Alternation

Written by Chris Heffernan (1998)

Time Lords of Gallifrey

Councilor Jamen walked with a brisk pace towards the Panopticon. He had a date with destiny and time was short. He chuckled lightly to himself at the irony of the situation; time was short, yet he was a Time Lord, a race of intelligent beings that had mastered the power to travel throughout all of time and space. Their homeworld of Gallifrey however, operated by it's own rules.

The Panopticon was the heart of the Capitol, underneath which lay the Eye of Harmony; a black hole trapped eons ago by a Time Lord named Rassilon. The Eye of Harmony is what gave the Time Lords the infinite amounts of power to travel through time and space.

Jamen passed numerous officials and guards as he walked into the busy chambers of the Capitol. The Eye of Harmony was not his destination however. He was heading for a chamber only accessible to Inner Council members and their officials. Jamen was such an official, and he nodded to the guards as they opened the doors for him.

Standing at the far end of the room was a large computer bank, data storage containers, and the Keeper of the Matrix.

Jamen approached the Keeper.

'Ah, Jamen,' the Keeper said. 'Here to work on your project?'

Jamen forced a smile. 'Yes, Keeper.'

The Keeper smiled and began to unlock the access to the Matrix.

'One day you'll have to tell me what it is you're working on, eh?'

Jamen nodded, and when the door was open, walked in.

The Matrix was a huge communal electronic brain made up of trillions of electro-chemical cells arranged in a continuous matrix pattern. It contained the total sum of the knowledge of all the Time Lords. The Time Lords could use the Matrix to monitor events throughout time and space. The Matrix had many different areas and "courts" of knowledge. At various times, Time Lords would conduct experiments on time travel, philosophy, history, and other sciences within the courts of the Matrix, never able to enter the Matrix proper.

It was under this guise that Jamen had been entering the Matrix, but little did he know the "experiment" he had been overseeing was about to end.

Jamen waited until the energy doorway was completely sealed behind him before turning and walking towards a sea of white. Jamen got the impression he was walking in the clouds. The scene was false; the entire Matrix was programmable using thought patterns and the computer outside the Matrix. One had to be very careful however not to be too convinced by the realities the Matrix offered. In the wrong circumstances, it could prove deadly.

'Councilor Jamen,' a voice said in greeting.

Jamen spun and saw the owner of the voice standing behind him. The man wore a clean and neatly pressed black outfit. His hair was perfectly coifed, and his black goatee gave him a devilish air.

' Master,' Jamen said, bowing his head slightly.

'I take it something has gone wrong?' the Master said, raising an eyebrow. 'Did I not make it to Skaro?'

'You made it to Skaro and the Daleks had you exterminated as planned, but...'

'But what?' the Master asked.

Jamen swallowed. 'Your plan to take over the Doctor's body failed. You found a temporary body, but it was killed when it fell into the power source of the Doctor's TARDIS.'

The Master was silent a moment. Then he sighed.

'So, Doctor, you've bested me again hmmmm? Well, all good things to those who wait. And wait I have Doctor. For an eternity I have toiled in the Matrix. Now it is time I acted.'

There was a pause.

'Is the ship ready?' the Master asked.

'Yes,' Jamen replied. 'Everything is as you have requested. But how shall you leave the Matrix? Now that your true body has been destroyed, if you leave the Matrix, your mental impressions will dissipate into nothingness...'

Jamen looked at the Master, fear in his eyes. '...Without a host.'

The Master smiled, then laughed.

'Exactly,' he said.

* * * *

The Keeper opened the energy door to the Matrix, and Jamen walked out. The young Time Lord straightened his tight official uniform and pressed his long blond hair back from his face.

'Done early today?' the Keeper asked.

'Yes, Coordinator, I have much to attend to,' Jamen said, as he brushed past the Keeper into the Panopticon.

The Keeper watched after him in puzzlement. The Keeper of the Matrix had not gone by the title of Coordinator for decades. He shrugged and thought nothing more of it.

Jamen continued his journey which led him out of the Capitol and into the pedestrian sections of the city. He finally stopped off at a disused spaceport and bashed his way in through the locked doors. Down a few levels in an old lift and he was in a derelict bay.

He walked briskly to the only spacecraft left in the bay and removed a small device from his pocket. He pointed the device at the hatchway to the craft, and it opened before him.

He walked up the ramp and into the ship.

After checking that the ship was fully powered, he walked into a cabin and opened a closet. Hanging from a bar was a black outfit. He quickly changed clothes and examined himself in a mirror.

'Much better,' he said, admiring the black suit. 'A little loose, though. Ah well, I'll grow into it. After all I have ten new regenerations to look forward to!'

He laughed in the mirror.

He then pulled his straight blond hair back into a ponytail and put on a pair of black gloves.

'Thank you, Jamen,' the Master said into the mirror. 'For everything! Now, to check the cargo...'

The Master exited the cabin and marched to the cargo bay of the ship. Inside were four identical long metal boxes lined along the wall. Each was standing upright and they looked like metal coffins; which in a sense they were. Power cables lead from a generator to each container. The Master rubbed his arm along the plexi-steel lid of one of the containers, wiping away the condensation, and looked inside.

A Cyberman, in suspended animation, looked back.

The Master smiled again.

'Now Doctor,' he grinned. 'The game begins again!'

* * * *

The TARDIS was a mess. That wasn't new. What was new was the Doctor's sudden and complete urge to clean it up entirely. Not just the basics either; dusting, tiddying, putting books back on shelves and tools back in toolboxes, no. A complete re-arrangement of the entire TARDIS program.

The main console room was the first thing to go. The Doctor had experimented with a large console room surrounded by plush living quarters and a library and storage areas, but the space had given him an extreme sense of loneliness so, after nearly a year with that particular configuration, he changed it back to a variation of his original control room. Simple, small, white.

But then he got experimental, and began trying all sorts of various different rooms. He had finally narrowed it down to seventeen that he really liked. He was about to devise a method of elimination when the Master contacted him.

The Doctor was shocked to say the least. Even with a new body, the Doctor recognized his old schoolmate immediately.

'I should have known you wouldn't lie down so easily,' the Doctor said. 'How did you escape the energy vortex of the TARDIS?'

The Master shook his head. 'Come now Doctor. If there's one thing I've learned after 700 years dealing with you, it's never to give away all my secrets.'

'What do you want?' the Doctor said, and inwardly wondered how many times he had asked his enemies that question.

'Oh the same as always Doctor. Complete universal domination. But first, I would like to return a favour. It seems you thwarted my latest plans, but I actually should thank you for that. During my... sabbatical...I was able to devise an entirely different plan. I would never rest until I had a new cycle of regeneration; you knew that. It would have been poetic justice to take your body, but in the end, it has worked out far better than I could have imagined. I have a new cycle, and many more regenerations than I would have had with your old body, Doctor.'

'Finished gloating Master?' the Doctor wondered.

'Not quite yet, Doctor. For an encore, I'll destroy you once and for all.'

'I've heard that before,' the Doctor replied.

The Master laughed.

'But Doctor,' he said, pushing a button the Doctor couldn't see offscreen. 'I'm not the man I used to be.'

The TARDIS suddenly lurched as the time rotor began slowly moving up and down in a defined rhythm, indicating the the TARDIS was on the move. The Master had somehow gained control of the ship.

The image of the Master vanished from the screen, and the Doctor ran to the console, trying to regain control. The controls sparked and a bolt of electricity shot forth, knocking the Doctor unconscious.

On his ship, the Master was preparing the final trap for the Doctor. He had set up his forcefields where the TARDIS would materialize. Now all he had to do was wait.

He received a warning blip from the bridge, and he ran to see what the computer had detected.

A dust cloud had escaped a nearby nebula and was slowly moving towards the Master's stationary ship. This wasn't all that odd, but the fact that the cloud was not dissipating gave the Master some concern. He continued to follow the path of the cloud. It continued to "advance" on the ship. The Master told himself he was imagining it, and that it would disperse at any moment.

The cloud advanced further, and the Master decided to run a quick scan on it, just in case. The scan came back with an energy reading of a unknown type. The Master ran through his options.

A cloud of dust from a nebula should not be reading energy of an unknown type. Something was not right, and the Master could swear the cloud was stalking the ship. If he moved the ship however, the Doctor's TARDIS would not materialize in the proper coordinates, and there wasn't enough time to adjust the program.

He waited. He kept one eye on the cloud outside the viewport, the other on the computer which was tracking the TARDIS. It was almost there.

The cloud picked up speed.

The Master watched. Sweat began to pour down his face and sting his eyes, yet he did not blink. The cloud was almost upon him. The TARDIS was almost there.

The cloud began to engulf the ship. The ship rocked, the instruments went wild. The Master grabbed at the controls and steered the ship away from the energy cloud. The Doctor would have to wait.

The ship responded slugishly and the cloud overtook it. The instruments went dead, and the Master could hear the hull buckle.

'Unbelievable,' the Master said, as his vision blurred.

In the cargo bay of the Master's ship, the TARDIS began to materialize. Suddenly the ship was gone, and the TARDIS finished it's materialization cycle in open space. It floated there.

A dust cloud appeared and moved over the time-space ship. Soon the TARDIS and the cloud were gone too.

Deep Space Nine

Captain Sisko shook his head.

'I mean if baseball was as competitive in 2042 as in it's prime, why did only 300 people show up for the final game of the world series?' Jake pressed his father.

The two were walking along the promenade. They stopped just outside of Quark's.

'Look Jake,' Sisko said. 'For whatever reason, the fan base dropped off and baseball went to the great bullpen in the sky, but that doesn't mean...'

'Face it, dad', Jake interrupted. 'Buck Bokai would not have been in the big leagues if he were playing in, say 1985. The competition would have been too great; the skill level too high. He was great in his own time, as was Joe DiMaggio in his, but neither of them would have had the skill to play when baseball was at it's best. Between 1970 and 2010, baseball had it's most skilled players. No players before that or after could hold a candle to those guys.'

'What is your point anyway, Jake?'

Jake smiled. 'All I'm saying is that Buck Bokai was not the greatest ball player of all time; only the greatest in his time.'

'Ops to Captain Sisko,' Kira's voice rang over the comm system.

Sisko held his hands together in a "T". 'Time-out, Jake.' Sisko joked. 'Sisko here.'

'Captain, there's something you should take a look at here,' Kira replied.

'I'm on my way.'

Sisko left Jake and made his way to Ops. When he exited the lift, he immediately saw what Kira was talking about. On the viewscreen was a vast dust cloud. It covered the entire screen.

'Now there's an interesting phenomenon,' Sisko said.

'That could prove to be the understatement of the century,' Kira said.

'What do you mean,?' Sisko asked.

Kira turned to face Sisko.

'This is no ordinary dust cloud. Energy readings are far higher than normal, and the cloud doesn't contain any particles consistent with normal readings in this sector.'

'Where did it come from?' the Captain asked.

'One thing we know for sure,' Kira said. 'It didn't come from the wormhole.'

'And it likes us,' O'Brien added.

'What do you mean?' Sisko wondered.

'It seems to have adhered to the station.'

'Adhered?'

'It was moving at twelve metres per second when we first spotted it, but it stopped as soon as it came in contact with the station. It now covers 87.4 percent of Deep Space Nine,' Worf stated.

'Sir,' O'Brien said. 'I'm picking up something else. A ship. It must have been in the cloud. It's requesting docking clearance.'

Sisko spread his hands wide.

'By all means, Chief,' he said. 'Maybe they'll have some answers to the sudden appearing of an alien dust cloud. Send Odo to greet them.'

Odo stood outside docking port three with two security officers. The doors slid open and a man with long blond hair pulled into a ponytail stepped out.

'Ah,' the man said. 'Greetings.'

He looked around and rubbed his chin. Then he scratched at it. He missed his goatee.

'Are you in command of this station?'

'I am Security Chief Odo, Mr....'

'I am the Master.'

'The master of what?'

'Oh, many things,' the Master said looking around.

'What's your business...Master,' Odo found it hard to say the name.

'I'm a trader.'

'Can I ask what your ship is carrying.'

The Master paused ever so briefly. He didn't know where he was or what kind of technology they may have here.

'The cargo hold is empty except for my robotic crew, who are deactivated at the moment. Could I please see the commander of this station?'

Odo nodded slightly and held his arm out, gesturing the Master into the station. The Master nodded and walked along the corridor and into Deep Space Nine.

Odo turned to one of his officers.

'Scan the ship for anything out of the ordinary,' he said.

'Aye, sir.'

Odo turned and followed the Master.

* * * *

'And that's the last thing you remember?' Sisko asked, sitting back in his chair.

The Master sat opposite Sisko in the Captain's Ready Room. The first thing the Master had done was comment on the baseball Sisko kept on his desk. He had recognized the object as a piece of equipment used in an Earth game. The Master now knew he was dealing with humans who still had ties to Earth.

'Yes,' the Master smiled. 'The cloud overtook my ship as I was on my way to pick up a shipment of ore from a mining colony, and I blacked out. The next thing I remember, I saw your station. However, a quick scan proved what I had suspected; I was no longer in the same area of space that I was when the cloud attacked me.'

'I don't know if attacked is the right word...' Sisko began.

'On the contrary,' the Master interrupted. 'It is precisely the proper word. Indeed, after it attacked me, I was far from my previous position in space.'

'Well,' Sisko said, standing and leading the Master out of the room. 'We'll let you know when we have some information on that cloud. For now, we have quarters set aside for you.'

The Master nodded and followed an ensign to his quarters.

Back in Sisko's office, the Captain turned to his chief of security.

'What do you make of him?' Sisko asked.

'He's no trader that's for sure,' Odo said.

Sisko agreed. The man looked and acted more like a scientist and diplomat.

'Although our scans of his ship have all returned normal,' Odo continued. 'We have no real reason to suspect or be wary of him.'

'Except his strange behavior,' Sisko added.

'If we were worried about strange behavior on this station we'd have to arrest half of the occupants. Quark's regulars alone would fill the brig...'

'Yes, thank you constable,' Sisko said.

The changeling left Sisko in his office.

* * * *

The Master walked around his quarters. They were adequate. He wasn't planning on having to live in them for very long.

Captain Sisko appeared an intelligent man, but he had believed the Master's story. The renegade Time Lord knew that would not last, however. The chief of security was a dangerous being. The Master could sense that. He would have to be wary of him.

For now, however, he had some time to play with. He sat down in front of a computer console, and studied it briefly.

'Tell me everything you can about this station,' he told the computer.

The female computer voice began talking while images flashed on the screen.

* * * *

'Now, now, Morn there's no need for that kind of language,' Quark said. 'I'm sure she didn't mean to throw her drink in your face. I'm sure in her culture it's a sign of the highest respect.'

Quark did his best to dry Morn's jacket. He made sure he kept the big alien busy while the female T'Rikon headed off to a holosuite. T'Rikon's were not known for taking flattery well. Morn had made the mistake of complimenting the T'Rikon on her hair.

'That's probably going to stain,' Quark said. 'Why don't you go and change, and come back and the next drink is on the house?'

Morn nodded slowly and walked out of the bar. He walked across the promenade towards the living quarters. He walked past Worf discussing something with Dr. Bashir. And he walked right into a large blue box that had appeared out of nowhere.

Morn awoke to a crowd standing over him. They weren't concerned with him however, but rather with the blue box that had appeared out of nowhere.

Morn stood groggily and looked with the rest of the crowd. He saw Quark and tapped him on the shoulder. Quark turned and looked at him.

'Oh yeah, Morn,' the Ferengi said. 'How's your head? Oh good.'

Quark turned back to the box. Morn shrugged and looked on with everyone else.

'"Police Box",' Bashir read.

Quark had his hands on the box. 'It's humming,' he said, and then jumped back as the double doors on the strange box suddenly opened.

A man with wavy brown hair stepped out. He wore an Edwardian jacket and silk crevatte. The man was startled by the crowd staring at him.

Worf stepped forward.

'Who are you?' the Klingon demanded. 'What are you doing here?'

'Well, I'm the Doctor. And I'm not even sure where "here" is."

'Doctor?' Bashir asked. 'A doctor of what?'

'Oh, many things,' the Doctor said. 'Where am I exactly?'

'You are on Deep Space Nine, a Federation space station,' Worf said.

'I see,' the Doctor said.

'I must demand that you explain how you arrived here,' Worf pressed. The strange man's quirky and carefree mannerisms were quickly wearing thin on the Klingon.

'Well, I arrived in my TARDIS of course,' the Doctor said, pointing to the TARDIS.

'You arrived in this?' Quark asked, moving close to the TARDIS again. 'How does it work?'

'TARDIS?' Bashir asked.

'Of course,' the Doctor replied.

'It's a ship?' Quark asked.

'Yes,' the Doctor replied. 'I could give you a tour...'

Quark rubbed his hands together. Worf interrupted.

'Why are you here?' he asked again, his voice growing louder.

The Doctor frowned.

'Ah, I'm not quite sure. Seems I took a bump on the head a moment ago and I can't remember how I got here. Sometimes the TARDIS has a mind of her own.'

'I shall report this to Captain Sisko. Doctor,' Worf said to Bashir. 'I suggest you remain with the...Doctor...' Flustered, Worf went to report to Sisko. The crowd began to disperse.

'Now, tell me about this "TARDIS" Doctor,' Quark said as he led the Doctor and Bashir into his bar. 'It appeared out of nowhere...Does it work on a transporter system?'

'Not exactly.'

'It's so small,' Bashir said.

'Actually,' the Doctor said. 'I would venture to say that it is larger than this entire station.'

Quark and Bashir looked at each other.

'Transcendental dimensionality.'

Quark and Bashir were silent.

'Transdimensional engineering.'

Nothing.

'Describing the TARDIS in three-dimensional terms is impossible since most of it's physical existence is outside the three-dimensional plane altogether. It's constructed, not of matter in the usual sense, but of a matrix of block transfer computations that warps reality into a form that can contain the incredible forces that power it through time and space...'

'A time-traveling ship?!' Quark remarked finally. 'I don't care how it works as long as it works!'

Quark showed the two to a table.

'Can I get you anything to drink, Doctor?' the Ferengi asked.

'A house wine would be nice,' the Doctor grinned.

'Coming right up,' Quark turned to leave but turned back suddenly. 'And I'd like to take you up on that tour, Doctor. That ship of yours...'

'She's one of a kind,' the Doctor agreed.

Quark hurried off.

'Doctor,' Bashir began. 'I must admit I'm a little curious about your ship as well. I mean, are you telling me that you can travel through time in that...box?'

'Time and space. And yes,' the Doctor smiled. 'That's what I'm telling you. Now if you could tell me something...Where is Deep Space Nine located?'

Bashir explained that DS9 was orbiting the planet Bajor, and talked briefly about the Federation. The Doctor was worried. He had never heard of any of these things, and he had thought that the jolt he had received had only affected his short term memory. Perhaps it had been a stronger jolt than that.

Bashir agreed to take the Doctor to stellar cartography where he could study some star charts and try to gain his bearings.

After drinking his wine and convincing Quark that he would get his tour, the Doctor and Bashir headed to stellar cartography. Captain Sisko informed them that he would meet them there.

* * * *

'Nothing like war to liven the spirit,' the Master said after reading the basic history of Deep Space Nine. He found himself admiring the aliens known as Cardassians for their ingenuity and "never say die" attitude. But he wondered why they had allied themselves with this so-called Dominion. The Dominion had been given ample opportunity to conquer the Alpha Quadrant and had failed miserably.

The Master stared out at the stars. So many different groups fighting each other, and allying with each other and betraying each other...

'Magnificant.'

* * * *

'And you still have no memory of why your ship landed on DS9?' Sisko asked the Doctor.

The Doctor had explained to the Captain everything he could recall leading up to his materialization on the station, which wasn't much.

The Doctor punched in a few coordinates into the computer.

'I have a suspicion,' the Doctor said. 'That I'm in a parallel universe. I've heard of the Sol star system and Earth, of course, but these other places and people...it's terribly disturbing. Aha!!'

The Doctor pointed to the large screen. Sisko and Bashir looked to where the Doctor was pointing.

'I don't see anything,' Bashir said.

'Exactly!' the Doctor said, still pointing. 'Those coordinates should show us the constellation Kasterborus, and within it, the planet Gallifrey.'

The Doctor lowered his hand finally.

'But there's nothing there...' he said.

They were all silent a moment. Sisko and Bashir could see the pain crossing the Doctor's face. But it was gone as quickly as it appeared.

'I must be in a parallel universe!'

The Doctor looked at the two of them, his minding working quickly.

'I must try to regain the memory of events leading up to my arrival. Doctor,' the Doctor said to Bashir. 'Would you care to assist me in my lab?'

'Your lab?' Sisko asked.

'The TARDIS has a lab?' Bashir asked.

The Doctor grinned madly. 'There's much I have to show you.'

* * * *

The Master walked into Quark's Bar. He stopped at a game table and watched with some amusement.

'Play a game, sir?' Quark asked. He had spotted the stranger from across the bar and had immediately pegged him a sucker.

'I never play games,' the Master said, turning to face the Ferengi. 'Except of course when the stakes are very high.'

'Well the stakes can get pretty high,' Quark continued. 'Are you sure I can't interest you in a game? No? Well, perhaps some other time.'

Quark went back to the bar. The Master turned back to the game. He was now studying the players and not the game itself. Such a diversity of life forms on this station. The Master could learn much about this universe here.

The Doctor and Bashir entered Quark's Bar.

'I don't know why you want to bring Quark along, Doctor,' Bashir said. 'He's not going to be much help.'

'Because I promised,' the Doctor said simply.

Bashir nodded and went to the bar to see if Quark was free, hoping beyond all hope that he wasn't.

The Doctor smiled and took in the atmosphere of the place. He had been on many stations similar to this one, but other than the humans, he had never before seen aliens like those he had met here; Klingons, Ferengi, Bajorans. There was so much to learn here. But first, he would have to remember the events leading up to his arrival on the station. Perhaps then he could discover a way to get back to his own universe.

The Doctor watched the comings and goings while Julian went to find Quark. His eyes came to rest on a gaming table of sorts. The game held his interest briefly, and he was about to look away, when a flash of blond hair caught his eye.

Suddenly, everything came rushing back to him. He remembered! The Master!

'The Master!' the Doctor yelled out.

Everyone stopped what they were doing and turned to look at the Doctor. The Master turned slowly.

'Doctor,' he said. "What a completely unpleasant surprise. How marvelous.'

With that, the Master withdrew a small black weapon.

'Now you'll have to excuse me, Doctor, but I must make a hasty retreat. This universe has much to offer, and I don't want to be humble about my share.'

Everyone at the bar was watching intently. The Master, smiling all the while, was walking backwards towards the exit, keeping his weapon trained mostly on the Doctor. A security officer who was off-duty made a lunge for the Master, who shot the man with the black device. The man screamed in horrible agony as he shrunk down to the size of a child's doll, and lay motionless.

The Master turned and fled into the Promenade.

The Doctor and some others ran to the shrunken security guard. A red alert klaxon sounded.

'What happened to him?' Quark asked.

'A nasty death,' the Doctor answered. 'Tissue compression elimination is extremely painful.'

The Doctor stood and set his jaw firmly. 'The Master must be stopped!'

The Master was walking quickly along a corridor. He was headed for his ship. Unfortunately he had to leave this station, but he was sure there were more like this out there where he could start his plan into action. The Doctor could be dealt with later. The Doctor's arrival was ill-timed to say the least, but perhaps it would prove fortuitous. Now the Master could rule a universe and still kill the Doctor.

The Master turned the corner, and found Worf standing in front of the hatchway that led to his ship. The Klingon had a phaser in his hand.

'Drop your weapon, or I will fire,' Worf said.

'Out of my way, hobgoblin!' the Master shouted and raised his tissue compression eliminator. He was shot in the back by Odo. The Master fell to the ground, stunned.

* * * *

'Well, you've really done it this time,' the Doctor said.

He was standing on the other side of a forcefield behind which was a small cell in which sat the Master.

'Not only are you in custody once again, but in custody in a parallel universe where, if I might venture a guess, they won't let you escape quite as easily as you're accustomed to.'

The Master grinned at the Doctor.

'Still fun and games?' the Doctor demanded.

'When is it not, Doctor?' the Master replied finally.

'I've told them about you,' the Doctor said, and then paused a long time. 'I should think this is finally good-bye.'

The Master only nodded.

When dealing with the Master, the Doctor never felt it was "finally good-bye", and this time was no different. But he had other matters to worry about now. He needed to discover what it was about this dust cloud that had brought him to this universe. It must have somehow opened a rift in the space-time continuum, and he had to discover how.

* * * *

'This is amazing,' Quark said when the Doctor showed them into his main science lab. 'And all of this exists somewhere else?'

'And in a different time, yes,' the Doctor replied.

While Quark looked around the lab, the Doctor and Bashir began an analysis of the dust cloud.

Bashir watched over the Doctor's shoulder as the Time Lord looked into a monitor while data flowed across the screen.

'Ambient isomiatic plasma core...,' the Doctor mumbled. 'An anaphasic particle conduit...of course!'

'It's a living doorway...?' Bashir ventured.

'Not exactly,' the Doctor said looking away from the monitor and running a further analysis on a piece of equipment whose function Bashir didn't even want to guess at. 'It's biomimetic. Quantum energy created perhaps millions of years ago by some unknown force, growing and adapting to an everchanging universe. It's form somehow evolved an isomiatic core that warps space-time. Incredible really.'

'What does all this mean, Doctor?' Bashir wondered. 'Will it pull the station through the continuum?'

'No, the station is too large for it to...Wait a minute...!' the Doctor continued his experiments on yet another strange piece of equipment. 'Oh dear...'

'I don't like the sound of that,' Bashir said.

'The plasma core is unstable.'

'Unstable?'

'It's spreading to all parts of the cloud. The plasma is quite toxic I'm afraid. Unless we discover a way to destroy the cloud, Deep Space Nine will be completely obliterated in less than twelve hours...'

Bashir and the Doctor turned to leave the TARDIS. Quark entered the room.

'Doctor...'

'Not now, Quark,' Bashir said, dragging the Ferengi with them

The Station of the Cybermen

Sisko shook his head.

'This is not the news I was hoping to hear,' he said to the Doctor.

The Captain turned and looked out the viewscreen at the bluish cloud.

'Chief?'

O'Brien looked at Sisko and frowned. 'It's going to take a while.'

'How long?'

'Ten to twelve hours.'

'That's cutting it a little close, isn't it?' Kira asked.

'Best I can do,' O'Brien answered.

'Doctor,' Sisko said, turning to the Time Lord. 'Perhaps you'd like to be seen to some quarters. You must be very tired.'

'Sleep is for tortoises,' the Doctor smiled. 'I'd much prefer to stay here and assist in any way I can.'

'Very well. Chief, keep me informed.'

* * * *

Security Officer Roland paced outside the brig. He was bored. The brig currently held only one prisoner, and he wasn't much to look at. Bit of a fairy if you asked him. But at least he was quiet. He didn't ask for anything or complain. He just sat there, staring at the wall, as if in a trance...

The Master was shut off from the cell around him. Deep inside his mind however, he was completely aware. He was creating an image of a console in his mind. Telepathically he was sending commands to this console. A console whose duplicate was found in the cargo bay of his ship.

On the Master's ship, the console was suddenly alight.

The Master used the force of his mind to pull a lever on the console.

The power surged on and ran through numerous cables on the ground connecting the console to the four identical metal containers. Steam escaped from the lids of the containers as they slowly opened. When the steam cleared, four Cybermen emerged and looked about the bay.

One of the Cybermen had black bars on his headplate; the leader.

'Master...' the Leader said.

Don't just stand there, you fool! the Master's telepathic voice called out. Come and get me out of here!

* * * *

'A ship with the capacity to travel through time and space,' Quark mused to himself. He absent- mindedly twirled a bar of gold-pressed latinum in his hands as he leaned over the bar. 'A ship large enough to carry more people than Deep Space Nine, yet small enough to fit in my quarters...I gotta get Rom to talk to the Doctor about the dynamics...the engineering...the...'

Quark was startled out of his reverie by a blast from the Promenade.

He looked up to see a security officer fly back into the bar, a hole blasted in his chest.

'What's going on?' he yelled, but no one was listening to him.

A few off duty officers stood to investigate, when 3 silver robotic humanoids entered the bar and opened fire with their blaster rifles. They were indiscriminate with their targets.

Quark ducked behind the bar and placed his hands over his ears to block out the carnage.

* * * *

'Report!' Sisko shouted to the comm system.

Odo's voice came back. In the background, you could hear blaster and phaser fire and muffled screams.

'Two are advancing on the brig. They're unaffected by everything we're throwing at them,' Odo said. 'The other two are headed straight for Ops.'

'Why would they go to the brig?' Kira asked.

The Doctor looked up. 'The Master.'

Officer Roland was about ready to go off duty. Smitty was late arriving for his shift again. He'd have to report his tardiness to Odo soon if it kept up.

Roland heard something at the door.

'About time,' he said, and began to write up his final report for the day.

Then the door exploded inward. The shockwave knocked Roland back into the control panel. He fell unconscious to the floor.

The Master stood in his cell and ran to the forcefield door. The Cyberleader and a Cyberman entered the brig and looked around.

'Disengage the forcefield,' the leader said.

'Leader,' the Cyberman moved to the control panel, looked it over briefly, and flicked a few switches, lowering the fields around the cells.

The Master stepped out into the room.

'Well done,' he said, 'Well done. Come, we have a station to capture.'

* * * *

The reports were coming in from the station. The intruders were advancing on Ops very quickly and were not hindered by the resistence being put up by security.

An image was finally brought up on screen as the intruders were trying to override the turbolift leading to Ops.

'What are they?' O'Brien asked, looking at the silver figures working on a control panel.

'Cybermen,' the Doctor said. 'Ruthless and cunning robots. Your weapons will have no effect on them.'

'More friends from your universe?' Sisko asked. 'So if you're the specialist, how do we stop them?'

The Doctor thought for a moment. 'Quark,' he whispered.

'What?' Kira asked.

'Is there another way out of here? To the Promenade?' The Doctor asked.

'There's a maintenance shaft that leads to a Jeffries Tube,' O'Brien said. 'It's a tight squeeze.'

'Show me.'

The Chief showed the Doctor the entrance to the maintenance tunnel. The Doctor turned to face everyone.

'Keep searching for a way to destroy the cloud. I'll stop the Cybermen.'

With that said, he dropped into the tunnel.

* * * *

Sisko had taken all the precautions. He effectively shut down all power leading into Ops, which prevented the Cybermen from using the turbolift. Security was working on remodulating their weapons for a counter-strike on the Cybermen.

It was only a matter of time before the Cybermen re-routed power to the lift and/or gained computer control. The other two Cybermen and the Master had joined the remaining Cybermen just below Ops.

Sisko wanted some good news.

'Sir,' O'Brien said. 'The cloud is disolving the outer hull faster than anticipated. It will be compromised in less than an hour.'

'Have you come up with anything?'

'I have a theory,' O'Brien said. 'The cloud is from the Doctor's universe. A sort of parallel universe. The cloud's core is fundamentally a part of that universe...it is the key to the original doorway the Doctor and the Master came through. If we were to target an explosion at the core, using material from that universe, it should trigger an opposite effect, reopening the door and taking the cloud back through.'

'That's some theory,' Kira said.

'The Master's spaceship,' Sisko said, understanding.

O'Brien nodded.

'Do it, Chief.'

O'Brien began working furiously at his station. On the viewscreen, they watched the Master's ship detatching from the docking clamp and, using the tractor beam, O'Brien nudged it into the cloud.

'Photon torpedoes ready,' Worf said.

'Fire on the Chief's command,' Sisko said.

'Look sharp, Worf,' O'Brien said.

'Always,' Worf retorted.

O'Brien chuckled and looked back at his station. A few seconds passed.

'Fire!' O'Brien said.

Worf fired three torpedoes at the departing ship. They struck true and the Master's spaceship exploded.

* * * *

Quark was picking up some glass. The bar was a disaster. In all, eight people were killed and more than a dozen injured.

'Quark.'

Quark turned and saw the Doctor, looking a little tattered and dirty, walking up to him.

'We were attacked,' Quark said, still in shock.

'Yes yes yes yes yes yes,' the Doctor replied. 'Quark, listen to me. Those bars of currency used in that game over there. Are they gold?'

'What?' Quark said. 'Doctor, what are you talking about? People were killed here!'

'And many more will die unless we do something!' the Doctor shouted. He grabbed Quark by the shoulders. 'Now listen to me. Are those bars made of gold?'

'It's latinum,' Quark answered at last. 'It's pressed with gold.'

'I need some,' the Doctor said. 'All that you have!'

* * * *

'Power restored, Leader,' a Cyberman said.

'Excellent,' the Master replied.

'Engage,' the Leader said, and one of the Cybermen started the power on the turbolift. The others went off on their missions.

'Here they come,' Worf said.

The turblift opened, the Cyberleader and the Master entered Ops.

Worf fired a blast from his phaser. It struck the Leader on the chest, barely moving him. The Leader turned and fired his blaster towards Worf. The blast hit the tactical station and exploded. Worf was knocked out by the blast.

'Stop it!' Sisko and the Master cried in unison.

'Put down your weapons,' Sisko said. Kira and O'Brien put down their phasers.

'We want to capture the station, not destroy it!' the Master said. The Cyberleader lowered his blaster.

The Cyberleader gathered up the phasers and ordered the Starfleet personnel to stand together, near the fallen Worf.

The Master ran his hands over the control panels.

'Archaic, but I should be able to decipher it quickly,' he said. 'But first things first. Where is the Doctor?'

'He left in his ship,' Sisko said.

'Without saying goodbye?' the Master asked. 'I highly doubt it.'

Just then, a ringing was heard. The Master looked to the station from whence the sound came. He walked to the Chief's station and looked at the readings. Then he glanced at the viewscreen. On the screen, a pool of dull light was forming.

'What's happening?' the Master asked.

O'Brien gestured to his station. The Master frowned and allowed him to go over and check his panel.

'The cloud has reorganized. It's forming a dimensional rift,' he said.

The Master looked back to the screen. Then he looked at some of the controls.

'This station is mobile, yes?'

No one answered. The Cyberleader raised his blaster.

'Yes?' the Master repeated.

'Yes,' Sisko answered.

The Master grinned and looked back at the rift forming in space.

'A change in plans,' he said.

The Master turned to face the Cyberleader. He pulled the robot aside.

'Study the propulsion system, and tell the others to destroy the Doctor on sight. When he's dead, we'll take this station and the Doctor's TARDIS back to our universe and nothing will be able to stand in our way.'

'What about the aliens?' the Leader asked.

The Master looked at Sisko and the others.

'When you learn how to operate the station, they will no longer be of any use to us.'

* * * *

Bashir was pacing the cargo bay. Everyone on the station had been herded into Cargo Bay 2 by the Cybermen, who kept watch at the door.

The takeover had been brief and bloody. None of the weapons or tactics on the station had worked against these robots. Starfleet had spent so much time preparing the station for an attack by the Dominion, that they had not been fully prepared for an attack outside the Dominion. Not that it would have helped against the Master's Cybermen, Bashir thought to himself. By his calculation, at least two dozen had been killed, another thirty lay injured in the bay. Bashir was not sure what the Cybermen's plans were, but he didn't like it. He had the distinct feeling that they were being held only to be exterminated at the first convenience.

Suddenly, there was a faint noise, heard just above the slight murmur of the hostages. Bashir cocked and ear and listened.

He thought perhaps he was hearing things, but he noticed one of the Cybermen turning his head, listening.

There it was again. A knock.

One of the Cybermen kept his blaster pointed in the direction of the crowd, while the other engaged the lock on the door.

The Doctor was standing on the other side, his arms crossed.

'Resistance is futile,' he said.

'It is the Doctor,' one of the Cybermen said.

'Destroy him,' the other said.

'Now Quark,' the Doctor said.

Across the hall, a blast of dust flew from a grate high up on the wall. The dust flew over the Doctor's head and spread out around the opening of the door. The Cybermen raised their weapons, but soon began to falter. They clawed at their chests, before falling motionless to the ground.

'Excellent,' the Doctor said. 'Fifty-fifty chance. Not a bad gamble after all.'

The Doctor turned and, using his sonic screwdriver, opened the panel. He helped Quark down into the hall. The Ferengi was holding some sort of tube with wires sticking out here and there. It looked like a child's failed science experiment.

'It worked?' Quark asked.

'Perfectly,' the Doctor answered.

Bashir came forward, as Odo and another security officer grabbed up the Cybermen's weapons.

'What did you do?' he asked.

'Some Cybermen have an extreme aversion to gold dust. Clogs their breathing apparatus you see. The latinum wasn't one-hundred percent gold, but it seemed to do the trick, wouldn't you say?' the Doctor looked around. 'Everyone alright?'

'There's a few people I should take to the infirmary, but everyone should be fine.'

'Good,' the Doctor said. 'Give us a few minutes head start.'

The Doctor turned to Quark. 'Ready for a little more guerrilla warfare, Quark?'

Quark looked a little worried. 'Doctor, I'm not sure about this thing. It looks like it's going to fall apart any second.'

The Doctor slapped Quark on the shoulder and smiled.

'A distinct possibilty!'

The Doctor jogged down the hall. Quark looked at Bashir, shrugged and followed.

* * * *

'We have to regain computer control,' Sisko said.

The Master and the Cyberleader were across the room, looking over the controls of the station. The Master kept looking out at the growing dimensional rift.

'That's not going to be easy,' O'Brien said.

Sisko looked over at Kira who was attending to the unconscious Worf.

'How is he?' the Captain asked.

'I think he'll be okay,' the Major replied. 'but I'm no doctor.'

'You,' the Master said, moving over to O'Brien.

O'Brien walked over to the Master, under close watch of the Cyberleader. The Master lowered his voice so that the others could not hear.

'The propulsion systems for this station seem to have a command structure that the computer will not allow us access to. Show us, and let me encourage your cooperation by warning you that if you try to deceive me, I will kill your friends one by one, and very slowly. And remember, I have a keen eye for deception.'

O'Brien looked over at Sisko, who nodded almost imperceptibly.

O'Brien sat at his station, and began to download the command structure from the station's propulsion system. The system had a failsafe which kept a separate code from the main computer to guard against exactly what the Master was attempting to do; if anyone took over the station and the main computer, they would not be able to move the station, or use it's compliment of weapons without knowing the separate command structure and failsafe codes that the Master now ordered O'Brien to enter into the computer.

O'Brien had no intention of allowing the Master to have full control of the station. He knew that Captain Sisko and the others were prepared to die rather than let this madman take the station to a parallel universe. He had to be careful however. He knew the Master was very intelligent, and so he had to be sure to cover his tracks to make it look like he was doing as the Master wished.

The Chief worked slowly, waiting for the right moment to access the main computer. The Master was gloating, and he began to stare out at the dimensional rift. O'Brien seized the moment and moved his right hand to another set of controls, while keeping his left hand and gaze on the string of code coming from the command file.

The Master moved to another station and checked on the readings.

'The rift is complete,' he said, and turned to face Sisko and the others. 'You would like my universe, Captain. It's really too bad you won't be around long enough to see it.'

The evil Time Lord turned back to O'Brien.

'Are you nearly finished?'

O'Brien looked up at the Master and smirked.

'Just done now,' the Chief said and pushed one final button.

The station shut down.

Emergency lights popped on throughout the command deck. On the screen, the view of the rift was replaced by a series of scrolling codes.

O'Brien sat back in his chair.

'What did you do?' the Master screeched.

'I shut down sixty-five percent of the station, including propulsion, and I encrypted the computer with a level four Starfleet security lock. Not bad under the circumstances, I'd say.'

O'Brien's smile was hollow. He heard the Cyberleader move behind him. The Master was pure rage.

'Kill them!!!'

The Cyberleader raised his blaster, when the lift suddenly came to life. Slowly, it made it's way up to Ops.

'What now?' the Master sighed. 'Why isn't he remaining at his post?'

The Cyberleader activated his internal comm system, but got no response from the sentry. He informed the Master.

They all waited. O'Brien had his eyes closed, waiting for the blast to the back of the head from the Cyberleader's weapon. Everyone watched the lift.

Finally, the Cyberman in the lift came into view, and the transport stopped.

'Why have you left your post?' the Leader asked.

The Cyberman answered by falling face first to the ground. A puff of gold dust rose from it's body as it hit the floor. Standing behind the Cyberman were Quark and the Doctor. Quark raised the makeshift gold dust weapon, and aimed it at the Leader. He pressed the trigger.

The weapon sparked and went dead. Quark looked down at the box in his hands. He pressed the trigger again, but again nothing happened.

'Oh, oh,' Quark said, as the Leader fired his blaster. The bolt hit the weapon in Quark's hands and it exploded into a ball of flame, knocking Quark back into the lift. The concussion activated the controls, and the lift descended again with Quark inside.

The Master was making a fuss.

The Leader turned to fire at the Doctor who dove behind a console. The console exploded as the Cyberleader shot at the Doctor. Everyone dove for cover.

The Doctor edged his way along the ground towards the others. The Leader moved slowly, stalking his retreating prey. They would soon run out of space to hide.

The Master grabbed O'Brien off the floor and held his TCE to the Chief's face.

'Let me assure you, the pain you will feel will be like no man in the history of your pitiful planet's existence has ever felt, unless you take this station through the rift! Do I make myself clear?'

O'Brien braced himself for execution for the second time in the last two minutes.

The Leader walked past the prone Klingon towards the final console, behind which the others were cowering. Sisko looked up and saw the Master holding O'Brien hostage.

The Leader noticed the Captain of the station looking towards the Master. He raised his blaster and set it to maximum power.

Suddenly Worf tackled the Leader into a burning console. The Cyberleader turned, aflame, and grabbed for the Klingon, who had somehow acquired the Leader's blaster. He got hold of the alien's shoulder, when the blaster was fired point-blank into the Cyberleader's face. The impact knocked the Leader backwards and over the burning console.

Sisko acted immediately. He vaulted across Ops, and broadsided the Master who was turning to see what all the commotion was about. The Master was smashed into the wall by Sisko, the TCE rolling out of the Master's grasp and across the floor. The Master fell in a heap, unconscious.

The others rose. Kira went to Worf who was staggering slightly, still dazed from his injury. the Doctor walked to the smoldering weapon he had built, and opened a small panel at it's side, removing a handful of gold dust. He walked over to the Cyberleader, who was struggling to get up, his face plate a scorch of black. The Doctor leaned down beside the robot, and dropped the handful of dust into it's breathing aparatus. The Doctor felt a pang of compassion as the Leader struggled to breath, struggled to get up, struggled to live. It grabbed the Doctor's arm and then, finally, died.

The Doctor removed the metal hand from his forearm, and placed it on the Cyberleader's chest. He stood and looked at the mayhem. Ops was in ruins, but the fires had died down and were putting themselves out. O'Brien was back at the controls, restoring power to the station.

'Quark!' the Doctor said suddenly. He dashed to the lift and hit a button. Slowly, the lift made it's way back to Ops. Quark was sitting with his back against the far wall, rubbing his head. His face was covered with ash.

The Doctor helped him up.

'Next time, Doctor,' the Ferengi said. 'You do the shooting.'

* * * *

The Doctor stood outside the TARDIS. He was shaking Sisko's hand.

'Chief O'Brien calculates the rift will disappear in less than twenty minutes, Doctor. Are you sure that's enough time to steer this ship through it?' Sisko asked.

'Of course,' the Doctor said, smiling. 'I can steer this ship through a pinhole twenty-thousand light years away with one eye closed and one hand holding a cup of tea.'

The Doctor weighed his statement. 'Seven times out of ten.'

He shook Sisko's hand.

'Watch out for the Master. He puts Houdini to shame.'

'Don't worry, Doctor,' Sisko assured him. 'We'll keep a good eye on him.'

The Doctor turned to Bashir.

'Julian. Thank you for your help.'

'It's been an honour, Doctor.'

The Doctor turned and was about to step inside, when Quark came running out of his bar with a bottle in his hands.

'Doctor,' he said. He gave the bottle to the Doctor, and shook his hand. 'It's been...dangerous knowing you.'

The Doctor smiled and looked at the bottle. 'What is it?'

'Romulan ale,' Quark said. 'But take it slowly, I doubt you have anything quite like that in your universe.'

The Doctor shook Quark's hand again, and stepped inside his blue box. Sisko, Bashir, and Quark stepped back and watched. They heard a faint wheezing-groaning sound, the light on the top of the box flashed, and the TARDIS was gone.

* * * *

Report from Starfleet High Command
Stardate 52459.1
Spcl. Cmdr. Lawrence Cailin
re : Quasar 186-CL

The crash of penal transport 186-CL has been deemed an accident. Apparantly the transport had a faulty propulsion system. The clean-up is now complete and attached is a list of those who are assumed to have burned up in the aftermath. Please cross-reference with complete manifest from the Quasar Colony.

77SFHI66-A-55 :

Lt. Archal Strond (SF)
Damien Horne
The Klingon Kogast
The man known as the Master

- end transmission

------------------------------------------------------------------------

The Master in this tale is based on actor Julian Sands.

A Word About Time

From a Doctor Who perspective, this story takes place about 1 year after the events in the Fox TV movie "Doctor Who".

From a Star Trek perspective, this story takes place about 2 days after the 6th season DS9 episode "Change of Heart".

Background Material

Doctor Who BBC TV show
"The Deadly Assassin"
"The Trial of a Time Lord"
"Revenge of the Cybermen"
"Silver Nemesis"

Fox TV movie "Doctor Who"

Season 6 of DS9

- Chris

 

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