One: Son of an Adventurer – Human Nature
Drifting again in the Time Vortex, Martha used the non-time for reading that crystal book on Gallifreyan physiology the Professor had given her, but ever since they had parted ways with the ageless Time Lady, the Doctor's behaviour was off. And by that, it was not his usual 'I am suffering but I pretend to be fine' routine, nor 'You are not Rose', but 'I am bothered by something and I don't know what to do'. Ever since the talk in New-New York, she had become progressively better on reading the Time Lord. He would alternatively shuffle between his room, the Library, annoying the TARDIS with (unnecessary) maintenance and the kitchen, usually lost in thought. Finally, she had enough. "Where is he now?"
In his room, my Martha, the TARDIS answered. Cheer him up, will you? He's sulking.
Turning off the carbonite (hyper-condensed diamond, really) crystal book, she snuck to the Time Lord's room. Well, she supposed it was his, as it was the room the Professor had carried him to a few days ago, but she'd never in it before. The room was… different. It was chaotic yet tidy, the surfaces covered with books, gadgets and trinkets; the walls were covered with space photographs and maps, and an enormous, elaborately carved four-poster bed dominated the space. A staircase led to a balcony overhead, which held a small study. Two doors below it led to what she guessed a walk-in closet and a bathroom.
"Up here, Martha. She won't let it be anyway," he sighed, calling her up.
She took the stairs, and couldn't help but gasp as she saw what the Doctor stared at. "That's …"
"Family portrait," he answered simply. "The main line primary generations of the Most Ancient and Most Exalted House Lungbarrow of the Hills by the beginning of the Last Great Time War."
It was a life-size painting of an obviously happily married couple, the Doctor and another man standing beside the woman, all dressed in what she assumed to be Gallifreyan clothes. The Professor's clothes were the closest to Earth clothing, being black trousers, an elaborate knee-long white jacket with blue and black trimmings and a standing collar. A complicated series of straps and clasps held it closed, making it look like she likely needed help to put it on properly, all covered by a scarlet, orange-lined robe. The style was related to her work or her age probably. The man at her side was dressed in a complicated long robe in scarlet with silver trimmings, and had an enigmatic smirk on his face, a style and smirk copied by the other man on the painting. The Doctor himself was dressed into a double-layered robe, the colour scheme of the Professor's jacket evident in the inner one while the outer was the same as his mother's. It clicked. "You really did have a brother."
"As I said. Not any more."
"Is that your father? What did people call him?" she asked gently, taking the stool beside him.
He looked up at the man, a fond smile playing around his lips. "The Keeper. He was born a Scaltata, the brilliant ones. A great healer, and occasionally, my mother's lab partner… My brother… he was his father's son. Brilliant, creative and inspired. Funny how things turn out. I failed the TARDIS exam twice, and ended up being 'just' a Temporal Engineer, he, the younger, passes with flying colours, and becomes a TARDIS constructor." His eyes were fixed on the painting, the mind far away in the past.
"You're your mother's son. God. I haven't said it then, but she's beautiful."
"Considered one of the most amazing women ever born on Gallifrey. And even more remarkable considering she's never regenerated before. Ever. Together, my father and her… they were unstoppable."
"There it is again. 'Regeneration.' The Professor mentioned that word too. What exactly does that mean?" She frowned. "Is that the process you wanted to tell me about on the SS Pentallian?"
"Yes. Well… It's kinda a Time Lord's 'get out of death free' card with twelve valid slots, apparently by law. If I am about to I die I change instead. The cells in my body are replaced, one by one to repair the damage. Can be any height, weight, age… gender if I really screw up…"
"Wait, wait, wait," Martha cut the Doctor off. "Are you saying you don't die, you just get a whole new body?"
The Doctor shrugged. "Well, it's kind of like that… but not really. The change also affects my brain, neural synapses get altered and such… some mannerisms and taste changes, but essentially, I'm still the same person. Well, in theory, I change until I reach a form which suits my 'inner self' so to speak best. The skin you are most comfortable in, then, you only replace it with a new copy. It is possible to control what one becomes like and looks like. Problem is, I'm lousy at it. Also, the way and reasons why you die play in as a factor." He nodded at the painting. "That painting was done by a relative, a cousin who was Scaltata. He doused it with enough Artron and Chronon energy to make it change whenever one of the depicted regenerated."
"So that's what she meant with thirteen lives by law. How many times have you done that so far?"
"This is my 10th version, I've regenerated nine times so far. A bit much for my age, but then again, I am…" he sighed. "I am my mother's son. In everything." His face was dark, still. Wistful memories of peacetime, longing etched into every angle of his stance, followed by that haunted look associated with the war. "They burnt you know. They were not even fighting in the war, and still, they burnt with the rest. I couldn't bear it, locked down my mind."
Better steer him away from that. "How did this portrait come to be?"
At that, his expression lit up a little. "My mother, for all her sternness, all her harsh upbringing as heiress, all her righteous pride as Head of House, is a fricking, old-fashioned romantic. Had one portrait made every 100 years, on top of this changing one."
"So there were ten of them?"
"No. Only nine. It would have…" He turned away, the voice breaking.
Stopping him, she put her hand on top of his. "Tell me of your family. The way you ought to remember. Your land, the people."
Taking a few quick breaths, he forced himself to calm down, remembering brighter times. "Lungbarrow House had many epitaphs, some alluding to its age, others to heritage, but the most telling ones were House of Masks, House of Traitors, for we betrayed the ancient Pythia and followed Rassilon, the founder of Time Lord society. The masks… well, it's partially the reason I always stood outside. Our family was different. The whole stuffed shirt behaviour of everyone else outside, to us, it was a mask, worn when being around non-Lungbarrow. I was just the odd one out who never learnt how to mask his otherness, and paid for it. But it was an open secret we were different – Lungbarrow House was built into the cliffside of Lung Mountain in high defiance for all to see. In the southern mountain range, overlooking Cadonflood River. Basically, on the backside of the Citadel." He grinned, looking at the portrait. "Oh, it was the very stone-turned declaration of the chapter's deviousness and defiance. They used to say to never take your eyes off a Prydonian, especially a Lungbarrow or Scaltata. The former would laugh at you, the latter do something to make you look ridiculous. You should have seen it, that old house in the cliffs and hills… I remember laughter in the halls. Jokes and outrageous tricks by my cousins… the tea garden, with my cousin yelling at my brother and me when we stormed through it…"
Hours later, Martha lay on her bed, the mind buzzing with vivid images of red grass-covered hills, perpetually snow-capped mountains and outrageous anecdotes of a clan of trickster-protectors, and a feeling of melancholy. They are really all gone?
We often wish it was not like this. The TARDIS hummed sadly. For all our restlessness, it was still home, origin, root to us.
A thought came to Martha. Has he ever spoken to Rose about them?
Rose? The sentient ship sent her something akin to a scoff crossed with a sigh. Rose was a girl with starry eyes who managed to get the 9th Doctor to feel alive again. But she never even asked him what species we are. It came out in an argument. She also never knew the name of home.
She had him avoid his memories? How were they ever able to have a proper conversation then? Martha sighed. I can see why she did it, it makes it easier, but in the end, all one does is pretending. That's comforting in the beginning, but it doesn't make one better in the long run.
It certainly isn't. She was what an angry, damaged Doctor born in blood and battle needed, but the current one needs someone who can keep up with him when he runs to save everything. Someone like you, my Martha.
The feeling of praise the TARDIS sent her left the young woman blushing. Thanks.
Just one more month, one more and it's over. I hate this! And it doesn't help that he's… fancying me! I sometimes doubt I can make him open that watch! Dressed into a simple dress, Martha knocked on one "J. Smith"'s door, being followed by a maid she had befriended, Jenny, who carried the tray with the breakfast.
"Come in," the occupant called.
Martha opened the door, stumbling back at seeing the human version of the Doctor – John Smith – still dressed in nothing but his pyjamas. "Pardon me, John, you're not dressed yet."
Waving her off, he reached for his robe. "No, it's fine. Put it down, Jenny."
The maid left the tray on the desk, poured tea for two, pulled the curtains open and hushed out.
Sitting down in front of him, Martha began to butter the toast – compared to the active and hyper Doctor, John was no morning person, and managed to butter one side of the toast while putting the marmalade on the other. On top of that, the longer he stayed 'human', the more absent-minded he became. Like now. "Having these dreams again?"
John shook his head, trying to get rid of the sleepy notions. And the more sinful thoughts concerning his childhood friend/secretary. "Yes. I just cannot seem to shake them."
"What did you dream today?" she asked, handing him the finished toast.
Nodding his thanks, he told her of how she was his companion, how they were from the future, how he was a man from another world, how his mother was this larger-than-life hero. What he didn't tell, were the feelings the man he was in his dreams had for her – including a huge case of denial. Denial ain't a river in Egypt… where did that one come from? John was particularly grateful that Martha seemed focussed on getting their tea right – he was desperately fighting a blush.
"John, as far as I know, you're completely human. Besides, look at the paper." She held up the Times, trying to keep up the facade. "It's Monday, the 14th of November, 1913. Now, your tea is getting cold, and you know your mother will have both our heads if you don't eat properly."
John gave up, blushing like a ripe tomato, and practically dove into his teacup. "Thanks Martha. I don't know where I would be without you."
"Drowning in paper, no doubt," she joked, causing both of them to laugh. "Now eat up, you have a class in an hour."
"You really are my mother's student, always giving orders," he grumbled under his breath, taking a bite of his toast.
John loved teaching in general, but he knew that the boys loved to exploit his kindness (he never resolved to beating, preferring to be creative about punishments) and his absent-minded manner. And ever since coming to Farringham and having these dreams, the latter got worse by the second. Especially every time he thought about Martha. Or thought about what that Doctor from his dreams thought about Martha. Snickers shook him from his musings, and he glared at the class, starting the lesson. Great. Now the pupils are going to make fun of me all day.
After a joking chat with Jenny (and running into the most arrogant git of a prefect she'd ever met), Martha rushed to the TARDIS, the key under her shirt being hot to the touch. "What the hell was that for?"
Just then, in a soft *whoosh*, the Professor's TARDIS materialised in the console room, and her pilot stuck her head out of the (black) door. "Hi. Can you tell me why in the Nine Hells she sent me a distress signal?"
"No idea." Martha looked around the room, the eyes going up to the Chameleon Arch, memories from that horrid day filling her head.
(Flashback)It was, again, supposed to be a simple "oh-look-new-planet" trip, but on it, they had first run into a local infomerchant who warned them of a coming danger, and then run into the actual danger – the Family of Blood. A group of gaseous beings with mayfly-like lifespans, and they were after the Doctor, the only widely known surviving Time Lord, and his lifecycle. Which meant they were running for their lives. Again. This time, shooting included. "Get down!" the Doctor yelled as they ran into the TARDIS, both narrowly avoiding being shot as he closed the door. As Martha helped him up, he asked, "Did they see you?!"
"I don't know!" she answered.
"But did they see you?!"
"I was too busy running!"
"Martha, it's important, did they see your face?" The urgency was in every syllable he spoke.
"No, they couldn't have."
Getting to his feet, he threw away his coat and pulled the handbrake. "Off we go." An alert sounded immediately. "Argh! They're following us."
"How can they do that? The TARDIS goes through time and space!"
"Stolen technology. They got a Time Agent's vortex manipulator wired into their ship," he explained, setting the controls to bouncing around. "They can follow us wherever we go. Right across the universe." He pushed his hand through his already chaotic hair. "They're never going to stop," he realised, horrified at all the implications. Kill them, be killed… running is out of option… hiding? "Unless. I'll have to do it. Martha, you trust me, don't you?"
"Of course I do!" He confused her.
"Because it all depends on you," he continued, pulling a fob watch out of a compartment of the TARDIS console, showing it to Martha. Its surface was covered with elaborate engravings in Circular Gallifreyan. "Take this watch, because my life depends on it. This watch, Martha. This watch is me."
More confused, she took it from him. "Right, okay, gotcha. No, hold on. Completely lost."
"Those creatures are hunters. They can sniff out anyone, and me being a Time Lord, well, I'm nearly unique. They can track me down across the whole of time and space."
"Shouldn't we warn your mother then?"
"Already done," he answered, sending off a written message through the key. "Even if they manage to sniff someone out who smells like all of history, she's currently in the White Space, and you can't go there without a Time Eater Key."
"Okay, so she's safe. And the good news is?"
Pushing buttons and pulling levers, he continued. "They can smell me, they haven't seen me. And their lifespan will be running out, so we hide. Wait for them to die."
"But they can track us down."
He stopped his frantic movements and faced her, a mix of fear and apology airing around him, the eyes wide. "That's why I've got to do it. I have to stop being a Time Lord. I'm going to become human." Pulling another lever, he let the TARDIS lower a headset-like device from the ceiling. "Never thought I'd use this. All the times I've wondered."
"What is it and what does it do?"
"That's the Chameleon Arch. Rewrites my biology. Literally changes every single cell in my body. I've set it to human." He took the watch from her, inserting it into the slot on the front. "Now, the TARDIS will take care of everything. Invent a life story for me, find me a setting and integrate me. Since my mother upgraded it, it will provide me with a story for your presence in my life, so you should be fine. Same goes for her. TARDIS will call her in case of an emergency."
"But, hold on. If you're going to rewrite every single cell, isn't it going to hurt?" Martha frowned.
He looked at her, the face in a mask of ill anticipation. "Oh yeah. It hurts."(End flashback)
Martha shook her head, trying to get rid of the memory of the Time Lord's agonising screams as he had been drained of everything that made him a Child of Gallifrey. "I never want to see that again."
"Did that two times," the Professor answered the unspoken question, having switched to the console to check the story. "Had to blend in. And every time I felt hollow while being something else. We're way too used to feel Time. I bet he does so too." She shook her head. "Not bad, but not good either. I have a feeling you're here for some odd reason. You're his secretary?"
"Yeah. And you are apparently some adventurer and book writer called Verity Smith. That warrants a question. When I was a teen, I did read Tales of the Sky, all three volumes. Which is probably why I am also his childhood friend and your student."
"I did write those. Centuries ago. Wanted to see that planet my son and the Antarians are so fascinated with, and I must say, it was so worth it," she grinned shortly, and then turned sombre again. "Well, whatever is happening, it warrants calling me out of White Space."
"What about your scent? You're a Time Lady, what if they're lurking around and get a whiff of you?"
"Got that covered." She pulled out a small spraying can, covered with Antarian letters. "My son is an explorer, an observer. He never had to hide or hunt down someone, but I have had to. Illarion gave it to me. It nullifies my presence as a Gallifreyan, and covers it with 51st century human. Can't get much closer in scent to human."
She nodded, then gestured at the woman's Valeyard uniform, white jacket and black trousers. "It's 1913. You would need to change clothes. And what about your TARDIS energy signature?"
"Right." Picking up the can, she walked back into her own TARDIS, followed by Martha, and ended up in her wardrobe room. "My TARDIS is 'cloaked' right now, but before I leave, I'll put her on standby too, just to be sure. What about this one?" It was a simple dress made of sand-coloured heavy cotton, which, in concession to the woman's personal/Gallifreyan style, had a low standing collar trimmed in black, and pockets which were probably bigger on the inside.
"That should do nicely."
Spraying herself with the scent-coverer (which smelt disgusting first, but then again, it was concentrated human) the Professor switched clothes, and then selected a dark scarlet coat, which she threw it over, putting her equipment from her original outfit into the coat pockets. "Do I look like an adventurer to you now?"
"Yes, but what about the boots? I doubt they have sonic boots in this time," she joked.
"Would anyone notice?"
"Unless you actually run in them like Sonic the Hedgehog, not really." She frowned. "What about your physical age? No-one would buy you're his mother like that."
In answer, the Professor pulled out a small box, and put on the necklace within. "Shapeshifter's essence. Observe." Shaking the long hair, it turned pepper-coloured, and the angles in her finely-boned face grew more pronounced until she looked about 50. "How's that?"
"Wow. How many changes can you do with that?"
"Only my age." Looking at herself in the mirror, she cursed. "My hair!"
"Vain, anyone?" Martha joked.
Making a face, she braided the strands. "You would be too after 15.507 years being called beautiful. Vamos."
What was more accident-prone in Farringham than Dr. John Smith? Well, Dr. John Smith with a stack of books. Which were usually too many.
"Oh, good morning, Doctor Smith." Joan Redfern greeted the newest member of staff.
"Ah, oh!" The first thing he managed to do coming out of his room was nearly crashing into the Matron and dropping one of the books. "There we go."
"Let me help."
John put his foot on it. "No, I've got it, no–"
The book was pulled out under his foot, nearly causing him to lose balance, but the woman in the scarlet coat was back to her feet in a flash, helping him to gain his footing. "I really can't leave you alone more than a few days. Any longer, and I would have been redirected to the next hospital probably," she joked. "Give me these. You will only end up breaking your bones, John."
Joan was surprised. The woman in front of her was of middle age, with the long hair in a practical but somewhat old-fashioned braid. "Ma'am?"
The young teacher however was flabbergasted at the person who took the books from him and handed one half to Martha. "M-mother?"
"Who else, young man?" she grinned.
"I thought you would finish your book next month, not so early!" he grinned happily.
"I haven't actually. Can't decide which of these Sanskrit poems to add in. Same old when you collect other people's works," the Professor shrugged. "Who's your friend?"
A normal human wouldn't have noticed the small autosuggestion in the word, meant to keep the Doctor on track and the nurse away, but Martha had spent a whole week around the telepaths on Kesh'at. Thank you Professor.
"Err, she's the Matron. School nurse. Matron, this is my mother, Verity Smith."
"'Fraid so," the Professor chuckled.
"Oh my god. I'm Joan Redfern. I've read all the Tales of the Sky," she blushed. "They are so grand. As if seen throughout history."
At that, both Martha and the Time Lady had a hard time not to laugh out loud, Martha having a much harder time than the other. You have no idea.
"Well, travelling a lot does that to you," the Professor smiled crookedly. "Anyway, I think we ought to go. If you want your copy signed, come by my son's room later."
"Err, well, I think I will," she mumbled, not even looking up as the trio left. Oh my god…
Falling into step beside his mother and Martha, John voiced his complaints. "She was only being friendly. Did you have to scare her off like that?"
The Professor stopped and lifted an eyebrow at him. "She was being interested. You are only here on borrowed time, son, have you forgotten that? Your free time is nearly up, after that, it's travelling again. You don't have time to think about half-baked relations. Besides, she's…"
He looked away. "I know. I don't get that whole race debacle either. It's so shallow. But she's nice to talk to. As a friend."
Hook, line and sinker. "Thank all that is great. I thought already you forgot everything our travels taught you." She smirked. "Besides. I cannot help it if she loves my books."
"John? Where do these go?" Martha cut in.
He smiled, grateful for being spared the Spanish Inquisition from northwestern East India. "This way."
In the afternoon, Joan Redfern walked up to John's study, clutching a stack of three books, all bound in dark blue leather, with a design of interlocking circles on the backs and the covers. This is silly. To think that he's the son of that adventurer! She sighed, realising what that meant. He won't stay, will he? And I would not follow them. Shaking her head, she knocked on the door.
"Come in," three voices sounded.
I have a soul's chance in hell to catch that man's attention now, Joan capitulated as she walked in. Looking at the group surrounding Smith's desk, she quickly realised that the dynamics had never been in her favour – John stared after Martha every time she wasn't looking. "Mrs. Smith?"
"Ah, Miss Redfern. So you do want to have them signed?" the pepper-haired woman smiled generously.
"Err, yes." Joan put the three books on the table, and noticed the handwritten book – or was it a diary? – between the three. "What's this?"
The Professor opened up the books and signed them quickly. "There you go."
Joan picked up the first volume. "»To Miss Joan Redfern. Keep dreaming, long beyond the day all the stars go out. Verity Smith.« Thank you!"
"You are quite welcome." The Time Lady smiled generously. "I wanted to thank you though, for being such a good friend to my son."
The nurse suppressed a flinch, this time hearing the friendly warning. "Well, your son is the most pleasant company. So you three will continue to travel soon?"
"In a month or so, I hope. Just in time for Christmas. But there's something you want to ask, isn't there."
"Err yes, but I think it is of no consequence any longer."
"Even unspoken words have consequences, Matron, or so they say in the East." The ancient woman lifted an eyebrow at her. "What is it?"
Blushing a little, Redfern took a deep breath. "Are you three going to attend the village dance?"
"I, err, I haven't thought about it yet," John stammered.
"Nonsense. Of course we're going," the Professor threw in.
John's ears were glowing bright red. "Err… You had another question, Matron."
The nurse pointed at the book between them. "What is that? It looks like a diary."
"Oh, that," the man smiled awkwardly. "Martha?" He turned to her, seeking approval.
Martha was currently very glad for being black – it hid the blush. "It's fine."
Collecting himself, he took a deep breath. "Lately, I have these extraordinary dreams. They are quite remarkable tales. I keep imagining that I'm someone else, and that I'm hiding…"
"Hiding? In what way?" Joan frowned.
This time, even oblivious John noticed the careful interest of the woman, and turned to his mother instead. "They're almost every night. They're so realistic, I can't help it but write them down as a fiction. Not that it would be of any interest."
"Well, I saw what you wrote, son, and I have to disagree."
Joan caught herself at showing interest. Again. Stop being silly. Of course he's different, he practically grew up on the road, and that's where he's going to return to. – But that doesn't mean I cannot be his friend. "Your mother is right, Doctor Smith. I'd be very interested."
"Well then, here you are." Carefully, he handed the leather-bound book over.
Martha wanted to protest, but then, she caught the Professor's eye, and understood. This is meant to happen, isn't it? she thought, touching the woman's wrist to establish a connection.
The Time Lady took a second to listen to the book's history, using the ticking of the grandfather's clock in the room as aid. It is. Her descendants are going to make a book out of it.
"A Journal of Impossible Things," Joan read out loud, flipping through the pages. John's handwriting – the Doctor's handwriting, really – carried the 'accent' of his native Gallifreyan, causing all letters to be somewhat rounded, making it a difficult read. Also, it was messy, written down at high speed. Charcoal drawings littered the pages in between the words. "Just look at these creatures." The pepper-shaker body armour of a Dalek dominated one of the pages, causing the Professor to narrow her eyes, unseen by the others. "Such imagination." The Moxx of Balhoon, Autons labelled as plastic men, and one of the Pompadour clockwork robots followed suit.
"I am nowhere near my mother's level in writing," he dismissed.
"I started not much better, son."
"It's wonderful. And quite an eye for the pretty girls," Joan mused, showing the newest page.
That one caused both Martha and the Professor to freeze, for it was a near perfect copy of the Lungbarrow family portrait. With an addition – a youngish woman, shorter than everyone else, standing beside the Keeper. "Oh no, no, she's my sister in the dream. This character, Alyia. I call her, Alyia. Seems to disappear later on. I don't know – disinherited maybe?"
The Professor looked away and got up. It had been about the most horrid thing she had had to do in her entire tenure of being Head of House: Unnaming her own daughter. True, she had brought it on herself, but… It doesn't help if the obvious choice in an heir is outshone by an heir (very) presumptive, like one's older brother. It just accounts for more stupid acts. No wonder the clan council demanded it. The girl had been lucky, as her husband's family had taken her on, writing her name into their registry, but the damage had been done. A Gallifreyan without a name, without a clan… was nothing. And only a Head of House could undo this. Unseen, she gritted her teeth, turning her back on the group. Which I never will be able to. It took all of her considerable willpower not to fill the air with her oppressive presence and scream.
Oblivious to the ancient woman's regrets, Joan continued, and came face to face with a drawing of the TARDIS, labelled 'Magic Blue Box'. "What's this?"
John shrugged. "Ah, that's the box. The blue box. It's always there. Like a magic carpet. This funny little box that transports me to far away places."
"Like a doorway?" Interest in the person had long since been replaced by wonder and curiosity – the dream journal was just too amazing.
"Quite," John shrugged. The next three pages were littered with the faces of men, and a drawing of the Professor in her youthful unchanging splendour. Martha guessed that most of them were the Doctor (given that the 10th was the first on the left), and the five surrounding the Professor were The Keeper's regenerations, as she recognised the last one from the painting in the TARDIS. "I sometimes think how magical life would be if stories like this were true."
"If only," Joan sighed.
"It's just a dream." The last drawing was the pocket watch, obviously drawn this morning.
"But you three already live a similar life – always on the road," she argued.
Suddenly, the Professor turned around to them. "Some people would argue life is but a dream, but I don't know… if it's a dream, I wouldn't want to wake up. Ever."
Joan left, the journal and her signed books in her hands, and stopped as the Professor blocked her way. "Are you sure about that?" the Time Lady asked, pointing at the journal.
"Oh, I'll look after it. Don't worry. He did say I could read it."
"Oh, good. Just wanted to be sure."
Joan switched gears. The curiosity about the man was back, even if not in a romantic notion. "Who is he, ma'am?"
"I beg your pardon?" the Professor glared.
"It's like he's left the kettle on. Like he knows he has something to get back to, but he can't remember what. And it has nothing to do with travelling."
"That's just him."
"He came here, out of nowhere, a black secretary in tow who was unexplainably his best friend," Joan countered.
"I met Martha when she was very young. Took her in and raised and taught her. Together with him," the Professor answered, sticking to the story with ease. "And if you don't mind me saying so, we do not care for so-called racial superiority. You do yourself not any favour, not even if you want to be his friend, if you are so superficial and judge the book named Martha Jones by her cover. Think and look deeper, and you might be surprised. Matron."
The nurse was speechless at the rebuke, staring after her as she walked away. What am I supposed to believe then, Mrs. Smith? Your books, or society?
Later, in the evening, the Professor carried a steaming mug of grog outside of the village pub, much to the shock of the bundled-up Martha and Jenny. "Mrs. Smith, you didn't have to come out here."
"Rubbish. If there's one thing you should know about me Jenny, it's that I do as I like," the woman grinned. "I hope you don't mind if I join you, ladies."
"Not at all, ma'am."
"Please, just Verity," she shook her head, sitting down as Jenny slowly sat as well, "John will be coming out soon too."
"How on God's Earth did you manage to make him do that? It's bloody freezing out here!" Martha stared at her in disbelief. The answer laid in the woman's expression. She simply lifted an eyebrow, the face blank. "You made your 'mother' face at him, didn't you?"
The Professor dropped the expression and chuckled. "It's not like he is even able to say 'no' to that."
Martha laughed, remembering their third day on Kesh'at, where the Doctor finally had gathered enough courage to protest against his duty as bag-hanger. In one fluid motion, the Professor had turned around, pulled a blank stare, and lifted an eyebrow, as if to say 'So?!', causing the man to duck his head, the ears turning red as he picked up all the bags again. "It is somewhat hard to resist, yes." Shivering, she looked at the pub, the eyes narrowed. "It's freezing out here. Why can't we have a drink inside the pub?"
Jenny shook her head. "Now don't be ridiculous. You do get these notions! It's all very well, those Suffragettes, but that's London. That's miles away."
"But don't you just want to scream sometimes, having to bow and scrape and behave. Don't you just want to tell them?"
"I don't know. This is England, it's like this."
"You know, she has a point," the Professor mused. "I had less trouble moving about Cairo, even considering I had to wear a veil. They simply had a compartment for the women."
"Things are so different in other places. In your country too, Martha, hm?"
"Yeah, well they are. Thank God I'm not staying."
"You keep saying that, but I doubt you really are going to leave. At least not without Doctor Smith," Jenny grinned.
Martha was shell-shocked. "I have no idea what you are talking about."
The Professor drowned her laughter in her mug of grog. Perceptive one.
"Don't. People usually don't think I'd notice because I am all roses and sunshine all the time, but I am not stupid. I can see when someone is sweet on someone else from a mile away. And whenever someone mentions his name, you get that look on your face," the maid smiled.
"Oh my god." Martha noticed numbly the Professor's vain attempt at not laughing. "You're not helping Verity."
Putting down the mug, she laughed heartily. "I'm sorry. I can't help it. The whole situation is way too bizarre. Anyway. We're leaving in a month or so."
"Yep. Just you wait. One more month and we're as free as the wind. I wish you could come with us, Jenny. You'd love it."
"Maybe she can," the Professor thought out loud, assessing Jenny. It took a special sort of person to be a Companion, both to her and to the Doctor.
"Where are you going to go?" Jenny wondered.
"Anywhere. Everywhere and nowhere," the Professor smiled.
"Just look up there." Martha nodded at the starlit sky. "Imagine you could go all the way out to the stars."
"You don't half say mad things," Jenny laughed.
"No. That's where we're going. Into the sky, all the way out," Martha mused. Just then, a green light flashed in the sky.
The Professor snapped out of her relaxed stance immediately, the whole body rigid with alarm. "Did you see that?" Martha breathed, surprised.
"See what?" Jenny was confused.
Martha looked at the Professor, standing up, "Did you see it though?"
The Professor nodded grimly, her Valeyard trained senses tingling. "Right up there, just for a second." She got up as well, narrowing her eyes at the dark sky. Something has fallen through time in here.
Just as Martha wanted to ask her if it was the Family, the Matron came running. "Did you see that? There was something in the woods. This light."
Just then, John stepped out of the pub, his hat in hands. "Anything wrong, ladies?" he asked, moving over to the Professor's side.
"About time John," she replied jokingly, though still rigid as she fixated the woods. "I was already considering if I had to drag you out by your ear."
"Ah, yes." He rubbed his neck in embarrassment. "The headmaster cornered me about the upcoming exams. But enough of that, it's far too cold to be standing around in the dark."
"There!" Joan shouted as she pointed to the sky where the green light shot through it this time. "There, look in the sky!"
"Oh, that's beautiful," Jenny smiled.
Realising just how spooked Joan was, the Professor cut the excitement. "It's a meteor. Visible path of a space rock falling through the atmosphere." She paused, sending Martha a grave glance. It's them. "Looks like it came down in the woods."
Martha nodded simply, understanding. Game on.
John shook his head. "No, no, no. No, they always look close, when actually they're miles off. Nothing left but a cinder. Now, I should escort you all back to the school. Ladies?"
"No, we're fine, thank you, John," Martha denied.
"Where are you staying, mother?" the teacher wondered.
"With a friend. And no, I am not sleeping in a tent in the middle of nowhere again, don't worry," she answered, putting on her own hat. She sent the matron another warning glance. Hands off my son.
Joan received the message and nodded curtly. I know, ma'am. "I could use a friend's company on the way back."
"Then I shall bid you goodnight," he put his hat on and started to walk off, Joan following closely.
After they left, the Professor turned to leave as well. "Good night. Martha," the Professor called as over her shoulder, "Be careful."
"Of course ma'am," she nodded, both of them knowing she was going to search for the ship.
The next day, Martha met the Professor in the TARDIS, telling her she and Jenny had found nothing. "Could it have been invisible?"
"Likely. TARDISes can do that too. He did tell you how the old girl got stuck as a public police call box, didn't he?"
"He said the Chameleon Circuit got fried when he went to the sixties. What does a TARDIS actually look like by the way?" the student frowned.
"It's a colony of coral. Okay, a time-travelling, space-worthy, bigger-on-the-inside non-aquatic colony of coral. Funny thing. Just proves that his current form is technically his perfect regeneration – his TARDIS desktop theme is coral," the Time Lady mused, checking the scanners. "How are you doing, beautiful?"
The TARDIS hummed in answer, as the telepathy booster was down. Martha smiled for a moment. "Anything?"
"Nothing we can do in standby mode. Picked up a trace energy signature, but that's about it. I should have scanned with my own before powering her down," the Professor grumbled in frustration. "Anything he said about this whole insanity?"
"He made a video with 20-odd rules what to do and what to avoid."
"Let me guess. Half of them are things you would consider right to do or avoid anyway, the other things are ramblings, and the all-important rule of pears."
"Spot on." Martha turned on the video, fast forwarding through it until the last one, #23. "And twenty three. If anything goes wrong, if they find us, Martha, then you know what to do. Open the watch. Everything I am is kept safe in there. Now, I've put a perception filter on it so the human me won't think anything of it. To him, it's just a watch. But don't open it unless you have to. Because once it's open, the Family will be able to find me. It's all down to you, Martha. Your choice. Oh, and thank you." Martha sighed. "Anything you would advise me on? It's a nightmare with him – the human him fancies me."
"Don't say Gallifrey, TARDIS or Time Lord around him."
"Okay." The younger woman shook her head.
"About the fancy, well, the Chameleon Arch may have something to do with that. Can't be certain what though until I go through his mind."
"I wish he'd come back."
"So do I."
Meanwhile, young Timothy Latimer was enduring John's rambling in the man's study, and thus was reasonably surprised when his favourite teacher suddenly switched to a very different train of thought. "Ah yes. All three volumes of Tales of the Sky. And I wanted a little word. Your marks aren't quite good enough, young man."
"I'm top ten in my class, sir," he defended.
"Now, be honest, Timothy, you should be the very top. You're a clever boy. You seem to be hiding it. Where is that book? And I know why. Keeping your head low avoids the mockery of your classmates, the jealousy and torment." John wrecked his brains, not quite sure where he had put the copy he had ordered for the boy, and dove back into his personal library. "No person should need to hide oneself, don't you think?"
"You're clever. Be proud of it. Use it."
Tim was only half-listening to his teacher, for he had noticed the man's fob watch sitting on the mantle. It was calling to him like a siren. Picking it up, he was startled to hear a voice, first a woman ordering, "Time Lord. Time Lord. Timothy, hide us," and then, much to his confusion, Doctor Smith's as he opened it. "The secret lies within. I'm trapped. I'm caged. Inside the cold, the metal, the dark, but waiting." The woman mixed in again. "Reach out boy, reach out." Just then, he noticed that John was finished with his search, and he snapped it closed, pocketing the watch. "Always waiting."
"Fascinating details of East India, Northern Africa and the Middle East, culture, history, and of course, their wars. Really quite remarkable. Are you all right?"
Tim caught himself. "Yes, sir. Fine, sir."
"Right then. Good. And remember. Use that brain of yours," John ordered, handing over the books.
As the boy laid hands on them, the strange variant of the teacher's voice whispered in his ears again. "The Power of a Time Lord," it hissed, followed by a vision of a very different-looking John Smith wielding a glowing, whirring tool, an air of absolute power around him.
But that same voice, in its usual kind and gentle timbre snapped him out of the vision, replacing the vision with the real, rather concerned face of John Smith, PhD. "You're really not looking yourself, old chap. Anything bothering you?"
"No, sir. Thank you, sir." As quickly as he could, he left John's room, and rushed to his dormitory. There, he opened it again, and heard the man's voice again as he opened it.
"I am The Doctor. You are not alone. Keep me hidden," he ordered. Memories and the woman's voice drifted into Tim's mind, more terrifying than he could ever imagine. "And infinite fire. Burn with light. Burn in time."
In the afternoon, Martha and the Professor stood outside in the courtyard, watching as John stood before three groups of young boys, firing machine guns at three target dummies. The older woman suppressed a scowl. "My son approving of weapons. I thought I'd never see the day again. He can't even stand me using one, and I have done that for 15.400 years."
"You had one hanging from the ceiling, and he didn't look too happy about it."
She shook her head. "I am the Lord High Valeyard, the Law of Gallifrey. Many of those I prosecuted put it very aptly: I used to be the council's bloodhound and hangwoman. Some of those I hunted came home in a box."
"Dead or alive."
"Sometimes, preferably dead."
At the same time, Tim struggled with his concentration, being assaulted by a vision of a battlefield, much to the chagrin of his partner, Hutchinson. "Stoppage. Immediate action. Didn't I tell you, sir? This stupid boy is useless. Permission to give Latimer a beating, sir," he addressed Headmaster Rocastle.
"It's your class, Doctor Smith," the balding teacher shrugged.
"Permission denied," John ordered. "Latimer, you are on Jankers (KP duty) for the rest of the week." Hutchinson wanted to protest, but the words died on his lips at the teacher's glare. In that moment, there was something absolutely terrible about soft-spoken John Smith, as if he was someone else.
Tim bowed his head. "Yes sir." They left.
"As you were, Doctor Smith," Rocastle nodded, leading Baines away.
John turned around, noticing his mother and Martha at the wall, and walked up to them. "Mother, Martha."
"The matron wanted you to know she'll give back the journal next time she sees you," Martha mentioned.
"No, that's fine, she doesn't have to," he declined. "How about we go for a walk instead?"
"That would be lovely, son."
Farringham village was like any English turn-of-the-century village, small, tranquil and quiet. They were currently talking about his first coming to the school. Apparently, in John's memories, before he'd left, fresh from college, they'd had a small, serious discussion about the school he would be teaching in. Both Martha and Mrs. Smith hadn't liked the idea of a military school, and the Professor, having lived as a professional Law Enforcer and Hangwoman through three different ages of Galactic History, could completely agree. "I still don't like the school John," she told him. "Watching boys learn how to kill… it isn't right. Wars are adult business."
"Don't you think discipline is good for them?" he argued. "Not everyone has a mother like you."
"Does it have to be such military discipline? I mean, if there's another war, those boys won't find it so amusing," Martha asked.
"Well, Great Britain is at peace, long may it reign," he shrugged.
"In your journal, in one of your dreams, you wrote about next year. Nineteen fourteen," Martha continued.
"It's just that. A dream."
"All those images of mud and wire. You told of darkness. You said that someone will say that the lamps are going out all over Europe and we shall not see them lit again in our time," the Professor finished.
"Well then, we can be thankful it's not true. And I'll admit mankind doesn't need warfare and bloodshed to prove itself. Everyday life can provide honour and valour, and let's hope that from now on this, this… country can find… its heroes… in smaller places," he thought out loud, growing more and more distracted by a few men hoisting up a piano.
The women followed his gaze, and noticed with horror that the rope the men were using was fraying, and about to snap. The Professor's 4D sight caught on immediately – the piano would fall on the woman who was just coming around the corner. Together with the baby she was pushing in front of her. Oh no. Action-based as she was, she knew that saving the two would expose her – and the sonic running boots she wore to boost her speed.
"In the most…" The second length of rope started to fray as well, "Most ordinary…" the woman almost reached it, "Of deeds!" He grabbed a cricket ball a young boy was playing with beside him and hurled it at a bundle of poles. They fell and started a complicated chain reaction, hitting a plank of wood with a brick on the end which flew up and over the piano, finally knocking a milk churn into the woman's path. She stopped with a shriek, moments before the piano crashed down. A little shocked at himself, he breathed, "Lucky."
"I wouldn't call that luck," the Professor raised an eyebrow.
"That… was extraordinary," Martha smiled.
He turned to her, fighting a blush at her praise. "Martha, would you like to attend the village dance this evening with me as my guest?"
Martha shot the Professor a desperate look. What am I supposed to do?
The woman smirked, having figured out what the Chameleon Arch had done to the Doctor. "Well, I'll leave you young folks for now. I still have a poem to translate." Passing Martha by, she added, "Go. Or you'll regret it."
"He's still in there. His emotions," she answered mysteriously, hushing away.
Smiling shyly, Martha nodded. "I'd love to, John." Numbly, she noticed that the Professor had handed her a blue-black fob watch – her own. What's this?
I thought you could use something to be able to talk to me without pretence. That's my Chameleon watch, filled with enough psychic energy to establish a link if you touch it or call my name.
Thanks. Slowly, she and John walked over the fields. What am I supposed to do?
The Professor hushed over the landscape, the eyes fixated on the fourth dimension. My son drained himself of all conscious memory and his Gallifreyan biology, but not of his intuition – you saw what he did with that ball – or emotions. The latter is rather difficult anyway, so they end up in his subconscious, controlling his responses… And, if I may be so bold – use it. The memory of Pinky is not lingering on him right now. So, what he feels, John feels. Just John has the advantage of not being plagued by guilt over lost people.
He's still in there. See you tonight. I am going to stand for hours in my wardrobe and will try to decide just how much Prydonian Red I am going to wear. Try to get through to Theta.
Walking through the fields, the pair made their way back to school. "Oh, it's all becoming clear now. The Doctor is the man you'd like to be, doing impossible things with cricket balls," Martha joked.
"Well, I discovered a talent, that's certainly true," he chuckled.
"But the Doctor has an eye for the ladies," she mocked him.
"Oh the devil."
"A girl at every fireplace…"
He could only laugh and shake his head, "Now, there I have to protest, that's hardly me and you know it! The only girl for me–" He stopped himself, turning away with red ears, desperately fighting a blush. Looking for a distraction, he looked over and spotted a lone scarecrow in the middle of a field. "That scarecrow's all skewed."
They walked up to it, and Martha watched him fixing the doll. "Ever the artist. Where did you learn to draw?"
"Gallifrey," he answered promptly.
Alarmed, Martha remembered the Professor's warning to not mention things concerning his real life. "Is that in… Ireland?" she asked slowly.
"Yes, it must be, yes…" He sounded a little unsure.
"But you're not Irish John."
"No, no. You remember my father, Sydney. He was a surgeon for the army until the wanderlust got the better of him. Didn't help he married a woman of the roads, a secretary stuck with the same wanderlust," he laughed, then frowned. "I can't quite remember though where we met you. Something about a hospital and the moon. Anyway, you are just like her."
"It was something like that," she smiled, going along with it, "They're lovely people. And secretaries do make such good wives!"
"Really? Right. Yes." He stepped back sheepishly. "Well, my work is done. What do you think?"
"Masterpiece," she answered. Something was off about the straw puppet, but she couldn't tell what, and she didn't have time to think about it as John took her hand.
"All sorts of skills today!" he laughed, pulling her back to the road and continuing on.
What both failed to notice was as they walked away was the scarecrow turned its head to watch them.
Later, Martha sat in the study at her side of the desk, sorting through papers, slightly unaware that John caught every detail of her figure and poise with pieces of chalk and charcoal on a big piece of heavy Tiziano paper. You are so beautiful… to me… now who sung that? Why can't I remember? The voice was clear in his head, gritty, smoky, strong and true. A man's voice, but gone before he could grasp it. Finally, he set the last stroke on the drawing. "Martha."
Startled, Martha nearly dropped the stack of papers. "John? What is it?"
He patted the Chesterfield beside him. "Come and have a look."
A little reluctant, she sat down and couldn't help but gasp at seeing the soft-toned grey scale likeness of herself at the desk. He had caught her with frightening accuracy, in a moment of deep thought. But there was something about it, as if… "Oh, goodness, do I look like that?"
"Do you like it?" he asked hesitantly.
Martha was currently very glad she was black, despite the time period. "John, you made me far too beautiful."
"You are to me. This is what I see when I see you," he stated softly.
"I am black, John. Do you know what the world sees when they see me?" she stated, a little bitter. "They don't see me. Just my skin."
"That's not what I see," he whispered. "You are brilliant, and so beautiful." Stroking her hair, he leaned in and kissed her. "I'm sorry, I…"
Caught in the moment, the dazed Martha silenced him with another kiss he met with gentle eagerness. At the same time, parts of herself were fighting a shouting match, alternating between oh my god he's kissing me and he's not the Doctor!, all the while a voice which suspiciously sounded like the man's mother cut in between the warring parties with oh, but in a way, he is.
Speaking/thinking of the devil, the Professor just chose this inopportune moment to enter the room, carrying a garment bag, causing them to flinch away from each other as if burnt. "Oh, I'm sorry. Of all the times my timing has to fail me," she muttered.
"No, no, don't stop on my account. I just came to deliver this as you were not in your room, Martha," the Professor smiled, dropping the garment bag on the coffee table. Walking away, she closed the door behind herself, and leaned against it. "That… was quick. I knew he felt like this for her, but it seems I misgauged on the intensity…" she whispered in Gallifreyan, stopping herself just in time to notice the matron standing in front of her. "Miss Redfern."
Joan, in turn, wore a face of utter shock, having witnessed the second kiss. "Mrs. Smith." She let the hand she'd lifted to knock sink down again.
"I take it you can keep things to yourself," the Time Lady frowned.
"You approve of this?"
"I can hardly deny him his heart's desire. Neither can you," the woman shook her head. "It's human nature."
The nurse nodded slowly. "I admit, a few days, even a few hours ago, I would have been jealous, and acted in the way everyone does. But, you and your books made me think, and… I hope for both of them it will turn out right." Joan had the distinct feeling the older woman was not even looking at her any longer. Her eyes seemed to look at something far away, both in time and space…
"Don't we all, Miss, don't we all. Excuse me." Hushing out, she twisted the outer ring of her wristwatch-like device, activating the perception blocker. I need a roof. I need to see, to hear. There is something I cannot grasp, hidden under all these human timelines, some fixed event why we are here of all places and times, she thought angrily as she climbed onto the school. "Where are you? I know you've come, so, where are you?" Line in a piece of fabric, needle in a haystack. Add a Valeyard's scatterbrain to it and the mess is complete. I need a beacon…
While the Professor wrestled with the density of the fabric of history in the school, it being full of complicated events and timelines, she actually missed that there was something – someone really – akin to a beacon, just under her nose. Quite literally, for Timothy Latimer sat in the garden of the school under a tree. Just under the rear School Tower, listening to the watch, which alternated between warnings, images and outrageous stories. First, they had scared him, more than any of the other cadets had ever been able to, but soon, he found the watch to be something akin to a confidant, and thus had no trouble heeding its plea of keeping it hidden until the time was right. "Darkness is coming," it whispered, again in that strange woman's voice. "Keep me away from the false and empty man," the voice of 'The Doctor' urged. But what does that mean?
"I am one of the last of the Time Lords. A survivor of that ancient race," the Doctor answered, showing him his reality of being chased instead.
Again, the woman's voice completed the train of thought. "They merge with the faces of men," she whispered, causing the teen to look up in alarm. What he saw, was only one thing: creepy. Baines, together with Lucy Cartwright and Mr. Clark, tilted his head to the side, and then sniffed in sync with them.
An hour later, the Professor still stood on the roof, half-brooding, half-scanning the surrounding flux of Time, all the while fighting an enormous headache. Damn it, I am out of practice with Chronos. Suddenly, something rang in the temporal ether, as if someone had struck a Cloister Bell with a vibraphone mallet. What the… She barely stopped herself from just dashing down the wall (that would have broken even her perception filter), and took the stairs instead, following the sound, but even knowing she had finally found a clue of the Family, it took her by surprise that the reverb traced back to the maid John and Martha had befriended. One word. Fuck. Time to find Martha and open that damn watch. No more nice Time Lords.
Hours later, a somewhat flustered Martha showed her dress to John. It was, especially for the English countryside of that time, exceptionally posh, showing that it was a gift from the Professor: an orgy in flowing dark purple silk, overlaid with a burgundy vest. "What do you think?"
"You look wonderful," he smiled softly. "Absolutely breathtaking."
"Thank you," Martha blushed. "You'd best give me some warning. Has your dancing improved at all?"
He laughed. "I should think not, but I'm not certain."
"There's a surprise. Is there anything you're certain about?" she smiled crookedly.
"Yes. Oh, yes," he answered, taking her hands. Just as he was kissing her again, the door flew open, a rather distressed Professor rushing through it. "Mother! Your timing is impeccable," he scoffed, trying to cover his embarrassment.
"Normally, I'd commend you on a successful use of sarcasm, but I don't have the time for it," the older woman brushed off. "Martha, I need to talk to you in private."
"Ma'am?" A little stunned, the med student followed her to the small area holding all of John's books. "What's going on? Oh, love the dress. And thank you for mine, where did you get that?"
"Thanks," the woman dismissed, having chosen a simple dark red dress. "You look lovely, but that's not the point. They've found us. I've just outrun the 'Mother'." She scanned the room, expecting to sense her son's presence in two places, and only finding one. "What in the name of the Nine Hells… The watch. Someone took it…" She blinked, taking a good look at the time in the room. "Strange. It was supposed to be taken. Hidden away." She shook her head. "No matter. They don't know you yet."
"What am I supposed to do?" Martha found it a little disturbing that she dismissed the missing of the Chameleon watch that easily, but then again, she said it was supposed to be taken.
Worry etched into every angle of her face, emphasised by her artificially aged appearance, the Professor took her by the shoulders. "I want you to watch your backs. I'll think of something."
"I am not half as important to him right now as you. The advantage and disadvantage of not remembering is this, his people priorities," she explained. "Listen Martha. You go and watch over him, I'll make sure we'll get him back."
"Okay," she nodded numbly.
Much to Martha's surprise, John proved to be quite the dancer, even considering his sense of direction was a little off, as they bumped once or twice into others. "Sorry."
"Mrs. Smith." At a table, Joan joined the brooding Professor. "They seem to be enjoying themselves. Where did she get that dress?"
"Miss Redfern. Found that in Amsterdam a few years ago," the Time Lady dismissed. Chronologically speaking. "I must thank you for your discretion."
"It was silly of me to think…" Joan stopped herself. "I mean, who would really consider a widow."
"He's like a miniature storm, isn't he?" The Professor smiled fondly. "So different from what you are used to in men."
"Yes, and thank you," she blushed. "Oh, I must look so silly, a country girl chasing after a man of the world."
"I think you are underestimating your charms and wits. Quite a bit like dear Martha in some areas actually," she grinned, then grew serious again. "But, about John, you know that sometimes he says these strange things, like people and places you've never heard of…" She looked at Joan to see her nodding. "But it's deeper than that. Sometimes, when you look in his eyes, you know, you just know, that there's something else in there. Something hidden. Right behind the eyes, something hidden away. In the dark. Something great and terrible, which no-one should know."
"Perceptive, I like that. And thus, I am sorry for what I am going to do – make him remember just that."
Just then, John brought her a drink. "Mother."
"A word, son."
"Can't it wait? I am enjoying myself," he complained.
"No. A Child of Gallifrey knows that timing is everything," she growled.
The deliberate use of a key phrase had the desired effect, stirring up his suppressed emotions. "What…" He put his hand to his forehead, as if it would shoo away the voices stirring in his head.
"Forgive me, son. Forgive all of us. You are, in a way, John Smith, but that is just a fraction of what you truly are," she explained. "You're called The Doctor. The people in your journal, they're real. He's you. You are a Time Lord, from the planet Gallifrey, Shining World of the Seven. A Time Traveller."
"No, stop it!" Anxious, he put both his hands to the sides of his head, suffering from the storm of voices and images.
Martha stood beside him, unsure what to do, and thus reached for the blue-engraved fob watch in her handbag. This is why I shouldn't mention these words?
Yes. They're key phrases, embedded deep in the Chameleon Arch base code. If he had the watch, he would now start to notice it, and be compelled to open it. This way, he might be more accepting when he gets it. I'm sorry, but I thought it better if I do this.
Before John could even snap out of it, an older man, gun in hand, knocked over a hat stand as he strode in. "There will be silence!" he thundered, "All of you!" Animated scarecrows, Jenny, and Baines filed in after him. "I said silence!"
"Mr. Clark!" the announcer called, "What's going on?"
Clark simply turned and fired at him, disintegrating him.
"John," the Professor stood up, "Everything I just told you, just forget it! Don't say anything."
"We asked for silence!" Baines yelled. "Now then, we have a few questions for Mister Smith."
Just then, little Lucy joined them. "No, better than that. The teacher. He's the Doctor. I heard them talking."
Me and my twat-munching big mouth, the Professor cursed internally.
"You took human form," Son-of-Mine marvelled.
"Of course I'm human. I was born human, as were you, Baines. And Jenny, and you, Mister Clark. What is going on? This is madness," John protested.
"Ooo, and a human brain, too. Simple, thick and dull," the mayfly-turned-man jeered.
"But he's no good like this," Jenny/Mother-of-Mine argued.
"We need a Time Lord," Clark/Father-of-Mine agreed.
"Easily done." Baines stepped forward, aiming his ray gun at the man. The crowd gasped. "Change back."
"I don't know what you're talking about," John shot back, the head already swimming in the words his mother had given him, and the fear not making it any better.
"Change back!" Baines ordered.
"I literally do not know…" he answered, pained.
Jenny grabbed Martha in a choke-hold, putting her own gun to her head.
"Get off me!" Martha yelled.
"She's your beloved, isn't she? Your beloved companion," she mocked. "Doesn't this scare you enough to change back?"
"I don't know what you mean!" John was getting desperate.
Jenny stopped for a second, and grinned nastily. "Wait a minute. The secretary told me about another Smith. She is posing as his mother. That woman, there."
"Then let's have you." Clark grabbed the Professor, holding the woman by the shoulder (no easy feat as she was at least half a head taller than the stolen body).
Big mistake to try and grab a descendant of the last Pythia, the Professor thought darkly, noticing the fact that they made no point in restraining her properly.
Baines grinned nastily. "Have you enjoyed it, Doctor, being human? Has it taught you wonderful things? Are you better, richer, wiser? Then let's see you answer this. Which one of them do you want us to kill? Secretary or Scribe? Your lover or your friend? Your choice."
To Be Continued…