The video hologram flickered on.
And a woman's face appeared in the air. She looked tired. Worn out.
"My name… is Deborah Raykins," she announced. "For everyone who doesn't know." She paused. Looked away from the camera. "But I have a feeling, if you're watching this… you do know. You're out looking for me. And you're hoping this recording… is some kind of video confession."
She paused, a long moment.
Then looked back at the camera.
"So here's your confession," Raykins said. "I, Deborah Raykins, am about to become a traitor and a criminal. Starting tomorrow." She gave a shaky laugh. "Seems weird, saying it out loud."
She planted a smile on her face, but it seemed forced.
"That's what you did to me, Dawn!" Raykins told the camera. "You and your niece. When you died, and I couldn't…"
The sadness grew even deeper.
And she looked away from the camera.
"I can't get you back," said Raykins. "But I'm gonna do this… in your memories. To make sure… you two didn't die in vain."
"…just hearing about what happened to Seo and the others, during that Year that Never Was," Dawn continued. "I mean… geeze. Why didn't we remember any of that?"
Buffy lounged at her kitchen table, coffee in hand. "Because I died, apparently," she said. "And because none of the rest of us were onboard the Valiant at the end — not like Jack, Martha, and the Joneses. We think… Seo only remembered what happened during that Year because she grew up surrounded by cracks to other realities." She sipped the coffee. "And I remember Amy telling me what happens to people who grow up with cracks in their bedroom walls."
Dawn sighed. "What a thing to remember."
"Jack and Martha have been talking to her a lot, since she got back," said Buffy. "I think it's helping."
"At least Seo won in the end," Dawn put in. "She beat the Master at his own game."
Buffy shot her sister a hard glare. "Seo's death is never a 'win'," she snapped. Clunked the coffee cup down on the table. "I don't care how many people or planets she saved. Whom she was facing. My daughter should never have to die to win. End of story."
Dawn hesitated. "I… didn't mean it like…"
The tension dropped from Buffy. And she looked… tired. "It's hard hearing about it," Buffy admitted. "Hearing… she… killed herself. Died forever. They saw her body."
Dawn bit her lower lip. Looked away.
"And I know she did it to save Martha and the universe," Buffy continued. "But then I get nightmares… of her dead… of her dying…" Buffy shuddered. "And I think I'd give up most of the universe to keep her alive. She's worth it."
Dawn gave her a friendly smack on the arm. "Listen to you! You're such a mom, now." She leaned back on her chair. Then added, "Whatever you say… I'm still proud of her. For winning."
"She didn't think of it as winning, either," said Buffy. "Jack said Seo thinks of that as her greatest defeat. It's why…" She stopped. Looked down into her coffee. "It's why Seo was so obsessed with saving Drusilla."
"Drusilla?" said Dawn.
Buffy glanced up at her, pointedly. "Jack says the Master spent months torturing Seo and trying to destroy everything she knew and loved, so she'd turn evil. And the first thing Seo saw, after that 'Year that Never Was' got reversed, was Angelus doing exactly the same thing to Drusilla."
Dawn's eyes went a little wider.
"No wonder Seo wanted to save her," Buffy muttered. "If only just to prove… someone like that didn't need to die. No sacrifice needed to be made."
Except that, with Drusilla, a sacrifice did need to be made.
Sometimes that death is necessary.
Was that what the Doctor was trying to show her all along?
"Did the Doctor know Seo remembered?" Dawn asked. "Because if he did, sending her to face the Angelus and Drusilla thing just seems really harsh, and…" She trailed off. "Uh… Buffy? You okay?"
Buffy was just staring into the distance, a hand on her head, a glossy look passing over her. Then she blinked, and seemed to notice Dawn. Gave a shaky smile.
"Yeah, fine," said Buffy, hand resting down by her coffee cup. "What were we talking about?"
Dawn raised her eyebrows.
"I'm fine," Buffy insisted. "Just a head cold. I'll take the Tylenol-tissues-chicken-soup treatment and feel better in the morning."
They were interrupted by Seo bursting through the door, racing into the apartment and grabbing Dawn up out of her chair.
"Got to go!" Seo said. "Now!"
Dawn tried to resist, pulling back. "Seo, I think, for your own sake, we should—"
"Drive me mad?!" Seo shouted. Gesturing, wildly. "I've had it up to here with people trying to get me to 'open up about my feelings'!" She yanked Dawn by the arm, dragging her across the apartment. "Next person who talks to me about that bloody year, I'm flinging them into the time vortex to be lost in time and space forever! Now let's go!"
Buffy watched as Dawn flailed in Seo's grip, and was dragged out of the apartment. The door slamming shut behind them.
For a few seconds, Buffy said nothing. Did nothing.
Then she got up, went to her computer to look up the number to the hospital. "Glowing green energy around Dawn and Seo," Buffy muttered. "That clinches it." She flipped out her cell phone, punched in the number. "Whatever these are, they're not just headaches."
Hrequor double-checked to make sure the way was clear, before gesturing to the woman behind him, and darting forwards across the open area. The cold night air stung his skin and burned his throat, as they made their way down towards the bunker door.
"I don't know why I'm risking this for you," Hrequor muttered to the woman, as he punched in the codes. The bunker opened, and he ushered her inside, locking the door behind him.
The woman was already setting up a disruptor array for the cameras and monitoring equipment, tuning it to the correct frequency and then leaving it by the front entrance.
"I told you," said the woman. "I'm going to get rid of all the Daleks on your planet. Why wouldn't you risk everything for that?"
"You're not IPSA." Hrequor looked back at her. "Are you?"
"So why do you want to help us?"
The woman thought a moment, her dark eyes fixed straight ahead. The wavy mahogany hair blown back with every her every step forwards, sunglasses perched on top of her head, the distinct click of her black heels echoing off the bunker floor. "I'm looking for information," she confessed, at last.
"A project I'm working on." The woman smiled at him. "Turns out, right now, the Dalek databases have the most comprehensive source of information on my subject. But come back at a later point in time, and…" She brushed aside her hand. "Gone. All records wiped out."
Hrequor didn't understand. Just nodded.
"Don't worry," the woman assured him. "I'm sure the IPSA contacts you're secretly communicating with will be able to explain it better."
Hrequor blinked. "IPSA isn't here."
"Now I know you're lying." The woman pushed past him, the moment she saw the command terminal. A large grin spreading across her face, as she raced forwards and began to reassemble machinery.
The others, around the command center, quickly stepped in to impede her. "Ma'am, you can't—"
"It's okay," Hrequor announced. "She's with me. Let her do what she likes."
The woman flashed him a smile, then got back to work.
A twig-like scientist shuffled, awkwardly, nearby. "Sir, who… is she? What's she doing? Why…?"
"I'm the person who'll get the Daleks off this planet," said the woman, still busy at work. "That's all you need to know."
Everyone in the room exchanged looks.
"There aren't any Daleks on this—" the scientist began.
"No, of course not," the woman agreed, standing up and dusting off her clothes. She readjusted the sunglasses perched on her head, so they held back her hair like a headband. "Your politicians have always had dangerous alien machinery implanted in their brains. Nothing to do with Daleks."
Everyone turned, sharply, to Hrequor.
"She's right," Hrequor admitted. "All governments on Jarodin have been under Dalek control for some time, now. We have proof."
"She's… IPSA, then?" asked one of the soldiers. "Intelligence division?"
"Why else would I be down here?" the woman replied. She accessed a computer terminal, began to manipulate the data projections with her hands. Then her eyes lit up, as a data profile popped up on the screen. "Perfect. Dates, locations, aliases. Everything laid out in black and white."
She swept the sunglasses off her head, began fiddling with them.
Hrequor paced towards her, squinting at the screen. Just had time to catch the words "Doctor" and "Time Lord" before the sunglasses gave a sharp whirring sound, and the woman waved the data off the display.
"Who… is this 'Doctor'?" asked Hrequor. "What do you want with him?"
"Alien superhero," said the woman, eyes lingering on her sunglasses, watching something play across the lenses. "Universe-saver. I'm starting a collection of them. Thought I'd include him, too." She grinned down at the lenses. Tapped their surface, as the data stopped playing across its surface. "And… download complete." Put the glasses back on her head. Extended a hand to shake. "Thank you, Hrequor. Much appreciated."
"So what now?" Hrequor asked. "Now… you rescue our planet from the Daleks?"
"Now that I've got what I wanted?" said the woman. She shrugged. "Nope. Now, I leave."
Then, before anyone could register what was happening, the woman threw Hrequor out of her way and darted for the stairs out of the bunker.
"Stop her!" shouted Hrequor.
The soldiers scattered around immediately broke into action, racing after the woman at full speed. Hrequor stayed behind. Stepped to the corner, opened up a channel on his wrist-comm.
"You got all of that?" Hrequor asked.
A short pause.
Then, a voice from the other end: "Think your men can catch her?"
"Have them bring her to my ship. I need to know what data she accessed."
The air shimmered, and another woman appeared before him. This one attired in the IPSA uniform, her shoulder-length hair tied back, combat gear in place and a determination shining through her green eyes.
The scientist jumped. "But you're…"
"Special Agent Deborah Raykins, IPSA Intelligence," Raykins replied, strolling over to the data point. She attached a special IPSA gizmo to the side, and watched as a stream of data flowed before her eyes. "And, before you ask — yes. There are Daleks on your planet. We've been aware of them for some time, now. We're trying to work out their plan, so we can thwart it and stop them without turning your planet into a gigantic battleground." Raykins stopped the scrolling data, staring at the information the mystery woman had called up onto their data point. She frowned.
"Do you know who this 'Doctor' is?" said Hrequor.
Raykins disengaged the IPSA gear from the terminal, and the data disappeared once more. "Sorry, Hrequor," said Raykins. "Classified information. Couldn't tell you even if I knew."
She touched the gadget to a datapoint in her belt, then stored the item away in a pocket for later use.
"One thing's for sure," said Raykins. "If all that information is true, and the woman we've been following — whoever she is — wants this 'Doctor' dead… she's not to be trusted. Not for a single second."
The stomp of footsteps, as Hrequor's troops rushed back into the command center.
"Sorry, sir," said one of the soldiers. "The woman. She's gone."