It's There for the Weight, Dear
Once more the seat of power ( for the moment), the great Panopticon of the Time Lords rings with the voices of the Council… and today, as on most days, a good portion of the Time Lords gathered generally try their utmost to avoid drawing the Master’s… the Lord President’s attention. The few who are brave enough to cast a glance his way often find him either pacing the floor before the Lord President’s Chair or glaring down at them all like a mad priest from what he calls ‘that ludicrous pulpit’.
Today, the Lord President merely sits cross-legged and slumped on a table, watching osprey-eyed as men and women whisper together, shuffle cards or play Sepulchasm in the aisles.
He is waiting for the Doctor. The missing piece that will explain the puzzle they’d all been trying to solve. What has happened to Lady Flaminarixodaparcaftion, the former Kithriarch of the House of Paradox.
“Does anyone know if the Master, I mean the Lord President, intends to…”
“Yes, yes! Intends to what?”
“…intends to do something with that bit of the old Spaceport sticking out of what’s left of the ceiling? Surely they don’t mean to keep it stuck there indefinitely. Ever since the end of the War, what with all the debris winking about and landing Other knows where it’s been perched up there like a huge Tafelshrew dropping in a cobweb.”
“Well you’d better not talk about the Master that way, Pasmodius, or he might make it drop on you.”
“Pasmo has always had dung for brains; I don’t see how the Master making the fact an entendre could be such a grand improvement.” Nemontiarla says, her tiny voice entirely in agreement with her tiny face.
“Be grateful, Nemontiarla! I remember the Dark Times, when there were no buffets at official functions! We didn’t HAVE Flutterwing breast stuffed with starhoney dressing! We had bread! And fungus!”
“Those weren’t the Dark Times, you congealed old tosser! That was last week!”
“Well, at least he keeps us honest.”
“Who, the Master? Oh please, say you weren’t speaking of Pasmo.”
“I was speaking of the Doctor, Keflistian.”
“So was I, Kenny.”
“The Doctor couldn’t keep us out of a paper bag. The Time War proved that.”
“He Time Locked us, didn’t he, Raspar? And defeated Rassilon alongside the Master? Oh yes, I can see where you must be confused. The Doctor obviously prevented several perfectly stable timelines from being born just so he could flaunt his inability to lead. Really! I think the fact we’re still alive and rebuilding is proof enough of his competence and intention, don’t you?”
“Gutarriezknindrakastorblyledgespillioth, surely you aren’t going to move FOR the Doctor to be re-instated in any meaningful capacity?”
“Oh yes, Raspar, I can and I will. And do call me Kenny. Everyone else does. Especially the Doctor.”
“Ha! I knew you had sided with that fraud! He brought the Master here to smite us all!”
The Master cocks his head; now here was a party worth crashing. As he looks idly back and forth at the faces gathered for free food, games of Sepulchasm and the pursuit of argument before the promised Fall, he watches them all some more. He’s been watching them all day, rubbing a finger back and forth over the gold ring. One can never afford NOT to watch them. Any of them. They are Time Lords.
The first speaker, a white haired, young-faced man had, of course, been Kenny. Not so much an idiot at first glance as Pasmo, in any case. But Pasmo was of the House of Lineacrux, the senile old schemer. Even his hair has wrinkles, what little of it he has left. Long past due a regeneration, that one. But still- what had the Doctor said about his dealings with House Lineacrux during the War? Ah yes…’Never trust a senile old fool, because your throat is as likely to catch his dagger as his spittle.’
Hiding his amusement behind a glare only two women and the Doctor have ever enjoyed, the Master jumps down from the table, then jumps benches and chairs until he is standing right above the two bickering Time Lords Raspar and Kenny, balancing like a tightropist on the back of a chair in his red Converse.
The two men stand up; they haven’t counted on the Master being interested. In them, anyway.
“Why don’t you explain for me then, Raspar, exactly why you seem so intent on demeaning the Doctor’s good name?” the Master says, stepping down and rearranging Raspar’s high-pointed blue collar, “I don’t care about mine; I don’t have one. But the Doctor is a goodie-goodie who’s died countless times so that you lot can sit on your arses and play Time Lord pinochle.” He stands, smiling now, one hand dancing a heavy silver coin back and forth across his knuckles.
“Oh, look here’s his Lordship Rassilon the Cardinal over the comms again. What’s it this time? Has he got a wedgie?”
“Well, personally I think it’s funny that the Master made him Cardinal. Don’t you, Kenny?”says peacock-haired, effeminate Keflistian, getting up suddenly to dust off his trousers. But it seems Kenny has choked on a fish bone… rendering himself momentarily indisposed and coughing up blood on Keflistian’s robe. So Keflistian pats him on the back, wishes him a good regeneration and then walks off, in the direction of the disrobing room.
The comms crackle nostalgically with a warning. “Intruder in the Citadel! Silver mask, blond hair! Don’t let him make it to the…”
But a bowtied shadow pops into existence near one of the exits, a green-tipped sonic probe in hand. He raises the probe in the air; it blinks red, and then the comms spark, going silent, and he blips out again just as old Pasmo turns with a swish of robes to stare at the empty space the shadow no longer occupies.
The Master yells in frustration at the cracking-fizzing interference. “Bit late, ‘my Lord Cardinal! A bit of forewarning would have been nice!”
Then he blinks as he watches the scene unfolding before him, eyes widening, because every Time Lord in the Panopticon was suddenly clutching at their throats and stumbling and collapsing over themselves like silk curtains with legs.
Something they ate, most probably. Idiots. He silently thanked the Doctor for putting the idea in his head not to attend to the rich fare laid out so enticingly on several tables.
There is Pasmo to the right, a general amusement and strangely artless dodger one can always see coming in the heliotrope purples of the Chapterhouse Patrex, gasping and choking and generally re-enacting Gettysburg inside his scrawny esophagus. The most creative he’s ever been since joining up with all those damn artists and decorators. Eventually, he falls behind a table.
The Master stifles a laugh.
“What a pity,” he says, hopefully covering his surprise in time to avoid seeming soft while lagging the muscles of his face just enough to let them all know that he isn’t the one who Done It. He highly doubts that anyone will believe him, of course. No one except the optical cameras he had implanted in all of them during the routine examinations the Doctor had implemented to combat any recurrences of wartime diseases. As he brings out a holographic tablet and checks the data streaming in from all those tiny protein cameras, he smiled to himself. No one knows he’s hotwired them to the ring… feeding him real time news. He hums to himself. Even if he can’t remember why he has it, or who gave it, it’s helping him to keep his eye on things. Normally he wouldn’t be so trusting, but… for some reason… but there is no time to consider the origins of the ring. He has work to do.
“It’s obviously a warning from our little friends. Idiots. Never touch the free food. Anyway, just regenerate and you’ll all be dandy again- it’s just a slight dosing of aspirin cut with cyanide- meaning that some of your vital enzymes were inhibited. You all should be lucky I’m such a good boy now,” he says, clapping as the whole group gives a collective gasp, then regenerates almost at once in a rather appealing light show of golds and greens and blues and the occasional rainbow sparkler.
Gutarriezknindrakastorblyledgespillioth, with long blue hair now and green slashes of makeup like a Tromellian whore, is the first to come swaying up like a drunkard, bruising himself on overturned tables as he trips up the circular stairs to where the Master is standing. He coughs, and bits of gold light shove out in broken semaphore, looking for all the world as though he’s swallowed a torch.
“Lord President, should we inform the Doctor now, or when he arrives?” says Nemontiarla.
The Master scowls at her, because the regeneration has got rid of her lovely silver eyes and replaced them with red ones. She looks, he remarks to himself, quite like the Albino from the Shadow Proclamation (excepting the straight brown hair and the affinity for old books), only in the cheerful grey and silver of her Chapterhouse. Ah, good old, reliable, politically atrophied Dromieans. There is also, he notes as he takes in her dusty form and clothes, a spec of Caltreevian plaster from the ceiling motif in her hair.
So he grabs her by her silver-banded arms and kisses her hard.
“You’ve been doing some out of sequence mural work on the roof again,” he says, grinning as she blushed. “… well keep at it. The Doctor will be thrilled. He has a thing for the hands-on approach.”
He can’t place her… why can’t he…
She blushes more, her cheeks filling like candied apples from Earth. Brainless, repressed tart. She fancies both of them. Oh well, at least he’ll have a pet librarian in his pocket, just like the Doctor. And speaking of Earth, how he longs for a nice bit of beef... and he still hasn’t got the Doctor back for pretending he was the baby’s father. Things to do, things to do.
“Plus,” he says, sweeping a hand around her back and retrieving the small bit of plaster perched in her messy bun, “I think Caltreevian plaster suits you.”
He examines the whitish chunk for a moment, noticing the blues and greens that flowed over the small bit that had managed some color. There’s an intricate rose pattern over one edge. Not bad work for a library mouse.
Nemontiarla hunches her shoulders in a modest shrug, and one bangle slides from her upper arm down onto her wrist. “Well, the Caltreevians did imbue it with trace amounts of validium, which as we all well know is what TARDISES are formed of, and is thusly well able to withstand regenerative energy expenditure,” she murmured.
His hand traces her chin; she giggles like a school girl behind thick glasses she, and practically every other Gallifreyan ever, will never need.
Then he kisses her softly and throws her to the ground. It’s like breaking a toy, he imagines. As he feels the knife slide into his left heart, he smiles at her. See, Theta, he muses to himself, I can be beautiful. You just… watch me, you… goody-goody… bastard.
“You should run, my little bookworm,” he sighs through bloodying teeth, “Go find the Doctor. And stay alive. We don’t want you… getting this present, too…”
He struggles against the growing darkness, willing himself to regenerate as he sinks to the steps and saw Nemontiarla backing away from him. Why isn’t it happening?
Then a man in a silver mask with a mess of blond hair leans close and whispers, “In the name of Lady Flamina and House Paradox, I claim the Restoration for our side, Heathen!”
What is this? Shakespeare in Love? The moron. That voice, though…
The Master laughs, but it’s really just a gurgle in his throat. He doesn’t expect the Time Lords to stop this, but still… it will at the very least be nice not to feel it as the dagger plunges through his other heart…
The last thing he hears is the Cardinal’s voice, booming from out of nowhere.
Good girl. Ha-ha…ha. You brought the biggest bastard of them all, he thinks as he drifts down into a bloodloss-induced kip.
“Oh I think not, you squeaking little rat,” says Rassilon, grinning like a vampire at midday lunch. “…you’re standing on my seal.”
If anyone sees him lean to pick up the silver ring the Terrorist dropped, they do not say.