Chapter 14

For once the guards did not throw her into her cell. They seemed to sense she might in fact be growing in the Master's favor, and making more of an enemy of her might not be wise.

Stephanie was dozing fitfully on her hard bunk, her sleeping limbs tangled into a tight protective ball. Jenny, as usual, was buried in Kate's coat. Jack and Ianto were curled together on their cell's bunk, arms protectively locked, foreheads resting on shoulders.

One guard delighted in raking the butt of his gun across the bars, waking all of the sleeping prisoners. Stephanie awoke with a gasp and looked around her surroundings in panic, not remembering where she was. She saw Kate and her eyes widened. She sobered and sat up slowly.

Jack and Jenny sprang to their feet to greet Kate as the cell door clanged behind her. Ianto looked at her with sleepy concern, but did not bother to rise. Kate met no one's gaze and merely slumped towards her bunk.

"Did he hurt you again?" Jack's voice sounded just a little desperate from the helplessness he was feeling.

Kate shook her head. Jack breathed a sigh of relief. Jack reached through the bars and tried to take her hand but she shrugged it off. "Kate, it's okay. Stephanie told us what happened, we don't blame you for opening the TARDIS. I would have done the same."

Kate just looked at him wearily and curled up on her bunk under her coat. Jack's words were reassuring, but she still felt like a traitor. She had failed at the one thing she had been determined to do, keep the Master out of her TARDIS. Surely there had to have been some other way out of that situation, one that would have kept both Steph and the TARDIS safe.

Jenny scrambled back up on the bunk. She stroked Kate's tangled hair reassuringly with her small hands. It was the touch of a friend, maybe even a sister, but not of the bond mate Kate had lost. Kate felt the emptiness in her mind where Jenny had been even stronger. The presence of her child form made the absence of her true self even worse. Gently she pushed away the child. She buried her face in the reassuring wooly smell of the coat, ignoring Jack and Jenny's continued attempts to solace her.

"Stop it with the self pity!" snapped Stephanie suddenly. "None of us have the energy to comfort you."

Kate half sat up and blinked at her. Stephanie's expression softened.

"You let the Master into the TARDIS and that is bad. But you saved my life and for that I'm grateful. If you're going to find a way to defeat him, you can't be paralyzed by regret."

Kate nodded slowly. She wished she had the words to say that she was all right, that she understood. But she didn't so she just nodded her head and smiled weakly. Stephanie seemed to accept this.

"Now sleep, who knows when you'll have the chance again."

When Kate woke there was food. There was a good bit more than the meager amounts than there had been before, stale bread and some sort of gruel, instead of just gruel. She supposed it was a reward for opening the TARDIS.

She gave most of her share to Jenny. She told herself it was because she didn't want to deal with a cranky child. The truth was, her stomach felt almost too knotted to eat. Had she been her normal self, Jenny would have refused the extra food, but with a child's mind she lacked the empathy to understand the gift, or that an end to her hunger meant a continuance of Kate's.

The Master arrived a bit later. He appeared to be more in business mode than torture mode, as if something was distracting him. He was hurting them solely to get something done, not his own amusement, a rarity for the Master.

He had Ianto brought out and sparked another memory, this time of the cybermen attacking Torchwood London. Ianto reacted in a similar panic as the time before. "I can keep doing this until he begs you to kill him just to end the pain." The Master informed Jack curtly. "Just tell me where the rest of your team is and I'll stop. I know you don't care about them as much as you do this man."

Jack just glared at him and tried to calm the panicked Ianto. The Master shrugged and had Jenny and Kate brought out. He didn't hurt Jenny. He lifted the angry child from the guard's arms and held her as if she were his niece. She wriggled angrily and tried to bite him.

He just tapped her very lightly on the forehead, instantly calming her. "Oh, give it a rest. I just want to check a memory. You haven't got enough psychic ability for this to even hurt." He laid two fingers against her temple for a moment, and the girl's eyes went blank. Then her drew them back and she resumed her attempts to get away.

The Master unceremoniously handed her back to the guard. He turned his mercurial gaze on Kate. She shivered and involuntarily tried to back away. The guards held her fast. She hated how she couldn't hide her fear. The Master made that alarming smile of his.

"This, on the other hand, will hurt quite a bit whether you resist or not." Something in her snapped. She wouldn't let him hurt her again, damn the consequences. She slapped one booted heel down on one the guard's foot, and elbowed him in the gut. Jack saw his opportunity and grabbed the other guard through the bars, slamming his head back against them hard.

Kate snatched at the berretta that hung at the collapsing guard's side, pulled the trigger and fired off a shot. The Master reeled back, cursing in pain, clutching at his head. The conscious guard regained the upper hand, getting well away from the cell bars so Jack couldn't get him. He hit Kate in the back of her head with his rifle butt, and as she reeled, another trapped her arms painfully behind her back.

"You little bitch!" snarled the Master. Blood dripped profusely from a shallow wound on his cheek. He backhanded her hard.

She spit at him and he struck her again. Her vision blurred but gradually came back into focus.

The Master cupped her chin with his right hand, smearing his blood across her face. "And I thought you were making such progress." He clucked like a disappointed teacher. "Now what I'm about to do would hurt, normally, but now I'm going to go out of my way to make it as horrid as possible."

His hand was cold against her temple and then there was burning. She tried to fight back, cross the link into the Master's mind again, but he was ready this time. She heard the most terrible scream, and realized it was her own. It was as if a hot knife were cutting apart her brain, a part of herself was being torn away.

Jack banged his hands against the bars yelling at the Master to let Kate go. He knew it was futile, even as the guard shot him, but his nature would not allow him to be silent.

The Master eventually released Kate and drew back, holding something bright and glowing in his hand. If she had eaten more she would have happily been sick on her tormenter's shirt.

"What did you take?" Demanded Steph, speaking for the first time since the Master had entered the room. Her voice held more bravado then she felt.

"Bit of her essence. Shiny, isn't it? Now that she's fooled the TARDIS once, this is all I need to get past the isomorphic controls." The Master rolled the glowing ball between his hands. He patted Kate on the shoulder. "As fun as this is, I can't do it too often without destroying your mind completely, as opposed to the fun warping I've been doing so far. I'll still get to blackmail you into piloting the TARDIS most of the time."

He nodded to the guard and he unlocked the cell, throwing Kate back in roughly. As soon as the door clanged back shut, the Master shot him in the back with his laser screwdriver, and then the unconscious guard in a similar manner. He grinned at the horrified faces of the prisoners.

"I don't tolerate incompetence; try and keep that in mind." He pocketed the screwdriver and walked off, absentmindedly tossing the ball from hand to hand. Kate didn't try to get up. Had there ever been a time she wasn't in pain? She could feel the fresh wound in her psyche, like having all the skin scraped off a knee. It would grow back mostly, just take a while and be painful. There were more gaps in her memory now, which she suspected she would never get back. Jenny hovered around her, "Kate, Kate, are you alright?" Stephanie looked through the bars, her face a mask of worry. Jack was still dead, and Ianto was muttering to himself in the corner, screaming periodically.

Kate stumbled over to the bars and clasped Stephanie's hands, trying to assuage her worry. It didn't work, but she seemed slightly comforted. They both sat down side by side leaning against the bars, one hand still clasped, as if they were still children.

Kate remembered they had sat like this many years ago the night Stephanie's mother left.

Jenny scrambled up into Kate's lap.

"I can help if you let me."

Kate tilted her head to the side.

"I'm getting more of a hang of this younger brain. I can fix some of the broken bits in your mind."

Kate nodded and Jenny leaned up to press their foreheads together. Her presence was soft like a puppy's fur. She was completely non-threatening, because she was incapable of doing harm, as inconsequential as a summer breeze. So different from the Jenny Kate had known. The subtle strength of soul and will was gone, replaced by true innocence, as blank as the page of a poet with writer's block.

She carefully shifted through Kate's mind like cool water over a fire's ash. Everything that she touched began to heal, all the pain she found eased. When she slipped back out of her mind as quietly as she had entered, Kate felt at ease. Still tired and stunned, but better. Even the ringing in her head had ceased. The child was already asleep in her lap, having used more energy than expected.

Kate still couldn't really deal with Jenny's new form, but she could deal with a sleeping child. She shifted her very carefully so that her head was properly supported, then leaned back against the bars.

She glanced over and met Stephanie's eyes. She wished she could somehow promise her she would get them out of there. She seemed to understand, though, because she smiled very weakly, before drifting back to sleep herself.

Help arrived the next day. Three new guards showed up, apparently to fetch one of them. As soon as they saw the guards approaching, Jack realized something was clearly off. One of them had his military cap pulled down low over his face, as if he was trying to hide it. He also appeared slighter than the average soldier.

The other two looked like a normal guards with the classic chiseled chin and solid builds, except one was oddly familiar. Jack sprang to his feet as he recognized whom he was. He was a sergeant in the Untied Kingdom's branch of UNIT, Joseph Black. As the slight guard got closer, he recognized him too.

"Owen!" Yelled Jenny as she and Kate ran to the bars. Ianto sat up from where he had been dozing fitfully. Owen held a finger up to his own lips signaling them all to be silent. Quickly he and the other soldier unlocked all three cells. "Who needs evacuation and who can help fight?" asked the UNIT soldier briskly.

"All the civilians and Ianto should be evacuated," Jack told him. Ianto protested and Kate stamped her feet. Jack waved them off.

"Ianto, you're too hurt to be of any use, Kate, I'm not wholly convinced you're completely sane right now. You are both getting out of here."

"Like hell!" snapped Ianto, leaning against the wall for support.

"You both leave. That's a direct order."

Ianto gave Jack an angry look but complied. Kate didn't.

"We don't have time for this," hissed Owen. "Sergeant Black, take the kid, the teenage girl and Ianto and get out of here. Jack, we need Kate to get close to the Master, she's going to have to stay."

Grudgingly, Jack nodded. Stephanie scooped up Jenny and placed her on her back while the soldier lent a shoulder to the limping Ianto. There was no time for goodbyes as they headed off in the direction of the shuttle bay.

Owen, Jack, Kate and the remaining guard headed for the bridge. They moved at a steady walk, playing the role of prisoners and guards. The Master had in fact ordered Kate to be brought to the bridge so no one questioned them. "So what's the plan?" demanded Jack quietly.

"We're doing a joint maneuver with the Doctor's help. Tosh is in the central control room disabling the ship's defense systems and shielding as we speak so the TARDIS can beam in."

"I thought Tosh was dead!" gaped Jack.

Owen grinned, "Our girl is a little harder to kill than with one blast of a laser screwdriver. She's been experimenting with a personal force field; she was only knocked out."

"And Gwen? Where's she?"

"Ms. Cooper and Dr Martha Jones are organizing the UNIT task force that's going to beam up as soon as the shields are down to deal with the Master's soldiers," said the UNIT soldier.

"Since when does UNIT have teleportation technology?"

"Since Tosh figured out how to harness Rift energy in conjunction with the TARDIS and the Doctor's help," said Owen

"So how are we bringing down the Master?" asked Jack.

"The Doctor said that if we could get him in he could capture him. He'll need Kate's help though."

"What does the Doctor need?"

"He needs the Master psychically distracted so he can make his move without the Master sensing him. He needs you to do that, Kate, by challenging the Master to a duel in neutral space."

Kate made a frustrated gesture of confusion; Jack interpreted for her. "What the hell is neutral space?"

"The Doctor said the Master would know. It's just about exactly what it says on the tin, it's a mental space two Time Lords can create in the mind of a third person. It allows them to fight in a space where their mental strength is about even and it comes down to wits and strength of will. Jack you get to be the neutral space, since it would kill a normal human."

Kate tilted her head to the side, silently voicing how she didn't quite believe the Master would agree to this.

"Don't worry, he'll want to do this," said Jack. "He has too much pride not to. I've been his prisoner before, he could never resist a challenge or a game, any way to cause defeat on a whole new level."

"And this won't be a fight you can win. The Doctor assured me of that. He'll try to intervene before the Master can defeat you. If he does he'll be able to get a sort of control over your mind that goes far beyond hypnotism. You'll still be you, but his willpower will be yours," Owen shrugged apologetically.

"How will Kate know how to do this?"

"The Doctor said it would be instinctive."

Lovely, thought Kate. This Doctor fellow just expects me to sacrifice myself and trust him to save me before the last minute. She had long since learned not wait for a rescue.

Jack laid a reassuring hand on her shoulder. "He won't let you down. I'd trust this man with my very soul."

Kate couldn't help but think that's because he's probably let you die too many times for you to trust him with your life. The time for talk ended abruptly as they reached the doors of the bridge. They fell back into their roles of prisoners and guards. Owen whispered, "This is where I get off, can't risk the Master recognizing me." He stepped into a side corridor and was gone.

The Master was waiting by Kate's TARDIS, tapping his foot in impatience. "About time, how long does it take you lot to fetch a prisoner?" he asked the guard.

His eyes narrowed when he saw Jack. "And why did you bring the freak?"

Jack took a deep step forward. Time to go into brave hero mode; it was just an act like any other, and he could play the part. "I asked him to. You'll need me to interpret for Kate."

The Master quirked an eyebrow, "So aside from the obvious oddity of you ordering my guards around, what are you playing at?"

"Kate wants to challenge you to a duel in neutral space. If she wins, you'll let us go and leave Earth alone. If you win, well, you know how it works. You'll have control of her mind in a way that will still let you use her to pilot the TARDIS, but make her unable to disobey a command."

The Master laughed and gave the silent girl a quizzical look. "Well, you're an impertinent thing, aren't you? What makes you think I'd bother? I've already got your ex girlfriend, your current girlfriend, and your mentor the Freak. I don't need to control your mind, I've already got you blackmailed."

Jack forced a fake grin and spoke for Kate again. "Yeah, but you never know when she'll turn on you. We saw that yesterday, now didn't we?"

The Master bared his teeth in a snarl. "Fine then, little girl, let's play. You clearly haven't been punished enough yet for that scratch you gave me yesterday. What human would you like to destroy the mind of to do this? The frightened Welsh girl might be a good choice."

"No, I'll be the neutral place."

The Master scowled. "You? You're a fixed place in time full of vortex energy."

"What, scared of me?" mocked Jack.

"Hardly." The Master gave him an almost lecherous grin as he stepped forward. "Perhaps you will even enjoy being the battleground between two Time Lords again."

Jack flinched in spite of himself. Kate quickly reclaimed the situation by making a mock courtly bow to Master. He returned the bow with an almost Shakespearian flair.

They each place a single hand on opposite sides of Jack's head. They all closed their eyes and tumbled into darkness.

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