Almost done! One more chapter after this one. I’ve been sick the last couple of nights, so I apologize for not having non-fanfic content. There will be non-fanfic content coming soon, I promise!
The Masque of the Baron
EPISODE NINE: in which good and evil do battle to the end
The Doctor groaned, coming painfully back to consciousness. Much to his dismay, he was back in the same cell. He tried to sit up, but couldn’t. His hands and feet had been tied together.
“Now how did Houdini get out of this?” he muttered to himself. As he began working at his bonds, he heard a sharp intake of breath. He craned his neck around and saw Adam stirring.
“What . . . where am I?” asked Adam. “Why am I bound?” he asked, feeling the ropes.
The Doctor sighed. “We’re back in the cell, I’m afraid.”
Adam slumped down against the floor. “Oh no,” he said, despairingly.
The Doctor frowned. “Don’t give up, man!” he said. “I met Houdini once. Taught me a few tricks.”
“But you said we needed that dimensional whatsit.”
“Yes,” said the Doctor shortly, squirming around in an attempt to free himself. With one particularly good twist, he felt the loops around his wrists loosen, and he smiled.
“Doctor . . . ,” prompted Adam.
“I think . . . I’ve almost . . . got . . . my hands free,” said the Doctor. The ropes loosened again, and, pulling his fingers tightly together, he slipped his hands free. “There!” said the Doctor, proudly.
Adam was still looking expectantly at the Doctor. The little Time Lord sighed. He wondered briefly if he should tell Adam just how bad things really were.
No. He didn’t need to worry Adam unneccesarily. It made no difference, in the end, whether the Doctor told him everything or not. It was always the same, wasn’t it? A grand gamble, pitting his own luck against the terrible horrors that stood to overthrow the universe.
And now there might not be time. Unless . . .
The Doctor quickly untied his feet , walked to the door and put his ear against it. He heard a distinct cough from the other side.
“Well, my friend,” he said to Adam, stooping to untie him, “I’m afraid our only hope right now is Terri.”
–Why, thought Terri, in the name of everything did I run off like that? I could’ve done something.
A small voice at the back of her mind whispered that there was nothing she could have done. –Well, at least I’m here, she thought.
After she had fled for a minute, she had reconsidered the wisdom of fleeing blindly into the darkness. Backtracking, she had recovered her lantern but discovered that when she had dropped it in her flight, the bulb had popped.
So she’d crept quietly into the cavern, moving towards the TARDIS. The door had been locked, so she had picked up the Doctor’s antique gas lantern.
That was when she had noticed the blood trail.
Following the blood, she had quickly caught up with the party carrying her two friends. Observing the route more closely this time, she had been surprised to note that it followed a very clear pattern. Keeping to the shadows, she was able to follow them all the way to the same cell they had escaped only hours before.
There were only two guards on the cell now. The others had left. Terri cursed herself for not having moved close enough to hear what they’d said. But the cell doorway she stood in had offered concealment.
–So now what? she asked herself.
Terri sank into a crouch. As she did so, she felt the Doctor’s lantern strike her knee. And then she knew what to do.
The lantern was fueled by white gas. Terri grinned mischievously as she unscrewed the pump on the side of the lantern and began pumping. She was rewarded with a hissing noise as the pressure built up inside the lantern. Now she was glad to be out of earshot.
When she judged the pressure was high enough, she struck the flint hanging from the lantern. Suddenly, a brilliant light filled the corridor. –This better work, she thought to herself.
“Who’s there?” called one of the guards. “Show yourself!”
Terri grinned but did not answer. Slowing standing, she gathered up her courage and flung the lantern around the lip of the doorway and at the two guards.
The lantern exploded on impact.
Terri peered around the doorway to see both guards reeling on the floor, covering their eyes.
“I’m blind, I’m blind!” cried one. “Oh, God, I can’t see!” The other only whimpered wordlessly.
Terri winced for a moment as she watched their agony. She knelt down by the first guard. She winced again when she realized that he, like all the others was only a boy.
“Oh, God . . .” he sobbed.
“I . . . I’m sorry,” said Terri. “But I had to do it.”
The boy did not answer. So Terri took his gun and searched him quickly. Biting her lip, she turned to the other boy, who was whimpering uncontrollably and clutching spasmodically at his eyes. So she took his gun too. A quick search revealed the key to the cell.
“I’m sorry,” she said again to the two boys, aware that neither of them was in a state to comprehend her. And she turned and unlocked the cell.
She pushed the door open.
“Terri!” called a familiar voice. She turned to see Adam smiling with joy and disbelief. Relief filled her heart, threatening to overwhelm her.
“Oh, thank God!” she said. Without another word, she grabbed Adam and wrapped her arms around him. “I’m so glad you’re all right!”
“Ahem,” said a voice behind her. Terri remembered the Doctor and disengaged guiltily from Adam. She turned and smiled to see the little Time Lord.
He frowned at her. For a moment, Terri remembered that he’d told her to run away and worried that he was angry. But then his face broke into a broad grin.
“That was well done, Terri,” he said, a peculiar catch in his voice. His eyes became very distant. Terri wondered what he was thinking of. After a moment, he brought his eyes back to Terri. “You remind me . . . of someone I once knew.”
Terri was surprised to hear a kind of pain in his voice. But the Doctor did not give her time to ask about it.
“We’ve got work to do,” he said, all pain gone, replaced by a fresh resolve. “Now, Terri, this is what I want you to do . . .”
Sitting in the darkness behind Michel, the Baron smiled happily. It had been some hours since the terror in the department store and the terror in the metro. And his horrible thirst for terror had been slaked most wondrously.
But now he felt the thirst again. –No matter, he thought to himself. Soon shall come the greatest terror of all.
And the sacrifice.
The Baron smiled a vampiric smile and laughed out loud, startling a rat. He grinned, watching the rat flee, squeaking in terror.
And a thought struck the Baron. A rat is like a mouse. And what plays with mice? A cat!
Cat and mouse . . .
He grinned again, his bicolor eyes glittering with anticipation. Leaning forward, he whispered a command in Michel’s ear.
“Jean!” called Michel. One of the boys came near. “Fetch the prisoners!”
As Jean saluted and left, the Baron grinned with pleasurable anticipation.
“Where are you taking us?” asked Adam.
The boys answered by pulling hard on the new ropes around Adam’s wrists. One of the boys — the red-head named Jean — turned and spat at Adam’s feet. “That’s for what you did to Guillaume and Thomas!” And he turned insolently away.
“We’ll find out soon enough, Adam” the Doctor said grimly. “But if I’m not very much mistaken, we’re going to meet the director of this sick drama.”
Adam turned to look the Doctor in the eye. “The Baron?” he asked.
“Yes,” said the Doctor. “The Baron. Just keep your fingers crossed.”
Adam nodded and fell silent. He did not speak again for the rest of the journey.
After some time, they arrived in the same vast spray-painted hall as before. There were very few people this time; only Michel and a handful of armed teenagers. Almost immediately, Adam Sensed the Baron’s presence. His heart sank. In all his millenia, he had never encountered anything like the Baron. He was afraid.
“Welcome!” called the Baron, his sinister voice echoing throughout the cavernous room.
“So you’ve dropped the pretense then, Baron?” asked the Doctor cheerfully, his bright voice cutting through the sense of doom that permeated the room. Adam regarded the little Time Lord with surprise. His spirits had lifted considerably.
The Baron stepped out of the darkness behind Michel. He was frowning, perhaps at the Doctor’s audacity.
“You know nothing, alien fool.” The Baron sneered as he approached them.
“Really?” asked the Doctor calmly. “And what do you know?”
The Baron swelled at this remark. Adam became afraid for the Doctor. There was no way this strange little man could stand off someone like the Baron.
But the Doctor did not flinch. “Go ahead,” he said daringly.
For a moment, the Baron appeared to take the Doctor’s dare, his eyes narrowing. But then he smiled and the mood was shattered.
“Very clever, Doctor,” he said, “but not clever enough. You think you could beat me at my own game!” The Baron threw back his head and laughed. Adam felt a chill in his heart. “Don’t worry,” he said, sobering, his voice dropping almost to a whisper. “There’ll be time for you later.”
The Baron spun around to face Adam.
“You,” he said. Adam’s eyes grew wide. The Baron smiled horribly. Without turning his eyes from Adam, he said, “Jean, free them.” The ropes fell to the floor. Adam began chafing the blood back into his hands.
“Thank you,” he said.
The Baron grinned. “You’re welcome, my friend. Jacques!” he called. A boy came forward, carrying Adam’s sword. The boy extended it to Adam, hilt first.
Adam looked to the Doctor, who shrugged. Frowning suspiciously, he took the sword and turned to face the Baron again.
The Baron’s green and black eyes were glittering. “Now,” he said, “I believe your kind have a custom called the Game.”
Moving as quickly as she could without calling attention to herself, Terri ran lightly down the corridor, the TARDIS key swinging wildly from her hand. She was clutching a piece of incomprehensible equipment to her chest; apparently it was the dimensional stabilizer. Terri only hoped she’d taken the right bit out of the TARDIS.
There was a brighter light ahead. Terri devoutly hoped it was the main chamber.
Pushing her legs a bit harder, Terri reached an archway, concealed behind a large mound of stolen goods. –Good, she thought, remembering the stolen goods from her last unfortunate trip to this spot.
Setting the dimensional stabilizer down, Terri peered over the mound. She saw the Doctor, Adam, and the Baron, all together. Michel stood uncertainly back. Adam stood facing the Baron. And he was holding a sword.
The Baron was saying something. Adam nodded in reply. The Doctor began waving his arms, signaling “no” very clearly. However, Adam did not see him.
Terri bit her lip. She picked up the stabilizer and crept around the pile of appliances and electrical equipment, trying to get close enough to hear what was going on. She stopped when her cover ran out.
But it was far enough.
The Baron was speaking. “I would like to try this Game of yours,” he said. Terri started as he drew his own sword.
The Doctor was still gesturing frantically. This time, Adam noticed. She sighed with relief.
But Adam shook his head and said, “No, Doctor. I must.” Terri’s heart fell as she watched Adam bring his sword into position.
The Baron smiled and leapt into battle. Adam parried skillfully and returned with a feint and a thrust. The Baron managed to parry, but lost ground.
“Yes!” whispered Terri.
The fight continued. The Baron was good, but so was Adam. Indeed, it seemed that Adam was the better of the two. Reassured, Terri spared a glance at the Doctor.
And she gasped, for the Doctor looked very worried. He was shaking his head and whispering something under his breath.
She turned back to watch the fight. The Baron was not doing well. He had entirely lost the offensive. It was only a matter of time before Adam overpowered him. But Terri was no longer so sure of the outcome.
Adam had managed to drive the Baron back against a wall. In two strokes, he had the dark man disarmed and pinned against the stone masonry. “Give up,” he said, pressing the edge of his sword against the Baron’s throat.
But the Baron smiled. And the Baron laughed. And he said, “You have served your purpose, old one. I tire of this sport.”
Suddenly, the Baron was free. Terri started, for she had not seen him move free. Adam looked just as surprised.
Terri turned to look at the Doctor. He was clutching his head. Terri did not have time to puzzle this over, for the sound of metal on metal had distracted her attention.
The battle was turning very much in the opposite direction now. The Baron was lashing out with dazzling speed. It was obvious that he had been toying with Adam before.
“Stop!” shouted the Doctor, his voice ringing through the chamber. He was still clutching at his head, but there was a resolution in his eyes.
To Terri’s immense surprise, the Baron did stop, after pausing to disarm Adam.
“You have something to say, little man?” he said.
The Doctor stepped forward. His headache appeared to pass, for he lowered his hand as he approached the Baron. “Yes,” he said. Terri shivered, for his voice was as hard as stone. “I know who you are.”
The Baron appeared amused. “Do you?” he said.
The Doctor nodded solemnly. “Oh yes. My people have been to your world, a very long time ago.”
The Baron did not respond, but appeared uncomfortable for the first time.
“Doctor,” said Adam, “what are you talking about?”
The Doctor did not take his eyes from the Baron. But he answered Adam. Terri shivered as she listened. “Let me tell you a story. Once upon a time, there was a ruler. A man who ruled a world which had only just recently discovered interstellar travel. This ruler was an evil man, and many times people had tried to overthrow him. But always he won. But one day, an alien woman came down to his world, an alien whose technology was so advanced that he had no hope of defeating her.
“Now, like all evil people, the man was afraid of competition. So he used his cunning instead of his weapons to defeat the alien. He was very nice to her, got her to teach him all about her technology, and then, when she wasn’t looking, he killed her. And then he used her technology to make himself stronger. And stronger, and stronger, and stronger.
“He became time sensitive. And telepathic. But he also became quite mad. When the alien’s people investigated her disappearance, they found a world enslaved to an madman who fed psychically on their terror.
“Ordinarily, they would not have interfered. But my people felt responsible for this mad Baron having developed the ability to manipulate Time to a small extent. So they attacked, destroying all his work, all his notes, and crushing his cruel empire.
“But the Baron fled. He fled the planet in a tiny spacecraft, built by his own people. No one knew what became of him.”
–Now we know, thought Terri grimly.
“So, Doctor,” said the Baron, his voice little more than a whisper. “You are a Time Lord.”
“You’re finished, Baron,” said the Doctor. “Dead and gone.”
Adam began creeping away from the two, in the direction of his sword. Terri stood, holding the dimensional stabilizer in her hands, gathering herself to sprint out to the Doctor.
“No,” whispered the Baron. “No. No! I will not allow it!” And he raised his arm, pointing directly at the Doctor. “I will kill you first, little man!”
The Baron moved closer, forcing the Doctor to look up to him. But the difference in height did not seem important to Terri. For the Doctor stood unfazed, glaring silently into the Baron’s eyes.
Terri dashed out from behind the mound. Before she had gone five paces, however, a boy stepped out in front of her, pointing his AK47 directly at her. She came to a halt. –Great, she thought. Now what?
“No,” said a voice.
Terri turned, surprised. It was Michel. “There will be no more killing today.” There was an authority in his voice, but also a kind of regret. He smiled sadly at her. “I was wrong to follow the mad Baron, wasn’t I?”
Terri watched, amazed, as Michel turned and began walking towards the Baron. The dark man was still silent, locked in some sort of psychic battle with the Doctor.
“Mon Baron!” cried Michel. “I have something to say to you!”
The Baron did not answer.
Michel strode right up to him and struck him on the shoulder. “Baron!” he shouted, right in the man’s ear. “We shall follow you no more. You are nothing!”
And the Baron started. “What?” he whispered, breaking his gaze from the Doctor.
Then the Baron cried out once and collapsed.
The Doctor dashed to his side, examining the unconscious Baron. He looked up and saw Terri. “Quickly!” he said.
Terri ran to the Doctor’s side. She set the dimensional stabilizer down beside him. Without a word, he began spinning dials, muttering incomprehensibly beneath his breath.
“There,” he said at last, throwing a switch. “That should do it.”
A strange blue haze suddenly wrapped itself around the Baron. Colors twisted across its surface, dazzling Terri. Within seconds, the Baron’s body shriveled away, finally collapsing into sparkling dust, which was absorbed by the curious haze with a crackling sound.
The Doctor threw a few more switches and the haze vanished. He sat there for a few moments, then looked up at Terri. “Well,” he said. “That’s that then.”
“You mean . . . the Baron is finally dead?” asked Adam.
The Doctor nodded. “Yes.”
“But I don’t understand,” said Terri. “How did you do it?”
The little Time Lord stood, picking up the dimensional stabilizer. “To put it simply, all I did was create a static field of extreme temporal stability. Since his ability to manipulate time depended on unstable causality, his body tried to fight off the stabilizer. It couldn’t, so it ended up shaking itself apart.”
Terri moved next to Adam and whispered, “That’s putting it simply?” Adam chuckled in reply.
“Doctor,” called Michel. “I . . . I have a question.”
“Oh, don’t worry about it,” replied the Doctor. “You’ll do just fine.”
Michel nodded, but did not seem satisfied with the Doctor’s answer. “But what do we do now?”
The Doctor smiled sadly. “You’ll have to find that out for yourself. In the meantime, I suggest you keep out of sight until things settle down a bit.” He put a hand on Michel’s shoulder, reassuringly. “Trust me. You’ll do a lot of good.” And the little Time Lord turned and set off in the direction of the TARDIS.
“Don’t worry,” said Terri. “I’m sure he knows what he’s talking about.”
Michel nodded. “There is much to be done,” he said. “And I think I have a few ideas of how to do it.”
“Good luck,” said Terri, pausing to shake his hand before turning to follow the Doctor.
“Any idea where we’re going?” asked Adam.
“Better ask the Doctor,” replied Terri, grinning. And they left together.