A Deadly Interlude

By David Lawrence

The spherical saucer-like ship floated through the blackness of space. It was sleek and grey, and like its occupants it was also fairly menacing.

It was a Dalek battle cruiser.

The Gold Dalek appeared on the bridge. He looked similar to most Daleks; only he was gold in colour, hence his name. The Gold Dalek glided across the floor over to the control section. ‘Report!’

‘The plan has failed,’ the Dalek replied. ‘The Doctor has escaped.’

Had he a face, the Gold Dalek would have frowned. ‘How is this possible?’

‘The Time Lord failed us. He allowed the Doctor to escape. Now peace between the Draconians and the Humans will be retained.’

The Gold Dalek's voice almost contained anger in its tone. It grated, ‘Where is the Time Lord?’

‘He has escaped from the planet of the Ogrons,’ said the Dalek in reply.

‘He has failed the Daleks! He must be captured! He must be exterminated!’ The Gold Dalek made that one point very clear. ‘HE MUST BE EXTERMINATED!’

It was a command no Dalek would dare disobey.

As the time rotor rose and fell, the Master examined the screen in front of him on his TARDIS console. He frowned then turned away from the console.

‘Strange,’ he murmured. ‘I would have thought they'd have come after me by now...’

He turned back to the large machine on the wall behind him. It was like an enormous clock face. The Master smiled at it admirably - and modestly; he had built it himself. Since, thanks to the Doctor's meddling on Xeros many millennia ago, he could not have the original, he had built his own Time/Space Visualiser.

It was a magnificent machine, even if he did say so himself, and was extremely useful. He activated the control dials in an attempt to locate the Daleks. For once in his life, the Master was frightened. He knew what happened to those who failed the Daleks. He also knew that he did not want it to happen to him.

The screen on the Time/Space Visualiser lit up. On it was a report of beings who had managed to cross universes and survive. The Master laughed. There were many people missing that he knew of.

He turned the dial again. This time, the image that came up was that of a man complaining about the standards of televisual entertainment. Oh, thought the Master with glee, if only you had one of these wonderful machines!

He tried the Time/Space Visualiser's controls again. This time he saw an argument about time travel. From what he saw of it, it was revealed that this argument had started a long time ago and every couple of months someone would add points to the argument and keep it stretching on until everyone was stating their opinions. What everybody failed to notice was that the whole argument was a pile of utter rubbish and didn't matter in the slightest.

The Master finally managed to focus in on the right event. On the screen he could see the bridge of the Dalek battle cruiser. He listened intently to the boring and tediously long Dalek conversation - in fact it reminded him of the Time Travel argument he had just seen.

He saw a Dalek that glinted as though it had been waxed and polished. So this was the Gold Dalek! He heard it speak. ‘Where is the Time Lord?’

The Time Lord? ‘I assume you're referring to me,’ he muttered to no one in particular (not that there was anyone else around, of course - the Master was much happier in his own company, although he disliked the lack of admiration for him that came with solitude. Not that he didn't mind self-admiration, of course.)

‘He has escaped from the planet of the Ogrons,’ replied another Dalek.

Planet of the Ogrons? The Master sneered. More like the planet of the apes! He had seen humans with more intelligence than those blundering imbeciles. One thing the Master did like about Ogrons was that they seldom answered back, and even seldom in words that had more than three syllables.

‘He has failed the Daleks! He must be captured I He must be exterminated!’

‘Oh, how cliched!’ the Master muttered. ‘Even the Doctor's more original than that!’

‘HE MUST BE EXTERMINATED!’

‘Yes, yes, I know that!’ sighed the Master. ‘But how? What devious scheme have you devised to bring about my destruction?’

‘We have located the TARDIS of the one who calls himself the Master.’

The Master frowned at the screen. So, that was what they were playing at? Trying to beat a genius at his own game? It appeared that the Daleks also had a Time/Space Visualiser; only theirs was crude and primitive. It only located time machines.

‘Prepare the Time Magnetron,’ ordered the Gold Dalek.

Oh no! Not the Time Magnetron! The Master was really worried now. A Time Magnetron sounded so scary. He threw back his head and laughed hysterically.

It wasn't until he realised what a Time Magnetron actually was that the Master began to panic...

A Dalek glided on to the bridge.

‘Time Magnetron prepared,’ it grated.

The Gold Dalek swivelled around. ‘Location?’

‘Ten light years from the surface of the planet Tersurus,’ the Dalek replied. ‘The TARDIS is nearly in range.’

The Gold Dalek's eyestalk wavered up and down as though it were nodding. ‘Excellent. Soon he will be in our power!’

‘Not if I can help it,’ muttered the Master. He went over to the console and activated the course-change controls. There was no response. The Master frowned, moved round and checked the computer screen.

‘A gravitational whirlpool,’ he murmured.

‘Activate the time corridor!’

The TARDIS lurched and the Master grabbed hold of the console.

‘The Time Lord's TARDIS is trapped.’

‘No!’ The Master hit a series of switches. The TARDIS' speed began to increase. He went back to the screen and observed that he was travelling down the Time Corridor. Soon his TARDIS would emerge from the end of the corridor and on to the planet Tersurus where the Magnetron had been activated from. Then he could dematerialise again and be safe... until the Daleks hunted him again. But it was still a little more time, and the universe was a big place to hide in. He could quite easily evade the Daleks if he had to.

An alarm bleeped. The Master checked it. ‘What?’ he cried. ‘That isn't possible! They've sealed the end of the time corridor!’

And so they had. There was no escape for him now but to travel up the time corridor to the Dalek battle cruiser. It would be a risky chance to take, but he was not about to spend the rest of his life in a time corridor. He changed the co-ordinates and headed the other way up the Time Corridor.

On the bridge of the Dalek ship, the Gold Dalek turned to his junior officer. ‘Send an assault squad into the Time Corridor and exterminate the Time Lord.’

The Dalek grated, ‘I obey!’ and left the bridge.

Elsewhere on the Dalek ship, six Daleks approached a bulkhead door which slid up to reveal blazing white light. This was the entrance to the Time Corridor.

‘Exterminate the Time Lord!’ grated the first Dalek. Then it moved foward and entered the Time Corridor.

The other Daleks followed.

The Master saw this on the Time/Space Visualiser. He saw the six Daleks as they floated down the lavender beam of light toward him...this time there was no escape.

But there was one possibility. Once again the Master reversed the TARDIS co-ordinates and headed back down the Time Corridor. Approximately ten minutes later the TARDIS jolted to a stop and would go no further. This was the end of the Time Corridor and had it been unsealed it would have led to the surface of Tersurus.

Ten minutes or so later the TARDIS jolted to a halt. The Master turned on the scanner screen and saw a shimmering field of light. He adjusted the scanner controls so that they were turned around the other way and saw the six Daleks. They were only tiny minute blips on the horizon but they were coming nearer every minute...

The Master had to make a decision - and soon.

The Daleks were steadily approaching the halted TARDIS at the sealed end of the Time Corridor.

The leader of the assault squad grated, ‘Exterminate the Time Lord!’ even though it had given the same order when the Daleks had first entered the Time Corridor and none of the Daleks had forgotten the order because of their remarkable memory circuits and as a result it was utterly pointless in the leader giving them the order.

The leader of the assault squad secretly wished he had feelings or rather he would have done if he had had feelings to secretly wish he had feelings with. He found his life (or rather he would have found his life) boring and routine. All he ever did was give orders or take orders, or glide up and down corridors. All right, so this was a change at least, but it was still, technically, a corridor, and if he had had feelings the leader would have hated corridors. They made him get extremely depressed; they were so bleak and usually always grey, and also terribly claustrophobic. If only Daleks had more to do than give orders, take orders and glide up and down grey claustrophobic corridors, they would be much more interesting conversationalists than they already are.

The Master had made his decision. There was no way he was going to be destroyed by a bunch of blundering pepperpots.

He looked around the console room at the TARDIS before him. It seemed like so many millions of years since he had stolen it from a Gallifreyan technical workshop. The two of them had been through a lot together, and the Master was sorry to see it go; but after all, it was only a TARDIS. It was also the only way for him to escape from the Time Corridor.

He tapped out a series of codes on the TARDIS computer and the words ‘Initiate self-destruct sequence’ flashed across the computer screen.

The Daleks came nearer and nearer to the large white box that was at the end of the Time Corridor, the white box which was in reality an undisguised TARDIS.

Finally they reached it. The leader of the squad gave the order. ‘Open fire!’

Dalek gun-sticks fired particle beams which struck the TARDIS but made no damage to it. The Daleks fired again but still had no effect.

The Daleks had expected this and had planned in advance. They all moved to one side and allowed access for the Special Weapons Dalek.

The Special Weapons Dalek was the latest creation of Dalek technology. It had the basic characteristics of a Dalek but was fortunate enough to not have what Terran life forms referred to as a sink plunger sticking from its centre. Instead it had an enormous weapon which resembled a cannon.

This was to be the Special Weapons Dalek's premiere performance.

The Master watched the countdown on his computer screen begin. He had very little time. He took the space suit he had found in one of the TARDIS' storage units and put it on. Only one small thing had to go wrong and he would die...

The Special Weapons Dalek had moved into position. The leader of the assault squad gave the order. ‘Fire!’

A bolt of energy was flung from the Special Weapons Dalek's weapon and into the front of the Master's TARDIS. There was an enormous explosion and moments later an enormous hole in the TARDIS. As debris flew threw the air the Master seized his chance and fled from the TARDIS whilst the Daleks fired; missing him, of course. Despite their power, Daleks are useless shots.

Suddenly there was an even larger explosion. The Master's TARDIS became a glowing ball of white light which then scattered itself across space, wiping out the Daleks and blowing the end of the Time Corridor away.

The next thing the Master was aware of, he was lying on the ground. It was concrete, the Master recognised it.

He could smell the odour of burning skin, he could feel the pain in his face.

But he did not die. His mind would not allow it.

He tried to regenerate, even though he knew he could not, he had used up his twelve regenerations. After that came death.

But not for the Master.

His blackened, charred face was bathed in a red aura and as he felt consciousness slipping away, he remembered someone once telling him that Time Lords who survived a thirteenth regeneration became mutated...

The bulkhead door slid up to reveal the Special Weapons Dalek. It was battered but not destroyed.

The Gold Dalek glided up to it. ‘Report!’

A deep tinny voice came from inside the Special Weapons Dalek.

‘The Time Lord has been exterminated. He self-destructed his time vessel.’

‘Excellent.’ The Gold Dalek turned to his aide. ‘Set course for planet Spiridon.’

The Time Lord's name was Goth. He was the emissary from Gallifrey to Tersurus. Time Lords were always sent to the openings of scientific research centres, and as newly-appointed Chancellor of the High Council, Goth's turn had come. He had attended the opening seminar of the research institute of the planet Tersurus and soon would be returning home.

‘I really must leave now,’ he said to Professor Kayn, the senior scientist.

‘I'll be leaving shortly myself,’ came the reply. ‘I've been asked to head the neurology department on the new frontier lab.’

Goth frowned. ‘Which lab is that?’

‘Its code is XK72. I prefer to think of it as ‘bolthole’.’ Kayn shook Goth's hand warmly. ‘Well, goodbye, Chancellor. I hope to see you again in the future.’

Goth nodded and smiled. ‘Perhaps at XK72's opening?’ he suggested with a laugh. ‘Who knows, I might even be President Goth by then. The president is due to retire shortly. He's going to name his successor soon.’

Kayn chuckled and once again they shook hands. Goth left the research compund in high spirits. The tiresome work on the High Council often did pay off after all.

As he passed a metal staircase which led up to another floor outside the building, he heard a groan.

‘Is someone there?’ he called curiously.

There was another groan. ‘H... Help me...’

Goth frowned and went closer. In the darkness under the staircase he could see a shape. It looked like a man. ‘Are you all right?’ Goth asked.

‘Wh... Wh... Who are you?’

‘My name is Goth. I am a Time Lord of the planet Gallifrey. Who are you?’

The figure limped foward from the darkness. Goth found he could not speak as he looked at the nightmarish apparition in front of him. The face was almost a skull with bits of flesh hanging off it. The bone was dark brown and burnt. The hands were gnarled and the figure was hunched over. But most horrible of all were the eyes. They stared at him intently with a burning glare. ‘I am the Master,’ the creature said, ‘you will listen to me and you will obey... you will obey!’

Goth nodded. ‘I... I will obey.’

‘You have a TARDIS?’

Goth replied blankly as though he were in a trance. ‘Yes.’

‘You will take me to it. You will take us to Gallifrey. You will hide me. No one must be allowed to find me. In reward I will give you great power.’ The creature that had once been the Master pointed a withered finger. ‘Now!’

Goth did as he was told. Soon the Master was back on his home planet of Gallifrey, hidden deep beneath the capitol.

Soon his body would be restored to its former glory. Soon he would take power from the Eye of Harmony and use it to destroy the Time Lords. Soon he would have his revenge on his sworn enemy, a wandering Time Lord known only was the Doctor

This item appeared in Timestreams 2 (April 1991).

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