Characters: Jack, Martha, Sarah Jane, Luke, Ianto, Gwen, Mickey, Wilf
Genre: Gen, drama
Spoilers: MAJOR spoilers for Stolen Earth and Journey's End, references to various older episodes from Classic and New Who.
Summary: After the events of Journey's End, the Doctor's friends and companions gather together to remember the past and to prepare for the future.
Disclaimer: The sandbox belongs to RTD and the BBC. I'm just playing here, in the corner, making little sand-TARDISes.
Author's notes: Sorry this has taken so long -- I've just come back from vacation.
Many thanks to my my beta readers: Ciaviel and the magnificent WendyMR
“And if she remembers, she’ll die.”
There is a split second of horrified silence, and then the babble begins. Everyone knows about Donna’s biological metacrisis and the Doctor’s radical treatment. The Doctor left identical voicemail messages for Martha and Jack, before he disappeared into the Vortex, with strict instructions to share the information with everyone who needed to know.
Jack’s voice cuts through the hubbub like a blaster through butter. “Okay, people, we don’t have time for this.” The noise subsides into murmurs. “How much time do we have?”
Everyone looks at Sarah Jane. “Before he sends it in to layout? Assuming that he wants to keep a very tight lid on this – and he must do – late Saturday night.”
“Okay. I assume you have contacts at the newspaper? Friends?”
“On the Chronicle? Yes, of course. Linton isn’t one of them – we’ve met at conferences, and he’d probably recognize me, but we’re not exactly best mates.”
“But if you were to call him, ask for a word, he’d talk to you?” She nods. “Okay. Don’t call him yet, but maybe you could chat up some of your buddies at the Chronicle, find out what the after-work pub gossip has to say about this mysterious article.”
Jack turns his attention to Mickey. “I need details! What does he know, what does he think he knows, and how the hell did he find out?”
“I only know a small bit of it. The bloke from the Valiant came into Stevo’s garage, looking for a job. He was pensioned off from UNIT for ‘medical reasons’. Good with his hands, and he wants to keep working. Name’s Chris Turner. He was part of the original Valiant crew, not one of Saxon’s bully boys. He worked in engineering, and the Master left him on the job. Good mechanics are hard to find – ‘specially if you need someone who knows how to maintain an orbital carrier.” Mickey was in the alternate universe during the Year That Never Was, but Jack and Martha have filled him in on the basics. If COT were ever to adopt a motto, it would probably be “Ignorance is bliss – until the moment it gets you killed”.
Jack shakes his head. “Don’t remember seeing him, but then, I didn’t exactly get out to socialize much. Martha--?”
“Let me guess. You want me to save you the trouble of hacking into UNIT personnel files?”
“Though I’d hate for Ianto to miss out on a chance to practice his skills—“ The young Welshman rolls his eyes heavenwards. “—it would save time, Also, I was hoping you could talk to your family, see what they know about Turner. They might have talked to him during meals, or while they were cleaning.”
“Right. Tish is away on a job, but I’ll talk to Mum and Dad.”
“Thanks, Gorgeous.” Jack’s friendly leer doesn’t fade as he turns to Ianto. “Ianto, I’m sure Mr. Linton owns a computer or two. See what you can find. Don’t delete or change anything, and watch out for tripwires. This guy writes about aliens – we don’t want to encourage any paranoid feelings about Men in Black.”
It surprises no one that Jack has taken command. They are all strong, independent people who can work alone or as part of a group, but Jack has the most experience leading a team. He asks a few more questions, assigns a few more tasks, and then the subwave monitors go dark.
The drive from Cardiff to London is two hours of white-knuckle terror, during which Gwen rediscovers long-forgotten childhood prayers. Ianto is staying behind to guard the Hub; besides, most of his contributions to the mission can be done from anywhere, as long as he has a computer.
They gather at Mickey’s flat. No one has any startling news. One by one, they report what they know. Most of Linton’s notes seem to be stored, not on his work or home computers, but on a PDA that is always with him. The notes that are accessible are alarming enough. This man knows what happened on board the Valiant. Thanks to Chris Turner, he has photos of the Doctor. And he has pieced together a reasonable explanation of the return of the stolen Earth.
Turner was a “nice boy,” Martha reports. Francine and Clive sometimes spoke to him at meals in the Valiant’s mess – the crew’s mess; the officers’ mess being reserved for the use of the guards, and for visiting government lackeys. After the Year That Never Was, he was invalided out with post-traumatic stress disorder.
“Not much happened to him personally,” Martha said. “He was pretty safe down there in engineering. The Master didn’t touch the people he really needed, if they were hard to replace. And he was a single bloke, with no family.”
It was the Burning of Japan that broke him, a horror that had been a watershed moment for people all over the world. When the Japanese islands went up in flame, thousands of desperate people were provoked to rebellion, only to be cut down by giggling Toclafane. Millions more sank into despair, now certain of their utter helplessness. Like other members of the Valiant’s crew, Chris Turner was forced to watch the carnage on giant television screens, while the Master sang and whirled and strutted in a triumphant dance. Turner had enough strength and self-discipline to keep himself working and useful, and if he sometimes woke screaming in the night – well, that was a common enough sound on the good ship Valiant.
“All right,” Jack says, a little more curtly than necessary, “before we get buried in details, let’s talk about objectives and strategy.”
“We know the bleedin’ objective,” Wilf says. “It’s ‘keep Donna safe’.”
“Worst case scenario – we keep her from hearing about the article,” Martha suggests.
Jack’s laugh has very little mirth in it. “What – send her scuba-diving again, and hope she doesn’t come up at the wrong moment?”
“Protective custody in a UNIT safe-house.”
“Is that what they’re calling them now?” Jack growls. A blink of memory takes him back to a cold, bleak room, and a young woman in a shapeless red boiler suit.
Martha follows his thoughts easily enough. She remembers her first visit to the Hub, where Toshiko Sato had been stiff and awkward in the presence of a visitor from UNIT. “I said a safe-house, Jack, not a prison. What’s the alternative? Put her on ice in your morgue? Give her a cell next to Janet?”
“Jack, are you sure we can’t just fix her?” That’s Gwen, ever the peacemaker.
Jack paces the crowded room. “Look, we’ve been through this before, Gwen. I don’t know if Donna’s mind can be fixed. I’m damned sure that we can’t fix it. In this century, trained telepaths are about as rare as pacifist Sontarans. In my century— I really don’t know. I’m not sure if even a level 12 forensic telepath could do it. Not a human one.” He leans against the wall, not moving, but still managing to project restlessness.
“I know it would be a huge job, but wouldn’t it be like weeding a garden? Just keep pulling out anything that doesn’t belong?”
Despite his worry and frustration, Jack has to smile. “Gwen, love, it’s not that simple. Damn! I love the man, but sometimes I wish he had pointy ears or blue skin. Martha, help me out, here. Did he ever—?” He touches his slightly cupped hands to his temples, miming telepathic contact.
She shakes her head. Mickey does the same, adding a slight shudder. “No, thank God.”
“He did with me.” Of course, it’s Sarah Jane. “It was terrifying. The Doctor was as careful and gentle as can be, and he did it to save my life, but…” Although Sarah Jane makes her living with words, they are eluding her. “The problem wasn’t that he could see my mind – it was that I could almost see his, and I knew that I could get lost, or worse.”
“Like I said, wish he resembled a walking cactus or something. Gwen, you look at him, and you see somebody like me – guy from another time, lot brainier, almost as sexy – and you think you know who you are dealing with. You don’t. That brain is meant to process thoughts that humans just can’t handle. All that—”
“Wibbley wobbley, timey wimey stuff,” Martha completes the sentence.
Wilf says, “In the service, in survival training, they taught us how to figure out what wild berries were safe to eat. They said, don’t reckon that something is all right, just because you see a bird eatin’ it. A bird can eat stuff that will do for you as fast as any enemy bullet. That’s what Time Lord thoughts could do to my girl.”
He rises from the sofa, strong and wiry, despite his years. “I’m not giving up on her getting better. Maybe the Doctor can do something when he comes back. Maybe not. But unless the Good Lord sends us a miracle in the next few days, we have to think of something else. And I am not having her put in a deep freeze, or locked up somewhere. That’s not living, and if there’s anyone in the Universe who deserves to really live, it’s my Donna.”
His eyes sweep the room with a challenge. This is not a doting grandfather who sells newspapers and tinkers with telescopes. This is a man who used to jump out of aeroplanes into the deadly night; who went up against a Dalek, armed only with a paint gun.
Jack doesn’t salute, but there is respect in his eyes as he face the older man. “Yes, sir. Okay people, I need some options here.”
Ianto’s voice comes clearly from the subwave monitor. “We have to deal with the article – either stop it being printed, or get it changed. Can it be officially suppressed on grounds of national or planetary security?”
Jack shakes his head. Not possible. “The government has other priorities right now, and Linton would just broker a deal with a paper in another country.”
“Interfere with the writer, then?” There’s a coldness in Mickey’s voice that suggests what kind of interference he might be considering.
“Or reason with him?” Gwen suggests. “Bribe?”
“It would have to be a pretty big bribe,” Sarah Jane says slowly, “for him to give up such a big story. This one is a career-maker. Money alone might not be enough.”
In the monitor, Ianto’s image leans closer. “Rule number one in bribery: know what the mark values most.”
Jack shakes his head in mock astonishment. “Why, Ianto Jones, where would a nice boy like you learn such a thing?”
“I’ve been keeping very bad company, haven’t I?” the younger man says, his face impassive. “So, what kind of bribe would entice Mr. Gareth Linton?”
“A title,” Martha suggests. “Shouldn’t be too hard to pull a few strings, and get him on the New Year’s Honours list. Sir Gareth Linton might sound pretty good to him.”
“Not that,” Sarah Jane says, without hesitation. “It would have to be something career-related. A bigger story.”
“A bigger story than the alien who saved the Universe? Universes,” Gwen corrects herself.
“Much, much bigger,” Jack assures her.
Martha and Ianto exchange glances. They both know what Jack wants. Silently, Martha relinquishes the role to the Welshman.
“And what would that bigger story be, sir?”
Jack’s grin is huge, and just a bit predatory. “An interview with the aliens who really saved the Universes.”
Continue to Chapter 3