"Oh come on now you," Sarah grumbled in perfect Gallifreyan. It hadn't taken her long to learn when Ushas had shut off the translation circuit. It was learn or be completely without company.
"You are a bad influence on him, Sarah Jane. He's been showing more personality since you started doing his maintenance." Ushas chuckled as she looked down at Sarah's legs sticking out from beneath her TARDIS console.
"The personality of a bad tempered mule, maybe." Sarah scowled and slid out from beneath. "I'm beginning to think you only turned me into a Gallifreyan because you stink at TARDIS maintenance. Did you, the Doctor and the Master all skip classes at the Academy that week?" She sat up and stretched before she stood, then patted the console. "All better now, mule?"
"I had no way to know which subjects your mind would take to best, Sarah Jane," Ushas shrugged. "I do wish you had taken more to the biogenetic sciences, but overall I can not fault your grasp of temporal mechanics and engineering. Do you see now that your worry about me overwriting your personality was unfounded?"
"I still don't trust you," Sarah said stubbornly, though she and the Rani both knew that was untrue. It was mainly a fact of her confinement, but a sort of Stockholm Syndrome had settled over the Doctor's former companion. "I will never trust you. We've been out here in the vortex for two years, I just want to go home. I want to see my son."
"You needed those two years to learn, Sarah Jane," Ushas said patiently. "You know enough now that I am certain that you could graduate from the Academy."
A part of Sarah couldn't help but preen a little at that. Now she was a Time Lady in the truest sense. She understood so much more about why the Doctor did what he did, about how the universe worked. She'd learned so much as a human, but she knew so much more now. "I need to go home, Ushas. My son, Luke. Rani. Clyde. They all need me. I can't stay here."
"Yes," Ushas said simply. "You can go back to Earth now, if you wish."
"I can?" Sarah's eyes widened in shock. She'd never expected to be freed. A laugh escaped her and she began to move around the console, setting co-ordinates. "I'm going to set it for just after you took me."
"Sarah Jane," Ushas watched, a slight smile coming to her lips. The smile was replaced by a grimace as a bolt of pain went through her. She could no longer hide the pain she was in. She stumbled to the deck and gasped for breath.
"Ushas?" Sarah couldn't stop her caring nature from drawing her to the other Time Lady. "What's the matter?"
"I never told you the rest of the story of why I didn't die in the Time War." Ushas allowed Sarah to help her up.
"That doesn't matter. How can I help you?" Sarah pleaded.
"Ah but it does matter, my daughter." The Rani looked up at Sarah Jane.
For once, Sarah Jane didn't protest that she wasn't the Time Lady's daughter. "All right then, you'd better tell me."
"I told you that I found a race that was willing to allow me to hide amongst them. What I didn't tell you was that I had promised to help them in payment." Ushas breathed out slowly. "Their kind had a disease, an engineered disease. I was supposed to cure them."
Sarah felt herself recoil, remembering exactly who and what this woman was.
"Yes, you guessed correctly. I didn't do as I promised." The Rani coughed and a bit of blood trickled from her lips. "Even though I became as one of them, I thought myself immune. Normally the chameleon arch gives perfect health."
"You caught the disease?" Sarah guessed as she brushed Ushas' hair from her forehead.
"Hoist by my own petard," the Rani nodded. "I thought when I opened my fob watch that I would revert, and that the disease would leave me. It did not." She looked up at the former human. "It took my ability to regenerate and started breaking down my body's biofields." She could feel Sarah stiffen. "I can not pass it to anyone, Sarah Jane. However I also can not stop its inevitable conclusion, which is the end for me."
"You're dying." Sarah swallowed hard, wondering if she should run.
Ushas snorted. "You still will not believe me that I do not wish for immortality. I am not about to take your body, Sarah Jane. If I was going to, then I would have done so already. There would have been no point in teaching you what I have."
Sarah's head dropped. "You can't blame me."
"No I can not. Do not apologize. I am just as amoral as the Doctor told you. You remember how I treated you before, as you should." The Rani coughed again. "It is only because you are now my legacy that I value you so much more." Sarah Jane wouldn't know just how far her legacy would carry until well after Ushas' death.
"I know I should hate you," Sarah Jane started but couldn't bring herself to finish. In truth she couldn't hate her. As much as she'd feared all of this, exhilaration filled her as well.
"The Doctor would think so." Ushas looked up at her. "As much as he may seem to regret the loss of the Time Lords and Gallifrey, my Sarah Jane, he values your humanity more than he desires to not be alone. I took that from you."
Sarah swallowed hard. "There's no going back is there?"
"There is not." Ushas looked up at her. "I believe you have the strength to persevere."
"I hope you're right." Sarah's eyes widened as Ushas convulsed once more. "What can I do?"
"For me, nothing. There are things you must do though." The Rani pushed herself upwards. "Help me to the console."
Sarah didn't think it was a good idea, but she helped the renegade Time Lady get to her feet, getting her arm around her waist as she guided her to the console. "We have to reconfigure the Rassilon Imprimatur. The TARDIS must be yours or when I die, you will not be able to get back to Earth." The Rani paused. "I do not wish him to die with me."
Sarah's eyes widened at that then nodded. She keyed in the appropriate sequence and watched as an aperture on the console opened. "Take my extract from within," Ushas instructed. "That must be destroyed, Sarah Jane."
"All right, but," Sarah's eyes widened as the Rani held out another extract.
"This is, as you guessed, your extract," the Rani said as she held it out to Sarah.
"How?" Sarah took it carefully from the Time Lady.
"There are advantages to being less than moral," Ushas said with a slight note of humour in her voice. "Place it in the receptacle, Sarah Jane."
Following the Rani's instructions, Sarah Jane slid it into the aperture and watched as it was drawn down. As soon as it was encased, a shudder seemed to run through the TARDIS. The Rani breathed out slowly. "He is your TARDIS now." She watched as Sarah's eyes widened, knowing the new Time Lady heard the whispers of her vessel for the first time. "He will reconfigure himself to suit you." The Rani coughed again and became a dead weight in her heir's arms.
"Ushas?" Sarah was drawn out of her mind by the horrible death rasp sound that the other Time Lady made. She gently guided her down to the deck of the TARDIS.
"You must destroy me, Sarah Jane. No part of me can remain." Ushas' voice was barely a whisper now. "Take me somewhere and build a pyre."
"I will," Sarah said softly. There were no tears. This woman was her captor yet Gallifreyan emotions were cooler, just as their bodies were.
"You are the future of Gallifrey, Sarah Jane Smith. Do not allow the Doctor to make you hate what you are now, as he hates what he is." Ushas voice was barely audible now.
Sarah watched as her captor's eyes closed and she breathed one final death rattle. She stepped away from the body as it began to glow then the energy streamed out and away, but no new life rose from its departure. Sarah moved to the console, changing the coordinates to somewhere other than Earth. She could feel the shift of her TARDIS. It had already begun changing itself to suit her.
She smiled as she set the brake and heard the tell tale song the Doctor's TARDIS sang. "That's more like it." She felt the complaint from her new friend. "All right, I promise to find a way for you to make that sound without setting the brake."
It didn't take long before the TARDIS announced their imminent re-materialization in her mind. She opened the door and looked out at a planet that had been desolate the first time she'd visited. "Karn," she murmured softly, before she turned her attention to the Rani's body.
Mixed feelings flooded her as she made the necessary preparations, transporting the Rani's body the way she'd once kidnapped her, then building the pyre. The TARDIS produced the accelerant that she doused the pyre with, then she stood back to watch it burn. This was both her enemy and her creator. The woman who'd taken her from her family and made it possible for the Doctor to no longer be alone. The detachment she'd learned from the Doctor serving her well as she waited, tending the flames over the long night.
Returning to the TARDIS was a pleasant surprise. "Oh yes! This is more like it." Light refracted in multiple colors and patterns through the stained glass roundels and ceiling panels, reminiscent of the auxiliary control room but grander still. "It's beautiful," Sarah murmured in approval as she ran her hand along the dark panels of the walls, accented with brass fittings and lights.
She laughed out loud as she felt the TARDIS preen, obviously pleased with itself for reading her so well. "I think that has as much to do with our link as anything else," she said playfully to the time machine. "All right, I admit it, I love what you've done." Running her hands over the brass and glass of her console, she moved to start punching in coordinates, moving at a frenetic pace, grinning as the alternating glass rods of her time rotor began rising and falling in a rhythm that only she and the TARDIS understood. "Now let's go home!"
Things were more sombre on Bannerman Road. Everyone was once again assembled in the lounge. "We need to come up with a new plan," the Doctor said as he paced in front of them all.
"Doctor, perhaps it's time," the Brigadier started.
"No, it will never be that time," the Doctor scowled at his old friend. "I would have thought you would agree with me on that, Alistair."
"I know you don't want to consider this, Doctor," Martha said softly.
"No, for once I agree with him." Josh scowled at everyone. "SJ is still out there, she's still alive."
A familiar wheezing grinding sound drew everyone's attention. "But you're here, Doctor," Jack said as he began moving towards the door that led out to the garden with everyone else following curiously.
They all stood stunned as a police box materialized right on Sarah's begonias and the door creaked open. The person who emerged wouldn't have shocked them more if it had been an earlier version of the Doctor himself. "Oh, not my begonias. I was aiming for the attic." She smacked the TARDIS' side. "Silly thing do try to stay out of my garden and just because in my mind that's what I think you should look like, doesn't mean you should look like that."
"Uh," Jack ventured, wanting the young woman to turn around. "Hello?"
"Oh," Sarah turned around slowly and smiled brightly at the assembled crowd after swallowing hard, leaving everyone, young and old in stunned silence. "Surprise?"