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Fortune's Master

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Harold Saxon groaned as he stepped outside into the cool night air, fingers pinching the bridge of his nose as he tried to keep his raging headache under control, to no avail.

He loved politics. It was one of the only worthwhile things these creatures had on this piss-poor excuse for a planet (that, and greasy food).

He thrived with politics, no matter the species- it was all the same in the end. Strategy, manipulation, charm and backstabbing, in order to succeed- all things he highly excelled at. The politics here however, while falling under the same principles as everywhere else, were lacking in a...sophistication. It was like playing chess with a child: predictable, with seldom worthwhile strokes of originality to add to the mix, and more often than not, you found yourself teaching them the game.

Such was the case with humans and politics. These were the best minds Britain could come up with? It was insulting. It would have all been so much more interesting if humans weren’t all such complete imbeciles; honestly, sometimes he wondered if it were even worth it.

 

He found himself constantly having to remind himself what this was all for- and relished the day when each and every one of these miserable creatures would be groveling at his feet. Only a week away now. That’s what he had to keep telling himself, every time he felt like leaping across the table and strangling one of these apes, ‘only a week, ‘only a week, then he could kill them freely. In fact, he probably wouldn’t even need to- they’d be killing themselves if he asked them to- hell, they’d be kissing his feet- metaphorically speaking; the idea of one of those vile swine actually touching him he found rather repulsive. It was bad enough dealing with Lucy.

 

Lucy had been a necessary evil, unfortunately.

She had been so, incredibly simple- even by human standards, her intellect left something desired. But she was appealing enough to look at, for a human, and more importantly: it provided him with the funds necessary to procure his position.

He just wished that she wasn’t so... needy .

It was embarrassing .

Even now, standing out in the cold because it was the absolute only way to get away from those droning morons, in temperatures no human could tolerate for longer than a few minutes, he knew that if he waited, she would follow; and she would stand outside with him as long as he wished, risking hypothermia and potentially even her eventual demise, just to prove her loyalty, just to receive some scrap of praise. It was pathetic.

 

Not that it had always been such a chore. It had been fun at first; finding and stalking his prey. The requirements weren’t steep.

Female (it was the early twenty-first century after all and humans were still a bit traditional in their ways. But he supposed it was only to be expected that they’d lack flexibility with their limiting reproductive systems).

Wealthy, another obvious attribute, there would be no point otherwise.

And ideally, Attractive- or attractive enough by human standards that society would find her appealing and endearing, furthering his favor. Nothing was more appealing than a young and in love, ambitious, newlywed couple, and he’d seen the other candidates wife- it wouldn’t be difficult to find someone more aesthetically pleasing than that.

And then he met Lucy.

 

Lucy, was perfect.

Lucy Cole, youngest daughter of Lord Cole of Tarminster. Good roots, plenty of money, and noted in school (if her marks were anything to go by) as not particularly bright. Pretty, too, a tremendous plus. It had been so easy with her. Young and attractive in his own right in this new form, it had been so unbelievably easy. Being the youngest child, and the only one not married to a successful entrepreneur or lawyer, with no success or promise of her own, she was already cast in an exceptional shadow.

She was already broken when he found her.

All it took was a little attention, a few strings pulled to assist her father in his financial and political ventures (to win over the family), and she did the rest. Within five months (the first few spent climbing the social ladder as Minister of Defense and writing and publishing his Autobiography to establish roots) they were married.

 

She was the perfect female specimen to examine in thorough detail and assisted him greatly in understanding the human psyche. From her he learned precisely what the general populace was looking for, and more importantly, their strengths and their weaknesses. He did have to, after all, thank her for the most brilliant part of his master plan: The Archangel Network. Where would he be if it weren’t for Lucy and her damn mobile? Those apes were absolutely obsessed with them; carrying them around everywhere, storing all of their most important and vital information on them, to the extent that they were, in a very real sense, completely lost without them. He had already found enough uses in tracking humans and obtaining personal information on them using this knowledge, but he wanted to utilize it further.

So, in the end, it was really because of his dear wife that he thought to create the Archangel Network at all.

 

To Lucy, he was loving, attentive, charming; he spoiled her with shiny trinkets, listened politely in conversation as she droned on for hours about completely banal things; her family adored him and he had more knowledge of the human anatomy than even humans did at this point. In all, he was the perfect husband. By the time they were married, she was so enamoured with him that he could probably have asked her to slit her own wrists for him if he had a viable reason for her to do so. So there was little fuss when he revealed to her his master plan and his true identity. In fact, all it took was a page from The Doctor’s book:

He took her on a trip in the TARDIS.

After that, he was seen as the enigmatic, handsome alien who sought to make the world a better place, and who trusted her solely with his secret identity. He had learned from The Doctor that the concept for humans was so romantic by itself, that he really didn’t need to put in more effort than that. He dazzled her with seeing the End of the Universe- and despite the horror that it was, it was magical to her. She willingly became his volunteer, her broken mind so malleable and impressionable, that it took no time at all- fortunate, since his original plan had been to simply kill her. But she had made it so much simpler, and it was so much more fun to convert her.

 

However, months dragged on, and soon he found her becoming a nuisance. The revelation of his identity she seemed to misinterpret as a sign of confidence; that it somehow strengthened their relationship- and suddenly she was everywhere ; trailing him like a mutt. What was worse, was the less he payed attention to her, the more she seemed to do it. And whenever he told her quite frankly to piss off, he would be forced to deal, then, with her emotions . He began envisioning ways to kill her- a past time that cheered him up tremendously. It became a routine; any time he was forced to be in her company (during meals, generally, and at night on those rare occasions he slept or was forced to perform more mundane marital tasks because apparently it was expected of him- no matter how vulgar those particular tasks were with a human, at least it let him take his aggression out on something) he would imagine the numerous ways in which he could kill her. As time passed, they became progressively creative, until the plots were nearly as intricate as his entire plan for taking over Earth was.

It also proved a favorable way to pass time when dealing with humans in general- an event he found unpleasantly increasing in frequency. They were always fun at first; he relished meeting new people- discovering their weaknesses, their insecurities and how to exploit them. Psychological warfare, after all, was a personal favorite of his, and he loved bringing someone down with a single sentence. However, he began to see patterns, and learned quickly that there was a general type - only a few groupings of individuals and once he learned the patterns, he learned them as a whole. After that, things stopped being as fun and everything became rather dull .

 

So, he came to the same resolve he had with Lucy.

 

By the time he had stepped out of yet another political meeting, where they once again ran his numbers, talked strategy, and made stupid suggestions for how to increase publicity (did they really need to have another meetings about that? It seemed rather obvious to him, and he found little point. His numbers were off the charts, and there was absolutely no doubt who would be winning that election- the opponent could be the humans’ own fucking messiah and he would still win) he had already devised seven ways to kill each and every individual in the room, and ten ways to do so collectively. He was really favoring the idea of asphyxiation for The Board. At first, he had thought dismemberment- it would certainly be more fun, but the cleanup would be messy, and he had just rebuilt and redesigned the place- that, and he doubted the clean up crew would live long enough to replace all of the carpeting and repaint the walls...

 

So he stepped out, using his favored of plausible excuses:

and lit a match.

 

That was another thing he rather enjoyed- cigarettes. He had to give some credit to whoever it was to decide to create cigarettes. Here they had a perfectly repugnant item, that encourages humans to partake in a rather unpleasant task of voluntarily inhaling smoke- and along with it, the addictive substance nicotine. To the extent that, even if they initially find the act unpleasant, the nicotine would later make them dependent on it, the deprivation being the key, so that when they decided to have another go, the relief of fulfilling that need would release chemicals from the pleasure centers of the brain, encouraging them to repeat the process. What he relished even more, was that the whole entire, unnecessary act was slowly killing them- and the whole time, they would be enjoying it. Brilliant, really, and he absolutely loved it.

 

For Time Lords, it was, naturally, different. After all, they wouldn’t be the advanced species they were if a small amount of smoke in their lungs were enough to end them. It was just a simple matter of their respiratory bypass systems kicking in, the smoke being naturally filtered, broken down and eliminated like any other non-inhalable substance, meanwhile, he could enjoy the more pleasurable aspect as the calming effect of the action overtook him, knowing that he could reverse his enzymes and rid himself of the nicotine induced effects at any time- the portion of the time that it actually affected him. He also found it an incredibly useful pastime, as it was seen as perfectly acceptable to step out at absolutely any time, to smoke. As he did now.

 

The Master sighed as he expelled the smoke into the air, pulling away the cigarette to examine it curiously. Such a simple thing. It calmed The Drums too...just a bit. That was another nuisance, The Drums- though it was something he had learned to live with, most days. Today, unfortunately, hadn’t been one of those days, and as the cold air brushed against his skin, the hot smoke filling his cool interior, billowing out from between his pursed lips, The Drums beat steadily.

 

He groaned and leaned against one of the pillars, his idle hand subconsciously tapping out a familiar rhythm onto his thigh. They had reached an unbearable volume in that confined space and seemed to have been growing louder the closer the day came, urging him forward. Leaving the room hadn’t help much, unfortunately, but at least, for the moment, he was away from them.

 

Abruptly, his fingers froze in their repetitive movement, the hairs standing up on the backs of his hands. He could feel it, the prominent shift of the Timestream. Something was here that shouldn’t be...

He frowned, dropping his cigarette and smudging it out with the heel of his shoe, eyes darting around, alert. Could He have possibly arrived already? No, it was far too soon- he wasn’t expecting Him for at least a few more days- Martha Jones hadn’t even left her flat yet. He knew, he had someone keeping tabs. He straightened, eyes closing and he concentrated on stretching out his mind to the general proximity around him, trying to feel for another source...

 

The first clump he came to was directly behind and above him. All very low level readings from non-telepathic beings; barely intelligent to even register at all. His mind continued to drift to the people in the halls and the lower levels... no, it wasn’t anybody there. Next were the neighboring buildings. Plenty of innocent humans, blissfully unaware of the wolf next door-

Hardly had that thought crossed his mind that he felt a spark of energy shoot up and he turned his head, opening his eyes, his attention focused on the alleyway across the street. How could he have missed it before? There it was, plain as day, a telepathic reading far superior to anything anywhere nearby- or anything anywhere, for that matter. He fixed on it, zeroing in, his mind stretching, trying to delve into their subconscious;

Who are you....

No sooner had he barely caressed the outside of their mental perimeter, that he felt a violent whiplash and stumbled backwards, the force almost physical. He gaped at the darkened area. Something was certainly there, something far more powerful than The Doctor could ever be...

He found his feet already taking him across the street before he had even registered his own movement, a combination of curiosity and fascination drawing him towards the source, that only seemed to grow in power the closer he came, until he was right at the mouth of the alleyway.

 

He sucked in breath at what he saw.

 

It wasn’t difficult to pinpoint the source after he had entered the alleyway. The source in question was glowing like a beacon, and he continued to walk forward, like a moth to a flame, eyes unblinking, though he didn’t dare reach out telepathically anymore, and it didn’t take any telepathic reading to see that this entity before him was a being of pure power- power he was immediately and instinctively attracted to. It wasn’t, however, until he was much closer that he began to make out a form in the middle of all that light- and began to register what exactly that light was, and why something so incredibly bright hadn’t been noticed by any old human passing by.

 

It was a woman. A human woman- or at least appeared to be one. She certainly wasn’t a Time Lord; he wouldn’t have needed to seek her out if that had been the case, and there were only so many species who looked exactly as they did. But she couldn’t have possibly been a human. Never, in his many centuries, had he ever seen a human that looked like this. If he had, he might have developed an interest for them much sooner.

 

No, this female (that much was certain) held the appearance of a woman; completely naked, and anatomically human, with long golden hair, floating around her in wisps, emitting an array of light, only rivaled by the glow of her body. That was where the similarities ended, however. While she, herself, glowed, what was far more entrancing was the source of the beacon, and the evidence that whatever she was, certainly wasn’t human at all.

 

Time Signatures. The most unusual he had ever seen; wrapped around and caressed her body delicately, glowing a pure, untainted gold, in place of the colors most frequently associated with them. What was fascinating, apart from the color, was how incredibly simple they were. Humans had simple time traces to begin with- a single timeline that wrapped around them and an assortment of layers to that single timestream, created from individual strands, and the occasional knot whenever they came across a fixed point. The layers varied, depending on how exciting or complex the humans’ life was, but generally didn’t stretch far beyond that. It was the reason that they had been taken to examine humans when studying in the academy. They were a very basic, non telepathic, level 5 planet, that didn’t discover extensive space travel until the late 28th century and limited time travel in the 51st century. Thus making them very easy to use as a basis when teaching aspiring Time Lords how to read Time Signatures.

 

Occasionally, you would find a slightly more complex Time Signature whenever a time-traveling human came into play, but even then, even with decades of time-travel, they were still relatively easy to read. That Freak had been different. His Timeline snarled around him, Time Traces ensnaring him in a massive, tangled, convoluted knot that made him painful to look at. The entire thing was a complete mess, his Timeline wrapped around in such a way that it was practically constricting him (he wished it would). It hadn’t necessarily been difficult to read, but it had been painful- very painful, just to look at; he couldn’t even fathom trying to make sense out of that chaos. In fact, the only action it instilled in him was the intense desire to kill him as soon as possible, so that, for a brief second, the Time Traces would vanish entirely and he’d have a moment of peace- before it popped back up again, as hideous and obnoxious as ever. The idea that The Doctor could ever stand to befriend something as vile as that was beyond him.

 

That Freak, was the closest comparison he could make to the entity before him. However, the comparison did it no justice, if only to compare opposite sides of the spectrum. Where The Freak’s Timeline had been hideous and complicated and unbearable to look at, her’s was simple and elegant and mesmerizing. Where his’ had been wound so tightly around him The Master wondered how he could possibly breathe, her’s was draped around her, worn as one would wear jewelry, though equally secure. His were a repulsive mess, while her’s, equally complex once he was close enough to see them fully, her’s had a sort of pattern to them, intricately woven and intermingling with one another, to make solid, definite structures. What they had in common, despite their very apparent differences, was that both looked completely unalterable, and both glowed the same, unshakable gold, that in her case, had him utterly transfixed.

 

He hadn’t realized how close he had gotten to her until he looked up, away from the Time Traces that curled around her, to the source itself. He found himself backing away abruptly at the close proximity- only a foot or two away. What had him most shaken, however, were the eyes. Golden, glowing eyes, brighter than the Time Traces, brighter than her skin or hair, boring into him like nothing else ever could.

And The Drums flared .

Their beat was suddenly thunderous, pounding away so loudly that he felt his very being throbbing in the same tempo, his hearts ramming into his ribcage, his breathing shaky. He recognized those eyes- eyes that weren’t eyes at all, but tunnels, tunnels to something very, very familiar- something that had haunted his dreams since he had first looked upon it.

The Untempered Schism.

He wanted to back away, he wanted to shout he wanted to run, but he somehow found himself, much like before, glued to the very same spot, petrified, as the creature before him made up the distance, stepping forward and raising one of her lean arms towards him.

He flinched, as though scalded, as her hand delicately cupped the side of his face, her eyes still fixedly on his’. He hadn’t realized until she knelt to touch him that he had somehow fallen to his knees, shaking uncontrollably and babbling, pleading for The Drums to stop.

Koschei...” A voice spoke- her voice, it had to be. An inhuman, celestial tone, both beautiful and terrifying, echoed around and enveloped him, so that he couldn’t tell if she was truly speaking at all, or if she, too, was in his head. It had already occurred to him to wonder if this all wasn’t just a concoction of his own growing insanity. Either way, her uttering that name shook him to the core- enough to be temporarily pulled out of her ensnaring transe-

WHAT ARE YOU?!” He shouted, all volume control trivial in face of this... thing .

The thing in question, stroked his cheek, still staring at him, her face expressionless- or from what he could make of it, his eyes still unable to pull away completely from hers’. He shouldn’t have been surprised that she didn’t answer his question.

 

You have been alone for so long...

Abandoned for so long...

Forgotten, for so long...”

 

The voice spoke again, echoing upon itself, though each word was clear and concise. He was visibly shaking now, trembling at her touch, The Drums were screaming at him, pounding and thrashing around in his skull, his every molecule, every atom, pulsing and throbbing in time with it. It was only then, that he realized he was crying.

Please...please...make it stop....”He begged, unable to hear his own voice, only aware that he had spoken at all by the movement of his mouth and the slight vibration in his throat. He was faintly aware of her fingers running up and down his cheek, before cupping it once more and tilting his head slightly upward. Somehow, this caused him to see her countenance in an entirely new light, and the expression she bore was no longer peaceful, but very clearly displeased.

 

You were forged so young...

The perfect weapon...

The perfect tool...

Left to rust as centuries passed you by...

Awaiting a time in which you could once more be valuable...

A cruel fate for anyone, forsaken by your own kind.”

 

Her hand moved again, tilting his head with it and suddenly her face was no longer cruel, but impassive once more.

I could make them stop...” Her fingers tapped out the rhythm on his cheek, in perfect time with the pounding in his head.

Can you hear them?” He asked, desperately. To his surprise, the Goddess- for that’s what she must be, smiled. A small, thin, barely present smile, but one nonetheless.

I can make them go away...I can give you your freedom...

Please...” He begged. It was foolish and it was feeble, and if he had been capable of thinking, he would have questioned the offer more, would have been certain that the entity before him was a figment of his own instability, the stress or boredom of the position he was currently holding in this tiny human world. But he couldn’t think, he couldn’t hear- the only sound he could hear was The Drums and Her.

My gift is not one of charity...” The woman spoke, and this time, her lips moved, and though the echo remained, it was less prominent than before. Abruptly, her glowing eyes dimmed, gold giving way to a darker, kinder, brown- breaking him away from her spell, the drums quieting. I ask a favor in return...” He met her eyes and felt for once that he was truly seeing her, his mind functioning and processing what precisely she had said.

Anything.” He replied, and he meant it. He couldn’t conceive a single thing he wouldn’t be willing to do to get rid of them. Again, he was permitted a small smile, this time, however, there was something...softer about it- human ...He was so distracted by the expression that he hadn’t noticed her fingers move to touch either side of his temple. He froze, fear lapsing over him as the brown melded away, once more shifting to gold, The Drums growing with it. However, as The Drums grew to their peak, he was distantly aware of another sound accompanying them- quiet at first, but growing as they had. A melody...a soft, subtle melody that seemed to grow in strength as the woman before him began to glow.

 

The song cascaded over them like a heavy body of water, colliding against them and through them, and swiftly drowning them out as the most beautiful sound he had ever heard caressed his ears. He sucked in air as he identified the song, though he had never heard this particular one before, and found he never wished to hear any other again.

Impossible...” He breathed in awe, his eyes able to pull away from hers’ to trace over her features. He had seen them in many forms, but never, never in a human body. His head was now filled with the glorious sound, not even a trace of The Drums left behind in their wake, and he let out a slight sob of relief- even if the sound was traded for another, he would have traded it for anything, to rid him of that beat. The word seemed to amuse the entity, for again he was graced with the smallest of smiles and a flash of brown, and a sound- a sound so unmistakably not celestial in the slightest. A small, brief, musical laugh; gone before he could fixate on it, but enough to once again snap him out of his trance, so he could again look this creature over; this glowing being before him, the smallest Time Traces around her now very gently uncoiling to experimentally wrap around his own, her eyes dimmer than they had been, and looking at him in a way he couldn’t  recall a single soul ever looking at him.

He felt the pressure from her fingertips relax slightly, one trailing down to his jaw and tilting his head up to once more look into her golden orbs- except this time, no drums followed.

 

I will return to you, at the cusp before the fall;

When all lies in ruin, and defeat is in sight.

I will request of you, an item of great value,

And I will ask of you, my favor.

Only once my measures are met,

will I grant you what you long for perpetually...”

 

She pulled both of her hands away abruptly, stepping back from him and the music ceased, filling him with an eerie silence he could not recall ever experiencing before. It sent chills down his spine when accompanied with her steely glare.

I have provided you a day of peace to contemplate my words...

If you wish The Drums gone, you need only ask...”

 

Before he managed to inquire- to demand she tell him who she was, how she could take away the drums and why she couldn’t take them away that minute, she stepped further back, glowing much brighter now, so much so that it began to obscure her body from view entirely. Without another word, she glanced over once more at him, then dissolved into an array of golden dust, floating and spiraling upward before vanishing entirely.

 

The Master was left alone to gape openly at the spot where she had been, the surrounding area suddenly so much darker in her absence- and everything around him suddenly so much louder than he recalled it being before. He could hear the wind rustling the trees across the street, a car door closing a good block away, and the clicking of heels on pavement as Lucy exited the building- he could hear the air being compressed as the door closed behind her -the air! He couldn’t recall ever hearing that before!

 

And then it hit him.

It hit him so abruptly that he felt like a complete imbecile for not having realized it before.

The Drums were gone.

 

He let out a slight, disbelieving laugh as he spun around to observe the opposing side of the street, the sound of his heel scraping against cement as she turned, music to his ears. He let out another laugh, this one more identifiable than the last one, his eyes stinging as relief and joy flooded him and suddenly he felt the undeniable impulse to shout from sheer exhilaration- so he did- a loud, ecstatic whoop.

Harry?” He heard Lucy’s voice call, uncertainly, from across the street. He bounded out of the alleyway and towards her, eager to share the news with someone and caring very little that the someone in particular happened to be her. He was so incredibly happy, that he actually hugged her. And for a blissful night, he slept peacefully; and for a blissful day, he found himself smiling at every ape that strolled down the halls, greeting them all merrily, for once with genuine cheer. He finished all of the menial paperwork on his desk with a smile on his face and delightedly chatted about his day to Lucy at dinner when she inquired. That night, he wasn’t nearly as begrudging with his marital chores, even if she was that much louder; and that night, afterward, he didn’t shove her away when she snuggled up close to him, and permitted himself, once more, a peaceful, dreamless sleep.



The Drums returned the following morning.