I'm Dreaming Of A White Christmas 2/2
“Jesse!” Dawn screamed. “Remember that the space station is *not
* the enemy!”
“Need I remind you that *you
* were the one that fired the phasers?” Jesse replied as he evaded the Daleks that had come out to engage him.
“You two are crackers, you know that?” Chelsea said with a shake of her head as she focused on the screen in front of her.
Chelsea would admit to feeling a little out of her depth at the moment, which, given she was in the middle of a pitched space battle, was to be expected. After being given an introduction to Jesse’s systems, she had been put in charge of the rear defence weaponry. At first she had been a little reluctant, as the hi-tech consoles were quite frankly too complicated for her to use properly under battle conditions with so little practise, but Jesse had already thought of that and had showed her that there was a more low tech method to hand, although it was originally designed to be used as a back up in the event that the primary systems were taken out.
The console in front of her had changed to two 10” monitors, and below each one appeared a hand controller much like a computer joystick. Jesse had calibrated the system with a Slayer in mind, although the Slayer in question had been Buffy, but at the moment that didn’t matter; Chelsea’s enhanced hand eye coordination meant that she was able to man two separate phaser cannons, and also had a complement of spacial charges at her disposal as well. Her job was to ensure that none of the Daleks got close enough to do any damage to Jesse’s flank, and the best way of doing that was to blow them all up.
While Chelsea guarded Jesse’s rear, Dawn had the job of looking after Jesse’s front, assisted by Jesse himself. While he had a certain amount of autonomy, there was no way he would be able to do what was required alone and that was where Dawn came in. Working in tandem, they would be able to keep the Daleks distracted long enough for the others to complete their end of the plan, all the while giving Jesse another crack at the beings that pretty much wiped out everything he had held dear. ==//D6\\==
“I hate that there’s nothing more I can do!” Rose snapped as she watched the proceeding on a monitor, for a moment forgetting that Eve could hear her. #Rose, I would be worried if you *weren’t* frustrated, but you must have learned by now that sometimes the best thing to do in a situation is to do nothing,#
Eve counselled, feeling a measure of frustration herself.
While she, like The Doctor, preferred to solve situations through brains as opposed to brawn, there were times when she would like to have the option to use both. Being a purely scientific and exploration vessel meant that she had little in the way of weaponry, and even those had fallen into disrepair before The Doctor had taken possession of her.
Despite wanting to sometimes have a more physical role in some of the situations that The Doctor found themselves in, Eve knew that it would be a dangerous path to begin to step down. The temptation to use them would increase, to the point where they would become the first option, instead of the last. The Doctor was of a similar opinion, especially as his mind has allowed him to do things that no weapon could ever possibly match.
Xander and Jack had the unique opportunity to know what it was like to deal with life and death situations without either the technology or the knowledge that a Time Lord has, and therefore had a better understanding of where the line was, and less chance of crossing it. They’d often had to use a combination of brains and brawn to succeed, and had experience of how much of each was necessary.
That was why, despite his vocal statements to the contrary, The Doctor didn’t mind them using weaponry, as he trusted them more with them than he did himself.
“Isn’t there anything more we can do to help?” Rose asked pleadingly. #We have activated the aversion fields,#
Eve replied, thankful that she was able to hear Rose despite her not transmitting her thoughts now that she was inside her. #We have patched into all of the space station’s systems so we can make sure no one is caught unawares, and we have managed to bypass all communications to run through me so that we will know if The Master tries to contact anyone to assist him. Anything else will be noticed, and we are better placed to help out here than if we are moved elsewhere.#
Rose didn’t respond, she simply slumped her shoulders and flopped down into a nearby chair, knowing that there was nothing else to do. “I hate being useless.” #You are *not* useless, Rose, and I don’t want to hear you say something like that again,#
Eve stated forcefully, shocking Rose out of her funk. #You must stop comparing yourself to the others, as that automatically puts you at a disadvantage. You are brave, far braver than most, and you have an open-minded attitude that allows you to accept concepts and ideals that would be beyond most of your kind.#
Eve paused for a few moments, to collect her thoughts. #There is something you can help me with.# #Anything,#
Rose replied immediately, almost jumping out of her seat. #Something has been troubling me about the Daleks, beyond their willingness to follow The Master’s instructions, and I need your assistance to find out why.# #Tell me what you need and I’ll do it,#
Rose stated, feeling much better now that she had something to focus her mind on. ==//D6\\==
Giles and Willow stood either side of Tara, who was sat cross-legged on the floor, both holding hastily made weapons thanks to Buffy’s preternatural strength and a couple of wall panels. They were situated in a small, dark alcove at the far end of the promenade, a couple of small obscurement charms enhancing the shadows around them to further hide them from view. Their job was to get as many people out of the Promenade and to safety as they could, and to protect Tara. Once Buffy began her distraction, the shadows would lift and they would start herding the hostages through alcove and out of firing range.
The pair glanced at each other from time to time, their grip on their weapons tightening and relaxing as they did what they could to stave off their growing tension in their bodies. They both knew that if a Dalek truly took notice of them that their chances of survival was not great, but after so long of facing the dark having a weapon to hand was almost like a security blanket, and with their magic unavailable to them it would be their only defence.
Tara was oblivious to the nervousness of her protectors; in fact, she was oblivious to everyone and everything around her. Her eyes were closed and her face tight with concentration, ensuring that her entire focus was on maintaining the spell. Her chanting was low, but while it wasn't possible to hear what she was saying, the tone seemed to resonate throughout the station.
When they had gone through the charms and spells that the trio could prepare and cast, it was decided that they would provide Buffy with a dual layer of protection. The necklace she currently wore would provide her with a modicum of protection, enough to if not stop, at least reduce the effects of a Dalek ray, but they knew that wouldn’t be enough, especially once things got heated.
They had absolute faith in Buffy’s abilities, but were realistic enough to realise that the odds were against her, especially once she started steering the hostages their way and was spotted. Therefore, they decided to err on the side of caution in order to keep her as safe as possible, which was why Tara was now maintaining a second protection spell, one that would actually use the Daleks weapons against them, and help to bolster the spell itself. The problem was that it took all of Tara’s concentration to maintain the spell, and she wouldn’t have enough power left to reactivate it if her concentration was broken.
Buffy moved slowly, keeping herself as inconspicuous as possible, preparing herself for what was to come. Jesse’s distraction was working like a charm, even better than she had expected; instead of the dozens of Daleks that had initially been present guarding the hostages, there was no only six or seven. Despite the sharp reduction in numbers, she was happy that Tara and the others had worked out ways to give her some protection against the Daleks, although she was going to do everything she could not to find out how effective either of those spells were.
Buffy could already feel a tingle going through her body because of the spells, something Tara had warned her about so she didn’t think anything was wrong, and realised that she must have added some sort of mild obscurement charm with the protection amulet; as she moved through the throng of people towards her first target, the people in close proximity to her seemed almost compelled to move out of the way before she actually got close enough for them to touch her.
She quickly realised that it wouldn't be quite so effective against the Daleks, and especially not from their egg whisk ray gun thingys, but then she had no intention of finding that out anyway so it wasn’t anything to worry about. She was aware of how powerful even a single Dalek could be, and wasn’t feeling in the mood to tempt fate.
While she had never faced them before, Jesse had gone over everything he knew about Daleks during their study sessions, which given who he was, was a lot. Jesse hadn’t talked about the Daleks in case they ever encountered them, more as a lesson regarding how ruthless some of the aliens they might encounter could be, but Buffy was thankful for the information nonetheless.
Once she got into position, a spot that put her in close proximity to three Daleks, Buffy took a deep cleansing breath, sent a silent 'I love you' to both Xander and Dawn, and then struck. She knew from her teachings that her best chance was while the Daleks were on the ground as they were quite slow and cumbersome, and that they were also disadvantaged by their stork, as it didn't give them a great field of vision.
Taking advantage of that, she waited until she was out of their field of vision and leapt at the first Dalek with every ounce of speed at her disposal, grabbed the Dalek’s stork and tugged with all her might. She had hoped that it would rip out, leaving the Dalek blind, but she had instead found herself lifting the Dalek into the air.
Buffy quickly changed her plan and, keeping her momentum going, swung it at the second Dalek. As the two Daleks collided, the resulting collision was enough to crack their shells. Large showers of sparks emitted from the cracks, and a moment later the pair exploded in a shower of lights and a roar of sound.
Buffy didn’t allow herself time to marvel at the sight, as she had already struck out at the third Dalek, this time using a well placed kick to snap its stork, catching it as it flew up into the air and smashed it against its ray gun, denting it so that it pointed down. Before the Dalek had the opportunity to cry out in whatever the Dalek equivalent to pain was, she sped off through the crowd to keep herself from sight, towards another group of Daleks that were now moving towards their fallen comrades.
While she would never admit it, being sleight of height was working to her advantage at the moment, as she was better able to blend into the crowd, and was able to reach her next target without being spotted. Her goal was no longer to take them on directly, as she knew the element of surprise was gone; now her intention was to confuse them enough so that they didn’t know who was attacking them.
There was a risk involved in her strategy, as she had no idea whether the Daleks would just start killing anyone and everyone to eliminate the risk, but they had discussed it and The Doctor, Jack and Xander had all agreed that if that was their intent they would have already done it. Bob – or as they believed, The Master – wanted the hostages alive, not because of any noble intention, but because without them he would not have any leverage to use against The Doctor should he gain the upper hand.
Once she was close enough, Buffy slapped the nearest Dalek on its dome, sprinting past before it had a chance to swivel round to see what had hit it. She repeated the same thing with the other two, although getting to them without being seen quickly became more difficult as the crowd began to thin slightly, Giles and Willow doing their part by shepherding them through the alcove.
Knowing that the Daleks would soon notice the drop in numbers, she now allowed herself to be seen; at least, she no longer deliberately hid herself from them. Buffy dodged and weaved her way around the Daleks, moving too fast and too erratically for them to get a lock on her. She could see that the crowd was really starting to thin now, and knew it wasn’t long before it caught the Daleks attention, so she decided to give them something else to focus on.
“Hey! Mr Wheelie Bin! Over here!” she shouted as she darted past one Dalek, slapping its stork hard enough to cause it to round a full revolution, something that did not do the Dalek much good, nor did it lighten its mood.
Its cry was repeated by its two cohorts and Buffy knew that she had definitely got their attention, especially as she began to dodge energy blasts. ==//D6\\==
‘Bob’ was watching the proceedings via a large bank of monitors along the far wall, his face showing more and more of his anger at how his plans were once more being thwarted by The Doctor, even though he wasn't entirely sure how he was doing it. The ship that was currently decimating the Dalek forces outside certainly wasn't the TARDIS, and the way in which it was dispatching them was certainly not The Doctor's usual style.
“Maybe the Time War changed him more than I thought,” he mused to himself, his hands gripping the arms of his chair tighter and tighter as he did his best to remain his cool. “It certainly gave me a new lease on life.”
The ship may well be formidable, but it was only one ship; soon it would either run out of luck or ammunition, and then the Daleks would deal with it and his plan could continue on course. Either way, it was more of a nuisance than a real threat, especially as it appeared to be taking great care to not hit the space station, although the station had still taken more than one glancing blow.
His thoughts were interrupted violently as an explosion behind him knocked him from his chair, debris flying everywhere. As he regained his footing, he turned round and saw that there was a very large hole where before stood his – supposedly – impenetrable door. As he made to move towards his desk to retrieve a weapon, he was hit in the shoulder by a beam of energy, the force of which caused him to spin and fall into an unceremonious heap on the floor.
“Darn,” a voice said, no doubt belonging to the figure that was calmly walking through the cloud of dust caused by the explosion. “I missed.”
“But you hit him,” another voice – easily recognisable as The Doctor – stated.
“I was aiming for his head,” the voice replied.
What surprised 'Bob' more than hearing The Doctor's voice was that he hadn't appeared angry or surprised that the other man had fired upon him. He had anticipated that The Doctor would make an attempt to thwart his plans – The Doctor was very predictable in that regard – but he had not anticipated that he would attempt something quite so destructive, and had therefore not planned for it.
Being fired upon was certainly not something he had expected as part of The Doctor's plan, and even though he hadn't fired it, he did know that he had agreed to it. Death was not an unknown to The Doctor he knew, but he rarely bore witness to it, preferring to have some distance between him and his latest victims.
“I would have aimed for something far more tender after the way he backhanded Rose,” A third voice – Captain Harkness no doubt – said angrily.
“There was no way I was going to sully Christine here,” the unknown voice said, lovingly stroking the weapon in his hand, “by pointing her anywhere near this guy's Johnson.”
“How did you break through my door?” The Master asked, feeling somewhat irked that he had somehow missed something. “It was designed to be impenetrable.”
“Oh, you made the *door
* impenetrable, but you forgot to do the same thing to the wall surrounding it,” Xander told him with a smirk. “Too bad, so sad.”
Angry beyond any shred of reason, at both the audacity of the three to come into his chamber and shoot him and by the flippant air about them, 'Bob' let out an unintelligible snarl and reached into his jacket pocket, and withdrew what looked like a sonic screwdriver, but red instead of blue.
As he aimed it at the figure he assumed fired upon him, he screamed in pain as his hand was vaporised from another strike from what he now recognised as a phaser. As he cradled his horrendously burned wrist and forearm, he glared angrily at the trio as they calmly walked up to him while striving to remain conscious.
“How you doing, Bob,” the man with the weapon said with a manic grin. “I hope you’re a leftie.”
“Who the hell are you!?” 'Bob' screamed, spittle flying from his mouth.
“Me?” he said, pointing at himself as though for clarification. “I'm but a humble traveller, trekking through the stars, searching for new life and new civilizations-”
“Cut that out, Xander,” Jack said with a sigh. “There's nothing humble about you, and you're neither Kirk nor Picard.”
“Take that back!” Xander said indignantly. “You're the one that will flirt with anything that moves, and even that's an understatement. And while I'm at it-”
” The Doctor shouted, causing the other two to turn to him. “We've got more important things to do.” He turned his attention to 'Bob', who was still rocking back and forth in agony in front of them. “How are you controlling the Daleks?”
“Like I'm going to tell you anything,” he snorted, grimacing in pain as he did so. He collected himself and glared at all three of them. “I will enjoy watching them exterminate everything you hold dear.”
The Doctor stared at him, his eyes feeling as though they were boring through his very skull. “Been there, done that,” he said softly, but with a tone of steel. “You of all people should want them destroyed for what they did, Master.”
“Ah, so you worked it out, did you?” The Master said with a death's head smile.
“Yeah, we know who you are; you're the guy who ran away and let the rest of his race go down in flames,” Xander replied.
“Oh no, I didn't run away; I fought in the Time War like a good little boy,” The Mater replied, his tone mocking.
“Then how can you bear to see them alive?” The Doctor asked, his tone mournful.
“But why would I want the Daleks dead?” The Master replied, his tone one of genuine surprise, touched with a heavy dose of malice. “They did what I had always wanted to do myself; destroy the biggest obstacle between me and complete control over the universe.” His eyes darkened and he suddenly moved closer to The Doctor, who didn't so much as flinch at the sudden movement. “Well, almost.”
The Master's smile returned as he saw his verbal strike at The Doctor hit home, and decided to twist the knife a little. “The Time Lords resurrected me, gave me a new set of regenerations-”
“Why would they do that for *you
*?” Xander asked, his tone indicating that he certainly wouldn't.
“They did it, boy, all in order to conscript me like some mongrel dog to fight in the Time War while they cowered in fear back on Gallefrey, planning their 'final solution'.” The Master coughed a couple of times, before a sneer appeared on his face. “The audacity of them to think I would take orders from them; that I would allow myself to be *anyone's*
servant. However, I allowed them to believe that I was towing the line, that I was behaving like a good Time Lord Lapdog should, but all the while I schemed, and I plotted to ensure that they would never be able to hold my new lease of life over me.”
“What do you mean by that?” The Doctor demanded.
“It was quite simple really,” The Master went on, as though he hadn't heard The Doctor speak. “A little nudge here, a subtle suggestion there, and there we were, the final battle of the Time War. And that is where *you
* came in, my dear Doctor, just as I knew you would. Only *you
* would see the option I had left open; only *you
* would have the conviction and determination to see it through. You didn't destroy Gallefrey and the Time Lords because you had no other choice; you did it because that was the only choice *I*
had left you.”
The Master didn't even see it coming; one moment he was smiling smugly at the ashen face of The Doctor, and the second he was fighting for breath as The Doctor's hands tightened around his throat. Only having one hand to fight back with, The Master found it impossible to remove The Doctor's iron-like grip, and turned to the other two in the room, only to see them both looking on impassively. After a few seconds, however, the one who had fired upon him sighed and closed his eyes for a moment before he stepped over and placed his hand on The Doctor's shoulder.
That one word, spoken calmly and without inflection, was all that The Doctor needed. He released his stranglehold on The Master's neck and stepped back a couple of paces, his breathing heavy and his eyes wild.
The Master was looking at Xander closely, starting to feel something he never thought he would again. “I'm going to do something I rarely do and repeat myself; who *are
Xander looked at him with an intensity that rivalled even The Doctor. “As far as I'm concerned it's none of your damn business who the hell I am, but given the circumstances I'll tell you. My name is Alexander Lavelle Harris, but while accurate, doesn't really answer the question you're asking. I am someone who will do whatever is necessary to keep those I hold dear safe. I am one of four, soon to be three. I am a Time Lord.”
“Impossible,” The Master replied instantly. “The Doctor and I are the only two left; he made sure of that. Hell, *I*
made sure of that.”
“Not any more, Master,” The Doctor informed his nemesis, not allowing him to see just how badly his words had affected him. “Both Jack and Xander are Time Lords.”
Despite his hatred for The Doctor, The Master knew that he wouldn't lie, at least not about something like this. “How can this be?”
“That doesn't matter,” Jack told him. “What does matter is stopping the Daleks, and dealing with you.”
“And what are you going to do, keep me locked up?” The Master scoffed, looking at The Doctor mockingly. “You know you can't keep me prisoner forever; I will escape and I will see to it that the entire galaxy is under my thumb.”
“Who said anything about imprisonment?” Xander asked.
The Master looked at the trio for a long moment before he laughed for a moment before shaking his head in disbelief and fixing his gaze on The Doctor. “You're going to *kill
* me? That's rich. I mean, I'd have no problem with doing that to *you
*, but I know you, Doctor; you wouldn't kill another Time Lord, it goes against everything you are. Besides, you have had many opportunities to kill me over the years, and you have never taken them.”
“I had never taken those opportunities before because unlike you, I believe in the fundamental rules of Gallefrey. To have taken your life before would have made me no better than you,” The Doctor said, and then his eyes seemed to lose focus, “and I have enough shadows on my soul as it is.”
“The Rules of Gallefrey are clear on this matter,” Xander continued, knowing that it was better that he be the lead on this.
The Doctor was too close to be able to speak calmly, and Jack didn't really understand why they didn't just kill him. Oh, he understood how sacrosanct the rules regarding the taking of another Time Lord's life were, but after the life he'd led – both before and after he'd met The Doctor – he found it difficult to see things outside of a wartime context, where the only rule was 'Don't Die'.
Of course, that was a rule that Xander also believed in wholeheartedly, but he also believed that there were some things, some ideals that took precedence over that notion, and while he wasn't certain he placed this among them, he did know that The Doctor did, and that he wouldn't be party to any other course of action.
“The Rules of Gallefrey,” The Master spat, “are as dead as the planet they were founded on.”
“Not to me,” The Doctor replied.
“Can we get this over with?” Jack asked in frustration. “We've still got those Daleks to deal with, especially as he won't tell us how he's controlling them.”
“Well, I think information like that has value,” The Master said, a sly smile on his face as he realised a way to buy him some time.
“Not to us,” Xander replied quickly and firmly. “Whether you tell us or not, your fate is sealed.”
“Why you little-”
“Talk to the hand, because yours is vaporised,” Xander said, holding his hand up in dismissal. Completely ignoring the outraged look on The Master's face, he turned to The Doctor. “I think we need to modify our plan slightly.”
“What do you mean?” he asked.
Without saying another word, he turned and fired his phaser once more at The Master, who only had time to widen his eyes in surprise and fear before being enveloped in a red light.
“What the hell do you think you're doing!?” The Doctor yelled, slapping Xander's hand down, knowing he was already too late to prevent what he’d done.
“Relax, he's not dead,” Xander assured him, pointing at the still form of The Master. “I changed the setting to maximum stun while no one was looking; I wanted him to know what it felt like to have his life taken away by someone who didn’t care.”
“What's the plan?” Jack asked, itching to get things moving, and to prevent The Doctor from berating Xander.
“If this is his control room, then there must be something here that controls the Daleks; we know that Jesse seems to have taken the majority of them out, but there might be more out there somewhere, and we need to make sure he can’t call them to him,” Xander stated. “You know him best, Doctor, so you should stay and work out what it is and how to reverse it, or even better, use it against them; even *one
* active Dalek is two too many. Jack and I will join up with Buffy and the others to help get everyone to safety in case we need to make the space station go bye-bye.”
“What about him?” Jack asked, nodding his head towards the still unconscious Master.
“The phaser overloaded his nervous system; he'll be out of it for a good hour.”
“This is The Master we’re talking about, Xander,” The Doctor snapped. “Don’t take anything for granted.”
Xander nodded, knowing that The Doctor was right, and took out the rope they had acquired on their journey to The Master’s lair to bind him securely, making sure to tie the knots extra tight and to take into account his missing hand. Whilst painful in the extreme, it would not be difficult for The Mast to have the rope slip from his stump, and even a one-handed Master was more dangerous than most two-handed enemies.
“Why not just get it over with?” Jack asked, still not entirely sure why they didn’t just kill him.
“When I was listening to him, I realised there was something we could do to him that was worse than killing him.”
“We're not letting that bastard live-” Jack began only to be cut off by Xander.
“I know that, Jack,” he stated, placating the man. “His time is up one way or another, so don’t get your panties in a bunch. I just want to make sure I pour a lot of salt into the wounds before we do.”
“I'm not going to let you torture him,” The Doctor stated, his voice firm.
“Not planning on it,” Xander assured him. “Jack and I better go; Buffy will take what I said seriously, but if the Daleks start firing into the crowd, she won't be able to stop herself from taking them on directly.”
They could both see the almost palpable fear that thought brought out in Xander, knowing that if she did go head to head with the Daleks, there would unfortunately only be one winner, and it wouldn't be her.
“Let's get moving then,” Jack said after a moment, before he turned and strode out of the room, Xander following closely behind. ==//D6\\==
“How many more do you think there are?” Dawn asked Jesse as she fired another volley of phasers at the attacking Daleks, Jesse’s excellent piloting skills ensuring that they were just out of reach of their returning fire.
The Daleks had been coming at them in swarms, sometimes from one side, sometimes from all sides at once. If they had been free to do as they wished, Jesse knew that they would have been in terrible trouble, but The Master’s influence over them ironically made it easier for them to evade serious damage, and more importantly made it easier to bring an end to one Dalek after another.
They had not eluded damage completely, it would have been impossible to do so with the amount of enemies they faced, but so far it little more than superficial. Jesse’s biggest problem was one of armament, or more specifically a *lack*
of armament; they were slowly but surely running out of ammunition. While the phasers were directly powered by his ‘heart’, the spacial charges were not, and they were nearly at critically low levels. They should have enough to finish the fight they were in, but it would be tight. If there were reinforcements…
“Not as many as we first thought,” Jesse replied, his tone actually sounding a little disappointed, even as he masked his own concerns. “If there were a full invasion force here, their ships would have joined in the battle by now, either on their own or on The Master’s orders. That means there either isn’t one or it’s simply too far away to do any good.”
“Which do you think it is?” Chelsea asked distractedly, keeping as much attention on the two monitors in front of her as she could.
It had taken a while, including than one very close call that she would gladly never experience again, but she now had somewhat of a rhythm going, and the Daleks found that getting anywhere near the back of Jesse was not conducive to a prolonged existence.
“I would say the former,” Jesse replied, “but the Daleks are like cockroaches; no matter how many you kill there are always more around.”
In reality, while he would love nothing more than to obliterate even more of the rust buckets, Jesse knew that they would have little chance of survival if reinforcements did indeed arrive. ==//D6\\==
Buffy hated to admit it, but she was slowing down. Not enough to show, at least not to a normal human, but enough to know that it was only a matter of time before she was caught by one of those ray blasts. There weren’t many people left now on the Promenade, most having escaped through the alcove, but she was determined to keep the Daleks focussed on her until they were all clear.
Some had not been so lucky to escape, and had been killed by a Dalek, either on purpose due to a few who had decided to try and help her, or because they were hit by a blast meant *for*
her. Every time another body fell lifelessly to the ground, Buffy had needed to harden her heart that little bit more, forcing herself to ignore her burgeoning emotions over the needless loss of life. She knew that if she allowed herself to lose herself to her emotions, that momentary lack of concentration would almost certainly be fatal. There would be time to grieve over those that were lost; now she simply had to concentrate on keeping the Daleks busy, and staying alive while she did so.
Her only advantages at the moment were that the Daleks hadn’t taken to the air, and that Jesse had made enough of a nuisance of himself to prevent them from getting reinforcements. Of course, the moment she thought that, Murphy decided to make himself known as the first Dalek slowly rose into the air, quickly followed by the other two. Now airborne, the Daleks were far more manoeuvrable, far faster, and far more dangerous.
A sudden sensation of heat told her that her luck had finally ran out, as she was hit by a ray blast. An up ‘til now invisible shield flickered briefly around her body, protecting her from the worst of it, but the sheer force took her off her feet and sent her slamming into a nearby bulkhead, and she cried out in pain as she felt her shoulder pop out of place.
Across the room, Tara also screamed in pain as the ray blast struck, battering her mental defences and destroying her concentration. They had all underestimated the power behind the Daleks’ blasters; the sheer power of it overwhelmed the spell, although not so fast that it could do lasting damage to Buffy. The secondary spell dropped, and so did Tara; her eyes rolled up into the back of her head and she slumped to the floor unconscious.
“Tara!” Willow screamed, rushing over to the lover to check that she was still alive, her hands shaking as she reached out and checked her pulse. She sagged with relief when she found one; it was slow but it was there.
Giles wanted to check on Tara as well, but knew that he had to keep guard and to get the last few people through the hole and to relative safety. He also knew that without that secondary level of protection, Buffy wouldn’t survive another hit.
Buffy continued running, ignoring the screaming pain in her shoulder as best she could and using whatever cover was available to keep her out of the firing line, but she knew that it was only seconds before one of the Daleks got her with another shot. Her only hope now was for her to get to the alcove, but that was a lot of open space to cross even when she was 100%; with her energy flagging and her shoulder injured, she knew it was a slim hope at best.
“Buffy! Down!” a voice shouted, and Buffy didn’t even have to think about it, she just dropped to the ground and made herself as small as possible even as her momentum had her rolling along the ground.
The unmistakable sound of phaser fire sounded in her ears, followed by the death screams of three Daleks. After a moment of blissful silence, Buffy struggled to her feet and looked round; the three Daleks were now nothing more than smoke and wires and Xander was running over to her, his eyes full of concern. Knowing that the immediate danger was passed and that she was safe, Buffy finally succumbed to the emotional and physical toll and passed out. ==//D6\\==
“That’s the last of them,” Jesse informed Dawn and Chelsea as they watched the final Dalek die in an explosion of colour.
“Are you sure?” Chelsea asked.
“As sure as I can get with them,” Jesse replied with a little distaste in his voice. “I have run a deep scan of the surrounding system, and there is no sign of any Daleks anywhere.”
“That’s good though, right?” Dawn asked.
“Yes; once The Doctor has worked out how The Master was controlling the ones here, we should be able to use it to double check what my sensors have indicated.”
“They may just be further out than your sensors can detect,” Down pointed out, remembering what Jesse had said earlier.
“Yes, but at this present mome-“
“Jesse,” Xander’s voice broke in, “I need you to transport Buffy and Tara to the sickbay, ASAP.”
“What’s wrong?” Dawn and Chelsea asked immediately.
“Nothing that a few hours sleep and Jesse’s tender mercies can’t fix,” Xander assured them. “However, I don’t want them on the station any longer than necessary; we still have The Master to deal with.”
“I’ll transport them immediately,” Jesse said. “I take it that Willow will be accompanying Tara?” he asked/stated as his scans indicated that if Willow were any closer to her girlfriend they would begin to merge into one being.
“I’d say that was a big yes,” Xander said with a small fond smile in his voice. “Also, do you remember when we were talking about regenerations?”
Jesse would have lifted one eyebrow up at that remark had he any. “Why do you ask?” he replied, a little warily.
Regeneration was one of the few things that they hadn’t gone into great detail with Buffy and Dawn. In the beginning it was mainly because for whatever reason it did not apply to Xander, or at least not in the same manner, and upon his request it had rarely if ever been mentioned in front of them. However, they had talked in great detail about them in private, as Xander wanted to try and understand why both he and Jack didn’t regenerate in the way The Doctor did, and also to find out if he had the same limit The Doctor had. Since his arrival on Eve he’d ‘died’ four times; if he was limited to thirteen regenerations like The Doctor, it meant that he had nine left, if he started with a full set in the first place, and wanted to find out how to know for sure.
During their research, Xander and Jesse believed they’d discovered the reason why he and Jack differed from The Doctor, but they’d also learned a lot about regenerations, including methods of transferring them from one Time Lord to another, and even how to attain new ones. The biggest problem they’d found with all but one method was that they required technology that was only ever found on Gallefrey, for fear of it ever falling into the wrong hands. Jesse knew that it was the one that didn’t require specialised Time Lord Technology that Xander was currently interested in, one that before today he had sworn never to use. The method was a relatively simple one, but it required one thing that was at the time unacceptable in Xander’s opinion; a sacrifice. The method allowed you to transfer the regenerations from one Time Lord to another, but there was no way to stop the process once it had begun, so it resulted in the death of the donor.
The rite – it wasn’t particularly religious or mystical, but it was the closest thing they’d found to an actual ritual – had been banned from use and eventually forgotten, but it was still in Jesse’s database. Even while they had discussed ways in which the rite could be modified, the thought of ever actually using it had never entered Xander’s mind for two simple reasons; he would be condemning someone to death if he attempted to use it, and even more damning, he was very good friends with the only two people it would have any chance of working with.
Then, Jesse realised suddenly, along came The Master.
“The Master was given a full set in return for helping out in the Time War,” Xander told him, confirming Jesse’s own thoughts on the matter. “I think they can be put to better use by someone else.” ==//D6\\==
The moment Jack stepped inside Eve, Rose had jumped him, a move so sudden it caused him to get knocked back a couple of steps, and then she’d kissed him hard on the mouth, a kiss that was definitely not platonic, which left the normally cool-headed man feeling more than a little flustered.
“I’m so glad you’re alright,” Rose said softly, still clinging to him slightly, needing to feel connected to him.
Jack was surprised by Rose’s response, not because he didn’t know she cared for him, but because she was simply more emotionally grounded than this. Of course, normally Rose was right there with them in the thick of things, so she was always able to see that they were fine; being kept out of the loop, as necessary as it was, must have been incredibly difficult for her.
“Hey, a few Daleks and a rogue Time Lord aren’t enough to put me down for the count,” he assured her with a smile, one that Rose was not ashamed to say made her stomach flip and other parts tingle.
She was The Doctor’s, and The Doctor was hers; it was a statement of fact as undeniable as ‘water is wet’. However, she also knew that a piece of her was Jack’s, and while he wouldn’t admit it, a part of The Doctor was Jack’s as well. That they both also had a piece of Jack in return was also a given, but none of them had been able to find the courage to broach the subject.
Maybe it was time for that to change.
“It better not, otherwise I’ll be looking Eve in the eye again,” Rose stated seriously as she finally released him and took a step back, her tone enough to cause Jack to shiver.
“Rose, we haven’t talked about this before, but I want you to swear to me that you will never try and do that again,” Jack asked her, his tone almost verging on pleading.
“Don’t ask me to do that, Jack; I can’t,” Rose said softly, her eyes glistening slightly.
“You have to; the only reason you survived last time is because The Doctor was there to take the power from you. If he hadn’t been there, you would have burned out, literally. Even then, it cost The Doctor a regeneration,” he explained, hating that his words were causing Rose to cry silent tears as he forced her to remember the events that still caused her to have the occasional nightmare. #Captain Harkness is correct, Rose,#
Eve stated. #We have no idea whether you would survive a second exposure to my core, even if it was siphoned away like last time. There is a reason The Doctor insists on you going through those weekly physicals you moan about, beyond being able to put his hands on you on a regular basis of course,#
she added with a sly smile in her voice, her comment enough to make Jack laugh out loud and for Rose to blush.
Looking into Jack’s eyes, Rose knew that she could only answer one way. “I promise,” she whispered haltingly.
Jack took her back into his arms and placed a soft lingering kiss into her hair. “Thank you.”
“So, where are the others?” Rose asked after a moment to gather herself.
“The Doctor is still working on how The Master was controlling the Daleks, Xander is with Giles trying to calm the hostages down while keeping an eye out for anything else The Master might have had planned, Buffy and Tara are with Jesse getting themselves fixed up-”
“Are they alright?” Rose asked, concerned.
“Nothing that Jesse can’t sort out licketysplick,” Jack assured her. “They’ll be up and about in no time. Now then, Xander asked me to grab the metaphasic harmonisor The Doctor’s been using as a paperweight, as he has an idea as to a fitting punishment for The Master.” #Any idea what that might be?#
Eve asked, her mind awhirl with possibilities regarding the implement’s use.
“No, he said he wanted it to be a surprise,” Jack replied, resisting the urge to pout. “From the gleam he had in his eye, I’m sure it will cause The Master a whole lot of pain.” #Good,#
Eve stated firmly.
“Is it?” Rose asked. “I mean, isn’t that stooping to The Master’s level?”
“I don’t think he meant a physical pain, although as we’re going to kill him that can’t be totally avoided,” Jack replied. “No, I think that Xander’s devised something that will hurt The Master on a far more personal level than the physical.” #As long as whatever it is guarantees that this will be the last we ever see of The Master, I don’t particularly care what it does,#
Eve said strongly, herself enraged over The Master’s part to play in the demise of the Time Lords and Gallefrey.
She knew the toll that The Doctor’s decision had wrought on him, the effects quite clear even now after two regenerations, and to know that he had been manipulated into it by The Master of all people was abhorrent to her, and she would happily see The Master damned to Hell if she believed such a place existed. ==//D6\\==
Giles was currently sitting in the common room of Jesse, with Chelsea and Dawn sat either side of him with their heads resting on his shoulders, both in a state of peaceful slumber despite the awkward position they were in.
A few years ago, he would have felt very uncomfortable with his current situation, and would have moved away from the pair to maintain a sense of propriety that would have put him at odds with the rest of the group, but now he knew that both young ladies required the physical contact as a form of reassurance, and he wasn’t about to begrudge either of them that.
Giles wasn’t a particularly social animal, although his exposure to Buffy and the others these past few years had changed that a little, so having to deal with a crowd of distraught strangers made him feel out of his depth. He had therefore requested that he be allowed onboard Jesse so that he might check on Chelsea, as well as Dawn, Buffy and Tara. Xander had been fine with that, going so far as to state that unless either he or Jesse were to tell him otherwise he could come and go as he pleased, and had then moved off to do what he could to calm the crowd down.
“I just want to inform you, Mr. Giles, that Chelsea performed admirably during the crisis, showing an ability to adapt that will see her well in her future endeavours,” Jesse said quietly to Giles, mindful of the two sleeping teenagers.
“Thank you, um, Jesse, I’m sure that she did,” Giles replied. “And please, just call me Giles, everyone does.”
“Very well, Giles. I’m sure that you will also be pleased to hear that both Buffy and Dawn have continued their education while they’ve been with me, and traversing through the time stream has opened their minds in ways they hadn’t imagined.”
“What do you mean by that?” Giles asked, a little worried by Jesse’s phrasing.
“Anyone that travels through time for prolonged periods is affected by it,” Jesse explained. “Their minds begin to grasp concepts that they might have otherwise found incomprehensible, and they’re able to accept things that ‘normal’ people would think unbelievable.”
“The same could be said for living atop a Hellmouth,” Giles said.
“I agree; that they have both had contact with the supernatural, especially over a dimensional nexus like a Hellmouth, only helped to accelerate the process, as they were already capable of seeing beyond what a layperson would or could comprehend. They were both already intelligent, although it would be fair to say that Buffy had not exactly applied herself during her school years, but now their intellects have the potential to be far above what they would have been.”
“Are there any adverse affects?” Giles asked.
“That would depend upon your viewpoint,” Jesse replied. “After someone is changed like that, after they have experienced the wonders of space and time, it is often difficult for them to return to what most would consider a ‘normal’ life. More often than not, they would no longer be able to ignore the supernatural or the paranormal like others, and would find themselves seeking them out to regain the feelings they had before.”
“That doesn’t sound conducive to a living a long life,” Giles commented.
“I don’t mean to say that they feel compelled to *combat*
it, only that they seek it out. Many become explorers of some note; others become journalists or writers, others directors or producers. They each find ways to get closer to what they had experienced, even if it means fabricating it themselves. In the case of Buffy and Dawn, they would not feel the same longing, as to them a normal life is fighting vampires and other demons.”
“I have already spoken to both of them about this, and have explained what it means for them,” Jesse continued, having noted the look on Giles’s face and the tone of his voice. “They have both stated they see it as a good thing; it allows them to better understand the world that Xander is now a part of.”
“Is this why Xander is now a Time Lord?” Giles enquired.
“No, that is due to something else, but that is a story for Xander to tell. Given Buffy’s relationship with him, you have to realise that she will more than likely remain with him regardless of the situation with Glory. Even if that weren’t the case, I’m sure that you will all journey with Xander from time to time,” Jesse stated, a touch of humour in his voice.
Jesse’s comment had brought Giles up short, as it wasn’t something he had actually taken time to consider. The reason that Buffy and Dawn were travelling with Xander was to ensure Dawn’s safety from Glory; he had always assumed that once Glory had been dealt with, that they would naturally be returning to Sunnydale. He now realised that may well not be the case.
While he had never commented on it, knowing that his input would not be valued, Giles had been aware of Buffy’s growing feelings towards Xander during the period they believed him to be dead. He’d also been aware of Xander’s feelings towards her, although a blind and deaf man who lived at the peak of Everest would have been aware of Xander’s feelings, and had early on surmised that it had been those feelings that the Ytin’e’res demon had used to keep him docile.
It was for that reason that he had not been as persistent as the others in trying to keep Xander with the group when he had started to become distant, knowing that his proximity to Buffy must have been torturous for him. That he kept in touch as much as he had proved how loyal and devoted he was to his friends, and Giles’ respect for him had grown immensely.
He, like the others, had been overjoyed when they’d discovered that Xander was still alive, and his initial coldness towards him had been extremely difficult to maintain, wanting to believe what his heart had told him instead of his head. He was even happier to discover that for whatever reason the pain he’d experienced whilst in Buffy’s presence had, if not gone, had at least waned to such an extent that he could ignore it.
Once it had been decided that Buffy and Dawn would accompany Xander in his travels through space and time, it wasn’t difficult for Giles to deduce that their relationship might very well develop beyond friendship; he just hadn’t fully realised the ramifications of that change.
“Quite,” Giles said eventually, his tone soft and slightly distracted as he was still thinking over his recent realisation.
“You need not worry about them no longer being in your life, Giles,” Jesse said, having noticed the man’s reaction to his previous comment. “Need I remind you that I am, above all else, a time machine? They could be away from you for months, *years*
even, and yet make it seem from your point of view that no more than a moment had passed. Also, do not forget that the only reason we haven’t visited you before is because of the threat that Glory currently poses to Dawn; once that situation has been dealt with, I have no doubt that they will be recurring visitors to your home.”
“You’re right, of course,” Giles agreed, “it’s just that I’d been living under the impression that this would be a temporary measure, and that both Buffy and Dawn would return home, return to us. I just have to accept that is no longer the case, for either of them.”
“Lub you Giles,” Dawn muttered sleepily, snuggling a little closer to him.
Giles blinked rapidly, bemoaning the fact that he was unable to wipe his eyes as his arms were pinned, and then bent his head so that he could place a fatherly kiss on the crown of Dawn’s hair.
“And I you, dear girl,” Giles said softly.
“She’s not the only one,” Buffy said as she entered the room, having heard Dawn’s sleepy endearment.
“The feeling is mutual, I assure you,” Giles stated softly but firmly, receiving a beaming smile from the young woman. “Should you be up and about so soon?”
“Probably not, but I’m too wired to stay in bed, and I was kinda feeling like a fifth wheel in there with Will and Tara,” she replied as she sat down opposite Giles and the girls. “So, she’s the latest to be given the ‘honour’ of being Chosen, huh?” she went on as she nodded towards Chelsea.
She hadn’t been formally introduced to Chelsea before, what with catching up with Willow and then having to deal with the Daleks, but she could see that Giles held genuine affection for her.
“Yes,” Giles replied. “As I stated before, Chelsea has been a joy to work with, and I’m especially glad that I was assigned as her Watcher. I would have been upset for anyone who had been Called to be assigned to a Watcher in the vein of Travers, but I have been friends with her father since I was a boy, and have known her all of her life.”
“She couldn’t get anyone better,” Buffy stated sincerely. “I’m just sorry that someone else you care about has been roped in to our crazy existence.”
“As am I, but we have little choice but to play the hand we are dealt I’m afraid.”
“It’s just a shame that Slayers always have Aces and Eights,” Buffy said wryly. “So, while we’re waiting, how far have you got regarding Glory?”
“Are you *sure
* this will work?” Jack asked as he continued to watch Xander fiddling with the metaphasic harmonisor he’d given him a few minutes ago, trying to fit it into place, completing the device he’d been working on for the past hour.
Xander rolled his eyes, sighed, but continued working. “Yes, Jack, I’m sure this will work, and if you ask me that one more time, I might find myself needing to use this *twice
Jack backed away, his hands in the air, knowing from the tone in Xander’s voice that he was only half joking. He knew that Xander wouldn’t really use the device on him, but that didn’t mean he wouldn’t snap if he continued to pester him.
Jack had managed, after some finagling, to get out of Xander just what his device was intended for, and was personally all for it. However, he couldn’t help but be worried about any side-effects this ‘ritual’ may cause, especially given the people involved. That didn’t mean, however, that he didn’t have confidence in Xander’s abilities, but it was difficult to maintain his normal aloof exterior in the face of what might happen.
“Alright, I know that you’ll do everything fine,” he said eventually, wanting to ensure that Xander knew he had confidence in him, “but I have to wonder why you were looking up things like this in the first place.”
“Well, to start with I wasn’t.”
“Jack, this’ll go a lot easier if you let me talk without interrupting,” Xander replied, sending an unfettered glare Jack’s way.
Jack resisted the urge to take a step back, as a sudden fear overtook him. It was a bit ironic that the last time he’d felt fear like that was the last time he’d found himself on a space station dealing with Daleks. He trusted Xander with his life, and knew that he wasn’t in any real danger from him, but that look he had just given him... “I’m sorry.”
Xander was a little surprised to hear Jack say that, as he wasn’t someone to apologise. That wasn’t to say that he didn’t show regret, but for whatever reason the words ‘I’m sorry’ were particularly difficult for him to say. “Apology accepted,” he replied.
After taking a moment to adjust a dial, the light next to it going from green to blue, Xander continued with his explanation. “Anyway, it all began when I began to look into Time Lord History. You and I are both Time Lords, it’s been checked and double checked as you well remember,” Xander replied, and they both shared a long suffering look as they remembered the myriad of tests The Doctor had insisted on performing to check that they were, indeed, Time Lords, “but we don’t react to death in the same way that The Doctor does. I found that strange, as while the circumstances around our induction into the ‘hearts numbering two’ club were different, the source was pretty much the same, so I began to research the specifics around how regeneration works, and to see if there had been any others that had reacted the same as us.”
“Did you find anything?” Jack asked, suddenly more interested in the subject than a few minutes ago.
While he hadn’t given it a great deal of thought, it would be nice to know a little more about what he was. He knew he was a Time Lord, and was beginning to understand the responsibilities that came with it, but to have a better idea why he, and Xander, differed from The Doctor would allow him to feel more connected.
“Not when I was doing the research on Eve, but Jesse has historical archives that Eve doesn’t. I was going to bring it up with you and The Doctor after we had Christmas out of the way, but I can go into the basics with you now.” Xander replied as he finished connecting the final cables in pace, then going over everything again to ensure he hadn’t made any mistakes or miscalculations.
“At the very beginning of their, our existence, there were no Time Lords, only Gallefreyans. They were like you and me; they would ‘die’ only to come back to life a short while later,” he went on turning to face Jack. “As I’m sure you can imagine, that caused something of a population problem. I mean, there were deaths, but the circumstances behind them were pretty extreme, like ground-zero-at-Hiroshima extreme.
“When it became apparent that the population growth wasn’t going to balance out or slow down, they put in place rules to minimise the rate of growth, a lot like the rules in China in the 20th Century regarding only having one child per family, but it did little more than keep the increase at a steady rate. No matter what they tried, and they tried some pretty extreme things, it didn’t solve the underlying problem, and it didn’t take long before things started to reach a critical point.
“Luckily, they had long worked out they wouldn’t fully solve the problem in time, which is why they had suddenly began to focus so much on ways to travel away from Gallefrey, in order to colonise other worlds in to help further lessen the burden on resources.”
“Sounds a lot like Earth,” Jack noted.
“Yeah, only unlike on Gallefrey, humans used up all their resources because they *could*
, not because they had no other option.”
“Harsh, but fair,” Jack admitted.
“Yeah. Anyway, it wasn’t long before ships started moving out into the universe, although the ships were nothing like Jesse or Eve. The problem came when they began to colonise other worlds; it seemed that they didn’t think they needed to consult the indigenous species on the planets about taking up residence.”
Jack winced. “Yeah. I take it that wasn’t a good idea?”
“You could put it that way,” Xander replied with a grimace of his own. “Their expansion didn’t meet with approval from some of the other races, especially when it was seen by a few as an invasion force, and things got steadily worse until they got themselves into a ‘little’ war with their biggest detractor, the Sidiens, who didn’t like the thought of another race stretching its interstellar legs and horning in on their action. The war went on for some time, and by some time I’m talking centuries, but back then our Gallefreyan forefathers were a little more gung ho about that sort of thing and were slowly but surely making a good show of wiping the Sidiens out of existence.
“When it was clear that they were going to lose, and become extinct in the process, the Sidiens used the final battle as one big Trojan horse and infected us with a virus designed to wipe us all out as well, sort of the ultimate ‘up yours’.”
“Well, given that we’re still kicking, I’m guessing that the virus didn’t work,” Jack said.
“Actually it did, just not in the way they had planned,” Xander replied. “The virus spread like wildfire through the entire race, and only activated when there wasn’t anyone left to infect. As I said, the virus did work, and they did all die, but like every time before they just didn’t stay dead. However, it seemed that the virus had mutated the section in their DNA related to their immortality, and instead of just coming back to life, every Gallefreyan experienced their first regeneration, all at the same time.”
“Ugh,” Jack said, grimacing. He didn’t have to be a genius to work out what happened next.
“Yeah,” Xander replied. “It was chaos; imagine an entire planet waking up only to find a different face staring back at them in the mirror. You also know that with each regeneration a Gallefreyan goes through they often adopt a different personality, so suddenly you had married couples who not only didn’t recognise each other, but when they got past *that
*, found that they didn’t have anything in common anymore. A lot, and I do mean a *lot
* of infighting occurred over the next few thousand years or so, which not only solved the overpopulation problem, but eventually led to the Time Lord society that we know of.”
“So you’re saying that we have the original strain of DNA, the one before the virus?”
“That’s the best theory that Jesse and I could come up with; The Doctor didn’t find any differences between his DNA and ours, so it’s not as though I can prove it, but it all fits.” Xander turned back to the device and swept his sonic screwdriver over everything one more time and smiled at the results. “There! All done.”
“So what now?” Jack asked, walking up to stand beside Xander so he could get a closer look at the device.
“We hook The Master here,” Xander replied, indicating the alcove to the left, “The Doctor here,” indicating the alcove to the right, “and flick this switch here,” he finished, indicating the large orange switch that sat between the two alcoves.
“That’s it?” Jack said in surprise. “I thought you said that this was a ritual?”
“It is; a Time Lord ritual created during the infighting. The ritual doesn’t have anything to do with chanting, or stinky herbs, or going skyclad-”
“Mores the pity,” Jack stated with a leer, making a point to give Xander the once over and wink.
“It was about creating the machine required for the transference from scratch and then disassembling it afterwards,” Xander continued, studiously ignoring the come on.
“That doesn’t sound very convenient,” Jack commented.
“It wasn’t meant to be,” Xander replied. “They believed, quite rightly in my view, that the temptation to use it would be too great if they left one fully assembled at all times. Of course, the construction also gave them the opportunity to think over whether it was really necessary to use it, with the knowledge that they couldn’t say it was done by accident if it was later proved unnecessary. They made similar ones later on, ones that didn’t have the same lasting consequences, but this original model was always dismantled after use.”
“Seems like an awful lot of trouble to me,” Jack said, shaking his head slightly.
“The taking of life should never be easy, Jack,” Xander replied sombrely. “It might at times be necessary, but *never
* easy.” ==//D6\\==
“Why is he gagged?” The Doctor asked as Buffy and Chelsea dragged a violently struggling Master into the room.
Xander had asked that everyone gather in Jesse’s cargo bay a few minutes ago, and after having explained in very broad terms what was going to happen, The Doctor had agreed. When they had arrived they could see that everything had been moved to the edge of the room and that a large mechanical device, that looked similar in design to the main console within Eve. The Doctor had been quick to look around it, trying to see what it did, only to be chased away by a smiling Xander, knowing The Doctor’s never ending curiosity, and was shown along with the rest of the group to a bank of seats some ten feet away.
,” Chelsea said with a slight pout, “I was quite happy to just hit him.”
why I gagged him,” Buffy stated, her tone giving some indication that this wasn’t the first time she’d said so. At The Doctor’s enquiring look, she went on. “’Bob’ here,” she continued, having refused to call him Master for several reasons, the biggest one being that the last Master she’d dealt had killed her, “wouldn’t shut up, and was trying, and succeeding I might add, in getting Chelsea so riled up that she’d snap and hit him, and I think we both know such a blow would have killed him.”
The Doctor looked at the rather smug look in The Master’s eyes, and nodded slowly. “Ah.”
“Again with the ‘Ah.’!” Chelsea exclaimed, gesticulating with her free hand. “What’s the bloody *problem*
here? We’re going to kill him anyway, he isn’t human so I won’t go all gaga from it, so why in the hell am I not allowed to just slay him?” she complained, trying but failing to keep herself from whining.
“Chelsea, mind your language,” Giles admonished her, only to receive a raspberry in response.
“Chelsea, Time Lords do not die they way most other species do,” The Doctor explained, having realised that no one had educated the younger Slayer about his kind. He wasn’t sure whether to be miffed that they didn’t talk about him, or happy to know they could be trusted with the information.
After a moment’s pause he found himself leaning towards the latter, and decided to give an explanation. “With a few notable exceptions, when we die we have the capability to regenerate. Doing so produces an extreme amount of energy that is volatile and mostly outside of our control, and it is therefore very dangerous to be close by when that happens, something that The Master is well aware of. He had most likely realised you were a Slayer and was no doubt hoping to make you angry enough to hit him without holding back, which you know would have killed him. That would have triggered his regeneration, and the excess energy would have most likely killed both yourself and Buffy in the process. Once the regeneration was completed, a completely healed Master would have then attempted to escape.”
Chelsea looked more than a little startled at that revelation, and was reminded of more than one occasion of Giles lecturing her about not always thinking through her actions. “Oh.”
“Alright,” Xander called out, interrupting whatever else was going to be said, “I think it’s time we got this show on the road. Buffy, could you and Chelsea bring The Master up here, please?”
Buffy and Chelsea dragged a still struggling Master up to the odd-looking contraption, and with every step The Master’s struggles increased in ferocity, futilely trying to wrench himself free from the Slayers’ grip.
While The Master was not entirely certain what the machine he was being dragged towards was for, he had a growing suspicion that being strapped into it was going to be the last thing that ever happened to him, and he wasn’t about to give up without a fight, even a futile one.
He knew that, were it not for the mysterious new addition to their race, he would have had The Doctor on his knees prostrate in front of him by now, and with his only worthy adversary having realised the futility of facing an obviously superior intellect, his conquest to become ruler of the cosmos would have begun in earnest.
Now, instead of having the universe in the palm of his hand, he was mere moments away from once again having his regenerations stripped from him, and no matter what he tried he could see no way to prevent such an unfair, such an unworthy end from taking place.
“Doctor, if you could seat yourself there,” Xander said, indicating the seat built into the machine on the right-hand side, “and Buffy, if you and Chelsea could strap The Master in there,” he went on, indicating the seat the other side of the machine. Once both were in place, Xander turned his attention to Jack. “Jack, given that you missed out on most of the Dalek killing, I thought you’d appreciate being the one to flip the switch.”
“It would be my pleasure,” Jack replied with a gleam in his eye that would have been disconcerting under other circumstances, and stepped up to stand beside Xander in front of the switch.
“You still haven’t explained to me just what exactly this machine is going to do,” The Doctor commented, his tone a little put out.
He did, of course, have a few ideas as to what the device was for, but Xander had built it in such a way that it was very difficult to make out what its functions were just by looking at it. He’d also been annoyed to find that he was unable to use his sonic screwdriver to figure it out, as Xander had included a dampening field as part of its construction, no doubt with the express purpose of keeping him in the dark, although more likely to ensure that The Master couldn’t pull any last minute escape plans.
“Why have it explained to you, when you can just experience it?” Xander replied with a smile, knowing that it was a lot easier to ask for forgiveness than it is permission, and then nodded to Jack who flicked the switch before anything else could be said.
There was a sudden flash of light that momentarily blinded everyone but Xander, and when their vision returned that could see The Master violently straining against his bonds, his screams of either anger or pain muffled by his gag as his body began to be enveloped in regenerative energy. After a few moments the energy began to expand away from his body in all directions until it was brought to a halt as it came in contact with some kind of purple energy barrier, no doubt designed for that very purpose.
Slowly, the energy began to completely fill the containment unit, while at the same time The Master’s body began to fade away, only to be replaced by what looked to be a blue iridescent gas. Once The Master’s body had completely vanished, the gas began to condense and solidify until, with another flash of this time cobalt light, it transformed into a blue crystalline sphere, floating in the absolute middle of the containment unit, approximately the size of a softball.
The energy seemed to become more volatile, and the energy barrier containing it started to glow brighter and brighter, to the point that all but Xander began to step away for fear of the energy breaking through. However, just as it seemed as though the containment unit was about to breach, a metallic tube appeared out of the side of the device and sucked the energy inside, and the cerulean ball dropped into the now unoccupied chair.
A few moments of silence passed, and then The Doctor cleared his throat, clearly looking a little discomforted by what he had just borne witness to. “Xander, what’s supposed to-”
That was as far as he got as he was suddenly slammed into the back of his seat by a powerful stream of regenerative energy. It was clear to see that he was trying gamely not to scream out in pain, and it was no doubt only his faith in Xander that prevented him from calling for help. Even as he vainly tried to move against the beam pinning him in place, his own body showed signs of becoming saturated in it. His skin began to glow with energy; not the way The Master had done, but in a way that showed that he was almost being overloaded by the energy surging its way inside him.
Rose leapt from her seat and took several hurried steps towards him as he grunted from the strain, and was only prevented from getting closer by Xander, who managed to grab hold of her arm before she passed.
“He’s going to be fine, Rose,” Xander assured her, even as he tightened his grip on her slightly as she tried to tug free. “It won’t be much longer, I promise.”
It was the promise that stopped Rose from continuing to wriggle free of his grip, knowing that Xander took such things very seriously, and once Xander let her go she span round and pinned him with a glare that came straight out of her mother’s repertoire. “It better not,” she said shortly, her tone and stance indicating far better than words what the consequences were if he was wrong.
Luckily for Xander, his promise was kept a moment later as the energy suddenly shut off, and The Doctor slumped down into his seat. Rose and Jack were by his side in the space of a heartbeat, and helped to steady him as he attempted to stand. After he had gathered himself, he indicated he was fine, and once they released him stalked over to Xander and stood barely an inch away.
“What the hell was that?” he demanded, almost vibrating with anger.
He had known that the machine would permanently end The Master’s life, and he’d had an inkling that Xander had discovered some way of making it benefit him in the process, but he was less than pleased with the way things had happened, and was especially upset by the way The Master had been turned into what amounted to a fancy paperweight. There was no way he would have agreed to it had he known, and it only angered him more to realise that was exactly the reason he hadn’t been told.
Xander remained calm in the face of The Doctor’s ire, having known that he would react something like that, even if such a thing would be considered out of character by those who thought they knew him. Just because he had expected it, however, didn’t mean that he was not affected or intimidated by it; he was just able to hide it well enough not to show, having had a lot of experience in hiding what he really felt.
Instead of answering the question, knowing that The Doctor was not exactly in a receptive mood to hear it, he simply stood there with an eyebrow raised, silently requesting that The Doctor step back. If he were the one to move, The Doctor would only keep at him, taking the move as a refusal to answer, so his only option was to remain calm and wait for The Doctor to calm himself down.
After a tense moment, where no one dare make a sound, The Doctor sighed and took two steps back, his demeanour returning to his more natural state. “What was that?” he asked again, this time out of curiosity instead of anger.
“That was, in essence, my Christmas gift to you,” Xander replied. He held up a hand when he saw the flash in The Doctor’s eyes. “You know full well I didn’t mean The Master’s death, and you’ll do well not to insult me like that.”
The Doctor did know better than that, and felt ashamed that his thoughts had taken that route, but also felt impressed that Xander would so openly call him on it. During their travels before he went off with Jesse, Xander had not exactly been an assertive person, which The Doctor had mistaken to his chagrin as a lack of intelligence. Their adventure on Pylea had dispelled him of that notion, but he had then begun to worry that Xander’s lack of confidence would impede him in the future, especially once he’d left on his own adventures with Buffy and Dawn. The Doctor had more than enough confidence that Xander would be able to overcome whatever obstacles he might face; his worry came from the fact that Xander didn’t seem to have the same confidence in himself. He was happy to see that his worries were unfounded.
“You’re right, I’m sorry,” The Doctor said eventually.
“Apology accepted,” Xander replied. “The machine is something I’d found in Jesse’s archives regarding the civil war that occurred on Gallefrey just before the true beginning of the Time Lords. It was used as a means of capital punishment, and at the same time used as a means of healing those that had either ran out of regenerations, or had been injured so badly that a normal regeneration would not be sufficient. They had also discovered that it could be used to replenish a healthy person’s regenerations, something that was very useful in wartime.”
“So I now have a full set of regenerations again,” The Doctor asked, not entirely sure whether he should be happy or sad about that. Of course, that he had regenerated nine times already before he’d even reached his first millennia meant that statistically speaking his time was short, no pun intended, but with what he had seen and experienced he did at times find himself wondering whether he wouldn’t be better off without them altogether.
“Not exactly,” Xander replied.
“What do you mean, ‘not exactly’?” Jack asked, entering the conversation. Xander had explained to him that the machine would restore The Doctor back to the way he should have been, so was confused by the somewhat contradictory statement.
The Doctor and Xander looked round and noticed for the first time that they had been loosely surrounded by the others, who all had differing levels of interest in what was being said.
“What I mean is that under normal circumstances there would have been a direct transference of regenerative energy, which would have indeed replenished your regenerations back to twelve-“
“Wait, twelve? I thought it was thirteen,” Rose asked in confusion.
“Thirteen lives, only twelve regenerations,” Xander replied before returning his attention to The Doctor. “I’ve already explained a lot of the back-story to Jack, and I know Jesse is going to give Eve a copy of all the relevant information, but as a species we didn’t always have regenerations; in the beginning Gallefreyans were just like myself and Jack. A war with another race ended with them being infected with what they believed to be a virus that changed them to having twelve regenerations. Personally, I think mysticism must have had a part to play, as that would explain why they never figured out how the virus had affected them, and why you couldn’t see any difference in mine or Jack’s genetic structure when compared to yours.”
“Alright, but that still doesn’t explain just what you did to me,” The Doctor pointed out.
“Basically, instead of you getting a steady stream of regenerative energy, and therefore a full set of regenerations, I adjusted the machine to instead hold the energy back and then force it into you in one go. I also added a special filtration system for the energy to go through; my DNA.”
The Doctor and Jacks eyes both widened as they realised the possible implications. “You mean-”
“There’s a very good chance that you’ll react the same as either Jack or myself the next time you get yourself killed,” Xander said with a small smile. “At the very least, you’re back to a full complement of regenerations. Unfortunately, you know as well as I do that the only way we’ll know for certain is for you to die, and I don’t think we need to know that badly.”
Rose took one look at the expression on The Doctor’s face and poked him hard in the chest. “Don’t you even *think*
about it, understand?” she said forcefully.
“Yes, dear,” The Doctor replied automatically, causing both of them to flush with embarrassment.
“Um, I might not know a lot about what you just said, in fact I know nothing about what you just said,” Chelsea began tentatively, “but why wouldn’t you want The Doctor to test it out, especially as he now has more regenerations than he did before?”
“When Xander or I ‘die’, we just come back to life. When The Doctor regenerates, his appearance, his personality, in some cases even his gender will change,” Jack explained.
“I was with him when he went through his last regeneration,” Rose said softly, and while she was speaking to Chelsea, her gaze never wavered from The Doctor. “It took me a long time to come to terms with the fact that, while he is still The Doctor, he wasn’t the same Doctor I had travelled with all those months. That’s not something that I want to go through again unless there’s no other option.”
“Okay, enough of this maudlin crap; I say it’s turkey time,” Xander said after a moment, clapping his hands together to bring everyone out of their thoughts.
“I thought that was Thanksgiving?” Dawn asked.
“Only for you Colonials,” Giles replied, sharing a grin with Rose and Chelsea as they all made their way out of the cargo bay towards the mess hall next door.
While there was still something of a generation gap, it was nice for the Watcher to be around fellow Brits again, even if one was in accent only. ==//D6\\==
The cargo bay was dark and practically silent, with only the slight murmurings from the party next door of any note. The device used to end The Master’s life, and hopefully prolong The Doctor’s for a long time to come, was now in pieces waiting to be stored away. The only light in the bay came from a small blue globe, that gently pulsed with an otherworldly light; all that remained of one of the most diabolical Time Lords to have ever lived.
Within the gloom there suddenly appeared something, something almost invisible to the eye, seemingly indistinguishable from the darkness that surrounded it. If there were anybody in the room to witness what was taking place, they would have found it to have grown more oppressive, the atmosphere almost malevolent in nature.
After a few moments it began to slowly move towards the globe, the shadows that surrounded it almost appeared to move out of its way, whilst still maintaining its anonymity. While there was nothing that indicated any shape or intelligence, it still appeared to be staring at the globe quite intently, assessing it in some way that was only comprehensible to itself.
Eventually, a tendril of some kind reached out and grabbed the globe, bringing it towards itself unhurriedly, as though unperturbed about being discovered either by the people next door, or by the ship itself, until the globe disappeared within it, the bay now completely absent of light.
“The balance has been shifted too far,” a wraithlike voice said sibilantly. The source of the voice seemed to be both everywhere and nowhere at the same time, and while no louder than a whisper seemed to fill the entire bay. “Steps must be taken.”
With that, the presence in the room disappeared, and once again all that could be heard were the joyful sounds coming from the celebrations next door.