One moment, Donna was standing in the TARDIS, across the center console from the Doctor. After flipping a few switches, the Doctor looked up and saw someone else entirely.
The tall woman with long black hair drew a weapon. “Who the frell are you?!”
She backed up towards the wall, also covering another target to the Doctor’s right. He looked and saw another human with white hair tied back in a ponytail. He raised his hands.
“Let’s just all calm down a minute.”
“I agree,” the Doctor said, also raising his hands. “How did you two get here?”
“Where am I?” the woman demanded.
“First, you put down the gun,” the Doctor said steadily. “No one’s going to harm you. I have no weapons.”
“Neither do I. I’m a priest,” the other man added.
The woman slowly lowered her gun and slowed her breathing with practiced ease. “All right. Now, where am I?”
“You’re on my ship,” the Doctor answered, lowering his hands. “As for how you two got here and where my friend went, I have no idea. I can take some readings and try to get to the bottom of this. Where were you before you were here?”
“I was on my ship,” the woman answered.
“Me too,” the priest replied.
“I’m the Doctor, and this is my ship. The TARDIS.” He looked at the woman and frowned slightly. “And you’re not human.”
“Sebacean,” she answered. “I’m Aeryn Sun.”
The Doctor broke into a wide grin. “Sebacean! Goodness, I haven’t been to that side of universe in ages!”
The priest was still confused. “She looks human … “
The Doctor shrugged. “So do I.”
Aeryn looked doubtful. “You’re Sebacean?”
“Nope! Sorry, what was your name?” the Doctor asked turning to the other man.
“Shepherd Book. So … what does that make you then, Doctor …?”
“Just The Doctor,” he answered, attacking the console for readings that might be of any help to him.
“You’re avoiding the question,” Aeryn pursued. “What species are you, Doctor?”
He paused for a moment. “Time Lord.”
Aeryn laughed. “You’re joking.”
He shook his head and resumed his readings.
“But … they’re just a myth,” she said slowly.
“Apparently, I’m missing something,” Book commented. “But never mind that, how do we get home?”
“Well, I could just fly you back home, but I’d like to at least figure out how you got here first,” the Doctor answered. “The only other time someone materialized on my ship, it was a one in a billion shot.”
The last time Donna Noble had materialized on a spaceship, it had been a one in a billion shot. She could hardly believe it was happening again.
“Doctor?!” she called, looking around the foreign cargo bay.
All of a sudden, a gray blur rushed in front of her and tackled her to ground, screaming, “Where am I?! What’ve you done?!”
“Get off me!” Donna shrieked, trying to push the strange creature away.
“What is going on here?!” a new, female voice shouted. “How did you get in here?”
“Get her off me, or so help me, I will kick her off!” The gray creature backed off, crouching low and looking warily at the two women. Now that Donna could sit up and catch her breath, she saw that the “creature” was actually a petite, gray woman.
An elegant human in Asian-inspired dress gracefully descended the stairs and leveled a pistol at the both of them. “How did you two get here? Where’s the rest of the crew?”
Donna raised her hands. “Look, I’m not armed, and I’ve never met Grumpy Bear over there in my life. I don’t know how I got here, all right? And I haven’t seen anyone else.”
The gray girl raised a much more futuristic-looking pistol. “Well, I am armed, but I haven’t seen your crew either. Just take me back to Moya, and no one will get hurt.”
“Who’s Moya?” the other woman asked.
Donna stood up. “Look, we’re not going to get any answers pointing guns at each other. Let’s just settle down and talk. We can figure this out.”
The elegant woman reluctantly lowered her gun. “You’re not stowaways then?”
“Not this time,” the gray woman said, lowering her weapon.
“My name’s Donna. Last thing I knew, I was standing on my ship – well, not really mine – the next thing I know, I’m in here, getting jumped on by a … what are you?”
“The name’s Chiana, and I’m a Nebari,” she answered. “You two … don’t look like Peacekeepers.”
“No, I’m … human. Inara,” the dark-haired woman answered. “You’re … an alien?”
“Oh, it’s your first one?” Donna said with a smile. “Always weird the first time.”
Chiana blinked. “Hoo-man? Like … Crichton?”
“Chiana, what happened to you? How did you get here?” Donna asked, since she could tell Inara was still in shock.
“Same thing as you. I was on Moya, mindin’ my own business, and suddenly I end up here.”
“All right. Let’s go to the bridge, and see if we can find either of your ships or my crew,” Inara said, gathering herself back together.
“Where’s my crew?!” Mal demanded, aiming his pistol at the other two … males.
The other two men, one who appeared to be human, and another that didn’t also leveled weapons.
“Look, both of you, just calm down,” the other human said.
“I do not answer to Peacekeepers,” the alien growled.
“I’m not a Peacekeeper,” the man answered steadily. “I’m human. Captain Jack Harkness. And unless you want get yourselves killed, I suggest you listen to exactly what I say.”
Mal looked around the foreign ship. “Where are we?”
“We are someplace you do not want to be unless you’re a Dalek,” Jack stated. “Now listen. If you want to live, we need to stop pointing weapons at each other and find a place to hide. Agreed?”
“Agreed,” the alien said, lowering his bizarre-looking sword.
Mal reluctantly lowered his gun as Jack also lowered his.
Jack looked around. “Follow me.” They managed to find an empty storage room without running into anyone else.
“Since now would not be the place for tactful speech, I’m forced to just come out and ask. What are you?” Mal demanded of the alien.
“I am a Luxan, and my name is Ka D’Argo. Where did you two come from?”
“We’re not together, though I can’t say I’d object if we were,” Jack said, giving Mal an appreciative glance.
“And you are?” D’Argo asked, ignoring Jack.
“Captain Malcolm Reynolds. Also human, since that seems to be in question. Another thing, what exactly is a Daw-leck?”
“Another alien. A killing machine, pretty much completely invulnerable,” Jack replied. “I don’t know how I got here. I was at the office, working with my team, and then I was here. What about you two?”
D’Argo shook his head. “I experienced the same. I was on my ship Moya, and then I was here.”
“Likewise,” Mal answered. “Since you seem to at least know where we are, Captain Harkness, don’t suppose you have a notion as to how to get home?”
Jack frowned. “You know, you talk like you’re from another era, yet you don’t seem overly intimidated by the technology around you. Where are you from on Earth?”
Mal blinked. “Earth? You mean, Earth-that-was? Do I look that old?”
Jack nodded in understanding. “Parallel universe. Interesting.”
“Never mind. I’ve got an idea,” Jack said, taking out his cell phone.
One moment, Martha Jones was walking down a hospital corridor, the next, she found herself walking towards a large alien with four arms. She wasn’t in London anymore.
She let out an involuntary scream and backed up, only to trip over a small, yellow mechanical … thing. “Where am I?!”
“Who are you?! Where did you come from?” the alien demanded.
Another human, a thin girl, stood on top of the alien’s console. “We fell through and found you.”
“Get down from there! You’ll damage something!” the alien shouted.
The girl ignored him and put a hand on the wall next to the console. “No. I wouldn’t hurt her. She’s so gentle.”
The alien’s round eyes widened slightly. “You … can speak to Moya?”
“What is going on here? Where am I?” Martha interrupted. “And who is Moya?”
“Moya is this ship,” the girl answered, crouching down. “She’s alive.”
Martha looked around her as she got to her feet. “Like … the TARDIS?” she said to herself. She turned back to face the two strangers and took a deep breath. “My name is Dr. Martha Jones. I’m from Earth.”
The alien looked startled. “You are human? Like Crichton?” He looked over at the crouching girl. “And you?”
She nodded. “But not from Earth-That-Was.”
“Earth-That … what?” Martha asked.
“I am called Pilot,” the alien said. “Moya and I are home to … a crew, of sorts. Now they are no longer on our scanners. At the same moment they disappeared, you two appeared.”
“I didn’t do anything,” Martha said calmly, coming a little closer and raising her hands palm up. “I was just minding my own business, and then I was here. What about you … miss …?”
“River,” she answered. “I was on Serenity. She’s a beautiful ship, but she doesn’t talk back like Moya does.”
“Okay … but did you do anything strange that might have resulted in us … teleporting?”
River shook her head.
“Pilot? Anything strange happen before this?”
“No. All scans and systems were normal.”
And then Martha’s phone rang.
John Crichton, having lived for years among aliens, was suddenly surprised to find himself surrounded by humans. He looked around in alarm. “Aeryn?! D’Argo?! Anybody!”
People passing by looked at him quizzically and kept on walking. He looked around; all of the signs appeared to be in English. I’m on Earth? he wondered. How is that possible?
He could hear a man with a British-sounding accent approaching. “Jack? Tosh? Gwen? Owen! Anyone! Is anyone there?!” Crichton could see he was wearing an impeccable three-piece suit and repeatedly tapping a silver device on his ear.
Crichton looked down at his own comm and decided to give it a try. “Pilot? Aeryn?”
The two men stopped and stared at each other.
A young woman in greasy coveralls nearly ran them over. “Please, can you tell me where I am? I haven’t been at the bottle, I swear, I just showed up here, and I don’t know where I am!”
The man in the suit put his hands on her shoulders. “You’re in London, miss. What’s your name?”
“London? No, I mean to say, what planet? Ain’t none of this look familiar!”
“Um, you’re on Earth, miss. Are you supposed to be somewhere else?”
Crichton moved closer to them. London. Huh. Never been here before. But if she’s from another planet …
“I’m supposed to be on my ship!” she cried, nearing panic. “I was on Serenity, fixing up the engine, and then I was here!”
“My name is Ianto Jones. I can help you, miss. What’s your name?”
“Kaylee. Kaylee Frye.” Crichton watched as she stopped and looked at Ianto properly for the first time. He could practically see the stars in her eyes from where he was.
“Sorry to interrupt,” Crichton said politely. “But I think we might all be in the same boat. I was … somewhere else, and then I was here.”
“Me, too,” Ianto answered. “I was miles away, in Cardiff, and then I was here, and I can’t reach anyone on my team.”
“John Crichton,” he said, shaking hands with Ianto and then Kaylee. “Is there somewhere a bit more private we can go to talk?”
Ianto scanned the area and then took a small device from his pocket, consulting it. “There’s an old Torchwood safehouse just around the corner. Let’s head there.”
“Torchwood?” Kaylee asked.
“That’s the company I work for,” Ianto explained, as he guided her through the London crowd. “And we’re used to dealing with … unusual cases.”
Before long, Ianto had Crichton and Kaylee settled in a boarded up shop with mugs of tea.
“I apologize for the mess. Clearly, this place hasn’t been used in some time,” Ianto said, fiddling with his own tea.
“I work in an engine room; I don’t mind none,” Kaylee commented, sipping her tea.
Ianto left his on the counter and turned to face the two strangers. “All right. As I said, I work for Torchwood. We handle all alien encounters on behalf of the United Kingdom. May I inquire how you arrived here, and where you’re from?”
“Originally, I’m from Earth,” Crichton answered. “I was working on the Farscape project, and I got shot through a wormhole to another part of the universe. I’ve been living there for almost two years. And then, without even leaving my ship, I end up here.” He looked around thoughtfully. “Probably just another trick.”
“I assure you, Mr. Crichton, this is all very real. Now that you’re back, we’ll be able to find your family and get you home.”
“But I …” Crichton trailed off. He’d been trying to get home for so long, he never stopped to think what would happen when he actually did it. What about Aeryn and the others?
“And you, Miss Frye?”
She blushed. “Oh, please, call me Kaylee. I’m … not really sure what y’all are talking about … unless I’ve travelled back in time. Earth don’t exist no more where I’m from. I live out in the black on a ship called Serenity. Do you know how to get me home?”
“I’m not sure, Kaylee. If only I could reach someone –“ He paused, cocking his head to one side and tapping his earpiece. “Owen! Is that you?”
“Yes, it’s me, you bloomin’ teaboy!” Owen yelled into his earpiece. “I don’t know where you all ran off to, but I’ve got a serious security breach on my hands. Get back here now!”
“I don’t know how to tell you this, Owen, but I’m in London.”
“Quit joking around, Ianto. You were just here.”
“I know. I’m not sure what’s going on. What’s the Rift doing?”
“Nothing! That was the first thing I checked after I locked down the intruders!”
“Wait, what intruders?”
“These two blokes showed up out of nowhere! One alien, one human. I checked the security camera three times. They just appeared. Claim to have no idea what’s going on.”
“Owen, considering what happened to me, they might be telling the truth. And I ran into two people that came out of nowhere, too. Well, not nowhere, but … wait, what are the names of the intruders?”
“The alien creep that looks half-Weevil calls himself Scorpius. The human is a Dr. Simon Tam. And they apparently don’t know each other from Adam.”
“Okay, hold on.” He turned to John and Kaylee. “Do the names Scorpius or Simon Tam mean anything to you?”
Kaylee and John both leapt to their feet and started talking at the same time.
“Simon! You know where Simon is?! Can I talk to him?”
“I sure as hell know Scorpius, but I can’t guarantee he’s got nothing to do with this,” Crichton said at the same time.
Ianto paused. “Owen, they each know one of the intruders. Something very strange is going on.”
“Really? What was your first clue? Look, just get back here! We’ll sort it out.”
“Okay, everybody just calm down,” Gwen said, holding her gun out in front of her. The two men facing her held weapons of their own, and they looked fairly futuristic. “One thing at a time,” she continued. “Where are we?”
“Yer somewhere you ain’t supposed to be,” the man with the biggest gun answered. He looked around the luxurious room with differently colored curtains. “And I ain’t supposed to be here neither! I don’t even know how I got here, but I know you two definitely shouldn’t be, unless you’re clients.”
“I don’t know how I got here,” Gwen said evenly. “I was at my office, and then suddenly I was here with the two of you. I didn’t mean to intrude.”
“Nor I,” said the other man. “So, since you, sir, at least know where we are, perhaps you could enlighten us?”
The man with the biggest gun hesitated.
“Look, I don’t want to hurt anyone,” Gwen said, still keeping an even tone. “So, what’s say we all put down our weapons and figure out how we all got here? Agreed?”
The men reluctantly nodded, and the three of them lowered their weapons.
“That’s better,” Gwen said. “My name is Gwen Cooper, and I’m from Torchwood.”
“Bialar Crais, former Peacekeeper,” the man to her left stated.
“Jayne Cobb. Excuse me,” he said, moving between Gwen and Crais and pushing aside a curtain.
“Oh my God!” Gwen cried. “We’re in outer space!”
The two men gave her an odd look.
“Ain’t you ever been in the black?” Jayne asked as he pushed some buttons on the console.
“May I ask what you’re doing?” Crais countered.
“Trying to see where we are and get a hold of anybody,” Jayne answered.
“Hello?” a female voice came over the speakers. “Who is in my shuttle?”
“Inara! Are you on Serenity? Where the hell are you?”
“Jayne?! What are you doing on my shuttle?”
“I didn’t touch nothing! I don’t know how I got here, or how the shuttle got separated from Serenity. Where’s the Captain?”
“That’s just the thing. I have no idea. The entire crew disappeared, and these two complete strangers showed up in the cargo hold. They don’t seem to have anything to do with what’s happened, though. Are you alone?”
“No … two strangers showed up here, too.” He turned to face them, hand on his gun. “Either of you have a notion as to what’s going on? Where’s the rest of our crew?”
“No idea,” Gwen answered, shaking her head.
“I had nothing to do with this,” Crais added. “I was on my ship Talyn, and then I was here.”
Jayne did not look entirely convinced but turned back to face the console.
“Inara, what’s your position? I can’t take much more of this gorram perfume.”
“Where the frell did you to come from!?” Rygel demanded, even as he had weapons pointed in his direction. “You don’t belong here! Either of you!”
“Where am I?” the woman demanded, looking around nervously. “How did you do that?”
“Normally, I would take the credit,” the man answered, keeping a pen-like device pointed at the woman. “But this wasn’t my doing. In fact, I’m not even quite sure where we are.” He grinned happily. “How delightful! A surprise!”
“Well, I don’t care how the frell either of you arrived!” Rygel shouted. “I am Dominar Rygel XVI, and you are intruders on my ship! I demand you leave, or I will send you out the airlock!”
The woman smirked. “And yet, you’re the one without a weapon, Dominar.”
“And he’s also a liar,” the man said, looking around more carefully. “This isn’t your ship.”
“I was on it first!”
The woman frowned slightly. “How do you know he’s lying?”
“The ship told me,” the man answered, nearly completely distracted by his surroundings. “He’s young … so, very, very young.”
“You can talk … to ships?” the woman queried.
The man looked at her. “Only the ones that talk back.”
“Okay, so this is startin’ to climb on my stuff-that-don’t-make-sense list. I’m in a room with a weirdo, a talking toad, and a talking ship.”
Rygel bristled. “I am not a toab, I’m a –”
“Hynerian,” the man supplied. “Obviously.”
“How did you –“
“Oh, do shut it,” the man said, firing his weapon directly at the woman’s gun, forcing her to drop it. He picked up the discarded gun and pocketed it. Once he was free to move around, he ran his hands over the console, fascinated. “This is crude but unusual. A crossbred Leviathan.”
The woman folded her arms and leaned against the wall. “What is that supposed to mean?”
The man grinned. “It means it had weapons. And Leviathans aren’t supposed to have weapons. So, he’s young, confused, and dangerous.”
“He has a name,” Rygel interjected. “It’s Talyn. I think it’s high time you told us yours.”
“I’m the Master.”
“That’s not a name,” the woman pointed out. “That’s a title.”
The Master shrugged. “I chose it as my name.”
The woman moved closer to him. “I’m Saffron. So, if that thing is a Hyberian –“
“Hynerian!” Rygel cried.
“Whatever. And this – ship – we’re on is a Leviathan … what does that make you?”
He looked over his shoulder at her for a moment. “A Time Lord.”
Rygel roared with laughter. “Time Lord?! They’re just a myth.”
“In this part of the universe, that’s exactly what you would think,” the Master said, still absorbed in his study of Talyn.
Rygel sobered. “You can’t be serious.”
Saffron grinned, moving closer to him. “Sounds impressive.”
“And, in this part of the universe, anyone would easily mistake you for a Sebacean,” the Master announced, turning to face Saffron properly. “But you’re not. You’re human.”
“What?!” Rygel gasped. “Impossible!”
Saffron just giggled good-naturedly. “Guilty as charged, unless that’s a crime around these parts.”
“How did you two get here?” Rygel tried again.
“No idea,” the Master answered, turning back to the controls. “I shouldn’t even still exist and yet, here we are. A human, a Hynerian, and a Time Lord trapped in an armed Leviathan. Tell me, your Highness, why are you not sitting on a throne?”
Rygel squirmed. “I was … deposed.”
“I see,” the Master said, nodding. “And what you say if I told you that with this ship and my brain, I could fix that problem for you?”
“I would be most … intrigued.”
Wash and the young woman tried vainly to calm the man with the bizarre metal mask.
“Look, we need you to calm down,” Wash said, touching the man’s shoulder.
“Nononono! Can’t be here! Shouldn’t be here! Scorpius will find me! Put me in the chair!” the man cried, gesticulating wildly.
“Okay, look, we won’t let this Scorpius find you, all right? Just calm down and tell us where we are,” the blond woman said soothingly. When she touched his arm, he quieted and turned to face her.
“You’re … strange,” he murmured.
Wash bit his lip to keep from laughing.
“I’m Rose. What’s your name?”
“Stark, can you tell us where we are?”
Stark looked between Wash and Rose. “… not Peacekeepers?”
“No, I’m human,” Rose answered calmly. “From Earth.”
Wash blinked. “Uh, I’m human, too … didn’t know that was in question.”
Rose looked up at him and smiled warmly. “You never know, Mr. ….?”
“Just call me Wash.” He looked at Stark. “Is he an … alien?”
“Not human. Only Crichton. All alone,” Stark muttered.
“Do you know where we are?” Wash asked, feeling more uneasy.
“Command Carrier. Peacekeepers. Scorpius could be here – shouldn’t stay!”
“Peacekeepers,” Wash attempted to scoff. “How bad can they be?”
“Humans … Peacekeepers will use you. Try to find Crichton. Take your blood. Take your brain!”
“Okay, that doesn’t sound fun,” Wash commented.
“Stark, do you know somewhere we can hide?” Rose asked.
The apparent alien nodded and led them through some hallways, passing a large launch bay. Wash nearly stopped in his tracks. The ships and shuttles were like nothing he had seen before. The designs were advanced and foreign. He started to worry he had somehow been taken by a new branch of the Alliance. And how can Rose be from Earth? It doesn’t exist anymore!
Stark led them to a small storage closet.
“Were those people Peacekeepers?” Rose asked.
“Yes, yes. Not good. Need to get back to Moya.”
“But they looked human!” Wash protested.
Rose smiled again. “So does he. Sort of.”
They were startled by a loud knock on the door.
At the same time in a parallel universe, three women were working together efficiently. Toshiko Sato was working with Zoe to contact her ship Serenity. Zoe has quickly gotten over her surprise at seeing an alien for the first time; after only a few minutes, she had given Pa’u Zotoh Zhaan her gun and instructed her to watch the door to the computer lab inside the high tech hospital Ariel.
It was the night shift, so the medical facility was a bit quieter than during the day.
“I think I’ve got something,” Toshiko announced, looking up at Zoe. “Try it now.” Zoe leaned over and pressed a button. “Serenity, this is Zoe. Baby, can you hear me?”
There was some crackling before a deep, male voice answered. “I ain’t your baby, Zoe, last I checked.”
“Jayne! Where’s Wash?”
“Damned if I know! One minute, I’m mindin’ my own business in my bunk, the next I’m in Inara’s shuttle with two strangers, and Serenity is twenty minutes away! When I got here, there was only Inara and two other strangers. One of them’s a weird alien … thing. Where the hell are you?”
“I don’t know how I got here, but I’m on Ariel. Can you come get us?”
“Us? Who else is there with you? The Cap’n?”
“No. Two other strangers,” she said as she exchanged a glance with Toshiko. “Something really weird is going on. We’re splitting up and turning up in threes. Anyway, come get us before they find the alien with us.”
“Male or female?”
“Jayne! Just come get us!”
“Got it. Serenity out.”
“He sounds … charming,” Toshiko commented.
“Any idea on what’s happening?” Zhaan asked from the doorway. “How did we get here?”
“It sounds like this is far too organized to be a random, natural phenomenon,” Toshiko stated. “Something very strange is going on. I shouldn’t even be here. This is a parallel universe. It’s impossible!”
“Perhaps when we pool our resources, we will be able to sort it out,” Zhaan suggested.
“Serenity doesn’t have advanced computers like this,” Zoe warned. “We’re just a transport ship.”
“Maybe some of the other ‘visitors’ will know what’s going on,” Toshiko said. “I looked at this system, and I can’t find anything unusual. No sudden increase in patients or reports of bizarre weather phenomena. I think whatever’s happening … it’s limited to us.”
Martha answered her ringing phone. “Hello?”
“Martha, it’s Jack.”
“Jack! You are not going to believe where I am!”
“What? Where are you?”
“I am on a living spaceship called Moya. I have no clue how I got here.”
“This is unbelievable. I’m on a Dalek ship, and I’m with someone who’s supposed to be on Moya.”
“Are you serious?”
“Yes, I’m serious! It’s not gonna be long before they find us. Have you talked to the Doctor?”
“Call him. I need him to get us out of here. Are you okay?”
“Yeah. Yeah, I’m safe. I’ll call him and see if he can find you. Then you can find Moya.”
“Got it. Please hurry.”
“I will.” Martha clicked her phone off. “This is so weird.”
“What was that transmission?” Pilot asked.
“It was from a friend of mine. He’s experiencing the same thing: transported to another part of the universe. He says he’s with one of your crew, and they’re in a very dangerous place.” Martha started dialing. “We need a Doctor.”
The Doctor was still trying to figure out what was going on when his phone rang. He rolled his eyes and picked it up.
“Kind of busy at the moment, Martha.”
“Doctor, I’m on a living spaceship called Moya.”
“And Jack just called me. He’s on a Dalek ship with someone who’s supposed to be on Moya. It’s like we’ve all switched places or something. Anyway, you need to get them out of there before they’re found.”
The Doctor looked at Aeryn. “What’s the name of your ship?”
“Shepherd? Your ship?”
“Did he just say Serenity?” Martha asked.
“The other girl here, that’s the ship she’s from. Doctor, what is going on? What did you do?”
The Doctor almost laughed as he had the TARDIS scan for the fixed point in time that was Jack Harkness. “Why are you so quick to blame me? I didn’t do anything. Something caused the timelines to cross. We’ve got to straighten this out.”
“Can you get to Jack?”
“Yep. Just found him. Heading there now. Then we’ll go to Moya. Are you all right?”
“I’m fine. Go get Jack.”
“Got it. See you soon.” The Doctor hung up the phone and nearly ran Aeryn and Book over as he plotted their new course and threw the TARDIS into gear.
“Where are we going?!” Aeryn demanded as she gripped the wall to keep from falling.
“To find your friends and one of mine. They’re on a ship with a race called the Daleks. That is not a good place to be. They’re very dangerous.”
“Do we know who’s there?” Book asked, gripping the pilot’s chair.
“Didn’t have time to ask. We’ll just have to find out. Hold on!”
Jack could hear Daleks outside the door start to screech.
“That does not sound good,” D’Argo commented.
“Actually, it does,” Jack corrected. “It means the Doctor’s coming for us.”
“By the sound of that ruckus, he better be bringing more than bandages,” Mal commented.
A wind whipped up in the small room, and Jack nearly sagged with relief as the TARDIS materialized.
“What the –“ Mal started.
“No time! Get in!” Jack said, shoving D’Argo and Mal into the TARDIS doors just as the Doctor opened them.
“DOCTOR! TARDIS! EXTERMINATE!” a Dalek screamed, bursting through the door.
Jack leapt through the TARDIS doors just as the Dalek’s blast got him in the back.
The Doctor slammed the doors shut and adjusted their course before throwing the lever to dematerialize.
Mal and D’Argo untangled themselves from the dead weight that was Jack’s body.
“He’s not breathing! Doctor, now would be the time to do something!” Mal shouted.
“He’ll be fine,” the Doctor replied.
“D’Argo!” Aeryn cried, relieved to see a familiar face. “Have you seen Crichton? Or any of the others?”
The Luxan shook his head, looking down at Jack. “He covered us so we could escape.”
“What did they look like?” Aeryn asked.
“Walking, talking hunks of metal,” Mal answered.
“And you thought I was strange,” D’Argo commented.
Everyone except the Doctor jumped as Jack noisily drew air back into his lungs.
“Speaking of strange!” Book exclaimed.
“Shepherd, last I checked, isn’t there a chapter in the Bible about the rising of the dead heralding the apocalypse?” Mal asked, backing away from Jack.
“Nah, he does that all the time. The apocalypse is billions of years from here,” the Doctor said nonchalantly.
Jack caught his breath and sat up, looking at Mal. “Come on, Captain? No mouth to mouth? I’m disappointed.”
“Stop it,” the Doctor scolded.
“Don’t worry, he’s just jealous,” Jack said as Aeryn helped him back to his feet. “Captain Jack Harkness. And who might you be?” He held onto her hand and moved to kiss it.
She slipped her hand from his and landed a crushing punch to his arm.
“Someone you don’t want to mess with,” D’Argo supplied.
“Right!” The Doctor bounded in between the group. “I’m the Doctor.” He looked at D’Argo. “Luxan! Aw, this is like looking through an old photo album! I haven’t been to that side of the universe in years! Anyway, Jack, this is Aeryn Sun and Shepherd Book.”
“This is Captain Malcolm Reynolds and Ka D’Argo,” Jack said, rubbing his arm and nodding at the other new arrivals. “Doctor, I think Serenity is in a parallel universe. Earth doesn’t exist where they’re from.”
The Doctor frowned. “Well, that complicates things a bit.”
“This ship … the interior is larger than the exterior,” D’Argo noted.
“It is?” Book asked.
“How exactly do you perform that trick, Doctor?” Mal asked.
“Long story,” the Doctor answered, bounding back to the controls. “Now. Next stop, Moya!” He paused. “D’Argo, Aeryn, I need you to give me some kind of recent events, something that will make the history books. I’m not sure what year – er, cycle Martha’s in.”
“Pilot, listen, there’s going to be a ship heading our direction, maybe even landing inside Moya,” Martha explained calmly. “It won’t harm her. It’s my friend, the Doctor. He’s coming to help.”
Pilot’s head tilted to one side. “How can a ship materialize in here?”
“It’s a long story, just trust me and tell Moya not to panic or fire on him.”
“No teeth,” River said, wandering the control panel. “Moya doesn’t bite.”
“She is correct,” Pilot said slowly. “Moya had no offensive weapons, but we do appreciate your warning, Dr. Jones.”
“Just call me Martha.” She looked curiously at River. “Are you psychic?”
“Half-metal man is stuck with the pilot and the flower. Big trouble,” River replied.
“Masked man? Do you mean Stark?” Pilot asked. His head jerked back down to his readings. “Attention! Foreign ship materializing in the cargo bay!”
“That’s the TARDIS!” Martha exclaimed. “Which way’s the cargo bay?”
River grabbed Martha’s hand. “Follow me.”
“But you’ve never been here before either!” Martha cried even as she let the girl lead her.
“Moya will tell me.”
“Well, this should be interesting. The TARDIS is psychic, too.”
“Martha!” the Doctor called, bounding out of the TARDIS and nearly smacking into Crichton’s module. He raised an eyebrow. “What is that doing here?”
“Doctor!” Martha cried, running across the cargo bay to him.
The Doctor hugged her and swung her about. “What are you doing on this side of the universe, Dr. Jones?!”
“I have no idea, but I am so glad to see you.” Her eyes widened slightly as D’Argo exited the TARDIS, followed by Aeryn. “Any idea what’s going on?”
“Not a clue yet,” the Doctor replied as Jack, Mal, and Book also stepped out of the TARDIS and into the cargo bay. “Have you heard from Donna?”
Martha shook her head. “She’s missing?”
“That’s how this all started. One minute, she was standing with me in the TARDIS, the next, it was Aeryn and the Shepherd instead.”
“You all right?” Jack asked Martha, hugging her quickly.
“I’m fine,” she answered.
“How are Pilot and Moya?” Aeryn asked.
“We are both doing well, Officer Sun,” Pilot replied, popping up on a viewscreen. “We are concerned for our missing shipmates, but we are well.”
“I’m about getting to the point where nothing is gonna surprise me,” Mal said, as he stared at the image of Pilot.
“River!” Book cried, noticing the silent girl as she stared at the TARDIS. “Are you all right?”
“Bigger on the inside,” River said quietly.
Book moved closer to her. “Everything’s going to be all right. We’ll find your brother.”
“How did you know that?” the Doctor asked River, raising an eyebrow.
“Doctor, I think she’s psychic,” Martha answered. She looked over at Book. “Is that right?”
“Something like,” Mal answered. He turned to the Doctor. “All right, we’ve found some of the lost sheep. What about the rest of my crew?”
“And ours,” Aeryn jumped in before D’Argo could. “We still have six people missing.”
“Attention,” Pilot announced. “Moya can sense that Talyn is nearby. And he is not alone.”
“Crais?” D’Argo growled.
“It is too early to tell, Ka D’Argo. But they seem to be heading our way.”
“Who’s Talyn?” Martha asked.
“Another Leviathan ship,” Aeryn explained. “He’s Moya’s son.”
Martha blinked. “Ships … can have kids?”
“Of course they can!” the Doctor boomed. “Well, if they’re Leviathans, like this beauty!”
“Perhaps the rest of your crew is on the other ship,” Book suggested hopefully.
“No, not there,” River stated. “Scattered and twisted. So twisted. There is one, and he … “ Her eyes widened as she collapsed to the floor, shrieking. “DRUMS! DRUMS!”
“Oh, that is so not good,” Martha breathed.
“That’s impossible,” Jack stated.
“You’re really going to use that word? After everything that’s happened? Now the word ‘impossible’ gets bandied about?” Mal asked incredulously.
The Doctor knelt down next to River, touching his fingertips to her temples. She instantly stilled and closed her eyes.
“What did you do?” Book asked.
“Severed the connection. She is psychic, and her mind found something it wasn’t supposed to. Jack’s right. It shouldn’t be possible. That person is dead.”
“All right, everyone, listen!” Aeryn commanded. “We don’t know who is onboard Talyn right now. Could be anyone. Pilot, can Moya contact Talyn?”
“Not at this range, Officer Sun.”
“Then we wait. You are all welcome to join me in the command, or the DRDs can take you to the kitchen for some refreshment.”
“If it’s all the same, I’ll just pop back in the TARDIS and keep scanning,” the Doctor said, standing up.
“It isn’t,” Aeryn answered curtly. “I still don’t know who or what caused this mess, Doctor. So until we know more, you are all staying here. Is that clear?”
Mal raised an eyebrow. “And if we’re not inclined to do as you say?”
Jack nudged him. “Captain, let’s just all play nice. I’m sure it won’t be long until the other ship arrives.”
“With what River said, are you sure we should just wait for the ship?” Mal pursued. “Sounds like someone unfriendly might have control of it.”
Aeryn wavered. “Moya has no offensive capabilities. But my prowler does.”
“No one needs to shoot anyone,” the Doctor cut in. “There’s no guarantee that what River said means anything.”
“But it could,” Book pointed out. “What are you not telling us, Doctor? What has you, Jack, and Martha so nervous?”
Jack looked over at the Doctor. “We could be further back in the timeline. Before the Year that Never Was.”
The Doctor frantically ran his hands through his hair. “Could be. We’re in your time period – maybe a few years earlier – just on the other side of the universe,” the Doctor answered.
“I’m inclined to agree with Captain Reynolds, Doctor,” D’Argo said. “If there’s a chance a threat is headed our way, we would all benefit from knowing.”
Martha put her hand on the Doctor’s arm. “It can’t do any harm to tell them. If it’s not him –”
“He’s dead, Martha!”
“I know. But Captain Reynolds is right. Looking at what’s happened, is this really the time to be saying it’s impossible?”
“There’s an easy way to solve this,” Jack cut in. “If we all go into the TARDIS, the Doctor can scan for Talyn and contact whoever’s on board. Then we’ll all have our answers.”
D’Argo looked slightly skeptical. “What manner of ship is that?”
“It’s a TARDIS,” the Doctor answered. “Time and Relative Dimension in Space. It’s a time machine.”
“And how did you come to possess it?” D’Argo asked.
“It’s mine. I’m a Time Lord. Jack’s right. If some of you will come inside, we can scan for Talyn. Then we’ll know who’s where, and who we’re still looking for.”
“I’m going,” Aeryn said, shoving her way through the crowd.
“I’ll … wait here,” D’Argo said, obviously still in shock from the Doctor’s revelations.
“Stay here with River,” Mal told Book, disappearing into the TARDIS. Jack followed him.
Martha looked slightly nervously at D’Argo. “I’ll stay here, so you know the Doctor won’t try anything. But he won’t. You can trust him.”
“Time Lords … they’re just a myth!”
“They’re not,” Martha replied. “He’s the real thing.”
D’Argo turned to look at her. “And you are …?”
“I’m human. Martha Jones.”
“So are we, since that still seems to be in question,” Book supplied.
“This must all have something to do with Crichton,” D’Argo mused allowed.
“Who’s Crichton?” Book asked.
“He’s a human member of our crew. He arrived here through a wormhole. I’m not sure any of us thought we’d ever meet other humans …”
“But what about …” Martha struggled to keep the names straight. “Officer Sun?”
“She is Sebacean,” D’Argo answered. “They do look remarkably similar to humans.”
“And so do Time Lords, apparently,” Book remarked dryly.
Hours after their first phone call, Ianto arrived at the Hub with Kaylee and Crichton.
“It’s about time!” Owen snapped. “I can’t reach any of the others.”
“We’ll figure it out,” Ianto told him.
Crichton and Kaylee looked around the Hub in wonder.
Owen pulled Ianto aside. “I dunno about the other three, but John Crichton is the real deal. The Farscape project was considered a failure and swept under the rug. But I guess it wasn’t after all.”
Ianto nodded. “Glad to hear it. We should probably figure out how he got here and what’s going on before letting him contact anyone.”
“Agreed,” Owen said. “That bloke … Scorpius … I think he’s the dangerous one.”
“You’d be right,” Crichton answered. “If you’ve got ‘im locked up, leave him there. No one is safe if he gets out.”
“What species is he?” Owen asked.
“He’s half and half. Half Sebacean, half Scarran.”
Kaylee’s eyes widened. “Ya’ll have an alien? Does he talk?”
“Unfortunately, yes,” Crichton answered. “Don’t worry. So long as he’s contained, he won’t do any damage.”
“What’s about Simon?” Kaylee asked. “Where is he?”
“Er, I’ll go get him.” Owen said, looking embarrassed. “Put us on lockdown, just in case,” he murmured to Ianto.
Ianto nodded and punched some commands into the computer, while spouting random facts about the Torchwood 3 facility.
“Simon!” Kaylee cried a few minutes later, running across the office to hug him. “You are a sight for sore eyes.”
“Are you okay?” Simon asked, pulling back slightly.
Kaylee nodded, blushing slightly.
Noticing that they were being watched, Simon stumbled for propriety. “Have you seen any of the others?”
Kaylee shook her head. “One minute, I was fixing the engine, the next minute, I was in sea of people.” She looked at Owen and Ianto. “They say we’re on Earth.”
Simon just blinked. “How can that be?”
“If I might offer a theory,” Crichton said slowly. “It sounds like you might be from a parallel universe. One in which, apparently, Earth was destroyed.”
Owen sighed in exasperation. “Oh, that doesn’t complicate things at all now, does it?”
Ianto shot him a look which Owen ignored entirely.
“So, from the sound of things, Torchwood is a couple people short as well, right? I mean, what are the odds that Kaylee, Ianto, and I all landed in the same place just as your team got replaced with Simon and Scorpy?” John pointed out.
“It doesn’t sound natural,” Ianto agreed. “But we haven’t been able to pick up anything on our equipment that would indicate something unnatural either.”
“Do you mind if I take a look?” Crichton offered.
Owen opened his mouth to object and then shut it, since he was out of ideas.
“Of course,” Ianto consented. “I’ll set up a secure workstation for you. It sounds like you’re going to have quite a story to tell, Mr. Crichton. Owen, why don’t you see about ordering some lunch for our guests.”
Owen grumbled a bit. “All right.”
“Pizza? Is there any chance we can have pizza?” Crichton asked quickly.
Owen raised an eyebrow, somewhat amused. “How long have you been gone?”
“About three years … please tell me we still have pizza!”
Owen and Ianto laughed.
“Yeah, mate, we still have pizza. Anything else you want?”
John chuckled. “The list would be pretty long. And I’m thinking now would not be the best time to ask for beer.” He looked at Kaylee. “What do you guys eat?”
Kaylee shrugged. “Mostly protein supplements. Ooh, I once went to this real fancy party, and they had all kinds of fresh fruit! Even strawberries!”
“You’re all set,” Ianto said, stepping aside to let Crichton use the computer. “Tell you what, how about I do a quick grocery run while I get the pizza?”
Crichton turned around again. “Then I do want one other thing … ice cream. I need ice cream.”
Ianto grinned. “Certainly. Um, what about our friend downstairs?”
Crichton shrugged, turning back to the computer. “Pizza should be fine for him, too. Only thing you need to worry about is that it’s not too hot down there for him. Even though I have half a mind to fry him, I’m probably going to need his help figuring out how to get us – him – home.”
Serenity was a mess of chaos. The seven women and two men argued heatedly and pointed fingers until, finally, Zoe had had enough.
She stood on top of the kitchen table. “ENOUGH! QUIET!”
Unhappily, everyone finally stopped talking.
“I understand that we’re all a mite unnerved here, but we are not going to get anywhere by shooting off our mouths. Here on this ship, I’m in charge. If you take unkindly to that, you can wait in the cargo hold, and we’ll be happy to drop you off on the nearest rock. If we want to get everyone home and find them that’s missing, I suggest we settle and work together. Dong ma?”
When no one disagreed or moved, Zoe nodded.
“Better. Now, does anyone not from Serenity have any way of contacting their missing people?”
“Our communicators are unresponsive,” Zhaan answered.
“None of our cell phones are working,” Gwen spoke for herself, Tosh, and Donna.
“Inara, has there been any word from the Core?”
Inara shook her head. “You were right. Whatever’s going on, it’s only happening to us.”
“Then there’s only one place to go,” Zoe asserted. “We need Mr. Universe.”
“I’m really startin’ to hope this is a bad dream,” Wash remarked, after being locked in a cell with Rose and Stark for a few hours.
“Me too,” Rose sighed, trying to ignore her rumbling stomach.
Stark had retreated to the back of the cell, mumbling to himself.
“I don’t even know how I got here,” Wash said, trying to laugh. “I was on my ship, and then I just appeared here with you and him.”
Rose nodded. “Same thing with me. I was at home with my family, and then I was here.”
“You said you’re from Earth?”
Rose nodded again. “Yeah. Why?”
“That’s impossible. Earth doesn’t exist anymore,” Wash said slowly, his eyes wide.
Rose raised an eyebrow. “Are you from the year five billion or later?”
Wash burst out laughing. “What?!”
Rose smiled and shook her head. “Never mind. We need to find a way out of here.” A thought seemed to occur to her as she reached under her shirt.
“Whoa, now,” Wash said, backing up slightly. “I’m a married man.”
Rose giggled, pulling a mobile phone out from under the folds of her sweater. “Then I’m sure your wife is worried sick. Let’s see if I’ve still got universal coverage.”
Wash was puzzled as she started pushing buttons on the strange device. “What is that?”
“It’s a phone,” Rose explained patiently, having decided Wash was either from a parallel universe or another era. “I’m trying to call for help. And if this works …” Her jaw dropped, and her eyes widened. “Doctor?”
The Doctor stood in the middle of the TARDIS, surrounded by Aeryn, Captain Reynolds, and Jack. But he couldn’t think about any of them or anything else. He couldn’t believe the voice he heard on the other end of the line. His hand holding the mobile was shaking.
“Doctor? Are you there?”
He could hear her burst into tears. “Oh my God, it’s you! It’s really you!”
“How … this is impossible! Where are you?!”
“Doctor, I don’t know what’s going on. One minute I was at home –“
“And the next, you were somewhere else?” the Doctor finished for her.
“Yeah! How did you – what’s going on?”
“Rose, where are you, and what are the names of the two people with you?”
“Um, Stark and Wash. We’re on a Peacekeeper Command carrier, apparently. We’ve been captured. I think they’re going to question me and Wash, since we’re human.”
“Right, is it Stark or Wash that knows where you are?”
“Wash! She’s with Wash? That’s my damn pilot! Where the hell is he?!” Mal demanded.
“Stark is a member of our crew,” Aeryn added. “Does he know where Crichton is?”
“Quiet!” Jack shouted. “I know we all want to know what’s going on, but trust me, and shut up for a minute.”
The Doctor shot him a grateful look.
After conferring for a minute, Rose’s voice came back on the line. “It’s Stark. He says he’s not sure which Command Carrier we’re on.”
“I’m coming to get you, Rose.”
“But you don’t know where we are!”
“No, but I will figure it out, and I will find you. Are you hurt? Is everyone all right?”
“Yeah, we’re fine for now. Stark keeps muttering things about torture, but –“
“We’re on our way. I’m going to give you to Jack, so you can stay on the line.”
“Jack? You found Jack?!”
The Doctor winced. “It’s a long story, but yes. Hold tight. I’m coming.” He handed the phone to Jack. “Keep her on the line. See if they can figure out any more details about where they are.”
Jack nodded and took the phone. “Rose?”
“Right!” The Doctor stuck his head out the door and into the cargo bay. “Back in a minute!”
“Doctor!” Martha cried as he shut the doors and ran back to the control panel, frantically circling around it and pressing buttons.
“What are you doing?” Aeryn demanded. “Where are we going?”
“Our friends are in trouble. They’re on a Peacekeeper Command Carrier. We both know that’s not good news. I need your help, since I’m a bit rusty on the details. What kind of engines do they use? What frequency do they communicate on?”
As Aeryn supplied him the information, he kept stealing nervous glances at Jack, who was keeping Rose on the mobile.
“Doctor, what about contacting Talyn?” Aeryn asked as the Doctor started scanning.
“When we come back, I will bring us back to exact moment we left. Then we can contact Talyn. Time machine, remember?
“Having a hard time getting used to it, actually,” Mal remarked. “So, I take it these Peacekeepers don’t live up to their name?”
“Not exactly,” Aeryn replied.
“HA! The TARDIS has picked up chatter about two human captives on one of the Command Carriers. Hold tight!” He ran around the console, setting the controls and throwing the lever to dematerialize.
“Doctor, however good you are, you can’t just land in the middle of Command Carrier and go unnoticed!” Aeryn protested.
“No, but you can,” he replied.
“Ianto, what’s this?” Crichton asked two hours later, pointing to a graph on the screen.
Ianto leaned over. “It’s … Jack’s mobile signal. It’s been active, but we didn’t receive it.”
“It looks like someone else did.”
Ianto looked closer. “You’re right! The signal was definitely answered.”
“Have you tried calling him?”
“Of course, but there was no answer.”
“So, wherever he is, he called someone, and they were able to answer. Anyway to get his call history? See if we can talk to whoever he called?”
“Tosh is a lot more talented with these things, but I might be able to.”
John moved aside, letting Ianto take the keyboard. He stretched and looked over at the others. Simon and Owen were watching Kaylee with amusement as she continued to stuff herself with strawberries.
“Got it,” Ianto said a moment later. “It looks like he called a Dr. Martha Jones.”
“I know that name,” Owen said, standing up and going to his own work station. “She’s with UNIT.”
“Why would Jack be calling her?”
“You know Jack,” Owen sad, rolling his eyes. “Hang on, maybe that’s not the reason. Most of the UNIT records are locked, but it looks like the notes say that she was involved with the Doctor.”
“Doctor who?” Crichton asked.
“Long story,” Owen replied.
“That would explain how Jack knows her,” Ianto commented. “I’ve got the number.” He picked up his own mobile and dialed.
Martha was beside herself as the TARDIS dematerialized; she jumped as her phone rang.
“No, Dr. Jones, this Ianto Jones of Torchwood. I need to know if you have spoken to Captain Jack Harkness today.”
“Yes, I have! And he just disappeared off with the Doctor in the TARDIS! They left me behind!”
“Um … what?”
“Look, I have no idea what’s going on, and neither do the Doctor or Jack. But the Doctor just popped his head out and said he’ll be right back and went flying off with Jack!”
“Where are you?”
“In some distant part of the universe, according to the Doctor. I’m currently on a living ship called Moya. Got anything at Torchwood to help us get home? Or any ideas on how we got here in the first place?!”
“Hold on.” She could hear him speaking to someone else. Or several someones. “I have someone here who is supposed to be on Moya.”
“What? Wait, let me guess. You’ve also got someone who belongs on a ship called Serenity.”
“Yes! How did you know?!”
“That’s what’s happening on this side of the universe, too! People from our world, Moya, and Serenity are showing up in groups.”
“Is there anyone else from Torchwood there?”
“No. Just Jack.” Seeing D’Argo and Book’s expressions, she added, “Who’s there from Moya and Serenity?”
“Kaylee Frye, Dr. Simon Tam, Scorpius, and John Crichton. Dr. Jones –“
“Sorry. Martha, who’s with you now?”
“D’Argo, River, and … Shepherd? Is that right?”
The older man nodded.
Ianto said the names back to his audience and was greeted with relieved responses.
“So, what do we do now?” Martha asked. “The Doctor did say he’d be right back …”
“Well, as he’s the only one capable of traveling that distance, I suppose we will have to wait. But at least we know who’s accounted for.”
“There’s another ship out there called Talyn,” Martha added. “But we’re not sure who’s on board yet. The Doctor was going to try contacting it when he got distracted somehow.”
“By the way, if you and Jack were in the same vicinity, why is it that we could reach your mobile but not his?”
Martha smiled. “Actually, we weren’t even in the same vicinity at first. The Doctor tinkered with my phone and gave me, quite literally, universal roaming.”
“That’s … impressive. I hope it doesn’t run up your bill.”
Rose clicked off her mobile. “They’re coming. Hopefully, they get here before the Peacekeepers.”
“So … this Doctor …”
“I used to travel with him. We got separated; there was no way to reach each other, but I was trying anyway. I can’t believe I’m back in the right universe.”
Wash blinked. “There’s more than one?”
Rose smiled. “Apparently, since Earth doesn’t exist where you’re from.”
“Well, it did exist. It just … doesn’t anymore.”
“Someone’s coming!” Stark cried, cowering in the corner.
Rose and Wash also instinctively moved away from the door. The three of them could hear sharp voices outside the door. A moment later, the lock clicked open and the door swung in.
“Prisoner, inside now!” a female voice ordered.
“All right, all right! No need to push!” the Doctor protested as he stumbled forward into the cell.
Rose held her breath as he met her gaze and winked.
The sounds of a fight came from the doorway. Seconds later, the two Peacekeepers who had been guarding the door hit the floor. The Doctor looked over his shoulder as three other people came into the cell, dragging the bodies of the other two.
“Doctor?” Rose whispered, standing up.
The Doctor looked back at her, grinning widely. “Rose Tyler.”
Rose bit her lip and then decided she couldn’t resist. “Aren’t you a little tall for a Storm Trooper?”
“Oi!” the Doctor said in mock indignation. He turned to the others, indicating his hands that were cuffed behind his back. “Can I get these off now, please? I can’t hug anyone like this!”
Jack chuckled as he stepped forward with a small key. “It’s good to see you again, Rose.”
“Jack!” Rose was still giggly from the shock. “Are those yours?”
Jack grinned, and the Doctor blushed. “You bet.”
“Mal?” Wash said incredulously as he realized that Mal was in a Peacekeeper uniform.
“In the flesh. You all right?”
“Yes. Where’s Zoe?”
“Don’t have a notion. It seems like we’ve all been scattered to the winds, but we’re gathering everyone up. We’ll find her.” Mal offered him a hand up.
Wash accepted it and then looked down at Stark. “Does … he belong to someone?”
“He’s with me,” the woman said, stepping forward. “Stark? Come on, we have to go now.”
“Okay, further reunions will have to wait,” Jack announced as he freed the Doctor. “We need to go now.”
The Doctor nodded in agreement, holding out his hand to Rose.
She grabbed it, and the group started running back to the TARDIS. There were two more unconscious guards in the hallway. Rose noticed for the first time that Jack was also wearing a Peacekeeper uniform and decided distractedly that it kind of suited him.
The Doctor squeezed her hand before releasing it to work the controls. “Right. Have we got everyone? Back to Moya!”
To be continued ...
“D’Argo, I swear, the Doctor will be right back with Officer Sun and the others,” Martha said, trying to calm the Luxan.
“If you are trying to trick us –“ D’Argo began.
“Sorry to interrupt, but if I may offer an opinion, the Doctor seems to be the only one who can even remotely understand the situation. I think we can afford to put a little trust in him. So far, he’s been going back and forth, gathering everyone up. I’m sure that’s what he’s doing now,” Book said calmly.
As soon as he finished talking, the TARDIS began to rematerialize.
Martha sagged with relief. “See? I told you!”
Aeryn was first out the door, followed by Stark.
“Are you all right?” D’Argo asked, not aiming the question at anyone in particular.
“Yes! Safe from Scorpius. Moya is safe,” Stark replied.
“No sign of Crichton or the others,” Aeryn answered D’Argo’s unasked question.
Wash and Mal exited next and were greeted by the Shepherd.
Mal looked quizzically down at the sleeping River. “She still out?”
“You’ve only been gone for five minutes,” Shepherd replied. He looked at Mal’s clothing. “Apparently, it was a very eventful five minutes.”
“I don’t suppose those five minutes included any word from my wife?” Wash asked hopefully.
“No. I’m sorry.”
“We’ll find her and the others,” Mal assured him again.
“Jack! Where did you go?! And … why are you wearing that?” Martha asked as he stepped out of the TARDIS.
“Had to rescue some of our collective people. It was all a bit Star Wars,” he said with a wink.
“Where’s the Doctor?”
“Inside. Give him a minute. We found Rose.”
Martha was stunned. “What? How?”
“She called us. She got pulled along in this mess, just like the rest of us. Once she was in this universe, she used her mobile to call him. Universal roaming, just like yours.” Jack slung an arm around her shoulders. “Sorry to scare you.”
Martha shook her head and smiled. “I understand.”
“Doctor … I need to breathe sometime,” Rose said after a few minutes.
“Right, sorry,” the Doctor said, releasing her from the crushing hug he’d enveloped her in. He grinned. “Missed me, then, did you?”
“Could ask you the same thing,” she said, grinning back. “But I think I know the answer.”
They both looked up as they heard Pilot’s voice coming from the cargo bay.
The Doctor looked back at her. “I hope you missed the running.”
She grabbed his hand. “Definitely.”
They sprinted into the cargo bay.
“Talyn’s in range,” Jack informed them.
“Who?” Rose asked in confusion.
“Long story. Catch you up when we have a minute,” the Doctor replied, not releasing her hand.
The clamshell viewscreen changed from Pilot to a view of three beings.
“No,” Jack, the Doctor, and Martha whispered.
“Rygel!” D’Argo barked. “What are you doing?”
“Saffron?!” Mal cried in alarm.
“Hey, sweetie,” she said, waving happily.
“Doctor! What a pleasant surprise!” the Master exclaimed. “Are you the one behind all of this?”
“No, I’m not. Master, you shouldn’t be here. This isn’t possible! Just come on to Moya, and we’ll figure this out.”
“I’m sorry, Doctor, but we’re a bit busy, at the moment,” Rygel said haughtily.
“This Master fellow is going to help put me back on the throne.”
The Doctor stepped forward, letting go of Rose. “Listen to me, both of you. Whatever he’s told you, he’s lying. Saffron, is it? Do you want to hear what happened to his wife?”
Saffron just giggled. “Do you want to hear what happened to my last four husbands?”
“He’ll kill you without a second thought,” Jack said. “He tortured a ship full of people for a whole year and tried to slaughter the entire human race. You need to get away from him!”
Aeryn looked at the faces of Moya’s guests. “Rygel, I think you should listen to what these people are saying. Don’t trust this man. Come back to Moya.”
“I have a far better chance of regaining the throne with him than with you lot!”
Another thought occurred to Aeryn. “Who’s flying Talyn?”
“I am!” the Master announced gleefully. “No messy interface needed.”
“He’s also a Time Lord,” Martha informed them.
“Ooh, wait! I remember!” the Master cried. “Doctor, have you forgotten our wager? The one we made so long ago … this is it! It’s finally happening!”
All heads turned to face the Doctor, who looked blank for a moment. Then his eyes lit up. “Master, we were stupid children when we did that! We need to set things right. You and me.”
“And what then? I go back to being dead? I don’t think so.”
“We’ll work it out,” the Doctor pleaded. “I won’t let you die, but we’ve got to fix the timelines. We did this!”
“I haven’t seen any reapers, so I’m going to assume that we’ve managed to create an entirely new timeline. I intend to enjoy it to the fullest. And I’m going to start by destroying all of you! Talyn! Ready weapons!”
“DON’T!” the Doctor yelled.
“You can’t just kill them and Moya!” Rygel protested. “At least give them a chance to surrender.”
“Not this time,” the Master said, taking the controls in his hands. “FIRE!”
Everyone on Moya winced, but nothing happened.
The Master looked annoyed. “I said fire, Talyn! OBEY ME!”
“Talyn has fired on his mother,” Aeryn said, folding her arms with a smug smile. “But he won’t do it again.”
The Master made an exasperated noise. “Very well. May the best Time Lord win, Doctor! Talyn, starburst!”
“Not sure what I did to deserve so many beautiful women in my home at once, but I’ll have to make sure I do it again!” Mr. Universe commented. He gazed around happily at Inara, Zoe, Gwen, and Tosh.
Inara smiled indulgently. “We appreciate your hospitality. Is there anything you can pick up about our situation?”
Mr. Universe reluctantly turned back to his screens. “There was definitely a blip across the grid at the time you say this ‘event’ happened.”
“A blip?” Tosh asked. “Can you be a bit more specific?”
“Not really. It was like – just for a nanosecond – everything went out of sync. I can’t find any cause for it or source. It happened everywhere, all at once.”
“What about our – communicators?” Gwen asked.
Tosh handed her mobile to Mr. Universe, and he examined it eagerly. He grinned up at Zoe. “You always bring me the best stuff.”
“We’re not here to play with toys. In case you forgot, the Captain’s missing.”
“We’re assuming that since we have people that don’t belong here, our people might have ended up where they came from,” Inara said.
Mr. Universe hooked up the mobile to his system. “Right. The question is, where are these lovely ladies from?”
The ground fell silent as the sound of the mobile dialing out played over the speakers. A map popped up over several of the screens; it showed an animation of the signal leaving the station, arcing out and stopping dead in the middle of empty space. “Nada.”
“Wait,” Tosh interjected. “It would make sense if the signal was heading for Earth. Can you pull up on the map where Earth used to be?”
Mr. Universe nodded and punched in a command. On a different part of the map, a new dot started blinking. “Huh. Not even close. Where was it trying to go? Do you have one of the other communicators?”
Zoe nodded and handed him Zhaan’s communicator. They had decided not to reveal the non-humans to anyone else.
Mr. Universe went through the same process he had with the mobile. “Where did you say this was from?”
“Far away,” Gwen answered neutrally.
He pressed a final button, and they all watched the map. Amazingly, the signal stopped at the exact same spot as Tosh’s.
“Where is that?” Zoe demanded.
“It’s nowhere! There’s nothing there!”
“Perhaps something has changed,” Inara suggested.
Mr. Universe began typing furiously. “You’re right. There’s … some kind of fluctuating energy signature. It’s constantly changing.”
Gwen squinted at the map. “What is it?”
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Mr. Universe confessed.
“Is it man made?” Tosh queried.
“I don’t detect any recognizable technology, but the fact that both of these signals went to that point makes it pretty unlikely that it’s natural.”
“What do you think might happen if you were to use your considerable resources to boost the signal?” Zoe asked.
“Anything! It could fry my whole system! Open up a black hole! Zoe, we don’t know what that thing is!”
“But it might be our only way home,” Tosh pointed out. “Could you try increasing the strength gradually?”
Mr. Universe looked up at Zoe. “All right. But you owe me.”
The second the transmission ended, the Doctor found himself bombarded verbally and physically. Everyone was talking at once, demanding answers and crowding around him. His brain frantically worked to form answers in a manner they would understand. Before he could do so, Martha silenced the room by shouting one phrase until all chatter stopped.
“I KNOW WHERE CRICHTON IS!” she shouted one last time.
“Why didn’t you tell us before?” D’Argo demanded.
“I didn’t have a chance. Now, if everyone will just calm down, we can put the pieces together.”
The Doctor breathed a sigh of relief.
“Oh, she’s good,” Rose murmured quietly to him.
The Doctor grinned.
“Right. While you lot were off in the TARDIS rescuing people, I got a call on my mobile from Torchwood. Ianto and Owen are in Cardiff with …” She took a moment to recall the names. “Kaylee Frye, Simon Tam, Scorpius, and John Crichton.”
There were collective sounds of relief.
“We should take the TARDIS to Torchwood, Doctor. We can pool our resources to find everyone else,” Jack said.
“We can’t just leave Moya and Pilot,” Stark pointed out.
“Okay, before we get there,” Mal interrupted, “I think it’s time the good Doctor tells us all what’s going on here.”
“How many times do you want him to have to tell it?” Rose asked. “It would be easier if we’re all together, right?”
“Better idea!” the Doctor exclaimed, grabbing Martha’s mobile. He pulled out the sonic screwdriver and went to one of Moya’s consoles. “Pilot, I’m tuning in this in so that we’re all on the same frequency. No cause for alarm.”
“Acknowledged,” Pilot replied warily.
“River?” Book said as the girl finally stirred and slowly sat up.
“Still on Moya,” she stated, looking around. Book helped her to stand.
Once he had finished, the Doctor ran back into the TARDIS. “Just hooking up the video feed to the phone and Moya … there!” He exited the TARDIS and handed the mobile to Jack. “Right! Jack, you’re the boss, you should do the honors.”
Jack nodded and dialed, the sound going over the speakers on Moya and the TARDIS.
“Torchwood,” an annoyed voice answered.
“Jack?! Where the hell are you?!”
“Owen, you should be getting a video feed. Pull it up and put me on speakerphone.”
He heard some angry muttering, typing, and then Moya’s viewscreen came to life, showing the Torchwood Hub.
Everyone crowded around the corresponding screens. The Doctor smiled and stood back with Rose as everyone exchanged startled greetings and exclamations of relief.
“Where’s Scorpius?” D’Argo asked once the excited had died down.
“He’s secure,” Crichton answered. “Not sure what we’re gonna do with him.”
“Jack, what’s going on?” Ianto asked.
Everyone turned back to look at the Doctor.
Rather than cringe, he bounced back to life, moving closer to the screen. “Right! People currently residing at Torchwood, we just encountered another ship called Talyn. It has been commandeered by Rygel, Saffron, and … the Master.” The Time Lord looked slightly uncomfortable. “The Master is a Time Lord, like me. And, to our knowledge, deceased. However, he reminded me just now of … well, it’s a bit embarrassing really. It was a childhood bet we made.
“We discovered forbidden knowledge when we were young and dared each other to use it. We looked forward into our own timelines and … well, essentially grabbed two other strands – one from a parallel universe – and … tangled the three together.”
Aeryn was glaring at him now. “You did this deliberately.”
“We were only children, even by Time Lord standards! It was the thrill of the forbidden! The bet was to see who achieve the greatest success once we reached the point where the timelines crossed.”
“But if you were looking into the future, couldn’t you see what would happen?” Ianto asked.
“No. We didn’t look in detail; that’s even more dangerous. We made it as random as possible, so we would have no idea when it was going to happen.”
“And what defines success?” Jack queried.
The Time Lord shrugged. “I honestly can’t even remember. Probably back then, control over a planet or two. Something like that. Now … well, now that the Master’s been brought back from the grave, I think he’ll just take it as a free pass.”
“To do what, exactly?” Mal asked.
“Like we said, last time the Master had control of a planet, he tormented the entire population and nearly destroyed the planet itself,” Martha filled in. “He’s got to be stopped.”
“And we need to go home!” Kaylee added.
“Can’t go back,” River said softly. She silenced the whole group. “Can never go back.”
“Okay, I don’t know who random, mumbling creepy girl is, but that’s not helping,” Crichton stated.
“That’s my sister!” Simon cried.
“Oh.” John turned bright red. “Then I’m sure she’s lovely. Sorry.”
“Right. Anyway, I think that Jack is right. We should bring as many people as we can to Torchwood to search for your other people. Now that communication’s been established, we should be able to keep in contact,” the Doctor said.
“What about Talyn?” D’Argo asked.
“Moya and I are most concerned,” Pilot added. “We are uncertain what to do if the Master returns with Talyn.”
“Pilot, with your help, I can work out a way to track them,” the Doctor answered. “And Stark is right; we can’t leave you and Moya here alone.”
“If you can track them, we can go after them,” Aeryn said. “We can’t let the Master run wild with Talyn.”
“She’s right,” Crichton agreed. “If he’s as powerful as you say, he can do untold damage with Talyn.”
The Doctor paused. “How did a Leviathan get weapons anyway?”
“He is a crossbred Leviathan, the result of a Peacekeeper experiment,” D’Argo replied.
The Doctor ran his hands through his hair. “I can’t be in two places at once. I can’t track the Master and find the rest of the missing crewmembers.”
“Then, obviously, we need to split up,” Aeryn stated.
“I’ll help track the Master,” Jack said. “I know what he’s capable of.”
“So do I,” Martha said. “Jack should go with Aeryn to follow Talyn. I can stay here with Moya and Pilot.”
The Doctor looked at his two companions seriously. “He’s not your responsibility.”
“No one else here knows what he can do,” Jack pressed. “At least we’re prepared. And you’ll have the best luck finding the others. Whatever’s happening, we need to set it right before it’s too late.”
The Doctor sighed. “All right.” He looked around warily. “Who’s going where?”
“We’re going after Talyn,” D’Argo announced. “I can bring my ship as well.”
Aeryn looked at Jack. “If you’re coming, go with him. Lo’La is better suited for passengers than my prowler.”
“Jack! Permission to come with you, sir,” Ianto requested.
Jack considered it for a minute. “All right. Start gathering some provisions for when the Doctor picks you up.” He turned to the Doctor. “Keep an eye on the place, will ya?”
Rose grabbed the Doctor’s hand. “I’m stayin’ with you.”
He smiled gently. “Quite right, too.”
To be continued ...
Chiana stuck her head into Jayne’s bunk. “Whatcha doin’?”
Jayne jumped a little and glared at her. “Don’t you knock? I’m cleanin’ my guns.”
“Can I help?”
“I’m bored. Can I just watch?”
Jayne eyed her suspiciously and nodded.
Chiana sat down on the other end of the bed, pulling her legs up under her. “So, you’ve never seen a non-human before, huh?”
Jayne rolled his eyes. “You can watch without talking.”
“I could. There are other things you can do without talking, too,” she said with a grin as she reached out and ran a finger up his back.
Jayne paused. “And how do you do … that?”
“We’ve got all the same parts, you know. It’s not that different, from what I figure.”
Jayne looked down at her. She had flopped onto her back, giving him a view straight down her top. He frantically went back to his gun, a little unnerved by the situation.
Chiana pouted and sat behind him, massaging his shoulders. “Aw, I’m not makin’ you uncomfortable, am I?”
“Have you … with a human?”
“Uh uh. That’s what makes it exciting. Whole new experience. You’re not scared, are ya?”
“Then what’s the matter?” she purred, rubbing his lower back.
“I’m not finished with Vera yet.”
Chiana paused for a moment before it clicked. “Your gun?”
“Well … I’m sure she won’t mind waiting for a bit, right? I mean, Vera gets to see you every day. I may be gone tomorrow.”
Jayne saw her point.
“What is taking them so long?” Donna fretted, pacing the small dining area.
“I’m sure they will return soon,” Zhaan said, sipping the tea that Inara had made before she left. “If it’s taking this long, hopefully they will return with fruitful news.”
“Where’s your friend?” Donna asked.
“Chiana? I believe she went to … find Mr. Cobb. I’m sure they’re keeping each other amused by now.”
Donna’s eyes widened. “She doesn’t waste any time then, does she?”
Zhaan smiled. “Not usually.”
Donna flopped down in one of the chairs. “And is he usually that … sulky?” she asked, gesturing towards Crais.
“He can hear you perfectly well, Miss Noble, and I am merely concerned for my ship,” Crais replied.
Donna scoffed. “What, worried it will run off without you?”
“Actually, with Talyn, that is a concern,” Zhaan answered.
Donna’s eyes widened. “The ship’s … alive?”
“Yes,” Crais answered, stepping closer. “And since we landed on other people’s ships, it’s entirely possible that someone – or several someones – are on Talyn. He probably won’t take that well.”
“But they wouldn’t be able to fly him, would they?” Zhaan asked. “Aren’t you the only one who can now?”
“Technically, no. I’m just the one that can fly him the best.”
Donna jumped at a thumping noise.
“It sounds like they have returned,” Zhaan said.
As the women entered the common area, Zoe looked around. “Where’s Jayne?”
“He and Chiana are … entertaining each other,” Zhaan answered.
Zoe rolled her eyes.
“Was he able to help you?” Donna asked eagerly.
Zoe nodded. “We were able to pin point where you all came from, and Mr. Universe was able to widen the opening for Serenity to go through.”
“So, what are we waiting for? What’s the problem?”
“We have no idea how it works,” Tosh answered. “There’s a chance that if Serenity goes through, she might not be able to get back. They may be stuck in our universe.”
“And it’s dangerous,” Gwen added. “We’re not sure how the trip will affect the ship.”
“We made it through unscathed,” Zhaan pointed out.
“But Mr. Universe isn’t sure that’s how you got here. Only where we have to send you back,” Inara replied.
“None of us remember traveling through a hole in space,” Tosh explained. “We may have gotten here another way.”
“We wouldn’t think of asking you to risk your ship for us,” Crais said, standing up. “Could we pay for the use of a shuttle or acquire alternate transportation?”
“That’s mighty kind, Captain, but Serenity is going. If that – tunnel is dangerous or harmful, we all have a better chance of staying in one piece on a bigger boat. Anyone who doesn’t want to risk it can stay behind,” Zoe said. “But we need to get our people back.”
“And you’re positive this will cause no harm to Moya or Pilot?” Aeryn asked as she watched the Doctor working underneath the grating of the TARDIS. Rose was handing him tools as he worked.
“I am positive, Officer Sun. I would never do anything to deliberately harm a peaceful creature,” the Doctor answered.
Jack and Mal hefted a large length of jumbled cords into the TARDIS, setting it down near the Doctor.
“So, you’re gonna find the Master by letting two ships talk to each other?” Mal asked incredulously.
“Exactly, Captain,” the Doctor answered. “Everyone from your universe – including Saffron – is covered in void particles. The TARDIS can search for them, and she’s going to teach Moya how to do so. Much more effective than us trying to do it.”
“And you couldn’t just tell this to Pilot?” Aeryn asked.
“That would take longer and be less effective,” the Doctor answered, climbing up from the grating and plugging the cable into the TARDIS. “This is something entirely new for Moya. The TARDIS can help. And once Moya learns, Pilot will of course understand as well. Right!” He ran around the console, pushing buttons. “Pilot, are you and Moya ready?”
“Yes, Doctor. Moya is concerned, but is anxious to find Talyn.”
“Here we go then!” The Doctor threw a lever with a flourish. The TARDIS hummed softly as the lights dimmed.
“How long will this take?” Jack asked.
“Not long. Just a minute or two,” the Doctor answered.
River, perched on the chair, started to giggle.
“What’s so funny?” Rose asked.
“Them,” River answered, continuing to laugh. “They’re so foreign to each other. They have so many questions!”
Rose’s eyes widened. “You can hear the ships talking?”
The Doctor raised an eyebrow. “River, as amusing at it may be, it’s not polite to eavesdrop.”
River nodded and stifled her giggling.
Rose stepped closer to the Doctor. “Are you sure she’s –“
“Human? Oh yes.”
The humming on the TARDIS stopped, and the lights came up to full power.
“Ah, there we are, then!” the Doctor exclaimed. “Pilot, everything all right?”
“Y-Yes, Doctor. That was … Moya and I have never had such an encounter before. Your ship is extraordinary almost to the point of being frightening.”
Martha smiled. “Just like her pilot then.”
“Pilot, did Moya understand?” D’Argo asked. “Can you track Talyn’s path?”
“Yes, Ka D’Argo. We can give you coordinates as soon as you are ready to leave,” Pilot responded.
The Doctor dove back under the grating to disconnect the two ships. “Right, I’m off to Torchwood to pick up the people that are staying on this side of the universe.”
“I’ll come with you, if you don’t mind,” Jack said. “Gotta check in with the kids.”
The Doctor nodded. “The rest of you, wait here. We’ll only be gone a minute.”
“I’ve heard that before,” Martha snickered as she filed out of the TARDIS with the others. When the doors closed, only Rose, Jack, and the Doctor remained.
Rose grinned. “Been a while since just the three of us were here together.”
“You have no idea,” Jack said, casting a sidelong glance at the Doctor.
“What the hell is that noise?” Owen asked as the Hub was filled with a strange wheezing noise and papers blew everywhere in a sudden wind.
The blue police box materialized in the middle of the Hub. The doors creaked open and Jack grinned as he stepped out. “Miss me?”
“What the … that thing is a time machine?” Owen boggled.
“Oi!” the Doctor cried, coming out behind Jack. “This is my ship.”
“It’s bigger on the inside,” Rose explained with a smile.
Jack clapped his hands together. “Okay, quick introductions. Owen, Ianto, this is the Doctor and the beautiful Rose Tyler. These are two of my team: Dr. Owen Harper and Ianto Jones.”
Ianto gestured towards their guests, who were also staring quizzically at the blue box. “May I introduce Miss Kaylee Frye, Dr. Simon Tam, and Commander John Crichton.”
“Bigger on the inside?” Crichton repeated. “Can I look?”
“We’re in a bit of rush, I’m afraid,” the Doctor said as Jack ran around gathering supplies with Ianto. “When I come back, you can take a peek.”
“All right. Just tell Aeryn … and the others I said hey.”
“Owen, you’re in charge of Torchwood, but you answer to the Doctor while I’m gone. All aboard!” Jack called as he ran back towards the TARDIS, followed by Ianto. He gazed appreciatively as he passed Crichton. “Hm, I can see why they were so anxious to find you.”
Rose giggled, also admiring the view.
“Don’t encourage him,” the Doctor said, rolling his eyes as he stepped back into the TARDIS. Rose, Jack, Ianto, Kaylee, and Simon piled in.
Simon gazed around nervously, looking a bit disoriented.
Kaylee just stood stock still with a huge grin on her face. “This. Is so. SHINY!”
Rose smiled. “Hold onto something. It gets a little bumpy!”
The TARDIS rematerialized on Moya a few minutes after it had left.
“Took you long enough,” Martha joked as the passengers piled out.
“Can’t keep making time jumps,” the Doctor explained. “Things are scrambled up enough. I can’t risk crossing my own timeline.” He stopped and looked down at her seriously. “Are you sure about this?”
“We’re all in this together. At least Jack and I have some idea of who we’re up against,” Martha answered. “Besides, I won’t be on my own.”
The Doctor glanced at Stark as he was introduced to Kaylee and Simon. He sighed a little. “I should be the one out here.”
“You can still help, no matter where you are,” Martha reassured him. “Let us find him. Then we’ll figure out how to deal with him together. Your best chance of finding all the others is on Earth. You know wherever Donna’s ended up, she’s having a go at them.”
The Doctor laughed and nodded.
Across the room, Simon hugged his sister tightly. “The Doctor says Torchwood is the safest place right now. We can’t have you anywhere near the Master.”
River pulled away slightly. “What about you?”
“Kaylee and I want to help, so we’re going to stay here. You help them at Torchwood, if you can, okay? Shepherd and Wash will look after you.”
Wash looked at Mal as he sorted through some of the gear Jack and Ianto had brought with them. “You sure this is a good idea, Captain? Going on the hunt?”
“I know what Saffron’s like. She’ll have a hand in whatever goes down and somehow turn a profit. I ain’t much of one for sittin’ still. May as well go where I’ll be of some use.”
“Oh, I’m sure I can come up with a lot of uses for you, Captain,” Jack said with a smirk.
“Is he … always like that?” Wash asked Ianto.
Ianto chuckled and nodded.
Mal looked over at Simon and Kaylee, who were still talking with River. “Not sure I should let the two of them stay here. Might not be safe.”
“We did just all get back together,” Wash agreed. “Maybe it’s not a good idea to split up again.”
Mal sighed. “Well, you know Kaylee. She’s got it in her head that she needs to help, and she’ll be safer here than with me. Not much she can do to help with the searchin’.”
“Not sure there’s much I can do either, but I just want to be there when we find Zoe. Besides, if this ship runs into trouble, it sounds like the Doctor can get back here pretty quickly.”
Mal raised an eyebrow. “Thought you just said we shouldn’t go scatterin’ again.”
“I did. But … we are all in this together. We may as well have some of us on all fronts. The Doctor might have started this, but it doesn’t sound like he meant any harm. He’s already done a fair bit of rescuing already.”
Mal nodded. “Doesn’t mean I trust him.”
Before jumping into her prowler, Aeryn pulled Rose aside. “You saw Crichton at Torchwood?”
“Yeah,” Rose said, sounding slightly surprised. “He’s fine. He said to tell you he says, ‘Hey.’ He, um … are you two –“
“No.” Aeryn turned and stalked to her prowler.
Rose smiled to herself.
“Right! Is everyone ready?” the Doctor called about the noise. “River, Book, Wash, Rose, you’re with me. Is Lo’La ready to go?”
“We’re ready,” D’Argo answered, lining up beside Jack, Mal, and Ianto.
“I know. We won’t kill him. Not unless we have no choice.”
“We’ll be following the coordinates Moya feeds us,” Aeryn added, standing next to her prowler.
“Right. Martha, Pilot, Stark, Kaylee, and Simon, take care of Moya. Call us if you have any problems. Oh, wait, Jack, give me your mobile. That way, you can keep in contact with all of us.”
Jack stepped forward and handed the Doctor his phone, who performed the necessary “jiggery-pokery” necessary to achieve universal roaming. He handed it back. “Good luck.”
“You, too. Let us know when you find the others,” Jack said, following the others as the loaded into Lo’La.
He looked over at Rose, recalling the last time he had tried to “sit back and watch.” That had been one regeneration previous, stuck in the Tyler living room, watching the telly. He looked around the assembled teams and decided he no choice but to trust them. “Only one thing left to say, then. Allons-y!”
To be continued ...
Jayne grumbled unhappily as Inara piloted Serenity to a stop right in front of glowing, golden anomaly in front of them. “This ain’t a good idea.”
“You had your chance to get off,” Zoe told him. “You didn’t. This is our best chance of finding the Cap’n, my husband, and the others.” She pressed a button, and Mr. Universe’s face popped up on the small screen. “You ready?”
“I’ve pushed it as far as it will go, Zoe. Better go now,” he answered.
“Understood.” She held down another button. “Brace yourselves. We’re going in.” She released the button. “All right, Inara, take her in.”
“What’s she doing?” Donna asked, as she clung onto the couch in preparation.
“Praying,” Chiana answered.
Zhaan was sitting on the floor, chanting rhythmically.
Donna looked over at Crais, who was trying to stand as nonchalantly as possible next to the kitchen. “Hold on to something, you twit!”
“This isn’t exactly how I thought life in space would be,” Gwen said holding onto a support. She turned to Tosh. “Do you think it’s safe?”
“I don’t know. But it is our only chance to get back home,” Tosh answered.
The ship began to shake and shudder.
Donna rolled her eyes as Crais tumbled to the floor. “Typical.”
After two minutes, the shuddering stopped.
A second later, Zoe’s voice came over the intercom. “All clear. I – is that … Earth-That-Was?”
Soon after the TARDIS had landed in the Hub, Crichton and the Doctor had switched places. The Doctor was running around the Hub as if it were the TARDIS console, gathering data.
Crichton was slowly exploring the inside of the TARDIS, munching on the last piece of pizza. Wash watched him in mild amusement as he kept an eye on River, who was also exploring. She started to head down one of the corridors.
“River, stay here,” Wash called. “Remember what the Doctor said?”
“She’s old,” River murmured, staying put. “Ancient … like the Doctor.”
Crichton nearly choked on his pizza. “What?! The Doctor doesn’t look any older than me!”
“Yeah, but he’s not human, so … who knows?” Wash said. “This is all insane anyway. Time travel, aliens, boxes that are bigger on the inside, people rising from the dead, parallel worlds. I’d be a lot more fascinated if I just knew where my wife was.”
Crichton seemed to come back to himself. “You’re right. I’m sorry; I should go help the Doctor.”
“Don’t need to,” River answered. “They’re coming.”
“What?! River, what do you mean?”
She smiled at him. “They’re coming.”
Crichton and Wash shared a look before leaving the TARDIS and returning to the Hub. Immediately, alarms and cell phones started going off.
Owen examined one of the monitors. “UNIT has a confirmed sighting of a ship in orbit!”
The Doctor answered his phone as he ran around, confirming the readings.
“Donna! Where are you?!”
“I’m on a ship called Serenity.”
“Are you … currently orbiting the Earth?”
“Yes! Oh please, tell me we’re in the same time period.”
“That’s her! That’s Serenity!” Wash cried as Owen pulled up a satellite image. “Is my wife there?!”
Owen leapt to pick up the Torchwood phone. “What?”
“Gwen! Are you on Serenity?”
“I won’t ask how you know that, but yes! I’m here with Tosh!”
“QUIET!” the Doctor shouted.
“Oi! That was right in my ear!” Donna complained. The Doctor could hear the people on her end of the line quieting as well.
“Rose, call the other side of the universe,” the Doctor ordered, still running around, observing readings.
Rose nodded and pulled out her mobile.
“Doctor, did you just say Rose? You found Rose?” Donna asked.
“Long story. Once everyone’s listening, I need you to tell me the names of everyone on Serenity right now. Got it?”
He heard a crash and some terrified screams on the other end of the line.
“Donna?! What’s going on?!”
“Doctor, the ship is damaged! Earth is getting closer! We’re crashing!”
“Hang on, I’ll be right there!” He hung up the phone. “Owen, do you have a fix on the ship?”
“Yes, but –“
“Wash, you’re the pilot, right?”
“Yes, is my –“
“Good! In the TARDIS! Now!” He all but grabbed Wash and hauled him into the TARDIS that River had just vacated.
“Doctor, what’s happening?” Rose asked as the doors shut.
“He does that a lot, doesn’t he?” Book remarked as the TARDIS dematerialized.
“Oh my God,” Crichton breathed as he looked at one of the monitors. “The ship … it’s crashing.”
“What?!” Owen shouted, looking at the monitor. “Gwen, can you hear me?!”
There was only static on the line.
“He’s gone to save them,” Rose whispered.
“Hopefully, they won’t be the only ones! Right now, Serenity is over China!”
“What are we doing?” Wash asked as the Doctor frantically piloted the TARDIS. “Where are we going?”
“We’re going to Serenity, which is very tricky because it’s in mid-flight or mid-crash, depending on how you look at it. So, please shut up for a minute while I try to save everyone.”
Wash felt the color draining from his face and, for the first time, fervently hoped his wife was not on the ship. He grabbed onto the console to keep from falling.
“Got it! Wash, I need you to crash Serenity.”
“Right now, it’s going to crash into China and kill innocent people. You need to fly this ship, so it crashes in the ocean. “
“Is there an option that maybe DOESN’T include crashing and dying?!”
“Dying I can help with, crashing no. It’s too damaged,” the Doctor explained as he ran out the door.
“Doctor!” Donna cried. She and some of the others were in the process of evacuating to the shuttles.
“In the TARDIS! Everyone! NOW!”
“In that thing?” Chiana asked. “I’d rather go in something that can fly, thanks!”
Donna shoved her forward. “Move it, Grumpy Bear!”
“Who’s missing?” the Doctor asked.
“Zoe is still on the bridge,” Zhaan replied.
“Donna, get everyone in the TARDIS. If we’re not back in 90 seconds, flip the lever. It will take you back to Torchwood.” Without waiting for a reply, he turned to Wash. “Bridge! GO!”
Zoe pulled on the controls, desperately trying to pull the ship up. She knew it was hopeless, but she refused to give up.
“I think you’d better let me drive,” Wash said, coming up behind her.
“Baby! Where the hell –“
“No time for questions,” the Doctor interjected. “Zoe, I need you to go to the cargo bay and get in my ship. Now. We’ll take care of the rest.”
“I ain’t leavin’,” she said evenly.
The Doctor paused for a beat and then moved back to Wash, who sat down in the pilot’s chair. “Right, then.” The Doctor pointed the sonic screwdriver at one of the consoles. “New coordinates set. Can you aim the ship that way?”
“I’m trying,” Wash grunted, pulling with all his strength. “Come on baby, we don’t want to take anyone else with us.”
The Doctor watched the readout intently and ignored his ringing phone.
“I take it the idea is to run for your ship once we know we won’t land on anyone?” Zoe asked.
“Yup.” He looked back at the console. “Just a little further. Fifty seconds left.”
“Til what?” Zoe asked.
“Til my ship leaves without us, and we go down with Serenity.”
“It’s changed course,” Owen announced with relief. “It’s heading for the ocean.”
“They’re still going to die if the Doctor can’t perform a miracle!” Crichton pointed out.
Rose smiled slightly. “But he can. He will.”
They all winced as the monitor showed the ship slamming into the ocean and breaking apart.
As Book ran to her, Owen turned to Rose. “Where is he, then? Where are they?! Are my friends in that bloody blue box or the bottom of the ocean?!”
“Hey, easy,” Crichton said, stepping between them. “It’s a time machine. Give him a minute.”
“She’s gone, she’s gone,” River sobbed. “Serenity’s … gone!”
“I know, River, and I am so sorry,” Book murmured as he held her. “But what about the people? Did the TARDIS make it out?”
River sobbed incoherently.
Rose, Owen, and Crichton stood still, straining for the sound of the TARDIS.
“How long do we wait?” Crichton asked after a minute had passed.
“He said he was trying to stay within his own timeline,” Rose muttered. “It shouldn’t be long …“ She looked around nervously. “He’s coming back. I just found him after all this time. He’s coming back!” She felt hot tears filling her eyes.
Then the papers in the Hub began to blow around, and a heavy wheezing sound filled the air.
Rose laughed and hugged the nearest person, who happened to be Crichton. “See?! I told you he’d do it!”
The TARDIS solidified with a thud. The door creaked open, and not unlike a clown car, people started piling out.
“Owen!” Gwen cried, rushing to him and hugging him. Tosh was just behind her.
“Are you two all right?!” Owen asked. “Is anyone hurt?”
“We’re fine,” Tosh answered with a smile.
Crichton released Rose as Chiana made a flying leap into his arms. “Pip! You’re okay!”
“Yeah! And we even get to see your home planet!” she cried happily.
Zhaan and Crais followed behind. “Everyone okay?” Crichton asked.
“We’re fine, John,” Zhaan answered with a smile. “It’s good to see you again.”
“Have you had any word from Talyn?” Crais asked.
“Nice to see you, too, and yes. We have. I’ll catch you up once things calm down a bit … if they ever do.”
Inara and Jayne stepped out of the TARDIS, looking around the Hub in wonder.
“Shepherd!” Inara cried, going to him and River. “What’s wrong?”
“Serenity’s gone,” River cried.
“I know, sweetheart, I’m sorry,” she said, stroking River’s tangled hair.
“Cap’n ain’t gonna be happy, once we find ‘im,” Jayne growled.
“We found him,” Book replied. “And no, he won’t be happy when we tell him.”
Rose held her breath, staring at the TARDIS doorway, trying to will the Doctor to appear. Instead, a tall red-headed woman stalked out of the TARDIS.
She appeared to be in mid-rant, “… and if you EVER try that again, I will make you regret being born!” Rose wondered if she was talking to the TARDIS itself until the Doctor finally emerged behind her.
His response was cut off as Rose flung herself at him. “Oof! Something tells me I miscalculated the landing slightly.”
“Oh, like that’s any different from usual!”
“I thought you were dead,” Rose said as she released the Doctor, and they moved aside so Zoe and Wash could exit the TARDIS.
“Come on, what did we say last time? Always wait five and a half hours? Anyway, Rose, I’d like you to meet Donna Noble. She’s been traveling with me. Donna, this is Rose Tyler.”
Donna’s rant died as she grinned and hugged Rose. “It’s so good to finally meet you!”
“It sounds like you’ve been trying to keep him in line,” Rose said, unable to keep the huge smile off her face.
“Right! Owen, call the other side of the universe. We should get everyone on the line and catch up,” the Doctor stated.
“Yes, sir,” Owen muttered.
The Doctor looked around at the new arrivals. “How did you get here?”
“We were able to find someone who could pinpoint some kind of … vortex that we used to travel here,” Tosh answered. “Our mobile signals tried to go through it, so we theorized that that’s where we needed to go.”
“It was a rough ride,” Zoe added, still snuggling her husband. “I guess Serenity just got hit too hard.”
“What’s your name?” the Doctor asked as he followed Tosh to her workstation.
He squinted. “Have we met?”
“I-I don’t think so …”
“I might’ve had a different face at the time. Anyway! Can you show me where you came through?”
Toshiko nodded and sat down at her computer.
“What’s with this lot?” Owen asked Gwen quietly as he contacted the others. “It’s just a ship.”
“They lost their home, Owen. They spend a lot of time in space. They loved that ship,” Gwen answered.
“Who’s going to tell the Cap’n?” Jayne asked.
“I will,” Zoe answered, pulling away from her husband slightly. “It was my choice to bring us here.”
Owen made a triumphant noise as three video screens showing the occupants of Moya, Lo’La, and Aeryn’s prowler appeared on the screen.
Tosh left the Doctor at her workstation as she joined in the second round of hellos and reunions.
“Captain, I’m ‘fraid I have some bad news,” Zoe said, quieting the whole group.
“What happened? Is anyone hurt?” Mal asked anxiously, nearly shoving D’Argo out of the way.
“Crew’s fine, sir, not a scratch. It’s Serenity, Captain. She’s gone.”
Mal stared at Zoe’s face, completely uncomprehendingly.
“What happened?” he heard Jack ask beside him.
“We had to travel through … some kind of tunnel between universes to get here,” Zoe answered. “Serenity took severe damage. I take full responsibility, sir. It was my choice to take her through.”
“It was the only way we had to get back here,” Gwen pointed out.
Mal reminded himself to breathe and tried not to press a hand to the gaping wound he could feel in his chest. “Fault’s not with you, Zoe. I would’ve made the same choice.” He looked up as Kaylee burst into tears, hiding her face against Simon’s chest.
He felt a steady hand on his shoulder but didn’t register who it belonged to.
“I hate to the bearer of further bad news, but putting it off won’t solve anything,” the Doctor said, coming into view on the Torchwood screen. “I just finished scanning the hole that Serenity came through. It’s closed. I’m so sorry. There’s no way to get back.”
“What?!” he heard Wash start yelling, as he was the closest. “You know, you started all this with the Master! You just cost us our home AND our universe!”
That started off a whole new round of accusations and attempted explanations; Mal tuned it out. His home, his haven was gone, and he hadn’t even been there.
“SHUT UP! All of you!” Rose shouted. “If anyone knows about losing their home and their whole world, it’s me!” The group was startled into silence. “I know what you all feel like right now, because it happened to me. You will learn to cope with the loss. You will survive, even if that means searching for a way back. And I’m sorry that you don’t have time to grieve right now, because there’s still danger out there, but believe me, the Doctor would never purposefully wish this fate on anyone. Whatever happened in the past, if he’d had any idea what it would cause, he never would have done it.”
“If I may interrupt, Moya has intercepted news that may be useful to us,” Pilot announced.
“Go ahead, Pilot,” Martha said.
“There are ships fleeing from the region where Hyneria is located. They are spreading word of revolt and destruction on the planet.”
“He’s doing it,” Crichton said softly. “The Master is trying to put Rygel back on the throne.”
“Aeryn and crew of Lo’La, I’m going ahead. I’m going to take the TARDIS straight to Hyneria,” the Doctor announced.
“Doctor, we’ll never catch up with you in time,” Aeryn pointed out. “The Master must have used starburst to get there so quickly.”
“Then I’ll go alone. It’s my fault anyway,” the Doctor stated, striding towards the TARDIS.
Cries of shock, outrage, agreement, and dissent were abruptly cut off as the Doctor stopped in front of the TARDIS. River was blocking the doorway.
“She’s right, Doctor, you’re not going alone. We’re all this together,” Donna stated.
“River, please move,” the Doctor said.
Rose stepped forward and grabbed his hand. “You’re not leaving here alone. We’re coming with you.”
“We need to come, too,” Crichton stated. “You’re going back to our neck of the woods, and we can help deal with Rygel.”
Owen raised an eyebrow. “Sorry, mate, but isn’t this your neck of the woods?”
“Yeah, Crichton, you’re back home,” Chiana added. “You can just stay here.”
Crichton looked up at Aeryn’s face on the screen. “I can’t just leave them now. Not when Talyn is being controlled by a crazy person.”
“What? Who has Talyn?” Crais demanded.
“All right. All of you, in the TARDIS,” the Doctor consented.
“We’re going with the Doctor,” Crichton spoke to the viewscreens. “We’ll stop whatever’s happening. Catch up when you can.”
“What about Scorpius?” Aeryn asked.
“He’s here?” Chiana asked, looking around suspiciously.
“He’s locked down, don’t worry,” Crichton told her.
“Then we should leave him here,” Crais stated.
“Oi! He’s your problem, not ours!” Owen cried.
“RIGHT!” the Doctor shouted, cutting everyone off. “Crichton, is Scorpius involved at all with the situation we’re about to deal with? With Rygel?”
“No. He just wants me,” Crichton answered.
“Then he stays here for now, with our thanks to Torchwood, and we will come back and deal with him once we take care of things over there. Now! Since we’re going to be making a return trip, I suggest that all non-essential personnel stay behind, again, thank you, Torchwood.”
Owen rolled his eyes. “And suddenly, we’ve become intergalactic babysitters.”
“Check the attitude, Owen,” Jack snapped.
“Chiana, stay here,” Crichton told her.
“In the same building as Scorpius? No way!”
“We will be able to help, John. We need to come with you,” Zhaan stated calmly.
Crichton sighed and rubbed his eyes. “Fine. Let’s go. Everybody in.”
The Doctor and Rose flanked the door as Crichton, Crais, Zhaan, Chiana, and Donna filed in. Jayne looked around and then headed after them.
“Jayne, where do you think you’re going?” Zoe asked.
The former mercenary turned and faced her. “I’m goin’ where there’s a fight. I ain’t just gonna sit around here.”
“Well, if we’re lucky, there won’t be a fight, but it’s up to you,” the Doctor told him.
Jayne grunted and entered the TARDIS. Zoe looked like she was contemplating following him, but Wash insistently tightened his arms around her waist.
Gwen looked up at the screens. “Jack? Should we –”
“No. Stay there. Keep an eye on Scorpius and take care of our guests,” Jack replied.
“We’re off,” the Doctor informed everyone. “We’ll keep in touch as much as possible.” He then ducked inside the crowded TARDIS.
To be continued ...