Five: Days of Reckoning III
Previously, on Doctor Who – Children of Time and Space:
Now, the Professor's eyes seemed to flash. "The Master is Prime Minister of the UK!""They're called the Toclafane." – "What?!" "You going to tell us who he is?" Martha demanded."He's a Time Lord.""He's cannibalised the TARDIS. It's a Paradox machine.""We meet at last, Doctor, Professor." – "Stop it! Stop it now!""AHH!" The Doctor, aged to a physical age of 135 human years."We can't stop him.""Down you go, kids! Remove one tenth of the population!"Martha, crash-landing on the hills of Hampstead Heath, watching London ablaze. "I'm coming back!""And the Earth was no more."
Dum anima est, spes est, et tantum mortuos non habent. (Where there's life, there's hope, and only the dead have none.) – Theocritus/Cicero
Galadriel and her bondmate, Koral, appointed watcher-guardians of Earth (responsible for the classification and historical record of Earth), stood on top of Mount Elbert, Colorado, USA, their blue and black hair shining in the sun, and their eyes looking in sorrow at the reality of Earth. "And so, hell and death fall onto Assiah," the male Ophanim murmured sadly. "Such injustice, and all we can do is watch? Just because of the damn paradox?"
"No. We still have a duty, my love. To warn the Senate, and the Shadow Proclamation. Unless the Doctor wins, we will have a war on our hands," Galadriel shook her moon-blue haired head, pulling out the key chip for the broadcasting array, and activated the machine.
The machine (looking more like a frozen plant, but that was the point) lighted up and hummed, sending a signal in High Antarian halfway across the galaxy, into the dark halls of the Shadow Proclamation. "Space lane traffic is advised to stay away from Sol III, also known as Earth. Pilots are warned Sol III is now entering terminal extinction. Planet Earth is closed. Planet Earth is closed. Planet Earth is closed." The signal modulation changed, switching to musical encoding as the array sent the possible threat warning to the Antarian High Council. "Assiah was conquered. War threat evaluation – 90%. Assiah is closed."
"And what now? I don't want to leave."
"Let's go to our house. We can shelter at least some." Spreading their wings – it would be probably a while until they could do that again – they flew away.
One year has transformed Earth, and not in a good way, Martha thought glumly as she approached the eastern shore of the UK. Touching the ring and the watch hidden under her clothes, she reminded herself she wasn't alone, and she still had some work to do. Time for the final act. The resistance members landed the boat on the beach, where a young man, about 30 or so, awaited them with a xenon lantern. Martha jumped out of the boat, waved the others goodbye and watched for a moment as they vanished into the dark waves of the North Sea; then, she ran up to the man with the lantern. "What's your name then?"
"Tom. Milligan. No need to ask who you are. The famous Martha Jones. How long since you were last in Britain?"
"Three hundred and sixty five days. It's been a long year," she sighed, touching the watch. How are you doing up there, Professor?
We'll live. Be safe, dear.
Martha sighed. It had been pretty much the same answer as usual, unless the Doctor contacted her, rare as it was. Let's get to work instead.
The Valiant hung currently over the Indian Ocean in the sunlight, where the Doctor and the Professor lived their lives in a tarped-off corner of the bridge/conference room (one couldn't believe how much one could get out of the Master in accommodation if you ticked him off every day, just so he could prove the Professor wrong and gloat). It was noon, and she had KP duty today, helping Francine serving lunch. I bet he wanted to humiliate me. Tough. I've spent too much time on the road cooking for myself for that. Grumbling, she pulled at her "kitty collar", something Koschei simply hadn't been able to resist, in reference to her often being called the leashed tigress of the council. That and the Walking Maiden jokes are getting really old. But since lunch was over, it unfortunately meant that the imbecile would come any minute and…
"Citizens rejoice. Your lord and master stands on high, playing track three." And, like the proverbial clockwork, the Master slid dancing through the main doors to the sounds of his favourite band, the Scissor Sisters, today with "I can't decide", him singing along as he first danced with Lucy and then forced the Doctor into his wheelchair, taking him for a push around the deck, blowing into the small living area to look with the two out of the window to what remained of Earth. "It's ready to rise, Doctor, Professor. The new Time Lord Empire. It's good, isn't it? Isn't it good? Anything? No? Anything?" They didn't react, save for the Professor meowing in defiance. "Stop that."
"You were the one deciding that I was just as much a big kitty as these Almatian Tigers the Almatian Royal Family decided to give to me as gift, so, my only answer is, meow," she answered, and, for good measure, she wiped her temple with the back of her hand like a feline cleaning her face.
"Argh." He turned to the Doctor again, gloating. "Oh, but they broke your hearts, didn't they, those Toclafane, ever since you worked out what they really are, Doctor. They say Martha Jones has come back home. Now why would she do that?"
"Leave her alone," the Doctor rasped. While his mother was perfectly capable of defending herself, pushing the man's buttons so he wouldn't focus on his hatred, that didn't include Martha.
"But you said something to her, didn't you? On the day I took control. What did you tell her?"
"We have one thing to say to you. You know what it is," the Doctor began, only to be cut off.
"Oh no, you don't!" the Master dismissed, pushing away the wheelchair so the Professor had to collect him and redo the tarpaulins. Valiant now entering Zone One airspace. Citizens rejoice, it sounded over the PA. The Master hopped up the stairs to the bridge area and clapped. "Come on, people! What are we doing? Launch Day in twenty four hours."
Behind his back, the other two Chronarchs held out three fingers, the Doctor against his thigh while the Professor used the gesture to scratch her cheek. Picking up their water buckets, the Professor left the room, just before Francine, who passed on the signal to Tish, who in turn passed it to her father mopping floors.
The Professor approached a rather grubby, tattered Jack in his lair, a boiler room on LD 2, in which he was chained to two pillars by the wrists, forced to stand all the time. At least he doesn't underestimate him. "Afternoon, Mega. Ah, smell that country air. Makes me long for a good hot bath. Yeah. What do I get? Ice buckets. Some hotel. Last time I book over the internet," Jack joked.
Making a sour face, the woman held up the two buckets of water. "Do you want a cleanup or feel like shit for another month? I even managed some soap."
"I don't know…"
"It's warm water, you collossal flirt. Took some effort to get, Captain."
"Splash away, Milady," he grinned.
As she washed off the worst smudges, she held the three fingers against his neck, causing him to wink.
Martha watched as a patrolling Toclafane forced her current compatriot to identify himself, careful not to break the perception filter. After they flew off, Milligan turned around to her, confused. "But they didn't see you."
Grinning, she pulled out the key. "How do you think I travelled the world?" They walked back to his van. "Because the Master set up Archangel, that mobile network, fifteen satellites around the planet, but really it's transmitting this low level psychic field. That's how everyone got hypnotised into thinking he was Harold Saxon."
"Saxon. Feels like years ago," Milligan sighed.
"But the key's tuned in to the same frequency. Makes me sort of not invisible, just unnoticeable."
"Well, I can see you."
"That's because you wanted to. And you know specifically what to look for. Like searching for something really hard." She noticed the odd look he gave her. "Is there a Mrs Milligan?"
Tom looked away, the lines in his older-than-he-is face becoming more pronounced. "Not any longer. It's why I fight. What about you?"
"There is someone. I'm trying to save him, but sometimes, I wonder if I can do it," she breathed, thinking of the Doctor's last few words to her before she started her journey. Jaze-turre sal, lah lairelai – I love you, my everything. She shook her head. "Come on, I've got to find this Docherty woman."
"We'll have to wait until the next work shift. What time is it now?"
"It's nearly three o'clock."
Plan Three – stealing the Master's laser screwdriver and incapacitate him with it – backfired as the Doctor couldn't get the thing to work. Smirking, the Master bent down and took it from his hands. "Isomorphic controls. I'm not stupid enough for generic controls around her." He punched the older man, who fell into his mother. "Which means they only work for me. Like this." Taking aim, he shot just over the Professor's head, and then again at Francine, again missing only by centimetres and burning her leg. "Say sorry!"
"Sorry. Sorry. Sorry," Francine gnawed out.
"Mum!" Tish yelled, running over.
"Fall into the void," the Professor hissed in New High Gallifreyan, causing the Master to flinch.
"Dare saying that again, and you won't like the consequences, Lungbarrow." He knew exactly what that old phrase meant – in Gallifreyan, the word for "hell" translated into "void" in English. "Didn't you learn anything from the blessed Saint Martha? Siding with the Doctor is a very dangerous thing to do." He nodded at the guards and gestured at the Joneses. "Take them away." Snatching the Doctor from his field bed where the Professor had put him, he dumped him into a swivelling chair and sat down on the conference table. "There you go, Gramps. Oh, do you know, I remember the days when the Doctor, oh, that famous Doctor, was waging a Time War, battling Sea Devils and Axons. He sealed the rift at the Medusa Cascade single-handed, not even an adult, his impossibly proud mother watching. And look at them now." The Professor glared at him, unclipping the chain connecting her collar with the wall and putting on the kitty bell again. "Stealing screwdrivers. How did he ever come to this? Oh yeah, me!" he laughed.
"I just need you to listen," the Doctor wheezed.
"No, it's my turn. Revenge! Best served hot. And this time, it's a message for Miss Jones," he hissed, then signalled for an Archangel broadcast to be prepared. A few minutes later, he had it all set up, and pushed the Doctor before the camera. "My people. Salutations on this, the eve of war. Lovely woman. But I know there's all sorts of whispers down there. Stories of a child, walking the Earth, giving you hope. But I ask you, how much hope has this man got?" He turned the camera on the Doctor. "Say hello, Gandalf. Except, he's not that old, but he's an alien with a much greater lifespan than you stunted little apes. But what if it showed?" He snapped the screwdriver into Lazarus mode. "What if I suspend your capacity to regenerate? All nine hundred and three years of your life, Doctor. What if we could see them?"
Just in the moment the Master activated the beam, a shrieking "Mal!" pierced the air, and The Doctor was pushed back as the Professor threw herself into the way. "Oh ho, you really did it, Professor. Very well. Let's see how it feels to you to heal 903 years of aging in just a minute. More, and more, and more. Down you go, Professor. Down, down, down the years." Finally, the convulsions and screams ended, and, to everyone's utter bewilderment, the woman hadn't changed one bit, save for the fact that she had collapsed right at the feet of her son, the long hair spilling onto the floor. "Look at that abomination that is his mother. Can't even age – heals faster than aging." He bent down to her. "Aging is cellular damage by three seconds a unit. But you, the only surviving Restoration-using Time Lord, heal at 2.2 seconds a unit, causing you to look forever like 132. But even you can suffer the pains of years, just not like the rest of the universe." He turned back to the camera again. "Received and understood, Miss Jones?" He turned off the broadcast. "Take her to the other abomination until she's recovered. She won't resist."
Before the Doctor could really protest, two guards snatched her and dragged her away.
Down on Earth, the whole stunt had the opposite effect on the receiver. Martha smiled. "They're still alive."
Deep inside the Valiant, the Professor woke at Jack's bare feet. "One word. Ouch."
"I'd say. That was pretty stupid of you, even though I understand why you did it," the immortal Torchwood director smiled.
"Why are you baref– oh no, you didn't…"
"I've given you some of my life force, yeah. Just enough to jumpstart your excess Artron energy to finish the job of getting you back on your feet without emaciating you. No biggy. Just help me put on my boots please, I had to toe them off." Jack grinned down at her.
Sitting up, she shook her head, reaching for the man's boots. "To you, dying is more of a bad habit than flirting, isn't it?"
"Guilty as charged, Milady." He shook his head. "After all the time you took care of all of us, that's the least I can do."
Meanwhile, the Joneses sat in their cell, cuffed to their beds. "I'm going to kill him, if I have to wait a hundred years. I'm going to kill the Master," Francine vowed. "One day he'll let his guard down. One day. And I'll be there."
"No, that's my job. I'll swear to you, I'd shoot that man stone dead," Clive interjected. In answer, Francine leant back and kissed him.
"I'll get him. Even if it kills me," Tish gnawed out sotto voce.
"Don't say that," her mother frowned.
"I mean it. That man made us stand on deck and watch the islands of Japan burning. Millions of people. All because he's not what they are and he wanted to get Martha. I swear to you, he's dead," Tish hissed.
At that, Francine closed her eyes, remembering an evening on the bridge, not that long ago.
November 26, 2008
It was night, and the Master had retreated to quarters, leaving Francine free to sneak up to the bridge. Time to get some answers. Clive had nagged his ex-wife endlessly for trusting the government more than her own daughter, and, as much as it pained her to say so, she knew he was right; moreover, it was high time (oh the irony of that word) she apologised to Martha's friend, who, by all accounts, had saved them from Lazarus back then. And if she could not talk to him directly – being aged beyond measure must have taken its toll – she could at least talk to the woman claiming to be his mother (which the strange immortal RAF Group Captain had insisted she was). Besides, she was sure they would appreciate eating something better than oatmeal… "Ma'am." She pushed the tarpaulin curtaining their living space aside.
The Professor sat by her son's bedside, not looking up. He had been overly tired today, and she had been forced to suggest sleep to her son, something you didn't do usually to anyone over 120, and her son was middle age already. "Quiet please."
Taking it as a non-rejection, Francine held the plate with sandwiches and the thermos full of tea under her nose. "I thought you could use something better than the grub he allows you."
A mirage of a grin twitched the Time Lady's corner of her mouth, and she took the offered food and drink, finally turning to Francine. "Thanks, although I doubt he would be able to really eat it; still, thank you." Pouring herself a cup, she took a sip and sighed appreciatively. "Not bad at all. But you are not here to just do a misery loves company routine, are you?"
"No." She shook her head. "May I sit?"
"Be my guest," the Professor pointed at her own field bed.
Francine sat down. "I'm sorry. For everything."
"I have heard that before," the Valeyard grumbled into her tea. "But excuse us if we're a little irritated at a blatant display of idiocy and distrust like the one you showed."
"You trusted the words of a complete stranger over the words of your own daughters, your own children. What mother in all of creation doesn't trust her children when they never did anything wrong?" she hissed.
Francine flinched back at the downright murderous look in the other woman's eyes. The glare she used was nothing she had ever seen in any person, fuelled by fanatic devotion and more time and experience than she could really imagine. She hung her head, unable to meet that ancient gaze. "Obviously me," she whispered. "And judging from your current behaviour, that is unforgivable in your eyes."
"I am 15.637 years old. Of that time, I spent 15.132 years as the Head of my House, and I have never even dared to betray any of my family like that. Not my sons, not the loomed cousins, not anyone. I'd rather fall into a black hole!" The Professor downed her tea and forced her to face her. "I have been raised in the belief that family is always first, and to love them with all you are. To be the anchor, a beacon of security and love to any of blood and name, that is the born duty of a Head of House, of the parents of a family. And you, Francine Anita Obeng Jones, have done the worst possible job in that. As far as I have heard, the whole peacekeeping in your household was done not by you, not even your husband, but by your younger daughter. And the one time she goes off to do something she wants to do, you betray her."
Francine was pretty sure if the woman's glare got any icier, she'd freeze to stone. "If… if I had been a member of your… well… whatever you call it… what would you have done to me?" she stuttered.
"Unnamed you. Erased you from the family records and forbid anyone of blood or name to ever even speak of you again." The icy rage waned a little as the Professor sighed with regrets. "And a Gallifreyan without a House, without a clan, without a name… is nothing. It's worse than death to us." She let her go and started on one of the sandwiches.
Shaking, the human looked down again. "You really are alien, aren't you. You don't age like we do. Birth Names so important you use a title to hide it. But I am really, really sorry. I… I saw them together that night, and all I could see was my daughter with an older guy, with her pining for him." She gulped. "I never even thanked him." Francine sighed. "There is so much I don't understand. I get that the Master is cuckoo bananas, but I don't get why he hates the two of you so much that he's willing to put off his plans in a moment just to annoy you. I also don't understand the two of you. If I understand Captain Harkness right, him more than you, but still both of you have willingly risked your lives and sanity for our world, repeatedly. A world not your own."
"We like this place, it's home away from home. About the Master…" She shook her head. "Do you really want to know all these things? Time Lords, Houses and all?"
"Where do you think Martha has her curiosity from?" Francine smiled weakly. In a way, this Professor was very similar to herself, just that she wouldn't trust a shady someone over the word of her child, if her gentle care of the incapacitated Doctor was any indicator. And she's older than writing.
Nodding slowly, the Professor closed her eyes. "Where do you wish to start?"
"Tell it in an order that makes sense," Martha's mother answered. "I cannot pretend to even know your culture, your ways – just that you wouldn't think to do what I did is proof enough–"
"Do you really believe that justified in any culture?" the Time Lady hissed. "Even protecting your children, to go behind their backs… To decide what's best for them! How can you belittle them like that?!"
The glare was back, and Francine wished really she could take back her actions and words. "Don't kick the dog while she's down. It's just, we don't have that kind of family structure any longer or at all. Please… make me understand. What is a House? Why is it so important in this? And why does he hate you two so much?"
Taking a deep breath, the Professor extinguished her glaring anger, and switched to lecture mode. "Some people say it started when the Master was just eight, at initiation into Academy. I'm not going into details, but going through initiation as a Time Lord or Lady had three possible results: Some will be inspired, some will run away, and some will go mad. What happened to him is a little obvious, isn't it? Got brain-fried. And it didn't help that on his first day, he ran into my eldest who is now the Doctor, over which the student body of the Academy had a rather bipolar view."
"Well, you asked what a Great House of Gallifrey is. By definition, these were family clans who had brought forth at least one full Time Lord whose accomplishments in life were outstanding enough to elevate the family: a hero-ancestor so to speak. They were the equivalent of nobility – Time Lords were the oligarch order and class of our world. And our family, our House… was the oldest of all of them. You heard him, on the day your world burnt. The Most Exalted and Most Ancient Great House of Lungbarrow. And the Doctor… was its oldest born child, a son of the main line. My son. By the time he became an adult, I had named him my heir, rare enough considering a House is usually matrilineal, but my daughter wasn't exactly up to standard. We're Oldblood, predating the modern Time Lords as a clan of standing, consisting only of Time Lords." She smirked a little. "The Master is an Oakdown. A Newblood House – these were family clans who came into rank far later, and thus did not have the same weight. They also had not as many traditions, or the same strong bonds, and some of their members weren't Time Lords. For them, regeneration was as trivial as changing your style of dress."
"And for you Oldbloods?"
"A regeneration is one of your lives. We don't waste them. So, imagine you are the Master, fresh from your initiation, and the first of the older students you run in is no-one less but the »prince« of the oldest and most powerful House of your whole world, and the son of a woman most of your people have a more-or-less severe case of hero worship with. Only, that oddball has horrid grades for the first few years you know him."
"I'd think the guy is crazy."
"That's what Koschei did think. And then, we managed to put his worldview upside down. So, you've met a typical Lungbarrow, a few years your senior, with his family's usual late-blooming tendencies and a thirst for fresh air and running you can't understand because you live in the Citadel, the capitol of your people. Nonetheless, you two become good friends, up to the point said Lungbarrow invites you home for summer… and you are confronted with a totally different attitude. While you are used to rather stuffy behaviour and formality typical for Time Lords, your friend runs up to his Head of House who happens to be his mother too, and calls her janayi, that's like saying mummy or mum, and she answers by calling him taruelai, beloved child. And you can't help it but be envious of that House full of genuine laughter your friend can return to, when your own mother wouldn't even give birth to you, preferring a machine to make you."
Francine winced. "Not good. Why did you need machines anyway?"
"Most Gallifreyans were sterile." The Professor furrowed her brow in thought. "Ages ago, in the Dark Times, a PSI-based plague called Pythia's curse – for it was brought on by the last ruling Pythia as revenge – ravaged our people, leaving most of us infertile. But the founder of the modern Time Lord society, Rassilon aka The Designer, was an inventor, and not easily beaten. He created a machine called the Loom on which to grow new children by weaving DNA. But that practice only sustained us, it wouldn't end the problem, and he knew so. Also, children of a clan loom were more akin to cousins than siblings unless one of the parent DNA was of a fertile. Hence, it was preferable to weave together the DNA of a fertile and an infertile, so the next generation had more fertiles. The mark of a child of a main line of a Great House, especially the heir and the Head of House was therefore being begotten and born instead of loomed, and it was considered an act of vanity and laziness to loom your children if at least one of you was perfectly capable of naturally producing children. These particular loomlings were called halflings if one wanted to insult them."
"To imply they were less than full Time Lord, right?" Francine shuddered. "Isn't that a little…"
"Racist? I never said it wasn't. But it is something that hits a nerve with him. He can't stand it when people are better than him in some way, and we had that as a birthright." She sighed. "The whole thing doesn't apply to pure loomling cousins, and there was a limit how many a House could have per generation of these. My House was, is, and always will be a clan of protectors and fix-it-people. He is the very antithesis to that, always has been. He hypnotised people, my son freed them of it. He tried to conquer some place, one of us stopped him and helped the people. And… finally, there's me."
"So he hates your son for being the other side of the coin. And what about you?" It was a surreal thing to Francine, hearing stories of a society based on families who could trace back their ancestry for over 10 million years, travelled in space and time, and apparently had a somewhat diverse outlook on reproduction, delivered as casually as a university lecture.
"Ever since he's been an adult, he's been trying to become immortal, for he's afraid of death," the Professor answered. "And here I am, never needing regeneration, never aging, stuck on the physical age of 132 because of a genetic quirk and technically immortal. On top of that, I am the Lord High Valeyard. That's a Law Enforcer job – I used to lead an organization which chased Time Lord criminals all over time and space. Reason enough?"
Francine nodded sadly. "Oh boy. An immortal policewoman and a healing man versus a mad conqueror with inferiority complexes."
"Look at his title-name. Psychiatrist's field day."
"The Master." Francine sighed, taking the empty thermos and plate. "So, he would do anything to hurt him, which in turn hurts you."
"Doctor lah taruelai denya. The Doctor is my son."
"Can he save us?"
"Can your daughter save us? If there's one thing I believe in, it is that nothing is impossible, just unlikely to prove." The Professor looked up. "You better leave. The Master won't be asleep for longer than four hours, that lazybone."
Francine nodded slowly and stood up. "As I said, I'm sorry. And good night, Professor."
"Good night, Francine Jones."
(End of Flashback)
Francine sighed. "I hope they are alright. The Doctor and the Professor."
The Master and Lucy snuck onto the bridge. It was midnight, and as the Oakdown expected, the Professor had taken his absence as invitation for an audacity, sitting in a chair instead of kneeling on the floor. "Good story, isn't it? You and your hearing. What stories of Earth Time must be telling you."
"My grandnephew could write better ones, and he was a nonsense poet," she answered without turning the swivelling chair around. "What do you want, Oakdown?"
"Let's talk, please."
The chair practically flipped around, and the Doctor sat up with a start. "For you to say 'please' this must be either important or a moment of gloating," the Professor lifted both eyebrows. Seeing the mark under Lucy's eye, she narrowed her own slightly. Since when has he taken to beating her?
"Both, actually." He sat down on the conference table. "Tomorrow, they launch. We're opening up a rift in the Braccatolian space. They won't see us coming. It's kind of scary."
"Then stop," the Doctor implored.
"Once the Empire is established, and there's a new Gallifrey in the heavens, maybe then, it stops." He stood up and got into their faces, whispering, "The drumming. The never ending drumbeat. Ever since I was a child. I looked into the vortex. That's when it chose me. The drumming, the call to war. Can't you hear it? Listen, it's there now. Right now. Tell me you can hear it, Doctor, Professor. Tell me."
"If you haven't figured out yet what you are hearing, I don't know what to do," she sighed.
"It's only you," the Doctor rasped.
At that, the Master smirked unexpectedly. "Good."
"Do you really think that the Antarians will let you do as it pleases you?" the younger Lungbarrow whispered. "This world is watched."
"They didn't lift a finger the last time, why should they do it now?"
"Last time, nobody asked. Have you never ever wondered why the Time War was fought all over history but in such a small amount of space? They confined it to that space, pushed back all its horrors from the rest of creation, since the High Council didn't ask for help." The Professor scowled. "But this time, you are attacking what is theirs – the playground of the angels."
Just then, a sphere floated in and sat down on a bird-perch-like pole in the middle of the table. "Tomorrow, the war. Tomorrow we rise, never to fall."
The Master swept his arm at the sphere. "You see? I'm doing it for them. You should be grateful. After all, you love them so very, very much, as do these winged crackpots which are your friends."
"And all you did was destroying the Great Reset by stealing the survivors."
"I took Lucy to Utopia. A Time Lord and his human companion. I took her to see the stars. Isn't that right, sweetheart?" he grinned, sitting down on a chair.
"I am actually surprised you managed to get there at all. You can't even read High Antarian."
"Why reading the bullshit when I can just follow the beacon frequency?"
"Trillions of years into the future, to the end of the universe," Lucy whispered.
"Tell them what you saw," the Master added.
"Dying. Everything dying. The whole of creation was falling apart, and I thought, there's no point. No point to anything. Not ever," she answered in a trance, like always.
"And it's all your fault," he gloated at the Doctor.
Both of them glared so in sync the Master knew he was no longer talking to a pair of individuals but House Lungbarrow, just for a moment. "This is your doing."
"Maybe, but who cares? You should have seen it, Lungbarrow. Furnaces burning. The last of humanity screaming at the dark," he mused, trying not to be shaken. "All that human invention that had sustained them across the eons. It all turned inwards. They cannibalised themselves."
"We made ourselves so pretty," the sphere on the table giggled.
"Regressing into children. But it didn't work. The universe was burning out around them. What point to the Great Reset if only the First are back in it?"
"Well, apparently you didn't read the footnotes to that story," the Professor hissed. "You made them like this, stole the survivors of the universe, and brought them here to slaughter their own ancestors. A paradox, for which you tortured his TARDIS."
"Valeyards and TARDISes. I tend to forget that they are your partners. Was it you who installed that annoying avatar module?" The Master laughed. "My masterpiece. A living TARDIS, strong enough to hold the paradox in place, allowing the past and the future to collide in infinite majesty."
"But you're changing history. Not just Earth, the entire universe," the Doctor argued, now leaning against his mother who had sat down at his side.
"I'm a Time Lord. I have that right."
"This statement alone would have been your death sentence."
"They're no longer here. You're the Last. I can do as I want."
"But even then, why come all this way just to destroy?" the Doctor argued.
"We come backwards in time all to build a brand new empire lasting one hundred trillion years," the sphere answered.
"With me as their master. Time Lord and humans combined. Haven't you always dreamt of that, Doctor?" the Master grinned. He got up and stared down at them. "Human race, greatest monsters of them all."
"Says the man even the council considered the most evil and most corrupt creature our race ever produced, and that says something for a society built by a madman," the Professor gloated.
Harrumphing, the Master turned around. "Night then." The three left the room.
Tarping their 'quarters' off again, the Professor grinned sarcastically. "You know what they say about people like him?"
The Doctor smiled sadly. "They miss the obvious details. Let's go to sleep, we have still a part to play."
"That we do," she agreed. Pressing a kiss against her index and middle finger, she touched his forehead. "Good night, lah taruelai."
"Good night, janayi."
Sunrise over London, on the Valiant. And it was another day for the Master to gloat, this time in grand fashion as he gathered all his prisoners on the bridge: The Joneses, Jack, and of course the permanent occupants of said bridge. "Citizens of Earth, rejoice and observe," he called through the PA. On cue, a pair of guards brought Martha in, past her family, past the Torchwood director, past her beloved and his mother, pushing her in front of the Master. Standing on the stairs to the command part, he held out his hand. "Your teleport device, in case you thought I'd forgotten."
Saying nothing, she threw the Vortex manipulator to him, concentrating on the watch under her jacket instead. The stage is set, Professor. I'm so glad to see you two.
Same here, young one, the Valeyard sent back discreetly.
"And now, kneel," the Master ordered, not noticing the exchange. "Down below, the fleet is ready to launch. Two hundred thousand ships set to burn across the universe. Are we ready?"
A controller, clearly as insane as the Master, called through PA, "The fleet awaits your signal. Rejoice!"
The psycho took another theatrical look at his watch. "Three minutes to align the black hole converters. Counting down!" Just then, a digital timer started clicking down the seconds. "I never could resist a ticking clock. My children, are you ready?"
High in the sky, the spheres had gathered in huge flying ribbons. "We will fly and blaze and slice. We will fly and blaze and slice!"
"At zero, to mark this day, the child Martha Jones, will die. My first blood," he announced, grinning, but frowned as she didn't react. "Any last words? No? Such a disappointment, this one. Days of old, Doctor, you had companions who could absorb the time vortex. This one's useless. Bow your head," he ordered, aiming at her with the laser screwdriver. "And so it falls to me, as Master of all, to establish from this day, a new Order of Time Lords. From this day forward–" Martha laughed, stopping his speech. "What. What's so funny?" He lowered the laser.
"A gun?" she raised an eyebrow in a good imitation of the other two Chronarchs.
"What about it?"
"A gun in four parts?"
"Yes, and I destroyed it."
"A gun in four parts scattered across the world? I mean, come on, did you really believe that?"
"As if we would ask her to kill," the Doctor and the Professor commented. "I could have done that myself, loon," the ancient Time Lady continued. "But it's not the point."
"Oh well, it doesn't matter. I've got her exactly where I want her," the Master gloated.
"But I knew what Professor Docherty would do. The Resistance knew about her son," Martha smiled. "I told her about the gun, so she'd get me here at the right time."
"Oh, but you're still going to die."
"Don't you want to know what I was doing, travelling the world?"
"Tell me," he mocked.
"I told a story, that's all. No weapons, just words. I did just what the Doctor said. I went across the continents all on my own. And everywhere I went, I found the people, and I told them my story. I told them about the Doctor." She continued to smile, but it was no longer directed at the Master. "And I told them to pass it on, to spread the word so that everyone would know about the Doctor."
"Faith and hope? Is that all?"
"No, because I gave them an instruction, just as the Doctor said," she gave back, remembering. Use the countdown. Good luck. Jaze-turre sal, lairelai. She stood up, becoming bolder. "I told them that if everyone thinks of one word, at one specific time–"
"Nothing will happen! Is that your weapon? Prayer?"
Martha continued as if he'd never spoken. "Right across the world, in word, just one thought at one moment… but with fifteen satellites!" To her satisfaction, he grew worried.
Article 9. Always ask the universal question – what?
"The Archangel Network," Jack realised.
"A telepathic field binding the whole human race together, with all of them, every single person on Earth, thinking the same thing at the same time. And that word… is Doctor."
Just as the timer hit zero, The Doctor was wrapped in an insane amount of white, glowing energy, enough to build a solar system. "Stop it. No, no, no, no, you don't!" the Master protested, realising what was happening – again. You are not going to use my own creation against me again!
Grinning, Jack closed his eyes, calling the name of his friend. "Doctor."
Francine nodded slowly, and both her, Clive and Tish joined the Captain. "Doctor."
The screens, even the air, the entire world was chanting the Doctor's name.
The Doctor, now empowered with the psychic energy of the entire human race, first used it to heal himself, regaining his perpetually youthful appearance, then, he vanished the Artron inhibitor collar and the kitty collar around his mother's neck and healed her, who then exploded in a flash of green and golden light as her Restoration realigned itself with her Artron energy. Once the power was back, the Professor took two steps back, a rather nasty smirk twisting the corners of her mouth, the kind on whose receiving end usually only criminals found themselves. The hazel eyes focussed on her son as she whispered in unison with Martha, "Doctor."
"I order you to stop!" the Master yelled.
"We've had a whole year to tune ourselves into the psychic network and integrate with its matrices," the Doctor explained as the last vestiges of old age and a year of mistreatment fell off like they never had been there. "The one thing you can't do…"
"Is stop them thinking," the Professor finished, focussing every ounce of her own mental power on her son, and together with Martha and Jack, she laughed as all their efforts gained fruition.
The Doctor was levitating now. "Tell us the human race is degenerate now, when they can do this." Martha ran over to her family, enveloping them in a group hug.
"NO!" Aiming the laser screwdriver at the Doctor, the Master fired it, but, using the energy, his adversary blocked it with ease.
"I'm sorry. I'm so sorry," the Doctor continued.
"Then I'll kill them!" the Master threatened, aiming at the laser at Martha and the Professor, but a simple gesture wiped the weapon from his hands. No! No! Not again, no! "You can't do this. You can't do it. It's not fair!" he whined.
"Since when do you care about fairness? The focussed psychic energy of five billion human beings. Enough power to make or unmake the world," the Professor smirked. "Turns the focus point into a god."
"And you know what happens now," the Doctor shook his head, floating towards the Master.
The younger Time Lord stumbled back. "No! No! No! No!"
"You wouldn't listen…"
"Because you know what I'm going to say…"
"NO!" Having nowhere to run, the Master curled up in a ball in the corner.
The Doctor landed and, together with his mother, wrapped his arms around him. "We forgive you."
"Foolish child, it's okay," the Professor whispered in Gallifreyan, in a tone reserved for petulant children.
"My children," he whispered.
"Protect the paradox. Protect the paradox. Protect the paradox!" the spheres called over PA as they left orbit, racing towards Valiant.
The two Lungbarrow let go of the Master and got up, turning to Jack. "Captain, the paradox machine!"
"You men, with me! You stay here." The guards, now free of the Master, gladly followed the orders of Jack, and split in two groups, one of them racing down to Level 4 with him.
Out of the corner of his eye, the Doctor noticed the Master pulling out Jack's vortex manipulator, and dove for it with his mother. "No!"
Jack and the guards skidded to a halt in front of the TARDIS, which was guarded by four spheres. "Can't get in. We'd get slaughtered," one of the guards groaned.
"Yeah. Happens to me a lot," Jack shrugged, going in.
They reappeared in a quarry over a shipyard. "Now it ends, Doctor. Now it ends!"
"You're the sorest loser I ever met, and given I had to deal with Rassilon, that says something," the Professor scoffed, brushing herself off.
"We've got control of the Valiant. You can't launch," the Doctor continued.
"Oh, but I've got this. Black hole converter inside every ship. If I can't have this world, Doctor, then neither can you. We shall stand upon this Earth together, as it burns," he threatened, holding up a remote control.
They approached him from both sides, shaking their heads. The entity was back. "Weapon after weapon after weapon. All you do is talk and talk and talk. But over all these years and all these disasters, we've always had the greatest secret of them all." The Master shrank back, staggering under their renewed full psychic presence. "We know you. Explode those ships, you'll kill yourself. That's the one thing you can never do. Always so afraid of dying, as Death is your master, so that when confronted with those who are not, you lash out."
Just then, Galadriel appeared in a flash of light behind him, her consort Koral taking the front. "And don't think you can do as you please under my watch, not when you are stupid enough to expose yourself to me." The Antarian Watcher-Guardian snatched the device out of his hands, and nodded at mother and son. Just then, a storm rang throughout time. "Take care," she grinned, snapping her fingers, and the three Chronarchs reappeared on the Valiant.
Before the spheres could reach the Valiant, they simply vanished – Jack had done it, destroyed the paradox machine. Papers were thrown about as the mighty ship was shaking all over. "Everyone get down! Time is reversing!" the Doctor yelled, just as Martha was thrown into his arms. Laughing, he kissed her on the lips. Martha Jones, you're a star! "Jaze-turre sal, lairelai!"
You're pretty good too, Thete! "Jaze-turre tir sal, lairelai!" Repeating his words from a year ago, she smiled at him as they sat on the floor, much to the shock of Francine. Clive simply grinned as the pair used the chaos to snog each other's faces off.
As the storm ceased to be, the Professor jumped into action mode, hopping up the stairs to the controls. "The paradox is broken. We've reverted back, one year and one day. Two minutes past eight in the morning," she announced, activating the com console. "This is UNIT Central. What's happened up there? We just saw the President assassinated!" a young man called through the system before the Professor turned it off again. "Just after the President was killed, but just before the spheres arrived. Everything back to normal. Planet Earth restored. None of it happened. The rockets, the terror. It never was."
"What about the spheres?" Tish wondered.
"Back at the end of the universe. And from what I know about watchers like Lady Galadriel, she'll make sure it will be undone too. Humanity will see the next evolution of the universe," the Doctor smiled. "And without the Master to control them, the Antarians won't have to wait any longer for the Great Reset."
"But I can remember it," Francine interjected bitterly.
"We're at the eye of the storm. Temporal Mechanics at their best. The only ones who'll ever know," the Professor sighed, having walked to the other side of the room to block the door. "The Valiant, and the watcher-guardians of Earth. A year that never was."
The Master glared at her, knowing she had correctly guessed his intent of making a run for it. "Time-forsaken Valeyard."
"Thanks, loony." Now it was her place to gloat.
Jack entered the room behind her. "Wow, looks like you've got everything under control. So, what do we do with this one?" He pointed at the Master standing in between them.
"We kill him," Clive snarled.
"We execute him," Tish agreed.
"I don't think that's the solution," the Doctor denied, getting to his feet with Martha.
Suddenly, a click resounded in the air, and Francine had one of the guns which had been shaken off the guards in the storm in her hands, cocked and ready. She aimed at the Master. "Oh, I think so. Because all those things, they still happened because of him. I saw them."
"Go on. Do it," the Master urged, already filing the new information away. That human girl and the Doctor. How cozy.
"Francine, you're better than him. Don't stoop to the level of a nothing like him," the Professor shook her head, looking the other mother into the eye. "Don't become like him. You are stronger than him."
Francine took a deep shuddering breath, and let the gun drop to the floor again, kicking it away. Clive scrambled down the stairs, hugging her as she sobbed from the strain.
"You still haven't answered the question. What happens to me?" the Master asked.
"I always wondered when I would finally say these words and mean it, but… The scion of Oakdown known as The Master, this is the Lord High Valeyard, the Law of Gallifrey," the Professor smirked. "You are under arrest."
"What are you going to do with him?" Jack frowned. "You can't trust him."
"I'd rather take him to the Shadow Proclamation and cash him in for the bounties on his head, but that's just me," the Professor shrugged. "But I know a few places with padded walls and hypnosis-immune personnel we can dump him on. Maybe they can do something about that drumbeat."
He sagged together. "I was wrong. The monster is you, who still lives, unbroken."
"In High Antarian and Eternal, that's a compliment." She turned away from him, joining the Joneses, who watched as the Doctor and Martha kissed again.
Suddenly, a shot rang through the air, and Martha dropped to the floor, struggling to breathe. "Martha!"
The Master sat with a wicked smile on the floor, the gun from earlier in hands, and welcomed the retaliating shots by Jack and the Professor, knowing he had managed to make the Doctor's victory a Pyrrhic one. "How about this one? I win," he rattled before dying – the shots had been through both hearts.
Francine stood over the Doctor and her daughter, shell-shocked. No…
"Hold on, lairelai, please, stay with me," the Doctor begged on his knees, holding her close.
"I… am… not that easy… to get rid of, lairelai."
The Professor was already two steps further, the mind switching into healer mode. She searched the Master's pockets, and pulled out her Chronos controller and screwdriver in triumph. "She's not dead yet, not if I have something to say about it!" A second later, a miniature storm announced the arrival of the woman's TARDIS. Not waiting, she stormed over, and fastened the small computer around Martha's wrist. "Activating stasis field, step back, Thete." She pried him off her, just in time to see a stasis field wrapping around Martha. The bleeding stopped. "Bullet caught her in the lungs, through and through. She'll drown in her own blood if we don't do something."
"How long until the stasis runs out?" Jack asked, as the Doctor was clearly too shaken.
"10 minutes, it's not recharged. We'll have to get her to the sickbay in my TARDIS," she waved at the silver filing cabinet.
For some reason, that made the Doctor snap out of it, and he gathered Martha's frozen form in his arms, walking gently towards the TARDIS.
"That's just a box!"
"It's just looking like one. It's my spaceship, now, Francine, please." Snapping her fingers, she unlocked the ship, leading them inside. "Arara, please, emergency architectural reconfiguration protocol five."
"Confirmed," the Professor's TARDIS' avatar answered, rearranging the rooms so the sickbay was closest. "First door on the left."
The Joneses followed Jack through the door, and gasped. "It's…"
"Bigger on the inside," Jack finished. "And it's not 'it' but 'she'. Arara, right?"
"Correct, my unchanging friend. Second door on the left, observation room."
The Doctor placed Martha on the designated diagnostic table. "What now?" he whispered hoarsely. "I cannot lose her, janayi, I just can't."
"Press the big blue button first please, I want my controller back." Seeing the ship-fuelled stasis taking over, she snatched the small tool from Martha's wrist. "And if I have anything to say about it, you won't. However…"
"What is it?" Francine demanded over the intercom from the observation room.
"She's lost a lot of blood, and the damage is too extensive for normal healing. On top of that, she is malnourished and generally exhausted," the Professor read off the scanners. "There is a way… but the price is high."
"What… is… it?" Martha rasped, the shock having worn off.
"Don't speak. Hold on, I'll link you with the TARDIS…" Hands dancing over the console. "There."
"What… wow, now this is different. By the way, Arara is awesome and insane."
"I know, but after all, she's older than me. Listen Martha. I can heal you… but then again I can't."
"The table she's on, it's a Restoration Table. But it's not meant for humans. Too fragile," she explained. "Its effects are so strong it would kill her, or turn her into a zombie."
"So I am still going to die?"
"There is a way out, but… the reason I am hesitating is it would cost you your humanity," she sighed, the hands already pulling up the programs. "This table is adapted from an Antarian surgery table, meant for Gallifreyans, Martha. It's your choice."
"You mean, either I become a Time Lady, or I die?" The holographic representation of Martha on the screen shook her head. "I don't want to die. And besides… remember Kaletiel's prophecy?"
The Doctor and the Professor froze. "»Assiah's child walks Time's wild.« In High Antarian, the phrase 'Time's wild' is… a temporal paradox," the Doctor realised. "Assiah is Earth, Sol III in High Antarian."
"You said it yourself, Professor. The next line is describing me. Oh, it's so weird having access to your logs."
"»Child of Assiah, Child of Assiah no longer, Walking Maiden, Child of Gallifrey, Chosen One.« You really want to do that? There is no turning back."
"I won't leave him like that. Besides, I promised he could ask me a question, and I can hardly answer when I'm dead," she answered. "Do it!"
"Step back, Theta." She disconnected Martha from the system and put her into a state of awareness – this was better done conscious.
"Step. Back." As he did as ordered, she pulled a lever on the console, and a disturbingly familiar headset descended from the ceiling. "Now, who will be the lucky one… medicine." Rushing to the wall, she touched a panel, causing a few electronic beeps, and then, a shelf extended from the ground, filled to the brim with…
"What the…" The metal racks were filled with Gallifreyan fob watches, most in silver, some coloured like the ones his mother used, and a few even golden.
"Knowledge. Artron energy. The power of Time Lords I couldn't save, but who wanted to help nonetheless. The stored essence facilitates the transformation, and Martha needs all the help she can get," she answered tonelessly. "Ah, there. He'll do nicely." The watch she selected was white, its engravings dark blue.
"You inversed the Chameleon Arch programming to change a younger race into a Time Lord?" he whispered.
She closed the storage. "Hm-hm. It's a reversal. Mind you, before the Time War, that was mostly a thought experiment. Playing around with figures and facts and programs." Pressing the watch into a slot on the console, she went on to place the headset on Martha, connecting it with the table. "What you see is the Evolution Arch, the product of a bored Healer Geneticist's mind playing for 12.000 years. Setting genetic House information, biodata tolerance limits… mind her becoming Scaltata? It suits her best," she rambled, the mind in full throttle mode as the hands danced over the console. "The table will set in the moment the transformation and upload is complete. After that, Zero Room."
The Doctor couldn't help it. He sat down. "Whose watch is that?"
The Professor stopped for a second. "Someone very dear to me, I think you might remember his name. The Surgeon."
"Uncle?" the Doctor whispered.
In answer, the Professor hit the biggest button, sending Martha to a world of hurt, and irrevocably into the orbit of Kasterborianii.
In the observation room, Francine struggled against Jack. "Let me go!"
"You can't go in there, it's too late!" Harkness hissed. "Look Francine, they don't like her suffering either, but changing species that quickly hurts. You'll get in the way."
Clive took it with surprising calmness, but then again, he had seen enough of the Doctor's feelings concerning his daughter over the last year, specifically, the way he perked up when he had been sure the Master hadn't been around and news concerning Martha had come in. When the despot had been in, he had been downright catatonic. "Let it be, Francine. You saw them when the Master was beaten. They wouldn't do this if there was a choice."
Tish pressed her hands to her mouth. "Is this going to take long?"
"From what I know, no."
Suddenly, Martha's shaking ebbed away, and, removing the headset, the Doctor carried her out of the room. "Where is he taking her?"
"Come in," the Professor called, pressing a button, so the force field holding them back vanished. "Give me a moment to tidy up." She picked up the watch.
Deep in the Professor's TARDIS, the customary dodecagonal Zero Room held two occupants, both floating in midair, but only one of them being conscious. Indeed, the Doctor used the room's freedom to »sit« cross-legged at Martha's side, who currently occupied the air in about a metre over the floor. "I'm sorry, lairelai," he whispered, not that she heard him – a Zero Room was meant to cut off connection, a place of absolute rest. I think I need a break too. I am still not quite used to that kind of mental discipline. How does mother cope? Right. Valeyard training usually takes 25 years, not 25 seconds. Cracking his neck, he stretched out at Martha's side, and fell asleep.
"You see, this whole process is a lot like a rather violent regeneration – that's how our people normally live for thousands of years, changing bodies when we die excluding certain circumstances," the Professor explained as she locked her brother's knowledge repository watch away, deactivating the equipment. She picked up a small medkit. "Like being shot or stabbed through both hearts or drowning extremely quickly. So, the best place for her to recover completely is the Zero Room. It's cut off from the random electrical and radiological influences of the rest of the universe. Come on, I'll take you to the Zero observatory."
The humans followed her out of the sickbay. "Hold on, we can't go in?" Francine half-protested.
"You're not telepathic or even empathic. Jack could, but he's a universal fact at the same time, making him a tough thing to deal with, especially for a new Time Lady like Martha is now. To us, he feels just wrong," she explained, leading them deep into the TARDIS. "Makes us want to run for the hills. I can dismiss it because I deal with facts professionally. A regeneration is done ideally in a low-grade telepathic field, which both the Zero Room and my son will provide. The presence of another Chronarch is recommended to assist with any difficulties, and the newly-regenerated best remains in a state of total tranquillity for a time afterward to allow the mind and body to properly adjust. Also things the Zero Room provides, as it has a calming, restful atmosphere." Opening a door, they ended in a room occupied by a console and a huge viewscreen, currently showing the insides of the darkened Zero Room. A couple of sofas were strewn about. "Have a seat. This will take a while. I'll put the TARDIS into temporal orbit, so, be right back." She rushed out.
Clive turned to Jack. "What's a temporal orbit?"
"Essentially, she makes her TARDIS go back and forth in time at the same pace, causing it to be stuck on the same second," the ex-Time Agent answered after a while. "That way, we could be in here for months, and not a second will have passed for anyone else." He took a good sniff of the air, and grinned. "And here comes some of the best tea in the universe."
"Don't exaggerate, my unchanging friend," the Professor dismissed, carrying a tea tray as she came in. "Tea anyone?"
"Sure. Have another tea quote?" Jack teased.
"»But this will cure all streight, one sip of this will bathe the drooping spirits in delight beyond the bliss of dreams. Be wise, and taste.« John Milton's words, still true today. And stop teasing, it's an art that takes three millennia to perfect," she lifted an eyebrow as she poured the tea.
"So when can we see her?" Tish demanded.
Setting down her own cup, she checked the console. "Another hour or so. I'll go down then to check on them."
"Let them have some rest, please. It's really tough work. The room already makes it easier; outside, it would take up to eight hours for her to recover." The Time Lady sat down amongst them and poured more of the Illawarra. "You seem to have more questions anyway."
Francine shot the screen a look, where it was clearly seen that Doctor and Companion were wrapped around each other in midair. "Apart from the fact that they're floating, how long has this been going on?"
"Depends on what kind of time you're talking," the Professor muttered, causing Jack to snicker.
"I don't think that's funny, Captain," Francine glared.
"Oh, but it is. The Professor's problem is something I had to learn in the Time Agency's Academy, it's a language barrier and a difference in science. In her language, Gallifreyan, there are own tenses for personal relative time, past, present, future," Jack grinned. "What she's asking is if you are speaking of relative chronological or actual absolute time."
"You can speak Gallifreyan?" The Professor was more than just a little surprised, but it gave her a few more suspicions what the Time Agency was (going to be) founded for. And by whom.
"New High. My accent is horrible though," he answered in said terrible accent. "I have trouble with the lilting of the vocals, and that despite being a good singer. But it was perfect for writing reports as a Time Agent with that grammar."
"So you have trouble telling us in English," Clive concluded. "Great."
"Actually I don't, it will just take much longer. Let's see. By the calendar, a working week has passed since Martha has met my Son, the Doctor – Tuesday to Saturday. But, even to you four, these five days were infinitely longer – 369 days in fact, with one of them being an entire year, passed by in the blink of an eye," she concentrated. "To me, it was 374 days. But for Martha and the Doctor it was in fact 734 days they knew each other. And about 680 days as a pair."
"Two years? That's… how…" It was a little much for both of Martha's parents.
"With one of them spent mostly in separation, but yeah."
"That's time travel for you," Jack shook his head. "Time Agents use their vortex manipulator to tell how old they actually are. I remember the 9th version of the Doctor telling me he has some type of counting clock somewhere to keep track of his."
"Standard gift for one's 90th birthday, when you're taken on your second trip by your Head of House. Mine actually needed some revamping, they don't count higher than 13.500 normally," the Professor smiled. "Any other questions?"
Tish seemed to take all that time in stride – she had seen from the beginning how complex and interwoven the lives of Martha and the Doctor were. "Have any good stories of the Doctor as a kid? We have still some time to kill."
At that, the Professor grinned wildly, a grin Jack knew rather well. "Can't promise I'll tell you all, as he is my son, but there are some bits I am willing to share."
"First. Why does he love running so much?" the young PR agent wondered. "When we worked to stop Lazarus, we spent a lot of it running like mad."
The grin faded slightly, being replaced by a wistful look, full of memories. "Well, unlike the majority, we lived in the countryside, in the hills of Lung Mountain…"
The minutes flew by as stories were swapped around. Stories of mountains capped with snow and silver forests and red grassy plains (and a whole world of rather stuffy people living a culture divided) switched with the adventures of a Time Agent (spoiler free) and anecdotes of a pair of Londoners who embarrassed their daughter with childhood stories. Finally, the Professor stood up again. "Well, let's see how she's doing." She took up the medkit and walked out of the room, the humans hot on her trail. Upon entering the white-grey-blue room, it gently lit up, causing the Doctor to wake. "Had a good rest, Theta?"
"Don't mind me, check Martha – hey!" The Professor ignored his protests thoroughly and scanned him with her screwdriver. "I'm fine!"
"Let me be the judge of that. You would state you're fine while running around with severe radiation poisoning," she grumbled. "You are way too much like me after all. But for once, that's not a lie, you are fine now." She went to check on Martha, putting on a stethoscope. "Hearts a little slow, but fine. Temperature… 15.2°C, also fine." Using the IR sonic as a penlight, she checked Martha's eyes gently. "Pupils are fine too… Arara, anything else you can find?"
"Negative, Professor," the ancient TARDIS answered. "She will wake very soon. She'll be fine."
As if on cue, Martha woke, and nearly dropped out of the air, barely catching herself. "Whoo. That's so weird. My head is full of images and…" Concentrating, she managed to lower herself to sitting on the floor, and shook her head, only to groan. "Ow. Not a good idea…" Gladly, she leaned into the Doctor. "Nice Zero Room… how do I know that?"
"Long story. Basically, you now have all the knowledge my younger brother, the Surgeon used to have right in the moment he died from being crushed in his own lab," the Professor smiled, kneeling down at her side. "But until you will have brought all that knowledge forward, it's more like prompts. I'll explain later. How are you doing, Martha?"
"My head feels like Trooping the Colours marching inside, I feel a bit icky having slept in bloody clothes, but aside from that, I don't feel any different from before," the young woman answered.
"Thank god," Francine breathed, sitting down with her other daughter and husband at Martha's other side. "Martha."
"I wouldn't be so sure," the Doctor murmured. "Can you tell how long you've been out of it, in seconds?"
"3752.62 seconds … wait, how do I know that?!" Martha's eyes widened as she realised she could exactly tell how Time was passing by, like something you saw out of the corner of your eye, something you just knew. "I… give me that, please." With shaking hands, she took the stethoscope from the ancient woman, and listened to her own heartbeats. "Two. And you… you're warm to me now," she whispered to the Doctor.
"Nearly same temperature. You won't chill or feel overheated easily any longer. Telepathy should come active within the day too…" he whispered as well, putting his chin on her head. "I thought I would lose you for a moment, but you and janayi, you keep doing impossible things for me…"
"You promised me to ask something, and I promised I would listen and answer. Can't do that if I'm dead," she gave back. The others had vanished from their world again. "And honestly… I think this is better in a way. You would have struggled otherwise with not keeping me at arm's length, fearing my aging every waking minute. Strange thing, seeing things from your point of view."
"Doesn't it drive you mad? Understanding me?"
"I think it's a fair bargain, mister," she smiled into his shirt; then, Martha untangled herself from the Doctor, pulling out the chain and gave it back. "I believe you have a question."
The Doctor looked up at his mother, who had gotten back to her feet and leant against the walls of the Zero Room, performing a Cheshire Cat routine, together with Jack who stood at her side. You think this is the time?
When better? Show Koschei he hasn't won, taruelai.
True enough. Removing the ring from the chain, he exhaled. "Lady Martha Elizabeth Jones. You have dazzled me like no other but my own mother has done in 903 years of life, and set fire to my hearts when I believed that they had long since died. Would you honour me by becoming my bondmate and walk the roads to eternity?" On his flat palm, he held out the deceptively filigree ring, glittering even in the dim lights of the Zero Room.
The hearts hammering up to her throat, Martha nodded slowly, placing said hand on top of the ring. "I would love nothing else, Lord Lungbarrow," she smiled. She took a calming breath as the knowledge lurking below the surface seeped deep into her vocabulary, offering her hand. "They say that there is strength in words, and we have proven this today. One year ago, you promised me a question, and I agreed to listen and to answer. This promise, and all your words and feelings gave me the strength to walk the Earth. I'd love nothing more than being your bondmate, Theta."
The smile that slowly spread on the Doctor's face was so tender and genuine Jack was sure he'd never seen it before, not to anyone. "Jaze-turre sal, lairelaiue," the Time Lord declared softly as he put the ring on Martha's finger. "And I will do so long beyond the day the stars go out."
"Jaze-turre tir sal. Long beyond the day the stars go out, lairelaiue," she confirmed; and, as he bent his head to kiss her, she responded without reservations.
Francine stood there, the mouth agape as she watched the engagement. But when everyone else started clapping, including Clive and Tish, she was pretty sure she would have to collect her jaw from the deepest pits of hell. I… what did I miss?!
"Way to go, sis," Tish grinned.
"Oh come on, Mum. You were not half as shocked when Leo said he knocked up his girlfriend. At least she's doing it in the right order," the PR agent teased.
"If you are implying she could do better, I'd like you to try to find someone, Mrs Jones," Jack shook his head, grinning. "You heard the stories yourself. Number One family on Gallifrey. Lord President, twice. Saves the Earth on a regular basis."
"I… this is a bit much. Excuse me."
"Mum…" On the floor, Martha and the Doctor had stopped, and the new Time Lady made a half-hearted attempt to get up, only to be stopped by the Doctor himself.
"I go. I have to anyway," he smiled crookedly. "And you still need some rest, your telepathy and your time senses still need aligning." Pressing a kiss to her forehead, he got up and chased after the Jones' Matriarch.
The Professor shot Jack a look, who nodded and got closer. Curiously, Martha didn't even flinch. "Well, that proves them right. You can tell the passing of time, but you don't feel timelines yet, otherwise, you'd be crawling for the next wall to get away from me. Take it easy," he advised.
"I…" Suddenly, Martha couldn't help it but feel tired again, and, running on pure instinct, she laid down, put her fingers to her temples and levitated again, falling asleep.
"Let her rest," the Professor sighed, picking up her medical equipment. "We will have to deal with Francine soon anyway."
"God help us, Professor," Clive shuddered as they left the room. "Francine redefines the phrase battle-axe."
"Your ex-wife is a formidable woman, Clive. Any Head of House of Gallifrey would have killed to have someone like her for an heir," the Time Lady smirked, leading them back to the observation room. "Well, excluding me. She's not after my hearts, which is what I value most."
"The Doctor is," Tish observed. "And so is Martha."
Francine had, for some reason, ended up in the main library, with its starlit ceiling and books which seemed to go on forever. What has happened? Okay. I actually remember that year, so, in a way, I know it has been more time to her. But… She shook her head. "I refuse to accept this!"
"Hasn't my mother told you not to belittle your children, especially behind their backs?" the Doctor stated softly.
Startled, the human woman turned around, and smiled sheepishly. "She did, didn't she. God. It's just… my dutiful younger daughter, always the peacemaker, always studious, and one day, she turns up with you, runs off with you, and within what is for me days, my world is shaken in its foundations… and now, she isn't even the same woman I once gave birth to any longer."
"She has always been so much more, Mrs Jones. It was just not as obvious before," he countered. "Crisis shows our true face and strength, and Martha has proven herself beyond measure."
"You can't give her a normal life. You are a nomad, living from one crisis to the next," Francine ground out. "You bring them wherever you walk."
"Don't," he warned, knowing what was at the tip of her tongue – Gallifrey.
"My daughter has worked hard to become a doctor. And what now of that?"
"She wouldn't be throwing that away. I would never expect her to. Again. You are projecting your culture on me. Would I be talking to you if I was human? No. I would be asking Clive about this," the Doctor continued. "I am more than aware that associating with me put you all on the Master's radar, and you can blame me for it all you like. But, do not deny Martha what she wants." He stepped in front of her, bowing formally before staring directly into her eyes. "Mistress Francine Anita Obeng Jones. Hereby, I, the heir of the House of Lungbarrow known as The Doctor and scion of Prydon ask for your daughter Miss Martha Elizabeth Jones' hand in marriage. I have, since most that was mine burnt, nothing to offer but myself, my name and all that I am. I cannot guarantee normalcy. But what I can assure you of that your daughter will be loved, and I will do everything in my power to make her happy, for she is lairelaiue to me."
Francine swore the man before her just had looked for a little moment like his own mother – she was speechless again. Finally, she nodded slowly. "You are your mother's son. Now. Hurt her…"
"I am afraid you will have to stand back in line. After my mother and Martha. And Jack," he grinned faintly. "But if there's something left, this old fool will gladly submit to any punishment you see fit." He bowed again. "Thank you."
For the first time ever since they met, Francine smiled at him. "You're welcome."
Later, after Martha had woken up, the Professor had taken her TARDIS out of temporal orbit and they left the sentient ship. "Let's find the captain of the Valiant and land this insanity."
"I know where he is," Tish nodded. "Come with me."
"TARDIS," both Martha and the Doctor breathed, sprinting down the corridors, Jack following closely. "She's wailing."
"I can hear her too. She's suffering," Jack grimaced as they reached the blue box. A year around the Professor was a crash course in mental ability. And she knows it.
"But she's grateful to you, Jack," Martha smiled, entering. "You freed her."
"You're welcome, old girl," the Captain grinned at the Time Rotor, especially as he sensed the mental caress she sent him, along with an apology for trying to shake him off. "No worries, it's okay. God, what a mess."
"It will take a while to get rid of all the trash. I suppose we can move her off the Valiant first."
In the death of the night of Saturday to Sunday, three Chronarchs gathered around a pyre in a quarry outside Cardiff, torches in hand. "I still cannot believe you wrapped him in black sheets and black thread, janayitrita. And a quarry for the pyre." The normal way was white sheets, thread in the colours of one's House, and being burnt in a field with grass and trees. "He was not…"
"I was willing to let it go. I was as willing as you were to help him with the drumming. But that was before he shot Martha. Face it son. He chose to die a criminal, and I will burn him like one. Be glad I am not considering collecting his bounty," the Professor glared at her son. "Now, let us begin. – Lost Child. Lost, foolish child, lost and afraid in the dark." She put her torch to the pyre, a move copied by the Doctor and Martha. "May the flames of the pyres be your guide so you may find your way in death."
The fire – eased by copious amounts of straw in between the logs – quickly consumed the Master's corpse, and they turned away, tossing their torches to the pyre as they left.
Sunday in Cardiff. It was a little chilly for May, at least, that's what Jack thought. Of course, to his three Gallifreyan friends, that was hardly worth mentioning. They had taken the Professor's TARDIS for a spin, tracking down all the people Martha had met during the Year, the last being Alison Docherty, a professor of the University of Cardiff who had sold her out for information on her son. It's been a long 'day'. "By the way, Doctor. Is it really that bad, being around me?"
"It can be nauseating in the beginning and takes some time to get used to, but that I had sufficiently enough of that lately." The Time Lord shrugged and shook his head. "And I admit, I value your friendship more than my creature comforts. So, I'm sorry."
Jack grinned, hugging him briefly. "Thank you. And it's okay."
"Hear, hear," the Professor agreed.
"Thank you, although I am not sure if I deserve this." The Doctor sighed. First Sarah Jane, and then Jack. Old habits die hard, eh?
"Even more so then. You need some friends who won't disappear in the blink of an eye." The captain turned to the man's mother. "How come you're not even bothered?"
"I'm a Valeyard. I've come across worse temporal weirdnesses than you in my life. Besides, after fifteen-thousand-something years actively hunting temporal anomalies, the thing which really cause you headaches is unwinding paradoxes," she sighed.
"And I'm not a paradox, just a 'fact'." Jack sighed. "How do you cope? With all these years?"
"I just do. I have to. The opposite choice is to lay down and die," she answered. "And if there's one thing I am bad at, it's giving up for such reasons." She shook her head. "Long life has its downsides, true, but it offers opportunities too. And, if you think about it – all the people you knew and died, they're only as dead as you make them."
The men stared at her, eyes wide. Jack broke the silence first. "Memory? That's your answer?"
"I come from a society which venerates its ancestors, so how else?" She smiled. "I won't deny I miss them all dearly, but as long as I remember them, they're with me." A shrug. "Give it a try."
Shooting the Time Lord a look, Jack exhaled, smiling crookedly, an expression mirrored by the Doctor. "I will. And I never said, thanks for taking care of me in the last year."
"No trouble, son."
The conversation was cut short as Martha came back. "Found her?" the Torchwood director asked.
"Yep. And like everyone else, she had no idea," she smiled crookedly as she took her place at the Doctor's side, leaning against the railing on Roald Dahl Plass. She looked around. "Time was, every single one of these people knew your name. Now they've all forgotten you."
"Good," the Doctor shrugged. "I prefer it that way."
"Time was, everyone knew who you were, Martha. Which reminds me, we still will have to carve your name-name into the Pleiades," the Professor mused, standing at the other end of the row, to Jack's right.
"Oh yeah… I will need a title-name, right? Any ideas?" the med student wondered.
"There is one actually that would suit you well."
"You're not… janayi. That epitaph…"
Ignoring her heir, she continued. "You see, there used to be a time I was called the Walking Maiden, due to my hidden modus operandi… a rather shady title indeed. I lost it when I became Lord High Valeyard, giving me a reputation as notorious as Theta's, but the Master knew of it, and had a thing of making fun of me with it. But you… Martha Jones, you walked the Earth and saved the world with it. Walking Maiden, Storyteller. Wandering Minstrel, Walker."
"The Walker…" Martha mulled it over, testing the sound. "It fits," she smiled. "But wouldn't I have to do the Viewing first?"
Jack climbed through the railing onto the Plass, back in a fresh coat and clean clothes. "Back to work."
"I really don't mind, though. Come with us," the Doctor stopped him.
"I had plenty of time to think that past year, the Year That Never Was, and I kept thinking about that team of mine," the Torchwood leader smiled, looking at the water tower. "Like you said, Doctor, responsibility."
"Defending the Earth. Can't argue with that." Snatching Jack's wrist, the Doctor exposed the vortex manipulator and started sonicking it.
"Hey, I need that!"
"I can't have you walking around with a time travelling teleport. You could go anywhere, twice. The second time to apologise," he explained as he finished. Much to his dismay, his mother followed in the next moment with her own screwdriver. "What are you doing?"
"I cannot argue with the whole debate about Time Travel, but considering him being first line of defence of Earth…" The IR sonic whirred for a few seconds while the woman entered another code. "There. Teleport. You can't go through time, but it will take you safely wherever you're needed."
"Thanks. And what about me? Can you fix that? Will I ever be able to die?" The expression on Jack's face spoke of his Year, 365 days spent as living target. And living through the entire 20th century.
"Nothing I can do. You're an impossible thing, Jack," the Doctor shook his head.
He chuckled. "Been called that before." He saluted. "Sir. Ma'am. Milady." Walking off, he stopped and turned back to them. "But I keep wondering. What about aging? Because I can't die but I keep getting older. The odd little grey hair, you know? What happens if I live for a million years?"
"I really don't know," the Doctor shook his head.
"If you like, I can fix that," the Professor offered.
"Look at me and tell me if I am kidding. I'm nearly 2700 years past average expiry date, Captain, and haven't even managed to regenerate yet," she answered. "Not that difficult."
"Let me think about it. I still have your calling crystal," Jack smiled, then dropped the expression as he noticed her intense staring. "What?"
"There's something else you're not telling. You're 51st century, which means you know who I am and what I'm doing." The Professor raised an eyebrow. "I take it that in your time, there is a Gallifrey… and the Time Lords of your time founded the Time Agency. Probably for manpower. I just wonder when I will have that brilliant idea, since it obviously will go down the drain with corruption."
"Yes, yes, yes, can't answer, can't answer. And yes, I have about the same suspicion as you why I got retconned by them – I found proof of corruption, but before I could get the stuff to the Gallifreyan High Council, they got me," Jack rattled down. "And I can't answer the why because nobody knows."
The Professor sighed, her training already supplying the answer. "Time's wild. Welcome to the wonderful world of predestination paradoxes. Oh well. Something to look forward to around the year 5000 CE."
Jack and the Doctor stared at her in disbelief. "You mean, the Time Agency will be founded by you because you've met Jack?" the Doctor managed.
"The Agency is a part of history, and who am I to argue with history?" she snickered, quoting the favourite phrase of every Valeyard ever to serve.
Martha laughed. "She's got you there."
"Well, I've got to run," Jack shrugged. "It's just, with the aging, I really worry about it sometimes. Okay, vanity. Sorry. Yeah, can't help it. Used to be a poster boy when I was a kid living on the Boeshane Peninsula. Tiny little place. I was the first one ever to be signed up for the Time Agency. They were so proud of me. The Face of Boe, they called me. Hmm. I'll see you." In a whoosh worthy of the three Chronarchs, he was gone.
Leaving behind a baffled Doctor and Doctor-in-training. "No."
"It can't be," Martha agreed, thinking of the giant head in the jar in New fifteen times New York.
"No." The Doctor laughed. It would be just like him though…
"Nope," the Professor shook her head, one of her fob watches on her ear again. "He isn't the head in the jar."
"It's somewhat difficult to listen to him, but I had a year of suffering planet to practice. He's going to take me up on the offer, and… he is going to meet someone very unusual soon," the ancient Time Lady smiled. "But he's related to the head in the jar. Part Boekind if I got his DNA right. He'll tell the other Face of Boe what it needs to know."
"How much Boekind?" the Doctor chuckled as he took the watch to listen for himself.
"33 percent. Accounts for his rather extreme pheromone levels, his persuasiveness and his strong telepathy," she shrugged. "I think you two have a TARDIS to repair."
"What about my family?" Martha wondered as she and her fiancé followed the other woman back to the old TARDIS, currently looking like a morris column with door. "And the wedding…"
"If you want, I can take you all to a nice resort world for a while, and I'm fairly sure UNIT will come knocking at their door," the Professor answered, setting the spatial coordinates for the Joneses' backyard. "About the wedding, that might take a while to get all the needed parts together, given that home is out of reach. Also, I think you would want to finish your studies, don't you?"
The couple shot each other a look. Martha nodded. "True enough. I spent all these years training to be a doctor… I don't want to waste it."
"I can tutor you if you want," the Professor offered, pulling the handbrake to send them off. "In fact, it is actually necessary to trigger all the knowledge you gained from your evolution so it becomes yours."
"I know. These prompts drive me mad. I look at or hear something, and I know something about it, but I cannot grasp it at the same time…" Martha smiled a little pained.
"It will come to you, I promise, my dear," she answered, landing the TARDIS.
"Let's go home," the Doctor smiled, wrapping an arm around her as they left.