This house had to have belonged to a madman at some point. Now it belongs to the Master and that’s really just as bad. Built like a maze and 3/4ths of the doors are locked. Whenever he gets to a door and he’s sure there’s someone behind it, the Master’s voice over the intercom will remind him that there are two dozen other rooms and only one timer.
And doors are much harder to open without a sonic screwdriver.
He picked the lock to the first room, just in time to hear the snap and see the limbs fly off of another rebel from the video store. A classic rack, wired up to some machinery to pull down when the timer hit zero. The boy couldn’t have been more than 20. Jason Adreene, the Master informed him, along with reciting his school record and reading a few entries from the boy’s MySpace
"All you had to do was unstrap him. Pity the rest aren’t so easy." And the timer starts again.
He’s found more people, behind another door. A man and his daughter. The girl is calming down her frightened father and the Doctor promises he’ll get them out. He just doesn’t know how. This door is sealed shut and he can’t seem to force it open.
"What does that timer mean?" the man inside the room shouts.
"Dad, calm down, we’re going to be okay," the girl tells him. Her voice is muffled through the door, but he can still hear the little quiver to her voice. "He’s the Doctor, remember? He’ll save us."
He can’t do it. He can’t figure out how to get it open. He takes a step back and throws a kick at the door. Another. Another.
"Oh, come on, Doctor!" That’s the Master’s gleeful voice over the intercom. "You didn’t win all those games of Scree Scrimmach back at the Academy for having weak legs!"
The Master is enjoying this too much. All the times the Doctor mentioned he wanted out, wanted to run around, do something. Now the Master’s given it to him. The chance to save people.
Pity he hasn’t saved one yet.
The door splinters. He can hear the father’s sigh of relief. Panic is running through the Doctor’s veins. They’re running out of time.
The frame gives and his leg goes through the wooden door. Another kick and he’s through, falling forward onto the splintery floor. Inside the cramped closet are two old-fashioned electric chairs wired up to a panel on the wall. In the tall chair is a thirty-something man in a red sweatshirt who looks terrified. In the smaller chair (and the Master would find a smaller one, wouldn’t he?) is a girl who can’t be more than thirteen who looks relieved.
The man barks at the Doctor. "He told me how to unlock this, all you need to do---"
The timer hits zero and the panel lights up. As does the father. He screams and shakes as electricity flows from the chair into his body. His eyes bulge, the veins in his face burst, and his screams are brief.
His daughter continues to scream even after the electricity stops and her father slumps down in the chair, his eyes wide and vacant.
The timer on the wall between them starts up again.
"Daddy?" The girl struggles against the large metal clamps that hold her to the chair. Her voice is tiny and broken and tears stream down her cheeks. Her father is still smoking in the chair across from her. The Doctor walks over to his body and places his fingers on his pulse. His skin is still warm and sweaty, but there's no life.
He closes the dead man's eyes.
"Are you so, so sorry?" That's the sadistic laugh over the intercom. "Alan Jackson, 35. Computer programmer, divorced. Likes skateboarding and spending time with his daughter. Overall nice guy. As his daughter, what would you say to that? Maria, isn't it?"
The little girl screams and struggles. "I'll kill you!" she shouts.
"Clearly the 'nice guy' gene didn't go down in the family. Well, Doctor, seems you've already found your next target to save."
No time to grieve. The girl---Maria---needs him now. He turns around and rushes to her side. She's clamped to the wooden chair with tight cuffs that have multiple locking mechanisms. He'd need the sonic screwdriver and a few minutes of fiddling to get her out of it. Pity he appeared to have neither.
"And you know----" the Master says, "---It's hardly fair to have you with such a good head start. Takes the tension out of the game. We'll make it fairer."
The LED light changes.
Maria screams again and tries to kick her feet. They're also locked against the bottom of the chair and there's blood running down the top from where she's been struggling for who knows how long.
"It's going to be all right," the Doctor promises. "I'll—" he doesn't want to promise he'll save her. He's promised that to too many people.
He darts over to the panels. They're covered in shatterproof glass so he can see how the power is charging up with each passing second, but he can't possibly hit the "off" switch right in the middle.
There has to be a trick. He drops down and tries to see if he can reach under the panel. He scrapes his fingernails along the seams and kicks at the bottom of the panel. It's strong stuff, it doesn't move.
There's a laugh over the intercom.
Maria's screams have quieted and she's just hiccupping, trying to get herself under control. The Doctor turns and sees her staring at her father's corpse, still slumped over in the chair.
"Don't look at him," he instructs her. "Maria. It's Maria, right? Don't look at him, look at me."
She doesn't listen. "It's all my fault," she says. "I told him we should go to the meeting. I told him we should go and he didn't want to go. He wanted to stay hidden."
"I know, I know, and I'm sorry. But I'm going to get you out of here." He can't figure out how. He tries to pry the panel up from the top, but it's bolted to the floor.
"It's what Sarah Jane would've wanted, I thought. To fight."
The Doctor looks over at her. "Who?"
"Sarah Jane, a journalist," Maria says, and fresh tears stream down her cheeks. "My friend. She died when the Toclafane killed all those people. Cut her up. And Luke."
Sarah Jane. The Doctor's hearts seem to stop in his chest. But of course they wouldn't have spared her. And no one was expecting it, of course she'd be dead. He thinks he might vomit again, but there's nothing left in his stomach. And the Master leaves him no time to grieve.
It's better this way. He wouldn't want Sarah Jane to see what the world had become.
There's a loud beep as the timer hits a minute. Maria takes in a breath and the Doctor thinks she might scream again, but she doesn't. She just cries, quietly. She's so afraid. Her hair is long and frizzy and she looks like Susan did when she was that age. He thinks that might be the reason the Master chose her. He never does anything without a reason.
The Doctor can't let her die.
He runs across the room and grabs the sitting chair from the other end. He smacks the glass above the panel. It bounces off without making a dent.
"That's not working, Doctor." The Master chuckles over the intercom.
The Doctor throws the chair aside and finds himself shouting. "Let her go! Put me in that chair! You hate me enough, do it! Just let her go!"
Maria's sobs grow louder. "I-I-I don't want---"
"She doesn't waaaaant to!" the Master mocks. "And it would be absolutely no fun to kill you now. There are ten more people in this house for you to save! It appears, little Maria, that the next thirty seconds are all you've got left. Sorry, twenty-nine. Twenty-eight."
The Master begins reciting the timer in a sing-song voice. It echoes off the walls and crackles with static.
The Doctor drops down to Maria in the chair. He puts a hand to hers. He could break her thumbs, get her hands out of the cuffs, but there was no way he could get her legs loose without her loosing her feet, and that would just mean she'd bleed to death.
"I'm sorry," he says.
She looks afraid, but she swallows back a sob. Her tiny hand curls around his. "It's okay. Just save everyone else. Please."
She's just the sort of person he imagines Sarah would've had, if she had a daughter. No wonder they got on so well. And she's about to die. Electrocuted just like her father. He glances over at the panel. The electricity buildup could probably kill a line of rugby players, it's more than enough to cook this little girl from the inside out. If only the Master would let him take her place. But he won't. The Master won't let the Doctor die.
The Master won't let the Doctor die.
The Master won't let the Doctor die.
The Doctor leans forward and wraps his arms around Maria and the chair, pressing his cheek to her shoulder. She thinks he's hugging her and she starts to tell him it's okay.
"What are you doing?" The voice over the intercom again. There's no humor in his voice now. "Are we having an emotional moment, Doctor? Can't you take it elsewhere, it's hardly an attractive sight."
The Doctor clings to Maria. "If this chair goes off, that's enough electricity to burn us both. Burn out both my hearts."
"Self-sacrifice was always your favorite medium," the Master snorts. "But it'll do you no good now."
"You won't kill me."
"You seem very confident of that."
"Get away from her, Doctor!" The Master's voice sounds almost nervous. The Doctor grins against Maria's shoulder. She's shaking. He thinks she's crying. Or holding her breath.
"It's going to be all right, Maria."
The LED timer blinks, but the electricity stays in the panel. For a minute, nothing moves. Not the Doctor, not Maria, not the wiring, nothing.
Then there's a loud smack over the intercom. Maria yelps. Another smack. No, not a smack, a clap. The Master is clapping.
The locks on Maria's arms and legs unhook and the cap on her head moves backwards. She falls forward into the Doctor's arms.
"Oh, but I can't help but reward you when you make such a spectacle of yourself," the Master's voice coos, amused. "And one out of three isn't so bad."
The Doctor lifts the girl in his arms. She hooks her hands behind his neck and cradles her head against his shoulder. He saved her. One. He saved one.
"Thank you," she breathes.
There's a beep. He spins around.
"Let's see how well you both run, now!"
Muse: The Doctor (Ten)
Fandom: Doctor Who
Word Count: 1,907