Susan makes a few unlikely allies in this adventure based on a ‘Sci-Fi Sea Cruise Production’
Susan has lost count of the number of times she’s wished she could be in the TARDIS again, with her grandfather. She never could have imagined how foreign it would feel to her when she finally got the chance. The hum that emanated throughout the vessel was still the same; there was no way she could forget that. But the new desktop theme made her wonder how much the Doctor has grown from the crotchety old man she remembers. One thing was for sure, they’re much more vibrant in this body. There was barely a second in which they weren’t moving to some extent, their long, curly hair bouncing as they danced their way around the control panels with a certainty, rather than carefully examining each switch before flipping it like they used to. The Doctor broke the silence before she could think of something to say, “Looks like a distress call from a few galaxies over. Better go see what’s happening.” They immediately set to work, and the central column began its rhythmic movement, as Susan managed to blurt out, “Grandfather, you aren’t taking me with you, are you?”
The Doctor stopped cold in their tracks. “Susan?!?” She was almost offended, “Did you forget I was here?” The Doctor’s face turned a bright red. “I thought you left with Alex!”
“I wanted to say goodbye first! Now take me back home this instant!”
“I can’t just whip her back around now!”
“Well you better find a way soon! I’m not getting back into all this again,” she replied while gesturing to the vast interior of the TARDIS.
“Okay, okay, here. I can’t get you exactly back to your time right away, but I can drop you back on Earth for a bit while I see what the call’s about.”
“Why is this distress call so important to you?”
“Well, what if they’re in danger and I’m the only one who can help? I can’t just stand by if someone’s in danger.”
Hearing that somehow made any anger Susan had melt away. She was too busy noticing how far the Doctor has come since their time together. She was entirely expecting them to answer the distress call only to stop the light on the console from blinking. Taking a deep breath, she folded her arms before asking, “Well, where are you leaving me?”
Zoey Fleetwood immediately perked up when she saw another dolphin leaping out of the water. The cruise ship’s rocking made it a bit difficult to find footing, but it was nothing the rail couldn’t assist with. She used to think that people who referred to dolphins as “majestic” were just spouting a bunch of hokey, but she understood the sentiment a bit more deeply now. She was scanning the water for any others, to the point where she almost didn’t hear the great, elephantine roar coming from the front deck. Almost. Maybe it was some kind of horn on the boat. Couldn’t be an emergency, could it? She peeked her head over the stairwell to see if any other passengers were scrambling towards the lifeboats, only to find everyone going about their typical cruise business. There were only two things she noticed to be off: firstly, there was a big blue box that she was pretty sure wasn’t there before, and secondly, that the only ones paying mind to it other than herself being a handful of guests off to the side. She wasn’t sure whether it was more unnerving that they were all nodding at the box, or that they were doing it slightly out of sync. The dolphins would have to wait for now.
Before long, a woman stepped out of the box. The guests stopped nodding long enough to not catch her attention. Zoey noticed that the woman seemed kind of upset, like she didn’t want to be there. That wasn’t anything out of the ordinary in and of itself, but usually the only people she gets that vibe from on this ship were the staff, and the woman didn’t have a name tag. When she started walking away from the box, it vanished, making that same noise as it throbbed in and out of reality. As it went away, a gust of wind blew past Zoey, knocking her sun hat off of her head. She started chasing after the hat. See, when she wasn’t wearing it, other passengers would repeatedly mistake her for Ozzy Osbourne; this was funny the first 3 times, and every time since made her more and more uncomfortable. Her chase led her to the elevators, where she finally retrieved the sun hat after being rudely stepped on by some tool in a black suit. She first wanted to tell him off for stepping on the hat, then ask him why he’d wear that on a cruise, but he was fixated on some device, and had left before she could say anything. Ah well, no matter.
Zoey considered what she should do next. Her mind said to go find the woman, but her heart said go back to her room and take a nap. She looked at the elevators, considering her options.
Wait a minute.
Weren’t there 3 elevators? Zoey certainly didn’t consider herself the shiniest coin in the goblin’s pocket, but she was at least pretty sure there weren’t 4 elevators when she first got on the ship. Maybe she didn’t notice it because it isn’t working. It doesn’t make a great deal of sense, but she’s seen a lot of weird stuff in a very short time, so she’s willing to let it slide. Zoey thought the typo on the sign was pretty funny. “Temporally out of order.” She would’ve corrected it, but she didn’t have a pen on her.
The Master walked around the perimeter of the ship, the tracking device in his hand making nothing more than the occasional blip. Normally, he’d be relishing any sort of lovely destruction or mayhem he was wreaking, but today was different. Nobody likes having to cover their ass after screwing up, especially him. He still couldn’t believe that he was so careless as to just leave the orb on Earth. What’s worse, according to the readings he was able to get, it may very well be at the bottom of the sea! As the cogs in his mind did their work, it suddenly hit him that there may very well be a human on board with access to diving gear. Perhaps he would be able to use his adept hypnosis abilities to get the orb back without his hands getting dirty. Conveniently, he found himself at a high level of the ship, overlooking the front deck. Scanning the passengers, he found a few possible targets. One young man was particularly strong looking, but seemed to be busying himself with some women at the bar who didn’t look particularly interested. The Master marked him down as a solid maybe. Another passenger was laying in a lounge chair, working on her tan. She had a full bodysuit laying down next to her, immediately placing herself at the top of the slowly growing list. Still, good to cover all the bases. Closer to the right side of the deck was a figure that made the Master do a double take.
She was a bit older than when he last saw her, but he knew it was her. Time Lords are able to sense each other’s presence, a feeling that is heightened when you spend so much time away from Gallifrey. Oh yes, he thought to himself, she’ll be of the most valuable assistance. Now what was her name again? Arkytior? Lady Larn? Hmm, no matter. The Doctor always called her Susan anyway. Wait, does that mean he’s here too? Normally, this incarnation of the Master threw hands with the Doctor during the time he got a slap on the wrist from the Time Lords and was stuck on this planet. It would be rather interesting, seeing the old man again. He might be able to sweet-talk his way into getting the help he needs. Before he began snaking his way over to Susan, he noticed a row of guests sitting behind the young Time Lady. Originally, they were nodding in her direction, but they uniformly turned in the direction of the Master the second he regarded them. He quickly memorized their faces, just in case, and went to work.
Humanity does a lot of things that Susan can’t begin to comprehend, but one thing she appreciates them for is the mozzarella sticks she’s eating as she relaxes on one of the less wet lounge chairs. She does have to admit, some time away from the Earth she’s come to know was probably what she needed. She thought about asking her grandfather to drop her off some time after they departed, but ultimately decided that wasn’t the best idea, considering her son. She really did miss Alex. Sometimes, he was the only reason she kept going. Helping to rebuild the Earth after the Daleks’ occupation was arduous, to say the least, but it was worth it if it meant that Alex got to live in a world anything like the worlds she’s seen. Now that he knows about his ancestry, hopefully he’ll be more open to advocating for outside help. Susan was lost in thought for a while, until a very specific chill ran down her spine.
As if on cue, the Master stepped right in front of her, a forced smile beaming from his face and a hand outstretching, “If it isn’t Susan! Fancy meeting you here, how are you enjoying yourself, my dear?”
Susan reacted with a visceral disgust, obviously not reaching her hand to meet his, “Good grief! What are you doing here?”
“Why, I’m having a most delightful time as well! Humans really have perfected the art of relaxation, haven’t they?”
She wished she had a magazine with her so she could ignore him more effectively. She instead elected to roll her eyes. “You regenerated again, I see. Couldn’t get rid of that beard, could you?”
“I’m rather fond of my facial hair, thank you very much. A Master without a beard is like a day without sunshine.”
“I’m going to assume you need something?”
“You know, my dear, it’s polite to address someone by name when you’re talking to them.”
“You aren’t exactly the best person to learn manners from, Koschei.”
The Master could tell this wasn’t going to be easy, and locked his gaze on Susan’s eyes. “You could learn a great deal of things from someone with my intellect. For example, you can learn how to obey. I am the Ma-”
Susan interrupted him by breaking into laughter, “You seriously think that’s going to work on me? After what happened on Destination, Grandfather showed me how to resist your little parlor tricks.”
“Ah yes, where might dear Grandfather be?”
She quickly weighed her options, thinking about whether it would be smarter to lie to him, or admit she was alone. One thing she learned while serving on the Earth Council was that if you gave little enough information, you don’t even need to lie. She succinctly replied with, “Busy.”
“Very well, I’m sure you’ll be enough help.”
“And what makes you think I’m going to help you in one of your little schemes?”
“My dear, you don’t even know my business here,” he said while having the audacity to look offended.
“Safe to assume it’s probably something evil.”
“Evil, good. I really tire of being forced to stick myself into any one category. I serve my own interests, thank you very much. Now, if my interests happen to align with that of everyone else’s, wouldn’t it be worth at least hearing me out?”
Susan narrowed her eyes, to which the Master responded with another particularly untrustworthy smile. Or maybe that’s just how his face looks. He continued, “Come walk with me,” gesturing to the walkway that goes around the ship.
“Wait.” Susan turned to the plate sitting on the table next to her chair, and took her sweet time eating the last mozzarella stick before finally getting up to walk with him. She didn’t turn around to make sure he was coming with her, which was either good or bad, depending on how you take her not noticing the guests behind her standing up and walking off in a different direction.
After flipping through the channels on the TV for a while, Zoey resigned herself to sitting on the balcony. Ah well, she likes listening to music better anyway. The calm of the water in the early afternoon led her to pick out Relax Take It Easy by Mika. As the song played, she wished she was able to smuggle some weed with her. She really should get some more condoms when she gets back home. Stop thinking about home, idiot. You don’t take a vacation to think about home all the time. Zoey knew that taking this vacation wasn’t just going to magically make her happy, but she was rather hoping that she could distract herself from remembering that she wasn’t. She sighed. At least Mika was there to serenade her. She never really could get tired of listening to this song. It was at that moment that she realized she was rather hungry. She had already gotten lunch recently, so it wasn’t quite dinner time. Maybe she could get some ice cream. She did want to see if she could get away with just pouring it directly into her mouth. I mean, if that kid could get away with it, what’s stopping her? She chuckled at that thought. As the song finished, she stood up and made her way to the door, ready to enjoy a fun little cone of vanilla ice cream.
Her journey was unfortunately cut short. No sooner did she step out into the hallway than a single file line of guests, who went by too quickly for Zoey to recognize any of them, rudely shoved her against the door of her cabin. That tears it. Stepping on her sunhat ultimately wasn’t that big a deal, but even her less savory relatives know that shoving someone is just plain rude. Well, she wasn’t going to have it anymore. Nobody else was going to be mean to her on her vacation, that was her job. As the guests walked away, she marched off in their direction, fully ready to demand an apology.
When Zoey first got on the ship, she could clearly see that it was rather big, but she didn’t realize that the hallways would go this deep into the bowels of the cruise liner. She power walked as quickly as her thunderous thighs would let her. The guests were moving quickly, but never quickly enough to shake her off their tail, until they turned just one corner too many. One second, Zoey had them in her sights, the next, gone. She checked every direction they could have gone, and didn’t see hide nor hair of any of them. Maybe I should just give it up, she thought, until she heard a noise. It was, like, a sort of sucking noise? Maybe? Definitely nothing she’s heard before. Oh god, are they all having sex with each other? Upon further consideration, she didn’t think this was very likely. If that disappearing box wasn’t a hallucination, odds are there’s more to it than that. She heard the sound again, and was able to tell this time that it was coming from a storage room in the corner. She pressed her ear against the door, feeling something similar to one time when she went snorkeling and first realized that she couldn’t see the ocean’s floor.
“Has the orb been located?” Why were they whispering like that? Did they know she was here?
“It is within a reasonable proximity to the ship’s next destination. Our scout has yet to report back.”
“The Time Lords will be an issue.” What’s a Time Lord?
“Perhaps not. I was able to listen to their conversation. The female will not be swayed by him easily.”
“Could they be in league with the Doctor?”
“The man’s face matches with records we have of the Master.”
“It will be best if we let them find the orb for us, and intervene when it is retrieved. Less attention drawn to ourselves.”
“Agreed. After the ordeal with Truth or Consequences, it is best that we remain unnoticed.” Uh oh.
Zoey had a lot more questions now, but knew enough to realize she probably shouldn’t be here. She turned the other direction, intent on finding the mysterious woman she saw earlier, when the next thing she knew, she was on the floor, having made a bit of a ruckus. She froze, the only thought racing past her mind being the “Oh No” noise that played sometimes when you undid something in Kid Pix, on repeat. The door behind her opened, and to her surprise the voice wasn’t a whisper, like she was hearing behind the door, but rather a level voice calmly asking, “What are you doing here?” Zoey turned around to find a man, possibly in his late 30s or early 40s, with a handlebar mustache, sun visor, and green polo shirt that was slightly too big for him, poking his head out of the door.
“Must’ve got turned around, this ship’s way bigger than I thought. Do you know where the arcade is?”
The man waited to reply long enough that Zoey thought she was busted, until, “I believe it’s on the 7th floor.”
“Hey, I recognize you. You were the man that shoved me.”
The man blinked. “Oh. I apologize for that.”
Zoey got up and walked off, and the man waited until she was out of sight to close the door again. And Mom said the improv lessons wouldn’t pay off.
“How will I know what it looks like?” Susan asked, leaning back on the rail with her arms folded.
“It’s a small red ball, about the size of your palm. My readings indicate that we’re getting closer, so I suggest we explore wherever the ship lands next,” the Master replied while fiddling with the tracker.
“I don’t suppose you have another one of those?”
“Sadly, no. So, I’m able to count on your help?”
“One condition. I keep it after we find it. Even if you’re telling the truth about your intentions, I don’t trust you.”
“I suppose I deserve that. Has your grandfather ever told you about an Elizabeth Shaw?”
“I don’t believe so. Why do you ask?”
“You both have a sharp intuition. You were raised well.”
“Well, in the meantime, I’m going to get some ice cream.”
“I know it’s been some time since you left Gallifrey, but you know we don’t really need to eat, right?”
“We don’t need to drink wine either.”
“Touché. I guess we both like to live deliciously.”
“Don’t say it like that, you weirdo,” Susan said curtly before walking off. Truthfully, she didn’t like being this rude to the Master, but if even half of the things Grandfather told her are true, then he doesn’t deserve so much as an ounce of kindness. What stuck out most was the story the Doctor told about hot they got their current incarnation. The Master had tried to take their remaining regenerations; when it all went sour, they got into a scuffle. Life is wasted on the living. The sentence bounced around her head, as if it was taunting her. How could someone genuinely think that? Life is one of the most precious things the cosmos has gifted us, and if Grandfather was right about nothing else, it was that it deserved protection, freedom, room to blossom. She hoped Grandfather would be done answering the distress call soon.
The ice cream machine lifted her spirits a little bit. Or rather, it would have, if it didn’t have a kid underneath it, pouring all of the ice cream into his mouth. Susan genuinely didn’t know what to say; Alex may have been a bit rowdy as a kid, but he never did this. Everyone else seemed to share the same sentiment, until an employee came over to stop the child from doing that. As she walked over, the machine started to make a loud noise, and sputtered a few more drops of ice cream before it finally stopped. The kid, sensing that he was in trouble, launched any ice cream he hadn’t swallowed directly in the employee’s face and took off. If it was quiet before, it felt like the waves even stopped crashing when that happened. The poor employee, bless her soul, had composure unlike any other, and managed to keep it together well enough to squeak out, “The ice cream machine is out of order,” and walk away.
“Oh, you gotta be kidding me!” came a voice from behind Susan. She turned around to see a tall woman in a blue Hawaiian shirt that was missing a few buttons, a scratched up pair of teashades, and a blue and green sunhat. Feeling awkward about looking at someone directly in front of her without saying anything, she replied with, “You wanted to get some too? Some kid just barely beat us.”
“Was it that same little turd who was pouring it into his mouth?”
“You saw him, too?”
“Saw him? I was gonna copy that mad little genius.”
Susan couldn’t help but snicker at that. She was about to turn around and do something else, when the tall woman said, “Um, I don’t mean to pry, but what was up with the box you walked out of?”
She froze, as if she was caught sneaking a cookie past her bedtime. “Oh, what do you mean?” she lied.
“Well, earlier I saw you walking out of this blue box before it vanished. Normally I would’ve brushed it off, but there are these people on the ship who seemed to be paying close attention to you. I overheard talking about some kind of orb.”
Susan squished and stretched her face a bit with her hands out of annoyance. “Great. I can’t ever just look for a thing, can I?”
“Yeah, and they said something about Time Lords, too. Whatever those are.”
One thing about Grandfather that Susan wasn’t entirely fond of was that he can be a bit irresponsible at times. In particular, he has a habit of getting the people he brings with him into danger. However, this interaction made her realize that maybe it might not entirely be his fault. “What’s your name?” she asked.
“Zoey. Zoey Fleetwood. You?”
The Master didn’t often find himself having downtime. Being as crafty as he was, he could find opportunities to wreak his special little brand of mayhem in almost any situation he found himself in, many of which he seized as soon as he noticed it. He would’ve passed the time looking around for new mischief to make, but he reluctantly decided to retreat to his TARDIS until the ship docked. As much as either of them didn’t tend to admit it, the Doctor and the Master certainly have at least one thing in common; the one thing they couldn’t do was nothing. After some light pondering, he retreated to the craft’s seemingly ever-expanding corridors. It has been a while since I visited my library. The Master’s library was not quite as expansive as the Doctor’s, but it suited his needs. His hand was guided to a book of poetry given to him by an old acquaintance by the name of Sheev. This book was banned in several different star systems, as anyone with an ounce of compassion would be disgusted by the time they got halfway through the first poem. The book was offensive, disgusting, and each poem seemed to pride itself in being more gruesome than the last. Fortunately, the Master only had a quarter-ounce of compassion, and that was on a Very good day. He stopped at the wine cellar on the way back to the console room, picking out a vintage on one of the lower rows that he acquired when the Rani beat him over the head with it. She probably enjoyed that more than the actual birthday present I got her. He poured a generous amount into his favorite glass, hoping that it would make this affair pass by a bit faster.
After having enjoyed the first few poems, he heard a knock at the door. He ignored it, imagining it was one of the less intelligent passengers. The knocking continued, with a familiar voice from the outside inquiring, “Is the sign supposed to be funny?” and a less familiar voice following up with, “I thought it was funny.” He gulped down the remainder of his glass and opened the door. Before he could even go to answer it, Susan barged in, with one of the passengers tagging along. The passenger took some time to adjust to the new surroundings, while Susan immediately went up to the Master. “There’s a bit of a complication.”
“I can see. There’s a human in my ship.”
“We aren’t the only ones looking for your little orb.”
“So other people noticed it, it’s nothing I can’t take care of,” he replied while showing Susan the Tissue Compression Eliminator in his jacket pocket.
“Why is this elevator so much bigger than the others?” interjected the human that the Master had not yet had the displeasure of meeting.
“It is not an elevator,” he retorted in a condescending tone.
“Hey, you’re the guy who stepped on my hat!”
“I certainly did.” It was a bit more challenging, presenting an air of intimidation to someone who’s taller than you, but that didn’t stop the Master from trying.
Susan got in between the two of them, “This is Zoey Fleetwood. She noticed some guests that were paying careful attention to the two of us.”
“Why are we getting so worked up over more humans?”
Zoey took a second to figure out how to emulate the whispery, menacing tone of the voices she heard, before saying, “Because most humans that I’ve met don’t really talk like this to one another behind closed doors.”
A twinge of fear started to form in the Master’s mind, but only a twinge. Susan continued on with, “They know that we’re Time Lords.”
Zoey asked a bit nervously, “Do either of you know who exactly we’re dealing with?”
The Master pulled up his TARDIS’s data banks. “I’d need to get a visual before I can say for sure, but based on your impression, my guess is that we’re dealing with Zygons.”
“What are Zygons?” Susan asked in a rare moment of unknowing.
“Bipedal insectoid shapeshifters,” he continued, “though what they could be doing here is beyond me.”
Susan scoffed, while Zoey was lost in thought, “You couldn’t at least meddle with someone who’s easy to spot, could you? Might as well piss off a gang of Whifferdills!”
The Master leaned over to Susan’s eye level, “I didn’t take the orb from the Zygons, my dear.”
“Well you must have done something!”
“Loathe as I am to admit it, I am not responsible for absolutely everything that goes wrong in the universe!”
“Maybe not yet, at least.”
“I’m thrilled that you have such faith in my destiny to rule over the universe.”
“Are Zygons red?” Zoey’s interjection made the other two chuckleheads clam up and stare at her. The Master’s suspicion grew, “How do you know that?”
“I saw some video online a few years back, at first I thought it was some special effects thing, but after hearing the weird sucky noise those guests made, I started thinking it might be real.”
Susan and the Master turned to one another, concern in both of their faces. Susan was wondering if she should try and contact Grandfather. The Master was contemplating how many people he would have to kill. Before anyone could say anything, there was another knock at the door. Uh oh. “We know this is not an elevator.” Zoey recognized it as the voice belonging to the man with the handlebar mustache. “Uh, I don’t suppose this thing has a backdoor?”
“My TARDIS,” the Master corrected, “has multiple means of escape. This way.”
“I don’t believe I got your name,” Zoey said after they started walking.
“He’s the Master,” Susan explained.
“The Master? That’s like, his name?”
“Universally,” he replied with a smirk that neither of the other two could see.
“Is there a “The Slave”?”
The Master decided to not acknowledge that, regardless of Susan’s snickering. They soon arrived in a room purposefully placed in a difficult to find spot, that is, difficult to find if it’s not your TARDIS. “Stand in that module,” he commanded. After entering some prompts onto the terminal, he joined the other two, and turned to Zoey, warning, “You’re going to feel a little nauseated, my dear.” Before Zoey could wonder what that meant, the trans mat activated, beaming the trio off to a different part of the ship.
Despite everything that was going on, Zoey was pretty excited to be involved in it. She always thought the universe was much too big for them to be the only sentient life, and now she’s met two different species of aliens! It was so exciting, it almost made up for the fact that she felt like throwing up now. Thankfully, Susan helped to steady her a bit, and gave her some, peanuts? Sensing the confusion Zoey felt, she explained, “The first time is always the weirdest to adjust to. Some peanuts will help you get back the protein that just got sapped from your body.”
“Why does that sap away my protein?”
“For fun,” said the Master, making her jump a bit, as Zoey forgot he was there. That cheered him up slightly. Just then, a voice came up on the speakers, sounding like a waitress that was acting overly peppy in the hopes of receiving a decent tip for once, “Attention, passengers! We have now officially docked in San Miguel de Cozumel, Mexico. You are now able to leave the ship and explore the bustling marketplace or enjoy some of the many activities available on the lovely beach! We leave the city at 6pm, so make sure you’re back on time and enjoy your stay!” With that, Zoey and her new comrades made a beeline for the exit. For a while, they thought they were in the clear, but when Zoey saw the man with the handlebar mustache among the crowd behind them, her heart started pounding more quickly than when she was trying to come out to her parents. “They’re following us.”
“If they don’t spack off soon-”
“Watch your language!” Susan interrupted.
After rolling his eyes, he said, “They’ll be easier to deal with if we divide their attention. I’ll go to the market, you and the human stick to the beach.
“Right.” She grabbed Zoey’s hand and ducked and weaved their way through the crowd much quicker than most. Zoey didn’t protest this, as from what she could see, Susan was doing a pretty good job of losing them. After they set foot on the docks themselves, they felt comfortable enough to slow down a bit. There were at least 15 or 20 people on the ramp who looked like they just couldn’t figure out how to walk. When Zoey caught her breath a bit, her first question was, “How were you able to get through that quickly?”
“Experience. One time, I had to outrun someone shooting at me when I got to see the Rings of Akhaten.”
“See that market over there?”
“Imagine that, but every stand has something from a different planet.”
“Wow.” If Zoey was a cartoon character, she imagines that she’d have stars in her eyes at that point. “Could you take me there with your box? Uh, sorry, I mean, your TARDIS?”
“Oh, it’s not my TARDIS, it’s my Grandfather’s.”
“Why’d he leave you on a cruise ship?”
“Truthfully, I wasn’t supposed to come along in the first place, but by the time I had made myself known, he was already halfway there. He set me down here so I wouldn’t have to get involved in another one of his adventures.”
“Yeah, because there’s absolutely nothing dangerous about this cruise, right?”
The two laughed for a bit. Then Susan asked, “So what brought you on the ship?”
“Oh, well there’s this restaurant that I go to a lot, and they had a contest where the grand prize was $100,000. Lo and behold, I end up winning. I wanted to put most of it aside so I could get myself a house or whatever, but I decided to splurge a little and see if this would cheer me up.”
“Cheer you up?”
“Eh, you know, depression.”
“Oh, I-I’m so sorry,” Susan replied, not quite sure how to handle this.
“Eh, you don’t need to apologize. You aren’t my parents,” Zoey jested. “So what should we do while we’re hiding from the Zygons?”
“Might as well join in some of the activities. Does anything look interesting to you?”
Zoey scanned the coastline, considering the options that lay before her, until she saw what she Had to do, gasping before turning to Susan, “Can we pet the dolphins?”
When Time Lords die, their consciousness is uploaded to the Matrix, a supercomputer that makes IBM’s Summit look like a Magnavox Odyssey. It contains the experiences of all the past denizens of Gallifrey, with the ultimate goal being that it will one day contain all knowledge in the universe. Most TARDISes have connections to the Matrix, which allow the pilots to look up nearly anything they might come across. The Master noted that the section on Zygons was particularly fleshed out; he inferred that, due to the similar nature of information on the Krillitane, that perhaps one of his people was particularly interested in shapeshifters. There were two small pieces of information that caught his attention: firstly, that Zygon’s had a deeply ingrained fear of fire, and secondly, that they were easy to hypnotize. Sometimes, he actually wished the Doctor was involved with ventures like these, so that he would have a bit more challenge.
The market was vibrant, busy, and full of culture, all things that the Master wasn’t quite fond of. However, he knew he’d be able to find what he was looking for here. He went past a stand that had clothing he found rather tacky. Black was easily the color best suited to the Master, and had the side effect of looking quite slimming on him. The first shop that he came to a halt at sold accessories that legally had to be classified as being made for smoking tobacco. There was an apparatus that came up to his forehead that, if he was being honest, he could’ve seen himself using back in the Academy. Accompanying it was a lighter of equal comic proportions, exactly what he was looking for. The person running the stand came up to him asking, “Interested in the piece?”
“A little bit, though I doubt I’d have much luck getting it back on the ship.”
The salesman chuckled, “That’s a good one.”
“I’ve been working on my material lately. I’ve been shown that humor can be an effective way of dealing with your issues.”
“Oh? Who told you that?” asked the man who didn’t realize he was at the perfect angle to be just out of sight of anyone else for a moment.
The Master seized the moment, whipping out his Tissue Compression Eliminator and shrinking him down to less than a hundredth of his size. He lifted his shoe and said, “My shrink,” before squashing him like a crunchy little beetle. He moved on to his next target, leaving the stand without an attendant and without a comically large lighter.
The marketplace had a building relatively close to the center that was a bit more of a brick and mortar store than everything else. This was essentially a convenience store owned by the company that orchestrated the cruise, in case any passengers needed some spare toiletries. The Master had to give it to them; it was rather convenient. He walked in, analyzing the ingredients on different brands of aerosol deodorant to possibly calculate which one would suit his purpose best. He picked up a can of Axe, not paying attention to which scent as he knew it would smell abysmal regardless. The cashier was ringing up a rather large number of purchases for a family of 4, so the Master decided it would be easier to just slip the canister into his pocket and walk out.
Surprisingly, the item that he had the hardest time finding was tape. You’d think it was a particularly easy thing to find, but like the one Pokemon card in your collection that’s worth more than a quarter, it was never around when you needed it. As he roamed around the different stands, stroking his beard, he began to notice someone following him, first from a distance, but ever gradually getting closer. No matter, he thought to himself, I have some in my TARDIS anyway. He wasn’t going to let anyone get in the way of the orb, be they human, Zygon, or Time Lord.
“And this, ladies and gentlemen,” explained the instructor, gesturing to the dolphin, “is Ginger!” Zoey’s face lit up as Ginger moved forward, giving her a chance to look at the dolphin very close up in the brilliantly clear water. Look out tigers, she has a new favorite animal. Susan couldn’t help but share in Zoey’s excitement. In the short time they’ve known each other, this instance was when her face seemed to glow the brightest, interacting with the rather intelligent animals. Ginger seemed to keep swimming closer to Zoey, almost completely distracting her from the task at hand. Susan thought she was going to faint when the dolphin swam right up into her hands, just like how the instructor showed them. When Zoey kissed the dolphin, she could feel something happening to her. It was as if the two were connected somehow. It was different from the feeling you get after kissing someone you had a crush on, for those of you thinking that Zoey might be the aquatic equivalent of a furry, but it was definitely something weird. Soon after, something shot out of the dolphin’s blowhole and into the air, with Zoey and Susan somehow being the only two people who noticed it. Since Susan had her hands free, she reached to catch the projectile. There was a split second after she caught it where she recognized what it was, before she felt herself, for lack of a better term, not being there anymore.
Every instant brought her somewhere different. First, it was when Alex was accepted into university. She was standing in her kitchen, the both of them jumping up and down with excitement. Then, when the conversation turned to how proud David would be, it changed to when he was born. She was being kissed on the forehead by David, looking into baby Alexander’s beautiful brown eyes, and overcome with love for this living being that she created. She wondered what her Grandfather would think, and instantly shifted to her wedding. Walking down the aisle, she started to understand Earth traditions a lot more. Her husband to be looked incredibly dreamy in his suit, and every step closer to him made her feel more sure that this was what she wanted. He was what she wanted. When she got to the front, she turned to everyone attending, and noticed that the audience was almost entirely composed of David’s family. Then, the landscape became a rolling field, a solitary tree giving the couple a bit of shade. They had been talking for hours, experiencing a moment of relief from the Dalek occupation. Susan had been thinking about it the entire time, but only now worked up the courage to kiss David for the first time. His cheeks turned an incredibly bright red. Once the two decided to go back and join the others, it changed again. This time, David wasn’t there, but instead Ian, Barbara, and Grandfather were all around her, enjoying a meal together in the TARDIS at Barbara’s request. This was the first time that Susan noticed nobody was making any snide comments to each other, but they were all regarding each other warmly, like a family. She lingered there for a while before Ian and Barbara were gone. Now, it was just the two of them, sitting in the doorway of the TARDIS, watching a supernova together. Grandfather was going into great detail about how they were formed, while she was mesmerised by the intricate colors and brilliant light. There were a few more memories she relived before it was cut short. When she was back in the present day, she saw Zoey, holding the orb, now wrapped in her Hawaiian shirt so that nobody would touch it with their bare hands. “Susan, are you okay?”
She took a moment to steady herself, wiggling her toes on the seabed. I can touch the alien sand. She heard seagulls circling above her. I can hear the cries of strange birds. She looked up above, the sun just starting to set. I can see them wheel in another sky. Susan turned to Zoey, “I’m okay. Thank you, Miss Fleetwood.”
“Fantastic, because we got company.” Zoey pointed in the direction of a few guests who were getting in the water without putting on life vests first like everyone else. The two immediately started booking it back to the ship, with Zoey wondering how Ginger’s blowhole was big enough to shoot the orb out. They quickly took off their life vests and threw it in the direction of the drying rack, with Zoey tucking the wrapped orb under her arm and snagging a towel while she was there. Susan glanced at what they were all assuming to be Zygons, and remarked, “We don’t have time to dry ourselves off!”
“Maybe not, but we have time to create a diversion!” As they ran back to the ship, they passed a group of children playing catch. In the middle of the ball’s current arc, Zoey scooped it up with her towel, yelling an apology in their direction and tossing the ball to Susan. “Split up when we’re on board?”
“If the Zygons start following you, lead them back to the Master’s TARDIS. It’s dimensionally transcendental, so any weapons they might have won’t work.”
Thankfully, most of the guests hadn’t started cramming back on the liner yet, so they were able to keep going, rushing past the ship’s employees who were welcoming people back. Susan ran toward the front deck, with Zoey trying to find a good hiding spot in the back. It was starting to get a bit harder to breathe, so when she couldn’t see anyone following her, she stopped to catch her breath. Why do they want this thing so badly anyway? she thought. She unwrapped the orb just enough to get a closer look at the surface. It was a deep shade of crimson, reflecting off the sunlight just a little. Just when she started getting the urge to touch it, a dolphin leapt out of the water high enough that it was directly over her. She quickly moved away, and watched it transform in midair, the silvery skin changing to a red that matches the orb, growing suckers on almost every part of its body, its flippers turning into arms and legs, and making the exact same noise that she heard while listening in on the guests earlier today. Zoey Fleetwood felt sure in the moment the Zygon stuck the landing that she was going to be killed, until it spoke to her, “I do not wish to harm you, Zoey Fleetwood.”
She opened her eyes, this time paying careful attention to its face, before uncurling herself and asking, “Ginger?”
Susan tried to keep her pace up, wondering why only now did the Zygons feel like power walking instead of regular walking. She turned a corner and found the elevators, pounding on the door with the sign and yelling, “Master! Master, let me in!” The door eventually opened, but not until the Zygons turned the corner. She ran in, almost tripping over herself, to find that the control room was empty. She dashed to the console to try and close the door before anyone else could get in, but unfortunately she was too late. Damn Type 45 controls. The Zygons got in, and she backed away out of fear. She didn’t wonder if things could possibly get any worse, and she didn’t have to, because the Master came out from behind the door, holding his Tissue Compression Eliminator in one hand, and a makeshift flamethrower in the other. He activated the flamethrower to show its capability to the Zygons, and they too backed away in fear. “I see that I have everyone’s attention. By the way, thank you, my dear, for finally using my name.” He moved to the doorway, to make sure nobody would make a break for it. “Now, firstly, Susan is going to walk slowly over to me and give me the orb.” Susan complied with his demand, doing her best to act like it was the real deal. “Very good. Now, we’ve made the educated guess that you all are Zygons, but if you will, I would like to confirm my suspicion.” They all turned to one another, before the man in the handlebar mustache spoke up, “Very well.” One by one, they reverted back to their natural form. “Excellent. Now, Zygons, you will all pay very close attention. I am now your Master. Do you all understand?” Their bodies went limp, ready to immediately obey the Master’s commands. “I am the Master, and you will-”
The Master would’ve finished what he was trying to say, but was a tad preoccupied with the shoe that kicked him in the back and onto the floor. When he fell, Susan was delighted to see the face of Zoey, lowering her leg. The Zygons, meanwhile, were able to shake off the Master’s control and were relieved to see the face of their scout, Lartik. “It’s okay, Susan,” Zoey said, “the Zygon’s are friendly.” Lartik spoke up, “We detected the presence of alien technology in this area, and wanted to make sure it didn’t find its way into irresponsible hands.” Susan breathed a sigh of relief. “That’s good to know. If I may ask, what are you doing on Earth in the first place?” Now, one of the other Zygons spoke up. “We have reached an agreement with the Doctor. We are trying to live among the human race peacefully.”
“Who’s the Doctor?” asked Zoey.
“My grandfather really did that?” Susan asked with astonishment.
The Zygons all did a double-take. “The Doctor can’t have any remaining family.”
After some thought, Zoey replied with “Maybe the Doctor you met doesn’t. He travels in time, doesn’t he?”
“That stands to reason. Susan, are you still in contact with your grandfather?”
“He should be picking me up before long.”
“We will leave the orb with you, then. I apologize for not conversing with you sooner, we wanted to prioritize a low profile.”
Before long, the Master started to come to. Zoey was the first to notice this, asking, “So what are we gonna do with him?” Lartik took the orb, explaining, “It has a stronger effect when placed directly on the temple. He should be harmless for a while.” As the orb touched the Master’s head, he experienced fewer memories than Susan had. He clearly enjoyed the evil he caused, but they didn’t make him truly happy. His mind flashed between a handful of different scenarios. The intense debates he would get into with the rest of the Deca, the feeling of Theta Sigma’s head on his chest while they watched the stars together, performing with the Gallifrey Academy Hot Five in one of the only instances where he was able to use the drumming in his hearts to successfully drown out the constant drumming in his head. He was completely dazed before he could even stand up. Everyone crowded around him, taking away his weapons before Susan finally asked, “How are you feeling?” He burst out into laughter. “My dear, I’m having the time of my life!” He leapt up, ready to dance in a way that he normally finds to lack elegance and is also stupid. Everyone else found this rather amusing. He asked Susan to join him, and started to exit his TARDIS. “Where are you going?” Lartik asked.
“Well, haven’t you heard? The martini bar is open! Care to join me, my dear?”
Susan giggled a little, then turned to Lartik. “How long will this last for?”
“It should wear off in a few hours.”
C’est la vie. “Why not? I’ll join for a martini.”
Zoey yawned. “Well, I’ve had a long day. I think I’m gonna go back to my room.”
“You know, Miss Fleetwood,” Susan said, “I’d be more than happy to put in a good word with my Grandfather if you want to keep doing,” she waved her arms around, “this.”
She looked back at Susan, then at Lartik, and then at the Master. “Maybe I should, but I don’t know. This doesn’t feel like something you could come back from.”
“No, it really isn’t. Sometimes I still want to go back to Gallifrey.”
And with that, everyone went their separate ways.
“So you miss it too?” inquired the Master, still elated but much more used to it now.
“What, Gallifrey? Of course. I can’t even remember the last time I got to see my great uncle Braxiatel.”
“Ah, yes. I remember Irving. Do you see that constellation, right there?”
“I don’t know if you remember, but that constellation looks exactly the same back home.”
“For a while, I was held captive in a cell, thanks to your grandfather. There wasn’t a lot to look forward to then, but sometimes at night, my window had a perfect view of that constellation.”
“What’s Grandfather like when you meet him, usually?”
“Awfully tall. Much more interesting wardrobe than his first body.”
“It’s amazing that he was able to negotiate a peace with the Zygons.”
“He did a better job than he did with the Silurians, I’ll give him that.”
They both sipped on their martinis, and the Master could feel that last sliver of happiness fade. “I’m on my last body.”
Susan was shocked. She hasn’t even regenerated yet, and here she was sitting with a Time Lord who was facing the one thing that many of her kind haven’t even begun to process. “How does that make you feel?”
“A bit worried, but I’m a rather intelligent individual. I doubt this body will really be my last. A cosmos without the Master scarcely bears thinking about. It does help, getting to talk with someone of my own kind.”
She could swear that, for just a moment, his eyes were twinkling. After a while, they could hear the familiar sound of the TARDIS materialising into existence right next to them. “I suppose that’s my cue.” She got up.
“Do tell him to at least try and be more conspicuous, in the future. If Miss Fleetwood was able to notice, who knows what other prying eyes he might attract?”
“Take care, my dear.”
The waitress started cleaning off the different tables that passengers had left when they had their fill of martinis. There were a lot of tables she’s had to clean off, but she wasn’t going to complain anytime soon. After having to spend 2 hours getting used ice cream out of her hair and uniform, this was a cakewalk. When she was done with the table she was working on, she heard a weird noise coming from around the corner. She looked around, and nobody else seemed to notice, so she decided to investigate. The only thing she found that was out of the ordinary was a rather large tip on one of the tables. This easily made her entire shift worth it. She was able to wrap up pretty quickly after that, and wasted no time finding an elevator down to her room. She was so excited, that she paid no mind to the fact that there are 3 elevators when she remembered there being 4.
“So, did you enjoy your cruise?” asked the Doctor, absentmindedly working the controls of the TARDIS.
“That’s one way to put it,” Susan replied. She decided not to tell Grandfather all about what happened, as she could tell they felt bad for dragging her along in the ship. “What was the distress call about?”
“Oh, some polite new folks I got to meet. They lost an artefact of theirs and wanted help finding it.”
“Did you find it?”
“No,” he said, all pouty.
“What was the artefact?”
“A small orb, about the size of a cricket ball. Supposedly, touching it makes you relive your happiest memories.”
Susan burst out laughing. This took the Doctor by surprise, “I mean, I know I can be absentminded, but it’s not like it was easy looking for it.”
She tossed him the orb. “Believe me, I know.”
The Doctor joined in their granddaughter’s laughter. The two of them embraced. “Susan Campbell, you make me more proud of you each and every day.” If Susan were to touch the orb again, she could tell it would show this memory.
Zoey brought her car to a gradual stop, and looked around to make sure nobody else was there. She honestly didn’t know why she couldn’t wait for this until tomorrow; she hasn’t even unpacked her bags after returning home. Ah well, it’s been a week. I deserve this. She went to sit on the hood of her car, lit the joint she was holding in her pocket, and looked up at the stars. Her mind raced thinking about how many of those stars were like her own sun, giving life to untold billions of planets. A large cloud of smoke billowed from her lips. Ever since she turned down Susan’s offer, she berated herself for making such a stupid decision. How could she possibly say no to that? But being here, leaning back and appreciating how many more stars there were since she was a while away from any light pollution, her mind was at ease. If it really is meant to be, it’s only a matter of time before she’ll get involved in more shenanigans. She hoped that Susan was happy, wherever she might be.
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