No Country for Old Men
“Now that you have managed this senile old tosser for me, what do you intend?” the man says, patting the red sarcophagus on the floor beside him. Inside the sarcophagus, a sleeping Time Lord.
“I believe his name is Pasmodius, sir.” says the man in the mask. “This is the last step in our plan. Soon the Restoration will be finished, and I will be with her again. I thank you for-…”
“I do not care for you. You are youthful and an idiot. I proceed with my part only because I have something to gain from this little affair. An audience with the Doctor. I must see him. I have... something to give him.”
The man in the bear’s mask smiles, his teeth gleaming in a thin line. His lips are appreciative, but the eyes beneath the mask are reticent.
“Could not the Great Lord Rassilon simply call on the traitor while in this disguise I have provided?”
He truly expects to survive this union, Rassilon muses to himself while he watches the Terrorist, as the fool boy has come to call himself, watch his every move as though such childish eyes could ever know anything.
“I imagine I could. How useful, my goodness.” He pauses, grinning flatly like a drunkard. “Bah. I’ve had enough of this dandy! Flutterwing, be gone.” His hand waves.
A quip, “Oh, I do remember, sir, that you only wear that face…” and then the unfortunate boy walks away, doubtless seething. His fists are wadded tight enough, surely.
Oh yes, he’ll have to kill him presently. He thinks fondly of the garrote in his pocket, taking a step after the retreating young blond in the dark.
“Ah! Hail, my friend!” a long familiar breath whispers, the speaker unheard by the now absent boy and, quite acutely, hidden by the artificial night of the Great Lord’s crypt. “What are you up to in my old haunting ground? I don’t remember telling any of the little pigeons where this place is.”
The breath becomes a crisping of frost in the air; the frost becomes a voice and blue eyes, those blue, blue eyes, crystallized in the cold to the hard ice of man. Only one man.
“My Lord.” treads he who is not the Great Lord, so carefully now. One slip and his endless mirth will be at an end. “You have cost me a string to be cut. I came to serve myself, that much is plain. But how I might serve you as well, now that you are here, is yet to be seen.”
Does he dare, he thinks, does he dare it, in this place? Can he accomplish such a death? Oh, for wicked irony! A frequent bedfellow since that time ago.
“Ha ha haha ha. You are as easy to read as a child’s book of pictures. Shall I give you some leash with which to hang yourself?” says himself the real Rassilon, now come fully into view against the dark. “Did you kill the Time Lord whose appearance you stole?”
The Assassin, as he is known to himself, schools his features. If he lets on to the Great Lord, he will be dead yesterday. No- the Great Lord will root him out eventually.
So he tells the truth, belying nothing of his intentions. “I did not have time. He still lives. These surroundings were handy for that. Did you have something in mind, My Lord?”
That smile. The Assassin had seen it consume countless millions on the day Lord Rassilon’s daughter, yet unborn, had perished of the Pythia’s Curse. That Death lies hungry and watchful beneath that gaze is indisruptable, a fact of simple nature.
“Oh yes, insect. I want you to go back to your cell and ask for the Master. Tell him these exact words. ‘The Other is alive and I know who he is.’ Not only will such an insouciant bluff give you an excuse to be walking around outside the prison, it will get you a position as Cardinal, as well.”
The Assassin become Cardinal, as well! Oh what a place to plot his mischief!
“Remember, my little rat with wings, as you are playing house and waiting for your chance to swoop from the rafters, I shall go and listen in the Panopticon. No one minds a fool. They do as they want, and go as they please.”
“I’ve noticed you around the cells. Also, I’ve fashioned two more teleport-capable micro-shimmers like my own from the bits the brat gave me, as well as two shimmer-enabled slave nodes. One is hidden in my cell; the other is for quick egress off-planet. He and his Lady are both idiots, of course, but I didn’t want either of them thinking. Therefore, would you be so kind as to gift him one? They should work in the Panopticon… you are aware of the pod stuck in the ceiling? It is still functional. I get a faint reading, even from here. If you place the node on the Seal, My Lord… the rest is elemental.”
“Of course. How thoughtful of you.”
The Assassin holds out two silver rings and a metal disk with a hole in the middle, then smiles. He knows better than to hope he Great Lord does not see through a good portion of this banter. But, he has survived this long after being trapped in the Eye by the Doctor in the eve of the Other’s death … surely, clearly, one more escape was in the cards?
The Great Lord takes both, slipping one on. Immediately his hand becomes Pasmodius’gnarled old branch of a limb.
“Excellent work,” says the true Rassilon, his false yet somehow more earnest-seeming wrinkles squinting like a Gallifreyan Mandrake as he grins. His mouth, the Assassin decides, looks more like a bloody beak than lips and chompers. “Run along now. I will take care of any Council opposition. There is always my mole in the Dromiean Chapterhouse. No one would suspect them.”
“Do you intend to murder anyone, My Lord?”
The old man stares at his back, boring holes like dead stars. He does not see this.
Then Rassilon laughs. He laughs, and he laughs, and he laughs.
The timbre of that laugh holds the blackness of certainty in its mouth like a plaything.
When finally the Great Lord strides away, the Assassin feels a strange sensation running close to the nerves of his spine.
But at last he is alone, save for inconsequential Pasmodius in his borrowed tomb, flanked by four red pillars and dark marble. He should have killed the old man, he should have killed the boy, he should have killed…
He shudders, even as he slips his own ring over his finger and activates the transport back to his prison.
Only then, when his shimmer-disguised foot brushes the hidden node on the floor and his fingers wrap in comfort around the bars of his cell does he breathe.