The Book of Five Rings
"The gate circuit that you design--it work very well," Filostrato said to the Master over a hurried but elegant lunch of pheasant that was served in the underground chambers. "Wine, Dr. Masters?"
The Master, mouth full, nodded. Content for the moment to play second fiddle and let his rival get the lion's share of the praise, the Doctor glanced up at the Italian scientist. The other members of the team were busily eating.
"You just lock yourselves in down here for an eight hour day?" he asked. "Don't you ever get a bit cramped?"
"Sometimes, sometimes," Edgar Calvin said. A good lunch and two glasses of wine had made him a trifle more relaxed.
"But now," Filostrato said. "Now, we have the fascinating study to make. We tested the circuit on power transfer, and she behave beautifully."
The Master inclined his head slightly. "Of course."
"Look," the Doctor said. "We've seen the power transfer circuitry for this thing, but what about a look at the rest of it? Or how about seeing it tested? Have you been able to send a person through it yet?"
"Yes, oh yes," Filostrato assured him. "But the only safe way to do it was from the other end to here. With this new design, now maybe we have the two way transfer."
Relaxed with the knowledge that the whole thing was going to blow up in five and a half days anyway, the Master became a trifle more expansive. "I'm telling you, Filostrato, it's still a cul-de-sac," he said. "Abandon it and start working on harnessing power directly from a sun. It's the only way to achieve time travel." He smiled a friendly smile but could not resist shooting a glance at the Doctor, enormously pleased that they had effectively beaten their adversaries. He enjoyed the prospect of tantalizing them with the things they would never be able to do. The Doctor had once known a large black tom cat that suddenly reminded him sharply of the Master.
"Well," the Master said as Filostrato did not take the bait. "I think I would like to rejoin my wife, Filostrato, now that we have shared your hospitality and--"
He was interrupted as the security door was smashed open and a group of soldiers rushed in, guns out and fixed on him.
Filostrato leaped to his feet with amazing speed for one so heavy.
"What is this outrage!" he shrilled. "Mallit, have you lost your mind?"
Edgar Calvin also leaped up. "Get out of here at once!" he told the security men, unafraid.
"Clear this room," Mallit ordered. "Everybody with a security card may go."
Most of the scientists did not stay to quibble, but Calvin took offense. "How dare you come in here, where you have no clearance. I said to get out of here."
Mallit gestured with his handgun at the Master. "That man is a saboteur."
"Nonsense!" Filostrato shrilled. "He just build a perfect circuit for us, and we test it."
"He's leading you on, Filostrato. Dr. Calvin, I must ask you to leave. The Director and I have to speak privately."
"Look here--" Calvin began.
"Go, Edgar, go," Filostrato said. "I look into this. Heads will roll, I promise you."
"Doctor Masters, Doctor Grant, I apologize," Calvin said, and walked out.
As soon as the door closed behind him, two of the security men grabbed the Master from either side and stuffed a gag in his mouth. They forced his hands behind his back.
"That one, too," Mallit said with a jerk of his head toward the Doctor.
White with anger and some fear, Filostrato glared at him. "You know you are not allowed in here!"
Mallit offered him a sneer. "I've got my orders from over your head, Dr. Filostrato. The Big Man. He knows all about what's going on. And about your amazing incompetence in allowing enemy agents right into the heart of the operation."
"He shall have a full report of your behaviour Mallit! He is a patient one, eh? He always like to hear both sides!" And Filostrato glared at his subordinate.
Mallit became a tad more respectful. "These two and their women have been to the processing plant," Mallit told him. "We've confirmed it. Both of them--and their wives--are carrying radioactive particles that put them at the site of the processing plant within the last two weeks."
Two other guards finished gagging the Doctor and handcuffing him with his hands behind him. Filostrato turned to them. "How can this be?" he asked, his normally shrill voice reduced to a whisper of shock.
"They're sabotaging the relativity machine," Mallit insisted.
Filostrato shook his head. "No. We test it before lunch. Perfectly safe." He gained some control over himself and glared at Mallit. "You still have no authority to enter this place. Take them and go. But keep them safe. No transfer anywhere."
"They're both possible regenerators. Our scans proved it. I have orders to have them tested. Here."
This news startled the fat scientist even more. He turned a glance of wonder to the Doctor and the Master. "And the women?"
"In safekeeping. One's a Tark and one's a human."
"You have checked them?"
"Send them to their wives for now--under guard. We must all decide what to do. But get out of here right away, and no coming back, Mallit."
"All right, let's go," Mallit said.
The Master had been working the gag furiously, and he pushed it out all of a sudden.
"Filostrato," he snapped. One of the guards would have struck him, but Filostrato yelped a command, and the guard dropped his hand.
"A separate peace," the Master said. "Your testing will show you nothing about metabolisms as sophisticated as ours. You need one of us to work with you."
Filostrato hesitated, then nodded slightly. "Eh, bien. Better this than that you two unite against us." He looked at Mallit. "Take Doctor Grant and do as I say. I talk to this one now."
* * * *
Nothing was said to Jo or Mags about what was happening to them or why. It was almost theatrical enough to be funny to be dragged through a sliding panel right there in the room and hurried through a dark maze of corridors. They were still together when they were hauled into an unlighted elevator and plunged down a huge drop with their captors. But after being hauled down another, shorter maze of corridors, Jo was pulled into a lighted walkway, and she saw that Mags and some of the security men were gone.
Her captors had kept their hands over her mouth, and the knife at her own throat had warned her to be silent. But as they opened what was obviously the door to a holding cell, she gasped, "Why are you doing this?"
They didn't bother to answer, a tactic that brought a chill reminder of her captors at the processing plant, who had discussed the best ways to cut her apart while she had lain protesting between them. The pushed her into the empty, bare room, and the door cell closed.
It was lighted, anyway. Before she would even think of how dire her circumstances had become, she went over every inch of the walls and floor, looking for any sign of where she might be in reference to the outside world. But aside from a narrow air duct overhead, she could detect no other openings into the room. She sat down on the bare floor to consider her situation. Nobody had said anything about her medical state, or about scanning her. There was a chance that this was a routine detention following some slip up from the Doctor or the Master. She hoped so. She knew from her experience in the processing plant that she was nearly as valuable to these people as the timelords were. Her immunity to the deadly haemmo-mora virus had secured their attention the last time and had led her ultimately to the death machines of their processing plant, where the Master had rescued her. They could not know of her escape from the plant, because it was still three days before she would have even arrived there. But if they discovered that immunity again, right here at their research facilities, her fate would surely be the same.
She had expected a long solitude before meting her captors, but suddenly as she sat brooding over her fate, the door was pushed open and the Doctor was flung inside. She caught a glimpse of one of them whipping handcuffs off of him, and then the door slammed closed.
"Doctor!" she exclaimed. She helped him pull the wedged gag out of his mouth.
"You all right, Jo?" he asked her as they got it free and threw it down.
"What happened?" she whispered. "Were we betrayed?"
"Not initially," he said. "But I think we're being betrayed now."
"Striking a deal," he said. She made a sound of fear, unable even to get it into words. The Master knew her secret, and he knew their incredible drive to possess the secrets and the ingredients of immunity to disease.
"He's actually betraying me at this moment," he said to her. "But he'll likely play every card he has to save himself." He met her eyes with his. "We have to make a difficult decision. You have to stay calm, Jo. You have to choose what to do now."
Jo always worried when the Doctor became concerned for her and tender before anything had actually happened. It was always a sign that the chips were down. He helped her to the floor and sat down next to her. His eyes searched hers, and his face and voice were more grave than Jo had ever seen, and very gentle. He started to say something, hesitated, and then carefully took her hand in both of his.
"We both know that it's only a matter of time now," he told her. "Even if the Master should neglect to tell them about your immunity, they'll eventually run tests on you and find out."
"Yes," she said.
"We can still escape, possibly," he added. "There's always a chance. But we have to do what we can to stay untouched by them in the short run. If we let them get far enough to take us into their labs, that's likely the end."
"Because that's where they'll kill us," she replied, showing him she understood. There would be unceasing scrutiny in the labs, and unceasing suffering until death should come. The vivid memory of the processing plant came back to her and she shuddered and tried to steel herself.
She tried to make her voice sound steady. "What's our plan? How can we stall them?"
"I can try to out talk, to deal with them, to fool them," he said. "They want my knowledge of time travel almost as much as they want to understand my regenerative capabilities."
"And me?" she asked.
"You know that if they detect your immunity to haemmo-mora, what they'll do," he said, and he reached into his pocket. "We must prove to them before they suspect anything that you are useless to them as a research subject. It's a good thing they didn't think to search me."
He drew a sealed tube out of his pocket and held it out on his open palm.
"What is that?" Jo asked.
"It contains a syringe," he said, and to her surprise, his voice halted from a catch in it. His eyes were still grave and kind, but his face had gone white.
"Yes?" she whispered.
He looked from the tube to her. "It's a radical strain of the haemmo-mora virus, Jo." He hesitated. "You are not immune to this strain." His eyes searched hers. "This form of the virus is just as deadly as the more prevalent strains. You have to make a choice."
For a long moment she only looked at the small tube of death in his hand.
"You told me the disease is fatal," she said at last.
"It is," he said. "I can do something to counteract it for you if we get back to the TARDIS in time--before the virus does its cellular damage in the liver and blood."
"But if not?" she asked.
"Then you would die within a few weeks of the virus. It's quicker than the other strains. Of course--" and he lowered his voice to a whisper that she could barely hear. "When the processing plant on that planet blows up, we've fixed it that this place will go along with it. The explosion will carry through the time tunnel. I don't think that the Master will alter that course of action."
So I only have to last five days for a chance to get away, she thought. "Then it's a quick finish if we can't escape," she said out loud.
"We're directly under their underground chambers where they house the time tunnel," he whispered. Obviously then, their cell area, if not the entire facility, would be destroyed in the blast.
He looked down at her. Then he rested the backs of his fingers against the side of her face. "You told me you couldn't face what they would do to you if they discovered your immunity," he whispered. "This was my only alternative. They will not touch you at all if they detect the virus in you. Any contact with your blood can prove fatal. I expect they will simply observe you to see how the new strain develops and acts."
"It's hardly a choice," she said at last.
"It buys you time," he told her. "Time that they won't use to cut you apart. Time for us to find Mags and get out."
She looked at the tube in his open hand. "What if--What if I can't?" she asked. She felt her lips trembling and quelled them.
"Why Jo, it's your choice." And his voice held some wonder at the suggestion that he would order her to receive a deadly injection. "I can't force you; I would never force you. But this is still better than--than the other."
Her decision was sudden. "All right." She pushed her sleeve up. "Do it," she said. "Hurry, Doctor."
She held out her bare arm to him, and her sudden resolution startled him. He fumbled in his pocket and pulled out a foil wrapped, medicated swipe. He tore the packet open and swabbed a section of her arm. And then, with infinite care, he unscrewed the cap of the unbreakable tube and drew out the small syringe. He wrapped his left arm around her arm just below the elbow and pressed the arm against himself, holding it absolutely still.
She felt his own hand shake as he found the vein in her arm with the needle tip. He had to stop for a moment to steady himself. "Look away," he whispered, and she realized that he couldn't do it with her watching him.
"It's all right, Doctor," she whispered. She turned away.
"I'm so sorry, Jo," he said with another catch in his voice, and he inserted the tip of the needle under her skin, found the vein, and injected the contents of the syringe into her. She felt the trembling of his hand through the syringe. She had never known him to tremble before, not at the contemplation of death or danger.
"Does the disease hurt?" she asked.
"Not--not much in the first five days," he said, removing the needle and carefully capping it and sealing it inside the tube again before returning it to his pocket. He looked down at her. "If you could only forgive me some day," he said, and to her surprise, even in the dreadful fear that gripped her of what she had just allowed, she saw that there were tears in his eyes and on his cheeks. She had only very rarely seen him shed tears before.
It didn't surprise her when he put his arms around her, as though to comfort her, but even under the dread of what she had just done, she could see that he was more deeply shaken at the moment than she was.
"You've done it for my good," she said. "I couldn't face the other."
"I have done it for your good, Jo," he repeated. "Just for your good, not to torment you. Never that." And he held her head close against himself, his hands gentle and strong. "I would never hurt you."
"I know we'll get out," she faltered. "You've just bought me some more time, that's all. We'll get to the TARDIS and you'll destroy the virus in time."
Her own fear had come down on her like a weight, but she pushed it away while she could. She knew that a certain numbness sets in at the very first stages of danger. She wanted to be numb to her own fear. There were other things to think about and consider. "What about you?" she asked, looking up at him. She sat up, determined to be all business and make a plan. "When will they come back for you?"
He was able to answer her more like his old self, with composure in the face of danger. "Not for a few hours, I expect," he said, glancing around their cell for the first time. "The Master is negotiating with Filostrato, and Filostrato will weigh all his options before he decides what to do." He brought his eyes back to her face.
"Do you know where Mags could be?" she asked. In spite of her resolve to be brave and to be numb to her own fear, looking him in the face brought the reality of what he had done closer to her. Two tears suddenly spilled from her eyes, followed by others. But she did not break down and cry. The only thing to do--the thing she had been trained to do--was to keep making plans, devising escapes, maintaining the discipline of the phalanx, even if the phalanx was hopelessly smashed to flinders.
"No, I don't know where Mags is" he said. "I think there's a whole detention area down here, and it's probably a separate security force from the one we saw above ground. I'm not sure how much the ones up top know about those down here. I have no idea where Mags could be--maybe right next door, maybe half a block away."
"They pulled us right into a secret passage when they got us," Jo told him. "Came in through the door, but opened up a panel in the room and brought us down here. I was completely lost."
"I'm sure that's their intention," he said. "I couldn't figure out how they got into the time tunnel area, either, when they arrested me. Filostrato was very indignant--and I think a little frightened. It looks like they may have the run of secret passages everywhere, and nothing is really secure from them." Her face was wet from the tears. He gave her his handkerchief.
"Mallit, their security chief, mentioned getting his orders from somebody of greater importance that Filostrato himself," the Doctor told her. "Somebody who I think is somewhere else."
"That time tunnel thing of theirs. It was set to receive transmissions from the processing plant, but I saw other coordinates programmed into it. They've been receiving visits from another locale in the universe. Perhaps the true headquarters of this entire operation."
"Maybe the dining room of that horrible creature who wants to have you for his dinner," she said.
"It's all been rings within rings, Jo. Finding the inner ring of the processing plant and ending up here. And now we find that this is just another outer ring that we must get through."
"Three rings at the processing plant, and this would be the fourth ring," she said. "That creature told me that if you got into the fifth ring, it would dine on you."
"Or I will dine on him if I get the notion!" he snapped, but not at her. He was suddenly angry at their invisible enemy. He set his teeth but then he winced as he realized their predicament. "This is all my fault, and I'm sorry," he said. "I ran that test in the TARDIS with you there---"
"Is it that hopeless?" she asked.
"Oh no," he said. "I still give us a good chance of escape. It's what I've done to you--" and he stopped.
"I didn't want to come here," she reminded him, suddenly more resolute, since he couldn't be. "I didn't want to, but neither did you, and neither did Mags, and for that matter, neither did the Master. We all made the choice. I chose it as much as you did. You didn't choose it for me, Doctor. I chose," she insisted.
"But I've made choices for you in this, Jo," he told her soberly. "I've made them. I've done it, and I can't undo it now. Will you forgive me?"
"You mean the virus? You had to do this," she insisted.
"Someday," he continued, looking at her as though she had not spoken. "Not right now, but someday, will you forgive me?"
"Doctor, if it's important to you, then, I forgive you now," she pleaded, and the tears spilled out harder as she earnestly began to cry. "Don't you have any hope at all for me?"
"Yes," he whispered. "A great deal. But this has been a terrible thing. This was a terrible thing to do to you. It is the worst sin of my life."
His judgment on himself seemed absolute. He was no longer shedding tears, and he was not raving from self-recrimination, just speaking with a quiet dreadfulness about himself that she had never seen. She didn't know what to do when the brightness of his optimism flickered like this.
Hesitantly, shyly, because he was, after all, the Doctor, she put her arms around him, leaned her head against his shoulder, and looked up at him. It was a tactic familiar to her from her childhood days of consoling her own mother or father on the occasions when she had sensed sadness in them. Jo knew that she was pretty with a sweet prettiness, and she knew that her sweetness had won him over to her side in the past---far more than arguing or reasoning with him could have done. In some ways he was unlike humans to the point that there was no comparison. But in other ways, he could be appealed to, charmed, soothed like any human. She had no idea how old he really was, but she already knew that he often gave into her simply because she was so young, so much like a child in his eyes.
He looked down at her, and the haunted look of despair went out of his face. "Yes," he said at last, as though she had said something. "Yes," he assured her. "It will be all right in the end. You have a great heart, Jo, and you will forgive me. I know you will." He drew her in with his left arm and leaned against the wall with her so that she was pillowed on his shoulder and chest. "Lean against me like that," he said. He took the handkerchief from her and patted her tears dry with it. "Rest, my dear. Rest right here for now. For the moment, we're together and as alive as any two people are."
* * * *
Mags woke up in the same place where she had fallen asleep in the bare room It had been a late night previously, what with dinner not until eight and then the planning session with the Doctor and Jo and the Master. And then once the Master and she had returned to their room, he had just fallen onto the bed and slept without a second thought. She had gingerly lain alongside him, feeling frightened and prudish. Sleep had been fitful for her, while he had enjoyed deep repose. She had gotten up before dawn.
So once in the cell, she used her good sense to lie on her back and keep her hands--which had been manacled in front of her--propped upright, the edge of the thick manacle braced against her chest. When she woke up a few hours later, any swelling induced by the manacles had gone down as the blood had drained from her hands and wrists. She flexed her fingers to wake them up.
Neither she nor Jo had been searched before being brought down, the opinion of them by their captors apparently not being very high. Mags Hardbottle always had a lock pick or two with her. The manacle was a kind she had not often seen before. It was just a hinged slab of steel with holes bored in it for her wrists. It opened with a single protected hinge on the left end, and it locked on the right end. It was heavy and unwieldy. Had she been forced to walk around with it, her wrists and hands would have swelled badly and the small amount of room that she would need to get out would have been denied her. But as it was, she had plenty of slack for her wrists.
She sat up, crossed her legs Indian style, propped the manacles against her legs, and pushed her inner hands out through her blouse. She struggled and wiggled around until she had the lockpick out of her hip pocket in her outer right hand, and then she passed it to her inner right hand. Then she lifted both outer hands over her head to let the blood drain back out.
Tark inner hands are designed primarily for gripping, but she was fairly sure that she could pick the lock.
* * * *
In the relativity project area, Filostrato and Calvin were having a whispered conference while the Master sat, face fixed, and glared at the lab table. One of the male scientists stood apart from them as well, a gun incongruously strapped around his waist. It was clear that Filostrato could not endure the presence of Mallit's armed security forces down here, down in the sacred relativity project, the domain of his hand picked scientists.
At last they turned their attention to him. He sneered at them as they approached him. "Is that your idea of a guard?" he asked with a nod at the scientist.
"My dear Dr. Masters," Filostrato said. "We have uncovered that only recently you visited the fools at the processing plant--for whatever purpose--bringing the two women and the other scientist with you. However you managed to do it, we do not know, but it is clear to us that you have succeeded by your intelligence, and not by strength of arms." He nodded at the armed scientist. "We have decided that it were much safer to have you guarded by one of comparable intelligence, rather than one of Mallit's armed _canaglia._"
"Besides, Dr. Geoffreys there is a fair shot with a gun," Calvin put in. "Taken awards in marksmanship."
"What it really amounts to is that you're locked in a power struggle with Mallit, Filostrato," the Master told him. "You don't even have any idea how he got in here to capture me, do you?"
"It is your fate that should be your first concern, dear professor," Filostrato said.
"Then Mallit is my first concern," the Master returned. "If he gets you out of the way, I can expect to be shipped first thing to that accursed plant out there." He arched an eyebrow. "Or is there someone else who has expressed an interest in me? Whoever Mallit received his orders from? Who really runs this place, Dr. Filostrato? And how quickly will he destroy you if he thinks you have failed him?"
Filostrato's face became very still, as did Dr. Calvin's. Touching nerves was dangerous work, and required steadiness. The Master went on.
"When did you start to lose control over to Mallit, Director?" the Master asked him. "How did he start to build an empire of power right here under your nose? You left security much too much under his control, didn't you? And now he's toppling your infrastructure. He's ingratiated himself with somebody that you fear." He turned away and looked down at the table. "Right then, what is my fate? Dissection? Interrogation?"
Filostrato and Calvin glanced at each other.
"We would, of course, be very grateful to you for any means you could suggest--" Filostrato began.
"Obviously you understand security infrastructure," Calvin said. "Like how to build one, and how to seize control of one."
The Master did not bother to look up. "Of course," he said. "Given time and the right inducements, I could reduce Mallit to a puppet. Or to a pile of ashes, for that matter."
"Your life is inducement enough," Filostrato said. "We have the other one, the Doctor Grant. We can afford to let you go free."
The Master shook his head. "Oh no. No, I'm afraid I'm not so gullible. You'll have to do better."
"We cannot release you both--"Filostrato began.
"I have no concern for the Doctor," he said. "Nor for Jo Grant. By the way, you may want to test her blood and see what you find. Very interesting. What I want," he added, "is my wife back. I want to see her, and I want security clearance to come and go as I please."
"No!" Filostrato exclaimed. Calvin laid a hand on his arm.
"He's bargaining," Calvin said. "Negotiate."
* * * *
The dratted thing about the manacle was that the lock itself was tough and heavy, and the lock pick was not really sturdy enough to work well. This, combined with the lack of dexterity in her inner hand, made the work slow.
She turned around to see him standing there.
"Sin!" she exclaimed, struggling to her feet. "Thank goodness! I was worried for a minute."
He smiled a sardonic little smile. "Give me your hands, foolish girl."
She crossed to him, holding out both hands to him. He produced a key and unlocked the manacle.
"There," he said, opening it up and letting it drop to the floor. "Better?"
She let out a breath of relief. "Loads better." She quickly buttoned up her shirt, hiding her inner hands. She looked up at his dark eyes and for a moment said nothing, just looking, and he realized that she had thought she would not see him again. He took hold of her outer hands and examined the welts on her wrists.
"They were not kind to you, Margaret," he said. He gently lifted her chin with his gloved hand and looked at her eyes with a sober sternness. "Tell me if they hurt you."
"No, Sin, just pushing and threats," she said, her eyes held by his. "I was more worried for you."
His eyes studied hers for a long moment, and then he said, "You truly were worried for me, weren't you? I can see that you were. Fear for my welfare is in your mind even now." His quiet voice, sober and piercing to her as it was, took on a tone of wonder, as though he had never considered such a reaction from somebody before.
"Of course I was," she told him. "It's you they really want." She hesitated, then said in a shakier voice, "Sin, your eyes are--they're too powerful. They're goin' through me."
He stepped nearer, felt her tremble, and gentled his dark eyes so that she could bear it. Still looking at her, he gathered her into his arms, felt both thrill and fear ripple through her.
With an effort he made his eyes gaze softly at her, kindly, and he lowered his face to hers. Still trembling, she clung to him, all wonder, sudden shyness, and desire. He kissed her. "You will do want I want?" he asked her.
"Yes," she gasped.
"I'm leaving , and I'm taking you with me. You will serve me well in the cosmos, Margaret. A rare companion whose company I would choose to keep."
He straightened up and released her, but kept hold of her hand.
"What about the Doctor and Jo?" she asked. "Are they waitin' for us?"
"They are prisoners," he told her. "It doesn't matter. I've been given some use of the time tunnel device, and I can quickly return us to my TARDIS."
"We can use it to save the Doctor and Jo," she said.
"That is not my will," he said. "Come."
To his surprise, she pulled back, and when he turned to look at her, her face had lost its dreaminess. "You don't mean to leave them?" she asked. "Here? To these people?"
His expression changed. "Margaret," he said, with a quiet sternness that stopped her dead. His voice went through her like an arrow, but there was nothing pleasant in it.
She looked at him, waiting for an explanation.
"It is time for you to learn that you must obey me like a good soldier," he said to her. "What I require of you first and foremost is obedience: complete, yielded, and unquestioning."
She stared at his face as though seeing him for the first time. After a long moment she said, "What about all that about restin' between your hearts, and your gratitude and all that?"
"I am a conqueror, as I told you," he reminded her. "I have taken you captive. You will serve me, now: my own wife if you like to call yourself that, for as long as I keep you."
"Call---call myself that?" she asked. She quickly regained control of herself. "Sounds more like I'm your number one slave," she concluded.
"Certainly," he said. "Be reasonable. It is not unfit for the superior creature to bear rule."
"Obedience goes to them what deserves it," she reminded him quietly. "Not to every conqueror marching by. I ain't no prize of war, no matter what you think."
"You are, Margaret," he returned. "You have no choices in this. They have captured you and will kill you. I will take you and give you a life with me. You have very little say in the matter." He took up her hand in both of his. "Are you telling me to leave you here?" he asked. "I tell you, they have a most unpleasant death planned for you."
"I don't doubt it, Sin," she said. She hesitated, and then said deliberately, pleadingly, looking full into his dark eyes. "Save the Doctor and Jo, and I'll go with you, and I'll be your slave like you ask, and I won't question you no more."
He looked down at her, and she thought she saw the glimmer of indecision in him, a willingness to yield, even an admiration for her resolve to sell herself to save the others. But suddenly he drew back, as though affronted, and the moment was gone. He was suddenly angry.
"I am the Master," he retorted. "And you will obey me. Or die at their hands."
She let out her breath, and her blue eyes snapped back at his. Suddenly she was Mags Hardbottle again, not the lovely, carefully clothed woman he had created. "You know, Mr. Sin, as I told you in Episode 63, the universe is gonna be a lonely place once you get to the top of it," she told him. "What with all your friends and your women dead."
Her cocky tone was an affront to him. "I don't need women," he snapped. "I pitied you, ungrateful street wretch. I unveiled the universe to you."
"You used me to keep a finger on the Doctor's pulse," she said evenly. "'E come to you with two women as friends, and you couldn't bear it, could you? You just had to get one of us for yourself. Just to make sure he wa'an't one up on you." She let out her breath again, resigned to accept her own analysis of him. "Go on, Sin," she told him. "Get back on your trip to the throne. I'm not going with you."
"So you'll die with them. Is that what you want?"
She didn't answer him. She would have turned to walk away, but suddenly the back of his hand caught her across the face, a tremendous blow that whirled her around. She let herself whirl to the wall, hitting it with her back. She looked at him. His face had gone a stark white, and she thought she saw--even in the whiteness of his anger at being defied--an element of self loathing. She wasn't about to bank on it, but the idea that even he had not expected to hit her steadied her.
"Go on, then," she said, her voice very small. "You oughta leave. These blokes'll do all this for you."
He breathed in a sharp, harsh breath and let it out, and she saw that he was torn with some sort of inner rage--a rage against himself. She wondered if the temptation to mercy was more than he could endure. "Think of me, you wretch," he gasped. "When they have you in their labs. When you see the extent of their spite. No Doctor, No Jo Grant, and not me. You low-born Tark! Your masquerade will be over then!" In spite of the threat of his words, he seemed as shaken by them as he wanted her to be. His powerful eyes were filled with both anguish and frustrated fury against her. He suddenly strode to her, grasped the collar of her blouse, and ripped it down, revealing the inner hands. "A Tark sold into slavery by its parents! You don't think we all knew that! I pitied you for the wretch that you are!"
Two tears suddenly appeared in her eyes, and for a moment, the expression on her face was that of a very young child. But then she rallied her own will and met his eyes as evenly as she could. "Mr. Sin, you always was one to strip the clothes offa' us sweet young girls when you could get away with it." She was fighting back tears, but she caught her breath and in a moment was entirely Mags Hardbottle again. "You think of me, Mr. Sin. That is, if you've finished getting your fun outta degradin' me," she told him. "And when you've took over the universe or whatever, you think of it all 'appenin' to me down in their labs, and to the Doc and Jo. See if runnin' the universe makes it any easier to think about."
He crossed to her without even thinking, hand raised to strike her, then caught himself as she did not move either to fight or flee, her eyes fixed on his with every particle of her will resolved to be calm and steady. He whirled on his heel and strode out, not seeing that she came right behind him, her outer hands gathering her blouse together. Without looking back, he pulled a passcard out of the side pocket of his white lab coat and held it up to the white door. It slid back, and he turned to find her at his elbow.
"Will you kiss me goodbye, Sin?" she asked. "Kiss me, and forgive me for defyin' you at the end. I wish I 'adn't, but I can't leave them."
He pulled her in roughly and kissed her with a harshness meant to frighten her, to punish her, there in the open doorway of the cell. But she yielded, and when she had a chance, she whispered, "Please Sin. Since it's the end."
"You are a slave, a Tark rejected by its people. And I reject you!" He abruptly pushed her back into the room so that she would not come out the door with him, and hurried away as the door closed.
She leaned against the wall inside the cell and took a breath. She gingerly touched the bruise that had been raised on her face by his ring where he'd struck her. Then she wiped her bruised lips with the back of her hand. Then she glanced at the pass card that she had slipped out of his pocket. She glanced at it ruefully, her cherubic lips puckered in regret. "Well Sin," she said at last. "At least it wa'an't for nothing, lovin' you. I got a pass card outta it."
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