Chapter 42

River paced back and forth over the glassy floors of the console room. Below her, the Doctor sat on his swing, connecting wires and poking things he was unsure of, as usual. Rain and Jet had disappeared off into the TARDIS somewhere, as they had been known to do lately.

It had been about a month since Jet had regained his memory, and River couldn't help but notice some differences in his behavior. However, these weren't obvious, by any means. In fact, they were so imperceptible that even Rain didn't notice them. They were as small as a look that would pass over Jet's face for half a second, or the small twitch of his head every so often. None of the others had seen it, so River was now toying with the idea that it was all just paranoia.

In that moment, there was a spark from beneath the console. "River," the Doctor called in annoyance. "It's kind of hard to concentrate when you're walking around up there."

"Sorry, Dear," she answered, but there was a note of worry in her voice that she didn't even attempt to mask.

Now the Doctor slid his goggles up to his forehead, leaving his swing to walk up the stairs to River. "Is something wrong?" he asked. He noticed that she continued pacing, so when she didn't answer, he stepped in front of her, blocking her path.

River really wasn't sure if it was a good idea to tell the Doctor about her theory. After all, he did have a tendency to go overboard, especially if it involved protecting someone he cared about. So now she just waved her hand dismissively, putting on her best "everything's fine" face. "No, no. It's nothing. Really."

The Doctor squinted slightly as he scrutinized her face. "You're lying."

She let out a sigh. It was always a futile effort to lie to that man. "Okay, fine. But if I tell you, you have to promise not to overreact."

He cocked his head in confusion. "I promise."

River took a cautious glance around the room now, just in case there were any unwanted observers. "Well, it's about Jet. It's . . . nothing really, but after he got his memory back, he's just seemed . . . off. It's not very noticeable. In fact, I'm inclined to believe I'm just paranoid. But . . ."

The Doctor cut her off. "But you think the Silence installed a failsafe in Jet's mind, just in case their first plan didn't fall through."

River stared at him in amazement. "How did you know?"

"Because I was thinking it too."

"It just didn't make since," River continued. "Why would the Silence take a human companion and turn him into a Time Lord? What do they possibly gain from that?"

Now it was the Doctor's turn to begin pacing. "Well, let's see. I guess it would be a good idea to start with naming the differences in species. The main difference is that we have two hearts, so we can regenerate once we're killed." Now he stopped dead in his tracks.

Both of them seemed to realize the further implications the moment these words escaped the Doctor's mouth. Their eyes grew wide. River waited for him to continue, but he seemed unable, so she picked it up where he had left off. "If the Silence had rewired Jet to kill you, he could have been killed in combat. But if he was a Time Lord, he'd have multiple attempts."

For a moment, the Doctor just stood there, staring into the distance as he connected the pieces in his mind and calculated his next move. "We need to take him back," he said as he began pressing buttons on the console.

"Back?" River asked incredulously. "Back where? We can't just send him back to the Silence!"

"No, no, no," the Doctor answered with a wave of his hand. "Back to Leadworth." The way he said these words implied that he believed this was the obvious next step.

River thought about Rain and about how upset she'd be if she had to say goodbye to Jet. "No," River told the Doctor. "No, you can't!" However, he paid no attention to her words, only continued to pilot the TARDIS back to Earth.

Now she walked over to him and grabbed his wrists, holding them firmly in place. "What choice do I have?" the Doctor practically shouted. For an instant, River saw one thing she almost never saw in his eyes: genuine fear.

She wanted to wrap him in her arms and tell him that everything would be fine, just as he used to do for her. But the Doctor had to be dealt with rationally if she was to convince him not to follow through with a plan. "If you drop Jet at Leadworth, Rain will follow him. Do you really want to put her in danger?"

"She'll be in danger anyway as long as he's here! Are you suggesting that we kill him? Sorry, but that's just not how I do my job!"

River calmly countered this statement. "If there's one thing I've learned from traveling with you, it's that there's always a way out. All we have to do is find a way to disconnect the influence of the Silence from his mind. No one has to leave or die."

The Doctor was silent as he considered this. Finally, he sighed in resignation. This was a feeling he found rather annoying, yet often experienced around River. "Fine. But if I were you, I'd have a safety net just in case."

River smiled as she nodded to her gun, which was holstered in its belt and hung over the railing. "I always do."

As the Doctor moved to leave, he noticed that River's hands were still clasping his wrists. He cleared his throat. "Um . . . River? Would you mind letting me go?"

Instead, she pulled him into a hug, just as she had wanted to do from the beginning. "Everything is going to be fine."

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