Alternative EscapeBy Kathryn Andersen
Page 3 of 8
In another portion of that space-time, a Tardis hummed in good form. A white head and a dark head pored over its instruments, as they prepared to navigate another CVE. A minor display flickered, and a blip appeared on another screen.
"Er, what?" the white-haired Gallifreyan answered. This farce was getting painful, he thought. To think he had thought Avon's mistake a fortunate one!
"We are being followed by another Tardis."
"Are you sure?" He came around to watch Avon's screen.
"Certainly. Nothing else has this characteristic waveform. An older model, type 50 or even 40."
The Time Lord frowned. This was why he had thought it worth it; the boy was good; almost as good as himself. And he himself was brilliant, of course. Avon might even be better than he was in his current state - damn that tachyon funnel! Perhaps another ploy...
"Ah, yes," he said musingly. "I wondered about that earlier. It must be the Master, using a modified Dalek time-tracking device to follow me."
"The Master?" Avon hissed.
"Don't worry, we'll lose him through this CVE passage. He won't be able to follow," the Master said in his best imitation of fatherly concern.
"Oh, no we won't!" Avon growled, flicking switches furiously. "I have a score to settle with him! " The hatred in his voice was unmistakable.
The Master shrugged off an involuntary shiver. The boy needed to be watched, that was for certain.
"Er, Tegan, how many of the people in this craft are, er, human?" Vila asked uncomfortably, recalling Turlough's offhand remark earlier.
"Two - you and me," she replied promptly. "That is, if you're human."
"Human enough for two," he answered, grinning suggestively. Wine, women and money were the best things in life - that and a challenging lock. Better to work on whatever was to hand...
"No, th - ooof!" Tegan said as Vila fell all over her. Before she could give him a real punching out, she realised it wasn't his fault. The Tardis was bucking. "What's going on?" she cried from the floor.
"We're caught in a tractor beam!" the Doctor shouted as he hung on to the console. He was the only one who had managed to keep to his feet with the first jolt. Turlough was somewhere on the other side of the console, and Vila was cringing next to Tegan, all thoughts of l'amour driven from his mind.
"What are you doing?" the Master yelled as his Tardis started to shudder with the strain. He hobbled over to Avon's side. "A Tractor beam? You can't!"
"Of course I can - it is within the design tolerances..."
"Through a CVE? The strain will be too great for either Tardis! What in the galaxy are you hoping to achieve?"
The landscape was bleak and inhospitable - muddy grey and ochre ankle-turning stones and dusty-olive grass as tough as sword blades. The air fairly sizzled with the heat. It was flat and dusty as far as the eye could see - no, not quite flat; a grey monolith sat lumpily on the plain as if it had been there a thousand years, rather than a few minutes. Opposite it, brightly incongruous on that dull plain, was a squat blue monolith - if monolith it was, for it had appeared but a moment ago.
A figure in dusty grey, head shrouded in a hood, stood behind the grey monolith, watching and waiting.
A door opened in the blue box, and a voice drifted out, "No, you stay here, I want to see what he's up to."
"No good!" came the quip from further inside.
"That's as may be - you stay here."
Out stepped a man in a beige coat, striped trousers and a straw hat. He seemed oblivious to the heat. The figure by the monolith stirred - this was what he had been waiting for. As the man in beige stepped up to the monolith, the figure leaped upon him, knocking him to the ground. The dapper straw hat rolled off into the dust, revealing a blond head. He coughed out a gritty mouthful of dust, choking.
The hooded figure straddling his back paused with surprise. The blond twisted suddenly and threw him off with one of the peculiar moves of Venusian Karate. The grey figure stumbled backwards, hands flung wide. His hood fell back, just as the blond man pounced and knocked him to the ground. The blond stopped, halted by recognition.
"Avon!" he exclaimed. "What do you want to attack me for? I know I haven't been a good uncle, but that's no reason to attack me as soon as we meet!"
Avon gave the Doctor a glazed look. "Uncle Thete?" he said hesitatingly.
"None other," replied the Doctor, and offered his hand.
Avon looked at it as if it were a dead fish, and scrambled to his feet without assistance. He shook his head, as if to rattle it into order. "What - what are you doing here?" he asked.
"Chasing the Master," the Doctor replied. "And being beaten up by my long-lost nephew, it seems. Why did you attack me?"
"I - I thought you were the Master. He said you were -" Avon shook his head again, and blinked. "The Master," he ended coldly. His hands curled, as if they longed to he around the neck of his enemy.
They were interrupted by a voice. "I hope you don't greet your friends the way you greet you relations, or I'll just pop back inside," said Vila, strolling out of the Tardis now that the coast seemed clear.
Avon's head snapped around. "Vila - but you're dead!"
"Well, I have been better, but I'm not dead yet!" Vila quipped happily.
"How did you get here?"
"The Doctor gave me a lift."
Avon's eyes narrowed in suspicion. "How very convenient. That my uncle should happen to turn up just at that moment, and rescue you , who knows nothing of Gallifrey or my origins - or claims not to..." He drew his gun, and pointed it at Vila. "I don't know who you are, but Vila is dead."
"Now, look here, Avon -" the Doctor began.
"Shut up!" Avon growled, turning his gun to cover both of them. "You may not be the Doctor either. Chasing the Master indeed! You probably are the Master, in disguise. He said you were clever."
"Why, father, of course."
"Keldred is on Gallifrey," the Doctor stated. "The High Council impounded his Tardis after he spent so much time looking for you. Whoever you think he is, he is not your father!"
"You'll have to do better than that," Avon said coldly.
"Avon, listen to him!" Vila exclaimed. "He knows what he's talking about."
"So you're against me too, are you, Vila?" Avon growled. "Traitor!"
"No!" Vila shrieked, and dropped cowering to the ground. "Don't shoot, Avon! Please don't shoot!"
Avon blinked and shook his head. "Vila, what are you groveling there for? Get up!"
Vila scrambled hurriedly to his feet, not daring not to. "You tried to kill me!" he whimpered.
"Don't be ridic -" Avon began, then noticed where his gun was pointing. He started to put it back, but his hand wouldn't move. "I have to - I have to kill..." he muttered, and his quavered. "You had better leave," he said coldly, "before I do kill you."
"But, Avon -"
Vila pulled at the Doctor's arm. "Come on Doctor, let's get OUT of here, before he kills us both!" Imprinted on his mind was a vision of Blake's corpse. He practically dragged the Doctor into the Tardis.
Avon just stared, as the blue Police Box vanished away into nothing. But it wasn't the police box he was looking at. He stared at nothing, as he debated furiously with himself, wrestling with a fear that chilled him to the bone. Loss of control. Madness. In all that he had been through, his own sanity was something he had always been certain of. But what could explain his own actions just past? The Morb-Terillian process! Had he been given more than his finite skull could hold?
It showed all the more how unlike himself he was when the next thought to occur to him was to ask someone else - his "father". But it didn't seem at all strange to him. He strode back into the Master's Tardis.
"Father, there's something wrong -"
Oh, yes, the Master knew there was something wrong - he had been watching through the Tardis monitor. Avon should have killed them both! My compulsion obviously wasn't strong enough. It would have been so delicious to have the Doctor killed by his own blood! There may be another way to do it, but first...
"No, no, nothing is wrong..." the Master interrupted, soothingly. "You will hear me. There is nothing wrong. Forget anything that troubles you, Avon. You will obey me..."
"I will obey..." Avon echoed to that cold, hypnotic voice. "There is nothing wrong..." Or course everything was all right. Didn't father say so? But somewhere deep inside, something fought against the smothering reassurances. Fought, but remained silent.
"Help me with the co-ordinate engine - your interference has put it out of alignment."
"Yes, father." Avon's voice was limp and lifeless.
The two Time Lords got out the tools and started working.
"He's mad! The Master has sent him round the twist!"
"Why did you have to drag me away like that?"
"He was going to kill us!"
"I thought he was your friend - surely he wouldn't have killed you?" Tegan exclaimed.
"Avon? You'd be safer if you were his enemy!" Vila replied, and regretted it almost immediately. What would the Doctor think of his nephew? But Avon's great-great-uncle appeared lost in thought, and worry.
"Are you sure he wasn't crazy before the Master picked him up?" Turlough commented from his position by the wall.
"He may have been paranoid, but he wasn't crazy!" Vila protested. "A little healthy paranoia is a survival skill where I come from."
"It must have been a compulsion, hypnosis of some sort," the Doctor thought aloud. "Or else he was suffering from psychotic suppression. But I doubt it. This reeks of the Master. But I would have thought my nephew would be tougher than that..."
"Tough!" Vila exclaimed. "Avon's so tough a Thelessian Sand-Worm would spit him out!"
"I didn't mean physical toughness..."
"Holding out for five days of interrogation takes more than physical toughness," Vila said soberly. "He'd be broken before he'd be bent."
"Then maybe he's broken," Turlough remarked.
"No!" the Doctor protested, hitting the console with his fist. "I cannot believe that! I refuse to believe that."
"But what did he do to him, then?" Tegan asked, interposing herself between Turlough and the Doctor.
The Doctor shrugged, defeated. "I haven't the faintest idea."
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