Martha looked out over the world and considered her resources. Headaches: one. Stomach: churning. Family: in the hands of a power-crazed alien. Friends and allies: likewise. Alien balls floating over the world killing people: more than she could count.
"Are you mad?"
Man in uniform grabbing her by the arms and pulling her into a run: present, correct and shouting.
"In case you hadn't noticed, we've got a code red alien invasion, and you're standing around watching? You might as well wear a big target." He was pulling her towards the road. A truck was half-concealed behind some trees.
"Who are you?" Martha demanded.
"UNIT," he said shortly. "We had orders from the Valiant to find you."
Martha froze. "Saxon's got the Valiant."
"Yeah," said soldier-boy patiently, "But it's still a UNIT ship. And you're the Doctor's companion, which means we have standing orders to protect you. Come on."
So she kept running, and followed him into the back of the truck, catching her breath while he ordered the man in front to drive. He had a canteen of water, from which she drank gratefully, and when she could speak again she said, "Thanks."
"No worries. My name's Benton, by the way. Jack Benton. Captain Jack Benton." He held out a calloused hand, and she shook it.
"Another Captain Jack," she said with a smile, "confusing."
"Oh yeah, that's Torchwood Jack's wristband, isn't it? We've been wanting to get a good look at that for years."
"It's a vortex manipulator," said Martha. "Apparently. Sorry, but who are you again? I know you said UNIT, but I thought that was like a secret service sort of thing. I mean, until a few hours ago, I didn't even believe it existed. And you've probably noticed, but I'm public enemy number ... well, I'm in the top three. So if this is an arrest, I'd like to know now, so I can make a quick escape and save the world."
Benton waited until she'd stopped talking before he started laughing.
"Relax," he said. "This isn't an arrest."
"We don't work for Saxon."
Martha raised her eyebrows. "You sure?" she said.
"I didn't even vote for him."
"How'd you manage that?"
He turned awkwardly, to show her a thin thread of metal on the back of his neck. "Called a neuristic," he said. "Useful for blocking those nasty hypnotic messages. We couldn't do anything about Archangel directly, but at least our own people were free."
"Nice," said Martha. "How does it work?"
"No idea," said Benton cheerfully. "Old, though, been around since the sixties. My dad could tell you stories -- well." A shadow crossed his face. "He's retired, now, and they weren't issued to veterans. Mum and Dad voted Saxon. Haven't heard from them since--" He waved vaguely at the sky.
Martha reached out and squeezed his arm. "My family's on the Valiant," she said.
"No." She shook her head and pulled her knees up to her chest. "It's not much of a competition."
They rode along in silence for twenty minutes or so. Sometimes they heard screams and the whir of electronics and knives, but they didn't stop. Benton's jaw clenched, and he reached for his gun twice, but he didn't draw his weapon, and they didn't engage the enemy.
"Where are we going?" asked Martha.
"Back to base," said Benton. "There are some people who'll be wanting to meet you."
The base was a dilapitated old manor house in Sussex, full of soldiers and specialists. Benton led Martha through to what had once been the dining room, now a base of operations. He stopped at the side of a woman, middle-aged despite her dark hair and defiantly dressed in non-military turquoise.
"Miss Smith," he said, "this is Martha Jones."
Miss Smith didn't look up from her laptop, she merely kept typing, frowning to herself. Martha took a deep breath and wondered if maybe she'd have been better off staying on her own. But then Smith looked up, took her glasses off and stood to greet her.
"Martha," she said, "I'm so very pleased to meet you. I'm Sarah, Sarah Jane Smith. Journalist, usually, although I've kindly agreed to lend my services to UNIT--"
Benton coughed. "All due respect, Miss Smith, but we would have taken you into custody if you hadn't been agreeable."
"Isn't the military mind a delightful thing? An old friend of mine used to say ... but that's irrelevant right now." She took Martha's hands in hers and said, very seriously, "the Doctor. Is he all right?"
Martha's knees buckled, and Sarah helped her into a chair.
"No," she said. "The Master has him, and Jack, and my family ... and I ran. Oh God, I ran." Her fists clenched, and she remembered that she was still holding Jack's vortex manipulator. Could she go back? No, that would be suicide. As it was, she was free, and the Master knew it, and if that distracted him, even just a little, it was worth it.
Sarah sat beside her and said to Benton, "A cup of tea, I think, Captain. Martha," she said gently, "it's not over. I've seen the Doctor get out of the narrowest scrapes you can imagine, and I'm absolutely sure we'll board the Valiant to find him drinking tea and making jokes and wondering why we're all so upset."
"Sounds good," said Martha, "but for a journalist, you're a rotten liar."
Sarah managed a smile. "I need to keep believing, Martha. We have work to do, and this isn't the time to give up." She rose to her feet as Benton returned with a tray of cups. "Is everything ready, Captain?"
"It's all set up for you, Miss Smith."
"Good. Come with me, Martha. You too, Captain. I think it's time to start shedding some light on things."
She swept past them, head held high, clutching her cup and saucer. Martha and Benton exchanged wry looks, picked up their own cups, and followed.
Sarah led them into a sitting room. The faded sofas and armchairs were already occupied by a mixture of officers and middle-aged civilians. Something about the gathering struck Martha as being odd, but she couldn't quite put her finger on it. Well, there was a teenaged boy sitting in a corner, but Sarah introduced him as her son, Luke, so that was okay.
It struck her as she was being introduced -- the civilians were women. Or mostly women. From a grey-haired professor of physics to a faded blonde whom Benton greeted as Aunt Jo, to a slightly plump Australian woman who looked like she wanted to be somewhere else -- all women.
"This is Martha Jones," Sarah would introduce her. "She's traveling with the Doctor."
And they all nodded in recognition and shook her hand. "Better you than me," said the Australian, and Sarah hushed her and Professor Shaw laughed. It was like being introduced to one's great-aunt, if one could suddenly discover a whole room of great-aunts, most of whom were highly respected professionals or, in the case of one thirty-something woman with a vortex manipulator of her own, worryingly proficient with explosives.
Suddenly the lingering spectre of Rose Tyler seemed a lot more distant. Or maybe she was just lost in the crowd.
"Well," said the severe-looking woman who had been introduced as Brigadier-General Bambera, "now that we've dispensed with the pleasantries, perhaps we could get down to business."
"Yes," said Sarah. "Business." She guided Martha to the last empty armchair, then took her place in the centre of the room. "As most of you know, I've been tracking Harold Saxon since ... well, since the moment he appeared in the public eye." She smiled weakly. "Thought he might have been working for the Sycorax, or the Slitheen in some way, although ... well. I was collaborating with Vivian Rook, who disappeared yesterday. Our notes," she waved a thick folder, "are in here.
"It was Jo," she continued, "who gave us our first hint as to Saxon's real identity."
"Hint?" called Jo. "I said it was him. I wrote a report! And sent it off in triplicate."
"How'd you know?" Tegan asked.
"I met him on the campaign trail," Jo said. "He was terribly charming, but once you've been hypnotised, kidnapped, nearly sacrificed ... well, you just don't forget that man. Whatever he looks like."
"Anyway," said Sarah, "UNIT was made aware of the situation, and I ... well, I usually find out what UNIT's doing." She gave Bambera an impish smile, which Bambera entirely failed to return. "So we were somewhat prepared, but not for this. And I'm hoping that Martha will be able to fill in some of the gaps in our current knowledge."
It didn't take long, in the end, to tell the story of how her life had fallen apart. From Cardiff to the most wanted list in less than forty-eight hours. Her audience listened in silence, for the most part. Ace made her repeat the conversation between the Doctor and Jack, about opening the TARDIS and looking into the vortex. The soldiers looked faintly dismayed at the news that Jack Harkness couldn't die -- except Bambera, who merely nodded as if she had just had a theory confirmed.
When she got to the end, Bambera said, "McShane. What's a paradox machine?"
"Does exactly what it says on the tin," said Ace. "Need to manipulate time and space in the crudest way possible? Build a paradox machine. Don't know about the science, though. They make a big bang when they go wrong, and they almost always go wrong."
"The Toclafane must have come from somewhere," said Shaw thoughtfully. "Brigadier-General, would it be possible--?"
"If we're able to get a sample, it will be brought straight to you," said Bambera.
"The Master told the Doctor," said Martha slowly, "that if he knew what the Toclafane were, his hearts would break."
The meeting broke up in a grim, sad silence. Bambera issued orders to her staff and suggestions to the civilians, but all she said to Martha was, "Get some rest, Jones. You look like you need it."
Martha stood up. "I want to help," she said. "Please, I can't rest now. I'm not going to sleep while people are dying."
Bambera gave her a look of approval, but merely said, "Rest now. Work later. We'll need medics soon enough."
She walked away, leaving Martha alone with Sarah.
"I could show you to a spare room," said Sarah, "but I could use your help for one more thing first, if you can spare the energy."
"I can spare it," said Martha. "I'm fine. What do you need?"
"I have a theory," said Sarah, sitting down and pulling her files towards herself. "And I need you to confirm a few things. Or, possibly, to tell me I'm a crazy old woman with a head full of crackpot theories. You'd hardly be the first."
"You seem sane enough. Of course, I've spent the last few days with Time Lords and immortals, so..."
"Right. Yes. Well." Sarah opened a folder and withdrew a worn leather notebook. Martha's breath caught in her throat, and Sarah looked at her sharply. "You do recognise it, then. I hoped -- I thought you would."
Martha picked up the journal, reverently tracing the cover and the old-fashioned writing inside.
"He became human, didn't he?" Sarah said.
"For a while," said Martha. She hadn't had a chance to look at it properly before, but now she felt like a voyeur. She used to read Tish's diary, too... She turned the pages quickly, pausing at a sketch of a much-younger Sarah.
Monsters and machines ... Rose and Joan.
"I found it in an antique store," said Sarah. "Only cost 50p. I thought it might be after your time, because you're not in it, but there was no one after Rose but Joan--"
"I was just the maid," said Martha. "Maid and master. God, what a joke."
Sarah turned back to the sketch of the pocket-watch. "I told you I had a theory," she said. "I've had it since I found this book, and since you told us about Professor Yana ... well." She rifled through her papers and found another folder. "You met Lucy Saxon as well."
"Yeah. Talk about a crazy bitch. I guess you'd have to be to be married to the Master, but there was something ... something really wrong about her." She managed to laugh. "And that's my official diagnosis, too. Something really wrong. And I'll have you know I got top marks in the mental health subjects." She laughed again. Maybe she did need to rest.
"There's a lot that's wrong with Lucy Saxon," said Sarah. "Look at this." She pushed a piece of paper towards Martha. "That's printed from microfiche," she added. "It's what we had before the internet. I mention this because you're very young, and maybe don't remember a time before mobile phones were a favourite medium for mind control."
Martha opened her eyes very wide and blinked. "Did they use iPods, then?" she asked.
Sarah stared at her for a second, then laughed.
"Read," she said. "Just read."
Martha read. She read the article twice, then looked up at Sarah.
"You've got to be kidding me," she said.
"I know. It seems improbable."
"It's sick," said Martha. "He's using her, and she's -- is it a joke to him?"
"Who is she? Really?"
"I don't know," Sarah admitted. "I didn't exactly get a chance to meet and greet a lot of Time Lords."
"He never took you to Gallifrey?"
Sarah looked away. "No," she said.
Martha read the article again. Then, without permission, she reached for the rest of Sarah's file. Adoption papers. School reports. University results, recommendations from employers, a marriage certificate...
"I'm going to stop him," she said. "It's like a joke to him, all our lives and -- everything. He thinks we're puppets." She stared at the papers in front of her, Lucy Saxon's life reduced to essentials. "I'm going to kill him," she said.
"Whatever the cost," she said, "I'm going to kill the Master."
Child Found In Accident Wreckage
An eight-year-old girl is the only survivor of a horrific motor accident on the outskirts of Tarminster today. Emergency services found the girl sitting unharmed in the wreckage of her car, clutching her father's pocket-watch in her hands.
Doctors say the child is in perfect health, but has no memory of the accident or her parents.
"This is a common reaction to trauma," Doctor Tobias Browne said today. "We hope the girl -- the nurses are calling her Lucy -- will recover quickly. What she needs now is her family -- aunts or uncles, grandparents. If someone could come forward, to take her home and look after her, I've no doubt she would come to herself."
Lord Cole of Tarminster has decried the delay in locating her family. "That child needs to be in at home," he says, "with her loved ones. Not in a home, surrounded by strangers."
Despite extensive enquiries, authorities have yet to locate the girl's family. Anyone believing they have information should contact the Tarminster police immediately.
"She needs time," said Doctor Browne. "But time alone won't solve the problem of her identity."
to be continued
"Absolutely not," said the Brigadier-General. She stared at Martha and Sarah, looking faintly outraged. "If you think I'm letting the two of you go off alone, on some wild chase after a pocket-watch, then you're both frankly deluded. And if you think I'll risk my own men to protect you on this crazy scheme--"
"Brigadier, if you'd just listen," Sarah began.
"I did listen," Bambera snapped. "Although I'm not sure I believed what I was hearing."
"If Lucy Saxon is a Time Lord--"
"Then by releasing her, or changing her, or whatever, you risk adding another threat to our current problems."
"From what Jack said, most Time Lords were supposed to be sane," said Martha. "The Master's an exception."
"Like the Doctor? No, I won't risk it."
"Any unstable element in the Master's circle will give us an advantage," said Sarah.
"Between the Doctor, Harkness and the Master himself, then, we should have complete control of the situation any moment now," said Bambera drily.
"It's just not right," said Martha. "That he's gone and married this woman. I mean, he must know who she is."
"Maybe," said Bambera, "she knows who she is, too, and she's willingly co-operating with him." She shook her head. "I'm sorry, but there's too much at stake here, and the potential for strategic gain is too slight. And with respect, Jones, I understand your feelings, but UNIT's not here to interfere in the personal lives of aliens. That's more Torchwood's line."
She marched out, leaving Martha and Sarah behind.
"Well," said Sarah, "that went well."
"What did?" Martha looked up, and found Ace leaning in the doorway. "I was just coming to find you, Sarah. Luke said he wants to study incendiary chemstry, and I figured I should ask--"
"You figured right," said Sarah quickly, "and the answer is no."
"Right. No lessons in explosives for Luke. But you know," Ace helped herself to Bambera's liquor cabinet, "if he doesn't learn it from an adult, he'll just start experimenting on his own." She frowned. "Or is that sex?"
"You're really not persuading me to change my mind," said Sarah.
"Wasn't actually trying, to be honest. What did Bambera want?"
"It's more what she didn't want to give us," said Martha, and explained about Lucy Saxon. Ace listened carefully, then went through Sarah's files, her expression growing dark.
"Right," she said at last, throwing the papers aside. "I could be wrong, or we could all be crazy, but I have a pretty good idea who Lucy Saxon is." She fell silent for a few minutes, staring into nothingness.
"Well?" Martha asked when she couldn't take it anymore.
"The Professor traveled with a lot of people," said Ace at last. "Well, you know that. But he didn't have many Time Lord friends. Not sane ones, anyway."
"But...?" Sarah prodded.
"There was one. I only met her a couple of times, and after the War started -- I fought in it, you see. He tried to stop me, but he needed me." Her jaw was set. "Anyway, she was the president of Gallifrey. Lord High Time Lord mucky-muck. Only she vanished after the Cruciform fell. The official story was that she was too injured to regenerate, but there were rumours that -- she had a bodyguard, a human bodyguard, and Leela said there was a regeneration, but she was sent away. In case they needed her later. They hid her from the Daleks."
"And from herself," Martha finished.
"Exactly," said Ace. "And what the Master's done to her -- I don't believe she'd willingly ally with him, she'd have to be mad -- we need to stop it. And then maybe we can stop him." She stood up and grabbed Martha's wrist. "That's a model eight vortex manipulator. Know how to use it?"
"Not a clue."
"Then we'll take mine. Grab hold, Sarah, we're going to Tarminster."
Ace shrugged. "Why not?" As they took hold of her arms, she added, "by the way, mine's a model ten." She smirked. "No headaches."
And she hit the button.
The Cole house was empty. Empty and silent, and Martha had to fight to avoid comparisons to graves.
"This isn't promising," said Sarah Jane. "But surely she'd have taken steps to protect her mother..."
"Yeah," said Ace. "Surely."
They found Lady Cole -- the late Lady Cole, or what remained of her -- in a sitting room.
"My God," said Sarah, turning away.
Martha knelt by the dead woman's side, feeling helpless. Lady Cole was beyond help; all Martha could do was offer some dignity. She wondered if Lucy Saxon's siblings would survive the Toclafane. Lady Cole's face was slashed beyond recognition. Even her eyes were gone.
"It was slow," Martha said. "It was slow and painful and horrible." It was anger, not fear, that made her voice tremble. She touched Lady Cole's hands. She had died protecting her face, and rigor had tightened her grip. Poor, blind woman. Martha wiped the tears out of her eyes, vaguely aware that Ace and Sarah were kneeling beside her.
"Martha," said Sarah gently.
"There," added Ace, pointing.
"Oh." So obvious, so sad. Lady Cole hadn't just died protecting her face, she'd been holding something. The pocket-watch. "Do you think she knew?" Martha whispered.
"How could she?" Sarah asked.
It took some effort to losen the literal death grip. Martha tried to be as gentle as possible, as if she was setting a broken bone for a child. She hadn't realised she was holding her breath until the watch fell into her waiting hand and she exhaled.
"Well," said Ace, "open it."
Martha hesitated for a moment, remembering the Professor and John Smith, Chanto, Joan...
Then she opened the watch.
It engulfed her in a wave:
Eight years old and so eager to learn, she looks into the vortex and knows that one day she'll understand how it works, she could understand anything given time ---
---she's the cleverest of her generation and she knows it, she can't keep herself from correcting their mistakes, she can't stop herself from being right all the time, she's so lonely--
---the Ancient and Worshipful Law of Gallifrey, the oaths of Rassilon, she said she just mouthed it, but she was lying, it meant so much to her, she would make Gallifrey proud. "Rise and take your place as a Time Lord, Daughter of Rassilon," her tutor had said, and she smiled--
"My lady, they've penetrated the transduction barriers."
"No time, my lady, they're attacking--"
---not even a hundred and thirty and she's chosen by the Lord President for a mission, but it's not the Lord President, and her mission extends little further than playing nursemaid for a madman---
"But what if I wasn't all right?"
---she regenerates and becomes someone else, someone so much more vast and brave. She is so very curious and clever. She is loved. For a time. Until she realises she might as well go home as stay here, for all she'll learn, and she goes off alone, noblest Romana and all that. Afraid, but eager.
"Daleks," she breathes. She was a prisoner once. Not again. Not her. Not her planet. She raises her voice and calls, "Doctor!"
---She has lived such a full life, and now she's home to serve her people. Whether they want it or not, Narvin says, and she'd suspect him of laughing at her, if he had a sense of humour. She stands with the Doctor at the very top of the citadel, looking out over the city and contemplating a future that won't happen.
"Doctor," she calls, but she's dying. Then she's dead, then regenerating, but she has no control this time, it's all in the hands of the Council, and the Council wants to keep her safe---
"No," she begs, but it's too late, and the change hurts so much---
"Doctor!" she cries, but he never comes.
Martha blinked and drew a deep, shuddering breath. There were tears running down her face. She wiped them away and said, "What happened?"
"You opened the watch," said Sarah.
"Well?" said Ace. "Is she--?"
"Not yet," said Martha. She looked down at the watch in her hands, closed again, and quiet. "It's not time yet."
They returned to the base without fanfare. Ace brought them back to Bambera's thankfully empty office. Less than an hour had passed since they'd left. It felt like a lifetime. Or, Martha thought, sinking into a chair and examining the watch, several.
"Well," said Sarah, "what now?"
Martha looked up. "Ace," she said, "what are the Toclafane?"
Ace shrugged. "Time Lord boogeymen. They visit bad Gallifreyan boys and girls and take away their regenerations. The monster under the Time Lord bed."
"I saw them on the Valiant. They sounded like ... like lost children. And the Master was like the Pied Piper. They needed him."
"I never liked that story," said Ace.
"What do they want with Earth, I wonder," said Martha slowly, "What could break the Doctor's hearts?"
"He's lost so many people," said Sarah. "Yet he always goes on."
"People leave him," said Martha. "They don't usually come back. Is that right?" She looked at Sarah. "I mean, you talk about him like he's a brother you don't get to see enough. There are so many people in this house, they've all known him, but you can't stay with a Time Lord forever, it doesn't work like that. Not even Jack gets forever." Martha tapped her fingers against the watch. "And he's lost everyone. His entire planet." Tap-tap-tap tap. Tap-tap-tap tap. "What if they come back? What if the Master brings them back?"
"To Earth?" Sarah asked.
"Oh yeah," said Ace. "Earth. Where else?"
Martha was on her feet, heading for the door. "Where's Professor Shaw's lab?" she demanded.
"East wing," said Sarah, "in the conservatory. If you give me a minute, I'll--"
Martha left her behind.
Professor Shaw's lab was full of uniformed men and women, scientific equipment and a strong smell of chemicals, burnt electronics and something alien and dead. Martha found Shaw herself in the centre of the web, frowning at a test tube.
"They're based on Time Lords, aren't they?" she said quietly.
Shaw looked up suddenly, peering at Martha through her thick glasses.
"I never had the chance to closely examine the Doctor's genetic structure," she said slowly. "I was the Doctor's assistant for a year, in 1971, and the equipment and knowledge for that kind of research were simply not available at the time. And I doubt the Doctor would have permitted such explorations anyway; he was terribly prickly." She paused for a moment, an abstract smile on her lips. "But I had blood samples, and brainwave analyses, and those have certain markers in common with the Toclafane."
Martha peered over her shoulder into the opened Toclafane shell. Inside there was a transparent casing, and within that was a lump of flesh, pulsating quietly.
"Is it still alive?" Martha asked.
"As far as I can tell," said Shaw, "but so far it's been uncommunicative."
"It looks like a Dalek mutant," said Martha. "I mean, different travel machine, fewer tentacles, but..."
"You're right," said Shaw. "There are marked similarities to UNIT's Dalek cell samples, although the high rate of mutation in the species makes it difficult to track changes."
"A ... Dalek-Time Lord?"
"Much more than that," said Professor Shaw. "There are traces of human DNA, and species we can't even identify. But the Gallifreyan DNA is, I think, largely dominant."
Martha rested her chin on her hand. "Great," she said. The watch was heavy in her pocket, and she let her fingers tap against it -- tap-tap-tap tap -- but its message was the same as before: wait for the right time.
"Something else," added Shaw. "I don't suppose anyone's shown you the reports. They've stopped killing. Now they're infecting people."
"I don't know," Shaw admitted. "We're yet to acquire a sample ... or a patient. But the reports say victims take on the personalities of the Toclafane."
"They're vectors," said Martha. "The mutants, they're the pathogens. The shells just convey them to their victims." She looked up. "Can we create an antibiotic?"
Shaw gave her an approving look. "I've been wondering the same thing," she said. She was about to say more, but they were interrupted: the vortex manipulator on Martha's wrist was beeping. The tiny screen was flashing with the words incoming call.
Martha cautiously pressed the green button on the side. "Hello?"
"Martha. Martha Jones." He stretched her name out into something recognisable. "Harold Saxon here, thought it might be nice to have a little chat. You free?"
"Talk," she said.
"Are you having fun?" Saxon asked. "Playing tin soldiers with UNIT? Oh Martha, I know all about you. Your location, your allies ... your weaknesses."
Professor Shaw was silently dismissing her staff from the room. Captain Benton appeared by Martha's side, gesturing for her to continue the conversation. He held a recorder in his hand, and one of his men was setting up a laptop.
"Go on, then," said Martha, trying to sound light. "Tell me about my weaknesses."
Saxon chuckled. "Oh, Martha. I'm not sure I have the time for that."
"Aren't cheap shots sort of beneath you?"
"Apparently not. But we were discussing your flaws. A desire to please, to make peace, to make people happy. And that, Martha, that is arrogance, thinking you can control people like that. But I expect you've never thought of it that way. You're the eager middle child trying to make her parents proud and compensate for her flighty older sister and look out for her little brother all at once. How am I doing so far?"
"It's like you were a fly on the wall in the school counsellor's office."
"Nah, just read her files. Oh! But then, Martha, and did you know that name means 'mistress'? Something for you to contemplate, possibly in your dying moments as the Toclafane take control of your mind -- you became a doctor, because you're still an arrogant child, and you still think you should have the power of life and death and pain and happiness. Is that right? Strip away all the noble sentiments, Martha, and a doctor is just a petty kind of god."
"Are you sure you're not just projecting your own prejudices?"
"Oooh, good point. And speaking of which, aren't you just desperate to know what I've done to the Doctor? Or," he added, when she didn't respond immediately, "has handsome Jack captured your single human heart?"
"Is my family all right?" Martha whispered.
"Is that true concern, or guilt?"
"Well, it's your fault they're up here ... imprisoned ... humiliated. If you'd listened to your mother and abandoned the Doctor -- but I knew you'd choose him over your family. I'd seen the future. And the only thing more certain than history is the determination of a human to have what they've been told is forbidden."
"Tell me," said Martha through gritted teeth, "is my family all right?"
"Better up here than down there."
"And," her voice cracked, "the Doctor?"
"Oh, as well as can be expected. Sad, really, the way age slows a man down. And the mind goes, of course. Tragic, but what can you do?" Saxon paused. "Are you going to say, 'You'll never get away with this' or anything along those lines?"
"I don't know. It's appropriate, of course, but so cliche."
"You must be great to watch movies with."
"Just ask my wife."
"Maybe I will," said Martha. She glanced at Benton, who nodded slightly, and without another word, hit the button to end it.
Slowly, she leaned forward and rested her head on her knees. Her hands were shaking, and she knew she needed to move, but she didn't think her legs would support her weight.
Benton squeezed her shoulder, and she looked up. "I'm okay," she said, "or I will be. Just give me a minute." She concentrated on breathing, in and out, and on the warm weight of Benton's hands on her shoulders. He was giving orders, but he didn't let go of her. Not once.
When she was back on her feet he said, diffidently, "We're leading a raid on the Valiant in four hours' time."
"Officially, no civilians are involved, but ... well, it's an open secret that McShane's going to be there. You have a vortex manipulator of your own, so..."
"No one could stop me?" she asked.
"I'm telling you this off the record," Benton said. "McShane has years of experience, but you're not even a recruit. If you get into trouble, we might not be able to help you."
"Then why are you telling me?"
"Because I know how much the Doctor means to the people who work with him. I've never met him, but I grew up with stories -- and he'll need you. And he'll need all the allies he can get against the Master."
Martha smiled, reaching impulsively for his hand. "Thank you," she said. "Thank you so much." Her hug took him by surprise -- he stiffened -- it took her by surprise, too, but he wrapped his arms around her, and for a few seconds, everything was almost normal.
"Talk to Ace," he said, releasing her. "She'll give you a crash course in weapons and vortex manipulators and all the rest of it. And then get some rest -- that's an order."
"Yes sir," she said, and she was on the verge of telling him how much this really meant, about the watch she was carrying and everything else -- when there was a high pitched shrieking noise behind them. Benton swung around, just as the Toclafane mutant rose into the air, its transparent shell gleaming into the light.
"Plans and strategies," it said in its child-voice, "and they never thought to include us."
"No!" Martha shrieked, but it was too late -- guards were bursting in, and Professor Shaw, but they were all too late. The creature had launched itself at Benton, a needle-sharp point appearing in the centre of its shell. It pierced its skin and he screamed, the skin around the injury turning grey and sickly. He spasmed once, twice, reaching out to Martha as she knelt beside him. Then he became still.
"Is he dead?" someone asked.
"I think it's a coma," she said. His pulse was slow and thready beneath her fingers. "I need--"
"Medics are on their way," said Professor Shaw, helping Martha to her feet. "As long as he's stable -- this might give us our first step in finding a cure." She looked down at Benton, and shook her head sadly. "If not -- after all this, someone will have to tell his father."
She led Martha from the room without another word.
"It's simple, really," said Ace. "You point, aim and shoot."
"Or in my case," said Martha ruefully, "miss."
"Can't miss. Not with this thing. I mean, you'll hit something. Hopefully what you were aiming at." Martha's face must have betrayed her hesitation, because Ace added, "look, if things get so bad you're going to use it, then you'll probably be seconds away from capture anyway. If you're lucky."
"Don't worry. I'll be with you the whole time, so if anything goes that wrong, I'll be dead first." Ace gave her a grim smile. "Look, do you want to go in with your eyes open, or hope for the best and get a nasty surprise later?"
"Eyes open," said Martha. "Always."
"Good. So take aim again..."
"Help you, miss?"
Martha looked up -- a long way up -- into the cool eyes of a guard. "I wanted to visit Benton," she said. "Just to ... you know. Sit."
The guard shook his head. "Can't do it," he said. "We have strict orders to keep the captain -- I mean, the patient -- secluded. Only armed UNIT personnel have access, sorry."
"Is he still unconscious?"
The guard hesitated. "No, miss," he said at last. "He's not himself at all."
"Oh," she said. "I'm ... I'm sorry."
"Thank you," he said. "Thanks."
Martha turned away, wrapping her arms around herself to keep from shaking. Her eyes were dry and her jaw was set. This, she thought distantly, was probably how it felt to be murderous. Not rage, but peace.
Fine. She was a doctor, a healer, and life was precious to her. And the Master was a cancer.
It was, she thought, leaning against a windowsill, really very simple.
She hadn't heard Jo approach, and it took her a moment to gather her thoughts and rearrange them into something suitable for sharing.
"Are you okay, Martha?"
"Fine," she said, quickly. "I just tried to visit Captain Benton, but they wouldn't let me in."
"Me neither," said Jo. "I've tried to reach his family, but ... there's no answer."
"This can't go on."
"No. It really can't." Jo joined Martha at the window. "Will you be going up there?"
"Try and keep me away."
"The Brigadier-General will, if she finds out. But I won't be the one to tell her." Jo leaned her head against the glass and closed her eyes. "It's funny, you know," she said, "you can leave ... get married, have kids ... but you never forget him. In twenty years time, this might be you standing here, giving advice to someone. As they prepare to go and save the Doctor."
"If I'm lucky."
"But you are, Martha." Jo looked up and squeezed her hand. "You are."
With twenty minutes to go, Martha sat down to write a letter.
It took three goes, and was nearly illegible by the end. She wasn't sure who she was writing for, her family or the Doctor, or someone else entirely. But there it was, an explanation. If she died, at least someone would understand why.
In the end, she left it on Sarah's desk.
Ace found her a few minutes later.
"Ready?" she said.
"The soldiers are flying out," said Ace, "but we'll be a lot quicker. I plan to use our headstart for a bit of sabotage. See how much damage we can do to the Master before he knows where we are."
"Sounds like fun," she said.
They arrived five minutes earlier, deep in the bowels of the Valiant. Martha reeled, not just from the journey, but from the sudden heat.
"It wasn't like this before," she said quietly.
Ace sniffed. "Ozone," she said. "Either UNIT contracted this out to some really shoddy workmen, or someone's been engaging in a bit of sabotage. How's your head?"
"Better," said Martha.
"Good. Let's go. I want a look at the Master's paradox machine."
The Valiant was humming with energy, and they occasionally had to dodge sparks from faulty electical panels. Ace took in all of this with approval.
They were less keen about the roving packs of guards, all heavily armed. Twice, they narrowly escaped capture; only the heavy tread of the guards' boots on the metal floor warned them of the danger. Worse were the men who traveled alone, moving silently through the thick clouds of gas and smoke that obscured the air. Once they were seen, but Ace had raised and fired her weapon before Martha could even register the danger. The man collapsed into a heap.
"Is he dead?" Martha whispered.
"Stunned," said Ace. "He'll be out for about five hours." She was rifling through his pockets, extracting communicators, weapons and a small wrist computer that projected a holographic map of the Valiant. "Nice," she said. "Good to see Saxon spent the Defence budget wisely. Help me tie this one up, we'll toss him into a storage cupboard."
"Poor guy," said Martha as they moved him. "He's just doing his job. Probably hypnotised like everyone else."
"Or worse," said Ace. She put him down and pointed to a puncture wound on his neck. "Does that look like a mosquito bite to you?"
"Toclafane," said Martha. "Or Time Lord. Or something."
"Come on. We don't have much time."
All the corridors looked alike, and Martha's sense of direction was confused, but they heard the TARDIS before they saw it. That ominous drone, like a bell striking midnight. And then they finally found it, the windows were dark and cracked. Martha pulled her key -- just a key, now -- from her pocket, and they went inside.
Ace swore as she stopped into the TARDIS. Martha had no words. The console room was mere wreckage, scrap metal and melted plastic and shards of what looked like bone.
"He's going to pay for this," said Ace. Martha nodded.
In the centre, where the console itself had once stood, was the paradox machine, or what remained of it. Martha couldn't imagine anything outlasting the explosion that had obviously taken place, but a row of lights were still flickering, and the gauge held steady at just above zero.
"Can you fix it?" Martha asked. "Could we undo ... everything?"
"I don't know," said Ace. "You'd need a temporal engineer, and I'm just a tinkerer. I'm not sure even the Doctor could fix this."
Martha's fingers grazed the watch in her pocket. It whispered, Triple first and they always said she was the most brilliant mind...
"Come on, then," she said. "Stage two."
They didn't get two steps beyond the TARDIS before a voice shouted, "Freeze!" at the same time as another voice said, "Wait, no! Martha!"
She fell into her father's arms and for a second, engulfed in his bulk, she was ten years old again, and the world was absolutely safe because she had Clive Jones to protect her. Only when she was ten, neither of them had been armed.
"Martha," he said, "thank God."
"Dad. Oh, Dad."
"McShane?" Jack looked himself, apart from the dirt, the bruises and the welts on his wrists. It was the flirtatious smile that did it, and the way he was regarding Ace, like a drowning man who had just been rescued by a heavily armed sea goddess.
"Who else? God, Jack, must be years."
"A few centuries. Subjectively speaking."
"Dad," said Martha, "what's happening. Where's Mum and Tish?"
"Your mother's with UNIT," he said quietly. "A few people escaped, started letting everyone else out -- we'll meet at the prime minister's plane. Martha, are you okay?"
"I'm fine, Dad, I'm fine. What about Tish?"
"Right here," her sister whispered behind her. She smiled as Martha jumped. "Soldiers, Dad, on the level above us. We've got five minutes."
"Right," said Jack. "Let's keep moving. Martha, I'll get your family out, then I'll be back."
"You'll be killed!" said Tish.
"Not one of my concerns," said Jack shortly.
"Come with us, Martha," said her father.
"I can't, Dad. I can't. Tish," she turned to her sister, "Mrs Saxon. Where do you think she might be?"
"Are you mad?" Tish said, "because she is, I can tell you that. And she's human, so I don't know what her excuse is--"
"I'll explain later," Martha snapped. "And there will be a later, so don't try to argue. Where does she go? Is she still with Saxon, do you think, or might she be alone?"
"She likes views from high places," said Tish slowly, "and if she's not with the prime minister -- I mean -- you know -- she's probably in one of the big conference rooms with the picture windows."
"Good," said Martha. "Now go!"
She wanted to stay until she was sure they were safe, but Ace pulled her behind a bulkhead, just as a squad of soldiers marched down the corridor.
"Conference room?" Martha asked when they were gone.
Ace consulted the map. "This way," she said.
The Valiant had no less than six conference rooms. Under the circumstances, Martha thought that was a bit unfair. Especially since they were all on the top decks, and while there were fewer roaming packs of guards, it was a lot harder to blend in. Ace stunned four soldiers. The storage cupboards were beginning to get a bit crowded. Martha was beginning to get a bit punchy.
They found Lucy Saxon in the third conference room. She was alone, thank God, sitting at the long, polished table, staring into space. She didn't move as they entered, or when Ace closed and locked the doors behind them. She didn't even blink until Martha sat down heavily in the chair beside her.
"Mrs Saxon?" Martha said.
"Harry will have you killed, you know," she said quietly. "It was terribly silly, coming back here. He will kill you." She smiled a little. "I expect it will be unpleasant."
"I came to give you this," said Martha. She dropped the pocket-watch on the table, letting the chain pour through her fingers.
"That?" Lucy giggled. "What would I want with that?"
"It was my father's. My real father's, I mean. Daddy wore it. It meant something to him, I suppose." She regarded it without interest. "He wanted Harry to have it, but my mother refused to allow it." A faint grimace crossed her face. "Mummy always had some funny ideas."
"Have you ever opened it?" Martha asked.
"Don't be silly. It's broken."
With a twinge of deja vu, Martha said, "How do you know? If you've never opened it?"
Lucy's hands strayed towards the watch.
Martha stood up and walked over to the window. She could see Lucy in the reflection, examining the watch, turning it over in her hands.
"Well?" said Ace, joining her by the window.
"Wait," said Martha.
There was a soft, metallic click behind them. Lucy gasped. Martha turned, just in time to see the fine golden threads of energy radiating outwards from the watch. Lucy stood up, leaning on the table for support. Her eyes were wide.
"Oh," she said softly. "Oh."
She stared at the empty watch in her hand.
"Are you all right?" Martha asked quietly.
Romana looked up.
"I'm going to kill him," she said, drawing herself up to her full height. "No. Wait. On second thoughts, I'm going to kill both of them. Several times each."
"Romana," said Martha. "It is Romana, isn't it?"
"And you're Martha." Romana threw the watch across the room. It broke into pieces as it hit the wall. "I am Romanadvoratrelundar, now. No thanks to -- tell me, Martha, how did you know?"
"I didn't. Not until I had the watch."
"Oh, that watch. He worked so hard to get it. It protected itself from him -- or I protected myself. As far as I could. Is my mother dead? Lady Cole, I mean. He really did hate her -- so did I, for a while. Poor woman."
"Lady Cole?" Martha asked, "or Lucy?"
Romana smiled. "Poor, stupid Lucy," she said. "I'm glad to be rid of her. She was getting a bit unstable there, towards the end."
"Not like you," said Ace.
"Be fair, Dorothy, I've only just woken up." She stretched. "And I've had the Master sitting in my head for the last year, not to mention a delayed reaction to a forced regeneration." She started towards the door. "Come on, you two," she called over her shoulder, "we've got work to do."
Martha mouthed, Dorothy? at Ace, who shook her head.
Then they followed.
Romana led them through the corridors leading down to the lower levels. No one stopped them. Her swipecard gave them access to all areas, and she marched past the guards with her head held high. They had just reached the TARDIS when there was a distant explosion. Klaxons rang out.
"That'll be UNIT," said Martha.
"About bloody time," said Ace.
"As long as they don't shoot us," said Romana.
Inside the TARDIS, she pulled a pin from her hair, straightened it and said, "right ... paradox machine. How bloody typical. Martha, there should be a storeroom next to the laundry, or possibly the third door on the right after the kitchen."
"I know the one. It's around the corner from the second bathroom."
"Right. Good. It should contain an emergency repair kit."
"Black box with red writing?"
"That's the one. Quick as you can, please. And Dorothy, please check the dimensional stabiliser, if it still exists, and let me know if we're about to explode."
Martha returned to find Romana standing, barefooted and messy-haired, in the middle of the burnt out console room. Ace sat on the charred stairs nearby, head resting in her hands.
"Can you fix it?" Martha asked.
"Maybe." Romana ran a dirty hand through her hair. "He used the machine to open a hole in the fabric of space and time. That was the paradox, convincing the universe that one thing existed where there was in fact something else entirely."
"Can it be reversed? Can you send the Toclafane back where they came from?"
"I can send them somewhere. I could open the void and send them into the space between realities, if you don't mind a bit of collateral damage."
"How much collateral damage?"
"Most of this galaxy, for a start," said Ace.
"What we could do," said Romana, kneeling once more before the paradox machine, "is use one of those vortex manipulators to jump back eighteen months. Catch the Master at the moment of his arrival and stab him in the hearts."
"New paradox," said Ace. "Might as well go back further and kill his grandfather."
"I'm certainly considering it," said Romana. She was carefully opening the machine, pausing every few moments to examine something more closely. "No," she murmured. "Impossible."
Martha dropped to her knees at Romana's side. "What is it?" she asked as Ace joined them.
Romana closed her eyes. "I know where the Toclafane came from," she said.
After that, it only took an hour.
Leaving the TARDIS turned out to be more difficult than entering, largely on account of the battle taking place outside its doors.
"Looks like UNIT's raid's going well," said Ace.
"Good," said Romana. "We'll need a distraction."
They ducked behind a bulkhead to avoid being shot, stunned or disintegrated.
"What now?" Martha asked.
"We head for the bridge," said Romana. "I expect the Doctor needs rescuing, and I need a word with my husband."
"There's an elevator around the corner," said Ace.
"Yeah, and only a few armed soldiers in the way," Martha pointed out.
"Don't worry," Ace said. "Martha, give Romana your gun. She's probably a better shot than you."
"Can't be any worse," Martha agreed, although she had private doubts about the wisdom of arming a slightly crazed Time Lady. "Is there any more to your plan?"
"Oh yeah," said Ace, still watching the passing soldiers. She reached out, grabbed one, and pulled him into their makeshift refuge.
"Harkness," she said. "Got a job for you."
Martha would have quite liked to collapse into a crumpled heap on the floor of the elevator, but since everyone else was standing, she settled for leaning against the wall and listening to the conversation going on around her.
"You're a good shot," Jack was saying to Romana. "Switching sides?"
"Marital difficulties," she said.
"Oh, quite." There was a moment of silence, then she added, "that's not an invitation to enter my personal space."
"Harkness," said Ace, "you've got the worst timing of anyone I ever met."
As they approached the bridge, Romana pulled a phone from her pocket and dialed.
"Darling Harry," she cooed, "do you have a moment?" She listened, then said, "no, actually, I can't think of a better time. I've been doing some serious thinking about our relationship," she swiped her card and the doors to the bridge slid open, "and I think it's time we got a divorce."
A flicker of surprise crossed the Master's face as he saw them. It was swiftly masked, but Martha felt a small thrill of triumph. She scanned the bridge; it was almost empty but for the bodies that littered its floor. Martha crouched by one, but the woman had been dead for hours. The Doctor sat on the other side of the room, watching closely. He met her eyes and gave her a very small smile.
"Oooh," said the Master, "my deepest secret's uncovered. How will I cope?" He tapped his cheek in mock-thought. "What do you think, should I brazen it out, or pretend to be contrite?"
"You could start," Romana suggested, "by running." She tapped Martha's gun against her leg, circling him.
"Oh, but I had such a good excuse prepared. We always had such good excuses at school. Let's see," he counted on his fingers, "it seemed like a good idea at the time, I thought it was funny, the Doctor made me do it, the Rani made me do it, I didn't know it would trigger a regeneration and a recursive paradox loop, Cardinal, really I didn't." He was advancing on Romana, his eyes cold. "The drums made me do it," he hissed.
"Always with those blasted drums."
Martha slipped over to the other side of the room and squeezed the Doctor's hand. His skin was paper-thin.
"Do you know what they mean, Lady President? Do you know what the drumming means?"
"Temporal schizophrenia, I expect. Caused by exposing an inherently unstable psyche to the vortex at an early age, and inadequate training in youth."
Martha slipped the syringe out of her pocket and injected it into the tool Romana had given her.
"Oh yes," said the Master, "that's a very good answer, very dry, classic Gallifreyan. And very," he hit the table, and Martha jumped, "very wrong."
Romana tilted her head.
"The drumming was always there, but they went and made it louder. It's always with me, now. Human, Time Lord, always the drums. Do you hear them? Do you?"
"There's a message," said the Master, "buried in my head. Inside the drums. Orders."
"Orders to do what?"
He laughed. "It's ironic, you know. You'll laugh. You'll laugh 'til you cry." He ascended the stairs two at a time, leaned against the railing and said, "I, ladies and gentlemen, am the appointed saviour of Gallifrey."
The Doctor uttered a short laugh. Martha froze, but the Master only spared him a quick, contemptuous look.
She took a deep breath, pressed the cellular regenerator against the Doctor's wrist, and hit the activate button.
"I know! It's brilliant! It's the kind of thing that only a dry old senator on his twelfth regeneration could come up with! The Chancellor -- he'd seen the simulations. He knew we couldn't win. He -- and his faction, because the men in big collars never took a step without having someone to blame by their sides -- they arranged for the Lady President to be transported to safety. And then they asked themselves, 'Who among our forces would have the imagination to rescue Gallifrey from oblivion and restore her to her former glories?"
The Doctor choked -- the reversal was beginning; he was already looking younger. Ace glanced at him, met Martha's eyes, and stepped forward.
"And they picked you?" she asked loudly. She laughed. "Come on, no one's that crazy."
"Well, you know, war makes everyone a bit -- wait!" The Master's face lit up and he bounded towards her. "I know you! You were the latest in a long line of lost little girls. And now you're still trailing after him. It's so touching." He leaned back, towards Romana. "Just your type," he said in a stage-whisper, "Lucy always loved cats." To Ace he said, "They selected me -- out of an admittedly miserable group of contenders, they weren't much for imagination on Gallifrey -- because they had the charming idea that I could be controlled. Also, the Doctor was still catatonic in his TARDIS after Arcadia. Terribly pretty, he was, but not what you'd call robust. They created a contingency plan -- mutant Time Lords, genetic material was short, it was quite obscene, of course, but they hoped the need would never arise. They planted their orders in my head." Now he was circling Romana. "Inside the drums. And the sound drove me quite mad."
"I can see that," said Romana.
The Doctor stood up.
"I'm sorry," he said.
"So am I," said the Master.
"What?" Romana whirled on the Doctor. "You're sorry for him? Have you lost your mind?"
"Maybe it's a kind of Stockholm Syndrome," the Master said helpfully. "Or maybe he just likes me better." He looked at Martha. "I didn't know cellular regeneration was on the curriculum for medical students. I think," he flicked his fingers, and a Toclafane appeared, rotating slowly in the air. "I think," he said, "it's time to put you out of your misery."
"No!" shouted the Doctor, and Romana, Ace and Jack were all firing their weapons, but the spinning globe deflected their shots and descended.
"It's okay," she tried to tell the Doctor, "it buys us some time--"
Then the Toclafane descended, and everything went white.
Linaquist, Arcalian of the House of Moonfall, Capitol statistician and sometime war heroine, opened her eyes. Around her, all was chaos: a soldier was dying and a man in a black suit (Earth professional garb, she recognised) was shooting at an armoured woman.
"What," she started, but her mouth was dry and her voice was unfamiliar.
Oh. Death. Yes, she remembered dying, and a long silence afterwards. Darkness, emptiness. Had the regeneration gone wrong? Her new body felt strange. Alien.
"Martha," a man was saying urgently. She knew him, or at least, she had seen him from a distance and the senior co-ordinator had identified him: the Doctor, the famous renegade. He was leaning over her, cupping her face in his hands, eyes naked with concern. "Martha?"
"My name," she said slowly, adapting to new teeth, new tongue, "is Lenaquist."
The Doctor's face darkened. He let her go and stood up, whirling around to face the man in the suit.
"What have you done to her?" he demanded.
"I thought you didn't want to be alone."
"Not like this."
Lenaquist tried to sit up, and her head swum. Everything was wrong, she thought, she only had one heart. This body was--
Sorry, mate. Already occupied.
It was a voice, in her mind. Another entity. A primitive mind in a primitive body.
That's nice. Coming from the bodysnatcher.
"Who are you?" Lenaquist shouted, and the others stopped to stare at her. "Who is she?" she demanded, "please, why am I not alone?"
"Don't worry," said the pale man, and Lenaquist abruptly realised she knew him, too, by reputation. The Master. She wasn't sure if it was her mind, or its other occupant, who supplied his name. "She'll die soon." This was directed at the small woman by his side, the Lady President herself, who was regarding Lenaquist with barely-concealed horror. "What do you think of your new Gallifreyan empire?" he asked.
"I think I should have killed you in your sleep."
On the other side of the room, the dead man rolled over with a groan, swore loudly and crawled over to his comrade's side.
"Her name is Martha." The Doctor's voice was low and flat as he spoke to her. He hated her, she realised. Because she was killing his dearest friend.
Oh, said Martha's voice. I didn't realise -- but it's not going to last. I'm just buying time.
"What?" She had spoken aloud, and the Doctor stared at her.
If this doesn't work, said Martha, tell the Doctor---
"What do you mean, doesn't work?" she asked.
Tell the Doctor I---
The world around her shifted, and cracked, and Lenaquist's body was racked with pain. "No!" she shrieked. "No, I won't go back to the darkness!"
"The paradox machine," the Master howled, grabbing Romana by her hair and spinning her around. "What have you done?"
"Reversed it," Romana hissed. "Doctor, did he tell you where the Toclafane came from?"
"The paradoxical dimension created in the crossfire," he said. "A state of pure mathematical chaos."
"I'm sending them home," said Romana. She was laughing and crying at the same time.
Lenaquist was shaking; this was death without regeneration. She was so scared...
"The darkness," she choked, "please don't send me back to the darkness."
"I'm sorry," said the Doctor, but his eyes were merciless. "It has to be this way."
Behind him, the Master grabbed Romana by the shoulders, putting his hand to her throat in a tender, intimate gesture.
"Please," said Lenaquist.
I'm sorry, said Martha. I'm truly sorry.
Everything went white.
Martha rolled over and retched, but her stomach was empty. The Doctor squeezed her shoulder and helped her to her feet.
"All right?" he whispered.
"I'll be okay," she said. "I'll be okay."
"That's terribly sweet," said the Master. "I'm actually touched. Is it warming the cockles of your hearts, Romana?" He had her weapon; he ran it down the side of her face. She made a choking noise and twisted. He laughed. "Oh," he added, "I did, in fact, prepare for the eventuality of your ... awakening. Murderous as you might feel, you'll never be able to kill me." He drew her closer against him. "Think of it this way, Romana -- if you did kill me, the Doctor would never forgive you."
Martha dared to glance at the Doctor. He didn't disagree.
"Martha," said the Master, "give me your vortex manipulator."
Martha looked at the Doctor.
"Do it," he said.
Slowly, she drew it off her wrist and threw it at the Master. He caught it neatly.
"Thank you," he said, hit the button, and vanished with hostage.
The moment he was gone, Martha rushed to Ace's side. She was conscious, but her pupils were dilated.
"Take mine," she said, offering her wrist.
"Not yet," said Martha, taking her pulse.
"I'll live," said Ace. "For God's sake, Martha--"
"She's right," said the Doctor, pulling the manipulator off her wrist. "I can recalibrate this to follow yours. Are you coming?"
"Don't worry," said Jack, reaching for Ace, "I'll take care of her." He handed his gun to Martha, his fingers brushing hers.
Martha stood up slowly, reaching out for the Doctor's hand. His fingers closed around hers and he squeezed them, and then they slipped into the vortex.
They arrived in Downing Street, in the middle of a big, empty room that still smelled of fresh paint. The Doctor took a quick look around and said, "This way."
As she followed him through the long hallways and up the stairs, Martha whispered, "So ... do you have a plan?"
"I'm also open to suggestions."
"Aim for the head," she said. "And before he regenerates, cut him into little pieces and bury them separately."
"At a crossroad, at midnight, with stakes through his hearts?"
"Dammit, I'm not joking," she snapped, but then they rounded a corner, and conversation abruptly ceased.
Romana stood at the threshold of the Prime Minister's apartments, gazing straight ahead, hands by her side. A slim grey box hung around her neck.
"If you come any closer," she said evenly, "you'll trigger the kinetic sensors and blow all of us into little pieces."
"Not to worry," said the Doctor, reaching into his pocket. "Ah," he added with a look of chagrin. "I forgot. No sonic screwdriver."
"Please." The Master appeared behind Romana. "You must give me some credit for forward-planning." He pulled his laser screwdriver out of his coat pocket. "Also, I have my own detonation key. In case you decide to improvise, or if you annoy me."
The Doctor waved his hands, as if to say, Fair enough.
"Now," said the Master, throwing himself back on a sofa, "isn't this nice? Just the three of us at last. And Martha." He gave her a childish wave. "Hello, Martha. If you sit still and keep quiet, we'll reward you with a sweet later."
"Don't patronise the natives, Harry," Romana murmured. "I expect they'll be here any minute with orders to shoot on sight."
"And my plans for escape are well underway, I promise." He put his feet up on the coffee table and said something, but Martha's attention was on the door behind him.
She slipped away from the Doctor's side and went to explore.
One room. Two rooms. Offices and a library, both littered with corpses. A smashed piece of Toclafane armour lay on a staircase; someone had done a good job of defending themselves. Another office, a bathroom -- and yes, she could hear the Doctor's voice on the other side of the door.
For the first time, she considered Jack's gun. It was heavy in her hand, and words like recoil presented themselves in her mind, along with worrying mental images. Ace's weapons had fired energy bolts, not bullets. Tish had dated a cop once, who had sat through CSI complaining about how shooting was never as easy as it looked on television. And she herself had treated bullet wounds, or at least, watched while Mr Stoker treated bullet wounds, and there was nothing uglier than shooting metal into vulnerable skin.
He's killed millions of people. The Doctor can't or won't deal with him, and by the time anyone else gets here--
It was a bit like that idea of Julia's, that Harry Potter should just get a gun and shoot Voldemort. Which had promptly been mocked, but Martha had lingered on the idea just long enough to be appalled at the idea of a weapon like that in the hands of a child, even a fictional one. And it's not like a bullet could kill him anyway. Not nearly mythical enough.
Of course, she thought, you're also assuming that you'll hit him.
And another voice, older and alien, whispered in her mind, I held the Arcalian marksmanship trophy when I was at university.
Martha nearly dropped the gun. Instead, she froze, held her breath for a moment and thought, Still here?
Well. At least she wasn't alone.
She closed her eyes for a moment, offered up a silent, hopeless prayer, then threw the bathroom door open, raised the gun and -- thinking of Lenaquist -- fired.
Several things happened at once:
The Master swung around, a look of surprise crossing his features. A red spot appeared on his chest and spread slowly, but he was already laughing.
The Doctor shouted, "No!"
Martha fired again, and missed.
The bullet struck the bomb around Romana's neck -- freezing the kinetic sensors, Linaquist thought, without triggering detonation, did I not tell you I held the trophy?
"Yeah," said Martha, "you mentioned it," as Romana lunged forward, pushing the explosive towards the Master, while he tried to operate the vortex manipulator with bloody fingers.
The Doctor's hands closed around Romana's shoulders as the bomb finally detonated. It was a disappointing explosion, half-swallowed by the operation of the vortex manipulator. Romana and the Doctor were thrown across the room; Martha just swayed on her feet, black spots dancing in front of her eyes.
When she could see again, the Master was gone.
But he's injured, Linaquist promised happily, he took the brunt of the force. The manipulator was damaged. He's neutralised for the moment.
"Not exactly the ringing victory I was hoping for," Martha whispered, "But it'll do for now."
She wanted to sink to the floor, but she still had a patient. The Doctor was cradling Romana's burnt body, speaking to her quietly and urgently. Martha rested her hand on his shoulder.
"Don't look so maudlin," Romana said hoarsely. "This is--" she broke off to gasp in pain as the effort to speak became too much -- "exactly what I needed."
She was shaking now, reaching for the Doctor with the remnants of her burnt hand.
Halfway there, she faltered.
The Doctor closed his eyes. Martha held him more tightly.
Romana sighed and became light.
Out of the corner of her eye, Martha saw the Doctor smile.
Chapter 5: Epilogue
Lenaquist's presence faded within days, leaving Martha alone. Literally, as well as figuratively; as soon as the TARDIS was returned to earth -- the Valiant making a cautious landing eight hours after the Master's disappearance -- he had vanished into her depths. She stayed with him for a few hours, but there was no work for her in there.
Outside, she treated injuries and answered questions, sat quietly and nodded like a good girl while Bambera reamed her out for her mission to the Valiant, then went to sit by Ace's bedside. She walked in the sun and read lists of estimated fatalities. She visited her parents and listened to her mother's apologies, she dried Tish's tears.
She went to the funerals.
"Do you still hear it," Jack Benton asked as they walked through the gardens of UNIT HQ one morning. "The Time Lord in your head, I mean."
"Not much," Martha admitted. "Sometimes. I never understood statistics before, but I do now. You?"
"He was a chancellory guard," Benton said slowly. "He was ... xenophobic and proud. Not a nice guy, really, but he had his own kind of honour."
"Is he still with you?"
"No. Well, sometimes I have an irresistable urge to wear tight red trousers, but I hope that passes soon."
She laughed, and their hands brushed.
"No," he said eventually, "I'm not sorry he's gone. I didn't much like having him in my head."
"How's your dad?"
"Oh, good. Well, getting better. He's himself. Which is all I can ask for, really."
Six billion Toclafane had descended, and a tenth of Earth's population had died. The numbers were too vast for Martha to comprehend. And everyone, everyone who survived, who hadn't been able to escape, had been taken by a Toclafane.
Any way you looked at it, nothing would ever be the same again.
Martha turned. "Ace! I can't believe they let you out of bed."
"'Let' isn't the word." Ace still walked with a limp, and sometimes, when she thought no one was looking, Martha had seen her holding her side. "Jack busted me out."
Jack was on the phone, pacing back and forth a few feet away.
"No," he was saying, "I want you all back in Cardiff in three days. And you absolutely cannot keep the Yeti."
Ace laughed, then groaned, clutching her side.
"I'm on light duties for a while," she said. "I was going to hop forward a couple of centuries, find a nice summery planet with good beaches, but Jack's made me a better offer."
"I'm bringing in a new consultant," Jack was saying, "no, she's not an alien. Why would you even think that? Ace," he called, "you're not an alien, are you?"
"Hundred percent human, barring a couple of wibbly bits," she answered. "So," she said, turning back to Martha, "what about you? Are you staying with the Doctor?"
"I'm not sure yet," Martha admitted. "The Brigadier-General says there's work for me, and--" she glanced at Benton, "I have had a few good offers. And then there's my family..."
"You could go," suggested Benton, "and come back for leave sometimes."
"I could," Martha said. "I really, really ... could."
But Ace was no longer paying attention to them; she was looking over at the house, from which two figures were emerging.
"And what are they planning to do?" she asked.
Martha's attention was on the Doctor's body language. Hands in pockets, eyes on the ground, all subdued restraint. Romana walked beside him, arms crossed tightly over her chest. Her dark hair was tied up in a loose knot, and there were shadows under her eyes.
"I don't know," Martha said at last. "I really don't know."
"He needs someone to look out for him," said Ace. "To stop him from going too far ... or make him go further."
"I'm not sure I'm cut out to be a nursemaid to a thousands-year-old alien lunatic."
"He's going to hunt down the Master."
"Did he tell you that?" Martha asked.
"Didn't need to."
They watched as the Doctor said reached out to touch Romana's arm. She stepped back.
"I'm going with him," Martha decided finally. "But not forever."
"Forever's overrated anyway," said Jack.
They stopped speaking as the two Time Lords approached.
"This would be a nice time for an inane comment about the weather," Benton whispered. Martha stifled a giggle.
"Well," said the Doctor when he was standing before them, "the TARDIS is fixed ... well, mostly. I think. It's all down to fine-tuning now. Want to take it for a test run?"
"What did you have in mind?" Martha asked.
"Oh, just a spin. Horsehead Nebula and back. Oh, and there's this great little restaurant on an Earth colony in the thirtieth century, they do things to pasta that could inspire religions. Come on," he offered her his arm, "I'll take you to dinner."
Slowly, Martha stood up.
"Anyone else want to come?" she asked, looking at Romana.
"No," she said. "I'm staying with UNIT. Helping with the clean-up and so forth."
"You could come to Cardiff," Jack suggested.
"No thank you."
"Come on, Martha," said the Doctor, "we've got a universe to explore."
She let him lead her away, but she glanced back at the people she was leaving behind.
Jack Benton waved at her. Martha laughed.
"What?" the Doctor said.
"Nothing. Well, just a private joke."
She didn't explain, and he didn't ask, and they returned to the TARDIS in companionable silence.