“I see you have a very impressive resume, Ms. Stewart,” the UNIT recruiter said. “Professor of astronomy and astrophysics since you graduated. At Oxford, no less.”
Kate nodded, trying not to let her eagerness show. Stiff upper lip professionalism, that’s what UNIT wanted to see. Or so she had heard.
“And some very impressive publications,” the recruiter continued. “Although some of the subject matter is a little...theoretical.” He sounded slightly disapproving, and Kate wondered why.
Still, she wouldn’t let it get to her. She smiled and said , “There are always possibilities, aren’t there, sir?” That was what UNIT was for, wasn’t it?
“Yes, I suppose there are,” he said. “I must admit, we like to see a little imagination in our recruits. We deal with, well it’s safe to say, things that are sometimes out of this world.”
“I know, sir,” Kate said.
“So what made you want to join UNIT?” the recruiter asked suddenly. “You’re on track to be a highly respected tenured professor, and usually academics aren’t so keen on our way of doing things. Why are you here?”
“My father,” Kate said instantly. She didn’t have to let on who her father was, although she knew she would be offered a command position on the spot if she did. “He’s a soldier, retired now, but he learned a lot about practical applications of science during his time. I’d like to see my knowledge get used for something good.”
“Your father? Someone I know?” the recruiter asked.
Kate shook her head quickly. “No, sir, I doubt it. He was just doing his job.” She sighed in relief as he dropped that line of questioning. There was a reason she’d dropped the Lethbridge from her name. She wanted no favors, no perks of being the daughter of the famous Sir Alistair. If she made it, it would be on her own merits. He quite agreed with her on that count.
“Well, I don’t think there’s anything else to discuss, Ms. Stewart,” the recruiter said. “Welcome aboard.” He shook her hand and Kate resisted the urge to grin in delight. “Let me show you around. We don’t use this base much anymore; just for some scientific research. I expect you’ll be spending a lot of time here, at least at first.”
Kate looked around, recognizing the mix of stately mansion and state of the art equipment from her father’s stories. “Why is that, sir?”
“Well, UNIT’s a bit more military now, isn’t it? Times have changed, Ms. Stewart. We can no longer afford to hide away while the world is in peril,” the recruiter said grandly. Kate frowned. She noticed for the first time that his badge said “Brigadier.”
“Shouldn’t the science lead, though, sir? There are a lot of excellent applications we can use,” she said.
The new Brigadier smiled, “Ah, you’re an idealist. You should have been here in the days Sir Alistair ran the place. You would have been right at home, new inventions and ideas coming out of here left and right. No one ever had any idea how he did it.” Kate smirked. She knew, of course. She supposed none of the more recent commanders had enjoyed the advantage of a scientific advisor like her father had.
“In fact, that’s the lab they used back then.” Her father’s replacement opened a door off to the side, and Kate found herself in a room that looked like a storage room for all manner of early seventies scientific instruments.
“It was the last order he gave before retiring, that this be maintained. We use it to store anything, just in case we need it again.” Kate stepped inside, picturing a younger version of her father arguing with a tall figure in a velvet dinner jacket and a frilled collar. Moving forward a few years, she saw a taller figure in a long scarf asleep on the table. She noticed now that the corner where the TARDIS should have been was conspicuously empty.
“Anyway, you’ll want something a little more up to date,” the new Brigadier continued, leading her to a new, state-of-the-art lab. She smiled. This would do. Until she could make this organization more like what it used to be.
Later that day, she called her father. “Dad? I got it. I got the job!”
“Knew you could do it,” her father answered. “I expect you’ll be running around saving the world from all manner of monsters and horrible insects like I used to.”
Kate laughed, knowing exactly what her father meant. “I doubt it. He hasn’t been seen in years, you know.” There was no need to explain who she was talking about. Neither of them had ever been able to imagine a crisis without the Doctor turning up to save the day.
“I think my retirement threw him off.”
“I saw the lab. They’re using it for storage now.”
“Are they really?” The Brigadier asked. “They’d better hope he never comes around again, then. He won’t be too happy with that.”
“Do you think he’ll ever come again?” Kate asked. She had grown up on stories of the Doctor, in all his faces, at least, all the ones her father had known, which was almost all of them. Between the two of them, she was never sure who exactly had been her inspiration for joining UNIT. In any case, the last time the Doctor had appeared on record, it was in a fight with Morgana, and he had prevented a nuclear war. That had been almost a decade ago.
Of course, Kate remembered last Christmas, when her dad had suddenly jumped up from the table to talk to a young man at the door who looked like he'd stepped out of a Bronte novel. There was only one person that could be. But officially, the Doctor hadn't been a presence on Earth in years.
"Oh, I don't know. I stopped trying to predict him years ago. Just when I think I know what's he's up to, he goes and does something entirely unexpected." She could almost hear her father's fond smile.
"I know, splendid chaps, all of them," Kate said, having heard the same phrase multiple times throughout her childhood..
"If you ever do see him again, send him around," her dad answered. "Tell him it's been too long."
"I will," Kate promised. She wondered if she would ever see the famed Doctor. But even if she did, she knew she couldn't depend on him. That was the other thing she'd taken from her father's stories.