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14 July 2009 @ 03:22 pm
will, right, responsibility [dw - War Chief!Master]  
Title: will, right, responsibility
Fandom: Doctor Who
Character: War Chief!Master (sort of)
Rating: PGish
Word Count: 1650
Summary: Idealism may not die easily, but it dies, all the same.
Notes: I’m playing around with the War Chief!Master piece of fanon (pseudo-canon?), because there can’t be two renegade Time Lords who get that... tactile with the Doctor. Speaking of which, yes, there’s an element of Doctor/Master here, because I’m not sure it’s possible to write any Master without it.

He wakes up, confused and disoriented, with the words never again racing through his mind: a steady, silent mantra.

It takes him several attempts to get to his feet. Regeneration sickness, he realises, and the memory of the last hour or so rushes back, crude and unpleasant and altogether unwelcome. It hurt to die, more than he had expected. The last time—the only time—he had regenerated, it had been of his own choosing. No slow deterioration for him, no protracted descent into his own twilight. The Doctor might have once claimed to welcome the experience of advanced age, but he himself had avoided it at all costs. He had discarded his first body when its mortality became impossible to ignore, and had intended to eventually do the same with this one, but now—

Murdered by lesser beings, by that fool of a War Lord. Murdered and then unceremoniously dumped in a storage closet, no less. As he forces the door open, trying to arrange his thoughts and memories into some working order, the War Chief—

No. He isn’t the War Chief anymore.

The War Chief is dead.

The War Chief was a contingency, a fabrication, a part to play. He was a mistake, perhaps, but a necessary one. The War Lords had required a scientific adviser, a personality to complement their (numerous) deficiencies, and the War Chief had existed solely to fulfil that role. A limited identity built around the (ultimately flawed) tools he intended to use, even named according to their needs and sensibilities, as if he were not a Time Lord, as if titles held no power of their own.

He will not make that mistake again.

Nameless, he stumbles down an empty corridor, one hand braced against the wall for support. When he doesn’t immediately collapse, he risks bending down to pick up a discarded weapon. The floor tilts threateningly, but the extra movement is worth the effort: the weapon is a reassuring weight in his hands. He knows that no one but the Doctor would recognise him now, but the situation has already spun too far out of control and he won’t leave anything more to chance.

The Doctor
, he ponders, knowing that there’s something there, something he needs to remember…

The Time Lords are coming.

He freezes. He freezes, forcing himself to breathe as he recalls the Doctor’s final, desperate act. The idiot. The absolute idiot, and it’s very little consolation that the Doctor will suffer dearly for that choice, because he can easily guess what his own reception on Gallifrey will be like. Vaporisation, enforced regeneration, a particularly nasty task set by the CIA if he’s very, very lucky. Rather more so than he’s been thus far.

He stares out at the empty, silent hallways, running through his options, considering what plea, what offer or argument has the best chance of success. Oh, it’s easy enough to escape the Time Lords’ knowledge when they are not watching—and they all too seldom are—but once one has attracted their attention…

Empty, silent hallways.

The panic passes almost as quickly as it came, replaced by a sudden burst of laughter that he barely manages to suppress. Empty, silent hallways mean that he’s alone, left behind, forgotten. Empty, silent hallways mean that his people are as unwilling to take a second look at the universe (or room, in this case) as ever they were. Empty, silent hallways mean that by murdering him, the War Lord—and may he enjoy the Time Lords’ infamous mercy—likely saved his life.

The Time Lords aren’t coming— the Time Lords have already left.


He soon learns that stranded and forgotten feels much like imprisonment, that anonymous is near enough to non-existence.

He doesn’t much care for the sense of powerlessness that this brings.


Eventually he manages to scrounge enough materials from the War Lords’ (former) base to assemble one final SIDRAT. The design is still flawed; it will never survive more than a single trip, but then he only requires the one.

He should have stolen a capsule from the Time Lords a century ago.

He had taken Time Lord technology when he fled Gallifrey, but nothing more. He might have claimed that reconstructing such a device proved more than petty theft, but the truth of the matter was… well. The memory of the Doctor’s own flight—audacious and idiotic, as always—from their home world had still been too near, and he had been unwilling to replicate it in any way. Nor had he desired the attention that such an action was certain to receive.

It is easier to infiltrate Gallifrey than he would have expected.

He sees no need to justify his theft—if the Time Lords cannot be bothered to guard their possessions, they hardly deserve to keep them—and so if his first words to the TARDIS are surprisingly reassuring, it is only because she needs an explanation. There is an entire universe out there, he tells her. Perhaps he cares less about it than he did before the debacle with the War Lords, but there is still so much that needs to be done. An entire universe that the Time Lords are quick enough to ignore. A universe broken and bleeding, that you and I now have a chance to shape into something worthwhile.


“To have such power at one’s fingertips—limitless potential, either for good or for evil—and to refuse to do anything with it… to insist upon isolating oneself from the universe beyond, as if that universe won’t eventually find a way in.” He briefly hesitates, for effect rather than necessity. “It’s simply despicable. Not to mention foolish.”

Theta glances over at him, obviously glad for the distraction from an assignment he lost interest in several hours ago. His expression is unreadable, and Koschei keeps very still as he waits—somewhat too expectantly—for an answer. Theta won’t agree, he knows. Theta never simply agrees. They fell into a pattern of contradiction long ago, and they both enjoy it too much to stop now.

“Perhaps,” Theta finally allows, even though he loathes Gallifrey’s laws as much as anyone, “but does the simple fact of power grant us the right to any and all forms of interference?”

“I’m speaking of a
responsibility, not a right.”

A sharp bark of laughter from the other side of the room. “A responsibility to what?” Ushas demands. “Some universal power? Some sense of… what was that funny Earth term, Theta? Karma?” She hesitates in her diatribe, never bothering to look up from whatever extra equations she had somehow talked Borusa into assigning her. “Cosmic responsibility is nothing more than a convenient excuse for those too weak willed to admit to their own desires. Such banal mysticisms don’t become you, Koschei.”

He rolls his eyes at her back and catches Theta grinning at him, conspiratorially. The silent endorsement means more than spoken agreement ever could, and he finds himself thinking briefly about the meaning of victory.

“I can’t imagine you as a Time Lord,” Theta suddenly tells him, and Koschei begins to laugh.

“There’s never before been a Time Lord worthy of the name.”


The Doctor is still lingering in his first regeneration—younger and older than before, but as magnetic as ever—when next they cross paths, and it is obvious (to one of them, at least) that they have crossed timelines as well. The War Lords and everything that follows are still in the Doctor's future, and the secret is almost too sweet to keep.

But the Doctor is still lingering in his first regeneration, and when they again meet, he doesn’t offer the slightest sign of recognition.

It is more painful than a mortal injury, and even as he wonders whether an identity—any identity at all—would have made a difference, even as he makes his re-acquaintance, he vows to never let the Doctor forget again.


He creates a new empire, once again, out of nothing at all.

He looks upon this conquest—this foundation upon which he can build a future worth having—and fancies himself an architect, perhaps, or a steward. An artist whose masterpiece is nothing less than the fate of the universe.


When he collapses in the throne room of a primitive planet—a planet that had barely understood that a universe beyond it existed; a planet that he had been primed to lead out of its darkness, into the light—stabbed in the back by the only specimen of this worthless species with enough insight to accept what he was willing to offer, he finally realises that the universe isn’t worth saving. The universe isn’t worth much of anything at all. It’s a game, or a joke (and not a particularly good one), and you can win or you can lose, but there isn’t any room for anything in between. It’s a vessel of chaos, spinning out of control, and it may need a man at the helm, but it doesn’t deserve such generosity.

It hurts to die.

It hurt the last time as well, he suddenly remembers. Never again, he recalls having thought, and the words once more hover mockingly over the darkness of his collapsing mind, lingering long after they’ve lost all meaning. He instinctively claws his way back into existence, casting off one form for another, adrift amongst his own possibilities until he finds one onto which to hold.

The universe is no less worthless once he has finished regenerating, but he discovers that he no longer cares. And why should he? It is impossible to care about that which has no true importance. His will to conquer, to master, to rule has survived where his intentions have died with his last regeneration, and he doesn’t mourn the loss.

He doesn’t mourn the loss at all.

Picking himself up off the ground, the Master begins to laugh.


End Notes:
So my first thought upon watching War Games… well, okay. Technically my first thought was “is this ever going to end?” My second thought was “why are there only about five people in a Roman legion?” So my third thought concerned how I felt about the War Chief=Master piece of fanon. Because the similarities are really striking (and I’m not talking about the beard), but the differences (the Master’s totally defined by his sense of humour; the War Chief, not so much) seemed somewhat insurmountable. At first, at least.

This is (for the most part) intended to be the incarnation after the War Chief, but not Delgado!Master. It may be Delgado!Master at the end (I can’t really imagine him being that old, regeneration-wise), but I suppose it doesn’t really matter.
edzel2edzel2 on July 14th, 2009 08:31 pm (UTC)
I haven't seen War Games yet (or if I did see it when it originally aired, I've forgotten it) but I may just have to rectify that now...

I love this. IMHO it explains as well as anything else how The Master became the way he is... it may not be the whole story but it feels like another piece of the jigsaw and it works for me.

I do hope you write more Master!fic, because I think you've nailed him nicely! Makes me want to tear up and rewrite my own Master!fics... or at least, aspire to go deeper into this fascinating character....
Rhaella: Tegan & Nyssa - DWrhaella on July 14th, 2009 09:06 pm (UTC)
War Games is... well, my attention starts to drift after four part serials, so ten killed me, but the War Chief is really good looking (*cough*) and there's a lot of really good stuff in the episode.

I'm glad you enjoyed this! I have to ask--because I had my brother read it over, and he got lost, but then he's mostly a Romanafan and hasn't yet watched any of the Master parts of Classic Who--if the end is at all confusing chronologically.

I should end up writing more Master!fic. I've got tons half finished on my hard drive, but much of it has been half finished for about four months now. =/
All the best fandoms have time traveling monks.: ainleymastermad by calapineskipthedemon on July 14th, 2009 10:58 pm (UTC)
I just finished The War Games a few days ago. I thought to myself, well, if the War Chief isn't yet another alias for the Master, the Doctor's got a *type*.

This is really, really good.A small piece that makes a lot of sense of how the Master could have gone from someone the Doctor at least respected and thought of as a close friend, to the crazy meglomaniac.
Rhaella: Doctor/Master OTPrhaella on July 15th, 2009 02:09 am (UTC)
Either he has a type, or almost everyone he touches turns evil/ruthless as hell. Which I think could be argued.

I'm glad you enjoyed it! That's what I like most about the War Chief = Master theory, because restless, idealistic, and just ruthless enough is the sort of personality I see the Doctor really identifying with (because he's not exactly sunshine himself), whereas insane megalomania... not so much. Well, not usually.
Auntie Krizu: War Chiefsnowgrouse on July 15th, 2009 12:45 am (UTC)
Ok, this is a really damn good fic. It's lovely:). It's great to see such quality fic about the Master *and* the sort which goes with the War Chief=Master theory! Excellent stuff:).
Rhaella: Eighth Doctorrhaella on July 15th, 2009 02:12 am (UTC)
Thank you! I'm so glad you enjoyed! Which is to say, I've been lurking around the D/M fandom – slowly trying to catch up with Classic Who – long enough to know how exacting you can be about fic. :)
Auntie Krizu: Who's Queen?snowgrouse on July 15th, 2009 02:22 am (UTC)
Meep (I'm not that scary, honest)! I must say I really enjoyed reading this because it flows well and I didn't, for once, get jolted out of the story because of typos or weird characterisation or anything. It had lovely character insights and interesting details and lots of brainy thinkiness in it. Hell, I couldn't write anything this good myself, but it's exactly the sort of style I like--I really like your narrative voice. And considering the general quality of fanfic out there, goodfic is a rare and precious thing indeed, and worthy of praise:). I might just rec this, if you don't mind:).
Rhaella: Four/Romanarhaella on July 15th, 2009 02:49 am (UTC)
Hahaha, well... I'm still at the point with Doctor Who fandom (especially the Doctor/Master part of it) where I'm intimidated by pretty much everyone. Which is silly, but there actually is much more goodfic here than in almost any other fandom I've ever wandered through (which might not say much about my former fandoms, but I do now tend to avoid most things that are New Who only, so I guess it evens out), 30 years of canon, and then I'm American to boot, so I'm always neurotic about Americanisms.

I don't mind at all. Go ahead. :)
Manics fan: Dr. Who - Saxon is down with that!manics_fan on July 15th, 2009 02:16 am (UTC)
Nice fic, really well written, there's not enough War Chief!Master fics around, so it's always good to find more writers of it. I really like how you've written this from his perspective, very nice charaterisation on the Master.

I saw The War Games for the first time last year, and was already familair with the fanon of the War Chief being the Master. When I started watching it, I had already decided I was dead against the idea for some reason... until I got about half way through it, at which point there was nothing that could convince me he wasn't the Master! The similarities really are obvious.

Yeah it does go on a bit, a great serial, but it could do with being a few parts shorter, me thinks. It does tend to drag a bit in the middle.
Rhaella: Doctor/Master OTPrhaella on July 15th, 2009 02:49 am (UTC)
I'm glad you enjoyed. :)

I went into the serial a month or so ago open to either interpretation, but he was just so serious that it was hard to reconcile him with the Master... until he starts asking the Doctor to take over the universe with him and getting much too happy when he says yes. =/

The serial frustrated me, because there was so much in it that was just brilliant, and then they just started recycling the same basic plot points again and again, and I don't know why.
_medley_: reign in hell by snowgrouse_medley_ on July 15th, 2009 03:51 am (UTC)
This just fits so perfectly well, and I believe it completely.

“There’s never before been a Time Lord worthy of the name.”

Even if I didn't love the rest (and I do) I'd be glad I read this just for that line. Which seems like SUCH perfect pre-Master. (And hot. If I'd been Theta, there would have been sex right about then.)
Rhaella: Doctor/Master OTPrhaella on July 15th, 2009 04:08 am (UTC)
Thank you!

(And hot. If I'd been Theta, there would have been sex right about then.)


Well. Actually, I'd written it for another fic that promptly fell apart, so when this randomly grew some Theta/Koschei, I couldn't not use it. I am now amused because yeah, it was initially kind of sexual.
_medley_: old school slash_medley_ on July 15th, 2009 04:37 am (UTC)
I am now amused because yeah, it was initially kind of sexual.

LOL! I'm amused now, too.
Rhaella: The Rani - DWrhaella on July 15th, 2009 07:38 pm (UTC)
Hehe. I don't think Ushas would have been amused, but then she so seldom is.
_medley_: evil o'clock by snowgrouse_medley_ on July 16th, 2009 03:35 am (UTC)
*vbg* I can see the eyerolling from here.
Evilawyerevilawyer on July 15th, 2009 09:18 am (UTC)
I saw The War Games so many years ago that I've forgotten chunks of it, and I've always been a little surprised by the "War Chief = Master" that has been picked up in fanfic because I don't remember getting that impression when I watched the serial. That may be do not only to fading memory but also to the fact that my exposure to the Master at that point had been limited to Crispy!Master during The Deadly Assassin and The Keeper of Traken and to Ainley!Master in Logopolis. However, my point is that you've done a marvelous job of fleshing out that similarity and bringing me to point of thinking "Yeah, that has to be him." Lovely work.
Rhaella: Doctor/Master OTPrhaella on July 15th, 2009 07:37 pm (UTC)
Mmm, I can see Crispy!Master being a bit hard to equate with any other Master, canon or otherwise. Which is actually kind of nice, I suppose, because that's the point of regeneration, after all.

Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed it and that you found it convincing. :)
aralias: talking to yourselfaralias on July 25th, 2009 03:17 pm (UTC)
i'm not sure how i missed this at the time (was it cross posted? i was just.... blind that day?) but i really like it. you've written that very interesting change from the war chief to the master, which i don't think is just the acquisition of a GSOH (the master places a personal ad soon afterwards, but alas, the doctor doesn't see it), though that's very true, but also this change into someone who thinks of himself as 'The Master'. because the war chief doesn't so much, he is more subservient. i love the idea of him being abandoned and forgotten by the time lords, and then choosing that as the impetus to move on and change - though still, not enough.

this is really well written too. i love the slightly confused repetitions of the first regeneration, and those short two-line sections. when i got to the end i was disappointed that it had ended, which is a good sign of a good fic, i think.
Rhaella: Eighth Doctorrhaella on July 25th, 2009 08:41 pm (UTC)
It was cross posted, but only to saxonvoters (retrospectively, I probably should've thrown it up at best_enemies, but oh, well). *looks up GSOH* ...yeah, that's hardly the only change, and hardly the most important, but I think it's the one that has to come last, that's contingent upon all the others. Maybe. (In Delgado's case, at least, it feels more like unflappable confidence than anything else... the others, okay, a bit more on the batshit side, but whatever. XD)

Glad you enjoyed it. :)