Zero: The Law of Gallifrey
After the disaster with the living sun – he couldn't quite remember how long it had been since he'd been that scared – the Doctor launched his TARDIS into the time vortex, intending to let them just hang out for a while… and get a few hours of sleep, instead of just going ice-skating. Martha wouldn't let me hear the end of it if I don't take time off, and for once, I agree. He sighed. She's strong. So much like another woman I knew once… Leaving the console room, he slumped back to his own room, shaking the tempting thoughts out of his head. What am I doing? Replacing Rose like that? I wonder though what she would have thought…
Meanwhile, the TARDIS snorted at her pilot's tired musings, knowing who she was. And knowing what she herself knew about the subject… Suddenly, a faint, immensely tangled timeline picked up her attention. It was not that of a normal being – too complicated, too involved in time and too active to be lost. Also, it had a familiar feel to it… Making a decision, she used her liberty of being free in the vortex, and followed the signature, sending her pilot flying to a meet-and-greet with the floor. Sorry. As she expected, the signature grew immediately stronger as she got near, being even more complex than her beloved Doctor's.
What are you doing sexy? he groaned in his head, stumbling back to the console room. I really, really need a break you know, and so does Martha…
Letting the rotor column glow, she gave him the mental equivalent of a shrug. It's important. Hold fast.
A sleepy Martha stumbled out of the quarters, falling on top of the Doctor, who was face down on the grating currently. "What the hell is she doing?"
Pulling them to their feet and grabbing onto the console, he tried to stop the ship. "Controls are not working!" Giving up, he flopped into the captain's chair, bracing himself with his feet. "I don't have a clue where she's taking us, but it's rougher than being drawn to another reality!"
"Another reality? You've done that before?" she yelled over the rough ride, clinging to the console.
"Well, but then the power would be out…" A small explosion and a *thud*, and the TARDIS landed. Automatically reaching out, he helped his companion to her feet. "Which it is definitely not," he finished, checking the monitor. "So the only thing left is… an artificial alternate timeline. What's this?" Putting on his glasses, his eyes widened in disbelief, causing him to make a break for the doors. He didn't even bother with his coat, he just ran.
A wee bit slower, Martha followed him outside, where he was staring at a… neon magenta painted door covered with what appeared to be Circular Gallifreyan, complete with neon-green frame and a black lever door handle. "What the hell is that?"
"Something impossible," the Doctor replied after a while, throwing off his shock. "She can't be here. Just can't," he whispered, his hearts hammering a wild, painful tattoo up his neck.
"It's a TARDIS. And if I am right…" He couldn't stop staring at this door, this TARDIS, standing in a field of blue grass, somewhere on the other side of the Milky Way galaxy, and, according to his senses, some time around the year 1700 Common Era, in other words, before the Starting Point of the War… She can't be here… can she?
Suddenly, the door dematerialised with nothing but a soft whoosh; but before he could protest, it reappeared in the shape of a big black trapdoor, floating a good five metres over the ground. At the same time, an explosion shook the air, causing a screaming someone to drop out of the purple sky… and straight through the black trapdoor, which was opened to the outside in just the right moment by a slender arm clad in black. With a mighty clack, it snapped closed, disappeared again, and, just half a minute later, it reappeared as the neon door from earlier. Finally, finally, the pilot came out, stumbling tiredly into the light of the planet's blue sun. "5700 down and rescued…"
No way in the Nine Hells… The figure was speaking New High Gallifreyan, the official, half-telepathic language of the Valeyards, and clad in a black pinstripe pant suit from head to toe, the feet stuck in a pair of black sonic boots. She was thin and tall, exceedingly so – a ridiculous and beautiful 6'1" which he remembered looking up to for centuries, and a voice which whispered the secrets of ages with which the woman had sung lullabies of thousands of worlds in the Lungbarrow nursery to him and the others of the House… Janayitritariene Issharranue…
"…899… no…" The woman dropped into High Court Queen's English without any effort, looking up at the whisper in the telepathic ether… and froze as she met the Doctor's eyes, stopping herself from flinging backwards into the blue grass. "898 to go…" she finished, as shocked as the Time Lord himself. "Lah taruelaiene-larenessharranue?"
Martha looked from her friend to the stranger, noticing a strange familiarity between them. Well, apart from the use of a TARDIS obviously… did that mean she was… like the Doctor? A… what do you call a female Time Lord? "Doctor?"
The appellations did it for him. Snapping out of his moment, he crossed the space between himself and practically glomped the woman. "Janayi, janayi, janayi…" he cried, tears running down his cheeks.
Automatically, the woman hugged him back, not even bothering with the trouble of balance, one hand cradling his head while the other arm squeezed him to her chest. "Ke, krre, lah taruelai… I'm here, child, I'm here." Shushing him, she sat them down in the grass, crying silent tears.
"I thought… I thought everyone…" he sobbed, half in Gallifreyan, half in English. "I set fire to the sky… no-one…"
"I was working on the last day… Ended in the White Space…" She gently disentangled herself from him, holding him by the shoulders. "I thought you burnt with them when I felt the land burn. Let me look at you…" Snorting, she gave him a teary smile. "Nine Regenerations and you finally look like what you are – your mother's son. Look at you, more handsome than ever."
The Doctor couldn't help it. He laughed. "You haven't changed one bit, janayi. And who knows, maybe I finally found my perfect form…"
"Wouldn't it be nice… but where are your manners, lah taruelai… who is your friend?" she demanded, the manner switching to stern instantly.
Embarrassed, the Doctor pulled out a handkerchief, wiped off his tears and blew his nose, standing up. "Janayitrita, this is my Companion, Martha Jones. Martha, this… is my mother, The Professor."
Martha couldn't help but stare. Somewhere in her head, she had registered the strange language – all rolling consonants and lilting sounds – as the same the Doctor cursed in while doing repairs, in other words, his native Gallifreyan. But this woman, who seemed physically about as young as herself while her voice sounded like eons… with a presence as immense as the blue sun of this world, which emitted that aura of familiarity with the Doctor… was supposed to be his mother, a Time Lady, a voice in the back of her head supplied (she suspected it was one of the two TARDISes). Heck, she was pretty sure the phrase he used to address her was a little inappropriate actually, being too familiar. The shock had shaken her wide awake, and so she indulged in measuring up the tall woman. Same height as her son, same fair, lightly freckled skin, and the same wavy brown hair, which fell in a long ponytail down to her waist. The face had the same fine-boned cut, and there was something in the eyes which spoke of an eternity she couldn't dare fathom. "Your… mother? I thought they were all gone?"
"Well I only have one mother Martha," he smiled, a little overwhelmed. "And I thought so too… why didn't I sense you?"
She made a face, pointing at her head. "Valeyard. You couldn't sense me either when I was at work, could you? I thought after the Burning that there was no point in opening my mind." She waved her head at her TARDIS. "Come in, you two. I think this needs an explanation that is a little more comprehensive. Especially since your friend doesn't seem to know much about you." She rapped her knuckles against the neon door. "And change into something more convincing, will you? This is really too obvious, dear. At least, paint it black."
A soft rumble murmured in the air, transmitting something akin to a flash of embarrassment, and the door turned into a shiny black before opening into a TARDIS console room, which seemed to have a rather similar desktop theme to that of the Doctor's, with TARDIS coral columns supporting the ceiling. In fact, the major difference seemed to be the main console, which was not directly attached to the rotor column, but stood a little before it, sideways from the entrance, and thus was not built around the column. Instead, it was a step-in half-circle, clearly meant to be controlled by only one person, and, apart from a handbrake, seemed to be made of touch screens. Also, the rotor column's light wasn't green, but blue. Martha followed the two Gallifreyans into the space vessel. "Wow…"
"Type 23 Enforcer grade AT-TARDIS. Suited for Law Enforcement, Exploration and Experimentation. The AT stands for Alternate Timeline, I can create bubbles of flux time with it," the older woman explained, sighing.
"Repairing History," the Doctor added. "She's a Valeyard; that means literally Learned Prosecutor, Law Enforcement Officer. In other words, the Gallifreyan Time Police. They were the ones cleaning up when someone messed with time, and capturing them…" He smiled, the face filled with pride and admiration. "And Janayitrita is the Lord High Valeyard."
The Professor shook her head. "Not important any longer, taruelai."
Martha looked at them. "So it was her job to clean up your messes Doctor?"
"No. Her orders came from the Council straight." He closed his eyes, turning away from the gun hanging from the ceiling. "What I do is apparently supposed to happen, otherwise she would have… disposed… of me long ago, as not to shame our name with an official arrest warrant."
"People who abuse the power to travel in time and space to knowingly alter history, even bring down Reapers, or provoke the wrath of the Antarians, the Children of Space, those were my job," she sighed. "Most were preferably alive… but you don't send the High Valeyard after a joy rider like my son. No. I was the one who got the dead or alive warrants. People who were tried in absence." She picked up the gun and put it away. "Not something I like to think about."
"How often were you… sent out?" Martha wondered.
The Time Lady thought a moment, and sighed again. "Initially I was sent out a lot, a bloody beginner after all, but as the centuries went on, stagnancy took hold of the council and it got more and more Gallifreyans to think like them and… well… less and less even left our home world. And those who did and messed with time usually warranted a whole Cleaner Squad and at least two Valeyards. It really depended on the generation. Sometimes, I would leave as often as twice a month, sometimes, I would drown in paperwork for decades. During the war, we were all working overtime. So many, so much… Ironically, that saved my life…"
The Doctor and Martha followed the (former) LEO into the depths of her TARDIS, ending in a lounge-esque library with a crystal theme. Flopping himself into one of the couches, he finally addressed what had both him and Martha stumped after finding her alive. Now that he could sense her, her extra defences down. "Why are you here? In this very place? And who fell out of the sky?"
Taking a deep breath, she fixated the duet, the hazel eyes glimmering like steel. The Doctor recognised the look as the one his mother used to go to work with. "Are you really sure that you and me are the Last Children of Gallifrey?"
"I've been all over time and space and you are the first I've met since…" His eyes widened, suddenly understanding. "The Eye… is gone. And you said it, on the last day of the War, everyone was at work."
"More than 2.000 Valeyard Prosecutors and Cleaners on duty. Stuck and lost in time, unable to come home since they all fly Type 70 and higher, which are dependant on the Eye of Harmony," the Professor finished. "Also, there is something you don't have." Pulling out a small electronic pad, she called up a list in Linear Gallifreyan. "As a Valeyard, I have access to this sweet little list – the Missings In Action, presumed dead. Do you have any idea how many Valeyards, Cleaners, Explorers and other scientists ventured into Time and Space in history, never to return?"
With shaking hands, he took the crystal plate out of his mother's hands. "Our people they're… they're still alive," he whispered in a low voice. "More than 20.000 … lost to Time?"
"And that's just in the course of my lifetime. Admittedly, that's still quite a bit of time, 15.637 years by now –"
"Wait-wait-wait a second. You're nearly 16.000 years old?" Martha cut in. "I know you're 902, but…"
The Doctor raised an eyebrow. "Me being 902 years old, that's fine, but my mother being a little under 16.000, that's surprising?" He smirked. "Well, to be honest, 15.637 without regenerating is pushing it for anyone who's not a Child of Space or an Eternal but my mother is… special."
"Some Gallifreyans are born with an ability to reconstruct ourselves on the molecular scale, detox perfectly and no Hayflick limit due to having Telomerase in all cells. It's called Restoration," the woman explained. "I don't decay. I just fricking fail to age and die. I sometimes wonder though if the Council messed with your DNA, taruelai. Nine regenerations already and the Restoration inhibited. Luckily, the council is gone, so the Law doesn't apply any longer anyway."
"I do so too. Wait, it's a Law? Not a fact?"
She lifted an eyebrow. "Why did the Council dislike me, son, and why did they never say so? Why did they mess with any Time Lord who had inherited my Restoration since I was born?"
It clicked, slowly and painfully. "Because you are technically immortal, and that was considered… an anomaly, frowned upon. Since you are Lady Lungbarrow though, who can't be touched… and a rebel at hearts… they used you. Gave you the freedom you wanted… at a price, and that price was the obedience of a Valeyard, no questions asked."
"Bingo. I just hope you have nothing that disintegrates me; that would send me off for good I think. Had a few close calls which would have set off others to regenerate, so I don't know what would really force me to regenerate. I heal a little too fast," she explained. "Anyway, the 13 lives of a Gallifreyan are a law so we don't live indefinitely. Hunted down a few who broke the law myself. Trouble is, what do you do with someone who has never regenerated in her life before? Kill or use? They chose use, and so, I'm still here."
"So what is it that you do with this knowledge that there are still some out there?" Martha's mind was racing with the medical info she'd been given just now. Immortality. A real-life immortal.
"I… am trying to gather enough of us to rebuild our world. Minimum survival limit of about 6600 people, 50-50 sex congruency, preferably between 200 and 1500 years old," she sighed. "And then ask an Antarian World Maker to remake Gallifrey. But, as you have seen from the unwilling skydive of The Inquirer, it is tedious work, since I can't pinpoint the moment they would have died. I have to show up at least 48 hours early." She got to her feet. "Tea?" She didn't wait for their answer, just walked away to get said tea.
The Doctor leaned back, a somewhat shattered look on his face. "Janayitritariene Issharranue… Honoured-Beloved-Mother-hero-of-me-and-my-blood… She's really here… I'm not alone…" He hated losing his composure like this, but it was too much, silent tears running down his face.
Martha watched him curl up on himself. She couldn't help it; right now, he seemed more like a lost little boy, and so, she hugged him. "Hey… what is it she calls you all the time? Tarue–"
"Taruelai. Short for taruelaiene-larenessharranue," he whispered, the voice hoarse with emotion. "Taruelai is a concept word, meaning 'My offspring. My child. My blood. One I treasure and cherish. One I would die to defend.' Taruelai-larenessharranue is a compound word in New High Gallifreyan, a language variant filled with psychic energy to carry more meaning. Altogether it means All-beloved-son-and-dearest-child-of-mine-and-heir -of-my-blood. Given that most Houses on Gallifrey were matrilineal, the latter says the most…" Reaching for his handkerchief again, he wiped off the fresh tears, hugging Martha back. He started to explain."When I was born, my mother was already a legend on Gallifrey. I think there wasn't any child or adult who didn't have some form of hero worship or grudging respect towards her. Most didn't even know her title-name; they simply called her The Law of Gallifrey, since she'd been the High Valeyard for more than 14.000 years. More than that, she was practically the family's land." It was as if someone had broken a dam. Memories of a happy childhood bubbled to the surface, mixed with the early understanding that being Lungbarrow meant not only being of highest standing, but also being different, and having to live with and live up to it… the scorn, the jealousies of his peers, his abysmal grades due to the family's late-bloomer tendencies… the weight of being a Chronos user… and the warmth of Lungbarrow House, built into a cliff in high defiance for all to see… his father, his siblings… Sometimes he still wondered about his uncle, who was reported to be the greatest Healer Gallifrey had seen in the course of the Professor's lifetime, but he hadn't been born yet when the man died after a life of 7720 years, and the older half-brother he would never meet who died in a lab experiment with his father.And oh, how he missed it… the silver-leaved forests which glowed like fire in the suns along Cadonflood River and the red plain dividing them from their housing complex… the laughter in the halls when the guests were gone and his mother and cousins joked about the pathos of the others… the clan nursery where the loomed children were watched over by her, and the born of the main line were given the bedtime story in the form of a lullaby… "Son? Taruelai?" The Doctor's head snapped up, nearly knocking over the cup of tea his mother was holding under his nose. He sniffed, the eyes widening as he took in the flowery fragrance. "Illawarra?" he whispered, taking the cup almost reverently.
"An Antarian tea gardener lives on this planet here, it's called Zoresh by the way. Apparently, he had been to Gallifrey four millennia ago, and grew fond of the plant. He owns a giant tea garden about a kilometre from here. It is still there in the time you come from, Miss Jones," she answered gently. "Even the gardens on our land hadn't been that good, but we didn't spend that much time to practise… I keep it around for homesick hours, and when one of the people I rescue needs patching up."
Martha sipped the tea. It was definitely different from anything she'd ever had drunk as tea before, light and sweet and flowery, definitely not something to be drunk with milk or sugar. "This is Gallifreyan Tea? And we can buy it on this world?"
"Last place in the galaxy to do so, apart from some markets," she sighed.
"There is one thing I don't understand. If others have survived, they surely must have heard of me… why wouldn't they contact me?" He waved the list of names.
"Can you hear of someone who was born long after you died? Can you meet someone if you are frozen in time and space, unable to move thanks to the Moment or whatever caught you? Can you find those who used a Chameleon Arch?" she shot back tiredly. "Believe me, I thought it easy too, taruelai. I only managed to get that high a number because I was lucky and found the whole staff of the Stormeye Laboratory minutes before it went off in a thermonuclear explosion. And that was 3300 years before the Time War. Only a small percentage are skydivers, people falling to their unrecorded deaths."
He set down the cup, disentangling himself from his companion to glare at his Head of House. "Why haven't you tried to find me?"
The accusation hung in the air like lead.
Finally, the Professor sighed. "I think you remember this from before." A shadow fell over the woman's face, and she pulled out a roll of black cloth. "I haven't looked at it since I felt our land and family burn. I didn't want to look at it and see only my own name glow, and everyone else in grey." Sorting the tea away, she unrolled the tapestry, which seemed to be blank. A gentle touch, and shimmering words in Linear and Circular Gallifreyan appeared, most of them in grey – the Lungbarrow House clan record/family tree. White lines connected the generations, with each having a box full of names accompanying it.
Only two as Martha could see were shining gold, and quite a few were silver. "The silver ones, are those people you rescued so far?"
"And brought to the White Space. The White Space is a demiplane, a place with only three dimensions – there is no Time in it, so it's ideal for 'storing' people… for no time will have passed when I get them out, but until then, they're not quite alive." She shrugged. "I found it when I fell through a black hole… and lived. Since then however, my TARDIS has the tick of appearing as a neon-coloured door. Preferably Magenta or something equally outrageous. And my name became Professor." She touched the tapestry again, vanishing the names and sighed again. "I don't know. It never occurred to me that you might be alive. When the land and the others burnt… I just locked down, and never reopened my mind until today."
And boy did she open it. He had almost forgotten how intense his mother's presence was to members of the House, a constant, painfully obsessive beacon of love and security to children of clan, blood and name, and how much he had missed it. Mixed in was however a huge amount of guilt, guilt for not looking for him… "I think I understand. But maybe… someone else set us up, to meet not before today?"
"You mean like the Silence or the Eternals, or the Children of Space?" Rolling up the cloth, she poured more tea, handing out the cups again. "It is possible…" Sipping her tea, she let her head hang, slumping into the ottoman beside him. "Too possible… blimey. By Omega, I've always attracted complicated timelines and fates, what made me think it would be any different this time?"
"I don't what you mean with Silence, but the others? It sounds convincing." He leaned into her, joining in the sighing. "A burnt world which leaves your mind screaming does that, even to you." He had been the one turning the key, pushing the button, and had to live with it. But, despite being heir, he could not imagine how it must have been to her – mother to them all, lord of the land. Person linked with all of them, interwoven with the very planet. And a talented, powerful psychic to boot. "It's a wonder you're still sane."
"Honestly? I doubt I ever was. I'm Lungbarrow after all. Our whole Chapter was insane in a way," she mused.
Martha giggled. "You should see him grin when he's talking about running."
"I can just imagine, I'm the same. You seem to have a question though."
"I do. What's a Chapter? And what was your home like, before the war?"
"Chapter is short for Chapter House. Basically, it was a political faction your Family or House belonged to and thus, you were born into them. I – and thus the Doctor – am a scion and follower of Prydon, the Devious Ones," she explained. "About our home, I don't know… when we didn't have guests? Filled with jokes and laughter. And of course, no-one could stop talking. Some say even the walls were chatterboxes. Of course, when we did have guests, we had the solemn act down pat." She shook her head, trying to get her conflicting feelings under control. "I used to sing in the nursery for the loomlings… tell stories to the born…"
Martha was at a loss as the two Gallifreyans clung to each other, trying not to lose it again, and resorted to putting away the empty tea cups onto a side table. What kind of hell must it be to be so alone?
A hell you cannot imagine, child, a female voice sounded in her head. Don't be afraid. I'm the Professor's TARDIS. I would show you my holographic avatar to explain, but I don't want to interrupt these two. Just think your answer.
Err… hello. But how do you mean that exactly? Picking up the tray, she followed the nudging hints to a kitchen which was clearly meant for tea/coffee only.
An immense feeling of sadness brushed through Martha's mind, mixed in with loneliness. All the Children of Gallifrey used to be telepaths, and were aware of each other's existence on some level. They were never alone, no matter where or when. The members of a Great High House, like that of the Doctor and my beloved Professor, Lungbarrow… it was even more, they were connected. Bound by blood, name and souls. Imagine how it feels if you are used to feeling loved and belonging and then you are suddenly all alone, truly alone, when it is so silent you can hear the air collide.
Martha shuddered. As if someone had ripped out a part of your soul and burnt it to ashes, right?
Yes. The TARDIS sent her an image to show her where the Professor kept some of the Illawarra.
Thank you for explaining. By the way, how come that I can hear you, but not the Doctor's TARDIS? she voiced her wonder. I always had trouble accepting she's alive until today I admit.
I am meant for more than observation and travel. The Professor fitted several non-Gallifreyan technologies into me to aid her with enforcement and research… one of them strengthens my telepathy to the point I can talk to non-telepaths without problems. Very handy, especially when she needs help.
Would that work on the Doctor's too?
I don't see why not. Careful. It should not brew longer than 2 minutes.
Okay. How is it that the Doctor always makes perfect tea?
Time Lord. The name states it all – he can feel and see time. Actually, considering who his mother is, he should be able to hear it too… the timelines.
Wow. Martha pulled out the filter with the red tea leaves, throwing them into the bin. You must have seen a lot.
Well, I suppose. Should I make your way to the library shorter?
You can do that?
I am a TARDIS, she replied proudly.
Then please. And, true to the sentient ship's word, the tea kitchen's door opened into the primary library. Thank you.
Martha Jones, you are a star. Don't you dare forgetting it – the Professor would never allow her son either.
Really. I'll keep that in mind… As she finally reached the lounge area, she was greeted by a rare scene – the Doctor was asleep, his head in his mother's lap. She set down the tray and smiled. "Now that's something you don't see every day."
The Professor's eyes snapped open, revealing just how emotionally exhausted the ancient woman was. "I know what you mean – he's a little hyper, isn't he? Have you two done anything mentally or physically stressing lately?"
Martha sat down in the armchair across. "Well, he's been possessed by the living sun of the Torajii system. His TARDIS was the one getting us here to this place – originally, we had planned to just hang out a little in the Time Vortex after that insanity. I think he didn't want to risk running into trouble."
"Sound deduction." The Time Lady studied her son's companion intently, especially the young woman's timelines. "You are a strong one, to put up with him… tell me more about you please. He said you study medicine, and are from London, 21st century, in other words, our present time… and he's scared of your mother. But that's about it."
"My mother elicits that reaction in many people unfortunately. First time she met him, she slapped him." Martha giggled. "I have the full package of a larger-than-life family, and although not completely ideal, I still have them – mum, dad, older sister, baby brother. Not as fancy as you two were used to, but…"
"Easier to keep track of, I can imagine. Why not ideal?"
"My parents are divorced since I was 12." She frowned. "Why so interested?"
"To be honest, I could have obtained your entire history without asking, down to your feelings. But you are not one of my convicts, so it is impossibly rude to do so." She picked up the one-hand pot, pouring more tea for the two of them. "Plus to get your full history I would have to focus all my attention on doing so; it's quite tiring afterwards and can give the user an incredible headache."
"That sounds unpleasant," Martha said, imagining what would be enough pain to make a Time Lord cringe, well, apart from being possessed by a sentient sun.
"Well the pain is one thing… it's the ticking sound of time afterwards that gets annoying… and the odd taste of pears." She shuddered. "Never been a fan of pears."
Martha chuckled. "The Doctor has mentioned his own disdain for them."
"Family trait. Well, all in all, I think my TARDIS hinted at it already – I have the ability to hear history's course."
Martha accepted the cup. "She did. What did she mean by that?"
Rearranging her son's limbs, the Professor practically downed her tea, dug into the bottomless pockets of her cargo pants and drew out a block of psychic paper. "All Children of Gallifrey have an awareness for the fourth dimension going beyond that of nearly all other races, feeling the flow of time," she explained, letting a watch without hands appear on the paper. "A Chronarch's, that is, a Time Lord's or Time Lady's time senses were, with the right training, so sharp they could see time and timelines – what was, is, will be, may be and should not be, and control it to some extent. To use that image of the watch – a Time Lord can actually read the watch and set it right." The hands for hours and minutes appeared. "And there are those who could go beyond that… and can, with a little concentration and training, hear time's course for the surroundings or even an individual. It's one thing to see your timelines, but it's another to actually hear what has happened to you or will happen." The watch now displayed the sweep, the seconds hand, and small sound words (tic-tac, tic-tac). "I don't know exactly why, but ever since the ability surfaced amongst our people, it has been described to appear as a form of ticking in the initial stages, which is why imagining or listening to a ticking timepiece also helps using it. Statistically, it is about 1 in 100 people to have that ability – Ear of Chronos. Factually, it showed up only in certain families, and then often excessively down the main line. But it made also you susceptible to being too different from normal society to fit in…" She stroked her son's hair gently, sending him a suggestion to stay asleep. "Nearly my whole house were runners. Fighters, rebellious and peculiar at hearts in some way or another – one of my great-grandsons was, well, a poet for nonsense literature, much to the chagrin of the Council. At the same time, that made us protectors – Valeyards, Chancellery Guards, people of responsibility. But most were not sensitive enough to it to cause trouble, unlike Theta or me. I only got it under wraps by being Valeyard, free to cajole around time and space as long as I did my job."
"Ah." In an imitation of the Doctor, Martha lifted an eyebrow. "Theta?"
"That was his childhood name in school. Adults choose a title-name which represents what they are to the world to protect their birth name. But since only your parents and your bondmate know your true name-name, you used a short alias to address each other in school. Usually, that was your calling name. In his case, it's Theta Sigma, short, Theta or Thete, but don't call him that, you're not related," she smiled. "I think the Council messed a little too much with his DNA – his hearing is blocked, his restoration inactive, and he can't control his regeneration properly. But enough theory."
"Yeah… honestly, that was all well-explained, but… a bit much, like a full lecture…" Martha's eyes widened. "Professor. That's why they call you the Professor. Leader-teacher-master-protector-mentor-researcher, all in one."
The woman simply nodded, putting the empty tea set aside. "I think we all need a break. No adventure, no rescue-those-who-disappeared-or-deserted, just a holiday. What a day." Gently, she picked up her son, much to Martha's surprise, and carried him outside, back to his TARDIS.
After the Doctor had been settled in his own bed (and the Professor had parked her TARDIS in the console room of all things), Martha sat with the other Chronarch in the Professor's TARDIS kitchen over a plate of steamed buns and more Illawarra tea. "I still don't get how you were able to carry him; you are not exactly that bulky."
The Professor rolled her eyes, murmuring a curse in two different languages. "Theta, you're impossible. You take along a student of the healing arts and then don't teach her about your anatomy. Are you trying to provoke a regeneration?" she murmured in Gallifreyan. She shook her head. "No matter. I'm better at it anyway. Never let a Temporal Engineer do the work of a Healer Geneticist… The reason I can carry him that effortlessly is muscle density. It's higher than in a human."
Martha caught on immediately. "Higher strength in small areas. How much can you lift maximum?"
"Me personally, four times my own weight, but I've been trained to fight. Normally, about three to three-and-a-half times. Be right back." Hushing out of the room, she came back only a minute later with another of these crystal slabs. "Antarian version of an e-book. This is the full works of Gallifreyan anatomy and body chemistry, if you're interested."
"That would be amazing," Martha responded, barely holding in her excitement as she took the book out of the woman's hands. It was surprisingly light, like carbon fibres. "Thank you."
"You're welcome. If you ever need help with your studies, I am willing to." She smiled. "I suggest you go to bed, and I'll take us somewhere to relax for a while."
"Well then… good night, Professor."
"Good night, Miss Jones."
Reaching the console room of her son's TARDIS, the Professor sat down heavily in the captain's chair, gently touching the console. Hello.
In answer, the old machine – it was hard to say if the Time Lady or the TARDIS was older – let her rotor column glow, akin to the way a guilty child whistled. Err… hi?
I hope you have taken good care of him.
I will do… I mean have done all I can.
What about him and that young woman? It has been a while, but I have never seen him running away from himself before. What happened? In answer, the sentient ship sent her a few images and video sequences of Rose, which earned her the mental equivalent of a hiss. Pink? He doesn't even like pink, not even in this form.
Post-regenerative trauma. And the whole guilt over Gallifrey…
Oh dear, what a psychological mess. I hate damsels. Rassilon and Omega, I disowned my own daughter for becoming one, and it wasn't something I really wanted to do. Anyway. I think I have my work cut out. Again. As if marrying off the Distractress hasn't been bad enough.
I like Martha better too. I can only do so much to keep the Doctor out of danger and it helps to have someone to call him out on his idiocies. Can you install that Antarian telepathy booster in me? I would love to be able to talk to her.
I'll do that once we've made it to Kesh'at. I think Martha will appreciate a planet dedicated to shopping and trade. Setting the coordinates, she gently guided the ship into the time vortex. I have the feeling there is something you want to say though.
I… I'm sorry Milady… I stole your taruelai, your son and your heir from you. The Professor could feel the sadness emanating from the TARDIS. I wanted to see the universe, so I stole a Time Lord and ran away, but I didn't bargain to steal Lungbarrow's 'prince' of all of them. A cheerful wave filled their connection. Though he also stole me… I'm sorry Milady Lungbarrow, but at the same time I cannot feel remorse for my actions. If I was given the chance to take it all back I would refuse every time.
At that confession, the characteristically manic grin of the High Ancient and Most Exalted House Lungbarrow of the Hills spread slowly over the Professor's face. To be honest? I'm glad you did. You saved his life, and so, you will always be in my good graces, beautiful. Now. How about that holiday?
It will be my pleasure, ma'am.
As the Doctor awoke, all the tiredness from yesterday had vanished like a bad dream, a feeling he hadn't had in eight centuries to be frank. Much to his confusion, he was in his own room, dressed in his pinstripe pyjamas. Was it just a dream? I thought I found Janayi again, and cried myself to sleep in her library. If it was a dream… Oh Rassilon, I don't want it to be a dream! I don't want to be alone! Fearful, he sat up, reaching for his robe and slippers. Something was odd about the room… and then he realised it was tidy. Everything was still somewhat around the spots he'd dumped it, but now, it had a sense of order about it, allowing easy access. Almost apprehensive, he put on the house-wear and slumped in the general direction of the kitchen… as the smell of pancakes and tea hit his sensitive nose. I doubt Martha would cook me banana pancakes. The tea I can imagine, but pancakes? Picking up the pace, he hurried to the open kitchen/dining room, and froze in the doorframe as his mother's unmistakable, beautifully complex presence hit his senses. "Janayi?" Stupefied, he noticed she had toned her presence down to the point it would not flood the whole TARDIS.
"Don't call me that in the early morning, lah taruelai," the woman admonished jokingly. She stood at the stove, flipping pancakes. As he made no way to move, she turned down the flame and glared at him in an all-too-familiar manner. "Well? Are you going to stay standing there all day and all night or are you going to join us with breakfast, Theta-Sigma?"
Martha, who sat at the table with a serving of apple pancakes, snickered. "If only I had a camera right now."
"That'd be brilliant indeed," the taller woman smirked.
Hearing their common catchphrase, he snapped out of it and shuffled over to the Professor's side, accepting the plate of banana pancakes. "Thank you, Janayitrita," he smiled sheepishly. As he walked to the table, he noticed that the spot opposite of Martha was already occupied. I am in so much trouble, am I not?
Well, what do you think? both the TARDIS and his mother resounded in his head. I am your Janayitrita, that means I know your hearts better than you do. But we won't dive into your madness today – today, it's shopping day. The Professor sat down in the reserved spot, facing the duet. "Ladies and gentlemen, today, we have landed on Kesh'at, the great Exchange Market of the Antarian Realm, where you can buy and sell everything, from aardvarks over whole solar systems to zyle'ta biscuits. We have been confirmed by the Antarian authorities, and have a week-long visa to the Milky Way parts of the Realm. Outside, it is a balmy 21°C, under a fair sky. Pack shopping bags, because here you can get everything." Grinning, she cut off a piece of her own banana-and-strawberry pancakes, bit down, made a face, and splurged the confection with chocolate sauce. "We are currently parked outside of the Palace of Relaxation of Aldurathiel, a professional hostess, and I have booked a day for three tomorrow in it. Any questions?"
"You're really here?" he managed.
"For doubting your own senses you can do the dishes and carry all the shopping," she glared. "And if you may remember, I never go with small shopping since I do it so rarely."
Reasonably admonished, he ducked his head. "Yes, Janayitrita."
"Nice." Much to his chagrin, Martha held up a hand, and gave his mother a high five. "So, this place is what like, the biggest shopping mall in the universe?"
"Shopping paradise. I come here once in a while for upgrades and spare parts," she shrugged. "Anything, from anywhere." Finishing her plate and tea, she dumped the dishes on her son. "You have exactly 25 minutes to clean up and get dressed. That's how long I need to pick up some charged platinum."
With that, the women glided out of the room, leaving behind a very frazzled Time Lord. A rumble went through the TARDIS – she was laughing at him. I never thought I'd see the day you're properly chastised.
Oh right, salt in the wound. My Janayitrita is back in my life for less than 18 hours and you side with her already, he grumbled, washing the dishes.
But she is right, in way too many ways. How long are you going to ignore poor Martha like that? Or your own emotions for the matter.
I don't know what you are talking about, he deflected, hurrying to his room to get dressed. Besides…
Don't you dare bringing her up now. Your Janayitrita would kick you into your 20th regeneration, reset your cycle and then start all over again for even mentioning someone like that. Call me a meddling old rock all you like, but it's true in your case. Mother knows best. You've wallowed too long, Doctor.
Choosing a blue suit and red Converses, he sighed. I am… just not ready.
At this, a warm mix of feelings of love, amusement and frustration swept through his body as the TARDIS sent him the equivalent of a hug and a shake of the head. Go. You're going to be late.
I'm being ganged up by a bunch of ancient women, he thought sourly as he made it to the console room, narrowly avoiding his mother's TARDIS.
Feels like home, doesn't it? his TARDIS sent after him.
Early 21st century Kesh'at was grand, glittering like a jewel. At least the part they had landed in. The Antarian Quarter of Kesh'at was basically a show-off zone, owned by Antarians or their non-Antarian students and followers. But it also yielded some of the best services in the galaxy, Martha had to admit. "How come these people are that good at everything?"
"If you had 63.000 years to practice medicine, you would also be a genius at it," the Doctor remarked, being abused as bag-hanger – just as threatened. "Antarians are… well, I suppose you could call them the older, Space-weaving, World-Making counterpart of Time Lords. They don't regenerate like us, they reincarnate. And their lives last between 33.000 and 63.000 years on the average."
"Maximum age depends on choir and personal preference. But being of a higher choir means both living longer and earning your next life," the Professor explained. "In time, you may remember your past life, and use that knowledge… To answer the earlier question about them looking like Angels with Technicolor metallic hair, well, the legends base upon them. Humans look Time Lord, Chronarchs look Antarian; that's the reverse order of evolution. Antarian means in their language either Child of Light or Lord of Space. Depends on the language form. Oh, they have zyle'ta biscuits on sale!"
The Doctor groaned, trailing behind the shopping women. "I had forgotten what happens when my mother actually does go on a shopping trip."
Later, they were sitting around a dinner platform in the restaurant of Taleth Talethiel, a gentlemanly Antarian Culinarist Grigori of the Choir of Thrones (black hair, dark skin and tall as a tree), and apparently, an old friend of the Professor. The place normally needed months of reservation, but… "I wonder what kind of favour Master Talethiel owes you to reserve you a platform permanently, mother." The Doctor was, aptly for a day of shopping, surrounded by bags over bags of purchases, ranging from books (himself and Martha) over wardrobe (all three – one of the interstellar traders had limited edition Converses) to spare parts for their TARDISes. And, even considering he was the one to carry all of it, he admitted freely it had been fun, so much fun.
"Honestly? He lost his main cookbook. I brought it back," the Professor grinned, sipping her drink.
Martha gulped – a cook and his cookbook… "His cookbook? Now that's a favour. So let me get this straight. A grigori is an Antarian who, unlike the rest of them, chooses to make one specific field, one science or art, his or her specialty for all their life?"
"Yes. Oh, and before you ask. Except for the soup and the hot dishes, one eats Antarian fare with the fingers."
"Oh yes, I remember that! It's out of respect for the cook not to use psychokinesis or cutlery, if I am not mistaken," the Doctor grinned. "And there it comes…"
"Mixed Imperial Platter II for three people," the waiter (a human or near-human – neither Martha nor the Doctor were quite sure about that) announced, stopping his serving wagon beside them, and put down several platters in between them. Then, he placed three bowls of scented water and three towels with each of them. "If I may remind you…"
"Wash the hands, I know," the Professor smiled. "Send Master Taleth my thanks."
"Milady." The man vanished quietly.
"Has the disappearing act down pat," Martha remarked. "Is that custom?"
"Taleth learnt cooking in the Imperial Household, so, pretty much. Antarians… well, they are not exactly completely material beings anymore, more like stabilised energy; they can vanish literally in the blink of an eye and appear somewhere else – teleportation. So, any employee of them tries to mimic that ability as closely as possible, if I remember correctly… anyway. Enjoy." The dishes consisted mostly of small packages and 'nibbles' (that earned the Doctor a mental headslap), ranging from sweet over juicy and aromatic to just plain surprising, served together with a simple vegetable soup. Well, apart from the fact that it contained edible flower petals as toppings. But, ever the planner, the Professor used the relaxed atmosphere to get more answers. "So. What have you been up to, son?"
"Oh, this and that. Travelling around, see new places, get in trouble, troubleshooting," he dismissed, snatching a few more bites. "And running. Running till we drop."
"Sounds familiar," his mother smiled. "And way less bleak than what I do – stealing the maybe-dead, annoying SEGA game developers about Sonic the Hedgehog…"
"How come you've never even heard of me since the war?" he frowned.
She made a face. "Have you ever looked back and seen how difficult it is to keep track of you? I may be a Valeyard, but have you forgotten that means I am lousy with the order of events? You're literally all over history. The entry in the Antarian Military Historical Archives on you is the same size as that of a solar system. Same goes for The Library." Still grumbling, she pulled out a pad and handed it over to Martha. "Just for reference."
Martha checked the pad. It had a pre-printed header, all in English. "'List A: Order of how things have happened. List B: Order of how things are supposed to happen. List C: Corrections needed to make B=A.' What the hell is that?"
"A work aid. As we told you before, one of the main jobs of a Valeyard is repairing history. Unfortunately, I have been doing this for so long I tend to mix up the order of events, for example when predestination paradoxes and the likes are involved. Now try to find someone who has interwoven his own timelines into all of history so much he becomes god, demon, legend and simple man all in one," she grumbled, a guilty shadow all over her face.
The Doctor sighed heavily. "Sorry. Can't help it."
She shook her head, pouring some of the wine. "Don't. It's your title-name after all."
Meanwhile, Martha had finished eating, and was deep in thought. "Well… Professor, you said earlier one can buy anything on this planet as long as it is condoned by the Antarians. What about information?"
"Gossip and News district, two hours from here by speedrail, and half a second by teleport net. Why?"
"Didn't you two speculate yesterday that someone has interfered with your 'fate'? Made sure you wouldn't meet earlier?" The med student fixated the two Chronarchs. "I mean, you described these people as pretty much as powerful as your own, if not more."
Mother and son shot each other a look, shocked. But slowly, a grin spread over the Professor's face. "I like her."
"They are, and they can do these things; it's controlling the 'life course'." The Doctor concentrated, trying to remember. "Janayitrita, if I remember correctly, Markings of Fate are matter of public record, aren't they?"
"Depends on who issued them. If it were the sovereigns themselves… then it would be only available on the Underground Market," the woman remarked, the excitement fading away in favour of the previous sour expression. "Which is, given our respective history, all too likely… You and I, with our complicated timelines, we downright attract these warrants, without them noticing, and then they're retroactive…" She snatched the last bite.
All three groaned simultaneously. It was way too complicated. Again. Finally, the Doctor sighed. "I think it would be a good idea to check it out, but I have the feeling it won't be smooth sailing…"
Martha shot the Professor a look, who nodded sourly. "With our luck? Never."
The Gossip and News District – a city of its own dedicated to information trade – was very different from the downright organic, crystalline and glittering look of the Antarian Quarter. While the Builders of Kesh'at preferred to not build higher than a normal tree would grow (5-15 metres), which was how high their standard crystal vine skeletons grew, the non-Antarian buildings often had the audacity of reaching the sky, causing to create an undercity hundreds of metres below. Reaching the upper quarter by teleport platform was fast, but the long lift down was stepping into another world. Not that it had the slum-like qualities like the undercity of New New York (this world's masters were obsessive about order of things), but… "I don't know how you two feel, but it feels totally shady and wrong to be here," Martha shuddered. "This place gives me the creeps."
"And you are right to feel so, Martha," the Doctor remarked. "We are in a grey law zone, and for a reason. The information in this part is not exactly legally obtained."
"What the Guards enforce is a smooth running, no murder, lawful duels, dealing with fraud. They are among the best customers anyway, so crashing and burning this place is a bad idea to them. Came here for intel more than a few times myself," the Professor shrugged. "Now, warrants of the Great Seven and the Imperial Household – that's the collective of the Seven Antarian Sovereigns and their families – are not exactly secret, but getting information on them is ridiculously difficult, as they tend to speak in prophecies. But I still have my sources. Follow me."
Trailing after the former Gallifreyan Time LEO, the med student turned to the Doctor. "Seven sovereigns?"
"The Antarian Realm is a parliamentary oligarchy, same as Gallifrey used to be. The sovereigns… well, they are leaders, but not part of the actual government in times of peace. They are more like moral guides, examples. Their responsibilities are a bit more direct to the universe. Instead, the sovereigns choose once in a millennium one of their children to be High Regent to do day-to-day governing work with the elected council, senate and government. The High Regent speaks the will of the Great Seven," he explained. "I'm not very good on Antarian society I admit – I'm simply too young for that. My mother was born in the Golden Age, in a time we were on speaking terms with them, and… well."
"Doctor, you did something that angered them in the past, didn't you?" Martha accused.
"No," the Professor shook her head. "It happened way before he was born. A dispute in philosophy caused a rift between the Seven and the Eighteen Stars. As you see here… the Antarians stayed involved with younger races, worship change and adaptability, whereas Gallifrey… retreated into an Ivory Tower so to speak. Became stagnant and arrogant. In a way, I am a fossil, a relic of a different age, in which knowledge was more shared than later on."
"And still they would never dare to get rid of you, for you represent all they considered glorious about Gallifrey. Even if your attitude gave them a headache," he finished. "And when you passed the 10th millennia mark, it was obsolete to argue you."
"That counted for most of our house anyway. A clan of fighters… on a world of pacifists. Maybe that was also a point. You've seen them, Martha. The Antarians are warriors, always were, always will be. They never forgot how to fight, and how to deal with the emotional consequences," the older woman sighed. "I sometimes wonder what would have happened if we hadn't forgotten that kind of mental discipline. And hadn't gone to hide on one world."
"How many Antarians are out there anyway?"
Mother and son exchanged a look. "Billions," the Doctor answered. "They have an empire across the stars, always following the trail of metal."
"Tritanium and Ditanium. The twin metals, only found in certain parts of galaxies, usually with Population II stars. They're polar opposites, a superconductor and an ultra-insulator. Tritanium Difluoride is in fact the base component in Antarian blood. You won't find much iron on their homeworld, and next-to-zero radioactive material," the Time Lady explained, coming to a halt before a small shop. "Also, you have to consider one thing: Antarians are not called World Makers for nothing. Here we are. Now, I need you two to be careful with words, as neither of you speaks High Antarian properly, and the TARDIS doesn't translate it." She glared at her son.
The Doctor winced. "I'm sorry?"
"Not good enough, Theta. I hope you still can at least understand it."
As she opened the door, the trio had barely time to "Duck!", as the inhabitant yelled, the hand still outstretched. A small sphere of lightning raced over their heads, exploding as it hit the wall behind them.
"What in the Hells was that for, Illarion?" the Professor glared at the Infomerchant in the office.
"Some arse just teleported out," he answered in flawless English, having noticed the human. "Wasn't quick enough blasting him. Tried to steal my customer's register." The infomerchant was an Antarian man – the tall, slender build, fair skin, dark blue hair and purple eyes betrayed him as a Seraphim. Relaxing out of the fighting stance, he brushed off his jacket and retracted his owl-like white wings into their astral form. "I'm sorry for the mess, but the guards never come into my corner, former palace guard and all."
"No, it's fine captain." The Professor closed the door behind her.
Illarion made a seemingly absent-minded gesture, causing his psychokinesis to clean up the chaos. "Forgive my manners, but selling palace gossip tends to be troublesome. De-ra'iya nen'she, Milady Professor," he bowed. "Who are your friends?"
"This is my son, The Doctor, and his companion, Miss Martha Jones," the Professor introduced. "Everyone, this is Illarion, formerly a captain in the Imperial Palace Guard, and the best source on information about the Antarian Capitol world on Kesh'at."
"How come you're former?" The Doctor wondered. Palace guards usually were grigori – they lived and died for this line of work. "Oh, I'm sorry."
Illarion laughed. "Not offended, Doctor. Loved gossip too much, so I quit and started selling it." He turned sombre and businesslike. "So, what brings you here?" Another wave of his fingers, and a tray of tea flew in.
"We need information on an imperial warrant for a Marking of Fate," the Professor answered. "Specifically, any order of prophecy pertaining the Revival of Gallifrey, and the Lasts of the Time Lords."
The seraphim nodded, already at his desk, clicking through a holographic computer system. "How come you travel with an Assian human, Doctor?"
"Are you intending on selling this information?"
"No. Just curiosity. Last time I was on Assiah, a guy named Augustus ruled most of Europe if I remember correctly. Accompanied Leikar Kaletiel for a day of blessings. Interesting bunch, humans… a lot like us actually. Well, before the Apocalypse Not event."
"Martha is my friend. And I've been accused to have an obsession with Earth throughout my life. Like the Professor with your people."
"Haha. Too true." Suddenly, Illarion froze and let out a long, colourful string of curses in various languages, downright slapping open a message from one of his agents. "Sheltera, zinu! No, no, no! Not now, not today…" Taking a deep breath, he calmed down. "Professor, I must decline the work offer. A situation has come up, and it needs my resources."
Martha dove in. "Anything we can do to help?"
The former captain frowned. "I don't know… although… hmm. Professor. I may have an offer for you. Resolve the situation, and I will consider you as old friend. You will have your information then."
"What is the situation?" the Doctor asked.
Illarion looked from one face to the next. "What is the Achilles' heel of Antarian abilities?"
"Ditanium," the Professor answered automatically. "It cuts off the internatural energy streams, energy conversion abilities and spatial abilities. As a non-conductor, the only way to work with it are temperatures comparable to a sun's surface and mechanical force, which is why it's smelted and forged in star plasma furnaces. It's like dwarf star alloy to time-sensitives."
"And trade with it is strictly forbidden," the former soldier finished grimly. "It's too dangerous in the wrong hands. Imagine what would happen if the Daleks ever got their filthy pepper-shaker bodies on it."
Martha shuddered. "That would be a nightmare, wouldn't it?"
"Not just a nightmare, Miss. It would be the end of everything." Illarion scanned the message again. "Anyway, someone broke into a military shipyard warehouse during a blackout and stole five metric megatons of ship-armour grade ditanium. Probably to make a fast platina." He grumbled. "I bet the perpetrator is some idiot whose race lived under our protection for so long they'd take us for granted. Mortals."
Martha winced. "Seen that on Earth too. No regard for consequences. Are we going to help him?"
The Doctor looked at his mother, who seemed to be a bit preoccupied with sending some sort of message, and thus turned to Illarion. "Where is the shipment now?"
"The trackers say it is on the edge of the private shipyards, but that's not the problem. The customer is coming in about 15 hours, and he's not Antarian military," he finished. "You have to stop them both. Before that shipment leaves Kesh'at, because when that happens, it will tickle the Senate into agreement."
"And that is bad because…"
"They haven't been able to agree on something unanimously for a whole millennium. It's not in our nature to not have an opinion. And the supremacists have a thing about being against everything but war-related topics." The infomerchant stared at them in utter fear. "This can cause war. On a scale the older Time Wars will look like skirmishes. Moreover, it will give political ammo for the supremacists on the council."
"Abysmal. And the reason why I am not sending the Market Authority after that guy yet…" He let it hang.
Martha's mind rattled. Hazard material. Military secret. Achilles' Heel of a race of protectors. Warrior race with a huge honour concept. Her eyes widened. "What's the penalty for smuggling the twin metals?"
I really like her, Theta.
She's brilliant. I get that, Janayi.
Illarion looked away. "Death by burning at the stake, being tossed into a star, or into the galactic centre at faster-than-light speed, all while being alive. It's treason."
"Oh my god." The med student shot her Gallifreyan companions a look, who sported similar expressions. "You knew."
"If there is one thing the World Makers are paranoid about, it's their own weakness. Their 'Kryptonite' so to speak. And in a way, it is treason," the Doctor mused, the head already spinning with the lines of reasoning. "The Antarians have no obligation whatsoever to protect all these people, teach them their knowledge and provide a stable government, not to mention having founded the Shadow Proclamation, and there some greedy kid goes and tries to make a fast dime from their only physical weakness, probably selling it to their enemies."
"But what if someone could find a positive use for it?"
Illarion shook his head. "There isn't any. Ditanium has only three applications. Power cuffs – a manacle set which stops my kind from using ESP abilities barring a surge flash, Security like prison cells and vaults, Telepathy blocking interrogation rooms and Ship Armour. And believe me, Miss Jones, we've tried. For about eight hundred million years. Not even the Time Lords are as old as us."
"There's a Gallifreyan saying," the Professor began, continuing in her native tongue.
"Translation, 'Time was born the moment Space chose to take the stage'," the Doctor finished. "As said earlier, they're older than us. And that's hardly the point. Captain. I take it you don't want that fool to die for something like that, don't you?"
"Not if I can help it. But the authorities will not be so forthcoming unless served on a platinum platter. Regulation of military supplies is traditionally supremacist turf."
The trio exchanged looks and nodded simultaneously. "Tell us what we need to know," the Professor asked.
The planetside parts of the shipyards were mostly laboratories, hangars and warehouses, again with the distinction between the rather organic look of the planet's rulers and their protected. Well, apart from the warehouses – those were apparently standard issue boxes of steel so to speak. Assembly was in space. "How do they not get lost here?"
In answer, the Professor simply pointed ahead at a crossroads. What looked at the first moment like a crystalline sculpture was in fact some kind of signpost. "The Antarians are well-aware that most people can't just teleport around or see the eleven planes. But they also love art."
The Doctor was scanning the air with his sonic screwdriver. "Kind of difficult to find Ditanium here."
"What do you expect? This is a shipyard. On a world in the Antarian realm. Be happy we're in the civilian district."
Martha compared the 'branches' of the signpost with the electronic notes Illarion had given them, and pointed to the left. "That way."
"Agreed." The road – lined with freight hangars – they had taken was… well, if the street in front of Illarion's shop had been shady, this one was plain wrong. It practically screamed smuggling. "Well, I think we found another part of the Underground Market."
The sonic bleeped. "Aha! I got a hit!"
"Let me guess. We have to sneak all the way to the end," Martha smiled.
"No fun otherwise," the two Lungbarrow grinned.
"Warehouse 13. Now that's a cliché if there was any," the Professor mumbled as they had reached their destination – a warehouse-hangar combo at the end of the block.
"The number of nothingness. Whoever owns the place is likely a Feratian – near human-race – and an absolute idiot," the Doctor explained.
"Find a hiding place, taruelai. I'll have a look around."
"Why you and not all of us–"
The Professor held a sonic blaster and an Infrared/Sonic screwdriver into his face as answer. "Who of us did 15.400 years of law enforcement, taruelai?"
He nodded numbly. "Point taken. But be careful."
You'll hear me. I'm just scouting for now. Good thing I bought the gravity leveller, she whispered into their minds.
After she had vanished from sight, the Doctor reached for Martha's hand. "Let's go."
Following him, she frowned about what the Professor had mentioned about a gravity leveller. "I saw her buy that thing, but what is it, Doctor? It looked a little like an electronic combination lock…"
Pulling her into an empty space between warehouse 11 and 12, he started to explain. "Most state-of-the-art Antarian technology amplifies one or more abilities they have themselves, only on a larger scale, or mimics them to make the ability available to races who can't do these things; to them, there is no greater inventor than evolution – most is bionics in one way or another, even their FTL travel technology. For example, I have the genetic potential to be psychokinetic, my mother is to a certain extent, but I haven't lived long enough in this body to actually use it; the Antarians can do so too – and made machines for kinetic lifting so they don't have to do it themselves all the time. Among many other things, Antarians can nullify or redirect gravity to either levitate or walk on walls and ceiling: Gravity Levelling. I think the inventor for that particular technology – Gravity Levelling – created it as a party trick, as it is not very common; Anti-grav generators are far more common." He paused shortly, trying to get the knowledge in order. "Gravity levellers are devices about the size of combination locks that redirect gravity, rather than nullify or reduce, enabling a person to stand and manoeuvre on walls, or even ceilings, mimicking the Antarian ability to do the same. They can be for personal use, or built into vehicles. They are easier to operate and take less energy than anti-gravitation generators and gravimetric dampeners. My mother bought one for personal use, and clipped it on her belt."
"So she'll walk on the ceiling. Won't the smuggler notice her, with her huge presence?"
"On a world full of super-telepaths, I doubt it. The Antarians fill the whole ether with their public personae. Compared to that, we're not so much."
Indeed, the Professor had used the gravity leveller to first climb up the wall, and then cling to the underside of a support beam inside the warehouse, watching the near-humans go about their work. Feratians. I hate it when I am right about these things. And Illarion was right about it being a race living a long time under their protection, 22.000 years if I remember correctly, but that's not even an Antarian lifetime. Why do these short-lived always take them for granted? She shook her head and pulled out her sonic, setting it to IR material scan. If I was some Ditanium ship armour plating, where would I… oh you must be joking! But it wasn't a joke. About twenty metres to her right, a group of anti-gravity storage containers stood in a containment field. The nerve! They still have the seal of the Imperial shipyards… Illarion was right. If the Market Authority gets here first, it could become a bloodbath. Looking around, she found the Feratian smuggler sticking to his stolen goods. I wonder how he got them… Theta, Martha!
In their hiding place, the Doctor looked up, and reached for Martha's hand to connect them. Yes, Janayi?
I got some hacking work for you to do. I got an eye on the smuggler – you find the customer.
You really think he's going to have a file on that, Professor? Martha wondered.
Feratians are about as thick and bureaucratic as Judoon. Just not as loyal to their winged masters. Trust me, that idiot will have a customer's register, fake freight lists, actual freight lists, and a crew register.
The Doctor was already getting to work, tiptoeing to the side of the building. And he has a lot of faith in nobody getting into this place because his security is very low key.
No. Any higher in security around here, and you have the Guards on you faster than you can say 'Space'. Besides, to open these containers, you need keys… oh fuck. He stole them. With the keys.
How bad is that? Martha interjected, sneaking with the Doctor through the shadows of the building to a sort of office in the corner.
Does 'kill on sight' tell you two anything? Supremacists don't care much about lower-evolved races; they strike first and leave the questioning to their non-supremacist superior officer. Clock's ticking. 12 hrs, 42 min, 2 sec.
And counting. The Doctor carefully closed the link and sonicked the door closed – while Feratians weren't telepathic, it didn't mean the smuggler didn't have ESP detectors around. "Let's get going–" In a hasty move, he pulled Martha to his chest and into a blind spot beside the door. "Too close."
"What…" Martha tried desperately not to blush.
In answer, he pointed up. A small camera fixated the desk, covering most of the room. Painstakingly slow, he pulled out his sonic again, aimed it at the fixture and froze the image. Then, he let her go. "I have to hand it to that guy. He has at least some smuggling instincts." He sonicked the file cabinets open. "Find out if one of the data chips he has in there is marked for Ditanium. Symbol is a crossed-out triangle in black. Just in case."
As the Doctor went to work at the computer terminal, he groaned immediately. It wasn't like the smuggler used any elaborate security to protect his system, but… "I have to give, that's a clever idea. Unfortunately, I can actually read that!" The computer's base code was not, as in most in the known universe, base 2 binary machine code, but base 10 – the basics of Antarian math. Which meant also the whole system was written in High Antarian. "I wonder though how a simple smuggler can afford a holo-core computer…" Using the sonic, he sped up the search. "Ditanium, Ditanium, Ditanium, ha! There you go!" Checking the file, he noticed peculiar gaps in the documentation. Things which would escape a normal man, but not him, nor would it his mother or an Antarian, if he was to bet. "That can't be coincidence…"
"It's too specific…"
He looked up, and his eyes fell on the crystal chip in Martha's hands. The Ditanium seal was printed on it. "Have I mentioned today yet that you're brilliant, Martha?"
Martha grinned. "It wouldn't hurt mentioning it from time to time, Doctor. So do we need the chip?"
"Yep, we do. It's a keyplug system. I bet neither the chip nor the computer contain full data. But if you put in the chip…" he took the small carbonite crystal and pressed it into the dock on the terminal, "there you go. Full records and… oh no. No, no, and no. This isn't good."
"Doctor? What language is this?" The writing on the projected screens reminded her of stars or constellations, the kind of writing which seemed to have been invented for printing and computer screens.
"Technically, before Earth humanity officially spreads into space, the lingua franca of the universe is Common Antarian, given how long they've been around, and so, this computer is completely in High Antarian, which needs a little education. Which is good because while I can't speak it properly, I still can read it," he explained. "The key contains the customer data. And we really need to grab the smuggler now and inform the Market Authority, as much as I hate it."
"Let me guess, the buyer is really dangerous, isn't he?"
"Most dangerous bunch of pirates this side of the Medusa Cascade. Uvris Combine," he pointed at the screen, showing the seal of the group. "Well, they are technically a whole fleet of pirates, all from worlds outside the Realm. But usually they don't prey on military secrets or worlds within it, so needing Ditanium is something new… oh, of course. Supremacist guards. Strike Fleets. Chaos, Law, Life, Death."
Martha caught on. "The Antarian military has been hunting them, hasn't it? And now they are getting desperate to survive."
"Yep," he confirmed, popping the 'p'. Quickly, he downloaded the completed file on another, fresh slab of crystal, and then put the computer back to how it had been, pocketing the crystal. He gave the key back to Martha, who filed it away again. "So the question becomes: what in Rassilon's name have they done to piss off the Royal Trade Route Patrol?" Sonicking the file cabinets closed, he let them out of the office, reactivated the camera, and shuffled out of the building.
"Steal something?" Martha suggested.
"No. It can't be something as trivial as that." He frowned in concentration. "If there's one thing we have seen today with the way Antarians think, it's them sticking to the big picture. Long term. It even shows in their language – they have fifteen words for life, living and lifetime, and being Grigori is something… big. Really big. Also, living that long tends to make comparatively lethargic; to anger them and get them to act takes something just as big. So, how come that a bunch of intergalactic outlaws, which are usually dealt with by the Judoon, have enough of the Senate's attention to warrant stealing 5 Mt of Ditanium?"
"Good question," a voice cut in over them. About halfway up the wall, the Professor stood, hands on her hips. "But I don't think it matters. What matters is to get all these Feratians out of here within the next five hours and alert the Market Authority to the deal. Best would be if they turn themselves in, that would save their heads."
"What happens otherwise, janayi?"
"The smuggler – charming fellow by the name of Kreerjar – will have a price on his head within one solar day, 36 hours. 1000 carat a ton of stolen Ditanium, plus one million bonus for the keys."
Martha shuddered at the implied number. "That's…"
"Five billion and one million platina. A king's ransom," the Doctor finished, just as his mother came down the wall. "You really think we should call in the authorities?"
"This is about them. The difference is, we won't let these guys getting slaughtered for being idiots." She smirked. "As far as I remember, you talk better than I do, Theta."
The Doctor exhaled slowly. "Then I better get started."
"Move these boxes out of the way, and better yesterday," Kreerjar yelled at his subordinates. "The Uvris Captain will be here soon, and I want everything up to shipshape when he's here!"
Just after the Feratians had moved away from their boss, the group of time travellers morphed out of the shadow of one of the boxes. "You know, you are either very brave or incredibly stupid. Don't you think stealing Ditanium won't tick off your rulers?" the Doctor asked seemingly casually.
"Twenty-two thousand years we are stuck under their rule, and they still don't share their big techs," Kreerjar countered. "Who are you?"
"Not important. You think that's a lot of time, don't you?"
"It isn't for them. That's not even a lifetime, not even for a mere principality. And it's not important, because you've been compromised by the News and Gossip District," he warned. "Go, turn yourselves in and you will survive this. Because when the Guards come – and they will – they will reduce this place to quarks."
Kreerjar laughed. "Oh, let them. The Uvris will show these wannabe protectors what it means to lose once they got their hands on the armour."
"Why are you doing this?" Martha interjected. "What have they ever done to your people to deserve treason?"
"Oh, my people are just fine. Growing fat and lazy, deep in the core territory of the Eighteen Stars of the Scorpion. No. It's us traders who have to suffer for their arrogance. Their 'big picture'." He scoffed, rubbing his orange eyes. "Do you know who they let do all the patrolling? Supremacists. The faction who lost the legendary Last Celestial Civil War, in charge of the active military. And these people don't care a damn about some insignificant insect like an honest Feratian trader. Lost my whole freight because of a pirate attack. Where was the Patrol? 'Refit'. If you ask me, the Seven can go all the way to hell for all I care!"
The Doctor frowned suddenly and scoffed with disappointment, remembering the files. "Oh, that one. Now I know why Master Illarion called you demashon – a total and lifetime-wasting fool. And now you've added slander to your crimes. You were never honest. I can imagine the Imperial Patrol thought they would finally get rid of you that way, but you survived. Born a smuggler, lived a smuggler. Do you want to die as one too?"
"If it means freedom and revenge, yes!"
"I give you one last chance. Stop this madness, give up the shipment and turn in the Uvris. I can get you away from here. Anywhere, any time," he tried again.
"Oh, I'm afraid I'll have to decline."
The Doctor shot his mother a look, who nodded, and reached for Martha's hand. "Then, in fairness, let me give you one good piece of advice: Run."
Just after his mother sent a message to the Market Authority, a group of twenty guards teleported in, hovering over the building, all of them the wings out. "Leave the Assian and the Children of Gallifrey alone. Imperial warrant," the leader, a short woman with ruby-red spiky hair ordered. Her whole appearance gave her the air of a chilli pepper, explosive and fiery. "I want prisoners, so no dead, and leave the place intact until we have the Uvris captain." Waving a hand, she surrounded the building with a ring of green fire.
"Yes Lord Reneael!" the group responded, dropping in like living bombs.
What followed, was a chaos of running, flying energy balls of various elements, broken bones and, for the three time travellers, adrenaline in abundance. Once, Martha thought she'd get hit by one of the energy balls for sure – and then it was bent around her, putting the smuggler behind her out of commission. "These people are insane!"
"They're led by a pureblood, Fire-element Power, what do you expect?" the Doctor called back, finally managing to get them outside… only to run into said Power. "Oh."
"It must have been 2000 years since I last saw a Child of Gallifrey who's not Valeyard or CIA, and about 300 since I've been to Assiah," the woman remarked, parting the wall of fire as if it was a curtain. "I am Reneael, Market Authority Strike Group Captain, and with whom do I have the honour?" She extinguished the flames.
"I'm the Doctor, this is Martha Jones and…"
"Professor, it's been a while," Reneael bowed.
"Meeting you means trouble, Leirana, so forgive me, but it is 20 years too soon to see you professionally."
Just then, Reneael's lieutenant brought in the last of the smugglers, bound in heavy chains, and dumped him in front of his master. "Leirana."
"Well done. Set the trap for the pirates, we will finally cut off the head of this pest."
The Doctor leaned over to Martha and muttered, "I told him to run but they never listen."
Reneael shook her head, her sharp hearing having overheard the remark. "Feratians are one thing, Doctor, and that's being more arrogant than supremacists."
"Oi!" it sounded from the guard collective.
"Seriously. Anyone else would already have surrendered when we teleported in," Reneael sighed. "Want to see the end of the show?"
The Doctor shook his head. "No thank you. I know enough about your people to know why the supremacists have not been eradicated all these billions of years ago. They are the blunt yet sharp tool of the council – logical, efficient, obedient and ruthless. They won't hesitate at a death warrant, and a kill on sight. It's the only way to live out their arrogance these days." He turned away from the redhead. "I won't interfere with your methods, but… I have seen enough death to last one of your lifetimes."
To his surprise, Reneael held him by the shoulder. "Being lost is never easy, keeper of time. But don't fret, don't give up, and you will find it again. Also, the only one who has a death warrant on him is the actual Uvris Captain. Everyone else is just facing life in prison." She let him go. "Go. I think you will need some time."
He nodded numbly. "Fair enough. Stars bright on you."
"Friends to thee forever," the Guard Captain nodded, bowing with the palms up in front.
An hour later, the Doctor, the Professor and Martha were back in Illarion's office, harrowed, where the Seraph dealt out tea and zyle'ta cookies. "I hope Renata-janara didn't scare you too much."
"You know that red-headed menace?" Martha managed to say.
Illarion snickered. "You could say that. I'm her consort."
"Oh my god, I'm –"
"Don't apologise, Miss. Renata is a Power – calling her a menace is a compliment as much as calling me, a Seraphim, a siren," he chuckled. "I must say, you did this quite beautifully; my agents state that only the Uvris captain met a fate not forged in Ditanium. The rest is off to Palikpetha to freeze off various body parts."
"Palikpetha?" Martha shot the Doctor a glance.
"Prison world. It's basically a barely inhabitable ice cube on the edge of nowhere, and, ironically enough, a Ditanium mine," he mused. "I take it the Uvris Combine won't be a problem for a long time?"
"All but extinct or imprisoned. There are always those who won't take no for an answer," the infomerchant answered. "Now. Business. I promised something, and as Seraphim, I am bound by my word. Milady Professor." In a dramatic gesture, Illarion opened his wings, and offered his hands, forearms crossed, which the woman accepted in the same solemn manner. (Where Time Lords were pompous asses and held forth with long-winding speeches, Antarians were overly dramatic maniacs and had a sense of overkill.) "Thou hast spoken plainly in thought, word and action, and it thus shalt be known that thou art friend of mine to all of reality," he intoned in his own language, words the Doctor translated quietly under his breath.
"Long beyond the day all the stars go out, Captain," the Professor answered in Gallifreyan. "Long beyond the days all the stars go out… old friend."
Just then, their hands glowed briefly. Recognising the rite, the Doctor spoke up. "As it is witnessed among the Seven and the Eighteen and all the universes and galaxies, you shall be known as friends. As it is witnessed by the moons and stars of the Scorpion and of Kasterborous, your friendship shall never wane."
After that, both parties let go, the Professor shaking her hands. "Lightning elementals always leave my hands numb."
Illarion laughed. "Can't be helped. Anyway. You wanted information? Here's your information…" Immediately, he turned a bit more sombre again as he handed over a crystal slab. "Joke is, it's not really classified… but you would have needed to ask for a copy in court. And it's really weird too… look at that seal."
The Professor was shocked. "No way…"
Impatient, the Doctor took it from his mother, but as his eyes came in contact with the aforementioned seal, his eyes took the size of the proverbial saucers. "That's… the seal of the Great Seven."
"Specifically, the seal of ALL the Great Seven. It comes with a unified vision, discovery… or unanimous vote, which is why normally, it's a war-time thing. And the real laugh is still coming," Illarion sighed. "You three… yes, you too, Miss Jones… have attracted a Grand Fate. You make history move, for now. And thus, it was all three reasons for that seal. But the scary part is the beginning of the prophecy… it's the same as the poem of the Memorial Keeper."
"Time War Memorial? Eye of Orion? Ring a bell?"
The two Chronarchs nodded numbly. The Doctor turned his eyes aside. "Not our favourite place. I have never read the poem before. Feel free to dramatise, Space-Weaver."
Illarion cleared his throat, took the slab back and started to recite the English translation, his voice weaving it into a musical cadence. "Between all the stars, Gallifrey sleeps./ Across the stars, all of time weeps./ The Rescuer and The Learned Man, Lords of Time, Lost Children of Gallifrey, Chosen Ones./ Blue grass, Reunion, Meeting out of Time./ Friend, enemy, bitter rival, the word is mighty./ Assiah's child walks Time's wild./ Child of Assiah, Child of Assiah no longer, Walking Maiden, Child of Gallifrey, Chosen One./ Forgotten friend's return, Saviour of All of Creation, Sister, Explorer, Chosen One./ Chosen Ones, steal the Sleeping World, save All of Time, save the Everything and Nothing Man, complete the Circle./ The Sleeping World, born from ashes, balance./ Time and Space, back to Harmony." He huffed in exasperation. "I wish they would stop letting High Sovereign Kaletiel making the announcements. Hers tend not to make much sense until you lived through the whole ordeal, not even in High Antarian unless you hear her making them. Just one thing is clear. You all three were marked as Yemassina – Fate's Champions. And apparently, you are going to be joined by another…" He gave the slab back to the Professor. "What you are doing right now, my friend, is exactly what you're supposed to do… and yes, you both were not meant to meet earlier." Illarion looked from one to the next. "In my humble opinion, I don't think neither one of you were really ready for that."
The Doctor opened his mouth to protest – and stopped. After the war, his mindset had been just three tea cups short of suicidal, until he… well, no point in denying it when Janayi was around. Until he got himself an overdose of pink, blonde, strawberries and cream, and now, he was moping because the main reason to be silly wasn't around anymore… And within 30 hours, his mother had cut through all his excuses and made him face the mirror, including him being not ready yet. "I hate to say it, janayitrita, but I don't think I would have been able to take in your presence after the war. You're… Well, at times, you're a bit too much for even me to handle and I'm your son. The whole of the house, in one person. Though sometimes I can't even handle myself so I guess it runs in the family."
"Wasn't in my right mind either, taruelai. It was too loud – and then, it was too silent…" Stopping herself from dwelling, the Professor took another biscuit. "And about running in the family, try the whole chapter." Noticing Martha's unease, she turned to the young woman. "Are you alright?"
"What role do I play in this?" she whispered.
"Can't say for certain," Illarion admitted. "But what I can tell is that you are going to be stellar. The description – your fate is truly something big, Miss Jones…" He looked to the side. "I would prefer to speak to you alone for a moment."
"Free services are rare on this world, Martha Jones," the Professor remarked.
"Okay then. Where…"
He waved behind himself. "Inner office."
Illarion's inner office was a curious mix of filing cabinets and apparently a traditional seating area – a low platform covered with something akin to tatami mats and a low table, surrounded by cushions. The whole thing of seating platforms had been a mild curiosity in the beginning to Martha, until she had seen an Antarian unleashing her wings while being seated. "Chairs are not really your people's thing, are they?"
"Only for ceremonial occasions, space travel and long time behind a desk. Or with really low backrests," he answered. "I do not mean to pry, but… the prophecy and your emotions, they go together… I am sorry. Please do not take this as an offence, but I wish to help."
"What's going on?"
"My people are telepaths and empaths among many other things. I admit, I am not very good at this, but you have been projecting your emotions to anyone who cares to look or listen," he explained, the cheeks blushing blue like his blood.
Martha blushed. "I… Oh my God. Am I really that obvious?"
"Only to about 4% of the galactic population." His whole expression darkened. "That man is like my people, a force of nature, blowing into lives like a hurricane, and leaving debris. But he is out of sync, troubled and blind with grief, so he will not be able to truly take people along for the ride." Shaking the metallic strands, his hair rustled like thick tinsel, the countenance clearing up like a cloudy sky as he switched gears. "I am a Seraphim, and thus, I have a thing for destiny, and becoming so ridiculously happy and satisfied with life it's unhealthy. And what's worse… well, I want to share that, make other people as complete as I am. So. You are in love. Hopelessly, seriously, head-over-heels in love, but not knowing what the package deal entails, at least not fully. But even the strongest person can take only so much…"He paused, taking in a feel for Martha, the hands stretched out, the eyes glowing slightly as he shifted to multi-planar sight, taking in her realities. "But as I said, you are not alone with issues in this dysfunctional relationship. I do not know the details, but he's lost someone recently, and in a horrible way – she might as well be dead, although she isn't. And he's the kind of person to blame himself, and blind himself with grief."
Martha was shocked. "What are you trying to say?"
"He's hurting. Pushing you away so he can't be hurt more than he already is, despite you being what he needs in the long run. Fighting his own conflicting feelings, running away," Illarion answered. "If you are serious in choosing him however…"
"I may have some wisdom for you, but… you must be sure of your choice."
"Advice? I don't know…"
"Who do you think is older, the Professor or I?"
"The…" She stopped, remembering the Grigori Master Taleth, 33.764 years old, and looking not a day over 35. These people didn't age externally – they ran out of lifetime, which could even be sold and purchased on this world as an energy form (that alone had been an experience, watching an Antarian healer buying lifetime, meaning some never lived the millennia of their race!), so it was entirely possible Illarion was older than the Professor. "I don't know actually."
"Good answer. But, in fairness, you were going to be right, I am younger than her. Way younger. 8.831 standard years to be precise. But if it comes to love, I may be a wee bit more experienced than her."
"My people make a big deal out of love. More so than Gallifreyans did in the waning days of the Silvery White Light Age, at least in general. I have a cousin who's 3.001 and a principality, and she's still single. Can't find someone to share all of eternity with," he shrugged. "Of course, that doesn't count for the Doctor's clan, they're downright… oh. I get it."
"Tell me. If you would have been brought up to love everything with all you are – family, friends, loves – and taught to sacrifice yourself for them in the end, wouldn't that make you vulnerable, and ultimately, terribly guarded?"
"Oh my god. That's what the Doctor is like?"
"Yes. And so, my answer is the same as the way I've managed to get married. I've pursued that menace of a woman for 500 years – equivalent to about two to three human years. She was the same as him, having lived through terrible things people shouldn't see. But I was gentle and steadfast in my goal, never giving up. At times, it hurt like hell – she didn't see me, or when she did, she ignored my feelings on purpose. But I didn't give up. People like Renata or the Doctor… to gain their attention, you need patience." He smiled mysteriously. "Besides, I think you will find you have gained a few unlikely allies by now."
Martha frowned. "I don't see anyone."
"Do you really think that either his mother or his TARDIS like it what he's doing to you?" he grinned. "They're women too. Anyway. In a nutshell, you need to be a bit patient with him, and also yourself. It will be worth it. Oh, so worth it." The face he now made was exactly what he had mentioned earlier, a picture of a man who was so happy and content with his life it was downright ridiculous.
The young medical student's heart raced as her mind put all the Seraphim's clues and advice together. "Are you telling me to not give up on him?"
"As much as it is troublesome and painful, yes. As I said, I am lousy at precognition, but even I can see the end of your roads. Keep loving, keep hoping, and you will be rewarded, Miss Martha Jones," he answered, a reassuring smile on his face.
Martha didn't know if it was the words he said, the experiences he shared, or just his voice (she didn't count it out since he was, well, an Angel), but for some reason, there was another flame lit in her heart, smaller than that of the initial passion she'd had for the Doctor, but steadier than it all the same. Hope. "Thank you." She accepted the hand and followed him back to the main office.
There, the Professor thanked him in the fashion of a friend and turned to the door. "As it is custom, if you ever need anything."
Illarion smirked at the trio. "I'll scream into the planes, don't worry. Stars bright on you."
"All skies friends to thee forever," she answered, bowing.
Just as the Doctor tried to pass the purple-eyed warrior, he was held back. "A piece of advice, Child of Gallifrey, in the form of a saying from your favourite planet: You can't always get what you want… but sometimes, you might find you get what you need," he whispered into his ear. "Past is past. Live for the present and the future, or you will stay lost, you get me?"
Hearing the warning in the tone, he nodded slowly. "I know…" he looked at the two females walking ahead. "Thankfully now I have the means to keep myself anchored."
"Depends on if you plan on staying a pompous ass, Time Lord," Illarion muttered. "I may be a typical Antarian large ham, but I would never walk over someone like that on purpose. Open your eyes, open your mind, proud like a god, don't pretend to be blind. Trapped in yourself, break out instead; beat the machine that works in your head. Stop feeling sorry for yourself, you only end up feeling sorrier. And if that doesn't help: You're Lungbarrow, one who makes old into new. Try it, it might surprise you."
He smiled. "Well, I always do love surprises." The Time Lord held out his hands and bowed. "Thanks Captain Illarion. Stars bright on you."
"And all skies friends to thee forever, Doctor," he returned the gesture. "Good luck."
At the end of a week, after a severely relaxing last day of pampering – professional hosts had a thing for living out their drama by overdoing their pleasing of the guests (in anything but the horizontal), and Aldurathiel was no exception – the three travellers stood in front of the Doctor's TARDIS. "Well then. Molto bene," he smiled as he let them back in.
"I can't remember when I've ever been that relaxed in my life," Martha admitted.
"I've seen a lot of things in my life, but I still always feel like molten butter when I visit the shop of a master host," the Professor grinned. "Only the Palace hosts are better."
"Why are they called hosts anyway?"
"Being a party host is a job on Antares. It's not something you do yourself. It's a bit like a Japanese Geisha. An entertainer. Only that they can not just do Smalltalk, dance and sing, they can also cook, give massages, serve you in the group bath and occasionally tailor. If you hold a party, your choice in host reflects on your status and education – poor choice and you're no good," the Doctor explained. "Some of them prefer however not to do the whole in-house thing, but have a shop instead. You can either just do the whole pampering thing, or rent the place for a party." As he turned around, he noticed finally that his mother had taken no notice of his speech, and had commandeered his pilot's chair instead. "I seem to remember you have your own TARDIS." Not listening, the woman crawled under the console, installing something. "What are you doing–"
"Avatar and Telepathy Booster module. She wanted to be able to talk to your companions, you know," she muttered, fusing the devices into the console wiring. "Can't do anything about it needing six pilots, but at least the wacky communication I can fix."
I take offence to that, the TARDIS called jokingly, causing Martha to jump. It is good to be able to speak to you, my Martha.
Same here."I can hear her! I can really hear her!" she grinned, touched by the way the sentient ship addressed her.
The Professor got back to her feet, brushing herself off. "Then my job is nearly done. But first, we need to go somewhere."
A little bewildered, he came to her side, and at seeing the coordinates, his eyes widened. "You are not taking us there, are you?"
"Where better? Besides, I think she might like to see what Time Lords do to their true names."
Conceding defeat, he took the co-pilot's seat, and began takeoff procedures with her, finally pulling the handbrake. Seconds later, as it was only a change of location, they stopped, and the Doctor put the brake back into place. "Martha. What you are about to see, not many humans have seen up close like that." Putting on his coat again, he opened the outer doors of the TARDIS.
The TARDIS floated in the middle of a stellar cloud, multi-coloured (mostly blue and white) stardust and young stars around them, glittering like water.
"Welcome to the Medusa Cascade Open Star Cluster, one of the last of its kind that close to the galactic core of the Milky Way," the Professor intoned, closing the clasp of her own coat. "At least, that's what it is to most people of the universe."
"It's beautiful," Martha breathed. "And what is it to the two of you?"
"Lungbarrow House clan register. The actual one," the Doctor finished, chuckling. "As my mother has explained to you earlier, Time Lords keep their birth name hidden. And this is the way we do it – we write it on the stars, hidden away from eyes not of blood and name. Kind of ironic – we're the Time-Weavers and write our real names onto space, and the World-Makers go and write their full names onto time. When you reach adulthood as a Gallifreyan, your Head of House would take you to such a place, so you could seal your name away, and declare your title-name to the universe."
"So all your family's names are hidden here, in all these stars and stardust?" Martha pointed at the seemingly random constellations. As she looked on, she could almost make out the shapes of Circular Gallifreyan etched into them, even if they were just gibberish to her.
"Pretty much. Why are we here, janayitrita?"
"Our bond is lost. I think the War cut us apart. So, I want to re-establish it," she answered. "I haven't been here in a while. They're too many."
The Doctor bowed his head. "Same here. Can't look at it, as much as I want to," he whispered, gratefully accepting the comforting hand of Martha on his upper arm. He took a sharp breath in as he suddenly felt his mother's fingers at his temples, and returned the gesture almost automatically.
"You are of me, I gave birth to you, gave you life. You are of my name, and of my blood. You are my son, and my beloved heir," she spoke, both into his mind (in Gallifreyan) and aloud (in English). "You are the Doctor, child of Lungbarrow of the Hills and scion of Prydon, my son and my taruelai larenessharranue."
Breathing hard at the surge of love she sent him, he started his answer. The words of his heir ceremony so long ago. "I am of you, you are mother of mine, gave life and soul to me. I am of your name and blood. You are mother of me and my clan, and I am honoured to be your son," he intoned, in the very same manner as her. "You are the Professor, the Law of Gallifrey, Head of the House of Lungbarrow of the Hills and scion of Prydon; my hero, my Janayitritariene Issharranue."
Just then, their fingertips glowed for a moment, and… "Oh my god… the stars…" Martha whispered. Out of the stardust, just for a few seconds, two sets of stars and gas lines seemed to flash up, both in Circular Gallifreyan, before they disappeared from plain view again. "Were that…"
"Our names, yes. This place always knows when one of ours is here," the Professor stated softly, an arm around her son.
Shaking off his shock, he smiled, a little melancholic, but still… "I think we should get going."
It was almost anti-climatically fitting as the two TARDISes stood a day later in a field of blue grass, a blue sun in a purple sky watching over the two time and space vessels. Inside the blue box, the Doctor was very hard-pressed not to gnaw his fingernails or dance a tarantella as his mother upgraded and fine-tuned a few settings on his TARDIS. "I have no idea why you are so insistent on upgrading my Chameleon Arch. Not like I ever used it."
"I'm a Healer Geneticist. This is what I do. Also, the programmed possible histories in yours don't include a general background for companions and the likes," she grumbled, working under the grating of the console. "I would ask a question, but I know why she never got the upgrade – it's for the same reason you have each other in the first place."
"Well…" Reaching down, he helped her out of the maintenance space, and replaced the grating. "I guess so. Anything else?"
"I think your TARDIS has a question."
I can't decide on an Avatar. The possibilities are endless! the ship answered, sounding like a woman on winter sale.
"And I thought choosing desktop themes was already a hassle to you. Look what you did, Janayitrita," he half-complained. "You confused my TARDIS!"
The Professor smirked. "A suggestion, beautiful… ask Martha. Besides, you can change it as you see fit."
If you would help me, my Martha, I would be honoured.
"It will be my pleasure."
As the sun set over 21st century Zoresh, the Doctor and the Professor stood in between the two TARDISes. "Do you really have to go?" he asked, Martha directly behind him.
As an answer, the Professor held a slab datapad and a small key crystal out to her son. "Headcount board. Corrected it after finding you. That way, you can see how I am doing," she smiled. "The key contains a program which allows you to contact me, and, if you two are in for something too deep, sends a signal to me."
"You don't have to…" The face she made stopped him mid-sentence. "Right. I'm my mother's son. Stupid thing to say."
"If there's one thing that every bearer of our name is, it's trouble-prone," she finished. "So."
"So." He suppressed a tremble, but just barely, as his hands were still shaking. Finally, he couldn't take it any longer, and hugged her with all his might, clinging to her. Janayi…
Like a little boy afraid to let his mummy go to war, it shot through Martha's mind. And it's not that different, is it? How many times has she waltzed off like this to hunt down errant Time Lords? And she's not doing any better – she said it herself, he's too much like her, trouble on two legs.
The Professor closed her eyes, the soul shaking like being eye in eye with a black hole. But, she was his mother in the end, and so, she took him by surprise as she pressed a kiss to his forehead before stepping back to her TARDIS. "May Time's hand rest kind on you, taruelai."
Choking, he gave back the traditional answer. "And history remember you with love. Janayi…"
"See you, Doctor."
The hands still trembling, he and Martha took their places in the open door of his. "See you soon. Professor."
Doors closed. Seconds and grinding and whooshing later, the field was empty.
AN: I don't own Grandia II, and I still borrowed the names of the Ages from it. Golden Age – time of peace and prosperity, Silver White Light Age – Era of the Wars in Heaven in here. The idea to the Professor's agelessness courtesy of Jerome Bixby's The Man From Earth.