Hearts

Chapter 13

Kate landed back in the cell with a painful thud. She was regretting not trying to kick them in the kidneys when she'd had he chance. She spat at their retreating backs.

"Kate!" The blond toddler threw her small arms around her. Normally a happy three-year-old couldn't do Kate much damage, but she was pretty sure her ribs were a bit bruised. She was too tired to push the child away. She couldn't bring herself to think of the little girl as Jenny. It was too strange.

Jack stood from the bed where he had been dozing and wrapped his hands around the bars that separated their cells. He looked at Kate, sadly taking in the ugly bruising on her throat and the exhausted look on her face. "He tortured you?" It was more a statement then a question.

Kate nodded slowly. She tried to speak but no sound came out. Jenny laid a finger against Kate's lips. "The Master stole her voice."

"Oh Kate," murmured Jack. She had never seen him cry, but he looked close at the moment. There was so much weariness in those ancient eyes. Kate was another in a long line of innocents who he had failed to protect. She stood, wincing slightly, and walked over to the bars. She took his hands in hers, trying to somehow convey that she was all right. He seemed to understand.

"Is the TARDIS safe?" he asked softly. Kate nodded.

"Good. Hold out as long as you can. If he gains access to a time machine, it's all over."

She realized he was slipping a small scrap of cloth wrapped around something into her hand, she quickly stowed it in a pocket.

Jack whispered into her ear "It's aspirin, I got it off one of the guards. When you get the chance use it against the Master, it will kill him." Kate tried not to think about how Jack had gotten the pills from the guard.

They sprang apart at the sound of approaching footsteps. Jenny whimpered and dove under the coat to hide, scowling out from within the dark folds. She seemed to be progressively acting more and more like a child with all the fears that came with it. The Master walked triumphantly across the brig walkway. Two guards were hauling a battered-looking Ianto Jones behind him. The young man had a split lip, and his normally meticulous clothes and hair were in disarray. It was the first time Kate had ever seen him unshaven.

"Guess who got caught trying to sneak back into the Hub to access Earth's global defense system!" crowed the Master. He delighted in the panicked look that came across Jack's face at the sight of Ianto in danger.

"You're very fond of this man, aren't you?" The Master laid a possessive hand on the side of Ianto's face making the Welshman flinch and Jack snarl. "I'm sure I'll be able to use him to get some information out of you about Torchwood. I'll admit your team is a little bit more coordinated than last time. I'm still looking for that Welsh girl, and the annoying doctor, but I'm sure I'll find them soon. So tell me, Jack, any idea where they might be hiding? You'll have to tell me, since I can't read your bizarre, fixed-point-in-time mind "

Jack bit his lip and looked away. "Why haven't you just taken the memories from him like you have Kate and Jenny?"

The Master gave an exasperated sigh. "Your little pet took retcon when he was captured. His memory's a blank for the last couple days. No use to me at all except as a tool against you." He ruffled Ianto's hair. "Now what will it take to get you to talk, Jack? I could start breaking his bones. Or…" The Master paused and held up a finger, "I could toy with his mind like I have with the girl's, his frail little human mind might just snap. He's got such horrible memories, most of them your fault."

Jack spoke quickly. "I don't know where my team is. Gwen wrote contingency plans for any situation where I was captured and they were on their own. I specifically never read those plans, so I wouldn't be able to betray them."

The Master looked distinctly not amused. He released Ianto to slink closer to the bars of Jack's cell. "Now, you could be telling the truth. Which makes you and your little pet both useless to me. You won't stay dead, but he will. You could also be lying, which for your friend's sake I hope you are. Either way I intend to torture him until you admit the truth. If nothing else it should be amusing for me." The Master turned back to Ianto and tapped him very lightly with his index finger on the center of his forehead.

Ianto tumbled back, his calm control instantly gone. His eyes went wide at some sight within his mind. He began to tremble and sob, screaming Lisa's name, begging Jack not to kill her. The Master observed it all like a like a cat meeting a canary with a broken wing.

Beginning to stride away, he snapped his fingers, "put the Welshman in the cell with the freak. Watching his lover suffer might give the good captain a change of heart."

Jack's cell was opened and Ianto was unceremoniously tossed in. Jack caught the trembling man before he hit the floor. Upon seeing Jack through his memory-reliving haze, Ianto began to curse him, and struggled desperately to get away. Jack tried to hold him still, to calm him, but he couldn't.

While sustaining a black eye and none too few kicks he managed to carry the hysterical man over to the cell's only bunk. Ianto instantly scrambled to the far corner of the bunk, placing his back against the wall like a cornered rat. Jack tried to get close enough treat his cuts and bruises as best he could, which considering their current resources, mostly consisted of scrubbing off the dried blood with a wet handkerchief. Ianto was too hysterical though, and after getting clawed across the face Jack gave up. He withdrew to the opposite end of the cell.

Jenny tried to call to Ianto reassuringly through the bars, but he didn't seem to hear her. Her soft child's voice had no place in the world Ianto was trapped in. Kate retreated to her own bunk and averted her eyes. No need to see a friend frightened and helpless. She's spent quite enough of her life like that.

Eventually, hours later, Ianto did calm down as the memory finished playing out. He slumped against the wall, his eyes gradually coming back into focus. Jack watched him hesitantly.

Ianto motioned silently for Jack to come closer. Slowly, still expecting another outburst, Jack did. He sat on the very edge of the bunk. Ianto cringed at his proximity, but forced himself to overcome it. He leaned over to speak to him in a hushed voice. "I…I can't remember much, but I know help is on its way." This said, he wearily slumped into an exhausted faint. Jack helped ease him down, hiding both his despair and hope behind his own tired expression.

The guards came for Kate when she was fast asleep curled up in her coat. It was the first deep sleep she had had since her capture. She was groggy as the two guards pulled her from the cell. Kate wondered if the Master had given them specific orders not to let her get a solid footing, or if they were improvising. There was clearly no practical need for two grown men to so roughly manhandle such a small woman. Jenny watched angrily from a corner of the cell. She had learned by now that it was useless to try and fight the guards while she was trapped as a child. Where once her body had been a deadly weapon, she now lacked the strength to even bruise an opponent.

"If you cause her any more harm than you've been ordered to, I will track you down and kill you slowly when this is all over!" Jack yelled at the guards. They ignored him. Kate watched her surroundings intently as she was pulled through the ship. It was all ninety-degree angles, long corridors, and cool steel. It could have been made by almost any square-loving species, during any time period. There was no writing or insignia to hint at the ship's creators.

They passed through one more identical doorway and back onto the bridge where Kate, Jenny and Jack had first arrived. The guards released her and she shrugged away from them, rubbing her wrists resentfully. She looked up and breathed a secret sigh of relief to see Earth whole and unchanged through the massive window. From a distance it looked all right, anyway.

Then her eyes focused on the center of the room and she stumbled. Another nightmare among a litany of such waking dreams awaited her. The Master was standing beside her TARDIS, which bore its usual garden shed appearance. He stood behind a kneeling dark-haired girl, one hand solidly on her shoulder the other pressing a handgun against the back of her neck. Stephanie's eyes were closed, her breath slow, and her whole body trembling violently with fear.

The Master smiled at her over the girl's shoulder. "Yes, I know the gun is a bit barbaric. Personally, I prefer blades as my weapon of intimidation. However, I have it on good authority guns are what humans of your time period find most frightening. I do try so hard to accommodate the local culture." Kate glared at him, having no voice to curse him.

The Master twirled the weapon in his hand. "It does bore me having to resort to this cliché, you know, using a hostage to get what I want-it's so unoriginal. It's much more fun to tempt and corrupt. But you're determined to play the hero's part, so now I get to use the Achilles heel of that archetype against you."

Kate spat at him. The Master smirked. "I was originally hoping to try this particular threat with your mother as a hostage, but she's proving difficult to find, so this child will have to do. I saw in your memories that you did care about her very deeply once, even if you've abandoned her now. You'll protect her though; she reminds you too much of your lost innocence not to. Now no more preliminaries, open the TARDIS or I shoot her."

Kate wavered uncertainly on her feet. Stephanie's eyes shot open.

"Kate don't you fucking dare! He's going to kill me no matter what, so don't let him use me against you first." If tears hadn't been leaking out of her eyes her fearlessness might have seemed genuine.

The Master patted her condescendingly on the head. "I must say she's rather brave for a human, that or just very young. She hasn't lived long enough to fear death the way you and I have. Will you give her a chance to learn to curse the darkness, or do I end her now?"

"Don't listen to him!" hissed Stephanie.

Kate took a step forward and then drew back, shaking her head violently. The Master laughed.

"Ah, you want to save her, but you don't think I'll keep my word. Consider the situation, though. Your TARDIS is set to isomorphic controls, and neither of us knows how to change that. Which means I need your continued cooperation to use the TARDIS, not just get into it. Keep me happy and the girl lives."

Stephanie slumped and remained silent. Her fear for her life was finally winning out against her better intentions. She didn't have it in her to tell Kate to refuse the Master again.

Kate bowed her head in defeat. If she were nobler she might be able to refuse; after all, the universe mattered a lot more than the life of one frightened girl. But she didn't have the strength to watch a dear friend die. The hero in her caved in to the flawed mortal.

She walked to the TARDIS and laid her hand against the door. She still had to find a way around the anti-coercion program she had created. She had made it years ago though, when her own psychic ability and understanding of her bond with the TARDIS had been weaker. It was surprisingly easy to lock her subconscious away from her beloved ship and give it access to only a shallow surface level. On this level she thought the command, "Open."

The TARDIS wavered uneasily at first. It knew something was wrong. She could feel it nudging gently at her mind and shoved it back. It broke her heart to do so, like kicking a dog. She repeated her order in her mind, "Open." There was a pause and then the lock clicked and the door slid open.

The Master released Stephanie, shoving her towards the guards. "Take the girl down to the cells. Do not harm her." The guards were gentler with Stephanie, helping her to her feet and leading her away. Whether this was because they hesitated to be rough with one of such a young age, or obedience to the Master, Kate could not tell.

Kate watched Stephanie go silently, holding her gaze until she was gone. The Master laid a hand on Kate's shoulder, making her flinch. "See, like all gods I can be merciful," He whispered in her ear.

Kate shook him off angrily. The Master just grinned in triumph. "I must say I'm glad I took your voice. It spares me having to listen to whatever speech or curse you might make now. I prefer my minions silent."

He motioned into the TARDIS. "Now you go in first, in case you've felt the need to set any traps. Just remember, try anything and I still will kill the girl."

Kate obeyed and went in first. She could feel the TARDIS tense when the Master stepped over the threshold, ready to expel him if she gave the command. She mentally soothed the TARDIS like a frightened horse.

The Master took in the golden light of the TARDIS like a king surveying his domain, running his hand along the console possessively. He made an undignified yelp of surprise as the metal burned him. He sucked on his hand and whirled to glare at Kate. She shrugged. The TARDIS was acting on its own initiative. The Master thrust his hands into his pockets, eyes narrowed now as if threatening the ship itself.

"Now, to business. You should be relieved to know I don't even need you to do anything partially unethical today, just send out a message to the only other TARDIS in existence. The frequency is Gamma Delta five two Alpha into the ships communications frequency."

Keeping a cautious eye on the Master, Kate did. The ship made a sound much like a phone ringing, and a fuzzy holographic screen popped up over the console. After a moment there was another beep and the image solidified into that of the interior of another TARDIS. A skinny young man with ruffled brown hair blinked at the screen and fiddled with a blue screwdriver until the image came into focus completely. "Hi there, whoever you are. Hold on a minute, I've almost got the transmission solidified," he told the screen in a chipper manner.

He dropped the screwdriver when he saw who was on the other end. "Master?"

"Ah, Doctor, I love hearing you say my name."

"You're dead. I watched you die. I grieved. I burned your body."

"And yet, as you can see, I was not quiet dead."

"How?" The Doctor pulled on a pair of glasses and blinked, not completely believing what he saw.

"It was simple, really. As usual I had a back up plan. When it was clear I had lost, Lucy shot me. I put my consciousness into a ring as I died. Lucy retrieved the ring. Then I took possession of her body, and regenerated as a Time Lord. Poor dear didn't realize her mind was going to be erased completely."

"That's creepy even for you."

"I try to be original."

"I'm assuming this isn't a social call. What do you want?"

"What, you think I don't just seek your charming company? No? Alright then, the surrender of you and your TARDIS would be a good place to start."

"Which I would do why?"

"Because I have your daughter."

The Doctor's eyes went wide with shock and desperate hope. "Jenny? Is that you? Did you regenerate?" he asked Kate.

Kate shook her head. The Master laughed. "Oh no Doctor, Jenny is locked away safely. I even put her in the form of a child to keep her out of trouble." He pointed at Kate "This girl is Rodageit's kid. Remember him? Mad scientist sort of fellow, went to school with us, always blowing stuff up?"

The Doctor nodded slowly, still not quite believing the Master. The Master continued, "Apparently he fancied humans, or at least got stuck on earth long enough to develop a taste for them. I found his half-blood daughter there."

"And she's working for you now?" The Doctors eyebrows knit. He was looking at the Master, but he was asking Kate. She shook her head forcefully and stamped her foot for emphasis. She was really getting sick of having only one way of expressing herself.

The Master waved his hand dismissively. "Yes, but under coercion and blackmail of course. She'd happily strangle me if she could. I think her propensity to violence shows promise. I might be able to cultivate it to my advantage, especially now that I've separated her from the goody-two-shoes influence of your brat. They had a nauseatingly cute pair bond; I was quiet happy to sever it when I de-aged Jenny."

The less malicious of the two male Time Lords seemed to be having a rather hard time taking all this in. The former prime minister gave an annoyed huff.

"Well enough about the younger generation. They're rather boring, anyway. We both know this is about us."

Kate could have sworn the Doctor smiled ever so slightly. "It always has been." He straightened up. "Surely we don't need to bring anyone else into our fight, do we? Release your hostages and come away from Earth, then I will gladly surrender."

The Master seemed almost tempted, but still suspicious. "Will you give me your TARDIS?"

"You know I can't do that." The Doctor looked truly sorry.

"Well then I can't confine this to just us. I expect you to appear at these coordinates ready to surrender. If not, I can't be accountable for the state of your daughter's health. Kate, cut the transmission."

Kate did. She watched the image of the strange man fade to static. She wondered sadly if the skinny bloke in the suit and glasses was really all the hope Earth had left.


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