"Bastard," said Doctor Two.
"Doctor," called Leela, "what's that flashing?" She pointed to a red blinking light on the console face under which K-9 was interfacing with the TARDIS computer.
"Oh no," said the Doctor.
"The firmament occipitalizer is destabilizing!" cried Doctor Two.
"We'll all be atomambulized," said Doctor Three.
"We must fix it!" shouted Doctor One.
The four Doctors dashed from the scanner screen back to the console. On the scanner screen the Master screamed at them, "Wait! I wasn't through with what I was saying!"
"You should have thought of that before you ... defirmambulized the ... er, atom-pit occupier, shouldn't you?" Leela told him, and shut the scanner screen off.
"Status, K-9!" barked the Doctor.
"I am maintaining the equilibrium of the quarticle pleson generator," answered K-9. "Personal power, however, will be exhausted in twenty seven point four three seconds. Twenty five. Twenty four. Twenty three."
"We need plesons," said Doctor One. "If we irradiate the reticulon cortoplasty with the output from the octoflatimide core inducer -"
"I, er, replaced that core inducer with a duodeciflatimide model," Doctor Two said embarrassedly. "No radiation."
"Nineteen. Eighteen. Seventeen," said K-9.
"We need more power for the dog!" said Doctor Three. He asked the Doctor, "Where's the fortron energizer?"
"Installed in a garbage truck on Woppanistan XIII," said the Doctor, grinning sheepishly. "That's rather a funny story ..."
"Eleven. Ten. Nine," said K-9.
"Why do we need plesons?" asked Leela.
"Plesons are integral to the force field that protects us from the Time Vortex," said the four Doctors in ragged chorus.
"Then why don't we just get out of the Time Vortex?" asked Leela.
The four Doctors stared her for a moment, then moved as one man to hit a particular button on the console.
"Two. One," said K-9. His lights went out and a small puff of smoke rose from his head to the ceiling just as the time rotor stopped moving.
"You didn't really fail to think of that before I said it, did you?" said Leela.
"No," said the Doctor.
"Of course we'd thought of it," snapped Doctor One.
"You see, with the present level of thorogen fluctuations," said Doctor Two, "it's easier for the Master to track us if we're stationary rather than in flight."
"Any other option would have been preferable - that is, any option besides being torn apart by the chaotic forces of the Vortex," said Doctor Three.
"Right," said the Doctor. "You -" he pointed at Doctor Three, "- stay here, start K-9 recharging and repair the console. You -" he pointed to Doctor Two, "- go to the power room and make repairs there. K-9 can help you both when he's powered up. You -" he pointed to Doctor One, "come with me and Leela to explore wherever it is we've landed and see whether there are resources to replentish our equipment. Right? Right."
"Just a minute, young man," said Doctor One as the Doctor turned to the door and raised his hat, "what makes you think you're in charge?"
"I beg your pardon," said the Doctor, his hat halfway to his head. "What's your plan?"
"Well -" said Doctor One. He thought a moment. "I think these two chaps are best fit to stay here and repair the TARDIS and the dog, while ... er, you and the young lady and I attempt to locate replacement parts."
"Well, that's much better than my plan," said the Doctor, grinning and finally placing his hat on his head.
"Oh, don't be so modest, old chap," said Doctor Three.
"No no, I think it's rather our predecessor who has a genuine grasp of our respective special skills," Doctor Two said.
"Very well," Doctor One said haughtily. "We'll compromise."
"Will you two just come on?" Leela grabbed the Doctor and Doctor One by their forearms and practically shoved them through the TARDIS doors.
"I'm surprised you suggested we leave those other chaps behind," the Doctor said to Doctor One as they strode - in step, Leela noticed - down the street onto which had opened the alley in which the TARDIS had landed. "As I recall the black hole incident, both of me found me rather insufferable."
"I had thought that was why you sent them to different rooms," Doctor One said drily.
"Are we going to be able to find what we want on this planet?" Leela asked.
The Doctors had been examining the passersby, who appeared to be standard humanoid stock. They could have landed on Earth or an Earth colony for all the three of them knew yet.
"Personal wrist phones," the Doctor observed of a conservatively dressed man.
"Interactive recreational direct-brain stimulation," Doctor One observed of an adolescent boy wearing some sort of visor, fencing with adversaries who weren't there to the discomfiture of successive fellow pedestrians.
"Anti-gravity hovercraft," the Doctor observed of the vehicles on the street.
"Beta-test holographic cosmetics," observed Doctor One of a young woman who flashed between glamorous and plain with each step she took.
"Yes," they chorused to Leela.
"And unless I miss my guess," said the Doctor, his scarf flapping as he stopped abruptly, "this is an electronics store."
"The cartoon mascot with lightning bolts for limbs is rather suggestive," said Doctor One.
The three time-travelers entered the store and went up and down the aisles, the Doctors alternately pointing at the bins expecting the other to collect the needed item: "Freon thermalizer." "Quantum demistifier." "Gluon separator." "Pleson generator." "Left-handed monkey wrench." "Flatimide bottle." "Artron plug." "Beryl core." "Transit sorter." "Bungee cord." Naturally Leela ended up left to collect it all. Having been through this before she'd taken a cart.
Finally they arrived at the cashier's counter. "Cash or charge?"
"Trade," said the Doctor, and he and Doctor One began emptying their pockets in search of something of value to the shopkeeper. They turned out two sonic screwdrivers, an apple with a bite freshly out, several pieces of string, a paperback copy of The Two Towers by Tolkien, four ball point pens that didn't write and two that did, an American Express card in the name John Smith, a testimonial from Charlemagne, the Holy Grail, the tail of a toy donkey, a package of four razor blades, a book of everlasting matches, a street map of Kryptonopolis, a dead type I phaser, a bag of cat's-eye marbles, a handwritten note reading: "Meet me back of the science lab. -C" (hastily reclaimed by Doctor One), Fermat's proof of his theorem, a watch that had run down, five gold rings, and the equivalent of two pounds thirteen in currency from several other planets than this one. Leela contributed one of the seven knives the Doctor didn't know she carried.
"Well, that's all very nice," said the counterperson, "but I'm afraid you'll have to ask my father in the back. This way." He ushered the travelers through a curtained doorway. Leela led the way while the Doctor paused and offered the counterperson a jelly baby.
As soon as Leela and Doctor One cleared the doorway, a net fell on them. It was electrified with a stun charge. Doctor One shouted to the Doctor, "It's a trap!" as Leela fell unconscious.
Sparks flew from Doctor Three's soldering as the Doctor rushed into the console room from the exterior doors, coming to rest with his back against them. K-9 was still charging. Doctor Three turned off the soldering toroid and looked up. "Where are Leela and the old man?"
"Still back at the electronics shop," gasped the Doctor.
"Are they following with your purchases?"
"I shouldn't count on it if I were you." He told Doctor Three what had happened. Then he squatted down next to K-9. "How are we doing, K-9?"
"I am nearly recharged," said K-9. "You are in the advanced stages of fatigue."
"Don't be so literal!" He looked up at his other selves as Doctor Two entered the console room. "Now here's my plan. It's risky, but it just might work ..."
"Hang up on me, will you, you ignorant cow?" said the Master. He played some sort of laser device over Leela, shackled to the wall next to Doctor One. She screamed in agony.
"Stop that!" shouted Doctor One. "It's not her fault if your conversation is so tedious." The Master gave him a zap, too, and hobbled out of the room.
"Young woman," said Doctor One to Leela, "cutting off that transmission may have been the most intelligent thing you've ever done."
"What," gasped Leela, hanging by from the chains manacled to her wrists, "makes you say that?"
Doctor One nodded after the Master. "Now that he hates you so much, he'll never kill you outright."
"... He'd never kill her outright, now," said the Doctor to Doctor Three, Doctor Two and K-9. "That gives us some time."
"Let's get on with it, then," said Doctor Two.
In a moment the figures of the Doctor, Doctor Two, and Doctor Three emerged from the TARDIS and made their way up the alley to the street, turning toward the electronics store. Doctor Two pulled Doctor Three aside as they walked. "Do you think he'll pull it off?" He jerked his head back toward the TARDIS.
"Yes," said Doctor Three, "yes I do."
"Our adversary seems so much cleverer than he was in my time and yours."
"That's all right," said Doctor Three. "So are we."
Doctor One watched Leela tug on her chains. "You needn't bother, you know."
"Are you such a quitter, old man?"
"No. That's precisely my point," said Doctor One. "The rest of me are sure to be here soon to rescue us."
Just then they saw Doctor Two, Doctor Three and the Doctor enter the room. The smiles on the prisoners' faces faded, however, when the Doctors were followed into the room by the Master, holding his laser pain device.
"We had to surrender," said Doctor Three. "We couldn't just let him kill you."
"We weren't in any danger, you fool!" started Doctor One. He cut himself off, apparently realizing belatedly that his other selves must know this as well as he did ... assisted in this realization, Leela had no doubt, by the broad winks from Doctor Two whose back was to the Master.
"Over there!" The Master waved the three new arrivals to lock themselves into three sets of manacles the other side of Doctor One from Leela, where they arranged themselves in order. Leela thought she saw the Doctor merely raise his arms up to and through the manacles, as if they were illusions he was posing with; but she was distracted when with a loud whirr a huge machine pivoted into the room through a false wall.
"This is my changitron transregenerational mogrifier device," said the Master.
"What a silly name," sniffed Doctor Two.
"Connected to the four of you and myself," said the Master, "it will suck the regenerational energy out of your entire timestream and suck it into mine - incidentally sucking you out of existence!"
The Master touched a button on the control panel, and four beams of light shot out at the line of Doctors. He sat in a chair built into the machine, and two beams of light from side panels connected the machine to his temples.
Leela looked over at the Doctors. They all seemed to be paralyzed, with expressions of pain on their faces. They were perspiring and their teeth were gritted. All but the Doctor, who was standing there, apparently happy as a clam. The beam wasn't affecting him. In fact it wasn't striking him - it was going right through him and hitting the wall behind him.
"Something's wrong!" the Master cried. He was perspiring and his teeth were gritted. He seemed to be trying but unable to get out of the chair. "What's wrong? Why isn't it working?"
The Doctor glitched like a television picture, and disappeared. Where he had appeared to stand, the machine's light beam shot over K-9's head onto the wall behind him, with his antenna extended into it.
"A hologram Doctor?" shrieked the Master.
"A stupid idea like that, and you fell for it?" Leela rubbed it in.
"Now!" cried Doctor Three and Doctor Two in unison.
"Now!" came Doctor Three's and Doctor Two's voices over the TARDIS console audio receiver. The Doctor slapped his hand on the jury-rigged remote K-9 control, and reversed the polarity of the neutron flow.
"The power is dropping off," shouted the Master as a pop and a puff of smoke rose from his machine. "What's happening?" He continued to struggle unavailingly to get up.
"K-9 is draining your machine," Doctor Three grunted through his pain.
"The power is being relayed to the TARDIS, to repair it," Doctor Two grunted through his pain.
"Noooo!" screamed the Master, just as his machine died and the light beams faded away.
"It's working!" cried the Doctor, in the TARDIS console room. The power relays from K-9 were taking all they could handle, and standing up under the load. Not one of them blew before the transmission from K-9 cut out, the telemetry indicating that the Master's machine had failed rather than K-9.
"Without a hitch!" The Doctor turned to the TARDIS's own power level readouts. They were most remarkable in how much they had not risen at all.
"But the power had to have gone somewhere," the Doctor said. "Where can it have gone?"
"Over here, perhaps," came an old, familiar voice behind him. The Doctor turned around slowly, every hackle rising.
Standing behind him was the Master's previous incarnation, the last healthy one; the body he had worn while causing so much trouble during the Doctor's time at UNIT.
Spread in an array behind him were the Master's selves from his entire regenerative cycle before that.
"You know," said the Doctor, as the Masters began to surround him, "I hate it when this happens ..."
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