"Preliminary reports tell us that at least 400 of the inhabitants have contracted the virus, but from our estimates the entire population of the village is likely in danger. If this spreads…I'm sorry, if this spreads, the entire human population of the world could be dead from the virus within a month."
The shaky voice boomed over the speaker, filling the UNIT command room with syllables laden in fear, which insinuated themselves into the cracks cutting through the already mounting tension. The reporting soldier was afraid, there was no question of that, but then they all were.
Martha took in a deep breath, trying to calm herself. She'd walked through the fire of an apocalypse once already, watching millions upon millions of people die around her, feeling helpless, hopeless, as the smell of decay billowed in the wind and scented her clothes. She'd even held the key to destroying that very same world once as well, held it in small delicate hands, meant for the intricacies of medicine, not the annihilation of her species --
This time, though, this time she wondered if she would watch her planet perish for good.
+ + +
Test after relentless test had left her little more than frayed and exhausted. She'd worked tirelessly with the village physician Dr Lyle, analyzing the virus, trying to understand how it worked, and, by extension, trying to find its antidote. The virus was obviously alien in origin – one thing that they did know from the tests and one of the reasons UNIT had been alerted of the possible pandemic in the first place – but that was only the first step.
(Perhaps because of this inherent alienness they were up against, everything they tried based on their mostly Earth-bound medical training was bound to fail them again and again.)
An hour later, after the village was officially quarantined, Martha had packed up her data and samples of the virus to do further in-depth analysis in her lab at UNIT headquarters. As the transport rushed her back to her lab in London, Martha had sat concerned, mobile in hand, her finger lingering over the button to dial the Doctor.
She was starting to think that despite all their best efforts, he was the one option -- the one saviour -- they might have on their side in order to survive this. She'd done her best to stop the virus, yes she had, helping the best she could, doing all she could on her own, but it was not enough. No.
The reporting soldier's words in the UNIT command room focused that concern now -- that fear, that guilt – bringing it back and pressing it deep within her and then steadily outward. She pulled out her mobile again and tried to push away the memory that her old mobile had been destroyed when the TARDIS was damaged on the Crucible a few months prior.
She blew out a deep breath, now feeling determined, and began to scroll through the other names before her, calling another number instead. "Sir Alistair, this is Dr. Martha Jones. We need your help."
+ + +
There had admittedly been a slight bit of difficulty for them getting Mickey past security as he didn't have Level One Clearance, but thankfully Alistair's clout, in particular, was enough to get the soldiers to back down and let them in due to the emergency.
"Hacked into UNIT, young man?" Alistair asked, an eyebrow raised, impressed.
"I did say he was one of the best," Martha said with a smile, nudging Mickey in the shoulder. The two of them had become quite close since the events on the Crucible, understanding one another in a way that only a few people on Earth could, and so Martha gladly often called on Mickey – now working as a technical freelancer of sorts for the likes of Torchwood, Sarah Jane, and UNIT -- when she needed his assistance.
"Yeah, one of the best," Mickey said with a proud sniff, straightening his shoulders.
+ + +
"This thing looks ancient," Mickey observed with a small chuckle, running his hand along the device that looked oddly reminiscent of the dusty, old 1960s ASR-33 Teletype Martha had seen tucked away in a cupboard at her mum's office as a young girl. "Does it use punch cards?"
"It was given to me many years ago, young man, way back in the Seventies, in fact...or was it the Eighties? It's so hard to remember these days," Alistair replied.
"Do you think that you can get it to work again?" Martha asked, feeling admittedly a bit awed.
"Oh babe, just you watch," Mickey said with a wink and a smile, pulling out some tools from his rucksack.
+ + +
Alistair typed in a few codes on the keypad – having kept them memorized and otherwise noted in a personal safe at his home, he'd said – and sent the Doctor the coordinates of the UNIT headquarters, as well as the time and date he was needed.
"Now we just wait and see?" Mickey asked.
The trill of Martha's mobile sounded and all three of them looked at one another in hushed anticipation. After finishing the call, her hand noticeably trembling a bit as she clutched the mobile, Martha smiled at the two men before her. "The TARDIS has just arrived."
+ + +
"Go on, I'll make sure he stays out of trouble," Alistair added with a playful wink and a squeeze of her shoulder. "We'll contact you if we find something of use. And please do keep us updated, retirement won't keep me sitting at home during all this."
Martha had to admit she was a bit nervous about seeing the Doctor again, especially alone, feeling that old excitement rushing through her at his imminent arrival back in her life. Before she left the two men, though, Mickey paused to give her a sweet encouraging kiss on the cheek and hug that helped ease her somewhat –
Once at UNIT headquarters, though, that fleeting calm turned once again into anxiety and excitement.
She quickly made her way to where she'd been told the TARDIS had arrived. As she approached, she noted the sound of commotion rising in the air and thought, Always one to make an entrance, with a bit of amusement.
Eagerly, she burst through the doors of the room, observing the blue roof of the TARDIS visible over everyone's heads. She smiled at seeing the old ship, her old friend in a way, and pushed her way through the throng of people. "Doctor?"
Much to her surprise, a tall man, with his brown hair closely shorn, wearing nearly all black (save a dark green jumper) and a leather jacket, stepped forward from in front of the TARDIS. His ice blue eyes seemed to almost pierce her with such ferocity that she felt the need to step backward.
He also, quite certainly, did not recognize her, either.
"Where’s Lethbridge-Stewart?" he snapped impatiently at her. "He’s gone and contacted me for an emergency, got himself in trouble again, so I don’t have time for messing about."
+ + +
Still, despite her own feelings of intimidation in his presence, she had to admit, above all else, he intrigued her.
She'd certainly not anticipated summoning not only of a different incarnation, but also, from what she could gather, a version of the Doctor that preceded her time with him – a man who was, for all intents and purposes, a total stranger. And even if she had some rather vague notions about what regeneration truly meant for a Time Lord, she found herself rather surprised by the stark contrast in his personality compared to the more manic and jovial incarnation she knew and fleetingly wondered how different each of his other selves were.
Beneath all of his bravado and bluster, though, she could sense something broken within him – a certain darkness lurking behind those cold blue eyes.
Walking through burning cities and villages, tending to the shell-shocked survivors she'd found during that terrible year she'd walked the Earth, left her achingly familiar with the common effects on people who'd lost everything they'd ever known and in his eyes, she saw flashing glimpses of that same utter devastation.
Was this the form he'd taken after the Time War he'd once told her of?
A chill crept up Martha's spine at the thought.
+ + +
"And why've you contacted me?" the Doctor asked, crossing his arms over his chest as he reclined in his chair and looked between Martha and Brigadier Chaudhry.
"The quarantine isn't absolute. We believe that we've contained the virus, but Millbury is a National Trust site and the resulting tourism is a concern," the Brigadier replied. "It's an unfortunate possibility that travelers might have carried the illness outside the village before we were able to set up the quarantine."
"And what're the effects of the illness?"
"It begins with flu-like symptoms, which quickly spread to respiratory illness, then respiratory failure, and finally, in all the cases we've documented, death," Martha responded, trying her best to stay composed, despite her worries in regard to the situation. "In the cases of people who've died, the cycle of the illness has lasted no longer than a week at the outset."
"How many people have died?"
"70 people have died that we know of and currently 400 of the villagers have been presenting symptoms."
The ringing of the phone in the Brigadier's office punctuated the growing tension in the air. "Brigadier Chaudhry," she answered, concern quickly evident on her face. "Thank you for the update."
The Brigadier placed the phone back down on the cradle, her expression grave. "We've just been updated that the virus may gone international. We have preliminary reports of symptoms matching those of the virus in Paris. We've not yet verified that the symptoms presented are from the virus itself, but our agents there will be sending a report as soon as possible. If we don't stop this pandemic soon, the entire population of the world could be at risk."
"Right." The Doctor slapped his thighs and stood. "Where's your medical lab?"
+ + +
"Smell?" Martha asked, self-consciously sniffing at her sleeve. She noted, with a bit of displeasure, that even though he was speaking to her, he was still looking into the microscope before him and not at her.
"Radiation from the time vortex, it's all over you. You don't strike me as a Time Agent, so I can only guess you've traveled with me before."
Martha looked at him for a long moment, her eyes on his back as she chewed her bottom lip, contemplating her response. "No," she answered softly, simply.
It somehow felt easier to lie to him in that moment, as if she finally understood her Doctor a bit more, understood the weight and power of words said at the wrong time to the wrong people. She couldn't be certain, but she had a feeling this Doctor before her preferred the lies as well.
The Doctor moved to look at her, his head cocked to the side as if sizing her up, and then he smiled slightly, almost…proudly. Was he just testing her?
His demeanor suddenly softened just a bit and she noticed that flash of a brief twinkle in his eye that reminded her of the Doctor she'd once known.
"You're a terrible liar, you know, but it's just as well, no time for curiosity, killed the cat and all that," he said with a playful smirk and then returned to studying the bacilli on the slides in his microscope.
+ + +
The Doctor triumphantly held up a small device he'd been piecing together for the last hour. He said it would help them with the analysis, hopefully identifying the alien race that might be behind the whole thing.
If he was anything like her Doctor, she thought they stood a good chance.
"Do you think it'll work?"
"Sure hope so. If not," he frowned, looking down at the device in his hand, "I suppose it would make a nice paperweight?"
+ + +
"A medical officer, yes."
"Oh, a doctor. I've always loved doctors."
"So do I."
+ + +
"Yes, I should've known with the minute traces of soliton gas and this," he paused, pointing at the slide he was studying with his device, "this looks very similar to the synthesized plague they tried to use last time they were about. Now, to locate them."
The Doctor pushed his chair away from the table, stuffing the device in his pocket, and quickly rushed out of the room. Martha, a bit surprised, followed him down the corridor and back to the room with the TARDIS.
"You coming?" he asked, poking his head out of the ship's door.
+ + +
It then took a quick pounding on the console with a mallet to start things up, but soon the familiar wheezing and grinding of the ship filled the air with its usual groans and for a moment, just a moment -- though she would have denied it to even herself – Martha felt home again.
They soon arrived in a dark and dank cellar and quietly made their way toward a loud hum coming from several metres away. "What's that smell?" Martha whispered once outside the TARDIS.
"It's the soliton gas. The Terileptils need it to breathe properly. Come on," he said, offering her his hand.
+ + +
As she felt around through his hair for wounds, she was thankful that she'd found no sign of any, especially without her med-kit at hand. She shifted his prone body to settle his head in her lap and caressed his hair softly, pondering the situation at hand.
He groaned lightly in response, groggily opening his eyes to look up at her. "What happened?"
"I was about to ask you the same question."
He closed his eyes tightly, as if trying to remember. "One of the Terileptil androids. I remember seeing it in my peripheral vision for just a moment, probably hit with one of their stun guns."
+ + +
Whoever they were, they'd taken it, and it was soon apparent that any alternative attempts at escape were proving frustratingly futile.
Martha watched the Doctor agitatedly pacing back and forth in the small room before her, soon feeling somewhat helpless herself.
"We need to get out of here, we need to save them," he said to her, angry, his blue eyes now dark and hollow. "I'm not going to lose another person, not today, not if I can help it."
She had to admit, she had wondered in that moment what would happen once their captors showed themselves. She knew what the Doctor was capable of – her Doctor, at least – especially if he was upset or provoked.
In a way, that frightened her the most about the predicament they were now in.
The Doctor slumped down on the cot next to her and slowly, tentatively, Martha reached out her hand to his. She knew it wasn't much in the midst of their desperation, she knew it was a bit forward of her, but she wanted to try and offer some sort of solace.
Nothing happened for a long moment, her hand just lightly resting atop his – comforting, but not pressuring -- but just as soon as she began to withdraw it, succumbing to her embarrassment about the gesture, he suddenly stopped her, turning his palm upward and curling his fingers between hers with a squeeze.
He still stared at the floor before them, not looking at her, perhaps not looking at anything, but she didn't care. This was something – something she had given him and something that he'd accepted from her.
"Been a long time since I've had an adventure," he said quietly, his voice coarse, gravelly with emotion.
"Me too," Martha said quietly.
He looked up at her, leaning his head against the wall, and even though he was finally looking at her, the intensity of his gaze almost made her uncomfortable, almost made her turn away. It was like looking into the sun. "Glad it was with you."
The click of the lock startled them both and they moved to stand beside one another as the door opened. Martha felt momentarily startled but then reassured by the feather-light touch of his fingers stroking her arm.
An alien -- looking much like a cross between a reptile and a humanoid, from what she could gather – stepped in, holding a gun and pointed it at the two of them. Martha guessed it was a Terileptil.
"You have Time Lord technology," the alien said simply.
"Do we?" the Doctor replied with a shrug, feigning innocence.
"Don't lie to us. We know of the Time Lords. They destroyed our planet."
"Destroyed your planet?"
"The Darkheart project."
Martha noticed the Doctor visibly stiffen and stand up straighter. "Yes, I'm sorry about that, that wasn't meant to happen. It was -- "
"It did happen though! And now we, the last remaining survivors, are here to seize control of this world. We shall take what's rightfully ours to create a new civilization that celebrates the greatness that was Terileptus once again!"
"I can take you somewhere else, somewhere you don't need to harm anyone. You don’t need Earth."
"We want this planet."
"Oh no, not again. I really can’t let you do that."
"You have no choice."
"Why Millbury?" Martha asked, feeling a bit self-conscious as both the alien and the Doctor turned to look at her.
"The rift," the Terileptil responded.
"The stones, of course!" the Doctor exclaimed, "How could I forget the magnetic energy of the rift there? But I thought it was dormant."
"Not dormant, perfectly functional and useful for our technological needs."
The Doctor stood there, quietly watching the alien, letting the silence hang between them, before, quite to Martha's astonishment, he lunged forward at the creature, grappling with it. It seemed noticeably stunned by the sudden attack and in the melee dropped its weapon. Martha quickly rushed forward to grab it from the ground and held the startled alien at gunpoint.
The Doctor pulled away from the fight, straightening up his jacket and dusting off his jeans. "Good. Now, we must be off, thanks for the company, it was truly enjoyable," he said to the Terileptil. "Martha, will you check the door to see if it locks from the outside without a key?"
Martha backed slowly toward the door and glanced down at the knob. "Yes, Doctor. Looks like it."
"Fantastic," he said with a flourish and made his way out of the door. "Goodbye!" he said with a wave at the Terileptil, pulling Martha by her jacket through the door in order to quickly lock the alien inside.
"Are you insane?" Martha asked, utterly gobsmacked.
"Some people think so, why?"
"You just tried to tackle that – that – "
"Terileptil," he finished.
"Yes," she said, rolling her eyes. "You could have been killed or even got us both killed."
"Saw the way he was holding the gun, barely knew how to even shoot it, yet alone hurt us. Was probably some grunt they'd sent in to check on us, certainly not trained for combat. I knew all I had to do was to catch him off guard and we could get past him. Face it, we didn't have many other options. Besides, I hate guns."
"You are completely mad."
+ + +
As they stood before the crates, Martha noticed a dark expression on the Doctor's features as he looked down at them. "We have to burn them. It's the only way to destroy the virus. I've seen this before."
"How are we going to get them out of here?" Martha asked, looking around them, feeling a bit overwhelmed by how many batches of the deadly virus were around them.
"We can't. There's no time. We have to get the Terileptils out instead and then burn this building down," he looked up at her. "We're going to have to bring the TARDIS slap bang in the middle of this. That'll get their attention."
+ + +
"I can't just sit back and watch you do this alone."
"Stubborn. Figured as much. Well, stand behind me, just inside the door, and let me do all the talking. Can't have you mucking this up."
"Wish me luck," he said and turned back around, pushing open the TARDIS doors.
Martha looked around him to see that they were in what looked to be a laboratory filled with multiple computer terminals. It was no surprise the room was also filled with Terileptils.
"I seek audience with the leader of the Terileptils, under peaceful contract, according to Convention 15 of the Shadow Proclamation," the Doctor announced.
One of the Terileptils stepped forward. "We care nothing of the Shadow Proclamation, Time Lord," he hissed. "Where were they when Terileptus was destroyed?
"That wasn't meant to happen."
"But it did happen!"
"Look, said this all before. Leave now or just let me take you somewhere else, somewhere better. These stupid apes, this stupid planet, it's not worth your time."
"You destroyed our planet."
"It wasn't me; it wasn't my fault." Martha could hear the Doctor's voice break with emotion and she wondered about the destruction of Terileptus and what part he played in it.
"Our planet was destroyed and now we want this planet."
"You're not getting it. Leave now. Leave in peace," the Doctor pleaded, pacing before them now.
"You've been entertaining to us, Time Lord, but we're not going anywhere."
"Then I'm sorry to do this," the Doctor reached into his pocket – almost too quickly for Martha to notice – and tossed something in the air behind them. She heard the sound of breaking glass.
Suddenly a noxious odor began to fill the room, causing the Terileptils to drop where there were standing almost immediately. The Doctor lunged forward, apparently to retrieve his sonic screwdriver from a nearby terminal, and then turned to her and yelled, "Martha, get back inside the TARDIS. Now."
A moment later, he rushed in after her, shutting the doors behind them. "What was that?" Martha asked, coughing from the lingering stench from outside.
"Foriton gas. Grabbed a flask of some before we landed. Sort of the antithesis of soliton gas. Hoped I wouldn't need to use it. Hate that smell."
"Course not. Just passed out. Should be out for hours. Enough time for the Judoon to get in here and take care of them."
"Judoon are coming?"
"Sounds almost like you know them," the Doctor said, typing in something near the TARDIS monitor.
Martha coughed again. "Do I need to worry? About this…floriton gas, I mean?"
"Foriton gas. No. Non-lethal to humans, just smells a bit like being trapped in a rubbish bin after being around it too long."
Martha felt the TARDIS shake suddenly, as if there might be an earthquake outside. The Doctor looked up at the ceiling in response and smiled. "Perfect timing. Come on."
He rushed around the console and back down the ramp.
"But the gas – "
"All dissipated now. Absorbs into things quickly. It's alright," he said, holding out a hand to her.
Martha made her way down the ramp to him, taking his hand, and followed him outside --
"Bo! Sco! Fo! Do! No! Kro! Blo! Co! Sho! Ro!"
-- she then wondered for a moment if her first adventure with every Doctor would include the Judoon.
+ + +
They rushed back to her lab in the TARDIS, using the pure sample of bacilli in the vial to synthesize a vaccine for those who'd been infected by the impending pandemic. Using technology from both the TARDIS and some alien technology UNIT had at their disposal, they were quickly able to replicate the vaccine enough to disperse it where needed.
+ + +
"We couldn’t save them all, those villagers…we didn't make it in time," the Doctor observed sadly as he pulled off his biohazard suit.
Martha pulled off her own suit, putting a comforting hand on the small of his back. "But their deaths won't be in vain nor will they be forgotten, Doctor. I won't let them be."
+ + +
Perhaps, she thought, he was as lonely as her Doctor.
Once inside the lab, Martha heard the door close behind her. She turned to look at the Doctor, but practically felt the wind knocked from her lungs as she was suddenly pushed back against the wall, a bruising kiss from him pressed desperately against her lips, surprising her.
As his kisses moved to trail along the column of her neck, she whispered in confusion, "Doctor?"
"I don't want to think about death anymore. I need to feel something else. I need to feel alive again."
"You are alive."
"I'm just a lucky survivor, Martha. That's not the same. I'm living, but not alive. I'm living on borrowed time."
+ + +
She thought of her dear Tom, the weight of her mobile in her pocket urging her to call him. They'd been open, non-monogamous, with things for months now due to so much time apart and after long talks and perhaps too many beers, he'd said she could be with the Doctor if the situation ever arouse. She thought he'd been joking, of course, but when she asked him again days later, he'd simply kissed her forehead and said, "If that's what makes you happy."
She wondered if this counted, or how she might try and explain the difference (or similarities) of regenerations to him, but then her thoughts moved to the Doctor himself.
She didn’t want to think about what was happening with him too much – analyse it, dissect it, as she usually would – instead she tried her best to focus on the mounting pleasure of him pressed against her, as she teetered on the edge of her desk, her legs wrapped loosely around his hips – narrow, but not as much as her Doctor's were -- as he stood between her legs, just kissing her.
There was never sex, never penetration, just feeling and pleasing and touching and kissing.
Perhaps he was scared to do more.
Perhaps she was too.
It certainly wasn't something she'd characterize as romantic or anything remotely like the fantasies she'd had of her Doctor, but for some reason, in that moment, it felt perfectly right – an exaltation of life shining bright and bold against its dark surroundings, a chiaroscuro, as it were.
She was right, he was broken – broken and battered, and though she knew she couldn't fix him, not really, she gave him this small fleeting moment of reprieve, somehow knowing how rare the vulnerability of this moment was for him, especially as his emotions were so raw they were practically sparking off the sleeves of his jacket, alight with anguish and desperation.
"You loved me," he whispered, a strange glimmer of recognition in his eyes as he gazed at her when they were finished.
She wondered what he'd seen in her eyes as they looked back at him. "I was young."
"You left me."
"I grew up."
+ + +
She rushed out of her office, through the lab, and down the corridor to where the TARDIS had been, but found that, no, it was no longer there either. She blew out a deep, sad sigh and slowly made her way back to her office, heavily sitting down in the chair at her desk.
There was a part of her that was not surprised, honestly. He seemed to be always running, no matter what incarnation he inhabited.
The musk of him still lingered faintly in the air around her and, as she looked around her desk, letting the details of her strange experience with the Doctor unfold in her memory, she noticed a small folded paper, tucked just at the corner of her desk, with her name written on it in almost circular script.
She unfolded the note, not even questioning who it might be from, and read the looping words pushed deep into the paper:
I've always loved doctors.
+ + +
The door creaked open and before her stood her Doctor – tall and lanky, disheveled hair, and dressed in pinstripes and trainers. He had an odd smile on his face as he looked at her, a smile that honestly made her blush.
He stepped back, letting her into the TARDIS and out of the rain, and looked down at her as if she were a stranger and an old friend all at once. He then lifted a curled finger to her cheek, brushing away the streaming droplets of water sliding down the skin there.
"Thank you," he whispered.
She quirked her head to the side, looking at him curiously. "What for?"
"You never said."
"I only knew just now. Well, recently. Well, weeks ago. Was a bit busy, holed up in a Krogagagala prison for tax evasion. Was a case of mistaken identity of course, but the legal system is dreadful there, took me forever to get out."
"Krogaga – what? Wait, I'm really confused."
"I told you things don't happen to me in order sometimes," he offered her his arm, leading her up the ramp. "You see Martha, people assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually…"