Thursday, 24 October 2019

Am I still safe?

Steve was having a bad morning and it was going to get a lot worse.
It had taken him ages to find her on Punterlink: the perfect girlfriend experience; she looked the part in her photos and was even named after one of his more glamorous girlfriends, Sandy, and he had been looking forward to seeing her all week.
To be fair, she didn’t disappoint physically. She opened the door and he caught sight of the red bra and panties he’d asked her to wear. She then stepped aside and shut the door behind him. He walked into her studio flat and saw the worn out double bed with the contrasting fresh towel adorning it. The stale scent of baby oil, musk and desperation hung in the air and he desperately wanted to open a window, but it was too cold outside for that.
He turned round and watched her glide past in her open silk dressing gown; she was everything he had hoped and more: _____ with a beautiful shapely figure, flowing sandy hair and beautiful full red lips. He handed over the money and things just went downhill from there.
It wasn’t much of a girlfriend experience; she was cold, aloof and in a bit of a hurry to get him finished. It was like being fucked by a machine. It was actually more of an ex-girlfriend experience: over very quickly and tinged with regret and self-loathing. Actually for £200 it was more like an ex-wife experience: he’d been taken advantage of and fucked over. He was then stewarded to the door quicker than a fart in a blizzard.
Ten floors up. Standing outside the flat whose door had just been ceremoniously slammed in his face, Steve pondered what he was going to do next. It was only 11am, the rest of the day to waste; he felt used and depressed. There was no way he was going to take the stairs – ten floors down- so he stabbed at the lift button with his sausage-like finger.
Three minutes more than he wanted to spend in that corridor and the lift finally arrived with a dull metallic drone. There was one man there already so Steve made sure he stood in the opposite corner to him. He didn’t want to talk to anyone; he felt too embarrassed by the whole experience, not to mention poor and demoralised.
The man in front of him was a bit of an enigma: his whole outfit was ill-fitting; the trousers showed far too much ankle, the jacket was baggy and hung oddly from his shoulders and his shows looked threadbare. His hair would have been one cut short of concentration camp victim if not for the violent clumps of ginger hair that seemed to erupt from his pitted scalp. What made it worse was that the man was talking:
“They're holding 'wellbeing MOT's' on the fourth floor... probably dealing with health & body issues... and it wasn't so long ago they were having workshops on stress.... These days it's either Mind or Body that people seem to be concerned about -the 'soul' (for want of a better word) is totally ignored. And who can blame them -on one hand you have the dogma and sheer banality of religion and then on the other you have the 'Ripleys believe it or not' / Heinz 57 varieties of 'spirituality'. -Both of which obfuscate the whole picture.” The voice was a nasal monotone and for a few seconds Steve was unsure whether he should actually reply.
“What makes me laugh is that those that follow either religion or spirituality believe that they will be better people and more 'enlightened'.” Steve was stunned. That was another voice entirely, a deeper timbre with more inflexion with an actor-like quality: clear annunciation with a little bit of tremolo thrown in for good measure. But it was just Steve and this guy in the lift, he was sure. He took another look around but it was just the two of them. The first voice answered back.
“Yes, but none of these diversions represent the individual -they eclipse the individual and prevent them from actually understanding their own truth.”  This was taking things to a new level; it couldn’t get any worse, surely.
The lift shuddered and then stopped moving, the lights dimmed in sympathy and then died altogether. Ten seconds later the emergency lights kicked in and Steve was rueing the day he had decided on following his lusts. The guy was still talking though in his nasally voice; was this some kind of elaborate prank or hidden camera show? Was he a ventriloquist practicing his act? Or was it more likely that this guy was a complete nutter and now Steve was stuck with him. Occam’s razor favoured the latter of these explanations.
“There was an advert on Facebook which said 'Welcome to Native Spirits'.” The first voice explained. “As interesting as it is to read their wisdom, what does it actually have to do with me? Certainly I can take on board some of the ideas and learn from their example.”
“But you’re not a native Indian.” Interrupted the second voice. This was getting confusing to Steve so he named the first voice Larry and the second voice Mo. Larry replied to Mo’s comment:
“No… I’m not and I can only really learn on a comparative level; it serves no purpose to live like them or try to incorporate their philosophy for my own... but too many people do.”
“Ironically you can swap and change the 'American' Indians for any major movement.” Larry interjected.
“Excuse me.” Steve interjected. “Does anyone… I mean, do you know where the emergency button is here? How can we tell anyone that we’re stuck here?” He was unsure whether it was a good idea to antagonise the man but Steve was getting concerned now. No one knew he was here; he hadn’t had the foresight to bring his mobile phone with him (it was still charging on his desk at home) and he didn’t relish the thought of being trapped any longer than necessary with a nutcase.
“I shouldn’t worry.” Replied the man in a completely different voice. This was a far friendlier tone; completely at odds to his appearance. There was compassion and a jovial edge to it and Steve felt the first nigglings of dissonance enter his head. Reality seemed to slowly unpeel around him like the lift carpet. What was going on? The man continued, unaware of Steve’s uncertainty. “It sticks sometimes; it’ll be fine in a couple of minutes.”
“So I’m perfectly safe here then?” Steve asked, trying to find a tactful way of discerning this blokes mental state. “I get claustrophobic at times.”
“Makes us wonder why you bothered taking the lift then.” Larry replied, sneering.
“It was either that or take the stairs.” Steve said, automatically.
The man turned around and faced Steve now. “Pardon?” The man replied in his own voice, Steve could see his lips more. The man had a pocked marked, character filled face (lots of worry lines and almost hollow eyes because of the bags that hung droopily).
“I’m sorry. I thought you spoke to me.” Steve said sheepishly.
“No. I just said that the lift sticks sometimes.” He replied.
“So you didn’t make a retort about my claustrophobia then.”
“No.” The man looked at him strangely now, as if it was Steve that was hearing things and acting strangely…. And maybe he was.
“Do you mind if I ask you your name? My name’s Steve.”
“Why do you want to know that?”
“It would put my mind at rest; I’m very nervous at the moment. You don’t have to if you don’t want to..”
“My name is Paul.” The man said.
“Mine’s Mo.”
“Mine’s Larry”. Paul looked at Steve askance as sweat broke out on his brow; he’d gone as off-colour as the walls of the lift.
“Tell me you heard that.” Steve replied.
“What?” Paul asked, “All I did was say my name – as you asked me to, I might add.”
“But then you said call me Mo and Larry… In two different voices.”
“No – I didn’t!”
“To be fair… he didn’t.” Mo said.
“Shut up.” Steve snapped.
“How dare you.” Paul replied.
“I wasn’t talking to you.” Steve said, getting confused by what was now happening.
“Well, who else were you talking to?” Paul asked. “Is this some kind of joke?”
“Am I still safe?” Steve asked, unsure of his own safety or sanity.
“The question is, am I safe?” Paul muttered, turning his back on Steve. “Nutter.” He said under his breath.
“I’m sorry; I’ve just had a really bad morning.” Steve explained.
“They do say it only takes one bad day…” Larry replied.
“Noooo.” Steve groaned. This was becoming too much. He was damn sure that it was one massive wind up but without confronting Paul –if that really was his name- he couldn’t be sure; and he really didn’t want to do that. Steve didn’t like confrontations at the best of times.
All of a sudden Larry started his monologue again: “The alternative is far more difficult -trying to understand who we are and why we do what we do, especially when the rest of society is doing its best to push / pull / pervert / cajole / threaten / entice and squash you in other directions. Other people are no good as role models as they're subject to the same problems as the rest of us -the only difference is that they're trying to masquerade as something different... I mean, the further that we seem to 'advance'..”
“Whatever that actually means.” Mo interrupted.
“Indeed.” Larry agreed. “The further we seem to advance the more estranged we become.”
“You know what?” Mo continued. “I know that to be true. In myself, there's this definite schism between who I am in myself and who I appear to be when I'm in company and that's become more apparent the more I've learnt about myself (if that makes sense) and that's a 'cost ' that I'm happy to bear because there's a definite pay off for me –finding out about myself. But other people seem more than happy drifting off into this realm of illusion and fantasy never realising that there's anything else other than mind... or body...”
“I can’t take much more of this…” Steve exclaimed.
“You and me both.” Paul muttered.
“You can’t hear what I hear.” Steve snapped back.
“What I hear is bad enough as it is.” Paul retorted.
“I can hear voices – two people.. Two men, and then there’s you. Are you telling me that you can’t hear them?”
“Hearing your voice is bad enough… you’re not making me feel any calmer.” It was obvious Paul was trying his best not to provoke him, but Steve was trying to remain calm despite his whole world crumbling around him.
“Just let go.” Mo cajoled.
“You know you want to –no one would miss him.” Larry agreed.
“What do you mean no one would miss him?” Steve was shocked. Paul turned his head around in dismay, wondering just what the hell was going on.
“It’s been a bad day.” Larry confided. “No one would blame you if you vented a little steam.”
“Ideally you should’ve killed the bitch… she deserves it after all.” Mo agreed.
“Yes; but you could always kill her afterwards.” Larry sympathised. Steve banged his head against the wall of the lift in dismay and desperation.
“I’m not going to vent off steam.. I’m not going to kill the bitch.” Steve shouted.
Suddenly the lift shuddered back into life, the lights taking them both by surprise and Paul struck the elevator panel trying to select the closest floor. Steve whimpered in the corner almost ignorant of Paul’s hasty retreat. The door closed behind him and carried its way warily downwards. At least there would be no more voices, Steve thought. With Paul gone there would be no more voices.
“That’s what you think.”

Wednesday, 23 October 2019

The Best Policy

“What if Groundhog Day actually happened to someone; but it repeated the best day of their life? How long would it take for the person to go on a homicidal rampage?” Iain asked, excited with his new concept.
“I don’t care. You haven’t been listening to me!” There was a depression orbiting Sam like a black hole ready to suck in any unwary souls that ventured too close to her morbidly obese frame; luckily few people did. Iain was immune for two reasons: he was built like a balding railway sleeper and moved for no one, he’d been married (or chained) to her for five years (he hadn’t actually taken any notice of her for at least four of those). “You never listen to me. You’re always stuck in this.. fantasy world and it’s me that has to suffer.”
“Suffer? What do you know about suffering?” Iain was still incredulous at what Sam came out with. After all these years he could still be surprised by the crap she spouted. Sometimes he wondered whether she actually believed any of it or said it to provoke a reaction. Normally he wouldn’t take any notice but he’d been taken off guard. Five years of marriage and each day was like sandpaper on his soul. Why did he put up with it? Was living in misery better than living on his own?
“Do you know what it’s like living with you?” Sam replied almost pleaded for an answer.
“Just as delightful as it is to live with you, my sweet…”
“What can’t you just listen to me? Why do you keep giving me the smart arse answers which never actually tell me anything? Why can’t you just be honest with me?”
“So you want me to be honest with you… is that it?”
“”Yes.. please!”
“Are you sure? Are you absolutely sure? This will be a complete no-holes barred ‘nothing-but-the-truth’ session.”
“Yes! But on both sides.” Sam replied, surprising Iain. What did she possibly have to complain about?
“Ok. Do you want to go first or shall I?” He sneered, hoping to put her off her stride. This could actually be fun, and if nothing else it could make the basis for a great short story!
“No – you go first.” She calmly replied, surprising him further. Iain thought she’d be itching to moan at him. He breathed in and then suddenly realised that there was little he actually had to complain about. Despite their differences Sam had actually looked after him all those years… but Iain couldn’t just concede that she was right… he had to get creative.
“Well…” He replied. “You did ask for it… Well, the obvious elephant in the room is your weight, love. You always were a large girl but then so was I… I’ve managed to lose some pounds but miraculously they’ve managed to affix themselves to your portly frame. People often pass us in the street and I can see their stares. The silent accusations are not at you, as they obviously feel you can’t help it; but at me as if I’m some kind of monstrous feeder! I’m not asking much, love, but what happened to the girl I married, eh?” Sam choked back the tears but just nodded for him to continue.
“Point the second: why are you so damned miserable these days? Miserable and cranky… insufferable, actually. I like to think I’ve got a laid back personality and feel that I can deal with practically anything but even I’m getting worn down with it all.
“Point the third: When was the last time we actually had sex? I’ll be honest, I’m actually afraid to try. I doubt I’d be able to find your fanny in amongst the piles of flesh... no doubt I could invent a new game of finding a crevice I could hump and it would surely be better than getting squashed if you were on top! I suppose there’s always anal but, God help me, if you ever broke wind, lass, I’d be propelled against the far wall through the sheer concussive force!
“Point the fourth: you never take an interest in any of my stories. Is it too much to ask? Especially after how much I’ve contributed to this wonderful house and our lifestyle! I don’t ask for much: enquire after my stories; you don’t even have to like them or mean it. Feign an interest once in a while.”
Sam looked at him inquisitively, waiting for him to continue but he couldn’t come up with anything else. “Is that it? Are you finished?” Sam replied, drying her eyes. “Are you sure?” Iain meekly nodded –maybe this was a mistake. “Right.. My turn.
“Let’s take a look at that ‘elephant in the room’ as you so succinctly put it. Yes, I’m fat; morbidly obese in fact, and for years I’ve laid the blame firmly on your doorstep; vilified myself against your ideal, tried to be noticed and beaten myself up when it’s obvious you don’t give a damn.” Iain was about to interrupt but Sam just put her hand up to stop him. “No, please don’t. I didn’t interrupt you when you tore me apart; the least you could do is show me the same courtesy. ‘It’s the least you can do’ actually sums up what you actually bring to the table to our relationship. I’ve tried taking more than the lions share for the blame, the failing of this mockery of a relationship; blamed myself for you not taking an interest in me –which would then fuel another bout of comfort eating. You can see the vicious circle here, and it’s one of my own devising. I can see that now. I should have realised that you’re not actually worth it; I shouldn’t have blamed you for that and I’m sorry. But I’ll tell you this for free: I’m going to change – I’ve found the impetus. It’s just a shame that you’re not going to benefit from it.”
“What pet?” Iain replied. This certainly wasn’t going as planned.
“No interruptions, Iain, please.” Iain sighed and Sam continued. “You mentioned sex and I have to say that I’ve never been so relieved that my body turned you off so much. You probably see yourself as a sensitive lover… well, let me relieve you of that particular illusion. I’ve seen more sensitivity from a rutting warthog. And when you criticise my bountiful frame as a reason for not ‘finding my fanny’ you must also take into account your microscopic cock. I think you’d have a hard time giving a pre-pubescent gerbil a good time with that…
“You also mentioned feigning an interest in your ‘writings’.. and here we come to the real nub; the real rub, as it were. You wrote one novel that became a best seller ten years ago, and it was wonderful. Truly; and this is no faint praise. It was the reason I sought you out after all. But that was ten years ago…
“Since then you’ve certainly been prolific, churning out short stories, novels, poems, plays.. even greeting card rhymes, for Christ’s sake… but none of them.. NONE of them were in the least bit successful. No one wants to know. You’ve been relegated to the ‘one-hit-wonder’ category; an obscure ‘whatever happened to..’. The only money you’ve had coming in has been the occasional royalty cheque when they reprint your one ‘blockbuster’.”
“You’re kidding? Seriously?!” Iain was stunned. “But how have we managed to survive all these years? Why haven’t I been made aware of this?”
“Made aware? Since when have you been aware of anything.. or anyone, for that matter? The reason why your first novel was so acclaimed was that it struck a chord with people who could empathise with you. Now all you seem to do is retreat into your own little world (which is so far removed from how things really are, it’s obscene.)”
“I had no idea.”
“No, and what’s more you never cared. As long you were happy and your needs were catered for you were more than content to live in your fantasy world. Well… that’s as much my fault as it is yours. I should have told you this much earlier when the first dozen rejection letters came in… but, damn it, I cared for you too much back then.”
“Sam…I..” Iain replied, unable to take it all in.
“Don’t worry, that’s all since past and I bitterly regret that now. It became harder and harder to keep the lie alive. The longer it dragged on the more complicit I became, so I had to work harder and harder on it… and it started to take a toll on me. This is the result of it…. But, thankfully, you’ve now set me free. I can now finally see the truth.”
“What are you saying?”
“I can no longer live in the farcical situation with you. You are a failure, Iain, perhaps in every way… and I’ve allowed it to happen. For that I am sorry, but no longer. I’m leaving you, Iain. I’ve had enough and I’m going to file for a divorce. This may seem sudden but I’ve actually been thinking about it for a long time wondering just how the hell I could justify it. I never thought I had the strength, but now I can see that I’m far stronger than I ever realised. I don’t need you and I never did. I might have loved you once but that is long since passed. I’m going now, I’ve got money enough to keep me solvent for a few days and I’ll probably stay in a hotel somewhere or with my mother..”
With that Sam got up out of the chair that had been supporting her for years and went into the bedroom to pick up some clothes to tide her over in the hotel. She then returned wearing a smile that Iain hadn’t seen for many, many months. “I’ll be back to pick up the rest of my things in a couple of days…. Cheer up, Iain –in many ways you’ve got exactly what you wanted… me off your back… for good.”
The door shut neatly behind her leaving Iain confused and shaken. What had started out as a way to vent his frustrations had seriously back-fired. The worst of it all was, deep inside, he knew that everything Sam had said was completely true. Still… there was one consolation out of it all – it would all make a brilliant short story!

Sunday, 6 October 2019

Doctor Who: Communion

For those races that mark time in terms of seconds,  minutes and hours (and humanity is not alone in this peculiarity) the thought of doing absolutely nothing for years –in effect, not existing- is baffling, unimaginable even. And in truth full body stasis is something that only a few races have mastered –mainly due to their slow metabolisms (their hearts beat but once an hour), consequently their perception of time is quite different. The other race that has mastered this feat are, of course, The Time Lords; but for them it had become a form of spiritual discipline and before the Time War it was used as a form of cleansing; far better on the remaining regenerations to meditate for a while year. However, since the Time War the Time Lords lost that connection to the Matrix; their collective psyche scarred by the atrocities on both sides. Currently only one person had been able to enter into that state of Communion and she has spent that time plotting; and for one Time Lord life will never be the same again.

There were certain planets that the Doctor had always wanted to visit but had never found the time (or he’d been interrupted on the journey). During a recent visit to Earth he had heard of the term ‘bucket list’ and although it didn’t necessary apply to Time Lords he agreed with the principle: lives were too short, so why put off the good things? He had visited Metabalis 3 and the Eye of Orion so al that was left of his ‘top 3’ was to visit The Isle of Communion where the whole planet existed in a state of harmony –all lives in perfect synchrony –that particularly appealed to the battle weary Doctor.
He knew that Emily would enjoy that as well; she had been quite withdrawn recently. The battle between the Sontaron’s and the Cybermen had shocked her Victorian sensibilities; nothing could have prepared her. Somehow the Doctor had never taken into account his companions state of mind whilst travelling. He’d always assumed that they took it in their strides as he so often did. He treated it all as one big adventure (most of the time) but then he’d had the experience to just shuck it all off; but what had Emily experienced prior to meeting the Doctor? Nothing; she had been extraordinary in relation to the people around her to be sure, but she had never dealt with vampiric shapeshifting aliens, time travelling buffoons, let alone two warbound aliens races determined to eliminate each other regardless of who else got in the way.
It was Tegan and her reaction to the Daleks attempt to replicate the High Council that made him realise the affect his life had on others. Battling the Daleks always involved high stakes but that encounter had been particularly brutal. Of course, Adric’s death hadn’t helped –proof, if it were ever needed, that life aboard the TARDIS wasn’t always such an adventure after all.
The Doctor was about to call out to Emily when he heard a strange sound, similar to the wheezing and groaning that accompanied his TARDIS dematerialising, but an octave higher. Then he heard the ominous tolling of the Cloister Bell, which only rang in extreme danger to the ship. Someone was trying to breach the TARDIS but only another Time Lord could do this.
“Doctor… please help me. For all we shared, please help me.” The voice was unmistakable. It was Missy, otherwise known as the Master.

At one stage the Doctor thought that Missy could actually be rehabilitated as a force for good, and, although for a time this seemed to work, things quickly unravelled as she experienced a previous regeneration. This was a much deadlier, bloodthirsty version who had very nearly succeeded in killing her, permanently; however she managed to trigger his regeneration instead; a bizarre murder-suicide that left deep wounds. Consequently she had gone her separate way from the Doctor. He had meant to track her down again but lives got in the way.
In his own way he felt as if he owed her the benefit of the doubt and did his best to trace the source of the transmission.
“Doctor, please help.”
“Missy; you know that I will.”
“I can feel someone trying to latch on to my own TARDIS which can only mean another Time Lord. For the first time I’m actually scare –of course, I blame you for this new feeling… I never used to be! You must help me!”
“Wait, I’ve nearly locked on to you coordinates… hang on, Missy, I’m almost there!”
“Too late, Doctor.” Interrupted a voice that was both strangely familiar but unknown to him.
“You! What are you…” Missy’s voice was suddenly cut off and the Doctor lost all contact and signal from Missy’s TARDIS. For a moment it had been ghosted by another signal, as if another TARDIS had overshadowed it; and then there appeared a very strange dimensional anomaly; the like of which the Doctor had only seen a handful of times. It was a CVE.

Fear was a new sensation for Missy and one that she didn’t much care for. She’d been the source of other people’s for millennia –often holding the fates of whole planets in her grasp, but she’d never felt the emotion herself. It wasn’t until she’d been faced by her previous regeneration and he attempted to kill her that she actually understood what it was to feel fear. She had almost died! And now facing this new enemy she once again feared for her lives.
“Pathetic!” The Rani chided. “I mean, I’ve never respected you –you were always so trumped up; egotistical, even for a Time Lord…but at least you were ruthless! Now you’re just a spineless milksop…And why this pretentious fancy dress?” The she motioned with her hand at Missy’s outfit –it was a cross between a 19th century school-mistress and a gothic wet dream.
The Rani was right; as the Master she had never felt the need to dress to impress. He was always most comfortable in his black velvet suit but since her regeneration she felt the need to express herself more; if only to distance herself from her previous selves. The Rani, on the other hand, always wore clothes that uniquely identified her. Like now, she wore a fuchsia, ribbed jacket with a striking high collar; it was both stylish and acted as a form of armour. Her trousers were plain black and her blouse cream; stylish but it also exuded a danger. She was someone to fear alright.
“All the better to hide; to blend in.” Missing replied, trying to regain her demeanour.
“Why would you feel the need to hide? Disguise yourself when necessary, but never hide! You are a Time Lord; far more powerful than any other race; they should be hiding from you!”
“Ah, so is that why you’ve brought me here? To give me a pep talk?”
“Of sorts… I need a partner for my latest venture, and I naturally thought of you.”
“Yes.. but now I can see that you’re going to need a bit of work done before you can be my partner again.”
“What kind of work?”
“I need you back to how you were; ruthless.”
“Oh, you do, do you?” Missy replied and tried to put her hands on her hips in defiance but realised that she couldn’t actually move; the Rani had her in a stasis field. “And how do you propose to do that?” She said, trying to figure a way out.
“Just wait and see… Missy.”

The gateways to other universes were shut; ever since the Time War it had become virtually impossible to travel between them, let alone create your own CVE. The Charged Vacuum Emboitments were the rarest of all space-time events which, according to certain Wiki’s contained highly charged quantum particles suspended in pockets of super-vacuum. In other words they occupied the spaces between universes and when one formed it could literally punch through into a whole new existence; similar to how wormholes worked.
The Doctor had, inadvertently, travelled into them on a few occasions and knew of only a couple of people who had actually created them; both long since dead: Adric and the Monitor. Adric had devised the math but never actually put it into action.. but did the math itself lead to creation? Was the math that powerful? The Monitor probably would have agreed… but then who captured Missy?
To the Doctor’s thinking only one person could have fit the bill; someone who’s knowledge of theoretical and practical physics and advanced stellar mathematics actually dwarfed his own: The Rani.
That actually fit as she was never seen during the Time War and it was entirely probable that she created her own means to travel between the universes until it was safe enough to return. The question was: why return now?

“So colour me impressed – you’ve found a way to create your very own CVE… but why return now? And what are you doing with me? Is this fulfilling one of your fantasies, having me strapped to this table?”
“Cease your prattling and face the facts: with each regeneration you have become more unstable… you were even given the reasoning behind it by Rassilon himself; yet you have done nothing about it!”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” But just then Missy started to hear something in the background; soft but insistent but then with each pulse it became louder… LOUDER; it was the sound of drumming.
“Yes..  you hear it now, don’t you? And now you will always hear it; it will drive you mad and will never go away… unless…”
“You undergo complete cellular reversion.”
“Oh, you’re going to shut me down and start again? Restore my factory settings?”
“Your attempt at humour is pitiful but essentially correct.”
“So why me?”
“I have long worked on this theory… it is the sole reason I was banished from Gallifrey. I realised that it would be possible to give a Time Lord an entirely new set of regenerations… The concept of too much power always did frighten them..”
“But? C’mon – there’s always a but…”
“There are still things that need perfecting…”
“And you need a Time Lord physiognomy to really see if the machine works… so how do you know it will work with me?”
“Your hatred will see you through.”
“My hatred?”
“Not you.. but the Master that is to come. His hatred will see you through… now; we shall begin.” The Rani flicked one switch and the air around Missy suddenly became charged; arcs of orange and blue energy pulsated through her causing her to writhe and scream in agony. The Rani shook her head, ““Pathetic.” She muttered and turned to watch as her TARDIS passed back through the CVE to the universe she had called home.

The Doctor knew that there was only one place he could go to get the necessary technology to force his way after the Rani –Gallifrey. He didn’t want to create a fuss though; there was only one way to do this –materialise in the wasteland, where only one person had the guile to visit him there. He just hoped he hadn’t caught her at a bad time.

Leela had finally settled down –it had been a very tough time, with the Time War, but it was now finally over. She had helped lead the rebuild of her city; her experience as a savage had held her in good stead after all. The Doctor would be proud.
“Mistress?” K-9 bustled into the living area. Each day he sounded crankier, his little motor becoming noisier. She kept offering him an upgrade but he refused, saying that only one person could do that. She had remarked on numerous occasions that his stubbornness could easily be called cranky; an emotion particular to humans, to which he would reply:
“But I am not human, mistress.”
“I think you’re more human than what you let on, K-9.” She would mutter under her breath and she could swear she saw his tail wag at this.
“Mistress; you are needed.” K-9 suddenly said, breaking off her reverie.
“By who, K-9?”
“By Doctor Master. He has contact me through the telepathic circuits of his TARDIS.”
“Why didn’t he contact me?”
“You are not telepathic, mistress.” Leela thought about for a second and then nodded. As usual K-9 made perfect sense.
“Where do we need to go?”
“Outside, to the wasteland…. But you will need to carry me.”
“So I am only needed to carry you now, and that only? I am not impressed.”
“Doctor Master specifically requested you to greet him; he trusted you and you alone to keep his arrival secret.” Leela smiled at this.
“Then I shall not disappoint him.”

It took less than ten minutes for Leela to find the TARDIS, with K-9’s help but she stopped before entering. She was unsure of who was going to greet her. She had long since accepted that she would never see her Doctor again, which made her sad, but she knew enough to realise that his affection for her would never change; and she felt exactly the same. She pushed the door and walked in, wondering how the TARDIS would look after all this time away.
“I swear it gets bigger each time I come back, Doctor.”
“As long as you don’t say you don’t like the redecoration…”
“Sorry.. private joke.  How have you been, Leela?” The sense of humour and randomness was still there, but this man was so different to the others she’d met in the intervening years. He was dressed strangely: a long collared paisley shirt hung loosely over faded jeans; and clumsy, clunky boots with a strange leather jacket! His hair was long and unkempt and he now had stubble, something she had never seen the Doctor with before. It was pink with a white striped down the cleft.
“Yeah… the regeneration never comes out exactly how one expects…” The Doctor replied to Leela’s unspoken question. “..but I’ve almost become used to it. I’ve just started growing the stubble… like it?”
“Well, maybe that will grow on you.”
“Like it has on you, Doctor?” Leela smiled at the joke she cracked… the Doctor remained, as ever, unflappable. “Why have you brought me here?”
“If I had arrived in the panoptican then all hell wold have broken loose, but I knew that you’d find me in the wasteland… Plus, I needed K-9.”
“Well… Now you have K-9 you won’t need me anymore. I’ll be going.
“Don’t be like that, Savage.” The Doctor placated. “I need you for something a bit more.. delicate.”

The Victorians were always too prissy for Emily; she was, according to the Doctor, ahead of her time. She didn’t believe in the sanctity of womanhood or marriage; let alone the fastidiousness of puritanism. She believed in a life outside the mortal shell, which the Doctor had proved to her without a shadow of doubt, and she believed in equality for all. She was forward thinking alright, but lazing in the swimming pool she realised just how little she knew, and how small she really was in relation to the rest of the universe.
And now the Doctor was talking of other universes? It was getting too much for her to take.
“It can seem a bit overwhelming at times, can’t it?” A woman’s voice echoed round the room.
“You must be Leela; the Doctor said you’d be joining us.” Leela nodded and sat on one of the loungers near the pools edge. “Tell me, is it always like this?”
“Gallivanting across the universe, nearly getting killed by dangerous aliens and monstrous robots? Yes.. but you will get used to it… in time.” Emily smiled at Leela’s frankness. The Doctor was right, she was easy to like… and not unattractive either.

As the two companions chatted about the lives they shared with their Doctor’s, K-9 was getting cranky with the latest regeneration.
“I’m working on it, K-9.. I know it’s here somewhere. I never throw anything out!”
“What are you searching for, Master?”
“Adric… you remember Adric, don’t you, K-9? Maybe not.. well, anyways… he started working out the maths to get us back to E-Space. He was actually going to create his own CVE!”
“Is that possible, Master?”
“Well, if anyone else had mentioned it then I would have said it was impossible… but Adric was a genius, with a badge for mathematical excellence… Uh… here we go!” The Doctor pulled out the small ring bound notebook and found the page that had the calculations on it. “Remarkable! What do you think, K-9?” The Doctor held up the page so K-9 could scan it.
“Impressive, Master.”
“Yes.. but will it work?”
K-9 thought about it for a bit, the motor inside whirring. The Doctor felt sorry for him; if only he’d kept the box of spare parts, but it had been part of the TARDIS that had been jettisoned some years ago.
“Master Adric was one decimal point out on the second to last computation, but it can still be completed. Do you want me to finish it?”
“Not yet, K-9. I’m not ready yet. I need to get a fix on Missy’s bio-rhythm first… besides which..”
“I won’t be travelling with you on this one, Doctor.” Leela replied as she walked back into the console room. “K-9 and me are a little too old for this now.”
“If you want to stay with the Doctor, then of course you can. But I won’t.”
K-9 thought for a minute and then bowed his head to her. “I will stay by your side, Mistress.”
“What about you, Emily?” The Doctor asked her. “I appreciate this has been difficult for you, but you can sit this one out with Leela, if you like. Alternatively the Time Lords will be able to find a way to get you back to your own home time.”
“I’d prefer to stay with you, Doctor; if you’ll have me.”
“I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

The Doctor had gotten used to goodbyes- over the years he’d had more than his fair share of them. The two that had been hardest were of Susan, his Granddaughter and his final goodbye to Sarah Jane Smith. There had been something unflappable about her; her journalistic instinct for rightness and stubbornness that rivalled the Doctors own. She had shepherd him through the rocky road between his third and fourth regeneration and then become a big help through his tenth. He’d actually wept when news came to him about her death. To a Time Lord all people are dead and buried; time travel changes the perception of all emotions, everything becomes transitory… but he had real affection for Sarah Jane.
But it was Missy he was more concerned over. For someone who had, through their lives together, so violently shifted from close friend to hated foe and then almost back again he was willing to help her. She had taken great steps towards atoning for her pasts and he didn’t want that to be in vain.
He’d set the scanner to key in on her bio-rhythm the moment they went through the CVE. He actually felt quite smug when he’d managed to trace the Rani’s TARDIS emission but then realised that she had probably allowed him to do just that. He had to remember just how dangerous she really was.
He keyed in the last of the block transfer computation, marvelling at Adric’s ingenuity. He had even calculated the negative coordinates, just as he’d said. He mulled over their last argument. Even though it was so long ago it still rang true: it was never The Doctors fault when things went wrong. He hoped that he’d changed in the time since then.
“Are you ok, Doctor?” Emily asked. The Doctor’s finger had been poised over the red button for a couple of minutes now. She’d been told that the journey was going to be dangerous but there was no way she could even comprehend what was involved.
“I’m just thinking… Are you ready, Emily? This is going to be a bumpy ride.”
“More so than normal?”
“That’s the spirit… Here we go!!” The Doctor punched the final button and braced himself for the impact. Nothing happened. They both looked at each other. The Doctor shrugged and was about to press it again when the whole universe around them blinked out of existence.
Then again.
And again.
Each blink shook them to the core; before long the blinks became like a Morse Code tapping out a cosmic SOS before finally settling.
“Well, that didn’t go as planned.” The Doctor replied.
“Will you stop saying that.” Emily replied.
“Put it down to nerves.”
“That makes me feel so much better.” If the Doctor feels nervous then how should I feel, Emily wondered.
“I do believe we’ve made it.”
“Thank God; I don’t know how much more of it I could have taken, Doctor.”
“I’ve managed to find her. Hold on, Missy; hold on.”

Piloting the TARDIS through E-space was so much harder than normal and it was obvious that the ‘old girl’ didn’t like it (and the Doctor didn’t blame her.) She finally materialised inside the Rani’s TARDIS but most of the lights were out, except for the central column which cast an unholy glow around them. The Doctor was already on his guard.
Suddenly the overhead lights were switched on, but the rest of console room was dark, A voice could be heard advancing out of the black.
“So glad you could finally make it, my dear Doctor.” The Doctor didn’t recognise the voice; it was an older man, soft but stern; one that could shake hands and stab you in the back at the same time. “Over here, Doctor. Can’t have you missing the show.
A thin man walked towards them out of the gloom, much taller than the Doctor; his head was all but bald except for grey hair covering the back of his head. He had a grey beard and moustache, and his eyes… they were piercing, an intense look –only one man could hate like that.
“You? But how? What happened?” The Doctor asked, aghast at the sudden change of events. “What happened to..?”
“Missy? We all make mistakes, Doctor, even me; but all that is in the past.” The Master was immaculately dressed in a black suit and white tie; like a business mogul sent from the devil himself. “I have been shown the error of my ways.” He chuckled and clicked his fingers; another part of the TARDIS was suddenly bathed in light.
“Doctor!” Emily shouted. It was a Cellular Modulator, one of the Rani’s tinker toys and it was her that was tied to it, her body twisting and writhing in agony.
“What’s happening? Why have you done this?” The Doctor asked, trying to make sense out of what he was seeing.
“The Rani was very kind enough to point out where I’ve been going wrong all this time and showed me how to rise above it all… and it seemed only fair to repay her in kind.”
“But why this? Why torture her?”
“Why not? I am now unencumbered by my past. I am free!” The Master shouted. “When we meet again… IF we ever meet again the you will find yourself against a very different man.” He moved towards the edge of the console room.
“You know I can’t just let you leave. We need to talk. I can help you… Please, let me help you.” The Doctor begged. How could things have gone wrong, this quickly? How could he have not foreseen it?

“Talk? Help? Why should I need any help. I have always hated you, Doctor; even when we were children… and I left that hate cloud my judgement, but no more. You have a choice now, stop me or save her.” He snarled the last word.
He didn’t even pause to allow the Doctor time to consider the options, he walked to the corner and just disappeared.
“A cloaking field? That’s new.” The Doctor couldn’t help but marvel at his ingenuity.
“What about the Rani?” As usual Emily was right, he had to get his priorities right. He rushed over to the machine but he realised it was too late. The process was far too gone and the Rani was dead; she had been for some time. Damn him, the Master had fooled him, but he’d never been this ruthless before. There was the sound of a scythe through glass and he briefly caught a glimpse of it de-cloaking before it dematerialised.. only for it to promptly materialise again, groaning as it did so.
“The Rani must have anticipated his betrayal; she’s sabotaged her own TARDIS! The question is, will we be able to escape?”
The Doctor dragged a still shocked Emily back to his own TARDIS, slamming the doors behind him. The Rani must have created a gravity bubble around the Masters TARDIS, but even she couldn’t have guessed he’d be that bloodthirsty.
Luckily his TARDIS dematerialised on the first attempt, everything went smoothly… except for one violent jolt which the Doctor put down to escaping the gravity bubble, but then all systems were fine again.
The Doctor turned on the scanner and could make out the Rani’s TARDIS; it was in a state of flux as the gravity bubble grew; the chameleon arch shifting the external frame from one shape to another, vibrating more with each shift before finally exploding. And then nothing.
The Doctor wasn’t na├»ve enough to believe he’d seen the last of the Master, not after all this time, but he knew how tricky gravity bubbles were.
“Is it over, Doctor? Are we safe?” Emily asked.
“Well, yes… and no. We’ve escaped from the Master but we’re still trapped inside E-Space.”