“So how’s Greenwich?”
“Honestly?” Martha turned on the spot, taking in the rubble and shattered glass, the dozens of UNIT agents working on the cleanup effort, the small handful of civilians being looked after by paramedics. She took a step down into a ditch, torn pavement and ripped sod the only evidence left that a giant spire had come down from the sky and scratched a line in the earth. “It could be worse.”
Mickey laughed quietly in her ear. “I bet. Bring me back a souvenir or somethin’?”
“Like what, a rock?”
“If it’s an alien rock, sure. But I’d also take an answer.”
Martha smiled to herself. “Mickey…”
“’ve made my thoughts very clear, I thought,” he said. “Think you’re wasted on UNIT, think we should get hitched.”
An aide was trying to get her attention from the far side of the ditch. “And I agree with you on both points,” Martha said, walking over to her. “The timing just hasn’t been right.”
“I’ll have you know, Mr. Soon-to-Be Jones-Smith, that I’ve done all but sign on the dotted line of my resignation form five times now, but each time an alien invasion has interrupted me.”
“That is bad timing.”
“After this one, I’m done for sure,” Martha said firmly. “The bureaucracy's bad enough with just UNIT, but S.H.I.E.L.D. had dibs on this one, and trying to make the two of them work together has been a nightmare.”
“Well, you know what he always said about S.H.I.E.L.D.”
“You mean what he didn’t say?” Martha remembered all too well the awkward attempts to avoid saying anything. Time-travelers, always thought they were so subtle about avoiding near-future topics. “Well, whatever happens with them, UNIT will be dealing with it on their own. And we’ll be on a quiet beach somewhere, relaxing and making sure the really far-out tourists aren’t harassing - or eating - the local population.”
“I’ll be holding you to that promise, Dr. Soon-to-Be Smith-Jones,” Mickey said in a low, warm voice.
“I know you will,” Martha said with a secretive smile. “I’ve gotta go now, though. For the moment, I’m still a UNIT operative, and they need me.” They exchanged goodbyes and she hung up, having finally reached the far end of the ditch, and the aide that awaited her there.
“Dr. Jones, I think we might actually have something here,” the aide said, pulling up a video on her tablet. Shaky camera phone footage started playing, along with a shriek of destructive noise that the aide quickly muted.
Martha watched carefully. She’d seen some CCTV footage of the fight already, but this angle allowed her to see more of just how it had been won: the cooperation of human scientists and the alien S.H.I.E.L.D. had called Thor, and their use of devices that had manipulated the already fluid laws of physics in the area. It was terrifying to watch - and fascinating, in its way.
“Do we know who the scientists are, Ms.… Deepak, isn’t it?”
A surprised smile blossomed across the aide’s face. “Amala Deepak, yes ma’am,” she said, “and yes, ma’am, it seems most of them were involved with the prior Thor incident in the US. S.H.I.E.L.D. has given us access to their files from that time - the women are Dr. Jane Foster, astrophysicist, and her intern Darcy Lewis. The older man is Dr. Erik Selvig, who…” She trailed off, embarrassed. “Did you see the news the other day about the man running naked around Stonehenge?”
Martha nodded, then grimaced. “That’s him?”
“It seems Thor’s brother Loki did something to him during the invasion of Manhattan last year that he hasn’t wholly recovered from.” Amala checked her notes again, then said, “The younger man isn’t known, it’s possible he’s a coworker or a significant other to one of the women.”
Martha frowned. “See what kind of medical assistance we can offer Selvig. Even just a therapist who knows about aliens must be better than the treatment he’s been getting.” Amala made a note of that. “And ask S.H.I.E.L.D. just what they were thinking, abandoning someone in their time of need like that.”
“With respect, ma’am, you know how Americans are about medical help.”
Martha muffled a snort of laughter. If Lieutenant-General Sanchez could hear her now… but of course he couldn’t. He was nearly four years dead. Sobering up, Martha returned her attention to the S.H.I.E.L.D. files on the scientists. “Do we have a current address for any of them?”
“Dr. Foster lives not far from here,” Amala reported after a moment’s investigation. “And it looks like S.H.I.E.L.D. has already come and gone there.”
“With respect,” Martha said wryly, “I don’t think I’m going to take S.H.I.E.L.D. at their word that they’ve provided us with everything Dr. Foster has told them.”
Amala smiled thinly. “I’ll bring a car around then, shall I?”
Considering her current lack of salary and the proximity to London, Jane Foster was living rather well off, Martha thought. Her address found Martha and Amala standing outside a fairly large apartment near the top of a respectable building, with an outdoor area that recalled to Martha the rather romantic language S.H.I.E.L.D. had used regarding Dr. Foster’s interactions with Thor.
A young woman with dark, curling hair and wearing a suspicious look behind her plastic-framed glasses answered the door. This was Darcy Lewis, then.
Martha greeted her with a smile and a raised badge. “Dr. Martha Jones and Amala Deepak of UNIT, here to speak to Jane Foster. Is she in?”
Ms. Lewis frowned at them for a moment, then stepped back into the apartment, shouting, “Jane! More suits here to interrogate you!”
Martha, wearing a very not-suit-like UNIT uniform, exchanged a look with professional suit-wearing Amala, who shrugged. “They are used to S.H.I.E.L.D.,” she suggested.
Before Martha could respond, a rather harried-looking woman with cautious body language and sharp eyes opened the door.
“Darcy said you were looking for me?” she asked, casting wary glances between the two of them.
“Dr. Foster, my name is Martha Jones, I’m a doctor at UNIT. My associate is Amala Deepak. We’re involved with the Greenwich cleanup, and were hoping you could answer some of our questions.”
“I already told S.H.I.E.L.D. everything I know,” she said, sounding as though that had been done rather reluctantly.
“That may be so, ma’am,” Amala said, “but we’re not S.H.I.E.L.D., and S.H.I.E.L.D. doesn’t tell us everything they know.”
Dr. Foster smiled slightly. “No kidding,” she muttered. She pushed the door open. “Come on in.”
It seemed they were in luck; the apartment was occupied by not just Dr. Foster and her intern, but the other two involved with the Greenwich incident. Dr. Selvig shot to his feet when Martha and Amala stepped into the room. If Dr. Foster had appeared wary, his reaction seemed closer to paranoia - if his wariness of alien-related government agencies wasn’t perhaps justified.
“Dr. Selvig, Ms. Lewis, Dr. Foster,” Amala greeted them all. She hesitated at the last one, a young man lingering over a bowl of cereal. “We couldn’t identify you from the video at the scene, I’m afraid.”
Swallowing a mouthful of food, he stood up and shook her hand. “Ian Boothby. Darcy’s intern.”
An intern to an intern? Martha glanced at Amala, who shrugged. Americans.
“Well, to all of you, I would first like to offer my sincere thanks.”
This seemed to unsettle the scientists. “Thanks?” Ms. Lewis repeated skeptically.
“You helped to save the world on November fourth,” Martha said. “Why shouldn’t we thank you?”
“It’s just…” Dr. Foster and Ms. Lewis exchanged a look. “The last time we helped Thor stop somebody like this, all of my research was stolen.”
“And my iPod!”
“By S.H.I.E.L.D., I take it?” Amala asked, unsurprised when they both nodded. “Well, suffice it to say that we are not S.H.I.E.L.D. If we want your research, we’ll recruit you, not take it from you.”
Dr. Selvig frowned. “If you’re not S.H.I.E.L.D.…”
Martha held out her badge. “We’re with UNIT.”
“Never heard of you,” he muttered, inspecting the badge.
“What S.H.I.E.L.D. is to the World Security Council, we are to the United Nations,” Amala explained. “An international organization meant to investigate and, if necessary, intercede in issues of alien and otherwise unusual activity.”
Martha snorted. “‘International’, yeah,” she said. “Except UNIT favors the UK the same way S.H.I.E.L.D. favors the US.” She ignored Amala’s stunned look in favor of addressing the cluster of scientists. “Which is probably why you’ve never heard of UNIT before.”
“I see,” Dr. Selvig said thoughtfully, returning her badge. “And I’m guessing there isn’t a lot of inter-agency cooperation going on between UNIT and S.H.I.E.L.D.”
“Nothing terribly productive,” Martha agreed. “S.H.I.E.L.D. likes their secrets too much for us to be sure we’re getting the full story from them.”
The four scientists huddled together for a minute, quietly debating amongst themselves. While they talked, Martha took the opportunity to pull up a familiar form on her tablet and update it with the relevant information. Once she’d signed off on the Greenwich incident report, she’d be signing this too, at long last. And after that…
“Alright,” Dr. Foster said, drawing Martha’s attention back from daydreams of the near future. “What do you need to know?”
They finally left some hours later, tablets loaded with recordings of the interview and scans of relevant documents.
As they left, Martha pressed a card into Dr. Selvig’s hand with a phone number that would direct him to a therapist who specialized in unusual sources of PTSD. She also begged him to have his bloodwork checked regularly, to make sure stopping all his psychoactive drugs at once hadn’t caused serious side effects.
Amala exchanged contact information with Dr. Foster, promised to accept Ms. Lewis’s friend request, and didn’t indicate in any way that it had been unusual for her, the lower ranking operative, to conduct the interview. She waited until they were back in Greenwich, overseeing the last of the cleanup, before bringing it up.
“You’re leaving UNIT, aren’t you, ma’am?”
“Now what would give you that idea?” Martha asked absently, pulling up that form again. Everything seemed to be in order… with a flourish of a stylus, she signed the document and sent it off to her superior officer, General… it was with an unhappy twist of her stomach that Martha realized she didn’t even know the man’s name.
Yes, this was definitely for the best.
“Well, you all but ordered me to be primary on this investigation, you spoke out against UNIT in front of civilians, and, if I may say so, ma’am - ”
“I’ve just resigned from UNIT, Amala,” Martha interrupted her, passing her her tablet. “Call me Martha.”
Amala read over the resignation, thrown. “Then, if I may say so, Martha… you seem tired.”
Martha frowned at her. “Tired?”
“I suppose I am that,” she said thoughtfully, pulling out her phone. “D’you know how many superior officers I’ve lost, Amala? How many agents died following my orders?”
Amala shook her head. “I can’t begin to imagine…”
“Too many,” Martha said simply, lost in thought. In memories. “And I had to file paperwork about it, every single time. Had to be neutral, and unaffected, and… I love this work - love it more than anything - but I can’t take having to act like that when I lose people anymore.”
“I see.” The phone rang in Martha’s ear, trilling away as she watched Amala take this in. “Then… what are you going to do now?”
“Now?” Martha grinned as the phone stopped ringing. “I’m going freelance.”
“You joking, babe?” Mickey asked, shocked and delighted.
“No,” Martha said, turning away from Amala. “I think it’s time.” Somewhere to the northeast, thunder boomed. Martha caught sight of a streak of light - not lightning, but similar - coming down from the heavens and stopping an apartment building’s height above the ground.
Martha didn’t have to look back at Amala to know she’d put it together too.
“Actually,” she said, running back towards the car, “I’m gonna need you to hold that thought.”
Mickey groaned. “You’re killing me here,” he complained.
“Sorry,” Martha said, a wide grin spreading across her face as Amala started the car, “but if I play my cards right, you’re gonna get a really great souvenir.”