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I Can See Gallifrey From My House

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"Shall I come along, Mr. Saxon?" His assistant looked up beseechingly, ready to obey at the Master's merest word, but with barely-disguised distaste at the prospect of an outing.

The corner of the Master's mouth twitched in irritation. Pitiful. The man couldn't even cope with the weather extremes of his own planet. Ten minutes after getting off the floatplane, Barlowe's lips had turned blue; since then, he'd been a useless dead weight.

The Master mulled the idea of marching Barlowe down to the local watering hole with him, for the sheer joy of watching the man suffer. Entertaining. But no. Punishing his underlings was a fleeting pleasure, like everything he tried so grimly to enjoy in this fickle new body; destined to sour into boredom and annoyance long before his errand was done.

"Oh, no. Stay here. Put a dent in the minibar. Order room-service caribou. Watch the HBO. Loll, my good man."

Barlowe grinned, baring all his teeth. Lackey. Why was it so hard to get good help? Pity the smart ones were so much trouble.

The man's woes might have had something to do with his jacket: an impressive-looking, and intimidatingly expensive, wad of high-tech thermal batting wrapped in a polyester shell. It had been stifling back in London. Here, it barely kept out the wind.

The Master had done a little research before embarking on the journey, with the result that he'd made a much wiser choice of gear. He looked positively luxuriant in his long, fur-lined sealskin parka with its full hood of black sable. In matters of personal comfort in the face of environmental hardship, technology was still a poor substitute for hard-earned local wisdom, on this planet or any other.

Anyway, when in Rome. Or rather, when in Wasilla.

Back in London, everything was going according to plan. Parliament was stacked with his pawns. Archangel had reached a shocking 73 percent market penetration. When -- not if, when, he thought, eyes narrowing a little with glee -- the Doctor showed up, the net would already be drawn tight around his precious England, the bright silver fish already gasping and flopping in the Master's clutches.

Still, it didn't hurt to hedge one's bets. The Master was getting a bit more prudent in his old age. A few allies in key places couldn't hurt.

Finding the right people -- now, that was tricky. They had to be stupid enough to be trustworthy. Bright enough to train. Poised just on the doorstep of power, hungry and grasping and full of ambition. And possessed of a certain raw magnetism that he could apply his considerable powers to amplify and refine, coaxing their frail human minds to master basic techniques of hypnotic suggestion, arming them with the rudiments of psychic defense. This woman, this new governor, with her small-town schtick and her predator's instincts -- she had promise.

She was already sitting at a table in the back when he came through the door of the bar, his furry hood steaming in the sudden warmth. It was early afternoon still, though the pitch-black sky outside made a mockery of the day, and the bar was only half-full; five men to every woman. In one corner, a dirty jukebox squatted under a tattered poster: "America: Love It Or Leave It."

With her sleek hair and her elegant wool suit, she was as out of place in the squalid bar as a panther in a pet shop, and yet she seemed thoroughly at home, all her body language radiating relaxed confidence. Yes. She would do nicely.

"Sarah." He pushed back his sable hood and offered her his most winsome lopsided smile.

The Governor stood up and extended a slender hand. "You betcha."