Fandom: Doctor Who
Characters/Pairings: Hologram!Tenth Doctor, Simm!Master.
Date Written: 2007
Summary: We change to fit our environments, our times, the places we’re forced to call home. We change to fit our enemies, and in the process, become like them – hunting monsters and all that.
Rating/Warnings: PG, minor language.
Notes: This struck me at first as a purely humorous idea, was just going to be a drabble- then it presented itself as a reasonable scenario as to why the Master would end up in modern-day London of all places, THEN it insisted it was also an interesting character piece showcasing just how much more alike these characters have become over the years. Sorry. I can’t ever just write Silly without it turning into Serious.
“Hello there! This is Emergency Program Thirteen,” the hologram says to the empty space in front of himself, smiling cheerily and giving a quick wave, vitality dancing in oddly dark and unreadable eyes. “Also known as the ‘Oh bollocks, the TARDIS’s fallen into the wrong hands’ program. Well.” The blue, flickering image of the Doctor rolls his head back to regard the ceiling; there’s an exaggerated pause. “There are quite a few of those actually, but this one is special.”
The hands on the console still, their owner grudgingly diverting his attention to the apparition, an unfamiliar, unpleasant feeling of bile and uncertainty settling into his regeneration-maddened brain.
The hologram takes a sobering breath and looks directly ahead again, all traces of levity erased. “The TARDIS is currently delivering you to a preset point in time and space. By the time this message plays, it will be too late for you to change that. Once she gets there, the vortex circuits will shut down. She won’t fly again.” A look of sadness there, in eyes otherwise rendered hollow and empty by the flat light of the projection.
Buttons are pressed, switches thrown, systematically at first, then madly and without any reason. Divert, reverse, abort landing. Anything. A low growl filters into the air by degrees.
“That way y’see, once I’ve gotten out of wherever you’ve stranded me, I’ll know exactly where to find you. Then we can sit down. Have a nice chat. You can tell me all of your plans, and I can figure out a way to stop you. You know,” and the hologram-Doctor tilts his head to the side, clicking his tongue in a smug grin. “For old times’ sake. And barring that, well. At least you’ll be trapped. One planet. One timeline. Linearity. Oughta drive you barking.” He drops his head slightly downward, eyes still focused squarely in front of him. “Have fun.” Another quick wave, and the hologram flickers, fades away.
The Master slams the heel of his hand onto the unresponsive console, swearing musically under his breath. If only the Doctor would maintain this thing respectably, if it weren’t such an utter kludge of duct tape and scavenged circuitry and bubblegum and hope, he’d be able to stop this. He knows TARDISes, not idiotic jury-rigged Rube-Goldberg monstrosities. And just where the hell has he hidden the gravitic anomalizer? If he could just-
“Oh, by the way,” comes the voice again, with a stuttering flicker. The Master looks over his shoulder at the reappeared hologram - now, eerily enough, looking at exactly where he stands. Straight at him. “The last time we met, I was blind and stupid and amnesiac, mad with regeneration sickness, and in the most gentle, passive, and merciful body I’ve ever had. You had allies, I did not, and,” he punctuates with a bark of humorless laughter, “You had me trussed up like a Christmas turkey. And despite all that, you still, somehow, managed to screw it all up. Now that all of that has changed -”
There’s a flare of something in the hologram eyes, a flash of steel, and the Master is suddenly reminded of the wandering enigma who could murder a tankful of infant Daleks, of the unassuming schemer who thoughtlessly used the people around him as pieces in the greater game. Unbidden and unexpected, he glimpses the flickering dance of an incomprehensible wall of flame, hears the screams of countless worlds and races caught in the crossfire, sees a thousand ships burning to cinder in the blackness of space. And for just a moment, he understands what things a terrible and utter aloneness can do to a person – how much of the light it can drive out of a spirit.
He’s not sure whether to be worried for his own prospects, or proud.
“- now that we’re all out of second and third and seventeenth chances. You still, honestly believe you’re going to win this?” the hologram continues, then rolls his eyes, shattering the gravity of the moment. He reaches forward, as if to shut off the recording circuit, grumbling. “Typical.”
The hologram vanishes. The Master lets out a held breath, the images of flame licking one last time against the back of his eyes before fading into black. The TARDIS lands with a thud and the room immediately darkens, all but the most vital circuitry and passive, mechanical controls shutting down.
He could be anywhere, anywhen. If it isn’t a bluff, the Doctor could be standing directly outside the door, with his indestructible companion and his no second chances. And his brain isn’t working correctly, not yet, still reshaping itself - the drunken dizziness coming in waves now that the chemical rush is wearing off, threatening to lay him flat at any moment. He’s incapable of simply thinking straight, never mind outthinking the only person who’s ever come close to being a match for him.
Some part of him recognizes the turnabout as he grips the edge of the console, his young and strong but traitorous new body not yet up to the game he’s started. A tiny, distant part of him finds it funny. The rest is unamused. His hand hovers over the switch to unlock and open the TARDIS doors - step out into whatever new situation presents itself, teeth bared. Or into a trap. Which is it?
Brain isn’t working. The mental calculations stutter and fail, fall to pieces.
He drops his hand away from the switch and slides down to sit, hunched, on the floor of the ship. Pull himself together first, let the sickness pass. Because it’s an entirely new game this time around – he knows that now, all conveyed in that one glimpse of fire and steel. And he needs to be ready for it.
He’s going to win.