Teaser: “Divine Retribution”
There was a joyfulness in Mohana’s silky voice that lent the planet’s name a certain glamour, even as the TARDIS plummeted towards what promised to be a terrible confrontation on that faraway world. To Selene, her exotic accent spoke of nothing more than naiveté. What century was this woman from? The twenty-third? The era of the Great Deluge and the Great Galactic Recession. Was it any wonder that she found interstellar trivia so thrilling? Selene had travelled with the Doctor to dozens of alien worlds, from Dagomere to Quagreeg, but Mohana had never even been off-world. For all her pretensions of culture and experience, she knew little more than some dusty corner of Rajasthan. Slouching against one of the leather armchairs in front of the fireplace, Selene slowly crossed her arms across her chest, pressed her lips thin, and refused to be impressed.
The Doctor, on the other hand, clearly was. “Vortis,” he crowed, stepping before the bright-eyed, raven-haired beauty at the edge of the console. “In the Isop Galaxy. Extraordinary world. I’ve lost count just how many times I’ve been. You’re looking at a man who has stood in the lair of the Zarbi Supremo and lived to tell the tale. Oh, the celebration they threw for me in the City of Light! One night in the hospitality hives of the Menoptera will have you redefining your understanding of luxury, Mohana my dear. Vortis has such a diversity of insect life, such potential.”
Selene spoke up. “Insect life? We’re on our way to a planet-sized ant farm?”
It was as if the Doctor hadn’t heard her at all. He paused, lost in thought, his hand upon the brass rail surrounding the central console, and slowly turned his now grim visage to face the darkest reaches of the control room. “If the Divinity have reached Vortis then the Menoptera and the Zarbi and all the insectoid peoples of the planet are in terrible danger. It’ll be the Animus all over again. Vortis is extraordinary, yes, but vulnerable. They’re completely unprotected from this kind of malign influence. I’ve seen it before, far too many times.”
The Master could not resist a jibe: “A pet planet that you cannot manage to protect from harm, Doctor? Is anyone else getting a sense of déjà vu, or is there something wrong with my central processor?”
Still holding fast to the rail, the Doctor turned his ashen face and his cold blue eyes toward the Master. “I want those coordinates refined. I want you to put us down as close as you can to the source of the transmission. And reboot the TARDIS’s telepathic protocols. I don’t know how they’ve done it, but the Divinity have escaped extinction. They’ve subverted time. There’s no telling what sort of defences they might have.”
“As you wish,” the Master said with a sigh, and at once his gloved hands set to work at the six-sided control panel with the speed and coordination of a concert virtuoso.
Selene watched the bearded android work with a mixture of fascination and frustration. From the moment she had first boarded the TARDIS, the Doctor had put her to work. Indeed, though they had found the time to enjoy themselves on all those exotic alien worlds, it had been made abundantly clear that her expertise in recondite engineering was the very reason she had been permitted to board the time capsule in the first place. The restoration of the Master had been all-important to the Doctor and, though she had never been trusted with a reason for this, she had taken her assignment seriously. How long had she worked, examining the android’s circuits and repairing fractured microleads? How many hours had she devoted to his resurrection?
Now he stood at the console, a striking figure in black, master of theoretical calculation and temporal flight. And the miracle of her improbable success had been lost amid a flurry of rushed introductions and changing scenery. That the Master represented the technological preservation of a man’s consciousness, of his very soul, was a revelation seemingly taken for granted. For all his advances, the Master was little more than another gadget in the Doctor’s arsenal—and, in the end, so was she. She had seen the Doctor’s dusty collection of old sonic screwdriver casings. She knew what became of a tool once it had outlived its usefulness.
Staring at the pensive Doctor, Selene could not hold back a snort.
“Mmm?” the Doctor said, lifting an eyebrow as he looked in her direction.
“I didn’t say anything at all,” Selene said coldly.
“Right,” the Doctor said, reaching for his sonic screwdriver, the bright green globe at its tip glowing as he tested to see if it was charged. Then, as if voicing her thoughts, he added an order: “Well, tighten that trusty tool belt, Selene. Be ready.”
For just a moment, the Master turned his head to look upon Selene. And in his astonishingly life-like eyes there was a gleam of recognition.