The Resurrection of Evil
EPISODE Six: Action Potential
“Something’s wrong in this House today
While the Master was riding the Servants decided to play
Something’s wrong in this House today
Something’s been going on, there may be a price to pay.”
— “May Be a Price To Pay,” the Alan Parsons Project
The late morning sun shattered brilliantly against the mirrored windows of the Saint Paul skyscrapers, spiking through the cobwebs seventeen stories above the street. Far below, an albino squirrel bounded across the grass and stopped beneath a crabapple tree, its pink eyes gleaming at Terri and the Doctor as they sat on the concrete benches in Rice Park. Its coat was thin and bedraggled.
“Poor thing,” said Terri, craning her neck around to watch the squirrel. It flicked its tail once, then turned its interest to a half-eaten hotdog bun.
Behind her, the Doctor stared into the fountain and did not reply. Terri turned away from the squirrel and watched the water cascading through the pool. A bronze statue of a girl was playing in the water. Terri coveted her carefree joy.
“The Master,” said the Doctor.
Terri swallowed. “What about him?”
The Doctor shook his head. “I don’t know yet.” He rummaged through his pocket and came up with the packet of White Lighting. “There’s this. If I know the Master — and I do — he’s planning something. Something terrible.”
Terri shivered. She remembered the Master laughing through her friend’s mouth, looking out her friend’s eyes, using her friend’s hands to murder Nora, and God knew what else. –Oh, Methos, she thought.
She swallowed hard, pushing her feelings out of the way. “Okay. Just who is this Master, and how do you know him?”
The Doctor took a deep breath. He looked up into the sky. “Once he was a Time Lord like myself. We even went to Academy together. Class of ’92.” He trailed off.
“Yes?” prompted Terri.
The Doctor shook himself. “The Master is one of the most terrible criminal minds that Gallifrey has ever produced. His megalomania knows no bounds. It cost him all thirteen of his lives and he had to resort to stealing bodies.”
“Ah. Like Edward and . . . .” She bit her lip.
“Yes,” said the Doctor, turning to meet Terri’s eyes. “Like Edward and Methos. And Tremas and Bruce and who knows how many others . . . . He is determined to survive and nearly as determined to gain mastery of the universe.” He looked down at the packet in his hand. He shook it. “I wonder what this has to do with it.”
He stood. “Terri, we have to go back to the Brickyards.”
“What?!” she cried, jumping to her feet. “We barely got away!”
“I know that,” he said. “But we need clues, and Turn Of a Friendly Card won’t open until this evening.”
Two young men sat on the edge of the pool outside Nordstrom’s while the Saturday traffic of Mall of America shoppers streamed around them. They were brothers, dressed identically, but they looked nothing alike. They looked up at the voice.
The woman who spoke wore stylish grunge. She swayed from side to side as she stood in front of them, seeming unable to restrain herself completely from motion. Her eyes were soft and unfocused. She did not smile.
“Hello,” said one of the young men. His hair was blonde and untidy. “What’s up, friend?”
He had never met her before.
He knew her as well as he knew his brother.
“I got the power,” she said. “Want some?”
He nodded slowly. His brother nodded too. “You know it!”
She handed each a small white packet. “On the house,” she said. “There’s New Music tonight. Ace of Swords. Same place as last night. If you can find it, you can dance it. If you can dance it, you can be it!”
The crowd of shoppers swelled. The woman spun laughing into the human tide and vanished. The brothers shared a long glance, then followed her into the madness, dancing all the way.
The cool air of the cavern sank into Terri’s Birkenstocks, coating her toes with limestone dust. So far, they had not seen the Master. –Although, thought Terri as they stood at the lip of the cave and stared into the darkness, –that doesn’t mean much.
Nora’s body was gone, which had struck Terri as rather a mixed blessing when they had arrived. She didn’t want to think about what the Master might want with a healthy corpse.
“Uh, Doctor,” said Terri, “don’t you suppose he might be in there waiting? All that earlier about ‘predictable as ever.'”
“Oh, the Master will be long gone,” he said, fumbling in his pocket. “He never tries the same trick twice. He’ll be setting up something nastier.”
“What are you looking for?” asked Terri. She had a horrible feeling that the something nastier would be waiting for them at the Mall. She did not want to think about it.
“A torch,” said the Doctor. After a moment, he produced a flashlight. “Aha!” he said, and switched it on.
“It’s called a flashlight,” muttered Terri. But the Doctor had moved into the cave and out of earshot. With a shrug, Terri followed.
The air turned cool and pleasant, although Terri found the stillness of it disturbing. “Like a grave,” she said.
“Yes,” said the Doctor. After a few moments, he stopped. “Rassilon’s Rod,” he breathed. “Look at that!” And he gestured with the hand holding the flashlight.
“Jesus,” said Terri.
There, tucked impossibly away in the blackness of the limestone cave, was a spaceship. As the Doctor ran the flashlight beam along its length, Terri could make out delicate fins, tubing, and panels covered with a flowing alien script. “How the hell did *that* get in here?”
“Matter transferance,” said the Doctor. “This is a N’vrokten ship.”
He stepped up to the ship’s side and ran a hand along its surface. “The N’vrokteni are a race noted for elegance and simplicity. They are also noted for inventing a short-range open-ended matter transmitter.”
“Ah,” said Terri. “But how did the Master get one of their ships?”
The Doctor shook his head and stepped away from the ship. “Good question. Best guess, a N’vrokten scout landed on Earth to conduct a planetary survey. They like surveys. In the 30th Century, the Galactic Federation . . . .”
“Forget the anecdote,” said Terri. “I get the picture. Peaceful alien comes down to Earth, meets homicidal madman, rest of story left to the viewer’s imagination.”
“Something like that,” said the Doctor. His voice was hard.
Terri itched her nose. There was a faint scent of flowers in the air. “Phew,” she said. “The Master must like potpourri.”
The Doctor frowned. “Potpourri?” He sniffed the air. “Good heavens, you’re right!”
“I said the N’vrokteni love elegance, didn’t I?” he said. Terri nodded. “They also like the scent of flowers. This ship’s been readied for takeoff.”
Terri sucked in her breath. “Damn,” she said.
“Exactly. We have to get back to the Mall. Whatever the Master is planning, it’ll happen today.”
He floated freely in the darkness, unsure of where he was, or even who he was. Somehow he remembered knowing those things before. But the memory was vague and uncertain.
The voice was gone and for that he was glad. He didn’t like the voice. It called itself the Master and spoke with a fearful eloquence. Almost feline. Yet he could not shake the impression of a snake whenever he thought of the vile presence that had trapped him here.
“Where am I?” he called.
–In the Village, he thought wryly, then wondered where the thought had come from. He concentrated.
The answer came floating out of the abyss. He flailed at it, caught it and knew. 1967. “The Prisoner.” Patrick McGoohan. A television series based around concepts of individuality and personal freedom.
Freedom. He had been free once. Free for over five thousand years, free to do as he pleased, to live as he pleased, to live, to grow stronger, and to fight again.
There was another memory. No, a host of memories. Fire and lightning, the power to hold back death. But he could not remember enough to understand. The memories frightened him a little, since he could not remember how they came to be.
Yet he knew enough. He was imprisoned; that was enough.
“Who am I?” he called.
Laughter. Instead of knowledge came the unholy glee of his jailor, who had been watching the whole time. YOU ARE NUMBER SIX! it shouted.
“Oh, shut up!” he shouted at the voice. The nine syllables of the monster’s name rose up from the oblivion and were lost. It did not want him to know its name.
I AM THE MASTER, AND YOU ARE NOTHING! DO NOT FORGET IT! And it laughed horribly.
Suddenly he knew that this creature feared him. It had taken and hidden its name to protect itself from him. But what power did he have against such a thing when he could not even remember himself?
The Master laughed for a very long time. The vile worms came out of the blackness once again to feed upon his essence. He abandoned thought and screamed, but there was no surcease.
“Okay,” said Terri, turning Nora’s battered Nissan onto the Lafayette Freeway. “It’s past noon and I’m famished.”
“One meal a day is quite enough,” said the Doctor.
“Oh, sure,” said Terri, “for a Time Lord. We mere humans require sustenence occasionally.”
“All right,” he said. “We’ll stop for lunch when we reach the Mall. There’s still time before the Turn Of a Friendly Card opens.”
“Fine,” said Terri. “In the meantime, we’ve got fifteen minutes before we arrive. Plenty of time to discuss the situation.”
The Doctor did not answer right away. Terri switched on the radio. There was a cassette tape in the deck, which automatically started to play soft instrumental rock. It sounded vaguely familiar.
“Doctor?” said Terri.
“Hmm? Oh. Sorry, I was thinking.” Out of the corner of her eye, Terri saw him turn to look out the window. “The Master is loose in the Twin Cities. He could do untold damage. I only wonder why he’s waited this long.”
“Maybe he was waiting for you,” said Terri, shrugging. They crossed into West Saint Paul and the houses beside the road dropped away, replaced with a wooded park.
“There’s a thought,” said the Doctor. “But I doubt it. I think he was just lucky.”
“What are you saying, Doctor?”
He sighed and ran a hand through his hair. “He’s always disliked me.” –Understatement of the year, thought Terri. “He’s always wanted revenge. But he’s got something else going on here, something totally separate from either his survival or my death.”
“Like what?” asked Terri.
“That’s what worries me,” replied the Doctor.
The music changed and they fell silent. The next song began. It sounded extremely familiar, but Terri couldn’t place it until the vocals began. “Hey,” said Terri. “Ace of Swords was playing that last night, weren’t they?” The Doctor nodded and they both listened.
“And they think it will make their lives easier
For God knows up till knows it’s been hard
But the game never ends when the whole world depends
On the turn of a friendly card
No the game never ends when your whole world depends
On the the turn of a friendly card”
“Oh my God,” said Terri. “The card the bouncer handed me . . . the cards that were lying on the bar . . . .”
The Doctor finished for her. “The Game never ends when the whole world depends on the Turn Of a Friendly Card.”
“He’s rigged it, hasn’t he?” said Terri. “The bastard’s rigged the Game.”
“I wonder,” said the Doctor.
“Wonder what?” They reached the I-494 interchange. Terri took the westbound exit.
“I wonder if that’s really all there is to it.”
Terri’s heart grew cold. “What could possibly be more to it?”
The Doctor did not answer. Terri glanced over and noticed that he was examining the packet of White Lightning. She returned her attention to the road and drove with her fingers wrapped around the wheel so tightly it left marks.
The worms had left him alone after a time, vanishing into the blackness without a sound. And he knew that he was truly alone; if the beasts were gone, his captor was ignoring him for the time being.
He kept silent and concentrated. The worms were illusion; he was sure of that. But before he could escape he had to know where he was and why he was and most of all who he was.
After a time, he found his answer.
The brothers were dancing in the crowd. There was no real music in the air, but they were practising for tonight.
“New Music,” said the one.
“The power,” said the other.
“White Lightning!” they said in unison, laughing into each others’ faces.
There was another there. He had the power. They could tell just looking at him. But he had something else too.
They had never met him before. They knew him as well as they knew each other.
“Hello, friends,” said the man. “Follow me if you want the power forever.” He was English, but even if they had noticed they would not have cared. He had the power; he always had the power. That was all they knew and all that mattered. They laughed for joy and followed their Master. Their laughing faces were as blank as a joyless clown.
They were riding the White Lightning.
Because of the Lightning, they did not see him falter and drop from the lead. They knew where to go in any case. “Follow the Master,” said the one. “Follow the power,” said the other.
“White Lightning!” they said together.
As he floated in the darkness, he remembered.
Cities rose and fell. People died, many by his own hand. Five thousand years of keeping his head on his shoulders. The Game. Old friends, some still alive, others dead for centuries. Love. Hate. Fear. The pain of betrayal and the knowledge that friendship can cost an Immortal his head.
Other things came back. Not everthing was good, not everything was bad. He hovered in the darkness until he was whole once again.
–Live, grow stronger, fight again.
–But how the hell do I fight this?