Rose struggled against her ropes that had only been slightly loosened by the attempt to free her. Maybe if she could get herself free before the Master woke up, she could get away.
No such luck.
The Master groaned as he slowly got to his feet. Another few Masters, these ones in guards’ uniforms ran into the room.
‘Find them,' the original Master told them and they quickly left again. The Master was about to follow them when he noticed Rose. ‘Oh hello,’ he said, a bit shocked to see her still there. The shock didn’t last long however and soon he was smiling again. ‘Leave you behind did they?’ he asked, now going for a mock attempt at sympathy.
Rose didn’t answer. She refused to give in to his teasing or show her fear.
But the Master must have seen it anyway. He smiled again and then ran over to face the screen on the wall. ‘Master, report!’ he said.
Another Master appeared on the screen (the one who had been Naismith). ‘They’ve teleported.’
‘Open the teleport and follow him!’ shouted the original Master and the other him repeated the instructions into a separate communicator, obviously talking to the guards who had gone after the Doctor.
Rose held her breath as she waited the agonisingly long seconds for news.
‘Teleports been disabled from the other side,’ said the Master on the screen. Rose wasn’t sure if she was relieved or disappointed. Relieved because the Doctor and Wilf were safe… or disappointed because they weren’t coming back.
Rose shook that thought from her head. The Doctor was coming back. He wouldn’t just leave her here, she knew he wouldn’t.
‘He's still up there,’ said the Master. ‘Target practice. Turn everything you've got to the skies. Find me that ship. And prime the missiles.’
Rose saw the Master on the screen grin before the image changed to show a different Master, this one at UNIT HQ.
‘But you can’t!’ shouted Rose.
The Master turned to her, eyebrow raised. ‘Why not?’
‘The Doctor’s the only one who can help you and you know it. You need him.’
Not that Rose thought the Doctor would help the Master in any way… but she had to say something!
The Master scoffed. ‘Oh please. Why would I need him when I have a whole planet full of me? I think six billion of us are worth more than one Doctor.’
‘Wouldn’t bet on it.’
The Master’s smile fell into a scowl. Rose would have smirked if it weren’t for the fact she was terrified of what he would do next. ‘Find him and fire the missiles,’ he said, coldly, to the Master on the screen behind him.
But Rose had been right; the Doctor had outsmarted the Master. All six billion of him.
‘Lost him,’ said the Master from UNIT.
The original Master’s scowl deepened and he whipped around to face the screen. ‘What about teleport coordinates? I need that information!’
The Master from the Gate Room reappeared on the screen. ‘He cut the link before we could get them.’
The Master growled in frustration. ‘Then cut it from this side,’ he said. ‘Permanently. Strand him up there.’
The relief that Rose had felt at hearing the Doctor was safe faded in an instant. Yes, he was still safe (for now, at least) but now he had no way back. He couldn’t help her. She was on her own with six billion copies of her worst nightmare.
By the time night had fallen, Rose had been given food and water and then been moved to the Gate Room so the Master could keep an eye on her. He had spent the last few hours preparing all six billion of his other selves to focus on the drumbeat inside his head. He figured that if they all focussed on the exact same thing at the exact same time, they could find the answer. It reminded Rose of when the human race had used the same method to defeat him.
She wished she had a plan like that now.
‘Night has fallen,’ said the original Master whom was in the Gate Room with Rose. ‘Are we ready?’
‘Every single one of us is prepared,’ said another Master through the communication link.
The Master closed his eyes and tilted his head back slightly. ‘Then we listen. All of us, across the world, just listen.’ An eerie silence fell over the room, one that Rose suspected carried over the whole world, as the Masters focussed on the noise inside their heads. ‘Concentrate,’ said the Master. ‘Find the signal.’
His eyes snapped open. ‘There! The sound is tangible. Someone could only have designed this. But who?’
‘The sound. It's coming from above,’ said the Master on the communication system.
The original Master looked up and Rose followed his gaze, a tiny bit disappointed to see only the glass-domed ceiling.
‘It's coming from the sky!’
The Master ran out to the balcony. Rose heard him order the guards to go find whatever had caused the signal and then he strolled back into the Gate room, obviously pleased with himself.
‘It’s all coming together, Rosie,’ he said.
A few minutes later, reports started coming in from various Masters of a shooting star that fell to Earth (that must have been what the Master had seen out on the balcony). Then, more reports from the group of Masters who had gone to the landing site.
‘It's a diamond, sir,’ said one of the Masters in question. ‘Oh. The most impossible diamond. You won't believe this. It's a Whitepoint Star.’
A Whitepoint Star? Rose had no idea what that was but it obviously meant something to the Master for his eyes widened in disbelief for a moment before he started laughing madly. Rose was reminded of her nightmares again but pushed the thought aside.
‘So is it a star or a diamond?’ she asked, confused.
The Master didn’t answer, he just kept laughing, his body flashing again, making it look like an x-ray.
‘Well, what is it?’ she tried again.
Finally the Master calmed down and looked at her.
The Doctor growled in frustration as he worked tirelessly at the wires of the Vinvocci spaceship. He had stopped Rossiter and Addams from flying the ship away from Earth but in dong so he had stranded them in orbit. The ship had little to no power left and the Master had destroyed the teleport system in Naismith’s home. Now the only way back to Rose was to get the ship moving and progress was agonisingly slow.
And every second he spent stuck up here was a second that Rose was in danger. He didn’t even know if she was still alive. And if she wasn’t… well, then maybe it was a good thing that his song was ending. He didn’t want to be the man who had broken his promise and failed to protect her.
‘Aye, aye. Got this old tub mended?’ asked Wilf, appearing from one of the ship’s corridors and coming to sit next to him. The Doctor was thankful for the distraction from the dark thoughts that were threatening to suffocate him.
‘Still working on it,’ he said. ‘Just trying to get us some more power.’
Wilf gave him a nod and then turned to face the window. ‘I've always dreamt of a view like that,’ he said. ‘Hee hee. I'm an astronaut. It's dawn over England, look. Brand new day.’ After his moment of giddiness of being in space, he sobered. ‘My wife's buried down there. I might never visit her again now.’ He turned to the Doctor, a sad look on his face. ‘Do you think he changed them, in their graves?’
The Doctor didn’t have an answer to that, at least not one that Wilf wanted to hear, so he said the next best thing.
‘No, not your fault.’
‘Isn't it?’ asked the Doctor as he abandoned the ships wiring and turned to face the window as well. There wasn’t much more he could do from here anyway and after hours of working, he needed a break.
‘1948, I was over there,’ said Wilf, looking back to the view of Earth and pointing to the landmass that was Middle-east. ‘End of the Mandate in Palestine. Private Mott. Skinny little idiot, I was. Stood on this rooftop, in the middle of a skirmish. It was like a blizzard, all them bullets in the air. The world gone mad.’ He paused, lost in memory, and then shook his head as if he thought himself silly. ‘Yeah, you don't want to listen to an old man's tales, do you?’
‘I'm older than you,’ said the Doctor.
‘Get away,’ said Wilf, obviously not believing him.
‘I'm nine hundred and… actually I lost count a while ago.’
‘What, really, though?’
The Doctor almost laughed. ‘Yeah.’
‘And Rose, she’s…’
‘Younger,’ said the Doctor, not really wanting to get into the age difference between him and his girlfriend at the moment. He turned back to the window; desperately trying not to think about where Rose was and what she might have been through in the past few hours.
‘Nine hundred years,’ murmured Wilf, once again bringing the Doctor out of thoughts better not dwelled on. ‘We must look like insects to you.’
The Doctor turned back to face him. ‘I think you look like giants.’
And it was true. The human race may have individual lifespans that disappeared in the blink of an eye but they still did so much. They each achieved greatness in the smallest of ways and, together, they built an empire vaster and longer lasting than any other species in the universe. Indomitable, that was them.
But for all their greatness, there were still some things that the Doctor wished they hadn’t achieved.
‘Listen, I, I want you to have this,’ said Wilf, holding out his gun. He must have picked it up during their escape. ‘I've kept it all this time, and I thought…’
The Doctor barely glanced at the weapon. ‘No,’ he said.
‘No, but if you take it, you could-’
‘No,’ said the Doctor again before he realised something. ‘You had that gun in the mansion. You could have shot the Master there and then.’
‘Too scared, I suppose,’ said Wilf.
The Doctor disagreed. It wasn’t cowardice. It was mercy. And it was what made Wilf so brilliant.
‘I'd be proud,’ said the Doctor.
Wilf looked confused. ‘Of what?’
‘If you were my dad.’
Wilf looked slightly embarrassed by that but still humbled. ‘Oh, come on, don't start.’ His expression became serious again. ‘But you said, you were told he will knock four times and then you die. Well, that's him, isn't it? The Master. That noise in his head? The Master is going to kill you.’
The Doctor swallowed down the lump in his throat. ‘Yeah.’
Because Wilf was right, the Doctor knew he was. Ever since he had heard that rhythm in the Master’s mind, he’d known that that was what the prophecy was referring to.
Wilf held the gun up again. ‘Then kill him first.’
‘And that's how the Master started,’ said the Doctor. ‘And I won’t be like him.’
They stared at each other for a moment before Wilf finally lowered the gun, conceding the Doctor’s point.
But he soon came up with his own.
‘If the Master dies, what happens to all the people?’ he asked.
The Doctor looked back at the Earth, mainly to avoid having to look Wilf in the eye. ‘I don't know.’
But Wilf wasn’t buying his lie. ‘Doctor, what happens?’
‘The template snaps,’ he finally answered.
‘What, they go back to being human?’ asked Wilf. The Doctor nodded. ‘Then don't you dare, sir. Don't you dare put him before them.’ He held the gun out to him again. ‘Now you take this. That's an order, Doctor. Take the gun. You take the gun and save your life. And please don't die. You're the most wonderful man and I don't want you to die.’
Wilf was practically sobbing now. The Doctor wasn’t sure what he had done to earn such loyalty but he was grateful for it. He just wished he could say something to let Wilf know how much it meant to him. It was ironic how good this him was with words and yet could never say the ones that meant the most.
‘A star fell from the sky,’ said a voice, making Wilf startle and the Doctor furrow his brow in anger. It was the Master. He was speaking through the communication channels. Probably an open broadcast. ‘Don't you want to know where from? Because now it makes sense, Doctor. The whole of my life. My destiny. The star was a diamond. And the diamond is a Whitepoint Star.’
The Doctor’s eyes widened. Whitepoint? But that could have only come from one place.
‘And I have worked all night to sanctify that gift,’ continued the Master. ‘Now the star is mine. I can increase the signal and use it as a lifeline. Do you get it now? Do you see? Keep watching, Doctor. This should be spectacular. Over and out.’
The communication ended and it took a few moments for the Doctor to realise that Wilf was speaking to him.
‘… he doing? Doctor, what does that mean?’
‘A Whitepoint Star is only found on one planet,’ said the Doctor, his voice thick with so many conflicting emotions. ‘Gallifrey. Which means it's the Time Lords. The Time Lords are returning.’
‘Well, I mean, that's good, isn't it?’ said Wilf. ‘I mean, that's your people.’
The fear that the Doctor had felt over the last couple of days seemed like a mere speck on anxiety compared to what he was feeling now. He always chose to remember the best of his people but he hadn’t forgotten the worst. And at the end of the Time War, the Time Lords had equalled the Daleks in their malevolence. So, no, it wasn’t good that they were back. At least, not if they were coming back like this.
The Doctor took the gun from Wilf’s hand and sprinted to the flight deck. He was going to get this ship back to Earth and stop the Master. Even if it killed him.