Martha peeked out through the curtains of her bedroom. It was a beautiful day and she chose to take that as a good omen. She put a smile on her face as she picked up her briefcase from her bed and took one last glance around the room to check if she'd forgotten anything. It was strange to be living in her childhood bedroom again, with its pale pink walls, and Take That posters, but her mother seemed glad to have her near, and she didn't see that changing over the next couple of months.
She skipped down the stairs and grinned at her mother, who was waiting for her.
"Ready?" her mother asked.
Martha gave her a bright smile. "Sure, I mean, what can go wrong? They called me, after all." She smoothed down the skirt of her interview suit.
"Hmm," her mother's lips twisted. "I still think it's a bit funny, UNIT calling you up out of the blue, and only giving you two hours to get to an interview."
"Probably part of their interviewing procedure, to see if I can handle the pressure," Martha said.
Her mother gave her a long look, before pecking her on the cheek. "Come home in one piece, and don't go picking up any strange aliens," she admonished.
Martha laughed. "I can't make you any promises," she teased.
In hindsight, that should have been a clue to the rest of her day. Coincidence had become one long serendipitous act in her life... with none of the nice bits. She left the garden gate swing closed behind her, and halted when she heard an all too familiar clearing of the throat.
"Before you say anything, I do know what a don't call me, I'll call you speech means, and I was going to wait, honest I was. I'm quite good at leaving people alone, actually, sometimes I leave them alone for whole decades at a time, centuries even - some of them get quite shrivelled up in the process..."
His voice drifted off, and Martha closed her eyes and took a deep a breath, before twisting on her heels to glare at him. There he was, wearing his brown pinstriped suit and perched on her mother's garden wall, his fingers plucking at her hedge as his heels banged against the brickwork. He looked like an overgrown schoolboy, rather than the extremely dangerous man he really was.
"That last part didn't quite come out as I intended it to," he said, catching the expression on his face.
"I thought we said our goodbyes," Martha interrupted coolly. "Yesterday, in fact."
"Yeah, well, here's the problem," he said, "You know how we watched Jack go on his merry way? Well, it looks that he went merrily a bit farther than he intended... as in a galaxy far, far away."
That gave Martha pause. "How did that happen?"
"Uh, I thought I mentioned the merry part... something roughly approximating tequila, I believe."
"Well, there were worms in it."
Martha sighed and rubbed her eyes. "So, Jack got drunk and went on an extended vacation. I'm still not seeing how this translates into you sitting on my mother's garden wall."
"A Xervervian distress signal; very loud, and very obnoxious, and impossible to turn off until you reach its source." The Doctor shrugged. "I guess Jack didn't trust me to answer the regular SOS kind," he added ruefully.
Martha sighed. "Is this the part where you mention it's only going to be one trip?"
The Doctor shrugged, not a trace of remorse showing on his grinning face. "Atrixa Four, lovely spot. Holiday planet, in fact! You'll love it – nice suit, by the way."
"Thank you," she said shortly, "I'd better go inside and change out of it." He made to follow her, and Martha threw him a look. "My mother is inside."
"Oh, right, I'll just wait right here, then," he said, crestfallen.
Martha felt a tinge of guilt, but remained firm. "I think that's best," she said. "I'm not sure how she'd take your reappearance right now." And then she turned around and walked back up the garden path to her door. She guessed her brand new life would have to wait until tomorrow.
"I'll wait for you in the TARDIS, then," he called after her.
Martha nodded and put her key in the lock. Her mother wasn't going to be happy, but this was for Jack. It was hard to say no to Jack.
But not as hard as saying no to the Doctor, a little voice in the back of her mind said. She ignored it, as she walked into the kitchen. Her mother looked up from her paper, her lips thinning as she saw the expression Martha's face.
"He's here, isn't he?" she asked.
"Just one trip," Martha said softly.
Her mother sighed. "Oh, Martha, don't you see? That how we ended up here in the first place."
The Doctor was leaning against the console, thumbing through an old dog eared paperback, when she slipped into the TARDIS, her backpack slung over one shoulder. She felt the familiar sense of excitement, but it was now threaded through with wariness.
"Ready?" he asked, glancing up.
She nodded. "Yeah," she said. She slowly walked up the ramp as he tossed the paperback over his shoulder and scrambled for the controls. She watched the familiar dance, feeling as if she was seeing it through two pairs of eyes; her younger self, who saw him and his world as an escape from the mundane - a thrilling, heart pounding adventure - and her older, more weary self, who had walked a broken earth in ill fitting shoes. She felt her mouth go dry.
She must be crazy.
She let her backpack fall onto the ramp, and picked up the paperback that had dropped onto the seat. The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, she read. Martha grinned, despite herself. Only the Doctor could be that hokey. She turned the cover, and looked at the first page.
"Douglas never knew how to keep his mouth shut - happy reading, Arthur"
She gave the inscription a suspicious look, and then glanced up at the Doctor, who was now grinning like a loon as he darted around the console. The TARDIS's engines came alive around them, and Martha automatically reached for the railing.
They were off.
"Atrixa Four!" the Doctor declared, as he ran down the ramp and threw open the doors of the TARDIS. "A world of fun, frolics, and intoxicated ex-Time Agents." He leaped out the doorway without looking back, and Martha shook her head as she followed him down the ramp, and stepped out onto a beautifully manicured lawn.
It was a gloriously sunny day, and Martha shielded her eyes to take in her surroundings. They had landed about fifty metres from a large, stately house. She tilted her head and stared at the imposing façade. There was something very familiar about it, but she couldn't quite place what it reminded her of.
"Well, I do declare," a voice drawled from behind her. "Our guests have at last arrived!"
Martha jumped, and turned to find the voice's owner. An elderly gentleman, wearing a pale linen suit, and clutching a straw hat in his hand, bowed shallowly. He had a long, curled moustache, and a watch chain tucked into the pocket of his waistcoat, and his patent leather shoes shone with polish. Martha's eyes took in the ensemble with a sinking sensation in her stomach. She eyed the Doctor. "Please tell me you didn't accidentally land us in the American South before the twentieth century?" she asked, through gritted teeth.
"What?" the Doctor asked absently, as the clatter of horses filled the air, and a coach and four pulled up to the house. Martha frowned; where the hell had they come from?
"Welcome to Tara!" the elderly gentleman declared, dropping his hat back on his head. "My name is John Jones, I live in these here parts."
"Oh, do you indeed?" the Doctor said brightly. "I say, I don't suppose you'd know where we could find a good hotel?"
"Why, funny you should say that!" said John Jones. "I know exactly the place!"
Martha eyed the overly cheerful man suspiciously. "What am I missing here?" she asked, out of the corner out of her mouth.
"Didn't I mention Atrixa 4 was a theme world?" the Doctor said, almost inaudibly. "Sorry... don't worry, it's not an accurate re-enactment, just the frills." To demonstrate, he reached out and waved a hand through John Jones. "Hologram!" he said cheerfully.
John Jones suddenly flickered, and then beamed a smile. "Welcome to Tara!" he said, and then disappeared into thin air.
"Generic 'welcome mat' programme," the Doctor said, with a shrug. "The character-bots in the actual hotel will be more up to scratch."
Martha, however, was already distracted by another development; the bright sun above them had suddenly dimmed She looked up, and felt her heart leap into her mouth. "Doctor, she said hoarsely. "There's a great big rock, the size of Uluru, floating above us." A hulking mass of rock glided over their heads as if it were lighter than air.
"Oh, never mind that," the Doctor said breezily. "It's just another one of the islands."
"Another?" Martha returned.
"Well, Atrixa 4 is a water world, you know," the Doctor said conversationally. "They had to import all the dry land and, as it would cost the earth – aha - to actually terraform real islands, they constructed a series of floating islands instead, except then the nature conservationists pointed out that all those floating islands couldn't be very good for the local marine life, so then they decided to attach anti-grav engines and--"
Martha cut through him. "Doctor, are we on a flying Island?"
"Well... yeah," the Doctor admitted, after a moment's hesitation. "I probably I should have mentioned that part too... sorry. C'mon, let's go up to the house"
She watched his long legs cross the lawn, and then glanced up at the façade again. Suddenly, the hologram's words clicked, and she recognised what she was looking at. Tara from Gone With The Wind. She had the sudden mental image of Jack dressed up as Rhett Butler, and started to giggle.
"Well, I do declare," she said, as she ran to catch up with the Doctor.
They stepped into Tara's front hall, and a butler immediately appeared to relieve them of their coats. The Doctor waved him away, saying, "Can we speak with the lady of the house?"
The butler bowed. "Who shall I say has called for her?"
"Uh, we're the new arrivals," the Doctor said.
"Wait here," the Butler said solemnly, before gliding away silently – literally. His feet were a solid twelve inches from the ground.
"Character-bot with integrated anti-grav plates," the Doctor said, before Martha could open her mouth.
Martha crossed her arms as she looked around the foyer. "Is it just me, or does this place look like the exact opposite of where a kidnapper would keep their victim? I mean, it's a bit upscale for a prison, isn't it?"
The Doctor shrugged. "Maybe they've got expensive tastes?"
"Oh, why didn't I think of that?" Martha said dryly. "I mean, obviously a kidnapper isn't worth his salt if he can't at least offer room service to his reluctant guest."
The click of heels on the highly polished wooden floors caught her attention, and a woman dressed in period attire, with a long full skirt, swooped down on them. Her hair was in an elaborate up-do, and she held a flat screened electronic pad and a folder in her arms.
"Ah, how do you do," she said, smiling. "Wilkins told me we had new guests. "I'm Hilda Redgreen, your tour representative. So sorry to have kept you waiting. We had an unscheduled rain an hour ago, and it's playing havoc with my timetable. You are Mr and Mrs Smith, Suite 12 - correct?" She glanced down at the screen on her pad. "Classic wardrobe options, multi-island passes." She smiled at them, showing them a set of too perfect teeth. "Here are your ident-keys." Two small plastic discs, that looked like poker chips, were pulled out of the folder and placed into their hands. "And your brochures, of course."
Martha looked at the palm sized wobbly perspex square deposited into her hand. A moving image of a spinning planet blinked back at her, with the words "Atrixa Four – With Dreams Galore!!!" flashing rather garishly across the top. At the bottom, small icons glowed.
"As you can see, with have a wide array of facilities and amenities here," Hilda said brightly. "And if you run into any difficulty, just press the help icon, and one of our service-bots will come to your aid." Martha and the Doctor were treated to another bright smile, before the tour-rep turned on her heels and left through the same doors as she arrived.
"What kind of bot is she?" Martha asked lowly.
"None, she's human," the Doctor said as the Butler reappeared.
"If you'll follow me...Sir... Madam." The butler-bot gave them both a brief bow of the head, before turning and gliding up the stairs.
"And that's another thing - Mr and Mrs Smith?" she hissed out of the corner of her mouth, as they gained the steps. "Really? That's your idea of travelling incognito? What the hell were you thinking when you decided to register me as your wife? Do I look like a Mrs Smith to you?"
Two spots of colour appeared in the Doctor's cheeks. "Ah, sorry about that," he said. "TARDIS made the booking, I'm afraid." Martha chewed on that comment, while the Doctor suddenly studied the brochure in his hand as if his life depended on it. "Oh , look, they have a visitor's directory...handy, that." He pressed the icon and cleared his throat. "Captain Jack Harkness," he said. The brochure emitted a dull ring, which repeated a few times before-
"Hello, this is Jack Harkness-"
"Jack!" Martha and the Doctor said, as one.
"-I can't come to the phone, right now, but leave your name after the beep and I'll get right back to you." The last part came out as a half purr, and Martha smirked as the brochure beeped.
"Uh, Jack," the Doctor said into the brochure, a touch unsurely. "Heard you were in a touch of bother but maybe I misunderstood. Xervervian distress signals have always been a bit iffy-" The Doctor's ramble was interrupted by a rather large screech.
"Doctor!" a voice yelled, through what sounded like a full gale storm. "Thank......I thought... never get here! Come... get me!" The brochure hissed and crackled, swallowing half of Jack's words.
"Come and get you from where?" Martha shouted, leaning into the brochure.
"I'm not..." Another high screeching noise, and both Martha and the Doctor winced. "And whatever you.....don't....get in the rain-"
The line went dead, and the Doctor scowled at it.
"Try it again," Martha suggested. "He might be in a tunnel or something."
The Doctor gave her a look, but did as she suggested. After redialling the number a few times, the Doctor gave up as it went to voice mail once again.
"GPS?" Martha offered unsurely. "I mean if these things act as a phone...?
"Nah, that one went out centuries ago," the Doctor said dismissively. "You can look yourself up, but nobody else. Too many many bad guys were using the signal as a bullseye."
Martha thought of the Master, and his archangel project "Maybe that's a good thing," she said.
"Mind you," the Doctor said, a thoughtful expression on his face. "I suppose the planet's emergency services must have a link somewhere."
"Can you access it through the brochure?"
"Nah, we'll have to access it through a mainframe point. There should be one nearby. There's one on every Island." He cleared his throat. "Excuse me, Wilkins, but I don't suppose you'd know where the island's emergency mainframe point is?"
The butler-bot halted. "Please press the help icon, if you have an emergency or are in any difficulty," it said, before continuing its slow pace along the hall.
The Doctor and Martha exchanged a look.
"I don't suppose you could track down the mainframe point with the sonic screwdriver?" Martha asked.
The Doctor shook his head. "No, the mainframe would be shielded, to prevent it disrupting the island's anti-grav systems." He pulled a face. "The screwdriver's amplifications would probably have the same effect, so we shall have to do this the old fashioned way, or risk ending the day with a very large splash." The Doctor came to an abrupt halt as he walked into the back of Wilkins.
"Your room," the butler-bot said stiffly. "I hope it is to your satisfaction. Dinner is at seven, drinks to be served on the lawn at six thirty, weather permitting. Formal attire is preferred." And with that, it wheeled about and glided off.
"Why did they give him legs if he never uses them?" Martha said, as the Doctor took out his ident-key and pressed it against a small metal plate on the door. It opened silently.
"Authenticity, I suppose," Doctor said absently, as he pushed open the doors.
Martha eyed the large room. The walls were silk covered with a pale yellow pattern, and it had a highly polished oak floor, covered in an oriental rug. The center of the room was dominated by a large four poster bed, draped in heavy silks, and two divans were placed under the tall windows. Martha stepped into the room, and put her hands on her hips. "You're sleeping on one of those," she said, tilting her head at the divans.
The Doctor wrinkled his nose, but avoided eye contact as his eyes wandered around the room. He bounded to the first door that led from the room. "Bathroom," he said, before bounding to the second. "Ah, dressing room!" He turned around and grinned. "I think we should blend in, don't you?"
"You never worried about that before," Martha said dryly.
"Ah, but that was different, wasn't it?" he said. "It's a theme world, they can't allow their guests to mess up the theme, can they?"
Martha poked her head into the dressing room. A long series of dresses and under garments hung on the left side of the room. "Is that a corset?"
The Doctor leaned against the door, ankles crossed, hands in pockets. "Pretty much de rigeur for this time period," he said slyly.
Martha gave him a look. "This is payback for making you sleep on the divan, isn't it?"
He grinned in response. "Drinks at six thirty," he reminded her. "We need to find their mainframe point, remember? He stepped out of the room.
Martha hmphed in response and, as her eyes fell on the other row of costumes in the room, she gave an evil smirk. "Oh, Doctor," she singsonged. "Haven't you forgotten something?"
A striped awning covered a long table covered in a linen cloth. On the table were an array of glasses and drinks, and Wilkins, the butler-bot, was stationed behind it, an expression worthy of a mouthful of sour lemons on his face as he mixed the drinks.
"Why do I get the very distinct feeling Wilkins doesn't get a lot of job satisfaction," Martha said wryly as she watched him drop ice into a glass. She looked up at the Doctor, and smothered a grin as she caught him pulling at the tight, starched collar of his pristine white shirt. It nearly made up for the discomfort of wearing a corseted dress!
"Maybe his persona circuits were faulty when they were installed, "the Doctor said, with an irritable snort, "Too late to fix them now, anyway, he's a class five."
Martha raised an eyebrow. "Which means?" she prompted.
"He's classed as sentient," the Doctor said absently, as he surveyed the other guests. "All the character-bots are, and sentient AIs can't have their personas modified unless it's been found guilty of a Class A1 crime, like murder. Being rude doesn't count."
Martha let that piece of information sink in. "So, when he gave us the run around about the mainframe point earlier, that was him being deliberately obtuse, and not just him giving us a pre-forma answer," she said uneasily, remembering how Wilkin's was well within earshot when they had contacted Jack. What if the staff were involved in Jack's disappearance? What if Watkin's reported their conversation to them – or, worse, was actually involved himself?
Another thought occurred to her. She gave the Doctor a rueful look. "You called Jack in front of Wilkins on purpose, didn't you?"
"Well, I figured that if the staff were involved, it might hurry things along," the Doctor admitted, with a smug smile
"I'm going to get a drink," Martha said firmly, pulling up the hems of her skirt as she strolled towards the awning.
"I'll have a lemonade," he called out after her. "Lots of ice!"
Martha rolled her eyes, and kept on going, smiling at another couple who were patiently waiting for their drinks to be served.
"Hello, dear, you're new" said one of them, a petite woman of middling years, with dark frizzy hair and blue eyes. "My name is Eugenie, and you are?"
"Martha," Martha said, her eyes wandered from Eugenie's determinedly cheerful face to her partner's gaunt and silent one.
"Well," Eugenie said. "How are you liking it so far? Enjoying it, are we?"
"Well, we've only been here about an hour--"
"But you're already up and about after your long trip!" Eugenie said, nodding enthusiastically. "See, George?"
Her partner snorted but said nothing, as he took two fizzing blue drinks from Wilkin's hands. Martha raised an eyebrow; the drinks seem an unlikely concoction for the nineteenth century. She guessed the Island's authenticity didn't extend to the meals and drinks menus.
"So," Martha said brightly, ignoring the strange gurgling noise emitting from their glasses. "Been here long?"
"Oh, we've been here for a few weeks, but we only arrived on Tara a few days ago. We don't like to stay too long on any of the islands. It makes the experience more fresh, don't you think?"
Martha's mind went to the countless whirlwind tours of various worlds the Doctor had brought her on. "Oh yes, very bracing," she said, completely honestly.
Eugenie beamed. "See, George," she said. "Martha here agrees with me."
"How many islands have you visited?" Martha asked, as she tried to think of a way of steering the conversation towards the topic of mainframe points.
"Oh, this is our sixth," Eugenie said brightly. "Isn't that right, George?" Another grunt came from her husband, and Martha smothered a smirk. She had a funny feeling Eugenie did all the talking in their relationship.
"What was your favourite?" she asked lightly.
"Oh, that's easy" Eugenie said easily. "Late twenty third century Australia – such an exciting era, don't you think? All those AIs on the rampage!"
Intrigued, Martha made a mental note to check the TARDIS's Earth database, even as she tried to place a look of quiet concern on her face. "That sounds dangerous," she said. "I do hope the Island's emergency services are up to scratch. I always worry about the mainframe points on these holiday worlds."
"Oh, indeed," Eugenie said, nodding earnestly. "I worry about the exact same thing, especially with the terrible weather this planet's been having lately – don't I, George?"
Martha looked around, and eyed Wilkins, who was busy serving another couple. "I know what you mean," she said "I don't know about you, but I always ask where the nearest mainframe is, when I visit these places." She lowered her voice. "But, for some strange reason, nobody seems to be able to tell me where it is here..." She raised an eyebrow, and tilted a head towards Wilkins.
Eugenie caught her meaning. "Oh, him," she said dismissively. "Lost our luggage for a whole two hours, when we arrived. He'd probably find it difficult enough finding his own mainframe, never mind the Island's."
"Well, that doesn't exactly fill me with confidence," Martha said.
"Don't worry, dear," Eugenie said, patting her hand. "These Islands are all designed around the same specs. This mainframe will be at the exact centre of the island, like all the rest."
Martha felt a moment of triumph, before Wilkins caught her eye. There was a scowl on his face that made Martha wonder how good the hearing of a character-bot was. She said her goodbyes to the smiling Eugenie and the silent George, before taking a determined move towards the table. "Two Lemonades, please," she said firmly. "No ice."
With a fixed scowl on his face, he filled two glasses with lemonade, and handed them to her grimly.
"Thank you, Wilkins," Martha said flatly, and turned to look for the Doctor. Her eyes rested on a small crowd of people on the other side of the lawn, who spontaneously began to cheer. Shaking her head, she headed straight for it. Some things were just inevitable.
"... Twain, I said, you can't keep pretending you're dead just to avoid a few treasure hungry Sontarans, who don't know the meaning of the word fiction. Why don't I help you out?"
Martha grinned as the Doctor's voice carried over the hum of the crowd, and wondered if he was telling the truth or it was just another tall tale. You never could tell with the Doctor; it depended on how bored he was.
"Ah, there's Martha," he said, as Martha stepped through the crowd, glasses held high. His gleaming grin dimmed slightly as he spotted the drinks. "What, no ice?"
Martha gave him a hard smile. "Sorry, must have forgotten in my excitement. Is it time to eat yet? I think we should be getting along." She turned her smile on the gathered audience, as she handed him a glass. The Doctor blinked down at her as she tugged at his elbow. "C'mon, dear, we need to get going."
At last, he caught on. "Oh, right," he said. "Although, maybe we could make a stop off at the tent... get some ice..."
Martha's grip on his elbow tightened as she steered him in the direction of the Hotel. "You can raid the bar after we find Jack," she said lowly. "We need to find the exact center of the Island. Apparently, that's where they keep the mainframe point."
"I don't see why we can't -"
"Ah, Mr and Mrs Smith, I do hope you're enjoying your stay." Hilda Redgreen, framed by the patio doors, was dressed in a bright pink frilly concoction, which trailed lace behind her. Deep purple feathers sprung from her elaborate hairstyle, and she snapped a matching fan in her hand. It was not a flattering look.
"Oh, it's lovely, very quaint," the Doctor said cheerfully. "Bijoux, even."
Martha suppressed a groan as she noticed Hilda Redgreen's professional smile fade a little. "Ah, well yes, I see," she said, with a snap of her fan. "Well, if there is anything you need, just give us a tinkle on your brochure." She glanced at the sky. "Oh my, are those rain clouds I see? I'd better call everyone in for dinner." And, with that, she brushed passed them and onto the lawn. The Doctor gave the tour rep a thoughtful look before taking a sip of his lemonade.
"Probably nothing," the Doctor said, before grimacing at his glass. "Needs more sugar." Martha glared at him disapprovingly as he poured the contents of his glass into the nearest pot plant. "Exact center, did you say?" he carried on, his eyes sharpening as he watched the other tourists trot in their direction. "That would be under the stairs, wouldn't it?"
"I'll take your word for it," Martha said.
"Right, you stay here and make something up if they ask where I am, I'll go and find out where Jack is. I'll meet you up in the room afterwards."
Frustrated, Martha watched his disappearing back. She contemplated following him, but a hand on her arm stopped her. "Well, hello there, dear, has your young man disappeared on you again?"
"Oh, um, he's just stepped out...for some ice," Martha prevaricated.
"Oh well, dear," Eugenie said, patting her arm. "I'm sure he'll be back soon."
"Uh, right," Martha let Eugenie drag her to a table. George glanced up at her and nodded silently as she sat down.
"So, Martha, you didn't tell us where you're come from?" Eugenie said cheerfully.
"London," Martha said.
"Oh, what a nice world," Eugenie said. "A dual lunar planet, isn't it? I love those."
Martha blinked, but went with it. Forty third century, she told herself, as she picked up her menu and glanced down. What the hell was a Fnargrash Casserole?
"So, tell me, m'dear, how long have you and your husband been having marital problems?" Eugenie asked genially.
It was official, Martha was going to kill him.
He was lying on the bed, tossing and catching his sonic screwdriver, when she eventually made it back to their room. He had already changed back into his brown suit, and thrown off his shoes. "Well, you took your time," he said. "Did you bring a doggy bag?"
Martha threw him a long look. "Jack," she said.
"Found him," he said simply, sitting up. "Although we may have hit a bit of a hiccup."
"And how's that?" Martha asked.
He hesitated slightly before answering. Always a bad sign. "Weeeelll," he said, drawing it out. "There's nothing there, you see. Other than Jack's signal, that is. No island, no transport..." His voice trailed off as he caught the expression on her face.
"You're saying he's in the water, aren't you?" she asked.
He nodded glumly. "On the plus side, death by drowning is relatively painless," he said "Well, practically painless, well, mostly painless, apart from the hypothermia--"
""What aren't you telling me?" Martha said, cutting in.
"The waters are protected," he said simply. "No water landings are allowed."
"Except for rescues, of course," Martha said, in what she though was her most reasonable voice.
"Ah." He clicked his teeth. "Well , you see, its a funny thing. Once I located and hacked into the mainframe – I was brilliant by the way – I went in search of Hilda Redgreen, and told her that a friend of ours was missing, and that we believed he was in trouble."
"And nothing, really," the Doctor said. "She said thank you for informing her, and that she'd get right on it, once the weather cleared."
Martha frowned as she looked out the window. "But the rain is already beginning to peter off."
"That's what I said," the Doctor said absently, as he studied his socked, wiggling toes. "And...well... she didn't really give a reasonable answer, she just sidled off."
"Charming," Martha retorted. "What's plan B?"
"Oh, the usual. Steal a ship, rescue Jack, get arrested." He shrugged. "Pretty much the same old thing – shall we go?" He hopped onto his feet and bounced, smiling maniacally.
"Not before I get out of this corset," Martha said.
"Ah, no time for that, sorry," he said, not looking sorry at all. "The last transport ship arrives in twelve minutes. We wouldn't want to miss it."
Martha's eyes narrowed. "I'm not going anywhere in this dress," she said, as she dashed for the changing room. She had once run away from an army of giant tin soldiers while wearing a corset, she didn't want to repeat the experience.
"Twelve minutes," he called after her.
"I'll meet you downstairs!" She slammed the door behind her, and began to wriggle out of the dress.
It took her exactly three minutes to change. It was a knack she'd mastered about two weeks into her travels with the Doctor, and it had saved her life more than once. She took the steps, two at a time, only to find the Doctor arguing with Hilda Redgreen in the foyer.
"But you can't leave!" Martha heard her say, as she took the last few steps. "It might start raining again!"
"We'll bring an umbrella!" the Doctor declared. "I've always liked umbrellas!"
"We don't have any umbrell-"
"Ready to go?" Martha interrupted.
Hilda Redgreen turned on her. "Ah, Mrs Smith, perhaps you could talk some sense into your husband."
Martha's lips twitched, despite herself. "I'm afraid my husband is a bit allergic to sense," she said.
"Well, at least allow Wilkins escort you to the landing bay, he can use his shields to protect from the inclement weather and -"
Martha exchanged a look with the Doctor. Six minutes, he mouthed, and Martha came to a decision.
"Well, frankly," she said, as she stalked away. "I don't give a damn." She pushed the doors open and stormed down the steps.
"You know, he didn't actually say that in the movie," the Doctor said, a moment later, as he fell into step beside her. "Frankly, I mean."
"No reason to ruin a perfectly good exit line," Martha said.
"Is it just me," The Doctor said absently, looking at the sky. "Or do the locals seem weirdly preoccupied by the weather?"
Martha shrugged. "Not especially."
"Hmm, you're probably the wrong person to ask."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Well, you're British, aren't you?" he said. "Your lot were always a bit weird about the weather."
"Oh, well, glad to see there's no stereotyping going on here, then," Martha huffed.
"Huh?" the Doctor said, his eyes a million miles away. "Oh, yeah, sorry..." The TARDIS came into view, and he pulled out his key. "Won't be a moment, just need to pick up my umbrella."
Martha grimaced as he disappeared inside. The Doctor's umbrella was a loudly coloured and striped thing that usually attracted every predator within a ten mile radius. She had once tried to convince him to get rid of it, and he didn't talk to her for a whole three hours. She had never broached the subject again. She pulled the brochure out of her pocket, and pulled up the island map. The landing pulsed a bright green, and the words, boarding in five minutes, scrolled across the top of the screen. It didn't seem that far away; they would make it if they ran.
"Right!" the Doctor, as he reappeared. "Ready for every eventuality."
"Oh, come on," Martha said, pulling at his arm. "We're in a hurry, remember?"
They ran, the sky rumbling above them. One of the Doctor's hands latched onto hers, as the other flicked his umbrella open. Despite herself, Martha felt the familiar tingle of excitement. Not a good thing, she told herself firmly, as a small round topped craft came into view. The landing pad was small and discreet, and placed behind the 'stables'.
A holographic image, dressed as a confederate soldier, popped into view, and broke into a run beside them. "You all come back now," he said cheerfully, before disappearing once again, his job done. Martha rolled her eyes.
The ramp that led to the open door in the shuttle began to hum as they approached and, with a last burst of speed, they jumped onto it, just as it began to retract.
"Whoo," the Doctor said, as he closed the umbrella. "That was a close one, hallo there -" He stopped, mid-sentence, as he realised that they were the only passengers. The shuttle door shut as he eyed the pilot's seat at the front of the cabin. The engine roared to life, and the craft lifted from the ground. A splattering of rain hit the small porthole windows that lined the cabin wall.
"Hallo there," the Doctor called out, this time to the pilot's seat.
"One moment, please, the auto pilot has not engaged yet," said an all too familiar voice, and Martha was pulled up short.
"Wilkins?" she asked, out loud.
The chair swivelled, and the character-bot eyed her. "Correct," he said.
"Bit of a multi-tasker, aren't we?" Martha asked suspiciously.
"I am a class five AI," he said briefly, "Capable of many tasks and roles."
"Including being a shuttle pilot," she said flatly, crossing her arms. She was definitely beginning to smell a rat.
The character-bot shrugged, an action that looked out of place, even on his realistically rendered humanoid body. "The human pilots feel uncomfortable flying in inclement weather," he said.
"Yes," the Doctor said, "Everybody seems a bit wary of the weather around here. Why is that, I wonder? I mean, surely the weather patterns are programmed?"
"There have been some difficulties with the weather satellites," the character-bot admitted reluctantly.
"I see," the Doctor drawled, his eyes sharpening. "What kind of difficulties, exactly?"
"Those details are not stored in my data banks," Wilkins said promptly.
Martha caught the look of suspicion on the Doctor's face, and she couldn't help but agree The rain was becoming heavier, and a flash of lightning lit up the pilot screen. The shuttle jerked suddenly, and then settled.
"We seem to be having a little turbulence," the Doctor said lightly.
"It is common in these weather conditions," Wilkins said smoothly.
"Not in a shuttle kitted out with inertial dampeners, it isn't," the Doctor said flatly.
There was a long silence in the cabin as Wilkins and the Doctor stared at each other, and then Wilkins said, "You didn't inform Ms Redgreen of your destination Island."
"Oh dear, how remiss of me," the Doctor replied.
"Perhaps you could rectify this omission now."
In answer, the Doctor turned to Martha. "How far away are we from the island?" he asked.
Martha once more took out the brochure, and brought up the map. The green dot, that signified the shuttle, was sprinting away from the Island on the screen. Martha frowned, as she looked at the distance scale to the right of the map. "About three kilometres," she said.
"Good enough," he said, and he took out his sonic screwdriver, and pointed it at the pilot console. Lights danced across its screen, and Wilkins let out a sound of surprise and disgust.
"It's against planetary regulations to carry sonic tools on this planet, how did you get it through customs?" he said, as his hands blurred with superhuman speed across the console.
"I took a detour," the Doctor said, flopping onto a passenger seat.
"You've hacked into the subroutines," Wilkins said, before pausing. "These co-ordinates are for the water's surface," he eventually said, quietly.
"We're picking up a hitch hiker," the Doctor said casually, "And I wouldn't bother trying to adjust them. I've dead locked the co-ordinates in."
"You fool," Wilkins said harshly. "You've killed us all."
The shuttle jerked again, and the rain was now pounding on the outside of the craft. It sounded like a thousand tiny fists, banging on the hull. Almost without volition, Martha bent down to look out of one of the port hole windows, and felt something lurch in the pit of the stomach as her eyes took in the scene on the other side of the glass.
It was huge, it was enormous, it had tentacles that reached high into the sky and actually scraped against the underbelly of an Island that was scurrying across the sky.
"Great giant Cthulu," breathed Martha, "What is that?"
But her question was left unanswered as the transport lurched sideways, and the porthole was suddenly covered in darkness.
"Emergency 108!" boomed Wilkins. "Emergency 108!" The communications screen lit up in front of them.
"We hear you, Wilkins, status please?"
"She's awake," the character-bot said crisply. "We're going down."
"Affirmative," the voice replied. "Your course has been noted. Action 45 shall be implemented the moment the coast is clear."
"Noted," Wilkins said, and then the communications screen went dark, along with the consoles and overhead lights.
"How long until the emergency lights kick in?" the Doctor called out.
As if on cue, the cabin filled up with a dull red light. The room tilted, throwing Martha and the Doctor to the wall. Wilkins rose to hover in the middle of the cabin, seemingly unaffected by the turbulence. Winded, Martha tried to get her bearings as she looked out the porthole at her elbow. Something fleshy and pulsing was covering it. Fear coursed through her.
"Prepare to be submerged!" Wilkins informed them, in a loud klaxon voice.
Working on instinct, she leapt to the nearest chair, her hand reaching under the seat, looking for a life jacket, even as she fumbled for her seatbelt. The shuttle lurched again, and Martha was sent flying. An iron grip closed around her and swung her around, pinning her.
"Please hold still," Wilkins said, as she instinctively struggled. "My anti-grav system should keep us both in stasis.
Martha relaxed, as the shuttle lurched around them, the lights flickered uncertainly. "Thanks," she muttered, before calling out, "Doctor?"
"Over here!" he chirped, and Martha caught a glimpse of a waving hand in the flickering light.
The entire shuttle shuddered violently, and a dull roar filled her ears. The stasis field negated the force of the impact, but she had a funny feeling that she'd have been paste on the roof if Wilkins hadn't caught her.
"Are we underwater?" she asked.
"It is the most likely outcome," Wilkins said.
"You know, I can't help but notice, that that doesn't seem to surprise you," the Doctor said flatly, "And I find myself asking a question – did the butler do it?"
Martha stiffened as Wilkins was silent for a moment, before answering, "Funny that, since that's exactly what I was thinking about you two – Mr and Mrs Smith?".
The Doctor laughed suddenly, the dangerous flatness gone as quickly as it appeared. "You're not really a butler, are you?"
"And you're not really a Smith," the AI countered.
"Oh, right, I'm the Doctor, and this is Doctor Martha Jones, how do you do," he said, as he unbound his seatbelt and jumped to his feet.
"Doctor of what?"
Oh, Doctor of everything, really; I'm a bit of of a multi-tasker too." He grinned, and Martha resisted the urge to groan. She knew that look.
"And you, Doctor Jones?"
It took her a moment to realise the AI was addressing her. "MD," she said, "Although I haven't finished my internship yet."
"Hmmm," the AI said, "Then perhaps you are not the perpetrators, but the victims."
"Ah, I was hoping you'd get around to that," the Doctor said cheerfully. "I don't suppose you could fill us in on what that is." He pointed at the window.
"Indigenous creature," Wilkins said crisply. "The original explorers called it a Kraken, after a mythological creature spoken of, on old Earth. Usually a deep sea dweller, but it can be brought to the surface by erratic or heavy weather patterns disturbing their deep sea water habitats."
"And there has been a lot of that lately, hasn't there?" the Doctor said softly.
The AI nodded. "About a year ago, the the planetary weather control satellites were sabotaged. They've been fixed a number of times since, but every time the system is brought up to normal capacity, the system is tampered with again."
"I'll bet that isn't good for the local tourist trade," the Doctor said dryly
"So far, Atrixa Four's authorities have kept a lid on the details, but it's bound to get out sooner or later." He didn't seem to be particularly put out by the idea, Martha noted.
"And you are?" the Doctor prompted.
"As I said, my name is Wilkins," the AI said.
"But you're not, I think, a butler-bot," the Doctor said. "Nobody in their right mind would waste a class five – or is it a class six - Orion made AI on mixing drinks."
Wilkins looked at him coolly. "You are correct, I am a class six, and I am not, as you surmised, a butler bot. I am an INTERSTELP agent."
"And what's that, when it's at home?" Martha asked.
"Oh, that's brilliant, that is," the Doctor said, grinning. "He's a copper, Martha."
Martha stared at the AI. "You're a policeman," she repeated, unable to keep the incredulity out of her voice.
Wilkins sighed. "Could we please have this conversation at another time?" he asked, almost plaintively. as the shuttle shuddered. There was a gentle whooshing sound.
"What's happening?" Martha asked, as she eyed the hull.
"If previous incidences are anything to go by, I believe the Kraken has surmised we are inedible, and has lost interest. She has released us, and the shuttle's natural buoyancy is bringing us to the surface."
"This happens a lot, eh?" the Doctor asked.
"We believe so," the AI said. "If you have any means to defend yourself, I suggest you prepare yourself now."
"Why is that?" the Doctor asked.
"Our intelligence suggests we are soon about to be boarded and an attempt shall be made to take us hostage," Wilkins said calmly.
The Doctor's eyes narrowed, making his features almost sinister in the red emergency lights, "What haven't you told us, Wilkins?" he said, the flat tone back.
Wilkins eyed him. "I believe that we are about to be boarded by the same persons who damaged the weather control satellites," he said.
The Doctor frowned. "Are you saying that this planet has pirates?" he asked.
"I think it may be more accurate to call them wreckers." Wilkins said.
The Doctor's eyebrows rose "Right. Except they use a great big squid, instead of a lamp?" It didn't take much effort to hear the scepticism in the Doctor's tone.
"Something like that," Wilkins said, as something began to clang at the hull.
"I suppose they have a secret hideaway too?"
"Actually, I was rather hoping that you two would help me out with that question, but then you rather inconveniently turned out to be innocent," he said.
"Right back at ya," the Doctor replied.
Martha was beginning to wonder if she should have brought popcorn, when the clanging noise got louder, setting her teeth on edge. The shuttle's hatch door began to glow a hot red. "Uh, Doctor, I think they're trying to burn their way in."
"Oh, nicely deduced," Wilkins said, not bothering to hide his sarcasm.
"Let me guess, you're never the one they ask to play good cop," Martha bit back, sweetly.
"Ah. Not that this isn't entertaining," the Doctor said. "But I think we have enough on our plates. Don't you?"
With a hollow thump, the hatch fell inward, the molten hot edges popping and hissing as they began to cool. A large looming presence filled the gaping hole, and Martha felt her stomach flip as she recognised who it was. "Hello George," she said quietly.
He didn't answer, but merely opened his hand. A small silvery ovoid rested in his palm, beeping lowly.
The Doctor's voice rang out. "Martha, don't look at the--"
A bright flash flooded the cabin, and Martha cried out as an agonizingly sharp pain snapped through her mind. She lost consciousness.
The sound of water slipped through the edges of her thoughts; it was not the gentle lapping of water on a beach, or even the roar of waves on a cliff. It was a rhythmic slap, the sound of water disturbed by...oars?
She tried to open her eyes, but the bright light sliced pain through her head. She let out a gasp.
"Martha, don't try to move." The Doctor's voice sounded low and worried.
She opened her mouth to speak, cringing as she felt all her facial nerves jump as if they were on fire. She spoke through the pain. "Wha...what?"
"You've been hit with a neural lance," he said lowly. "Slams into your retina, and plays bouncy toy with your nervous system. Don't worry, the effects are not permanent; it'll wear off in another ten minutes, or so, but until then you're going to feel like...well... not well."
Martha digested that piece of information before forming her next word. "W...where?"
"We're on a oar boat," he said. "The crew are all character-bots, except for Georgie."
Martha could tell he was leaving something out, but let it lie. "Wilk..ins?"
"Ah," the Doctor said. "He's not in a good way, I'm afraid; I think they've deactivated him." His voice lowered. "I don't think they realise what he is... hopefully, they won't figure it out, or they might try to erase his personality construct."
The AI version of death, Martha thought, as she tried to open her eyes a sliver. The light was still unbearably harsh, but at least she didn't want to vomit any more. The brightness coalesced into a sky above them. It was a light powder blue, without even the slightest hint of rain. A head swam into view. It was the Doctor, an anxious look on his face. Oh, not good.
"I guess the storm has passed," she said hoarsely. "And, oh look, I can string an entire sentence together without wanting to scream."
"Bet it still tingles, though – and not in a good way."
Martha laughed, and then winced as pain lashed through her abdomen and chest. "Ouch."
He absently squeezed her shoulder. "We're nearly there," he murmured.
"At their secret hideaway base, apparently," he said. "Which is funny, because I don't see any land...well... anywhere."
"Huh?" Martha asked. "Okay, that's it, help me sit up. I need to see what's going on!"
"Don't you Martha me, Mister! Just sit me up."
Hands slid down her back, as he gently lifted her. The pain was still excruciating, but she held it in; she knew he'd insist she lay still if she cried out. At last, she was in a sitting position – well, sort of, it would be more accurate to say she was propped up against the Doctor's shoulder. She took a shallow breath, and then another, as she waited for the pain to subside and her vision to clear again.
Two rows of backs were ahead of her, strong arms pulling at large, coarse oars. They wore leather and wool, and furs, and their long, braided hair spilled from under their helmets. Martha blinked, and then peered again. She must be seeing things.
"They're character-bots," the Doctor murmured. "A real Viking wouldn't be seen dead in a boat this shoddily built – look at the amount of water in the bilge."
"Have they said anything?" Martha asked lowly, as she eyed them.
"I don't think they can speak; class twos, I think." The Doctor sighed. "I'm beginning to suspect your friend Georgie may not be human, either – class five, I think." He indicated the stern of the ship. George stood, ramrod straight, staring over the prow of the longboat. He didn't twitch, he didn't move a finger, Martha wasn't even sure he swayed with the ship
Martha eyed him, wondering how she ever thought he was human. "Eugenie?" she asked.
The Doctor shrugged. "If I had to guess, I'd lean towards human," he said quietly. "But you never quite know."
"How long was I out?"
"'Bout half an hour," the Doctor said.
"Has he say anything?"
"Not to me, but I heard him talking through his communicator to someone. He was giving coordinates."
Martha sighed. "I thought there wasn't supposed to be anything on this planet's surface."
The Doctor hummed under his breath for a moment. "Yeah, well, there's always things falling through the cracks, aren't there – loopholes."
"Where is Wilkins?"
"Under the tarpaulin at George's feet," the Doctor said. "It was that what gave old Georgie away, really; he barely gave us a second glance, and went straight for Wilkins – the only threat on board, as far as he was concerned, see?"
"I'm beginning to," Martha said grimly."But what I don't see is what he thinks he'll get out of all this--"
The boat heaved, and Martha's weight pressed into the Doctor's side as the boat tilted. The sea swelled and broke, and Martha watched, stunned, as a golden tower broke the water. It rose, and rose, casting a shadow over the boat, until the glinting broadsides of the rest of the submarine heaved above the surface. Water drenched them, and slopped into the boat's bilge.
"Well...wow," the Doctor said, as he wiped salt water from his face, "That's pretty spectacular, actually."
"Who the hell is running this operation? Captain Nemo?"
The Doctor gave her a wide, gaping grin. "Oh, that's good, that; very witty."
Martha smirked back, despite herself. Her face tingled unpleasantly, but the pain seemed to be easing. She gave her hand an experimental wiggle. "I think the neural lance thingy is wearing off."
The submarine gave out a low boom, and the boat's oars fell instantly still.
"Just in time for what comes next," the Doctor said under his breath. "Usually, I'd suggest running for it, but our only options seem to be the submarine or a long dip – how good is your doggy paddle?"
"I'd give myself about three lengths," Martha admitted.
"Right," the Doctor said. "So I guess we can cross swimming for it off the list."
Martha rolled her eyes. "Come on, help me to my feet."
The both weaved precariously, as she stood and George abruptly bent down and attached a gadget the size of a matchbox onto the tarpaulin covering Wilkins. There was a flash of light, and the AI disappeared. George turned and stalked towards them, and Martha felt the Doctor's arms tighten around her shoulders as he approached.
"Prepare for short beam transmat," he said flatly, as he slapped another one of the gadgets to the Doctor's arm, and hers.
The Doctor straightened. "I don't suppose we could have a wee chat about-" Light flashed. "- about this." The Doctor sighed. "Guess not, then."
Martha blinked as her eyes tried to adjust to the murky light and their new environs. They were in a small enclosed room, facing a heavy hatch door. "We're in the submarine, aren't we? What part, do you think?"
"The brig," a third, familiar voice drawled from behind them. "Welcome to the party."
"Jack!" Martha exclaimed, swirling around. "Oh, thank goodness, we were worried."
"We came to rescue you and everything!" the Doctor said.
"Hit a bit of an impasse, have you?" Jack asked teasingly, grinning as Martha gave him a hug.
The Doctor waved his hand dismissively "What? This? More of a hitch, really - a minor hiccup - we'll have you out of here in no time...well, maybe a little bit more of time."
"You know, as rescues go, this leaves much to be desired," Jack said.
"Everybody is a critic," the Doctor sniffed.
The tarpaulin in the corner of the room moved, and a hand reached out from beneath it. The cloth was pulled down, revealing the scowling features of Wilkins. "Sorry to interrupt this touching reunion, but I think it may be in our best interests to escape as soon as possible."
"Wilkins!" the Doctor grinned. "I thought they deactivated you!"
"I am Orion made, Doctor Smith," Wilkins pointed out impatiently.
"Ah yes, the automatic reboot back up," the Doctor said. "I forgot about that."
Wilkins pushed off the tarpaulin and got to his feet. "The renegade AI is obviously unaware of my manufacturing origins," he said. "I suggest we take advantage of their ignorance."
"Class six?" Jack muttered, out of the corner of his mouth.
"How did you know?" Martha asked.
"The sparkling wit and bubbly personality," Jack said.
"You forgot to mention the excellent hearing," Wilkins said acidly.
"Oh, I can see this is going to be fun," Martha said.
The Doctor grinned goofily. "Yes, it is rather fun, isn't it?"
"I think Martha may have been using sarcasm, Doctor," Jack pointed out gently.
"Oh. Right. Of course," his face dropped.
"Why do they call you Doctor?" Wilkins suddenly asked.
"Because it's my name," he mumbled absently, before he remembered his alias. "As in Doctor Smith, Doctor John Smith.
Martha bit her lip, trying not to laugh, and Wilkins levitated into the air and raised a solitary eyebrow. "We shall discuss this later," it said, "After I've released us from this room, and acquired suitable back up for this operation."
"What? We're not good enough for you?" the Doctor asked, pouting.
The AI gave him a long look. "I think it's best if I don't answer that," it eventually said. "Please stand against the back wall." Wilkins pointed a finger at the heavy hatch door, and Jack and the Doctor leapt to Martha's side and grabbed an arm each.
"Oi!" Martha yelped, as they dragged her to the back of the cell.
"Cover your ears," the Doctor said.
Martha rolled her eyes, but did so, as a red beam of light emitted from Wilkins's forefinger and slammed into the hatch door. A high pitched screech rattled the air, making Martha's teeth ache. The metal hatch slowly turned red with heat, and began to melt away.
"Blimey," Martha yelled, over the din. "I'm glad he figured out we weren't the bad guys on the shuttle, I wouldn't have liked to be on the business end of that."
"Oh, it wouldn't have come to that," the Doctor said. "He probably would have just disabled us with a sonic wave emission."
Martha raised an eyebrow. "How big is his arsenal?"
"Lets just say I'm very happy he's on our side," the Doctor said brightly, as Wilkins turned off the laser, and turned on another beam, this time bright green. The edges of the now gaping hatch hissed and popped as they became coated in ice.
"After you," said an amused Jack as he gestured at the door.
"Oh no, after you, I insist,"Martha shot back.
"I swear, you, two," the Doctor sighed as he ducked through the hole. "If it's not one thing, it's the other – oh." Slowly, the Doctor raised his hands into the air, and Martha groaned..
"You've got to be kidding me," she said.
"Nope, afraid not," the Doctor said.
"So much for my grand rescue," Jack drawled.
Wilkins blinked, and then, with an exaggerated finger to the lips, rose to the ceiling, Martha tried not to follow him with her eyes as the Doctor slowly backed away from the hatch, and Eugenie stepped into view, smiling widely as she trained her weapon on Martha.
"Why, if it isn't our dear Martha, long time no see – been catching up with your friend Jack here, I see?"
"Oh, yeah," Martha said. "He's been filling me in on all the recent gossip; who's the good guy, who's the bad guy... who's the one pretending to be the other."
Eugenie's fake smile didn't falter. "Ah, the wit, the banter; I shall be sorry to be rid of you," she said.
"Tell me, do you practice at sounding like a bad script from a B movie, or is it a gift?" Martha asked sweetly.
"How about you shut that trap of yours, and step out into the hall – keep your hands where I can see them."
Martha raised her hands and ducked through the breached door, ignoring the Doctor's bright grin and fluttering hand wave, as she eyed the three crewmen who were aiming energy weapons at their chests. She couldn't figure out if they were human or AIs.
"Now you, pretty boy," Eugenie said, to Jack.
Jack smirked. "See? I knew you liked me," he said, as he stepped into the hallway.
Martha noted that Eugenie's eyes hadn't even rested on the canvas sheet in the corner of the cell. Which was a good thing, as the sheet looked suspiciously flat, even under casual examination. The Doctor was right, they didn't have a clue what Wilkins was. She hoped that the futuristic robot cops from the Orion belt had a thing about the whole 'protect and serve' part of the job, although her only real experience with an alien police force – the Judoon – didn't exactly fill her with confidence.
"Keep your hands up, and start moving," Eugenie said, gesturing at them to walk.
"Please tell me you have a plan B?" Jack said, under his breath.
"Let's just see where the wind takes us for a while," the Doctor murmured back. "I want to know what they're up to."
"Oh great, a foraging expedition, just what we need," Martha muttered. A gun prodded the middle of her back.
"Stop talking, and keep walking," Eugenie said.
"Ah, just like old times," Jack drawled. "Now all I need is a few more chains, and a few rounds of torture, and I'll feel right at home."
"I could really do with a chip, right now," the Doctor said, out of the blue. "Oh look, what have we here?"
The corridor opened up into an large, open space, at least four stories high. Balconies and ramps decorated the walls, and Martha's mouth gaped open, as she noted the armed men occupying them. A pillar rose from the center of the room, which seemed to consist of old, piled up computer banks and monitors.
It seemed strangely incongruous in the room..
"Well, that is different," the Doctor said, eyeing it. "What does it do, exactly, run Vista?" The screens sprang to life and begin to glow a bright pink. Electricity fizzled and sparked along the wiring that cobbled it all together. The Doctor pitched his head to the side. "Okay, not produced at Intel, then," he murmured softly.
A beam of pink light shot from one of the screens, and a holographic image coalesced in front of them.
"Doctor," Martha said lowly.
"I know, kind of freaky, isn't it?" the Doctor, as he looked at this holographic double.
"Well, Atrixa 4 is a water world, you know," the hologram Doctor said, his voice oddly hollow.
"Well, that made absolutely no sense," Jack said.
"They had to import all the dry land, and as it would cost the earth – aha - to actually terraform real islands, they Constructed a series of floating islands instead, except then the nature conservationists pointed out that all those floating islands couldn't be very good for the local marine life," the hologram said.
"Wait," Martha said. "You said that to me, back when we first arrived; it's parroting bits of our conversation back at us."
"It must have been spying on us," the Doctor said. "Maybe using the planet's satellite system-"
"Nah, that one went out centuries ago," the hologram said. "You can look yourself up, but nobody else. Too many many bad guys were using the signal as a bullseye."
The Doctor's eyes narrowed. "How, then?" he asked.
The hologram blurred, and then coalesced into a different form. It was the holographic confederate soldier from the holiday island. "You all come back now," it said.
"Well, how do you do? And what are you when you are at home, my beauty," the Doctor said, stepping forward as he took out his glasses, and propped them on his nose. Martha could hear the fascination in his voice.
"Touch it and I'll kill you," Eugenie said, her ever present smile suddenly slipping.
"All right, all right," the Doctor said placatingly, as he took a step back. Martha bit her lip as she noticed his hand slip into his pocket. The one in which he kept his sonic screwdriver.
"So what does it do, then?" she piped up, pulling Eugenie's attention away from the Doctor. "Is it sentient?"
"You, my dear, couldn't even begin to understand what the Construct is," Eugenie said. "So don't even try."
"Oh, that wasn't supercilious and condescending at all," Martha drawled.
"It's a level seven AI prototype," said a crisp voice behind them. Martha turned to see Wilkins hovering there, his hands transformed into two rather nasty looking weapons. "Stolen from the Haiko Intellect laboratory."
"Ah," the Doctor said. "Orion's top AI creation lab – I should have known that INTERSTELP wouldn't have sent one of their top agents to check out a spot of petty pirating, especially one with a level six cortex."
Eugenie's eyes lit up. "Level six?" Her eyes went up and down Wilkins's body and, for a moment, Wilkins looked vaguely uncomfortable.
"Ahhh," the Doctor said. "Now I've got it – you have a level seven prototype mind, but no body to go with it, am I right? Those level four and five mainframe bodies are not quite able to hack the neural pathways, are they?"
"Very good, Doctor," Eugenie said. "Full marks. However, with both the technology you and your friend Jack here possess, along with the rather fortuitous addition of a level six mainframe body, I can safely say that my troubles may soon be over.
"Oh, I doubt that," the Doctor said quietly. "Quite the opposite, actually."
"Put your weapons down," Wilkins said. "Or I may be forced to take action."
"And what action would that be, copper?" Eugenie asked "Systematically killing every member of my crew that gets in your way, while hoping a stray bullet doesn't hit one of your friends here?"
The crewmen on the gangway above began to shift on their feet, and Martha heard the whir of activating weapons. Martha came to the rather belated realisation that she, standing between the Doctor and Jack, was the only one in danger of not walking away from this alive.
The sonic screwdriver the Doctor had palmed in his hand began to hum. "Hold on," he said, and then the room turned white.
Martha blinked as she realised Eugenie and the crewmen had disappeared, and they were in a completely different part of the submarine. Pipes hissed and crackled ominously around them, and they seemed to be in some sort of service tunnel.
"I hijacked their transmat system and triggered a shortwave transfer beam," the Doctor said. "Pity I couldn't take Wilkins with me, but he left his transmat location emitter back in the brig, attached to the canvas sheeting. Which reminds me, I think I've figured out a way to get us off the sub alive, but we'll need to find the communications room – let's find another terminal!"
"But what about Wilkins?" Martha asked.
"I'd be more worried about us," the Doctor said firmly. "Wilkins is more that able to defend himself, or did you think those anti-grav forcefields of his only helped him float?"
"And what about the the level seven AI mind matrix?" Jack asked.
"Ah, that might be more problematic," the Doctor admitted. "You realise, of course, that level seven AI mind matrices were never designed to be incorporated into human type avatars?"
"Hard to forget," Jack drawled.
"Hello? Twentieth first century human, here," Martha said. "Care to fill me in?"
"Well, to make a long story...well...medium sized... we're now about fifty years after the last of the AI wars," the Doctor said, scratching his head, before leading them down a tunnel. "INTERSTELP was set up about fifteen years ago, as a sort of interstellar police force that not only patrolled subspace travel corridors, but also made sure that both sides of the old conflict, human and AI, followed the accords and didn't try to stir up old differences again - and it worked! So much so, you can now find AIs on human colonies, and humans living in the Orion system. Peace and Harmony, etcetera, etcetera."
Martha raised an eyebrow. "And what has that got to do with the level seven mind matrix?" she asked.
"Well, during the war, the Orion Alliance was primarily focused on winning the war. Level four and five AIs were the norm – worker and soldier AIs - with a few level sixes for battle and logistics planning. After the war, however, level four Construction were discontinued, and those that were left were repurposed to work in peace time. Level fives, of course, are sentient – about the same IQ as an average human - so they had a say in their future; they're also still in Construction, albeit at a vastly reduced rate. Level six production, however, has doubled since the war, and they've become the lynch pin in the Human AI peace accords." The Doctor drew breath, and then grinned. "Ah look, an access panel!" he whipped out his sonic screwdriver, and the panel fell from the wall, smoking slightly. "Ah, shoddy craftsmanship.".
"Hello, Earth calling the Doctor? You've still not told me what all the fuss is about with the level seven matrix!" Martha said, exasperated, as the Doctor stuck his head into the access panel.
"Uumm, oh, right!" he said, his voice sounding tinny coming from inside the access panel. "Well, you see, from the beginning Orion AIs were designed to look human – roughly human, anyway – and what began as hubris quickly turned into habit, even when humans stopped building them and the AIs started creating themselves. During the war, their human design helped them infiltrate enemy lines, and after the war their humanoid form reassured the human population, but now...well...the Orion worlds have decided it's time to evolve in their own direction – and the level seven AIs are their first step." He took his head out of the panel. "See?"
Martha folded her arms. "Not even remotely."
"Oh, well, then," the Doctor said, "I'll explain later." There was another flash, and they had moved location again, the Doctor had spun on this feet and dashed to the nearest bank of controls.
"Sometimes, I really want to strangle him," Martha said.
"Get in line," Jack drawled. "Although, if you really want to know what happened after the Orion war, I can fill you in."
Martha whirled to look at him "You can?"
"Hey, ex-time agent, remember?"
"How can I forget," Martha said, with a grin. "Spill."
"Well, after the war, the Orion AIs wanted to spread their wings, so they created a new sort of AI, one that wasn't created for human form." He leaned in and murmured. "The level sevens were ship minds, first of their kind. They're meant to be integrated into Orion's first intergalactic super-ships – I saw one, once, absolutely amazing."
Martha frowned. "But Eugenie thinks it can be integrated into a humanoid AI."
"Eugenie thinks wrong," Jack muttered. "My guess is that she came across it by accident and knew it was valuable, but didn't realise it's true potential."
"But she must suspect," Martha said, her mind flashing back to the AI's pillar of wires and old tech. "She must know something is a bit off about it."
"Humans in this time period don't have much contact with nascent AIs," Jack said, "It's quite possible she's convinced herself it's quite normal."
Martha frowned, "Why is it I get the feeling I'm missing a rather big bit of the plot here?"
The Doctor looked up from the console. "It's a baby," he said. "It's not fully matured, and has limited neural networking. It's trying to connect with a ship that doesn't have the technology to accept it, so it has created a bridge between them, using whatever junk that came its way. It's sad, really."
"And Eugenie doesn't know what's going on?" Martha said. "How is that possible? I mean, how did the AI get its supplies to create its....bridge?"
"Look around you, Martha." The Doctor waved his hands in the air. "What is the first thing you noticed when you were captured, what does this crew have an abundance of?"
Martha groaned as realisation struck. "Other AIs - it's communicating with the other AIs."
"Isn't it brilliant?" The Doctor grinned. "Of course, you realise what this means?"
"Lets just assume I don't, and you can tell me," Martha said.
"It means that Eugenie isn't as in charge as she thinks she is," the Doctor said knowingly.
"That might not necessarily be a good thing," Jack said.
"Yeah, that thought has occurred to me, too," the Doctor said, as he finished whatever he was doing at the console. "Which is why I think it might be a good idea to go back for Wilkins. We don't have much time."He pressed a seemingly random button on the console, and a slot opened. Inside it was a new batch of transmat emitters. "Just in case," he said, pocketing them, and then the transmat beam flashed again.
It was clear that things hadn't gone well since they'd left.
"Hit the deck," Jack roared, throwing himself on Martha. They both hit the metal flooring with a loud clang, and Martha struggled for both a breath and a look at what was going on around her. The smell of burning metal filled the air, and the sound of weapons fire nearly deafened her. Smoke filled the room, making it hard to see.
"Keep your head down!" Jack said.
"I can't bloody see – or breath!"
"Are you saying I'm putting on weight?"
"Hey, you two, stop gabbing and follow me!" said the Doctor, his voice coming from her left. "And keep your heads down, you don't want to lose them."
"Is it just me, or has he gotten crankier," Jack muttered into her ear, before lifting his weight from her back.
Martha pulled in a deep breath of air, and nearly choked as smoke crept into her lungs. She waved Jack's hand away and crawled after the Doctor. She eventually caught up with him when he paused to examine an electrical wire that crossed their path.
"Hmm, interesting," he said. "Biomolecular nanotechnology – self healing circuitry. Not as old fashioned as I first thought."
"Is that a good thing, or a bad thing?" Martha asked.
"I haven't quite figured that part out yet," the Doctor said admitted.
A foot stepped in their way, and Martha and the Doctor looked at each other, before looking up.
"On your feet,"Eugenie said, her face furious. "Before I remove them from your body." Slowly, they stood, as she looked behind them. "Where's your friend Jack?" she asked brusquely. "Never mind," she added, as they remained silent. "Construct! Engage air filters, double strength!" The air began to clear and, a few feet to her left, Jack also rose.
Eugenie smirked, "I'm not sure what you thought you'd accomplish returning, but I'm so glad you did," she said, before raising her voice. "Wilkins! Cease firing or I'll kill your little human friends!"
"Is it just me, or is anyone else getting a feeling of deja vu?" Martha murmured. The sound of weapons fire faded nearly as quickly as the smoke, and she spotted a groaning body on the floor beside her and crouched. "This man needs medical attention," she said. "Have you a sick bay?"
"Be quiet!" Eugenie hissed, as her eyes eyed the room. "Where is he gone?"
"Where's who gone?" the Doctor asked brightly..
"You know who I'm talking about, that damned INTERSTELP agent," she demanded. "Construct! Instruct all level four AIs to assemble here, full armaments!"
"Doctor," Jack said warningly.
"Give it a minute," the Doctor said, as he eyed the Construct. Wires fizzed and crackled, but it seemed peculiarly unharmed by the fire fight that had just taken place.
The doors hissed open, and the Vikings from the boat marched into the room. Martha wondered where Wilkins had disappeared to, and then an idea occurred to her as she remembered how he'd avoided detection in the Brig. She felt the familiar pressure of the Doctor's hand squeezing hers, and knew he'd already figured it out.
"Level Fours, listen to my instructions," Eugenie barked. "V1 through 3, keep your armaments trained on these three at all times. If they resist, kill them, if they try to escape, kill them. Is that clear?" she asked.
The first three AIs nodded abruptly, before stepping forward and aiming their weapons. Martha raised her hands. She hoped the Doctor's plan worked.
The hull shuddered ominously, and Martha eyed it warily as the floor under her feet tilted incrementally. She risked a glance at the Doctor, who looked smug. Ah, part of the plan then...she really wished he'd filled her in. The submarine groaned as the floor tilted, and Martha clung to Jack, who clung to a console, in order to stop herself sliding across the floor. The Doctor seemed unaffected,. Eugenie glared at the Doctor as she clutched at the AI beside her. "What have you done?"
"Who, me?" the Doctor said, with a shrug. "Just had a little conversation with your Construct, that's all. You know, she's really quite chatty-"
One by one, the lights in the control room went out. First the lights in the ceiling and walls, and then the emergency strip lights in the floor. A few moments later, the only light in the room came from the Construct's screens, and even they were growing dim. The whine of the air filters slowed, and then stopped. The AIs froze, and went silent.
Eugenie's face, lit by the faint glow of the Construct, was a picture of terror. "We're going to run out of air," she said. "What did you do?"
"Oh, it'll be a few hours yet before you're in trouble," the Doctor said breezily. "Plenty of time to fix it."
"But the engines have stopped, we can't surface."
"Well, I guess you'll have to do it manually," the Doctor said.
"We can't, the Construct runs the engine room. The Construct runs everything! We'd have to...we'd have to..." She stared at the Doctor.
"You'd have to disconnect it, yes," the Doctor said quietly. "Did you really think that they'd let you keep her. She's sentient, and she wants to be free. This isn't freedom for her. This is a cage. She wants to be let go."
"No," Eugenie said shaking her head. "No, she wants me to help her. That why she showed me you. That's why she showed me your friend Jack here. She wanted me to find you, because you had what I needed. She helped me."
"Is that what you think happened here?" the Doctor asked, almost gently. "She didn't bring us here to help you, Eugenie, she brought us here, to rescue her. It was a cry for help. To help her get away from you."
"No!" Eugenie said. "You're wrong."
"I don't think so," the Doctor said, "What do you think, Wilkins?"
The air beside the Doctor blurred, and the AI suddenly appeared. "How did you know I was there?"
"Because half of my left foot has been missing for the last thirty seconds, and as I wasn't rolling around in agony, I figured it was an illusion. You really should pull your shields in tighter when you use that trick."
"I'll keep that in mind," Wilkins said. "What did you do, Doctor?"
"I hacked into the sub's communication station and had a chat with the Construct," the Doctor said simply. "When I explained to her my plan, she seemed eager to help. She shut down the submarine and the COM relay to the satellites above. Your surveillance should now be able to find us. Congratulations, you've just saved the day."
Wilkins gave him a long look. "Tell me, Doctor, when I get home, and access the INTERSTELP information logs. What would I find, if I entered your name?"
The Doctor shrugged. "That I'm a good swimmer?" he ventured.
"You're not going to be here, when the rescue services arrive, are you?"
"Nope, afraid not," the Doctor said.
Martha raised an eyebrow at that. "Why is that?" she asked.
The Doctor grinned. "I used the satellite to boost the transmat emitters," he said, and then the world went white again. Martha staggered as she found herself on level ground once more.
Jack laughed, as he took a deep breath. "Ah, clean, open air," he said. "Just what the Doctor ordered,
The Doctor gave him a knowing smirk. "Next time you want to forget your troubles, just pick a good bar," he said.
"Speaking of which," Jack said, "I know a really good place, that serves a perfect Cosmopolitan, out by the Fortean belt..."
"Oh no," Martha said. "I have a life to get back to! I have a job interview with UNIT."
Jack gave a snort. "I don't see why you won't come work for me," he said. He then pouted. Martha decided that was dirty pool.
"I'm not going to work for Torchwood, Jack," she said firmly.
The Doctor and Jack shared a glance, and Martha put her hands on her hips. "Oh no you don't," she declared. "You're not allowed to gang up on me with the significant look."
"I don't know why not," Jack said. "It seems to be working a treat...what do you think, Doctor?
"I think I might quite like a Daiquiri at this moment," the Doctor observed. "Cosmopolitans were never really my thing."
"Not going to happen," Martha said firmly. Jack gave her a coy smile, which was rather unnervingly echoed by the Doctor. "Nuh-uh," she added, rather half heartedly.
"Oh, come on, Martha," the Doctor said, "Just one trip..."
Hilda Redgreen was a very annoyed woman. She had managed Tara for over six years, and not once – not once - had she lost an entire shuttle. She wasn't about to let them get away with it!
"Are you sure it was them," she asked the AI, as she hurried across the lawn.
"Their brochures confirm their identities," he said.
Hilda Redgreen raised her skirts and ran. In the distance, she could see the three of them standing in front of a peculiar blue box that marred the lines of her perfectly manicured lawn. They were clutched in some sort of group embrace or hug and hadn't noticed her yet. So, it was like that, was it?
She redoubled her pace, and called out, "Hey, you there!" But they ignored her, as they stepped into the blue box. A low thrumming noise filled the air as the box faded from view, and Hilda stumbled to a halt. This could not be happening to her. She had such a perfect record!
Beside her, a sad looking confederate soldier hologram popped into being. "Good bye, Doctor," he said. "And thank you."