delay. He knelt by the woman's form and in an instant, he had catalysed Tremas's form into the necessary mass/energy needed to invade this latest form. As it slowly permeated the woman's body, its mortal wounds began to fade as the Master... became woman.

She opened her eyes. With a wince of pain, she awkwardly rose and took several steps to her TARDIS. Once inside, she triggered spatial dislocation - and the bunker began to crumble around it as the vessel left this period to its own fate.

Yes, she thought, she would keep the name Master. She could never understand these ridiculous distinctions of gender made by the Terrans, and put it down to their level of appalling primitiveness.

The figure in his early twenties gyrated on the dance floor, as the Doctor reflected that this wasn't at all bad for someone who was more than eight hundred years old. And he needed something to keep his mind off the Apocalypse of the Daleks that had occurred at his hand a universe away, and his endangerment of the alternate world where he was nothing more than a television image.

It was good to leave the TARDIS, anyway. With no companions for some time now, the corridors were chilling in their solitude, sterile, with only the surveillance systems to keep him company. He toyed with the idea of interactive holograph programming to mitigate it. Some other time.

At least this little interlude of hedonism prevented him sitting endlessly in the control room, staring at the blood that only he could see on his hands. He had had to kill Davros. It was uncertain what troubled him more - killing someone, or responsibility for the deaths of non-combatants from his own cumulative errors. But it was over.

He's had enough of dancing for the moment and slumped into a chair. A Universe that was now without the Daleks was a strange idea, but unfortunately there was no end of others that could take their place. There was also no denying that this reality had somehow turned colder and less hospitable, that so many of his foes were now escalating their battles with him upon confrontation.

Rassilon, so much death. He sometimes felt the weight of his years pressing down on him despite his current incarnation's apparent youth. Their luck was running out, in a universe increasingly subject to the vagaries of chance. When would luck desert him? More and more now, he felt the TARDIS corridors filled with ghosts as he walked them. He was being morbid, again. Come on, Doctor, time to celebrate.

The rain began to splash down as Tegan stepped under the bridge, which sheltered Empire State from the scrutiny of the virtually ever-present cops. The evening was so dark that she almost bumped into the police box. She gasped, then slowly stepped back. It had to be someone's idea of a stunt. Sure, that was it. Retro-Sixties, back to the Police Box era.

Tegan wasn't quite sure whether she'd forgiven the Doctor for what he'd done to the Daleks yet. The news that Ace had given her at the Companions reunion had further unsettled her - in 1963, his seventh incarnation had virtually wiped the creatures out. She wasn't quite sure what she was doing in London again, anyway. Since leaving the Doctor, she'd been involved in Land-Rights work back home.

She hoped it would be the familiar blonde thirtyish individual in cricketing clothes, not the absent minded fellow with the Scots accent (nice though Ace had made him sound), and definitely not the one in the lurid Terra-Alphan outfit that that incredibly shrill flighty Mel woman had hung around with.

As it turned out, it was neither of the three. A young red-haired man in a black leather jacket and fawn jersey sauntered out of the bar and headed for the TARDIS. Tegan stepped from the craft's shadow to meet this new version of her old acquaintance - a Doctor that went to clubs? - when she noticed the maniacal figure that had emerged from the club's alleyway and who was now aiming a matt-black barrelled weapon of some sort at the Time Lord.

Her practice days of running away from right-wing Queensland farmers stood her in good stead as she launched herself across the intervening space, catching the surprised Time Lord in a tackle as a violet beam of energy scorched near them and blasted away part of the concrete from a bridge support.

‘Hello, Doctor.’


‘Someone over there wants to kill you.’

‘No, impossible. I chose this place to relax, it's years uptime from UNIT.’

A second pulse of energy fused dirt and dust into glass as they put paid to any discussion. Tegan ran for the blind spot afforded by the TARDIS, signalling her intentions to the Doctor, who responded. He sincerely hoped that their assailant was not conversant with Ameslan, then somersaulted behind one of the bridge supports. There was no doubt that the attacker was using a particle-beam weapon of some kind; and they were at least twenty years away from even widespread military use.

Whoever he was, the figure was not particularly effective at his task - a hireling then?

Tegan watched as the Doctor used the advantage of shadow to keep the other firing, distracting his attention until he was unable to avoid a lead pipe across his skull. She signalled to the Doctor, who walked across the parking lot to discover just what their attacker was motivated by. He slowed to a halt as he saw clearly who the man was.

‘You know him, Doctor?’

‘No, Tegan. But I met someone who was probably his father. Twenty-five years ago.’ He caught a pulse of faint blue energy from the fallen assailant, then grabbed Tegan out of the way as it abruptly shone blindingly cyanotic and was matched by a thin shrill scream.

‘God,’ Tegan said shaken, ‘whoever resorted to that has a very low opinion of human life. Doctor, what is that? Come on, we've got to get out of here. If someone from that club heard all that, there could be some very awkward questions.’

He turned a haunted face towards her.

‘To answer your earlier question, yes, I knew his father. His name was Mike Smith, he was a traitor who would have given the Daleks the Hand of Omega - it's a form of stellar engineering device. Smith was involved with a Neofascist group who thought the Daleks would help them achieve their ends.’

‘Ace told me about him at the Companions Reunion. Could this be the Daleks again, using his son?’

‘No, Tegan. The Daleks are extinct. I saw it happen this time. This is someone else altogether. Don't worry about the surroundings either; I deliberately chose this area as it was so secluded. This area of London will be known for its paranormals.’

‘Who did this then?’

He picked up the black metal weapon. ‘This is only found in a specific period of this world's history.’

‘An enemy from the future, as I'd perceive it?’

‘No, Tegan, the past. Don't you remember, the Seabase in 2084?’

Its familiarity registered with her - ‘Silurians or Sea Devils?’

‘This has been adapted for human use.’

‘They're capable of hypnosis, aren't they?’

‘That was an electron grenade, though they used geothermal power. Try someone with access to their technology.’

‘Someone who brainwashed this poor bastard into killing you.’

New York. In a sumptuous apartment, a woman in her elegant forties consulted computer screens and digital displays, contented at what they showed. Then she straightened as she observed one particular source of activity - her surveillance unit had detected an intruder and awaited orders to activate her defensive system. She waited, then pursed her lips and deactivated them until she knew her intruder had reached the innermost field.

An arclight activated, and the Master stood there. The Rani sneered. ‘I see, bodysnatching again, are we Master? Really, you could have chosen something much better than that. Is this part of your tiresome obsession with killing the Doctor, again? By the way, past that line, my intruder defence systems are fully activated. Do not move past it.’

Amoral technocrat though she was, the Rani drew her own ethical line at using others bodies to extend a Time Lord's natural lifespan. The Master smiled wryly.

‘You have facilities here that I require, Rani.’

The Rani laughed derisively. ‘What makes you think I have to give them to you?’

‘You think I don't know what this place is, or that you seem to be operating with no intervention from the Time Lords? Come now, Rani, it's not exactly a state secret that your interference's with the Earth's timestream are covertly supported by the High Council.’

‘I am getting tired of ludicrous rumour, Master, so get to the point.’

‘Help me to dispose of the Doctor, lend me some degree of support from your group of operatives.’

‘Why should I? You know about his future incarnation, the Valeyard. Why not an alliance with him?’

‘You are here to prevent any Terran development of stellar engineering and the time-transit technologies. If you do not assist me. I will have my TARDIS transmit this data to all Time Lords on active duty. It's linked to my biosensors, so any attempt to kill me...’

The Rani did not like this coercion, but she had noticed something about the Master's appearance. She nodded grimly.

‘What do you want from me?’

‘A High Council pardon. And your assistance...’

The Rani watched as her fellow renegade walked toward the oak tree that was located rather incongruously on the roof of the adjacent skyscraper. The visual dissonance lasted only a matter of seconds as the Time Lady (at present) sat, deep in thought. She had been surprised at first that the Master had been so ready to acquiesce to her own conditions as supplier of operatives and weaponry, but there was something that nagged at her about the Master's appearance and behaviour.

An instant later, her surveillance bioscanners finished their analysis of the intruder. She closed her eyes at what she saw. To her, as with most Time Lords (even the rebels), 'bodysnatching' was an obscenity, not only because of the destruction of another being's identity to preserve one's own life, but because of the other risks.

‘This is Rani at Nexuspoint Terra, to the Ministry of Intervention. Urgent. We have a Kyrilta outbreak. Repeat...’

The autopsy had been completed as the TARDIS medical computers effortlessly sliced into the memories of police and medical records.

‘Identity confirmed, Tegan. His name was Derek Smith, and I was right. I was part of a sequence of events that killed his father, a British Army sergeant, in 1963.’

‘Ace told me that his father was both a Neofascist and a Dalek collaborator. Yes, you were part of what happened to him, but his own choices were also involved.’

‘Tegan, I... didn't know he was involved with a woman, that she was pregnant at the time he died. Look at the past twenty-five years, what that's done to him. Drug abuse, prostitution, unemployment, rape in prison, crimes of assault. And we killed him.’

Tegan's hand closed on his. ‘He was a pawn. An unlucky pawn.’

‘He was a desperate human being. Whoever did this used him for cannon fodder.’

‘I noticed there's no evidence of Silurian or Sea Devil contact. Who then...?’

The Radon pulse unit had been highly useful as the Master watched the data flow from the Doctor's TARDIS - so her instrument had been discovered, too bad. So she had even been caught with weaponry from the Lizardhead base. That was also inconvenient. But there was no way to trace it back up here to her. And the Rani's little gift had given her TARDIS immunity from the Doctor's vessel's sensors.

The Master decided that an Ionic column would be appropriate amidst the cavernous lunar underground terrain, and materialized her craft within the deserted base. No life stirred within. The sepulchral silence had been present since that day, now four hundred million years in the past, when the Master had slaughtered the outpost's reptilian occupants.

At roughly fifty million-year intervals, the Master had returned here to examine the condition of the enclave and renew the stasis field that kept it inviolable. Her last visit had been delayed because of the decaying condition of her Time Lord body in its twelfth incarnation's last stages, but this was the point to activate it.

She smiled as she reached the arming console. Through it were the access portals to the rows of immaculate, sterile cobalt-salted warheads - a weapon that had only been discussed in terms of feasibility by the humans on the planet below.

It would be an act of ultimate nuclear terrorism - use the Rani's forcescreen to block off all likelihood of attack and then hold this Nexuspoint world to ransom. What would be an appropriate demand? A new set of regenerations? The Doctor's surrender? Control over the Matrix? Assembly data for another Hand of Omega?

She felt momentarily awkward, and gripped the console as a wave of dizziness came over her. Merely a biofeedback synaptic misfire, a usual effect of frame-seizure (to use her euphemism). Her brow furrowed as she gazed down at the console, and found that she could not recall the arming sequence. Lost in thought, she did not notice her image in the plate glass that shielded the devices from immediate interference.

The Rani's form appeared in the TARDIS control room, much to the bewilderment of the Doctor and his former companion. Her holographic image placatingly spoke.

‘I come in peace for once, Doctor. Don't jump to conclusions and please listen to me. I know you've just been attacked. Your assailant was employed by the Master as a diversionary tactic. Incidentally, she's bodysnatched again - stolen a female body, this time.’

‘Why this outbreak of altruism. Rani?’

‘I suspected it when the Master approached me for assistance, and it was only later that I could verify it without her realization. Doctor, she has Kyrilta's Virus.’

‘Are you certain?’

‘Why else would I warn you? This overrides all previous hostilities. Find her. When she eventually discovers her condition, it might be in a context where she could severely damage this planet.’

‘Do you know where she is?’

‘Clavius crater, your Earth's moon. She has a forcescreen, but I will provide you with a field key. Hurry Doctor.’

The hologram disappeared and the Doctor busied himself at the console.

‘What is Kyrilta's Virus?’ asked Tegan.

‘It affects Time Lords who bodysnatch more than once. It's a degenerative disease that was created by Kyrilta, one of our leading genetic engineers. She intended it as a punishment for any Time Lord who does what the Master has done, a moral safeguard to protect the right to identity and natural death for other sentients. Once it is triggered, it causes metabolic breakdown and runaway ageing after a couple of hours. The physiological effects are preceded by the loss of cognition.’

By now, the TARDIS had dematerialized, en route for the Lizardhead outpost. Tegan said grimly. ‘If the Master's going to die, then why not let her? I just hope it's as painful as possible after what she's done. She's killed or hurt people I care for with almost absolute impunity.’

‘I understand your feelings, but look at our surroundings. This is a Silurian/Sea Devil lunar base. It was designed to deflect or destroy the moon before it entered Earth orbit and presented a hazard to their dominance of it at that stage of its development.’

‘You're saying that the Master has access to nuclear weapons? If she goes mad...’

‘Precisely. I only hope we're in time.’

As soon as the environment sensors indicated equitable atmosphere and absence of any contaminants, the two figures dashed from the police box, past the Ionic column. (On Earth, the Rani smiled. The field key had cut off the Master's activating link to her craft's biosensors and transmission facilities.)

A cry of despair was audible, and the sound of a woman sobbing as they neared the complex. To his horror, the Doctor noticed that the weapons were cobalt salted devices and that the arming only awaited an appropriate codeword. Then his eyes fell on the Master.

His adversary was staring downward at her wrinkled, flabby arms, as they slowly travelled upward to encounter a grooved and callused face. Her hollow eyes registered the Doctor and she stared hatefully at him.

‘You did this somehow. Well, you're too late this time. I have rearmed the devices here - it only awaits to activate the countdown after I find the code...’

Tegan ran forward and pushed the aged woman away from the unit. Then she advanced threateningly. ‘You're not physically capable of that, you old bitch. As far as you're concerned, there's a lot I want to pay you back for...’

The Doctor looked up from the unit. ‘She's already activated the detonation sequence.’

‘You see Doctor, Ms Jovanka? I will triumph.’

‘An act of planetary genocide, and you call it victory?’ Tegan threw the elderly, weakened figure to the floor and picked up a metal rod. The Doctor struggled with the arming sequence as it began to tick away what were apparently the last moments of human survival on Earth. He stepped back numbly as the last digit faded from the screen. He closed his eyes to await the nuclear death that would claim the three of them and disintegrate the Moon, probably destroying the human race in the process.

As the seconds ticked by, there was nothing. Then, florescent green characters lit up the console:


Tegan smiled cruelly at this, and raised the rod high above her head. ‘I'm going to kill you for that, Master. There's no escape for you this time...’

The Doctor restrained her. ‘No, I won't let you do that, Tegan.’

‘Damn you Doctor. Auntie Vanessa, Tremas, all these others. Don't they matter to you?’

‘Of course they do. Do you think you're honouring their memory by battering a helpless elderly woman to death. Do you?’

Tegan's eyes filled with tears. ‘No. Oh, no. What was I about to do...’

‘Go back to the TARDIS, Tegan. Let me deal with the Master.’

As the sobbing Australian disappeared down the corridor, a thin gnarled bony hand clasped the Doctor's ankle. He looked down at the skeletal figure, now only meagrely clothed in clinging flesh. He prised the hand from him. ‘ No, Master. You can't do that anymore. Kyrilta's Virus, remember?’

‘No,’ wailed the thin, reedy voice of the cadaverous woman on the floor, ‘it can't be. It can't end like this, Doctor...’

‘This was inevitable, Master. It's been that way ever since you first faced me with the Nestenes on their second invasion attempt. Sooner or later, there had to be a final confrontation. I won't kill you now.’

‘I surrender. Please, help me to return to Gallifrey, even if it means I have to face justice for what I have done there.’

Gently, the Doctor took the impossibly aged figure into his arms and ran toward his TARDIS. He accelerated past Tegan as the sounds of breathing from the emaciated form in his arms grew more laboured and inaudible, until at last he found the Zero Room.

He deposited the figure on its floor, with its parchment skin, bones that jutted from flesh that was tautly drawn and translucent over internal organs. He knew that it was useless, that Zero Rooms only helped Time Lords to recover from post-regenerative trauma, and never delayed death from Kyrilta's Virus, but he had to make the attempt. Despite all that the Master had done, she was now a defenceless, ageing being whose life was in danger. It was his duty to try and save it...

There was one final bloodcurdling scream of terror. Then it abruptly cut off as flesh and bone corrupted and then combusted into a thick, acrid grey cloud.

The Doctor's hearts ached as he slid the Zero Room door shut and pressed its decontamination sequence. Then he slowly walked back toward the TARDIS control room and an ashen-faced Tegan.

She embraced him as he entered. ‘Doctor...’

‘I tried to save her, Tegan. She may have seemed unworthy to you, but...’

‘I know now that you only take life when you have to, and save it whenever possible. You may have failed, but at least you have the moral victory. That is much more important.’

‘Do you want to return to Earth straight away?’

‘I suppose you want help setting the Master's TARDIS control for Gallifrey and shutting this base down? Yeah, sure I'll stay. But not as a permanent companion. I think we might have both outgrown that. You'll always have my friendship.’

Tegan stood back as she watched the TARDIS fade from view. Suddenly, she shivered.

Inside, the Doctor sat, gazing at four images of his old nemesis - bearded man, plague victim, Tremas, the woman. He felt a hollow emptiness at the passing of his old foe; not the sense of guilt he still retained after the apocalypse of the Daleks, this was a sense of his own mortality.

How much longer could he continue to cheat death himself?

In her apartment, the Rani laughed. The Master's secret had gone with her to the grave. Even if it had meant aiding the Doctor on this occasion, there would still be others. And her trump card - her hidden role in Time Lord covert operations - was still safe.

In a shifting, uncertain universe, the abstract moral qualities naively called Good and Evil are difficult to measure with precision. Sometimes, they even mix.

This item appeared in Timestreams 1 (August 1990).

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