Drac’cuul had failed and had been imprisoned in a data storage cell. His two underlings had been sentenced to death and the executions had already taken place. The criminal known as the Master had escaped justice and had seemingly vanished. Law enforcement throughout the galaxy had been place on alert.
In truth they needn’t have worried. The Master had departed and would not return for some time. He sought the power of the Lord of Dragoria’s armour and rather than wait for it to repair itself, he had journeyed a decade into the future to find it. There he had used the technology at his disposal to dismantle the working armour and copy its inner workings. He had then reassembled the armour and left intact, knowing from his history texts that the armour still had a destiny.
Using the knowledge he had acquired from the armour and his own twisted genius, the Master had built a new healing capsule that he called the Lazarus Chamber. He hoped that the machine would rebuild his battered body, restoring him to a healthier form. While he wished that it would repair all the damage he had suffered at the hands of the Punishment Demons that had tortured him to the point of death over what had seemed an eternity, he was prepared to settle for the repair of his vital organs. After that anything else would be considered a bonus.
The process was painful. The machine had been constructed in a hurry and made no allowance for anaesthetic or other refinements. He relied on his tremendous willpower, something that never failed him in all his misadventures, to sustain him through the procedure. He felt the inner mechanisms as they tore through flesh and bone and crudely sewed them back together. It was a long process and as the repairs became more complex, delicate and precise, the pain increased. The rot caused by infection was cut away and replacement material had been forcibly grown from the healthy sections left behind. His genetic structure was purged or impurities, returning it to an earlier state from before he had started his quest for immortality and power.
The pain was far greater than a normal regeneration and lasted much longer. And as he screamed in agony he knew that despite the suffering the experience would be nowhere near as effective as the real thing. It was only fitting in a way that repairing the damage caused by the Punishment Demons would require him to endure even more pain than they had managed to inflict upon him. Eventually the process had completed and the chamber had opened, allowing the naked, quivering form of the Master to tumble out and collapse into unconsciousness. Two centuries had passed but to a time traveller it didn’t matter. His exhausted body twitched from the memory of the experience as his mind sought refuge in devising new ways to achieve his goals.
As his mind filled with dreams of triumph and the prizes such a victory promised, his sleep calmed into a restful night of recovery.
There are nice ways to wake up and there are not-so-nice ways to awaken. For Garvin this was not one of the nicer ways. Awareness returned very suddenly as his mind recalled the events that from his perspective had happened just seconds earlier. Garvin had been walking through the halls of the United Alliance of Evil’s headquarters carrying a pile of reports for the Grand Monarch to read when he returned. Something had caused him to stop and look around before continuing. Then he had felt something prick the back of his neck and had fallen forward.
His eyes widened as he remembered the laughter that had surrounded him. The shock forced the after effects of the sedative from his system allowing him to take full account of his situation: he was tied to a wooden chair in a white room. It was cold enough that he could see his breath and as he struggled against the ropes he realised that he had been stripped of his formal robes. The rest of the room was empty lacking any form of decoration.
A small hiss drew his attention to the wall opposite him. A section of the wall had moved, revealing a large monitor. The screen crackled and a recording started to play. His breath caught as he realised he was watching himself from a recording made some months earlier…
“In conclusion I move that since Minion has indeed failed and that his sponsor has either been destroyed or is too afraid to face the wrath of this council, all claims made by ‘the Master ‘ be stricken from the record.”
As Garvin, a low ranking official within the Alliance of Evil finished his speech, the assembled members nodded in agreement. There had been a lengthy enquiry into the events surrounding Minion; Maxell had been keen to ensure that there would be no further objections to his rightful control over the Alliance of Evil.
As he looked down at the assembled villains, he could tell that the vote was a certainty. It was only through deference to proper procedure that he bothered with a show of hands and the tedious task of counting and valuing the votes were counted and weighted according to the political standing of the member. He glanced at the result and noted that with a single spoiled vote, the decision had been unanimous. His position was secure once more and the planet Earth that was the cause of so much dissention was the next topic of debate. This would be when the real arguments started.
“The vote is carried, we will now move onto the next item of business,” he declared.
The video ended and the monitor returned to its hiding place inside the wall. Another section of wall moved and Garvin realised that it was a carefully hidden door. A human walked through the door, ignoring Garvin’s state of discomfort and the chill in the air. He made a show of flexing his gloved fingers, sending a clear message that Garvin was the only one that found the conditions uncomfortable.
“Too afraid to face the wrath of this council, Garvin?” he asked. There was some amusement in the tone, but it didn’t hide the dangerous edge. “Or perhaps you should say I was exceptionally busy taking care of other matters, hm?”
It was all Garvin could do not to recoil from the sight of his captor. When he had identified the newcomer as human he had been unable to make out his features. Now though it was obvious that this was a monster.
“You will have to forgive my appearance,” the Master told him. “The healing process had little time set aside for cosmetic niceties.”
Indeed the machine had repaired his damaged organs, knitted his shattered bones and removed the rotting flesh that had been kept at bay only by the jury-rigged life support system he had managed to construct. But repairing the skin in a way that did not leave it covered with scars had been asking too much. As was the repair of his damaged right eye. But the Master had been in similar situations before where a return to his former glory was a series of steps rather than a simple fix.
The process had used genetic material scanned by the Black Dragon’s armour and held within the computer files of the Master’s TARDIS. The result had been that the rebuilt Master was less than pure Time Lord. His cells were a merger of his existing DNA merged with those of aliens and the three Punishment Demons. It both a curse and a blessing.
“What do you want?” Garvin asked.
“Only to talk my dear Garvin,” the Master replied. “I need some information and in my experience a man in your position is an excellent source.”
“You mean because I am a senior aide to the Grand Monarch of Evil?” Garvin guessed.
The Master leaned in close, his yellow left eye staring deep into the depths of Garvin’s terrified mind. There was no he could hide his fear and from the smile on the Master’s face, it was clear that he did not consider Garvin to be anything more than a source of information.
“I mean because you are well aware that your existence will end if you fail to do so.”
“I can’t give you any sensitive information about the United Alliance of Evil,” Garvin protested. “I made vows when I was given my position. I will not break those oaths.”
“Good,” the Master almost purred in his ear. “Your little club is of no interest to me. You have other knowledge that I need. Tell me everything I wish to know and I will release you.”
Garvin looked defiant, but the Master had ways of getting what he wanted.
“Answer my question Garvin! I AM THE MASTER. You will OBEY, you WILL OBEY, YOU WILL OBEY! Now answer me!”
In the past the Master had relied upon a form of hypnosis to get his way. In his repaired body he had access to additional skills that allowed his mind to tear through Garvin’s head, seeking the answers even as Garvin struggle not to comply. It was all a matter of wanting to completely dominate his opponent, something the Master was more than comfortable doing.
What he gained were not the absolute answers he desired, but a trail of random hints, wild speculations and unconfirmed rumours. Somebody had been doing their homework and Garvin had been assisting them in the mistaken belief that he was serving the Grand Monarch’s will. Still it was enough to give him a starting point and anew destination.
The Crown Galaxy
Once a rich and powerful place to live, eons of decadence had led to a society on the brink of collapse. Socially, economically and ideologically diminished those that had not left knew that it was a matter of time before what was left collapsed. Freedom, creativity and any motivation to do anything to improve their situation had vanished under the oppressive rule of their queen. She had enforced her will on all of her subjects and in doing so had destroyed her kingdom.
Even now with the end of her rule only a few years away, she failed to take heed of the warnings. She stubbornly refused to aid her people, concentrating instead on her own needs. For the Queen of the Crown Galaxy had a secret known only to a few of her most trusted servants – by which she meant those completely under her control. The Queen had reached the end of her natural life long ago and had been using the life force of her subjects to cling to life. Those that had supposedly left their homes to find new worlds to settle had more likely than not ended up murdered at her command. The special green gemstone housed in the setting of her ring, which she had been gifted at some point before her corruption, absorbed the souls of those around it and fed a part of their life energy into her body.
It had started with one or two servants every few months, but over time her need for more and more life energy meant that thousands of lives per day were sacrificed to her selfish quest for immortality. So long as there were subjects for her to sacrifice she would survive. Planets had been turned into slaughter houses, teleporting victims into her presence long enough for her gem to snatch away their lives. The bodies were almost instantly removed since she had expressed a distaste for the sight of dead bodies. And so the cycle continued, the gem consuming the souls of the innocent and the queen feeding from the morsels of leftover energy it offered her.
So when a strange grinding noise could be heard throughout the corridors of her palace there was nobody to investigate the source. Nobody moved to intercept the badly scarred man as he made his way through the corridors of power. Nobody attempted to stop the intruder as he stepped into the throne room. Not a single guard or citizen placed themselves in front of their queen as the intruder kneeled before the throne and awaited her attention.
“Who dares disrupt my contemplation?” the Queen demanded. It wasn’t the figure on the throne that spoke. Instead she used a lowly human she had yet to process as her mouthpiece.
“I apologise for the intrusion oh wondrous Queen of the mighty Crown Galaxy,” the Master replied, not raising his head as a show of humility. “I come to aid your kingdom.”
“And how would you accomplish that?”
The Master smiled. “By offering you a source of endless souls: me.”
“You are lying!” the Queen accused.
“Am I? You know I speak the truth. The ring that you wear allows you to feel the truth of an individual’s soul. I can provide the means to end your… hunger,” he promised although finding the correct word to describe the need to absorb souls on a continuous basis proved difficult.
He could sense the interest mixed with distrust, but he knew that ultimately greed would override caution and his offer would be accepted.
“We accept,” she told him imperiously, offering her hand.
He crawled forward, keeping his eyes averted from her gaze. When he reached the hem of her long white dress he straightened and took her hand in his. He leaned forward and gently kissed the back of her hand.
“Thank you for your faith in me, I will not let you down,” he promised as he withdrew.
It took a moment for the Queen of the Crown to realise that something had changed. The shock slowed her reaction, but it soon dawned on her that he had stolen her precious ring.
“How could you betray me, the gem told me you were being honest?” she demanded.
The Master stood, allowing the charade to end as he looked at her.
“The Soul Stone does not detect the truth, but rather it detects lies and does so by assessing the truth in a person’s soul through the eyes,” he explained. “I didn’t look upon you so it could only sense the sincerity of my words, something I have grown accustomed to faking.”
He slid the ring onto his finger and pointed at the Queen of the Crown. A burst of green light engulfed her puppet, absorbing the unused soul. Another burst of light engulfed the Queen seconds later as he transferred the soul energy to her weakened form.
“You see my dear this gem is semi-sentient; it lacks intelligence but possesses a great desire to absorb as new souls, even yours. And while it fed some of the life force it stole to you, it was constantly draining your life away, leaving you in need of more and more lives to exist.”
He paused as he removed the gem from the ring and placed it in his pocket. He discarded what he considered to be a now useless ring. discarded the ring.
“And so in a way I kept my promise to you. I have ended your hunger.”
“And my gem?” she asked.
“Mine,” he told her. “I intend to keep my word and find a way to satisfy its hunger as well.”
~Just as you will help me to satisfy mine,~ he thought as he walked away, leaving the Queen to contemplate the enormous task that awaited her as she tried to restore her kingdom without any means of enforcing her will on her subjects. He could almost see the fear creeping across her face as she realised there was a good chance she would be overthrown. Although given that his first act to sate the hunger had been to feed it the lives of as many of the Crown’s population as it desired, there were likely not many left to oppose her.
Of course that also meant that rebuilding her kingdom would become an even greater task for her.
~No good deed comes without a price,~ he thought. ~A willing ally would not hurt.~
He reached into the pocket of his black tunic and pulled out a scroll of parchment.
“Consider this a token of good faith.” he told her. “Use it the knowledge contained within wisely and your kingdom will become great once more.” He did not mention that it would take her centuries to rebuild to the point where she could hope to regain complete control of the Crown Galaxy let alone expand beyond its borders.
The Master was evil. He had long abandoned the pretence that anything he did served a higher purpose other than his own. He was a mass murdering maniac with no qualms about hurting innocents so long as he benefited. Today was just another stepping stone in his pursuit of power.
The plain white and immaculately clean walls of the private hospital wing he had leased under an assumed name provided soft beds with clean bedding and a supply of pain killing drugs to make his patients comfortable. Were it not the fact that those in his care had been brought there against their will and knew they were unlikely to ever leave, some might have mistaken the Master for a caring person. They certainly would failed to see the monster that lurked beneath the friendly face he offered the hospital’s managers.
The ward was securely locked to prevent escape and the beds while comfortable also featured heavy restraints to keep the occupants in place. Nine beds had been placed to accommodate nine bodies. Eight of those beds were occupied by members of the Master’s own race. He had carefully selected them to assist him in his latest endeavour. The ninth remained bed empty for now as that was intended for future use. He had spent months tracking his ‘volunteers’, confirming that while they were fully initiated Time Lords, they were loners that nobody would miss. Seven would have been enough but he had planned for redundancy just in case one proved unsuitable. Confirming that they all retained the correct number of lives had been an important part of his strategy.
“One of the great failings of the Time Lords is how they only keep watch over their favoured politicians and likely troublemakers,” he stated, drawing the attention of his prisoners. There was no point pretending they were guests just as he doubted any of them would believe him if he told them that they would remain alive when he was finished with them. “Our fellow Time Lords never cared about the ‘inspired dropouts’…”
For once he spoke the truth. On the planet Gallifrey, home world of the Time Lords, there was a special place where citizens as young as eight years of age were escorted. It was considered a rite of passage to be taken as part of an initiation into Time Lord society. Not all were chosen. Some were incapable of meeting the demands of their future roles whilst others were deemed unworthy for either physical, mental or just political reasons. Those that passed the scrutiny of the High Council of Time Lords and deemed suitable for training were required to partake in a strange, wondrous and often horrific ceremony where the insignificance of their lives was made clear to them. It was believed that understanding how small they really were would help them dedicate themselves to the service of their people.
The Untempered Schism was a tear in the fabric of space and time through which it was possible to glimpse the Time Vortex in all of its glory and with that glimpse achieve a momentary view of the Pattern of Existence. Nobody was certain why the Schism was there. Some felt that Gallifrey was a blessed world and that the tear had been left there in the knowledge that one day it would help them achieve amazing things. Others had concluded that the tear was a result of some experiment the planet’s leaders had conducted that had gone terribly wrong. Either way most agreed that it was the prolonged exposure to the Great Schism that had allowed the people of Gallifrey to develop a natural affinity with time and space.
And so they held the ceremony once a year to induct those children that had demonstrated the physical and mental strength, along with the intelligence needed to become Time Lords. Each child was forced to stare into the Untempered Schism for just a moment. Many tried to look away after just a glimpse while others refused outright. All were forced to look for the allotted time before they were released. Their reactions were noted as part of their assessments.
In those brief seconds they were able to see the entirety of time and space. Their bodies were also flooded with radiation. Such exposure caused immediate, drastic and unbelievably painful changes to their young bodies. The initiate’s mind would develop new pathways that extended into the Fourth and Fifth Dimension, granting them the means to fully comprehend what they were seeing. Those that survived the experience were forever changed by what they had witnessed. With the correct care and guidance, most recovered and settled into their eventual roles as either upstanding members of Time Lord society or minor roles as technicians and engineers.
There were also those that did not recover from the ordeal. Despite specialist help and attempts to force the mind to reconstruct itself, the instability remained. Many dropped out of the Academy and returned to their previous lives, after steps were taken to erase the knowledge of all they had seen. Those that graduated struggled to find a place in Time Lord society often left the planet to pursue their own interests or becoming dangerous renegades that abused their new status. It was said that they fell into three groups: those that were driven mad, those that were inspired, and those that ran away.
The Master remembered his induction. He had seen reality in all its form and splendour, and he knew that it needed his guidance. He had witnessed the chaos and had promised to bring order. Everything he had done since had been with the view that he would save existence from itself by ruling it with an iron fist. But even at the age of eight he had accepted that he lacked the ability to force the citizens of the universe to bow down to his authority. That required power, something he was finally on his way to achieving.
The discovery of the Energems made his task easier. Each gem possessed a unique ability and when used correctly they would grant him the power to crush his enemies. In the meantime the gem he had secured from the Queen of the Crown meant he had been able to set a number of schemes in motion.
The Green Energem with its ability to manipulate spiritual energy had been of great help in stabilising his damaged body although it could not cure him completely; the Master should have succumbed to death long ago and one way or another it seemed unlikely he could evade death forever.
However the use of the Green Energem had a price. The gem needed souls to remain sentient and the long it remained in his possession the more it tried to influence him to concentrate purely on securing the life energy it desired. For the time being he intended to pass the gem to a new host that would be more likely to fulfil its needs. Later he would reclaim it, by which time it would be fully charged with fresh souls. Then he would put its power to good use. First though he needed to make certain that it would accept him as its true owner.
Each of the prisoners had experienced the Untempered Schism and had seen eternity. Their sanity had survived the experience, but they had long ago left their world to pursue whatever obsession the Untempered Schism had burned into their minds. The Master had taken an interest in them following their graduation and had discovered that most were content to spend their existence devoted to a single task.
“…Which means they never noticed when you disappeared.”
“Why are you doing this to us?” one asked.
He called himself The Namer, a traveller dedicated to personally travelling to every unnamed planet, moon and piece of space rock, and after taking time to study them, giving them a formal name to be placed in the records of Gallifrey. The Time Lords allowed him access to update their maps because it saved them from having to assign qualified Time Lords so that they could be identified and monitored. Exactly who he expected would want to carry out the monitoring of such objects, especially those that would not have an impact of Gallifrey was unclear. But those that knew him did admire his attention to detail. The Master barely recalled his name.
“You cannot even begin to fathom the plans I have made,” the Master replied. “Your lives are a small part in achieving my aims. Why you? Because you were the first ones I encountered. Because you were foolish enough to trust me. And now that you are here and have all been secured, we can proceed. The Time Lords laughed at you, but deep inside you have held on to the belief that you were intended to contribute to something greater.”
He raised his hand, allowing them to see the Green Energem, the Soul Gem as he preferred to think of it, resting atop his ring. He closed his fist and the gem flashed once, bathing the patients in sickly green light. The Soul Gem flashed again and the eight captives ceased their struggles as their collective life energy was drawn into the depths of the jewel. His control over the gem’s abilities had grown during its time in his possession. At first he had been unable to fight its demands for fresh souls, but now he could slow its consumption, drawing out the process and keeping the unfortunate victims at the brink of death.
With a small nudge he pushed them over the edge, smothering their life signs. He was well aware as his victims gasped that their Time Lord biology would attempt to save them by triggering a regeneration. That was why he had chosen Time Lords; a single human could provide a small amount of energy, but the energy released by a regenerating Time Lord was incredible.
He waited until the process was triggered before allowing the gem to feed, feeling the rush as their bodies were spontaneously converted into energy. Under normal circumstances the old body would be converted from matter to energy, providing the fuel for the formation of a new healthy body. With the Soul Gem siphoning the excess energy before the body could use it, the unfortunate Time Lords were unable to create their new physical forms. The Soul Gem absorbed every last erg of power, placing it at his disposal.
Eventually the energy was exhausted although he was aware that the Time Lords had not yet expired. In a rare show of mercy or perhaps just to prove that he could control such matters of life and death, he used the Soul Gem to push their less-than-physical forms into the void with the other wraiths.
“You are a greedy thing,” he stated, looking at the gem and noting the way its green surface seemed to spark with energy. “All that energy and so little of it useable. Did you enjoy the taste of Time Lord souls?”
The gem grew warmer which he assumed meant yes.
“I can find more,” he promised. “Those were the dregs of Time Lord society. They lack the exposure to the power of the Time Vortex others possess. Imagine how the more powerful Time Lords would feel when you consume them. Work with me, do as I ask and I will give you the souls of every Time Lord on Gallifrey!”
He meant every word of it and had no reservations about feeding a constant stream of Time Lords to the gem’s incredible hunger if it meant that he would gain what he needed. That his plans would make him unable to complete his side of the bargain was not a factor since the gem judged him solely on the basis that he was willing and fully capable of fulfilling his promise.
The Soul Gem desired souls, the more powerful the better. The gem was also sentient and capable of understanding his offer. From the warmth that ran down his arm it was clear that the gem accepted his offer. And with its full allegiance, the Master was free to move on to the next phase.
Many wars had been ended thanks to the Armistice Station, a moment space platform that allowed the leaders of both sides to meet in relative safety and with a guarantee of mutual safety – the sort of guarantee where if one side betrayed the truce then neither would survive the encounter. And while the two beings that had hired the station’s facilities were not enemies and unlikely to declare all out war on each other, they were untrustworthy and likely to do whatever they needed to to guarantee that they emerged with the better deal.
They arrived at the same moment and walked from their vehicles toward a table that had appeared in the centre of the room. Since they were not the leaders of vast armies the station was only providing minimal facilities.
The Monk reached back and used a control to summon the remote stretch on which he had placed the body he had secured. On the other side of the table the Master placed a small casket.
“Mortimus, I see you managed to make it here,” the Master greeted.
Despite their use of the station neither man had a reason to dispose of the other. Double-cross maybe, but not dispose of. In fact they were old friends who had moved through their planet’s schools system together before leaving. The Master with his unstable need for order had gone on to become a megalomaniacal power hungry criminal while the Monk, or Mortimus as his peers knew him, had followed a more chaotic career changing history for his own amusement.
Despite their different views on order and chaos, their meeting was purely a matter of trade. The Master had a number of parts that Mortimus needed to continue his adventures and the Mortimus had a readymade body that the Master would welcome to continue his quest for immortality.
“I’ve kept my side of the bargain,” Mortimus replied. He was eager to leave as soon as possible. Being around the Master, even when the Master did not intend him harm, was not good for his health. “I hope you have kept yours.”
“The fluid links and bacteria packs are yours for the body,” the Master answered. “The price of the navigational array was more than we agreed, so I require an additional fee.”
“We had a deal!” Mortimus argued. He was not prone to violence and his protests sounded a little weak.
“And I changed it,” the Master responded without a sign of regret. He considered Mortimus a peer but certainly not a threat. “The new deal is generous and compulsory; I require is one of the devices you acquired at some point and in return I will not take your life.”
“No, absolutely not.”
“You can give me the body and the device or I can take them along with anything else I consider of value,” the Master promised. “Or do you really think you can stop me?”
“You will regret this,” Mortimus promised as he handed over the items, snatched up the casket and returned to his ship. He waited until he was inside before adding: “Especially when you discover the little surprise I left for you.”
Physical violence was not the way that Mortimus chose to handle things. Attacking the Master was unthinkable, as was drawing a weapon on him. Handing over a body that had been exposed to some of the deadliest diseases ever recorded knowing making the body an infectious death trap was something he was more comfortable with. Especially since bu the time the Master discovered his trickery Mortimus planned to be far away.
“Until the next time,” the Master replied, gathering his ring and the floating stretcher. Out of earshot he added: “Which won’t be too long if you want the code to unlock that box.”
Neither had gotten exactly what they wanted, but then for two Time Lords the trade had gone as expected. Both expected some form of double-cross and would be angered that they had been tricked despite the grudging respect they would feel that the other had managed to deceive them. Then they would find a way to overcome the setback and proceed with their plans. both had places to go and things to do. Time didn’t matter so much to a Time Lord; revenge could come later.
End of Part**THIS IS THE END OF THE FILE**