Between Canons: The Year That Never Was. Part 1.
Disclaimer: Joss owns BtVS/AtS and RTD & the BBC own Doctor Who. Nothing is mine, I just like to make their worlds fit together.
Illyria: When you become a king you learn to destroy everything that's not utterly yours. All that matters is victory. That's how your reign persists. A true ruler is as moral as a hurricane, empty but for the force of his gale. If you want to win a war, you must serve no master but your ambition.
At two minutes past eight on a clear June morning in 2007, the world ends.
There is no warning; no doom laden prophecy or cryptic signs ahead of time to alert heroes who might have averted disaster.
It is like no other apocalypse Buffy and her friends have witnessed, and not just because it succeeds.This
time, they watch it on TV.~~~
Not that they immediately know that it’s an apocalypse they’re witnessing - they’re there to see aliens. Real, genuine aliens that’ll appear to the whole world live on TV, and - despite Buffy’s misgivings - everyone is excited.
Even Illyria feels a stab of curiosity, although she is of course not letting on. If only they could see her
as she truly is, they’d not fawn over talking metal balls...
But they can’t see her. Their minds are too small to encompass the truth of her, of understanding the honour she is bestowing on them by choosing their company. They merely treat her as a mixture of an eccentric family member and a super-powered Slayer, and she tolerates their behaviour since she has found herself growing fond of them; marvelling time and again how creatures so small
, so individually vulnerable, can make such a difference when united.
Especially since some
of them are so very underwhelming...
Andrew - who, judging by his edginess, has not slept all night - is sitting closest to the TV, continually checking his watch and his recording device.
Buffy, irritably, throws a cushion at him, threatening that next it’ll be the whole sofa.
“Listen Buffy, I know
it’s apocalypse season, but please
can you just calm down?” Xander asks, exasperated at his friend’s ill mood, although Illyria can sense Giles’ and Angel’s silent approval of Buffy’s actions.
Then Faith chimes in from her spot in the deepest armchair.
“Xander is right, you’re more jumpy than a vamp before sunrise. Just chill, B, and watch the aliens. They’re supposed to be all nice this time!”
Spike re-enforces this, adding: “And if anything happens Love, everyone’s here just like you wanted.”
“Except for Dawn,” Buffy says, brow furrowing. One of the younger Slayers snorts.
“That’s ‘cause she knows when she’s onto a winner. What have I got to do to get sent to Rome?”
“You could start by learning Italian,” Buffy replies, then shoots Andrew a dirty look. “Or just be really, really
Thankfully Illyria is then saved from further prattle by the commencement of the broadcast, which is being beamed around the world directly from ‘the Valiant’, an airborne vessel far above them. It has something to do with being ‘neutral ground’, although she wasn’t paying attention when the details were being discussed. Mostly she finds the way the world has been chopped into tiny countries quite absurd, and people’s attachments to these slivers of land even more so.
But within seconds she is attending as rapturously as all the others to the TV. Four of the alien spheres - Toclafane, they call themselves - appear, behaving exceedingly strangely as they talk to the American President. And then the newly elected British Prime Minister, Harold Saxon, jumps into the fray.
Moments later the US President is shot by one of the Toclafane, exploding in a shower of glitter, whilst Saxon laughs maniacally.
“See?” Buffy says, pointing to the screen, vindication in her voice. “See? I told
you there was something wrong with him!”
“OK,” Willow admits, “You were right. Saxon is a complete fruit loop. What now?”
Buffy spreads her hands. “I don’t-”
Their attention is caught by the TV again as a tall, thin man in a long brown coat leaps forward. But he gets caught by two guards, and resorts to pleading with Saxon, desperate and earnest.
But Saxon turns, focussing his attention to the unknown man’s companions, and Buffy gasps.
The rest of the Scoobies exclaim similarly, and Illyria tilts her head, curious. So this is the fabled Immortal, Angel’s arch-nemesis.
He too rushes forward (impulsive, foolish) and Saxon shoots him with a strange device - something he calls a ‘laser screwdriver’ - then smiles joyously.
“And the good thing is, he’s not dead for long. I get to kill him again!”
“No...” Buffy whispers, hands covering her mouth in horror. But Illyria finds herself nodding appreciatively - Saxon might be insane, but he is clearly no fool. Turning your foes’ assets into weaknesses is commendable and clever strategy.
Buffy does not share this sentiment.
“Why is no one doing
anything? Why are they not arresting him?”
No answer is forthcoming. They watch in dismayed silence as Saxon - or ‘the Master’ as he apparently prefers to be called - ages the brown-coated man to dotage, before bringing in the family of the other companion - a young woman called Martha Jones, who looks like she’s on the verge of tears.
he? How can he do all this?” Kennedy asks, perplexed and angry. “Seriously, this is ridiculous
. Willow - let’s teleport up and-”
She stops, seeing that ‘the Master’ has turned to the cameras again, speaking directly to them.
“So! Earthlings. Basically, um... end of the world.”
me?” Spike exclaims, incredulous. “He and what army?”
Music abruptly starts blaring from the TV, and Illyria wonders if maybe this is another strange ‘Reality TV Show’. Telling truth from fiction in this world of humans is not easy. “Here come the drums”
he said. What does it mean?[reality tears asunder]
there’s a breach in the universe
- in time -
and Illyria has to reach out and touch the wall to steady herself
Then a window shatters and a Toclafane swoops in over their heads. They stare at it, bewildered, when with a tching
several previously concealed blades appear, sharp and deadly.
Then another sphere follows. And another.
Illyria turns her head, and through the window sees dozens of the floating balls heading straight for the Council.
army,” she says, pointing, just as Kennedy grabs a sword and attacks.
Three seconds later she is dead.
The sword falls out of her hand, unstained and unmarked, as Willow screams and chaos breaks out.~~~
Two days have passed. They are barricaded in the Council, and the confinement is beginning to chafe on Illyria’s nerves.
Kennedy’s death caused Willow to immediately - instinctively - banish all Toclafane from the building. Her shield is still holding, but some kind of counter spell is clearly being deployed by their adversary, since they can’t find a way of getting any magic beyond their protective shell.
Trapped in more ways than one, they have tried to piece together what has happened.
There have been frantic calls, attempts at communication in this sudden and unexpected apocalypse, but what information they’ve managed to unearth is bleak - the Toclafane have been targeting Slayers specifically, and the losses are staggering.
And Buffy has not been able to contact Dawn at all.
The Slayers that have
survived, and that they are in contact with, are all waiting for Buffy’s next move - asking what to do, how to fight, by turns despairing and offering suggestions.
Except Buffy seems hesitant to choose a course of action. They do not know how to battle this adversary. The spheres are (so far) impossible to fight, and the Master - despite belated, frantic, research - an unknown, who apparently appeared out of thin air eighteen months ago and proceeded to fool the whole country.
Illyria does not envy Buffy her position. Earth’s new ruler is ruthless, efficient and has been planning meticulously - it is not just aliens keeping constant vigil outside, but also ordinary human soldiers; something the Slayers are far more reluctant to battle.
And Willow - their greatest weapon, and also their only current means of protection - has become withdrawn, her grief keeping everyone off-kilter as she keeps constant vigil over Kennedy’s body. Her friends are carefully keeping watch over her... ‘just in case’.
Andrew tries to point out that at least they have more space than they did at Revello Drive, and Buffy has to be forcibly stopped by three of the younger Slayers from actually
throwing a sofa at him.
Then the phone rings.~~~
The discomfort is palpable, and Illyria feels the humans’ emotions like an itch beneath the skin. But if the Master wants to meet and discuss terms it is not an opportunity to be wasted, so here they are in the large hall of the Council, waiting, everyone armed to the teeth.
Buffy, of course, is at the forefront, flanked by Spike and Angel. Behind them are the other Slayers and to the right are the two Watchers. On the left - half-hidden by Faith - a pale Willow stands, supported by Xander. Her grief is a dark maelstrom that Illyria finds hard to stomach, and so she has placed herself as far right as possible, distracting herself by watching the Toclafane playfully chase each other outside the window and wondering what they could be.
At 7pm sharp the Master steps through the doors, immaculate in his suit and black coat, and a stark contrast to the motley group that awaits him.
Illyria feels his Otherness
like a blow.
He looks over the assembly with a sardonic smile as he carefully demonstrates that he is unarmed, and immediately picks out Buffy who watches him cooly.
But Illyria cannot move, drawn by another not of this world. Who is he, this man who outshines the stars? This man around whom power shimmers so brightly she could touch it... She can see time fracture around him, past-present-future
folding together like an intricate maze, contained within and around him.
Why do the others not cower before him? Have they not eyes?
As he takes one more step forward his eyes briefly meet hers, and his attention abruptly changes.
For one long, endless, second they watch each other, and she knows that he sees
Looking into his eyes, she is reminded of a line from a movie that Andrew showed her.‘Drums. Drums in the deep...’
Then the tiniest smile graces his lips.
“Who are you?” he asks.
Instinctively she answers in the Ancient Language.“I am Illyria, God-king of the Primordium. Shaper of things!”
He cocks his head. Listening. Then - she had not dared hope it - he replies in the same tongue.“Ooooh, old language. Very, very old. This is going to be a little tricky.”
He clears his throat. “And hard on the vocal cords. Now... Illyria... That... doesn’t ring any bells. Are you one of the Eternals? I thought they’d all left this dimension. Although - clearly you are somewhat... diminished.”
She lifts her chin, pride (and shame) filling her. “The Eternals worshipped me. Tell me, stranger, who are you and of what race?”
Buffy (impatient, humans are always so impatient) cuts through.
“What’s going on? What are you saying?”
The Master shoots her a withering glance.
“Silence child, the grown-ups are talking.”
Illyria smiles, pleased, even as Angel coughs, attempting to match the Master’s glare.
“We’re not all children.”
The Master turns to him; then lifts an eyebrow, dismissive.
“Oh, it’s the destiny-riddled vampire.”
He pulls a face. “Well I say
vampire - it really is quite absurd to use that name for a pathetic, watered-down half-breed like yourself. But go on precious - how old are you?”
“Two hundred and fifty-four.”
Angel’s eyes are almost flickering gold, but the Master only smiles, the way one does when indulging a child.
“Aw bless. Well aren’t you a big
boy! Clearly you ate up all your vegetables when your parents told you.”
“I also ate my parents,” Angel replies, grim faced. “And their friends and neighbours... I brought ugly death to anyone in my way for centuries. I am the worst vampire on record and you should make a note of that.”
The words do not have the intended effect, as the Master merely tilts his head, looking speculative.
“You know, that line would be so
much more impressive if your so-called ‘arch-nemesis’ hadn’t been Captain Shag-a-lot.”
Angel looks distinctly taken aback.
“You mean... The Immortal? He... he is a living legend! A foul creature from the pits of hell-”
He stops, unsure, as the Master starts chuckling.
“Listen my easily-impressed friend: The guy is a con man
. And he really must have had a field day
Angel’s jaw drops, and Spike looks positively speechless.
“That’s ridiculous!” Angel finally manages, but Buffy fidgets.
“Um no, that’s... that’s true.”
Spike and Angel both turn to her in incredulous unison.
“The whole Immortal thing... it’s sort of... not real? He told me when we were dating - it was like his fairy tale hiding place. I mean, the stories were kinda made up. But he really is
“Indeed,” the Master observes drily. “The freak product of a rather unfortunate accident, but that is what comes of letting humans play with things they don’t understand. However
. Since I’m in charge now, children will not be allowed to play with matches anymore. Adults on the other hand...”
Dismissing the assembly, he once more fixes on Illyria.“Now - where were we?”
“I wish to known your origin.”
The pride on his face is clear. “I am the Master. A Time Lord from Gallifrey.”
she says, tasting the word. “Yes, you truly are a Lord of Time. I once wrought the power of time too, I can feel it. But what is this Gallifrey? I have no knowledge of this world.”
He seems taken aback. “You’ve never heard of it? Gallifrey - in the constellation of Kasterborous? It was known as the Shining World of the Seven Systems.”
She shakes her head, and he frowns.“Really, nothing? We were the oldest and mightiest race in the universe! We invented time travel, black holes... Omega? Rassilon? The Time Wars?”
she asks, suddenly breathless. “I felt a great power, death untold and the closing of the walls. Never have I come across such glory. This was your people’s doing?”
At this he smiles, eyes lit up with the fire of destruction, and she can feel herself spellbound. Here - finally
- is someone who knows the true joy of war.“Come with me, Illyria, and I will take you to the man who destroyed the two greatest species in the universe.”
She steps forward, eager, hopeful, shaking the dust of humanity and humiliation from her feet. There is nothing for her here. Not anymore.
“Wait! What’s going on? Illyria!”
It’s Buffy again, clearly feeling left out.
The Master starts, as if he’d forgotten that the Slayer was why he came, then lies with a smoothness that’s impressive, even for a politician.
“Sorry - got a little distracted. Her Highness has been so kind as to accept a dinner invitation.”
Buffy’s eyebrows rise to near-comical levels.
“A dinner invitation?”
“Indeed. Actually I was hoping that you, my dear Miss Summers, would be guest of honour. As the leader of a world wide group of little super-powered heroines, I’m sure you can see the need for some lengthy talk. I’d prefer to do it somewhere a little more civilised.”
He shoots her grim-faced and heavily-armed cohort a droll look, but she only snorts.
“You have got
to be kidding. You thought that making a big sign saying ‘It’s a trap’ was too subtle?”
The mocking vanishes from his face.
“Little girl, you seem to be under the illusion that you have options that do not include surrender. Let me explain something: This is now my
world, and I am trying to be kind because... well, to be honest because I’ve never actually met a Slayer before. You used to be quite rare. So anyway - your choice is either
to come with me now to negotiate a truce and beg for your friends’ lives, or
for me to just kill all of you. You decide.”
Seeing her hesitation, his mouth curls into a sneer.
“I do not make empty threats. And please call off your little witch - do you think I would have come in person if you could hurt me in any way?”
He shoots Willow a dark look, and Illyria sees her look up in surprise. The tendrils of magic were as faint as day-old embers, and Illyria had barely noticed them herself. Her admiration for the Master increases.
“Oh - I almost forgot. There’s the matter of your sister...”
“Dawn?” Buffy asks, eyes widening. “What have you done to her?”
“Nothing... yet,” is the reply, the coldness of the smile leaving no one in any doubt of the implications.
“How do I know you aren’t bluffing?” Buffy asks, thin-lipped, and the Master pulls out a phone, pressing a number.
“Can you get Miss Summers? I need to speak to her.”
He waits a moment, then sighs.
“Well tell her that her sister is on the phone!”
Another moment, and he smiles. “So you can
behave? Extraordinary. Now now, there’s no need for language like that...”
Shaking his head he tosses the phone to Buffy who grabs it with frantic hands.
“Dawn? Are you OK?”
The relief on her face is evident, as she proceeds to ask questions that only her sister would know the answer to, and then inquires after Dawn’s wellfare.
The Master waits a few minutes, then clears his throat. Buffy reluctantly says farewell and hands the phone back.
“Well?” he asks, and Buffy swallows, her acceptance as clear as daylight.
“If I can bring this,” she replies, holding the Scythe aloft, and the Master chuckles.
“By all means, bring the pretty toy. Now, if you’ll follow me...”
She does not come immediately. Her friends are evidently not agreeing that this is the right course of action - Giles, Faith and Spike being particularly vocal - and they confer in angry hissed whispers until reaching some sort of agreement.
The Master sighs theatrically, turning to Illyria.
“Humans. Very attached to each other. It makes for good leverage though.”
Then Buffy walks up, looking not at the Master, but Illyria, her eyes shrewd.
“You coming too?”
Illyria nods, and Buffy tilts her head, eyes narrowing.
“You want to look a little less like you came from a comic book, Mystique? Generally people dress up for a dinner party.”
Illyria shrugs, but acknowledges that Buffy’s observation is valid. She does not wish to stand out, and closing her eyes she alters her shape into something more suitable. The Master looks impressed, which is balm to her injured pride.
Buffy gives her the tiniest of grateful smiles, obviously trying to hide her nervousness and not quite succeeding. As they leave the building she turns to the Master.
The Master laughs.
“Oh she’s a feisty one, that girl. Most of the other hostages are terrified - as well they should be - but your sister immediately worked out that if she hadn’t been killed I needed her alive. I think she’s tried to escape about a dozen times already - air ducts, bribery, lock-picking... oh all sorts of wonderfully clever plans. I really ought to keep her in a more secure holding cell, but she’s keeping the guards on their toes, and to be honest it’s wonderful entertainment.”
He shakes his head, smiling, and Buffy looks somewhere between mollified and outraged, even as she warily eyes the heavily armed security forces.
When they reach the waiting car, the Master reaches up to his ear where some kind of technology is evidently concealed.
“Fire at will,” he says, and for a few endless seconds they are left to wonder what he means by that.
Then a sudden brightness and deafening noise tears through the mild evening.
Buffy whips around, staring in mute horror at the giant fireball that has enveloped the Council building, before watching it collapse in on itself.
Illyria’s own shock is enhanced by Buffy’s instantaneous grief which pierces her like a sword; and she freezes where she stands.
But the Slayer, pure fury, whips round, and the next second has the Master pinned against the car, the blade of the Scythe digging into his neck.
“You said we would negotiate!”
But no fear emanates from the Time Lord, and abruptly Buffy crumples. Illyria sees that he holds in his hand an odd little weapon.
“As if I’d negotiate with terrorists,” he says scornfully, studying Buffy’s unconscious body, then looks up and catches Illyria’s eyes, holding the weapon aloft with a sudden bright smile.
“Stun gun. You know, I love this planet. Humans are so wonderfully inventive!”
Then he winces, bringing his hand up to his neck.
“Did she actually draw blood?”
Studying the crimson on his fingers, his eyes turn frosty.
“You’re going to pay for that - Slayer
Finally he takes notice of Illyria’s stillness, and she waits for his undivided attention before she speaks, voice as even as she can make it through the anger.
“You killed my pets.”
Facing each other across the prone body of the Slayer, he tilts his head.
“Well if you want to sue me for compensation, then I’m afraid I’ve shut down all the law firms...”
Unsure what he means, she doesn’t answer. He continues, not unfriendly.
“And surely you must
have known that keeping heroes as pets could only ever be a very temporary pleasure, given the way they’re always so eager to throw themselves on the proverbial sword for the sake of the world, or some random stranger...”
“They’d never have surrendered, so I thought it easier to kill them now, rather than spend time and effort fighting them. If you wanted them unharmed, you should have kept them on a much, much
tighter leash. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have this young lady to attend to...”
He reaches in to his pocket, swapping the stun gun for a syringe, then crouches to roll up Buffy’s sleeve, and Illyria frowns as he injects something.
“What is this?”
“Just a simple remedy to take away her powers. Created by the Watchers - neat huh? Quite the little trade secret, of course, but it’s incredible what people will tell you with the right... leverage
Standing up he addresses the guards.
“Take her away, and make sure she’s tied up as well as can be. If she comes to, drug her. She’s smart and resourceful, and I need her for tomorrow’s little... show.”
Soldiers swarm forwards, carefully carrying away the unconscious Slayer, and one of them picks up the Scythe and hands it to the Master. Eyes dancing with mischief, he turns to her.
“Well my dear Illyria, what do you say?”
He opens the car door with his right hand, holding it for her - watching, waiting.
She studies him, as the Scythe swings lightly in his left hand, his eyes watchful behind the levity. There is no doubt in her mind that he knows the Scythe can hurt her... But if he needs weapons (even if they’re just for show) then it means that he is not invulnerable himself.
The deaths sting (grief is such an inconvenient
emotion), but this Time Lord speaks her language in more ways than one - the first one to do so since she rose.
Many are the lessons Wesley taught her in their short while together - the most important one being that love makes you vulnerable. You let yourself grow close, pain will surely follow... ‘If you stay here, you'll taste grief every day, every second.’
No, the pain she feels is not the Master’s fault for eliminating his foes, the failing is her own for allowing illogical detachments. Change is the way of this world - Spike was the one who taught her that. Adapt or die. And she has no intention of dying.
Inclining her head, she slips into the back seat.
As they drive off, the sky is slowly filling with smoke from the ruin that was once the Council.
Illyria catches sight of it in the rear-view mirror, and, from her scattered Burkle-memories, recalls another ride in a sleek limousine, the shell seeking out ‘evil’ for the sake of curiosity. Her own motivations and plans are far more substantial, and she has no illusions about her host.
Leaning back, she enjoys the comfort.~~~
To reach the Valiant they fly in Airforce One, the President’s plane.
The Master is genial and talkative, holding forth about the ancient history of his people - hoping for some common point of reference - as he with great glee snacks on presidential M&Ms.
“Look! They even have the Presidential seal on the box! Isn’t it brilliant
Illyria does not find the confectionary tempting, but from amongst the dusty corridors of her memory she recovers a visit to a world where a powerful species - rulers of a vast empire - stole champions out of time and forced them to fight in a place called ‘The Death Zone’. She had found this a very agreeable pastime, and discovering that Earth’s new ruler is a descendant of this mighty race is a true pleasure.
It also casts his actions in a new, and to her mind, very favourable, light. No upstart he, but a man wishing to reforge a lost history. Her humans only saw destruction, but she understands that in order to build, one first has to demolish.
Yet not even his illustrious history prepares her for the shock of stepping onto the Valiant.
Power - strong and rich - vibrates through her very marrow, saturating her senses, making them sing. She saw this power reflected in the Master, but here, somewhere, it is in its pure form.
What can it be? It feels alien to her, but power is power, and the only questions are how and when can she use it. But she has to be sneaky...
Lost in her inner world she barely notices the blonde woman greeting them, until the Master introduces her.
“Illyria - my wife. Lucy, this is Illyria, God-King of the Primordium.”
The woman shakes her hand. She is pretty, polite, and wearing a shiny garment that Illyria identifies as ‘expensive’.
“Welcome aboard the Valiant, your Highness. It’s great pleasure.”
“Thank you,” Illyria replies, even as she wonders why the Master married a human. Was it to help him to integrate seamlessly into human society?
The Master turns to Lucy.
“Illyria will be joining us for dinner.”
“How wonderful,” Lucy replies. “May I ask, is there anything you would particularly prefer? Our chefs are very versatile.”
Illyria yet again feels as if she is watching the TV... they all seem to be following a script, and she wonders if this is habit, a game, or if the Master has a genuine liking for human customs. Whatever the case, politeness is called for - but Illyria draws the line at eating.
“I do not require sustenance.”
The Master lifts an eyebrow. “Well I guess that makes life simpler. Anything we could get you, other than food? We have a supremely well-stocked wine cellar.”
She shakes her head, and his eyes turn musing.
“The blood of your enemies? It might take a little while hunting them down though...”
Illyria shakes her head again, charmed into a smile.
“Your concern is gratifying, but unnecessary.”
“Very well. All we need then is another chair. Lucy - will you see to things?”
“Of course darling.”
He gently kisses her hand, and she retreats. Exceptionally well trained, Illyria must admit, with a pang of jealousy. Marriage is certainly a good way of ensuring loyalty and devotion...
Then the Master motions for her to follow him.
“This way, please, your Highness.”
Despite her intense longing to discover the source of the power, she remains silent as he leads her through several corridors that take them to the main room, which she recognises from the TV. It is light and airy, crafted from wood and metal, and reminds her of W&H’s offices - right down to the large oval-shaped conference table in the middle. At one end are double doors, and at the other three staircases lead up to a platform from which the room can be surveyed. Above is the prow of the vessel, dominated by large windows and blinking machinery.
And there at the foot of the stairs, seated in a wheelchair, is the hero whom the Master aged - a man that Illyria can now see is also of Time Lord lineage. He does not move, or in any other way acknowledge that he has seen them enter.
“Doctor!” the Master proclaims, smiling. “I’m sure you’ll be happy to hear that my little trip down below went almost entirely according to plan. Picked up a lovely little Slayer, who - would you believe it - happens to be one of our Jack’s past conquests! I could wax lyrical about serendipity and coincidences, but clearly the man was on a mission to sleep with the entire planet. And we both know that he has quite the weakness for self-righteous heroes, don’t we? Dear Miss Summers was obviously a great deal more forthcoming than yourself... and blonde of course. Everyone loves blondes, don’t they?”
The ‘Doctor’ stays silent, but the Master takes no notice.
“But! Amongst her cohorts I found a most incredible surprise hiding. Please allow me to introduce Illyria, God-King of the Primordium. Trapped on Earth, poor thing, and quite desperate to leave the rabble behind. Illyria - this is the Doctor. The man who single-handedly ended the Last Great Time War.”
He smiles wickedly, leaning into the Doctor’s personal space.
“She felt it, you know. Your spectacular
destruction impressed a Hell God. You should be proud!”
The Doctor - as befitting a Higher Species - is clearly better at shielding his emotions than humans, and his feelings have not touched her. Yet, when she looks into his eyes she sees guilt and grief so vast she reels.
An unwilling warrior... a man not relishing warfare, yet carrying the burden of more death than any other. But she also senses immense resolve and power - his physical form has been restricted, but his spirit is unbroken, and she can feel the danger keenly. She has walked with heroes, and she knows the steel of their determination.
She wonders if the Master’s leash is tight enough. ~~~
After dinner the Master smiles mysteriously.
“Come with me ‘Lyria. Let me show you... my masterpiece
She thinks she might be offended at the nickname, but is too curious to bring it up. The power calls to her.~~~
The Paradox Machine is undoubtedly the greatest wonder she has encountered since waking. The sheer power encased in the unassuming blue box (larger on the inside - it makes her smile) draws her in like a magnet.
But power on its own is not remarkable - it is the harnessing of it that has her reaching back to the days of creation to find anything comparable.
She can feel the living heart of the TARDIS bending to the Master’s cunning handicraft, knows that he has bent time from its proper flow, creating a world wholly his own.
“You truly are the Master of this world,” she says, observing the way he has to still a tremor of pure pleasure at her words. He, too, craves the understanding - nay the respect, the admiration
- of a peer...
The red glow from the TARDIS bathes his face in unholy crimson; his eyes - dark and old - watch her carefully, proudly, and in her mind Wesley’s words echo.‘There's hope... for some. There's hope that you'll find something worthy - that your life will lead you to some joy. That after everything... you can still be surprised.’
And it is more than enough to live on.~~~
The following morning brings much activity.
The Master is crisp-looking and jolly, his humans busy setting up equipment for filming. Two guards are dispatched to fetch someone called Jack, and turn up shortly afterwards with The Immortal between them.
Illyria walks up to him, noticing that his scent is human - more or less - and that he is cloaked in grief and anger.
Yet he smiles at her, not seeing beyond the shell - a disappointingly human reaction. How could Angel have been so deceived?
“Hey there. You new? I’m sure I’d remember a face as pretty as yours...”
His voice falters as she ignores his chatter, being far more intrigued by what her senses are telling her. She has taken no notice of the tug of impossibility
so far, since the Paradox Machine is so powerful that it has blotted everything else out - until now.
He watches her with uncertainty as she lays a hand upon his chest, but she ignores the questions in his eyes as she, shocked, grasps the truth.
He is Infinity; eternity etched into every cell, every atom. He is an impossible thing, an abomination, A Thing Which Should Never Be.
She turns, seeking out the Master; waiting until he sees her before speaking.
“It is not possible.”
Her host joins them, and The Immortal is looking from one to the other, sudden distaste colouring his features.
“Well, no, it isn’t,” the Master replies. “And yet - here he is. Which means I’m stuck with him for eternity.”
“This power - it cannot be undone?”
Her host snorts.
“Unfortunately not. Our dear Jack is a one-trick pony. Although... it is
a good trick.”
Eyes glinting with malice he lets his eyes trail over The Immortal from head to toe, before turning to her.
“Don’t worry, your Highness, you’ll get ample opportunity to play. But... there’s official business to deal with first! Please, take a seat.”
He leads her to a chair next to his wife, and she settles down, curious. Lucy smiles at her, yet Illyria can sense a slight hostility that she diagnoses as jealousy. It amuses her.
A moment later the Slayer is brought out; she is shackled and bruised, but clearly unbowed. Illyria feels an odd pang at the sight, and wonders how she became so attached to these creatures. A King must kill all warriors who oppose him, that is the only true way of ruling. Really, the Master is doing her a favour by getting rid of any opposition...
As Buffy looks around - always planning, always plotting - her eyes meet The Immortal’s, and it is evident that the rest of the world ceases to exist for them.
“I’m sorry,” The Immortal says, voice barely above a whisper, such hopelessness and sorrow in his words that Illyria can barely contain a shudder. She wants to kill him just to get rid of the taste in her mouth.
But Buffy shakes her head, unspoken forgiveness in her eyes, before turning to the Master who has come up to her.
“Where is Dawn?”
He looks down for a moment, as if trying to gather his thoughts.
“Now - if you hadn’t
attacked me last night, I might have allowed a final farewell. As it is, I’m afraid she’ll have to watch your execution on TV like the rest of the world.”
He shrugs, but Buffy doesn’t flinch, her eyes coldly fearless as she studies him.
“The first time I died, it was at the hands of another loon calling himself ‘The Master’ who wanted to rule the world. Let’s just say that his plans didn’t work out. So trust me, sooner or later someone will smash your
bones to dust too.”
She turns her head and catches The Immortal’s eyes again, and this time he smiles back grimly.
“Anything for you, Princess.”
But the Master just shakes his head, curbing a smile.
“Little Slayer - he’s not Prince Charming; he’s a very naughty boy!”
Reaching out he pats her cheek - but Buffy looks like she might bite his hand, and he withdraws it a tad more swiftly than necessary.
Turning to a technician he asks if they’re ready to broadcast, and gets the go-ahead.
Walking to the front of the room he ascends the stairs, and Buffy is led forward, so she stands below him. She scans the assembly, her eyes lingering on Illyria for one, interminably long second, but Illyria can’t decipher the look on her face.
The Master looks into the camera, beaming wickedly.
“My dear subjects. Welcome to Morning Execution. But - first of all I want you to meet someone. I give you - Buffy Summers.”
The camera lingers on her for a moment, then sways back to the Master, whose demeanour has switched to ice.
“Those of you who know her, pay attention. The Council is no more. You are all very, very alone. And I will find
you, and I will kill
you. Like so.”
He lifts his hand, holding the laser screwdriver aloft, and, before anyone can move, a golden beam singes the air.
A second later Buffy’s limp body hits the floor.
The choked breath from The Immortal is like sandpaper against Illyria’s already fraught nerves; but when she turns to look at him, she sees that his eyes are dry, and that he is observing the Master’s continued monologue with such intense hatred that she finds herself impressed.
Still, she wishes he could shelter his grief more effectively - he radiates centuries’ worth of pain, and it is deeply unpleasant to be in his presence. She can understand the Master’s delight in an unbreakable toy, but - despite his generous offer of sharing - she thinks it is not for her.
When the cameras turn off the Master makes for the Doctor, so Illyria quietly slips to the back of the room to speak with ‘Jack’, watching him impassively as he recoils from her presence. There is nowhere for him to go.
And she has an odd impulse to somehow help him - she can see how lost he is, and recalls the difficulty in learning to live in a new world.
“What do you want?” he asks, feigning casualness, but she ignores his request.
“Heroes do not accept the world the way it is. They fight - and die - for what they believe, even when they have no hope of achieving it. Like Buffy. But her fate can never be yours: Since you cannot die, you are twice the impossibility if you persist in your foolishness. You wish to be moral; you cling onto hope against logic; you mourn friends that were dying from the moment they were born. You will live forever - learn to see with the eyes of eternity, and let go of your absurd dreams.”
It is a good speech she thinks, re-affirming to herself why she is here, but his response is to shake his head slowly, blue eyes stunned and hostile.
She lifts her chin.
“I am Illyria. If you truly knew me, you would worship me.”
“I’m afraid the only god he
will ever worship is Eros,” the Master interjects, sauntering up.
“Anyway, ‘Lyria my dear. With the Slayer out of the way, I need to turn my attention to her sister. Why anyone would let an inter-dimensional Key run around unchecked is beyond me, and I am certainly not going to keep it, despite the lovely wrapping. Now I obviously need to destroy it without activating it, but I can’t help thinking that it’d be nice to somehow utilise all that fabulous power somehow. Care to lend me a hand, since this is probably more your area of expertise rather than mine?”
He offers his arm, and she takes it with a smile; his flattery much to her taste.
She never notices the men who walk past them, carrying Buffy’s body; nor hears The Immortal’s almost-inaudibly whispered oath.