Pandemonium was the only way to describe what Sarah's lounge at 13 Bannerman Road looked like. The Doctor counted no less than thirteen people in the room and more on a laptop screen that migrated itself around the room. Some he recognised, but others he didn't. They were all in various stages of chaotic conversation that wasn't getting anyone anywhere.
Bringing his fingers to his lips, the Doctor whistled loudly, stopping all conversation in the room. For a moment it seemed like a good thing, but then all the attention focused on him and he was soon bombarded with information and questions.
"Is Sarah Jane with you?" Martha asked first.
"Who is this guy?" One of the ones that he didn't know scowled at him.
"Torchwood had nothing to do with this," Jack disclaimed. "We weren't even in the country."
"Dad, it's the Doctor," said the girl on the computer screen. "It has to be." She appeared relieved at the Doctor's arrival.
"We haven't been able to find any clues where she went," Rani's voice added to the din.
"Is he Sarah's son's father?" Jo's voice was a stage whisper that blended in with the rest of the noise as she addressed the Brigadier.
With a sigh, the Doctor dug into the pocket of his jacket and withdrew the noisemaker he'd used at Sarah's aborted wedding. Spinning it with one hand, he was relieved when everyone looked at him in silence. "All right, that's better. Luke, you'd better tell me what's going on."
"Mum's gone." Luke swallowed hard. "K-9 and I came home to surprise her, but she wasn't here. Clyde and Rani helped me look, but we didn't have any luck finding her. So."
"You called in the rest of the family." The Doctor put his hand on Luke's shoulder. "We'll find her Luke, I promise." He pulled Luke close to him, keeping one arm around his shoulders. "All right you lot," he turned his attention to everyone in the room. "For those not in the know, I'm the Doctor. Sarah Jane is my best friend and I came as soon as my phone started to ring off the hook." He held up his mobile. "Now, I need every one of you."
"That's the Doctor?" Jo seemed shocked then her voice dropped a level lower as she leaned in towards the Brigadier. "And Sarah's son is his son?" Her eyes seemed impossibly wide.
"I'm fairly certain that's not the case, Jo." The Brigadier looked at the woman disapprovingly, though she wasn't paying him any mind. He sighed and focused on the newest version of the Doctor. "I take it you'd like me to bring UNIT resources to bear, Doctor?"
"Good man. Absolutely," the Doctor grinned. "Thank you, Brigadier." His face lit up as he finally paid attention to the two women with the older man. "Oh! Jo Jones and the lovely Liz Shaw." He let Luke go and made his way over, hugging each of the women in turn. "I'm betting Luke hasn't eaten since all this started, at least nothing decent. Jo could you and…" His eyes fell on Wilf. "Wilf, come over here. Jo Jones, this is my friend Wilf. Wilf, Jo used to travel with me the way Donna did. I don't suppose you two could go to the kitchen and scare up something decent for the kids to eat."
"We'll fix the lad a cuppa and a proper tea," Wilf nodded approvingly. "Nice to meet you, Jo Jones." He held out his hand.
"Oh it's very nice to meet you too." Jo beamed at the older gentleman. "Absentee dad, eh. Never would have expected the Doctor to have a little one with one of his assistants. Still, never mind."
"Now she's got that idea in her head, it's stuck." Liz smirked at the Doctor, finding his exasperation amusing. "There will be no convincing her otherwise. Even with a genetic test."
"I suspect you're right, Liz, but I'm sure Sarah Jane will attempt to set her straight." The Doctor sighed then turned to her. "So, Liz Shaw, they dragged you all the way down here from Moon Base." He rocked on his heels. "I didn't even know you knew Sarah Jane."
"We didn't back when she ran with you, but Alistair introduced us some time ago. I was the one who let her know something odd was going on with Bubbleshock," Liz admitted.
"Well those aliens didn't stand a chance now did they?" the Doctor grinned. "Liz Shaw and Sarah Jane Smith." He shook his head, "Would have scared me. Could you dig into your contacts you shared with Sarah? See if they'd tipped her off to anything that she might have been investigating."
Liz nodded. "I already thought of that, Doctor, when Luke called Alistair. I just haven't had the chance."
"Good, good," the Doctor nodded amiably but was already fixated on the next person in the group, causing Liz to roll her eyes in annoyance, even if this was what she expected from him. The Doctor nodded to the Brigadier even as he looked towards Jack. 'Alistair and Liz are rather chummy, aren't they?'
Jack burst out laughing causing everyone to focus in on him with an evil eye. "Hey, it's him. I love Sarah Jane as much as anyone here."
"You'd better not or we'll have more to talk about," the Doctor glared at Jack.
"Funny, Doc, funny." Jack rolled his eyes at the Time Lord. "Sarah Jane has more class than that and you know it. You want me to get Torchwood involved?" He looked worriedly at Luke for a moment.
"Yeah," the Doctor nodded after a moment. "Sarah won't like it, but I don't think we have much choice. Just keep him," he nodded towards Luke, before continuing, "out of it. Clear?"
"As crystal," Jack agreed without argument.
"Martha. Mickey. You two have contacts with UNIT in America don't you?" The Doctor's attention turned to the younger pair of his companions.
"You don't think she'd be there do you?" Martha looked puzzled.
"Honestly," the Doctor frowned, "I don't know, but better to leave no stone unturned. With any luck, we'll have her home in time for tea tomorrow. If they can't find anything, then at the worst you can help the Brigadier." He clapped Mickey on the shoulder and tried to give him a reassuring look. Mickey had seen enough in his time with the Doctor so was perceptive enough to see right through it."
"What about us, Doctor?" the girl on the computer screen called out. "We want to help too."
"And who might you be?" the Doctor peered at the girl, getting impossibly close to the camera and giving her and her father a very odd shot of his face.
"That's Maria and her dad," Luke explained.
"Right, I remember Sarah mentioned you two after the bit with the Daleks," his eyes narrowed.
"Mr. Jackson can hack into anything. He even hacked into UNIT for us once," Luke said in pure innocence.
The Brigadier cleared his throat. "I'm certain I didn't hear anything, Doctor."
The Doctor nodded back at his old friend with a grin. "Good then. You, Mr. Jackson."
"It's Alan, actually," Alan interrupted. "Whatever you want me to do, Doctor, I'll do."
"Excellent. Sarah choses her friends well, I can tell," the Doctor grinned. "We'll need Mr. Smith to focus on extraterrestrial computers, so I need you to focus on everything Earth bound. And I mean everything. No stone unturned, Alan."
The man nodded solemnly. "No stone unturned, Doctor."
"All right, who do we have left?" The Doctor focused on the young well dressed man and the young woman in the wheelchair.
"You're the bastard who hurt, SJ," Josh scowled at the Doctor.
The Doctor eyes narrowed. "Sarah and I already had that out, Mr?"
"Townsend. Josh Townsend." His glare didn't change.
"Josh, stop it. Picking fights won't help Sarah Jane." Nat shook her head at him. "I was going to offer to hack, but you've got Alan."
"No, that's good." the Doctor cocked his head. "And you are?"
"Natalie Redfern." Her eyes were bright even with the worry in them as she looked up at him.
At hearing her surname, the Doctor couldn't help but take a closer look at her, searching for something, then looking away as a shiver went through him. "And how do you know our Sarah Jane?"
"I was a researcher for her, back when she worked for Planet Three. I hacked for her, helped set up covers when she was doing exposes." Natalie answered then watched as she could practically see the thoughts whirring through the Doctor's mind.
"Oh, that means you're familiar with all her aliases. You probably helped set them up." The Doctor finally grinned. "Get out your equipment and get set up. You're going to help Alan. He might be a hacker, but you're a hacker plus you know the names Sarah would use."
Alan nodded and smiled at the pretty young woman. "Hello Nat. Let's get to work."
Some of the tension in the room eased as the two new friends set to begin their search for Sarah Jane, even as the others had yet to be sent out on their quests.
"Now you," the Doctor turned back to Josh. "Other than open hostility, what do you bring to the table?"
"For a long time, I was the one protecting Sarah Jane, after you abandoned her." Josh scowled.
"I thought she understood. I was wrong and she and I have made our peace." The Doctor drew himself up and the air seemed to spark around him, if only slightly. "Now what do you bring to the table?"
Josh's eyes narrowed. "SJ always told me, if I was ever to meet you, I needed to tell you one word. Mandragora."
The Doctor's eyes widened and his stance became less aggressive. "The Mandragora Helix. I'd completely forgotten. You mean to tell me that Sarah got involved with it again?"
"It's more complicated than that and very difficult to explain." Josh's aggressive stance fell back too. "Let's just say, a book that Guiliano wrote because of his experience with you nearly caused Sarah's death and did cause the death of far too many others." There was obvious guilt in his expression.
"You and I will have that difficult conversation sooner rather than later," the Doctor's voice was stern, but he nodded. "So how can you help?"
"I'm Sir Donald Wakefield's heir. When he died, I inherited everything," Josh said quietly. "If anyone has trouble, I'm fairly certain I can open doors and smooth things over." He paused. "As well, I could find out if there's anything left of the troubles that SJ was having from before."
"Then I'll leave you to that." The Doctor scrutinized the young man and then turned to the final remaining individual in the room that he wasn't familiar with.
"I never thought I'd meet you," Brendan stepped forward and held out his hand. "I'm Brendan Richards. I was Lavinia Smith's ward. I was there when Sarah unpacked K9. It really meant a lot to her." He glanced at Josh, clearly unimpressed with the other man's reaction to the Doctor. "I tried to help her rebuild him after he broke down. But of course, we just didn't have the technology."
"Yes, I know. I've had to rebuild him a time or two myself," the Doctor smiled gently. "I thought you lived, oh where is that place? Silicon Valley?"
Brendan's eyes widened at the thought that the Doctor knew about him. "I caught the first flight out when I heard from Luke. How did you know?"
"Oh, well, Sarah may have mentioned you a time or two. You are family you know," the Doctor grinned at him. "Recently, mind you, she was worried about you during that hullaballoo with the Daleks."
"Right." Brendan drew himself up, knowing how much Sarah thought of him now. "So what can I do?" Brendan held the Doctor's gaze.
"Honestly, I'm going to need you to step in as Luke's guardian. You don't need to stay here, I'll do that, but legally I need someone to who's not going to ask a lot of questions. He's still a minor and it'll look better, since you were Sarah's Aunt's ward, if you return the favour and act as his guardian."
"Without question, Doctor," Brendan smiled at Luke. "I could stay here you know."
"No, that'll be all right. I'm not leaving until we have Sarah home." The 'one way or another' went unsaid, but was visible in the Doctor's expression. "If we need you, we'll definitely come for you. By TARDIS." He smiled at Brendan again then turned back to the crowd.
"What about us, Doctor?" Clyde stepped forward. "We want to help too."
"Didn't doubt it for a minute, Clyde." The Doctor put his hand on Clyde's shoulder. "You and Rani are going to help me and Luke search with Mr. Smith. All right? I need you, just like I did at Sarah Jane's wedding."
Clyde nodded once quickly then the Doctor turned back towards the assembled crowd, his expression growing pensive once more as he took in their expressions.
"Wherever Sarah is, she's depending on us to find her, to help her and to bring her back. I don't intend to fail in that." He looked at each of them, watching as they nodded. "And I don't think any of you do either. Now, let's get to work."