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Escape Velocity

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“Well, I very much hope you’re happy with yourself,” the Doctor spat. “Honestly, involving the Matriscan Conclave in one of your schemes? What in blazes made you think of that?”

The Master jerked his coat down by the hem and drew himself up, clearly affronted, though whether by the circumstances he had put them in or by the Doctor’s blunt assignment of blame, it was hard to say. He shot a glare towards the Doctor - it might have been intimidating, if only he didn’t crane his neck so - before forcing his expression back to his usual veneer of aloof calm. “Now, Doctor, there’s no reason to be upset,” he protested.

“Oh no reason at all, no, aside from the Imperatrix calling for our heads. Aside from a legion of her personal guard chasing us all the way back to your TARDIS. No, no reason at all,” the Doctor chastised. “You know, when the Council dropped me off here, I expected it was to stop one of your ridiculous schemes. I wasn’t expecting to have to rescue you from it.”

The Master’s eyebrows jerked upward at that. “Rescue me, Doctor? Need I point out whose TARDIS we are in at the moment? You did mention it yourself, not a moment ago.”

The Doctor gave the Master an irritated glare of his own. “Yes, and we would not have had to run all the way here were it not for your insane plan. Really, old chap, trying to hypnotise a race that’s immune to mind control? That’s absurd, even for you.” The Doctor let out a heavy sigh. “And besides, you know quite well my own TARDIS is still stuck on Earth.”

The Master turned away then, almost hiding his embarrassment. It was good to see that he could at least recognize the ridiculousness of his scheme once it was pointed it out to him. “Yes, well...” He moved to the TARDIS console and began keying in coordinates. The corners of his mouth quirked up in the beginnings of a smile and he began to chuckle. “You almost sound annoyed by that. I should think you would be enjoying your time on Earth, the way you always went on about the place.”

Apparently the Master wished to change the subject. Well, there was no reason to dignify the insult with a response. “Just where are you sending your TARDIS, anyway?” the Doctor inquired instead.

The Master looked up from the control panel to smile condescendingly at him. “Tut tut my dear Doctor, I shan't reveal all of my plans to you just yet.” As if on cue, the TARDIS jerked to an abrupt halt, sending the two Time Lords tumbling across the control room. The Doctor barely had time to brace himself before landing hard on a floor that was suddenly no longer steady beneath his feet. The TARDIS’s engines were cycling down far too rapidly to be healthy, and emitted a most unpleasantly high pitched whine as they did so. The Doctor rolled onto his back and waited for the room to stop shaking before attempting to regain his feet. It was not long before the ship went settled down. The Doctor cautiously stood back up, not wanting to repeat that performance. Looking across the room, he saw his rescuee-turned-captor very deliberately brushing dust and wrinkles from his coat. “So,” the Doctor began in as even a tone as he could manage, “was that part of one of your plans, then?”

The Master’s hands froze on his coat and he turned his head to stare wide-eyed and slack jawed at the Doctor. That fall must have knocked their conversation out of his head. With a start, he seemed to realize what the Doctor was referring to and he rushed towards the now mostly dark control panel. The Doctor watched the play of emotions across the Master’s face as he took in the readings from what instruments that were still functional. The cycle of shock, confusion, and offense was quite entertaining to observe. Or it would have been, if he had been observing from a nice, safe distance, and if the Master’s face weren’t looking more and more grim.

The Master closed his eyes and let out a sigh, and the Doctor wondered if he should begin to actually worry. The Master punched a sequence into one of the panels that was still active, his shoulders slumping more and more with each keystroke. “Well, I suppose we had best make ourselves comfortable,” he said, smiling weakly at the Doctor.

Well, that was hardly an explanation. “Comfortable? What do you mean? What are you on about?”

“Now now, there is no need to lose your temper, Doctor.” The Master adopted a lecturing tone. “The TARDIS is simply immobilized. You do recall that jolt a moment ago?” The Doctor rolled his eyes at that. “It would seem that the ship experienced a massive surge in artron energy, which disrupted our dematerialization circuit, as well as our vortex stabilizers. I am afraid we are now adrift within the time vortex. I have sent a distress signal; we will simply have to wait for some of our...compatriots...to arrive.” The Master smiled and chuckled. “It seems you will see me handed over to their so-called ‘justice’ after all.”

The Doctor stood there, dumbfounded. This was most unlike the adversary he was used to. “What? Well just repair the engines then. Bring them back online.”

The Master frowned at the Doctor. “Do not think that I haven’t tried. I fear that the components are irretrievably damaged. Do recall the mechanism of your exile, before second guessing me on this matter.”

“Rubbish. Since when do you give up so easily?”

“Oh Doctor, I do know when I am defeated. I am capable of surrendering with my dignity intact.”

The Doctor barely stifled a laugh at that. “You, surrender? That’s never been in your nature. You never could admit when you were wrong.”

The Master’s eyes flashed with anger and the Doctor wondered for a moment if he had pushed his old enemy too far. “Well, at least I could accept the consequences of my actions,” the Master spat back, not quite keeping his voice from quivering. “My actions and yours, for that matter. You were always looking for some way out!”

Pushing too far or not, the Doctor could not let that go unchallenged. “Don’t be ridiculous, here I’ve been stuck on Earth for the last year, punishment from the council, now what do you call that if not accepting consequences?”

The Master scoffed. “Oh yes, you have been imprisoned on that miserable little planet. And you’ve been spending every moment you can trying to escape! Do not think I forgot your theft of my dematerialization circuit! It truly is always the same with you! Just hop in your TARDIS and fly away, and never a care for who you leave behind!” All pretense of calm had left the Master and he shouted the last accusations, a torrent of rage flowing forth from a broken dam. Now his voice took on a dangerous edge. “Tell me, Doctor, how does it feel to stop running? How does it feel to have to pay the price for a change?”

The Doctor stared at the Master as he ranted, for once very much speechless. This outburst had caught him completely off guard. Abruptly he realized the Master was actually waiting for an answer to his question; of course, the Doctor didn’t have one. And why should he, really? Why should he be expected to respond to this mad tirade? It was nonsense, really, complete and utter nonsense, listening to this foolish argument when he should be working on the problem at hand. The Master opened his mouth as if to continue and the Doctor cut him off. “I don’t see what any of that has to do with repairing the TARDIS. If it truly is damaged, and you’re not going to do anything about it, then it seems I had best get to it myself. There is certainly no point in staying here a moment more than necessary.”

With that, the Doctor calmly walked through the door leading deeper into the TARDIS, intent on finding the source of the problem and fixing it. As the door slid shut behind him, he heard the thump of the Master’s fist against the TARDIS console.