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Conditions of the Doctor's Release

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Visiting the Master in his cell suite, Jo, accompanied by the Doctor, had to admit that Colonel Trenchard and staff had taken every precaution to detain the universe’s most dangerous criminal. Not only was the Master locked up in a castle on a very small island, but all visitors’ passes were checked rigorously upon entry and exit. Furthermore, all guards at the facility had complete immunity to the Master’s psychic powers. He certainly appeared to be trapped for good, but Jo suspected that the Master would somehow slip out and begin harassing the Doctor again.


Jo rolled her eyes. The Master’s ploys were all so very juvenile. He concocted needlessly elaborate schemes to attract the Doctor’s attention, but they inevitably went awry. Then the Doctor always had to save him and the rest of the world. Though rather bright, the Master didn’t always act that way. If he just honestly told the Doctor how much they interested him, a lot less people would die; a lot less explosions would occur, and everyone would be much happier.


Anyway, the Doctor wanted to check up on the Master, so here they were. As tight as security was, the Master’s accommodations seemed nicely kitted out. He lived in a multi-room suite with a separate bedroom and bathroom. The main living chamber, into which he received them, contained overstuffed chairs, a well-stocked library, a color [!] TV, and various weights and workout equipment. Among the pieces was a rowing machine, from which he arose to greet them as Colonel Trenchard opened his cell door. “Visitors for you,” the Colonel announced.


“Why, Doctor! And Miss Grant! What a very pleasant surprise.” The Master smiled, his eyes lighting up. Whatever he was supposedly the Master of, he, Jo noticed, had absolutely no control over his facial expressions. She knew what fake smiles looked like, where you shoved up the corners of your mouth, but the upturn never hit your eyes, and this was not that. This was actually surprised enjoyment, which jumped onto his face before he could suppress it. For a moment, it made him look all nice and friendly, instead of the completely immature supervillain he truly was.


“Yes, well, I came to see how you were,” said the Doctor, who was trying their hardest to look frowny and severe, an effect somewhat canceled out by their sparkling eyes.


“Oh...well, very well indeed!” Though delivered with the exact same exuberance as his initial exclamation, the Master’s next words sounded sharper, so exaggerated as to be sarcastic. The smile fell from his eyes; it was forced now.


Colonel Trenchard blanched noticeably. “I’ll just leave you all together now. Give the guard a shout when you want to leave, hmm?” he said to the Doctor, then fairly bolted out the door.


The Master contemplated the door that the Colonel had just slammed. “A decent fellow really,” he said drily, clasping his hands behind his back, as he turned to face Jo and the Doctor. “Used to be the governor of a colony once.”


“Right, and didn’t they overthrow him and claim independence right after he got there?” the Doctor said with a dubious crinkle on their forehead.


“I didn’t say he was competent.”


“You’re incredibly unsubtle, Master. I’m triple-checking the security on this place as soon as I’m finished here.”


“I’m temperamentally incapable of being subtle,” the Master pointed out. “After all, you do have to make absolutely certain that I can never escape from you again, don’t you?”


“Yes,” said the Doctor, narrowing their eyes. “Locked up -- and tied down -- and -- and...such…” The sentence faltered to an anticlimactic ending.


“So are they treating you well here?” Jo asked the Master, just to try to distract him and the Doctor from looking  at each other like that.


“Indeed. I’ve got everything I want...except, of course, freedom. Liberty. Autonomy.”


“How about release?” suggested Jo.


“It is but my greatest desire,” the Master acknowledged with a wink.


“Consider yourself lucky,” the Doctor said, leveling a serious glance at him. “Quite a few people were in favor of having you executed, but I got you off.”


The Master’s eyebrows went about halfway up his wrinkled forehead. For a moment, he looked as if he would throw back his head and laugh, but he regulated his expression. “Oh, my dear Doctor,” he said with a chuckle, “I am quite grateful for your assistance. You have given me a chance to think about...” His gaze swept down the Doctor, then back up. “--Things,” he said with suggestive emphasis on the word, “while I’ve been in here.”


“Have you now?” The Doctor met the Master’s eyes. Despite their earlier cluelessness, it seemed like there might be a knowing smirk starting on their lips, a canny glimmer in their eyes.


“I wish something like this had happened a long time ago,” confessed the Master.


“Surely you don’t like being locked up?” Jo said.


“Of course not, Miss Grant. I despise my imprisonment here as much as does the Doctor. Fortunately, however, they are here to -- “


“--To keep you from being naughty!” the Doctor finished for him.


“Oh, is that how humans are referring to it these days?” said the Master.


“What I meant was...Wouldn’t you two like to get some time away from all this?” Jo asked.


There was a pause. Both the Doctor and the Master said in unison, “Yes!”


Jo expected such directness from the Master, but was the Doctor actually admitting that they truly preferred the Master’s company? “With him?” she asked the Doctor, just for clarification.


“--Especially since,” the Master went on, “I’ve had a chance to reconsider my life since I’ve been in here.”


“Don’t tell me that captivity has changed you.” The Doctor folded their arms and scoffed.


“Is that so very incredible? After all, I have many things of which to repent. Chiefest among those, I regret not being forward enough with you,” the Master said, taking a few strides closer to the Doctor. “But all that,” he continued, staring into the Doctor’s face with something close to a glare, “changes now. And I think,” he went on, his voice growing softer, yet somehow more dangerous, “that you will be pleased with the results -- very pleased indeed.”


The Doctor, reddening up to their ears, stood immobile, not even blinking. They appeared to be rather stupefied. Jo wondered for a moment if they were vulnerable to the Master’s psychic powers. But no -- that quizzical lift of a single outer eyebrow indicated something much more devious than thoughtless obedience. “I see,” said the Doctor. “So does this mean you’re going me your TARDIS?”


“Why -- so that you can use it to escape this planet, Doctor?”


“No, so I can make absolutely sure that you don’t. I mean -- I’m keeping you with me.”


The Master touched his chin thoughtfully. “If those are the conditions of your release, I do believe I might accede.”


“My release? But we were just talking about yours!” Jo couldn’t tell if the Doctor was actually flustered or just pretending.


“Perhaps we should quit talking. Would you like to find out how deeply I’ve repented?” Turning on his heel, the Master headed for the bedroom portion of his cell suite. When he did not hear the Doctor follow him, he turned around and said sharply, “Come!”


“I’m coming; I’m coming!” The Doctor hurried after him, and Jo, leaving the cell suite, laughed so hard that she began to snort.