Darook's voice tore Roka out of her thoughts and she remembered the small guy that was sitting on her shoulders like a child. As much as she disliked it, his idea actually hadn't been bad. Like this he couldn't forget her and it made conversations a lot easier.
"Ya travel with him, right?" he asked, as she slowed down her pace, falling back a bit behind the two Masters. They were heading towards the festival again, after deciding the inn wouldn't be suited.
"Uhm, so far. You could call it that."
"Centuries old... can ya believe that? I mean... me kind lives for maybe sixty or eighty years, when we're lucky. Well, yours doesn't get that much older." She had no idea what to answer and kept quiet. "Say... ya two are from me future, so to speak..."
"Yes... but there are rules," she hesitantly said. "Time can be rewritten and..."
"Mhm... I see. Too bad. Would have loved to know if he's running off or not."
Roka felt a little sting as she remembered, that he had done exactly that.
"Y'know... I don't look like it to ya, but I'm old. Have maybe five years left or so, if it's much." He said it calmly and with no regret in his voice. "Might sound a bit funny, but since I told him, he's a bit weird." After a small pause he asked, "Does he have family?"
"Uhm... probably not." If he ever has had they were gone now anyway. Together with all the other Time Lords.
"Mhm... thought so. Don't laugh at me, lass. But I think, he'll run off, before I die. Can't blame him. Wouldn't want to see me only friend dyin' either. Guess I kinda owe him to shut up 'bout it." He sighed. "Took me in, ya know? Was a street rat my whole life before."
"You're probably quite useful to him." Roka smirked. "He said something about a smuggler network."
"Yah, brought him some fine contacts in return." Darook laughed to himself. "Thought I might earn me enough to leave that moon and visit the planet below once. Always dreamed of it. And now I'm here. Somewhere else entirely. Even another time! Blimey!"
Hadn't the Master told something about diamonds he had left behind? Roka glanced at the two ahead and pondered if he might have left them for that reason. An odd thought, considering that he usually cared for no one but himself.
Darook chuckled as she gave no answer. "That's a lot of secrets ya have there."
"Sorry..." she mumbled and really meant it.
"Ah, it's alright." He folded his thin arms on her head. "Just wish I'd knew a bit more about that chap. No idea, who he even is. And that after ten years, can ya imagine?"
"All too well," she mumbled and smiled.
The small guy suddenly snickered. "Ya seem to be a bit on the shy side, ey?"
"Uh... I... I don't know. It's just... guess I'm just not really used to people. The glitch, you know." She shrugged apologetically. It was true though. Usually she had no idea how to properly interact with most people. They all seemed to follow a fixed role-set. One she hadn't been able to pick up. Even after years of observing.
Darook laughed. "And then y'arund that guy? Well... he's a weirdo too. Might be fitting then. Hope, y'are not as cruel as him though. Man, I've seen him doin' shit, I swear, no one should do that."
"No, I don't do those things," Roka objected. "I... maybe some. Not the cruel stuff." But she also never interfered. Sometimes she could prevent a few things by bombarding him with stone cold logic. Truth be told, it didn't even bother her too much, as long as she didn't have to watch...
"Ya know what's really weird?" Darook pondered. "Sometimes I get the feelin', one of his hearts might have a tiny good speck somewhere."
"Impossible," Roka chuckled.
"No, really. He's hidin' it really well, but... Once, or maybe twice, he really did surprise me." He sighed. "Don't mind me. Probably just don't want to die, knowing I spent the rest of me existence with an ashole."
She knew all too well, what he meant, but also was curious. "What did he do that surprised you so much?"
"Ah, tiny things. Here and there. Seemed like mere coincidence sometimes, but they were too calculated, ya know? And there was that one time... mhm... We're almost there, but... whatever. One evenin' there was that girl. Tiny thing. Smaller than I even. Looked human. Or maybe whatever species the Master is. Came in, strolled through all those rough bastards, eyes wide with fear. And that big chap came to her, had a head like a shark and grabbed the poor little thing. And the Master... usually throws everything out that even remotely resembles a child, but that one... I don't know. Maybe the small thing reminded him of someone..."
"Why do you think?" And of whom could she have reminded him?
"Heh, ya should have seen it! He jumped over the counter, rammed his fist in the shark-face, grabbed the kid and was back with me within a heartbeat. And then he stared at that girl, as if he wanted to... I don't know. If he were a normal bloke, I'd say he wanted to hug her. Me Pap used to look at me that way, when I got meself hurt."
That was indeed strange. Again she looked at the two men ahead and wondered what might have gone through his head at that moment.
"What are you two conspiring back there?" The two Masters slowed down and waited until Roka had caught up.
"Ha! Was just about to organize us some dates for tonight," Darook blabbered happily. "Right?"
"Uh... without me," Roka laughed.
"Och, I'm good at that, believe me!"
"Oh no," one of the Master's snickered. "He's in coupling mode."
"Pshaw! Don't listen to them. Just tell me what you're after," the blue guy continued undeterred. "Species, gender, age."
"Huh? Wait, what?"
"No preferences? Well that'll be easy then."
She rolled her eyes. "Just don't, okay?" she moaned and looked up in search for help. But both Masters were just grinning and looking as if they had to endure this all the time and were happy Darook had found a new victim.
"Maybe we find a klughlo. They have very..."
"Not? How about zetfruris?"
Roka groaned irritated.
"Ya have to like something, lass."
"No, I don't," she retorted frustrated and heard a chuckle from ahead.
"Well... I bet there are other humans around then. Any gender preferences?"
"I swear, I throw you down if you don't stop," Roka grumbled. As much as she had started to like him before, now he was only annoying.
"Nah, your kind is totally obsessed with..."
"I'm very fine without!" She dropped him into a heap of snow and walked away, ignoring his curses.
"Now that would be new with humans," the young Master said with a wicked grin.
"Are you for real?" She gave him a mean look. "Ugh, I should have stayed back and finally get drunk!"
Darook was already catching up again, wearing a wide grin, although he was full with snow. As he tried to climb Roka's back again, she roughly pulled him down, stretching her arm out to keep him away. He weighed almost nothing.
"Abuse the other two for a ride." She scowled at him. "I really don't care if you forget me."
"Och, don't be mad at me, lass." He grinned widely and apologetic, holding his hands ups. "I'm just havin' fun. But ya can of course carry me all the way like that. Me legs will thank ya."
She sat him down to the ground. They had finally reached the festival anyway, and a tiny little bit satisfied she saw a rather big area that was still gleaming here and there. The fire from before must have swallowed a good portion of the place. Maybe she should go looking for goods to scavenge. Actually... the first thing she should get was a warmer jacket. Hers wasn't very suited for the nightly temperatures of this place.
"Wait a second!" she called out and vanished between a small group of people near a cart that sold clothes. She snatched a black, padded jacket away, shrugged it on and was back with the others within seconds.
"What is it?" She looked at the two Masters, who were both staring at her now.
"I think..." one started.
"...we will have very good use for your abilities," the other ended, both wearing a mischievous grin on their faces.
All of Roka's pockets were heavy with money. It had been surprisingly easy to steal it from the merchants around. They felt so safe inside their booths, they didn't even consider someone sneaking in and grabbing it. Well... to be fair, no one but her could have snuck in like that. Right in front of their noses.
It were moments like these where she really wasn't sure she wanted the glitch ever to be gone.
Additional to the money Roka had also stolen a bunch of small gadgets and a few substances. Those were for herself though. Souvenirs and a bit of stuff to experiment with later on.
There were still surprisingly many people around. Most of them probably nocturnal species, although she saw even some humans here and there, making her wonder in what time they were here. Definitely far into her own future. She remembered how it had taken her quite some time to get used to the thought that her kind would eventually reach the stars and spread all over them. Her prediction would have been that they wipe themselves out long before they could reach that state.
There was a solid building in the middle of the place, made of stone, maybe six or eight meters in height and with a flat roof. The other three were waiting up there. She could make them out, sitting on the edge and gesturing around. Of course... they were being lazy while she had to do all the work.
In the shadow of the house Roka whistled a few tones and a ladder got lowered down to her which she swiftly climbed up. Having arrived she revised her thought from before. They had setup a bunch of smaller machines over the roof. A few in every corner and some in the middle. It was hard to make out, but didn't some of them look like speakers?
Roka turned towards the Masters and couldn't for the life of hers suppress a giggle. The younger one was wearing sunglasses and was playing with something suspiciously looking like a microphone on his ear, while the older one wore an e-guitar on a strap around his neck. Darook was hopping around the machines, plugging in cables here and there.
"Okay... mind finally telling me, what you two are up to?" she asked with a grin and started to empty her pockets.
"Oh damn! That's a lot more than I thought you would get," the younger one blurted out.
"Told you," the older retorted grinning. "She's my little master-thief." He gave her a wink, indicating that he was very well aware of the wordplay, and started to put some bank notes into something that could be a small cannon. "And what we're up to?"
"Utter chaos..." the other one said happily.
"...and a bit of heavy metal!" ended the older one while getting out another pair of sunglasses, sliding it up his nose.
"You two are absolutely crazy!" came Darook's protest from behind. He seemed to be done with his part.
"I know!" both said simultaneously, grinning like idiots.
"This will be..."
They filled the rest of the money into hand-sized, round containers and another gun-like device, before rushing to the roof. Roka had the hardest time of her life getting the grin off her face. She had awaited lots of things... but certainly not them giving a concert.
"Ey, human!" the young Master called her over. "Can you sing?"
"Uhm, not really. It's more like a pathetic squeal," she admitted with a shrug.
"Err... no. I'm afraid I'm not equipped for metal."
"Too bad... this regeneration also isn't. The last one was great."
"Oh yes," the old Master reminisced. "Sold out all halls. Every. Single. Time."
"You played in a metal band?" Roka giggled.
"First on the drums, then lead singer." The Master winked. "Well... shouter. Whatever. I can organize some tickets for you."
"Seems like we're going instrumental only this night though," the younger one pouted. "Eh, good enough."
"Now that ya mentioned it... Aren't ya missin' some drums, boys?" Darook scratched his head.
"No!" both protested in unison.
"Right, right... was just askin'. The speakers and shields are set up by the way."
The two threw a grin at each other and placed themselves at the edge of the roof. The younger one tapped the device on his ear.
"Ey, scum down there!" His voice didn't sound like through a usual microphone, but as if it were just louder than usual. A few people looked up, but most just ignored them. "Yeah, I'm talking to you guys!"
The older Master played in some rifts to accompany himself. That finally made a lot of the visitors stop and look up.
"There. This is fine." He leaned down a bit, glancing over the roof. "You know why I like places like this? No? Because it only needs a tiny spark to let everything go to hell." Murmuring came from below, someone called something, but the Master ignored them and just grinned. "Look up and praise your lord and Master!" he called out happily and fired the gun into the air.
Countless bank notes sailed down into the mass of people, accompanied by a dramatic guitar solo.
Roka giggled in the back and Darook gave her a questioning look.
"If I wouldn't know that chap better, I'd say he just did somethin' good," the small one pondered.
"Oh, certainly not. Look down." Roka nodded towards the edge.
The people were paralyzed and puzzled at first, but soon the first of them started to grab the bank notes to shove them into their pockets. And when even the last one was realizing what was going on... chaos descended upon them all. Everyone tried to get some, people were pushed around, trampled over, brawls broke out all around.
Roka grinned at that, as she understood what their plan had been. And now they were standing there, one playing some matching songs to the scene below while the other one waited until things calmed down, only to throw down one of the balls, that exploded into a rain of money over their heads, getting the chaos going once again.
"Ey lass, you're a strange one," Darook raised an eyebrow when he saw her grin. "There will be lots of deaths tonight. And injuries. And other bad stuff. Always thought the Master's the only mad man who can grin at such a sight."
Roka shrugged. "Looking at it from a logic viewpoint, they do neither good nor bad. You can hardly blame anyone for people being greedy."
"Not sure I like your logic," the blue figure grumbled. "Or theirs. Smugglin's fine, but actively... well, none of my busyness, I guess."
Once more Roka shrugged. She sure as hell wasn't going to ruin their fun. Especially since she knew it could have ended a lot worse than that. Instead she sat down on a small but long box that was standing nearby, getting out some of the devices she had stolen earlier. She also remembered the small bottle of mead in her jacket pocket and got that out too. Like that she could do all three. Drink, tinker and watch the Masters having fun.
What an evening.
Of course the security had been notified. Somewhere on the edges of the place uniformed men rushed towards vehicles. The Masters looked at each other for a moment, then nodded. The next dramatic guitar solo barely drowned out the loud bangs of explosions that shook the ground and illuminated the night.
Roka gaped at the flames. The Masters must have prepared the vehicles with explosives, while she was gone. Well, she had expected some casualties tonight, after all. Now though the whole security would rush to this place. They really should run now.
Instead the Masters stepped back from the roof's edge and kept quiet, while suddenly a greenish light bubble formed around them, emitted from the devices at the corners.
"Energetic camouflage shields, modified with perception filters," the older Master explained grinning.
"Guess it's time to leave," the other turned away from the roof, took Darook with him and then, without turning around or saying another word, the two climbed down the ladder and vanished into the crowd.
"Tch, typical," Roka smirked. "Not even saying goodbye."
"What for?" the Master chuckled. "I'm still here." A vague smile played on his lips. "Time's a strange thing, isn't it? To think that I was here, but can remember it only now..." He turned to the roof's edge again, observing the panicking masses down below and having an eye on the security. They wouldn't find them inside the shields.
After another while things calmed down again and Roka looked up from the device she was building. Her gaze wandered to the Master, who was sitting on the roof's edge, letting his feet dangle, while he absently played a few calm and almost relaxing tones on his guitar. His attention wasn't with the still chaotic masses below, instead his eyes were fixated on the stars above. As if those gleaming dots were a lot more interesting than the madness he had spread.
Roka wondered what he was waiting for, but then simply continued with her device.
"Tzz, how do you intent to get drunk on that weak stuff?" The Master was suddenly next to her, the empty bottle in hand and watching her. Then he nodded towards the device in her hands. "What's that supposed to be?"
"Och, just an experiment."
He was right, the mead had only made her a little drowsy. But at least her mind stayed clear enough for this. She sat down the small drone onto the crate. It was a weird thing, formed like a butterfly with delicate transparent wings and roughly as big as her hand. The wings were floating up and down, but the device itself was dormant. Attached to its back was a small orb, filled with shimmering liquid. Roka herself wore a thin device on her ear that she activated now, letting a holographic grid appear in front of her.
"Just need to implement a basic flock AI. Shouldn't take long," she explained absentmindedly.
The Master sat next to her on the crate and observed the butterfly drone.
"Is that Borealicyat in the sphere?" he asked surprised. "It's highly explosive. They get it from inside auroras."
"I know. That's why I need it."
She was so focused on the task that it took her a few minutes to fully realize that she was alone with him again. And that there still were a lot of unresolved things. Carefully she glanced up, seeing him observing her. His look was hard to read, but he obviously was thinking about something.
"What do you see?" he finally asked quietly. "You're always staring at me like I'm the most fascinating thing you've ever seen." A smug grin sat on his lips for a moment. "Well, of course I am..."
Roka giggled, while finishing her code. "Yes, kinda." Then she deactivated the device on her head and smiled. "Don't think you really want to hear this though."
"I think I do." He put his feet onto the crate and grabbed Roka, pulling her against him, before folding his arms around her. "What is it your weird mind is putting together about me?"
She gulped and looked up. On her back she felt his hearts beating, a tad bit faster than usual. Not as fast as her own though. Not that she would dislike sitting like this, but after today... Hastily she looked down again, silently thanking the alcohol in her blood. Without she probably wouldn't be able to speak at all now.
"Hm... how to put it... you're like an unsolved mystery," she said. "Like a puzzle I know I can never put together. A book with too many missing pages." Her hand started to play with his sleeve, tugging at it lightly. "I see... a wanderer... on a never ending search for an unknown truth." He moved his hand towards hers, brushed feather light over her palm and put his fingertips against hers. Roka stared down at this, before she carefully pulled her hand away. "I see... someone who couldn't be bothered less by what walks on the ground. Living or not. Because... because your eyes can't see them. They are always glaring upwards." Even when she risked quick glance this was the case, and only her words made him look down, surprised. "I see..." she continued, now strangely calm. "I see a man that falls in love with the stars, each time he looks up into the sky."
Some moments passed, before he hummed confirming, then murmured, "Poetic... How could I not? How could I look at something so vast and beautiful, without wanting to hold it in my hands?"
Roka found no words. There was no answer. But she had found a truth at last. Eventually though she spoke, slow and careful, "Isn't it... lonely? Chasing after them... it's not even possible."
"I know," he said quietly and sounded sad. "But I can't change it. Those two hearts of mine... they were lost the moment I took the first glance upwards." He chuckled slightly and squeezed Roka a little. "Don't laugh at me."
"Why would I?" She smiled to herself. "Chasing after the impossible... after all it's what I do myself. Let me get up."
He let go of her and she moved away, picking up the drone and placing it onto the ground, before activating her device again. "Is it save to deactivate the shields?"
The Master nodded and pressed a button on a small device. "What's it for?" he asked curiously, first looking at the drone then towards Roka, raising a surprised brow when he saw her grim expression.
"For doing the impossible," she said, cracking a smile. "I'm sick of being a ghost. So I will make them remember. At least... if this works. I could only find a psychic device... At least I could amplify the signal."
Taking in a deep breath she tapped against a dot on the holographic grid and closed her eyes to focus on the drone. Nothing happened, but after a while she got shocked by the device.
"Dammit!" she scowled and grumbled.
"You amplified it too much. No wonder you get shocked" the Master snickered.
"Weaker and it wouldn't work... well... obviously it's not enough anyway. So much to this." She stared angrily at the drone as if this were its fault.
"Try again," the Master said, got up and stood behind her, lying his hands around her head, his thumbs gingerly pressing against her temples.
Roka looked up and saw him nodding reassuringly. A smile wandered to her face and again she concentrated on the drone, picturing it flying up. Slowly its wings started to move this time and emitted a faint turquoise glow, while it raised higher and higher. She squealed happily at the sight and started to tap some dots inside the grid. The butterfly got duplicated.
"A holographic clone? What do you need that for?"
"Just watch," she advised smiling, producing more and more duplicates.
After a few seconds she had a dozen, then duplicated those and soon got a few hundred. Those got duplicated too.
"Uhm... are you sure you need that many?"
"Right... that won't do."
She tapped a series of dots and nodes and suddenly the whole swarm got duplicated. Then again, and once more, until there were millions of glowing butterflies raising towards the sky. From below she could hear people murmuring and calling out. They seemed to finally have noticed it, and the thought of thousands of eyes watching the procedure of shining drones raising into the atmosphere made her heart beat faster in joy.
As the copies had reached their destination they looked like a huge swarm of stars spreading across the night sky. Roka took a last deep breath and concentrated on the original drone, sending a signal out to the sphere on its back.
From one moment to the next the whole sky was ablaze. The sphere exploded simultaneously in every copy, sending a wave of green fire around, forming the stylized outline of a crow with spread wings, accompanied by a blue and purple aurora.
"I can't make them see me," she said grinning. "But they will remember this for a very long time."
All she had to do now was to fix their position and this signal would stay up there until the energy source inside the device would run dry. Carefully she put it down, hid it in a niche somewhere on the roof and looked back upwards.
"Alright, alright... You did it... I'm officially impressed." The Master glared at the sky, then at Roka.
"Wouldn't have worked without your help." She smiled back sheepishly.
A few minutes passed, both glaring at the aurora.
What would happen now? Everything felt so uncertain.
Eventually the Master appeared in front of her and she lowered her eyes towards his.
"You have to answer this. And I need the truth. No excuses, no anything," he said and sounded deadly serious. Roka nodded and he continued, "If I won't let the Doctor go, will you conspire against me?"
She didn't avert her gaze and nodded again. "Yes. Although I would try not to interfere with anything else."
"Why? You said you wouldn't go back."
That made her smile. "Because thanks to him I had a home for the past half of my life. Thanks to him I saw what no other human is ever able to see. Thanks to him..." She lowered her head and mumbled, "...I met you."
The Master slowly nodded. "Then I will think of a way we can both live with. In case..." Suddenly he stepped closer, leaving barely any distance between them. He grabbed both of her hands, his thumbs gently stroking over her knuckles. "I don't need another enemy. I don't need someone with me that doesn't want to be there. I do need... you to be absolutely sure."
He waited until Roka looked up at him, before he continued, calm and composed, although she saw that there was a fight going on inside him. "If you want to go... I... would let you. Just say a word."
He swallowed, then gripped her hands tighter, interlocked his fingers with hers and drew her carefully closer. "Don't go away." His voice was low, his eyes filled with a mad gleam. "Be my shadow. Be the crow on death's shoulder. Follow me into the darkness, into the abyss of insanity and far beyond. Come with me to places no one else would dare to set foot on, and set fire to others, leaving nothing but chaos and ashes on our way."
Slowly he leaned down, drawing her slightly closer, his eyes staring right into her soul, making it impossible for her to look away. "Roka Akerson, I once offered you to see the stars, and all of time and space. I hereby renew my offer and ask you one last time." He hovered only inches above her, his voice so low it was as if she felt it more than heard it. "Will you come with me?"
"Aren't you a bit dramatic?" she murmured back and smiled sarcastically.
"Oh, definitely." An eager glint was in his eyes. "Does it work?"
"Absolutely." She grabbed the lapels of his jacket and almost completely closed the distance between them, without ever breaking eye contact. "I will."
The Master stared at her with wide eyes, a smile slowly creeping onto his face as if the realization of her words reached his mind in slow motion. His thumb gently slid over her bottom lip. "And what do we do about... that?"
"Oof, I don't know," Roka said, playfully innocent. "But if you don't run away again, I might have an idea."
"I think we might have the same."
And he lowered his lips onto hers, sealing the promise in a long and savoring kiss.