Disclaimer: Doctor Who belongs to the Beeb, all I have is my Microsoft Word...
It was still early, barely an hour after dawn, but Martha was already tired as she crouched over the fireplace in the Doctor’s drawing room. "Five weeks and two days are over,” she muttered to herself as she scraped the ash out of the Doctor’s fireplace. “Only seven weeks and six days to go.” It was her own personal mantra, designed to keep her sane.
“Talking to yourself, Martha?” the Doctor asked quietly, and Martha looked up. He sat in his armchair, his newspaper neatly folded on his lap as he sipped his morning tea.
“Sorry, Sir,” Martha muttered. “Sometimes, I forget you’re there. You’re so quiet.” Which was disturbingly true, Martha thought, as the Doctor smiled politely and went back to reading his paper. She’d once timed the Doctor in the TARDIS to see how long he could go without speaking. He’d lasted exactly eight minutes and fourteen seconds before he’d started crooning quietly to the TARDIS's console. John Smith, however, could go whole hours without opening his mouth.
John Smith was not the Doctor.
Sighing, Martha straightened, ignoring the tweak in her back as she eyed the fob watch on the fireplace. The Doctor had been sure his plan would go off without a hitch, but the first thing to go wrong was the date.
The Doctor had originally planned to land in 2013, and Martha had expected to spend three months teaching biology at the local comprehensive in Swansea. Instead, Martha found herself scrubbing floors at Farringham’s School for Boys. The situation wasn’t helped by the fact that the human version of the Doctor was a bit of a prig, who kept sneaking a look at her ankles whenever he thought she wasn’t looking. She was finding the whole experience rather unnerving.
“Well, Martha,” the Doctor, with a snap of the newspaper, “I suppose I should be making a move on. Don’t worry about luncheon or tea. I’m supervising at the refectory today.”
“Yes, Sir,” Martha said, relieved. That meant she’d be able to see the TARDIS today. It was silly, she knew, but she always felt better for visiting her, and she always thought the TARDIS felt better too, despite the fact she was powered down. She picked up the ash bucket, and sketched a bob, before making for the door.
“Oh, and Martha, before I forget!”
Martha sighed, he was always dropping last minute errands on her. She’d been hoping to make it to the door before he thought of another one. “Yes, sir?”
“I seem to be out of pears,” he said, frowning thoughtfully at his fruit bowl. “It’s funny, really, because I could have sworn there were a few in the bowl yesterday.”
Martha smothered a smiled. “It’s the boys, sir,” she lied. “I tell them to help themselves if they’re waiting for you to arrive. They always seem so nervous.”
“Hmmm…well, would you pick up a fresh punnet at the village? They’ll only be in season for a few more weeks and I’m rather fond of them.”
“Yes, Sir,” Martha said, bobbing again to hide the grin that suddenly lurked on her face. Never let it be said that she didn’t try. It wasn’t her fault that her attempts to keep his sticky fingers off the pears were in vain!
She shut the door behind her, and laughed softly to herself as she heaved the bucket down the steps, Once she’d disposed of the ashes and retrieved fresh sheets from the laundry, it should be possible to slip away for a couple of hours.
A troupe of students took the stairs two at a time and Martha backed up against the wall. Servants were there to work, not to be seen. It was the first lesson she learned here – five weeks and two days ago. Martha waited until the students gained the landing and descended the rest of the steps.
“Am I gone?”
The voice was a whisper, hollow and low, and Martha frowned as she looked around the corridor. It was empty, but a laugh rang out from the landing above. Martha shook her head; it was probably some sort of weird echo.
“It is gone?”
A transparent form slipped out of the wall and Martha swallowed nervously as it gazed around, looking lost. It resembled the other students in the school, dressed in the school’s uniform and not looking a day over fifteen. His eyes were shadows, however, and his cheeks gaunt. Clutching the ash bucket in her hands, Martha took a step forward and peered at it. She still couldn’t make out his eyes. “Hello?” she asked cautiously. “I’m Martha.”
The entity – Martha refused to call it a ghost – didn’t seem to hear her. “Is it gone?” he asked. “Are we there?”
“Is what gone?” Martha asked softly.
But the entity still didn’t show any signs of hearing her. “Are we there?” he repeated, and Martha sighed.
“Where is there?” she asked. “I’m sorry, I don’t understand.”
The entity blurred, then refocused, and suddenly it was right in front, looking straight into her eyes.
Except it didn’t have eyes with which to look at her, not anymore.
“My God, what happened to you?” Martha asked, horrified.
“He who owns me,” the entity said. “Is he gone? Are we there?”
“I’m sorry,” Martha said. “I don’t understand-”
“Martha, are you talking to yourself again?”
Martha let out a tiny yip of fright, and then took a deep breath as she saw the Doctor descend the steps. “I just saw…” She stopped, mid sentence, as she realised the entity had disappeared and that the man descending the steps wasn’t the Doctor, no matter what he looked like. He was John Smith, and he wasn’t the type to entertain strange notions from a servant girl. “Sorry, Sir,” she murmured. “One of the students just gave me a fright – late for class, I expect.”
“Ah,” he said, hesitating. “The students are respectful to you, aren’t they, Martha? I know how boys that age can be…?”
Martha smiled, despite herself. He may not be the Doctor, but he wasn’t totally clueless. “Nothing I can’t handle, Sir,” she said. “As you said, they’re just boys.”
“Right, yes,” he muttered distractedly, “Quite. Well, I must be off before I’m late for class myself…”
Martha watched him hurry down the corridor, before looking back at the wall the entity had stepped through. Glancing around, she made sure that nobody was watching before she examined the paintwork. No secret panels, no strange discolorations, nothing that could explain what she’d seen.
“Maybe it was a ghost,” she murmured to herself. “Or something like the Carrionites, just pretending.” Martha bit her lip. It was strange stumbling across something like this without the Doctor nattering into her ear, telling her all those strange and wonderful stories of his, of how he’d met ten different types of ghost, but that they weren’t really ghosts, and-”
Martha smirked. She was beginning to sound like him; definitely a bad sign. Maybe the TARDIS’s library could help her shed some light on the problem. Humming under her breath, she made her way to the backyard.
Martha took a quick peek over her shoulder before she hopped off her bike. The narrow road was deserted, but Martha didn’t like to take chances, especially as she’d already been caught talking to herself earlier.
Martha nudged the shed door open and wheeled the bike inside, propping it against the wall as she feasted her eyes on the familiar shape of the TARDIS. “Hello,” she said. “Missed me? Not as much as you miss the Doctor, I’ll bet.”
She pulled the key out from under her coat and inserted it into the lock. For a moment, the key seemed to freeze in the lock, and Martha heard the faint deep thrum of the TARDIS’s engines. She wriggled the key in the lock. “Oh no, you don’t,” she said. “You’re not going anywhere without me and the Doctor.”
The sound grew louder, and the doors glowed for an instant, and Martha’s eyes widened with alarm. The Doctor had told her about the emergency recall code, but it wouldn’t just take off like that, would it? Not with nobody in it.
Suddenly, the key turned, and Martha staggered forward, into the TARDIS. “Phew, you had me going there for a moment—” She froze and looked around her, her eyes taking in the gothic architecture, and the dripping candelabras. A sagging cosy armchair stood to one side of the console, looking ridiculously out of place. Martha eyed the tea cup perched on a footstool beside it. Steam still curled up from its contents.
“Do you want a cup?” a chipper voice asked. “The pot is still fairly fresh.”
“You’re not going to suddenly materialise out of the walls, are you?” Martha asked, momentarily unsure.
“Does that have any bearing on the actual question?”
“Yes, actually, I think it might,” Martha said, a little more firmly. “How the hell did you get in here?”
“Me? Why, I live here,” the voice said. It was coming from underneath the console.
“What are you doing down there?” she asked harshly. “Get out from under there at once!”
A weary sigh wafted through the TARDIS. “You’re rather demanding, aren’t you?” the voice asked rhetorically. “Usually people wait until after they introduce themselves before they start throwing their weight around…although I’ve had worse, I’ll admit. I once had a Vortisaur roaming the halls.”
“What’s a Vorti— Martha shook her head. “You’re changing the subject! Who are you?”
“Well, it’s only fair, don’t you think? After all, I was here first.” A head popped over the edge of the console, revealing a mop of dark, curling hair, and a pair of bright, blue eyes. Martha relaxed slightly. He didn’t look like the sort to suddenly start draining the life out of a Time Lord, so he probably wasn’t a member of the Family of Blood. She eyed the TARDIS’s control room again. What had he done to it? There was nothing for it, she needed answers, so she answered his question .
“I’m Martha Jones,” she said.
A smiled spread across his face. “Pleased to meet you, Martha Jones,” he said. “I’m the Doctor.”
“The Doctor?” Martha asked sharply. This day was swiftly becoming too difficult to swallow - but this was also the TARDIS, and she didn't let just anyone inside her, so...
The stranger frowned as she suddenly crossed the room. “Are you well, Miss Jones, you seem a little—” He didn’t resist as she dragged him to his feet. “Um, Miss Jones, are you distraught? Perhaps a nice cup of—”
“Don’t, just...don’t!” she muttered as she tugged at his shirt. “I’ve had a really long day, full of sloppy ash buckets and snotty public school students, never mind the ghosts that are suddenly springing out from the walls and—”
“Shhh, I’m listening!” She pressed her ear to his chest.
“To what?” he enquired politely, after a whole two seconds.
“How do you – oh, we know each other!”
“I’ve never met you before in my life!”
“Yes, well obviously I haven’t met you either, but I presume I will do, eventually. Pleased to meet you, by the way; always a pleasure to meet future friends!”
Martha glared up at him, and he smiled back beatifically. Realisation struck. “Oh God, you really are the Doctor, aren’t you?” she asked. “What is this, some sort of disguise?” She tapped his cheek. “But no, that can’t be it. You’re much too short—”
“Too short?” he echoed. “I’m not too short, am I? I always thought this was such a nice height –fair to middling; perfect for blending in.”
Martha’s lips twitched. “Blending in,” she said, as she pointedly looked at his embroidered waistcoat and velvet coat. “Yes, I can really see that.”
The Doctor sighed. “It’s called regeneration. It’s when my body…no, that won’t do…well, you see, when I’m injured…ah, no, wrong analogy…” He sighed. “I do apologise, Miss Jones, but it probably wouldn’t make any sense to you. Not unless you have at least a medical degree.”
Martha folded her arms. “It’s in my sock drawer, back home,” she said shortly.
His face brightened. “Really?” he said. “Oh, I do like Doctors, I tried to get one to travel with me, once. Grace was her name. Such pretty eyes, and she kissed rather well...”
Martha snapped her fingers in front of his face. “Doctor?”
“Oh, yes, a bit off topic, I suppose…so, where is he?”
“The Doctor – your Doctor; he’s obviously in the neighbourhood, or the TARDIS wouldn’t have picked the same space/time coordinates to land on – happened to me once before, you know, except that time there were five of us. Five TARDISes, taking up the same moment in space and time. A bit confusing, as you can imagine—”
“Yes,” Martha cut in.
The Doctor blinked. “Excuse me?”
“Yes, I’d love that cup of tea. I’d make it myself, but my Doctor has seemed to have moved things around since your time.”
“Ah, I’ve changed the desktop theme, have I?” he said, with a small smile. “How very progressive of me.”
Martha watched, bemused, as the Doctor took a sip out of his china cup. This was really very strange. He was the Doctor, and yet…not.
“I’ve always wondered what it would be like to be human; it seems so… well... human,” he said, with a wry smile. “Although, I’d hoped I’d pick something a little more adventurous to do with my time.”
“Well, we are supposed to be keeping a low profile,” Martha said.
“Ah yes, true, I suppose so, it just seems a very strange way of going about things. Oh well, I’m sure I will have my reasons…” He sighed. “Luckily, the temporal signature of my TARDIS is sufficiently dissimilar to yours, so this family of… Blood, did you say?”
Martha nodded. “That’s what the Doctor called them.”
“Yes, well, the temporal trail your TARDIS left is quite different, so it should confuse their vortex manipulator. We should be okay for a short while. Well, until I help you out with your little ghost problem, anyway – another biscuit?”
“I’ve been avoiding calling them that, you know,” Martha said, as she helped herself to another Marietta from the proffered plate.
“Sorry,” he said. “We can call them N-Bodies, if you'd prefer?”
“What’s an N-Body?”
“Well...it’s a ghost,” he admitted. "But it's a very special type of ghost," he added. "Not the normal sort at all, which means the real question still hasn’t been asked yet.” He flopped back into his chair, a faraway expression on his face, and Martha studied him as she took another sip of her tea. He was so different from her Doctor, with his long curls, and Victorian dress; quite attractive, though, in a Byronic, windswept sort of way. She wished she knew how far back in the Doctor’s life this version lived. Did Gallifrey still exist for him?
“What’s the question?” she asked.
His eyes focused on her, sharp and blue. “I’m wondering on which side the breach occurred, on this plane or theirs? It’s all most fascinating. Tell me, Miss Jones, I don’t suppose I could accompany you back to this school? I’d like to have a look at those walls of yours.”
“I’m not sure if that’s a good idea, it might raise a few eyebrows,” Martha said dryly. “It’s 1913, remember? Servant girls don’t usually bring gentlemen callers back to work with them – well, not the respectable ones, anyway.”
“Ah, good point,” he murmured. “Well, I suppose we could resort to some sort of subterfuge…I could pretend to be the local milkman, I suppose, or the postman. Mr Smith the postman, it has a certain ring to it—”
“Or I could just sneak you in after light’s out,” Martha interrupted.
He pulled a face. "It has a certain elegant simplicity to it, I suppose," he admitted reluctantly.
Martha’s lips twitched. “Are you pouting?”
“Don’t be silly, I never pout,” he said. Martha gave him a look. “Well, maybe on occasion,” he said. “When the situation warrants it.”
“Tell you what, we’ll make it midnight, at the scullery door.” she said, as she stood.
“Ah, the witching hour; not one day or the next, but the ephemeral moment in between,” he said, his eyes lighting up.
“I though that might appeal to you,” Martha said dryly. He smiled up at her and, for a moment, Martha got a glimpse of her Doctor.
“You know me rather well, don’t you, Miss Jones?”
“It’s Martha,” she said, smiling. “And I’m not sure if anybody knows you that well, Doctor.”
“Martha,” he echoed. “It means lady, you know.” He smiled secretively. "Until tonight, Martha.”
“Yeah, right,” Martha said, feeling bemused again as he picked up a book from his side table and opened it up. The pages sped through his fingers, and she wondered if he could really read that quickly. “Well, tonight, then,” she said. Uncertainly, she walked towards the door, wondering if this was such a good idea.
“I wouldn’t worry about it, Martha,” he called after her, as she reached the door. “I don’t know myself that well, either. Most of the time.”
The school kitchens were buzzing when Martha got back, and Martha looked about, puzzled. Something had happened while she’d been gone.
“Martha, Martha, where have you been?” Jenny cried out, leaping up from her seat at the kitchen table.
“I needed to go into the village on an errand,” Martha said, lifting up her basket for her to see. “Pears for Mister Smith.”
“Oooh, you spoil him, you do,” Jenny said, momentarily distracted. “You wouldn’t catch me picking up treats for any of the teachers here.”
“I told you–”
“Yes, yes, I know, you used to work for his family,” Jenny said dismissively. “Still, people will get ideas, Martha. You know how they are. You might lose your job if they feel you’re getting above your station.”
Martha felt a faint stirring of anger, and quickly squashed it. Seven weeks and six days to go, she told herself, and then she could go back to her real life; just her and the Doctor. “You know there’s nothing to it, Jenny,” she said carefully. “And, besides, it’s just an errand, and I wanted to go to the village anyway.”
“Oh yes, what for?” Jenny scoffed, but she was smiling, and Martha smiled back.
“What’s happening?” she asked.
“Oh, wait ‘til I tell you!” Jenny said excitedly. “There’s been a ghost seen in the main hallway!”
Martha felt her stomach sink. “A ghost?”
“Aye,” Jenny said. “Little Sally from the scullery saw it, she did. Gave her quite a turn, she said.”
“What did he look like?” Martha asked.
“What did she look like, you mean,” Jenny said “It was a lass, not a lad. Old Jenkins reckons it was the ghost of that maid who hung herself from the rafters a few years back. They say she got herself pregnant by one of the Masters — which is a lesson you’d be wise to remember.”
"Jenny," Martha said, exasperated.
"I'm just saying," Jenny said. "You’d better watch that Mister Smith of yours. It's always the quiet ones you have to be careful of. One moment, it’s all apple and pears, the next, it’s the birds and the bees, if you get my drift."
Martha rolled her eyes. “How about we forget about Mister Smith,” she suggested, as she tucked her arm through Jenny’s. “And you can show me where the ghost was spotted.”
Jenny shuddered. “Oooh, Martha, I’m not sure I can do that. What if it comes back?”
“I’ll protect you,” Martha teased.
“Oh, you’re a one, Martha,” Jenny giggled. “Come on, then, before the boys get out for luncheon.” Martha let Jenny drag her through the kitchens and up the steps, and they both paused before stepping out into the main hall. The servant staff weren’t actually banned from the main school areas, but they were discouraged from loitering.
“Nobody around,” Martha said lowly, as they stepped into the hall. “So, where did Sally say it happened?”
“Over there, by the fireplace,” Jenny said. “She said it just stepped though the wall, and then knelt on the ground and started crying.”
“Did it say anything?” Martha asked, as she examined the wall. There was nothing to be seen, just like that morning.
“Well if it did, Sally didn’t mention it,” Jenny said, with a slight frown. “Martha, are you all right?”
“Me? I’m fine, why wouldn’t I be?” Martha said distractedly, as she bent down to examine the floor. Was it her imagination, or was there a strange, chalky substance on the floor. She pulled a finger through it, and sniffed it. It smelled salty, like the sea.
“Oh, I don’t know, maybe it’s because you sniffing at dirt on the floor,” Jenny said dryly. “But you’re right, there’s nothing strange about that at all.”
Martha grinned. “You know me, Jenny. I’m always a bit strange.”
“You are, at that,” Jenny said, before laughing. “You’re a mystery to me, Martha. You’ve got manners on you, and a way of speaking that’s so different. And you don’t act like no servant I’ve ever met before. You’re different.”
Startled, Martha looked at Jenny. She hadn’t realised her friend was so perceptive. “I’m not that different, Jenny,” she said softly, straightening. “My Mum always used to say that I’m too curious for my own good. It’s always got me into trouble.”
“And now, Martha?” Jenny asked softly. “Are you looking for trouble now?”
Martha didn’t answer her. She didn’t want to lie. “We’d better get a move on before we get trampled by the stampede for the refectory,” she said briskly, as she wiped her fingers on her handkerchief and tucked it into her coat pocket. “And I should get a head start on this week’s laundry.”
Jenny sniffed. “You’re not half as clever as you think you are, sometimes, Martha Jones,” she warned. “You just be careful.”
“I will, Jenny,” Martha said. She hoped she was telling the truth.
The tap on the door was barely audible over the chimes of the kitchen clock, and Martha probably wouldn't have heard it if she hadn't been listening out for it. She tipped the door latch up and opened the door a crack. The Doctor’s face popped into view, and Martha felt herself jump.
“All clear?” he asked, in a stagy whisper that was a lot louder than his knock.
“For now,” she whispered back. “But it won’t be clear for long, if you don’t take it down a notch.”
His eyebrows rose. “Mea culpa,” he said, lowering his voice. “Is this better?” Martha had to strain to hear him.
“Just get inside,” she said impatiently, as she opened the door wider, cupping her candle against the breeze. “There’s been another sighting.”
“Really, how exciting.” The Doctor slipped in and peered into the dark corners. “Has everyone retired for the evening?” he asked.
“Everyone in the servant’s quarters went to bed hours ago,” Martha told him. “But a few of the teacher staff are probably still awake. They usually stick to their quarters at this hour, though.”
“I’ll be as quiet as a mouse, I promise,” the Doctor said, catching her in the full beam of his smile.
Martha rolled her eyes, but found herself smiling back, nonetheless. “I found this," she told him, as she took her handkerchief out, and opened it. “It was in the hall where the second gho-” She stopped herself. “Where the second N-Body was seen. It was on the floor where it had knelt and wept.”
The Doctor sniffed at the handkerchief. “Smells like salt.”
“That’s what I thought,” Martha said
“Tears, perhaps?” he asked, before suddenly licking the residue. Yes, he was definitely the Doctor. Martha had lost count of the times she’d caught her version doing the exact same thing. "Hmm, how peculiar," he said. "There is a trace of planar disturbance in the filtrate.”
Martha folded her arms. “And you can taste that, can you?” she asked.
“Why yes, I do believe I can,” he said distractedly. “Which is not normal, I can tell you.”
“Oh, I believe you,” Martha said.
“Yes,” the Doctor carried on, oblivious. “You see, the N-Space barrier is quite difficult to break through, from this plane, which is what this residue indicates. A lot of reserve energy is needed to maintain a breach a strong as this, more than one should find around these parts. Which means that not only is it being maintained by someone nearby, but it's also using a power source that’s way beyond the capabilities of early twentieth century technology.”
“As I said, quite strange,” he murmured. "You'd better show me where you found it."
“This way.” He followed her silently as she led him through the school.
“This is where I found the residue,” Martha said, as she crouched down beside it and shone the candle on it. The Doctor knelt down beside her, and whipped out a magnifying glass from his pocket. Martha smiled to see him make such a Doctorly gesture.
“Interesting,” he said. “And she came through the wall, you say?”
“The one behind you.”
The Doctor frowned as he looked over his shoulder. “This doesn’t make sense. The residue looks almost natural and - aha! That’s it,” he suddenly cried out, grabbing her by the arms. “A natural transdimensional transducer!”
“Shh! Keep it down!” Martha hissed.
His hand flew to his mouth. “Oops.” He jumped to his feet, pulling Martha up with him. “But don’t you see, Martha? This means that the person doing this probably doesn’t even realise what they're doing. I should have realised it when you mentioned that the emanations were spotted in two different locations. There’s no proper focus, you see, just power and natural inclination….but there is still the matter of the power source.” He turned to the wall, and examined it though the magnifying glass. “No, no indications here.”
“Indications of what?” Martha asked.
“Indications of an energy signature,” the Doctor said. “If we figured out what sort of energy source it is, we may even be able to figure out where it’s hidden.” He swivelled, and Martha resisted the urge to jump as she was treated to the sudden view of a magnified blue eye.
“And what then?”
“Ah, well, that’s always the question, isn’t it?” He grinned mischievously as he let the magnifying glass fall. “You’d better lead the way, Martha! We don’t want to be caught creeping around the halls at night. Who knows what they might think we’re up to?”
“Stealing the headmaster’s silver, probably,” Martha said ruefully . “They’re not very imaginative around here.”
“A lack of imagination? In an English boarding school? I’m shocked, I tell you, shocked!”
“Do I sense a smidgeon of sarcasm?” she asked, as she led him out of hall and towards the back stairs.
“I don’t know what you mean.”
The candle flickered, and Martha frowned as she felt a breeze on her cheek. She stopped in her tracks and felt the breath of the Doctor on the back of her neck.
“The landing above,” he whispered. “An adult male, by the weight of his footfall, and obviously born in a barn, as he’s forgotten to shut the window after him.”
“Window?” Martha asked.
“The draught is coming from above and, as I doubt there are any doors above the ground floor–”
“It’s a window,” she finished for him, as he dragged her under her stairs.
“Sssh” he said, placing a finger on his lips, and Martha found herself struggling not to laugh. The steps above them creaked as the Doctor silently pulled a paper bag out of his pocket and offered her a jellybaby. Martha put it in her mouth, and chewed on it industrially as he whispered into her ear. "He's coming towards us, a rather shifty looking fellow if ever I saw one. I suggest we stay here until he goes away."
Martha nearly choked on the jellybaby as she recognised the figure walking down the corridor. It was the Doctor! A hand patted her on her back and Martha turned to look at the Doctor beside her, a worried expression on his face. This was getting rather confusing.
“Are you alright?” he mouthed.
Martha nodded. “Went down the wrong way,” she mouthed back.
The Doctor pursed his lips and raised an eyebrow, and Martha had a funny feeling that he’d guessed more than he’d let on. Meanwhile, the other Doctor continued on his trip down the corridor — where was he going?
“You know him?” the Doctor asked, once he was out of earshot.
“Yes, as a matter of fact; he’s you,” Martha said, and enjoyed the shocked expression on his face.
“Me? That’s me? But- but I’m so scrawny…and I’m wearing plaid slippers. Who wears plaid slippers?”
“John Smith does,” Martha said wryly.
The Doctor looked horrified. “But there are standards,” he said.
"Well, obviously your human self doesn't have your sartorial tastes," Martha said, grinning.
The Doctor looked at her speculatively. "Why, Miss Jones, I do believe you are teasing me."
“Why, Doctor, I do believe you are correct,” Martha said.
“Why do I get the feeling that this happens a lot in the future?”
“Perhaps because you’re not as oblivious as you pretend to be?”
“Hmm,” he said, but his lips curved upwards as he grabbed her hand. “Come on, let’s find out what I’m up to.”
“But shouldn’t we look at the spot the other N-Body turned up first?” Martha asked.
“Oh, I think this is much more interesting, don’t you?” he said, as they followed the Doctor down the hallway. “Look at the way he’s walking, the fact that he’s wearing his … slippers on the wrong feet. Don’t you see? He’s sleep walking! I never sleepwalk, it must mean something.”
“Doctor, aren’t you forgetting something?” Martha hissed. “He’s not really you, he’s John Smith. He sleeps, he snores, he likes pears–”
“Pears? But I hate pears–”
“That’s my point,” Martha said. “For all we know, this could be perfectly normal for him.”
“Ah, but I’m afraid you’re wrong, Martha” the Doctor said, suddenly solemn. “You see, this problem may be more problematic than I first thought. I think we've just found our natural transdimensional transducer… but he's not at the reins, as it were.”
“You're saying that someone has put the whammy on the Doctor?” Martha asked. “Would that work? He’s human at the moment. Why would anybody bother — unless the Family of Blood have tracked us down! We have to stop him - he may be walking into a trap!"
"Not so fast," the Doctor said. “I don’t think it’s as simple as that. Your Doctor did a pretty good job of masking your trail. I don’t think that the Family tracked you here. This is something else, a wild collision of coincidence and opportunity…or maybe not! You said that you and your Doctor had meant to land in 2013, but somehow ended up at 1913, correct?”
“Yeah, that's right.”
“Interesting, I was aiming for the Elizabethan court when I ended up here,” the Doctor said. “That why I was rooting around in the temporal circuitry when you arrived earlier. I thought I’d gotten a few of my wires crossed - Martha, I do believe that somebody deliberately brought us to this time period, probably someone who needed to utilise the synapses of a time sensitive; except their plans were somewhat thwarted, when I rewrote my DNA with a human’s. I’ll bet they weren’t expecting that - I wasn't expecting that.”
“But if he’s useless to them, then why do they have him walking through the corridors at night?” Martha asked
“Oh, I never said he was useless,” the Doctor said. “Just not as useful as he would have been if he'd still had Gallifreyan DNA. He may be human, but I’m sure there are still a few dregs of the Doctor’s brain pattern lurking in there, somewhere. The Chameleon Arch never had all its kinks ironed out. I have no doubt that your Mister Smith has had quite a few extraordinary dreams of late. Still, those dregs wouldn't be nearly enough to breach the planar barrier, not properly. No, all we have to worry about are a few ephemeral sightings, and your Doctor taking a midnight jaunt or two. Nothing too exciting, I'm afraid. They’d need a more sophisticated mind to cause real havoc.”
Martha looked at him. “Like a Time Lord’s mind?” she asked pointedly.
“I thought I’d already said that,” he said.
“A mind like yours,” Martha said, even more pointedly.
“Ah, I see where you're going with this.”
“We need to get you out of here,” Martha said firmly. “Before whatever it is finds you.”
“Too late!” Martha twisted in the direction of the voice, and gulped as she saw the Doctor - her Doctor - looking back at them. She watched as his body turned awkwardly, and lurched in their direction. “I thought I’d sensed another mind that could be of use, but it seems I didn’t have to move this body far to find you.”
Martha felt the Doctor by her side squeeze her hand before he let go. “Congratulations,” he said. “Might I ask what you wish to do with me?”
“We wish to be free, and you are going to help us,” it said, taking another step forward. Martha could now see his eyes; they were dark shadows, just like the N-Bodies. Martha felt something inside her wrench. She was supposed to have protected him, kept him safe from harm while he was vulnerable. She had failed.
"That depends," the Doctor by her side said. "I'm not very fond of having my mind possessed. I've had a few problems in the past; a few nasty repercussions."
"But we need you," the entity said. "We need it to be--"
"I say! What is going on here?"
A wash of lamplight filled the corridor, and Martha suppressed a groan as she recognised the voice. It was the school nurse, Mrs Redfern. “Nurse Redfern!” she said, struggling to keep the annoyance out of her voice.
“Martha what are you doing out of bed?” Mrs Redfern said. “And who is this strange man — and Mister Smith!”
“What?” Martha felt relief as the shadow bled away from her Doctor’s eyes. “Where am I? Why am I here?”
“Please, allow me to explain, I am the Doctor,” said the other Doctor, stepping up.
“Well, if you are, you’re not a local one,” Nurse Redfern said firmly.
“But of course not,” the Doctor said. “I’m Doctor Smi-Jones,” the Doctor said. “I’m a friend of Martha's, A distant cousin, in fact."
Miss Redfern stared at him in disbelief. "A cousin?"
“We don't talk about it - the scandal, you know," Martha said, kicking the Doctor in the ankle. “But my cousin...Oscar... was walking me home from the inn, when we found Mister Smith sleepwalking outside.”
“What?” mumbled Martha's Doctor again.
“As you can see, he’s still a bit disorientated,” Martha said. “We were trying to guide him gently back to his rooms when you found us.”
"I see," Mrs Redfern said flatly. "Well, I shall take care of matters from here, I think. Why don't you escort your cousin to the door, Martha. We'll talk about this in the morning." Martha watched grimly as Mrs Redfern led the disorientated Doctor back to his rooms. She knew the school nurse wasn't very fond of her, and she suspected she knew the reason why. The last thing she needed to do was give the woman more ammunition.
"Well, that went better than I envisaged," the Doctor said. "She seemed to believe us."
"Don't be stupid," Martha snapped. "She thinks you're my fancy man."
The Doctor blinked. "Have I done something to offend you, Martha?"
Martha sighed. “It’s not you, Doctor,” she admitted. “It’s just this situation. It’s awkward.”
“Yes, I can see that,” the Doctor said quietly. “Well, I’d better be off.”
“But we still haven’t figured out what’s happening,” Martha said. “Not really.”
“And we’re not about to, either, from the look of things. Not tonight,” the Doctor said. “I’ll call again tomorrow, in a more official capacity.”
Martha looked at him. “I doubt your psychic paper is going to open any doors here, Doctor. Mrs Redfern is suspicious now, especially when it comes to matters involving ‘Mister Smith’.”
“Psychic paper?” the Doctor repeated. “What a splendid idea. I can’t think why I didn’t think of it sooner — but no, I was thinking of a much simpler ruse. I shall play the part of your suitor. ”
“Why not? You said yourself that Mrs Redfern suspects I’m your fancy man, we might as well use it to our advantage,” he said. “And it might mellow Mrs Redfern’s attitude towards you slightly, if I were more…official.”
Martha looked at him suspiciously, not fooled for a minute by his innocent blue eyes. He knew exactly why there was tension between her and Mrs Redfern, it was a pity that her Doctor wasn’t half as astute. “Tomorrow morning, then, around eleven," she relented. "I'll say you're an old friend from home — but there’ll be tongues wagging!”
"I grew up on Gallifrey, Martha," the Doctor said, with a small smile. “Gossip and backstabbing is a way of life there. I think I can survive Farringham's teaching staff.”
"I wouldn't be so sure of that," Martha said dryly.
Martha, Martha wake up! How can sleep through all this racket?”
“Wha-” Martha felt Jenny shake her shoulder, and drowsily tried to bat her hand away.
“Martha!” Jenny said again, and this time Martha heard the fear in her voice.
“What’s wrong?” Martha asked woozily, as she sat up and looked at her friend. She heard voices outside the small room, it sounded like the entire school was up. She glanced at the curtains, no light peeked through. It was still night.
“It’s the ghosts, they’re everywhere, Martha,” she said fearfully.
“How many?” Martha asked, as she scrambled out of the bed. “Have they done anything?”
“You mean, other than send Old Jenkins around the twist?” Jenny asked. “He’s losing his marbles, down the hall.”
“Yeah, other than that,” Martha said, as she pulled on her robe. “Any..uh...weird…um…breaches?”
“Breaches? What are breaches?” Jenny gave her a perplexed look. “Martha, you do say funny things.”
“We’re being overrun by ghosts, and you think I’m the funny one around here?” Martha asked, frustrated, as she lit her bedside candle. A loud bell rang out.
“It’s the fire bell,” Jenny said worriedly. “Do you think there’s a fire? Maybe that’s it, maybe all those ghosts aren’t ghosts at all, but wafts of smoke?”
Jenny looked at her pleadingly for reassurance, and Martha gave her a shaky smile. “Maybe we should check. We don’t want to be trapped in a fire, do we?” she said, as she slipped on her boots
“But Martha, I told you, they’re everywhere. They're coming out of the walls and rising through the floor, it’s not safe!”
Martha felt her mouth go dry. “Jenny, whether it’s smoke or ghosts, if they’re coming through the walls, we’re not safe here.” Martha shaded her candle and opened the door a crack. All the other doors on the landing were ajar and the corridor was bursting with staff. Martha sniffed the air for smoke and didn’t smell any. She grabbed the arm of Emma, one of the kitchen maids. “What’s going on?” she asked.
“The headmaster has told us evacuate, something to do with a gas leak making people see things.”
Martha resisted the urge to roll her eyes. As excuses go, she supposed it was a step up from there’s something in the water. “Thanks, Emma,” she said, before turning to Jenny. “Come on.”
“But Martha, what if-”
“Jenny, I’m not leaving you here, and that’s final,” Martha said, as she grabbed Jenny’s hand. “Just stick with me, and we should be okay.”
“Let’s put it this way, Jen, do you really want to be the only living person left in a school full of ghosts?”
“Good point,” Jenny said. “Lead on.”
Martha kept her eyes peeled for more manifestations as they trooped downstairs but nothing popped out of the walls. She didn’t know whether to feel relieved or frustrated. This wasn’t like dealing with Carrionites or Judoon; she couldn’t touch them or reason with them, or even figure out their motives.
“Form up, now, orderly rows!” the headmaster barked, as they made it to the ground floor. Martha staggered to a halt, at the foot of the stairs, as she watched the grim line of schoolteachers eyeing the students. Martha felt a tug on her sleeve, and turned to look at what Jenny was nodding at.
“Oh, just what I needed,” Martha muttered, as Jenkins scowled in her direction. Mrs Redfern was at his side. "He doesn't look happy."
"Oh, he always looks like that," Jenny said, as she pulled Martha across the floor. "And it's not as if this is our fault is it? C'mon, let's join them.”
Martha bit her lip, knowing full well that Jenkins’s glare probably had nothing to do with ghosts and everything to do with whatever Mrs Redfern had just told him; but there was nothing for it, she had to ride this out or risk getting fired. She snuck a look at the line of schoolteachers, and spotted the Doctor, standing by the headmaster’s side. He didn’t look like he’d had much sleep; but then again, neither had she.
“Oh, come on, Martha, your Mister Smith can take care of himself.”
“Jenny, I’ve told you, he’s not my Mister Smith,” Martha answered automatically, looking around as she heard a commotion come from outside. A scream pierced the air and Martha faltered. She looked back at Jenkins and saw his scowl deepen. Then a shot rang out, and Martha came to a decision. “Jenny, get out the back way,” she said, as she gave her a little push towards the rest of the servants.
“But Martha, you can’t just–”
Shouts of panic drowned out Jenny’s protests as Martha dodged through the rows of students and ran out the front door. She skidded to a halt as she noticed the younger school boys cowering away from a clutch of N-Bodies, wandering aimlessly around the courtyard. She looked over her shoulder at the Doctor, he didn’t seem to be sleepwalking but, then again, he hadn’t been sleepwalking when she’d seen the ghost earlier that day, either. Another shot zinged though the air, and Martha spotted one of the prefects shooting at one of the ghosts with a rifle. The bullets passed through it harmlessly, not even making it flinch.
“Oh, this doesn’t look good,” muttered Martha, her mind racing as she noticed the youngest of the schoolboys break away and run down the lane. If she didn’t do something soon, someone could get hurt by accident. All it needed was one stray bullet — but she didn’t know how to stop it.
“Think, Martha, what did the Doctor say? The N-Bodies need a natural transdimensional transducer and a power source — and, asleep or awake, the Doctor is the transducer!”
Martha pushed her way back through the panicking students and ran into school. She scanned the hall. Where was he? He’d been beside the headmaster only a few moments ago. She spotted the headmaster standing at the foot of the stairs, shouting out orders to the students.
“Don’t panic, gentlemen, keep your heads,” the headmaster roared. “These things have no substance, they can’t hurt you!”
Martha went onto her toes and looked over the heads of the students. The servants had already slipped out of the gathering area, but she spotted Mrs Redfern in the far corner, keeping an eagle eye on the students. There was no sign of the Doctor.
“This is not good,” Martha muttered, as she threaded her way through the students and headed for the courtyard.
“Martha!” Jenny called out, as she stepped outside. “Are you alright?”
“Jenny, have you seen Mister Smith?” Martha asked.
“Martha, what have I told you–”
“Jenny, please, this is important, I need to find Mister Smith. I think he may be in danger.”
“In danger? But then you should tell Mister Jenkins. It’s not our place–”
“Oh, stuff Mister Jenkins!” Martha said heatedly.
Jenny stared at her, astonished. “Martha!”
“Sorry, Jenny, I have to go,” Martha said, as she ran for the bicycle shed.
“But Martha, what will I say to Jenkins– Martha!”
Martha didn’t bothering answering as she crashed through the shed door and made a beeline for her bike. Keeping her job would be the least of her problems if something happened to the Doctor. Besides, she could always blame it on the effects of the gas, or whatever nonsense they dreamed up to explain away the happenings of this night.
Martha needed to find the Doctor and, to do that, she needed the help of …well… the Doctor
“You’ve got to come with me,” Martha said as she stormed through the TARDIS’s door.
The Doctor looked from his book. “Come where? What's happened?” he asked.
“The Doctor is missing!” Martha said “And those N-Bodies are everywhere. I passed at least a dozen of them on the way here. The headmaster is calling it a gas leak, and some of the students are beginning to wave guns about. It’s a mess. We need to find him — fast!”
“Martha, deep breaths, you need to calm down,” the Doctor said, worriedly.
“I can’t calm down,” Martha said. “This is all my fault. I said I could do this, and he trusted me to take care of him, and now he’s been abducted by…by...ghosts! I mean, who gets abducted by ghosts? Who do they think he is, Dickens?” Her eyes fell on the TARDIS’s toolkit. “The sonic screwdriver! There’s must be some sort of setting on it that can track him down. Where is it?”
“Martha, the sonic screwdriver is a tool, not a bloodhound,” the Doctor said. “It can’t just track people down, willy-nilly.”
“Yes it can, I’ve seen you do it,” Martha insisted. “The Doctor called it setting number...number... oh, whatever setting he uses to track down recombined DNA — and that’s what the Doctor has right now, isn’t it?”
The Doctor paused. “I think I may have made a few new additions to my screwdriver’s parameters between my time and yours,” he said. “I’m sorry, Martha, but my screwdriver can’t do that.”
“Then what can it do?” Martha asked, frustrated.
“Open locks, put up shelves?” the Doctor ventured. “And it can also interfere with and track certain energy emissions, of course, but…oh…I think I have an idea.”
“Yes, yes, thank you!” Martha crowed, giving him an impulsive hug. “I knew you’d think of something!”
“Well, if this is the reaction I get every time I have an idea, no wonder I’m fond of you,” the Doctor said.
“Come on, let’s go!” Martha said tugging at his arm.
He raised a finger “Just one little point,” he said.
“What?” Martha asked impatiently
“You do realise you’re still in your night robe, don’t you?”
Martha gave him a dirty look.
"Straight ahead, third door on the left," he said, with a smile. "And while I wait, I'll see if I can't come up with a better story for our return than and I decided to pop in to see my dear cousin Oscar, at four o'clock in the morning, and bring him back home with me."
"If that was meant to be an impersonation of me, I wouldn't give up the day job,” Martha carolled over her shoulder as she ran for the wardrobe.
The school was still evacuated when Martha and the Doctor arrived, and Martha squared her shoulders. “Right,” she said. “You’re Doctor Jones, no relation, and you’re a friend of the family–” Martha sighed as she saw Jenkins appear from the throng and head straight for them. “This is never going to work.” She said. “This is 1913; English gentlemen are not friendly with the serving staff, especially when that person is black!”
“Ah, but I’m not just any English gentlemen,” the Doctor said. “I’m an eccentric English gentlemen, and we get away with all sorts of thing - watch and learn." He cleared his throat. "Why good day, you must be Mister Jenkins, I’ve heard so much about you! I’m Doctor Jones!”
“What?” Jenkins, staggered to a halt, taken aback by the Doctor’s sudden smile.
“And may I say what a lovely school it is!” the Doctor said. “You do keep it in tip top condition don’t you?” The Doctor dropped an arm on Jenkins’s shoulder, and the old house steward went deathly still, as if it were a cobra. “Martha was telling me all about you, you know. Her family has worked for mine for generations! From back in the old days, in…Jamaica! Yes, yes, that's it, good old Jamaica, with its balmy seas and sugar plantations–”
"And shark infested waters," Martha snapped. She should have known better than to let the Doctor pick the story.
Jenkins, however, seemed mesmerised by the beam of the Doctor's smile. “I see, sir,” he said. “And might I ask, what you’re doing here, sir?” he added, rallying.
“Well, it’s quite simple, you see, I’m staying at the local village and dear Martha, here, came looking for me when she heard that a few of your poor students have been affected by a gas leak- - have I mentioned that I’m a Doctor?”
“Uh...why yes, sir, I do believe you have, sir.”
“Good, good, well, that’s all settled, then,” the Doctor said, patting Jenkins on the shoulder. “Come along, Martha.”
Martha trotted past the bewildered Jenkins, before he had a chance to come back to his senses. "One of these days you're going to have to show me how you do that,” she said, as they slipped around the side of the school.
"Practice, my dear Martha, all it takes is practice!" The Doctor said as he slipped his sonic screwdriver out of his pocket.
"And let me guess, you've had a lot of practice," Martha said.
The Doctor smiled. “I’ve always found that a little gall goes a long way,” he said. “You should try and convince your Doctor to bring you to Gallifrey, some day — just a short visit, mind you. It’s the sort of place that’s only palatable in small doses.”
Martha hoped her thoughts didn’t show on her face. That was one question answered, she supposed. This Doctor lived before the destruction of Gallifrey. "Yes, well," she said brightly. "First we have to rescue him."
"The never ending cycle; wash, rinse and repeat," the Doctor looked at her speculatively "Are you alright, Martha?"
"Who, me? Yes, why wouldn't I be?" Martha said, and then mentally kicked herself. Her sister used to say she had the worst poker face in the world. "So, let's track him down, yeah?" she said hurriedly.
He looked at her for a moment, and Martha knew he was struggling with himself, resisting the urge to ask the question. “Personal timelines,” he said eventually.
“Yeah,” she admitted.
“I’ve always found that one of the principal problems of crossing one’s own timeline is trying to ignore the auguries,” the Doctor said, looking away as he fiddled with the settings on his screwdriver. “It’s always something foreboding, haven’t you ever noticed? It’s either the universe ending, or Arsenal being dropped from the Premier League. It’s never anything pleasant like… oh, I don’t know, a sunny English summer?”
“Hah, we should be so lucky!” Martha snorted.
The Doctor caught her eye. “But I am, you know,” he said. “Lucky, that is. Life is what you make of it.”
“Right,” Martha said.
“Right,” he said, with a small smile. “Let’s go and find your Doctor, hmm? This way.” Martha eyed the screwdriver in his hand. It was larger than the one her Doctor used and it had a strange, almost ocular type thing at the top. It still made that strange little noise when it glowed, though. The Doctor stopped at small side door and tried the handle. It was locked.
“Where does this lead to?” he asked.
“A few store rooms,” Martha said. “And a connecting corridor to the kitchens — oh, and the cellar, of course.”
The Doctor raised an eyebrow. “The cellar, you say?” he asked.
“That’s almost too obvious, isn’t it?” Martha asked.
“I've always found it best to never underestimate the obviousness of one's opponent,” the Doctor said, as he produced a roll of velvet fabric.
“I thought that was, never underestimate the intelligence of your opponent,” Martha said dryly.
“That too, although you might be surprised at how rarely I get the opportunity to use that adage,” he muttered, as he bent down in front of the lock.
Martha took a double take as he realised what the Doctor was doing. “You’re picking the lock! With lock picks! You carry lock picks!”
“Of course I do,” he said. “How else would I break into places, though the window?”
“But couldn’t you just — you know, sonic it?”
“Martha, have you ever seen a wooden door opened with a sonic screwdriver?” the Doctor asked
Martha thought about it. “No…”
“Well, there’s a reason for that,” he said, as door lock clicked. “It can’t be done.” He turned the handle and the door opened. “After you,” he said.
“Show off,” Martha said, smiling.
“Who, me? I’m the very soul of modesty,” he said.
“Doctor, I don’t think that phrase means what you think it does.”
“Yes, I've always suspected that," he said, as he closed the door behind them. "Wait a minute, I think I may have a candle in my pockets here, somewhere." Martha flinched as a match suddenly flashed alight, and she watched the Doctor not only produce a candle from his pocket, but a candle holder too. “There, that’s better,” he said.
“All the better to see the ghosts with,” Martha joked.
“Ah, now there is a conundrum,” he said. “How many N-Bodies have you noticed since we’ve arrived at the school?”
Martha frowned. “None, I think,” she said.
“And yet the entire school is still evacuated,” the Doctor pointed out.
“Maybe the headmaster just wants to be sure they’re totally gone before letting the students inside again?” Martha suggested.
“No, I think there’s more to it than that,” the Doctor said. “I think the N-Bodies are somehow actively discouraging them from re-entering the school. And yet, as you’ve said, the N-Bodies seem to have dispersed…” the Doctor frowned. “Martha, I have the funny feeling that we’re not in full possession of the facts yet.”
"Welcome to my world," Martha said. “The cellar’s this way.”
“Wait,” the Doctor said, putting a restraining hand on her arm as he adjusted the settings on the sonic screwdriver. “Martha, I think the situation might be a bit more dangerous than I originally envisaged.”
“And this would be news?” Martha asked rhetorically.
“Well, alright, when I say a bit more, I really mean a lot more. I think you should stay here and–”
“Wait a minute,” Martha interrupted. “Are you saying that I can’t go with you, because my life might be in danger?”
The Doctor looked solemn. “Yes, I’m afraid so."
“But won't your life be in danger, too?”
“Well, yes, but I’m prepared for that and– ouch! What was that for?” the Doctor asked, a wounded expression on his face as he rubbed the back of his head.
“It’s bad enough that I've had to put up with five weeks of misogyny from the denizens of this school, the last thing I need is you jumping onto the bandwagon and forgetting about the suffragette movement,” Martha snapped.
“What? But that has nothing to do with it! I'm only worried because you’re hu–” the Doctor broke off, as he eyed Martha’s suddenly raised hand. “Ah, both of us together, then?” he ventured.
“That’s more like it,” Martha said. “Now, as I was saying, the cellar is this way.”
It didn’t take Martha and the Doctor long to find out where all the N-Bodies had disappeared to. They crowded the steps that led down into the cellar, packed together like sardines.
“Just ignore them,” the Doctor said, as he held her hand. “Remember, they have no physical form, just walk right through them.”
Martha nodded silently and let the Doctor lead her down the steps; the entities moaned, some of them crying. One of them looked barely five years old. “Doctor, are they really ghosts?” Martha asked, troubled. “Are they lost spirits?”
“Lost?” the Doctor said. “That might not be the right word for it. Let’s just call them residents of another plane of existence.”
“It doesn’t sound like it’s a very happy place,” Martha observed.
“I don't think it’s as simple as that,” the Doctor said. “A lot of their unhappiness is due to their presence here… I think.”
“So, this N-Space is a happy place?” Martha asked.
The Doctor shrugged uncomfortably. “To be honest, I’ve never given it much thought," he admitted. “But I can tell you this. Their understanding of the universe is very different to ours. Happy, sad, I’m not sure those words have any meaning for them.”
“I don’t find that thought very reassuring,” Martha said.
“No, I don’t suppose you would,” the Doctor said softly. “Neither do I, to tell the truth.”
“Can you see him, yet?” Martha asked.
“No, I don’t… ah.”
Martha stood on her toes. "What? What do you see?"
“Danger and derring-do,” he said lightly. “Tell me, have I mentioned the chronon levels yet?”
“And I suppose that answers that question,” he said. “Well, you see, a chronon is a quantum unit of time, approximately two by ten to the power of minus twenty three seconds and–”
“Uh, Doctor, danger and derring-do, remember? Cliff notes version, please.”
He looked at her, puzzled. “But that was the cliff notes version,” he protested.
“Well, stick to the Oxford dictionary,” Martha said, impatiently.
“Concise or abridged?”
“Well, I’m only asking because the concise version doesn’t actually have a definition–”
"That doesn't have a definition either, does it?"
"No, I'm afraid not - tell you what, why don't I just tell you I'll explain later, and we'll skip onto the next part?"
"The part where I tell you to look behind you."
Slowly, Martha turned. A large metallic orb, at least a meter across, had risen out of the N-Bodies, and hung suspended in mid air. Its shell had a shadowed, oily sheen, the only relief in its casing was what seemed to be a digital counter recessed into the bottom half of its casing. A low thrum emanated from it, setting Martha's teeth on edge.
“Okay, that is not what I was expecting,” Martha said hoarsely. “What is that thing?”
“Some sort of artificial intelligence, I think,” the Doctor whispered back. “Positronic brain, fission energy source; quite sophisticated, despite the retro look to its casing. Early fifty first century, I’d say.”
“But what is it doing here?” Martha asked. "Because, last time I looked, we were about three millennia shy of that century - ah, let me guess, this is where the chronon levels come in, isn't it?"
"Time travel," the Doctor said. “It actually makes sense, if you think about it. It would've had to have some knowledge of the vortex in order to manipulate the TARDIS’s flight path. Ingenious little thing, isn't it?"
Martha eyed him. "You're about to call it brilliant, aren't you?"
"Actually, that particular descriptive term hadn't occurred to me, but now that you mention it-"
But something else had caught Martha's attention. "Look!" she said excitedly. "It's the Doctor - my Doctor! And, oh my God, what is that metal tubing thing sticking out of his head?”
Beside her, the other Doctor snorted. "Classic mind probe, standard procedure for this sort of thing.”
“What sort of thing?” Martha asked sharply.
The Doctor leaned in and whispered. “Well, don't quote me on this, but I think it may be searching for its creator.”
“Yes, I know, it’s a bit of a cliché, but I usually find that these matters boil down to one of two things — world domination or…”
“Or?” Martha prompted.
“Or where is my mummy?”
Martha stared at him. “You’re cracked in the head, you do know that?” she said.
“You don’t believe me?” he asked. “I'll wager a fiver I’m right.”
“Let me get this straight," Martha said. "Not only is your future self being held hostage by the HAL from hell, but he also has a great, big, ruddy metal rod thing sticking out of his head... and you want to lay bets on the robot's motives?”
“What? Too strange?” he asked. “I do tend to forget the little niceties, sometimes. Which reminds me, stop me if I try to kiss you–”
Martha didn't need to be told twice. She flung herself down the last of the steps as a bright light flashed through the cellar. The N-Bodies dissipated, like a morning mist under a hot rising sun, and Martha rolled onto her back and spotted the Doctor waving the sonic screwdriver at the robot, which was now making a low sound of distress.
"We wish to be free!” the robot cried.
“Ah, but free to do what?” the Doctor demanded. “To turn more humans into mind slaves? I think not!”
“It was necessary! We need to be free!”
“And who exactly are we, eh?” the Doctor asked. “The local chapter of the Circuits of Columbanus? A member of an interstellar planar breach alliance, perhaps? Or maybe you’re some sort of futuristic Avon lady, come to tell me about a new line in temporal anomalies? Because I have to tell you, futuristic mind probes are not a good look for me.”
Martha rolled her eyes but looked around the room. She had figured out, somewhere between the concise and abridged version, that the Doctor had been deliberately acting the fool, probably because the robot thing had been listening intently to every word they’d said - but something told her that, hidden within the nonsense, was a kernel of truth; something that the Doctor wanted her to see.
Another bright flash, and the screwdriver squealed, and the Doctor - her Doctor — fell to his knees, crying out. Martha staggered to his side. “Doctor — I mean, Mister Smith, are you okay?” The Doctor opened his eyes, and Martha flinched as she saw the black orbs staring back. The darkness spread, until the top half of his face was completely covered in shadow.
“Is it time, yet?” he said. “Are we gone?” A trickle of blood fell from his nose as the robot moved to hover above them. Martha felt a moment of pure panic.
"Stop it, you're hurting him!" she cried out to the robot, as she cradled the Doctor's head. She felt around the metal tubing. It seemed to have melded itself to the Doctor's crown.
"I have no choice," the robot said. "It is necessary. We need to be free! Turn off the interference screen your device is making and I shall endeavour to make the process painless."
"But he'll never survive the process, pain free or not!" the Doctor cried out. "He's human, his physiology can't handle it!"
"I have no choice. We need to be free!" the robot said.
"Is it time yet?" Martha's Doctor said, as if in answer. The shadow was now spreading to the lower part of his face, and some instinct told her that he didn't have long to live.
"Take me instead!" the Doctor said.
"Are you crazy?" Martha snapped, her head whipping around.
"Well, short of this A.I. suddenly coming to its senses and popping back to where it belongs, I don't see how we have much choice!"
Martha did a double take, why did she get the feeling the Doctor was trying to tell her something important? She looked up at the robot hovering above her, and her eyes fell onto the counter built into his casing. two by ten to the power of minus twenty three seconds. "I see what you mean, Doctor," she said carefully.
"It is academic, the process has begun. No choice,"the robot said.
"No choice, my Aunt Flavia," the Doctor said, as he adjusted the setting on the screwdriver. "Can't you see what you're doing is wrong? You're a fifty first century A.I., for Rassilon's sake, your existence is all about choice.”
The robot shuddered. "No choice. No choice. Right. Wrong. No choice. WE MUST BE FREE."
Carefully, Martha let go of the Doctor in her arms, letting him slide slowly to the floor as she straightened. She eyed the robot's counter. Did it really matter what numbers she punched into it, as long as it sent the robot anywhere but here? Behind her, the Doctor kept talking, keeping the A.I.'s attention.
"There is always a choice," the Doctor insisted, as Martha reached up. "That's what makes life interesting."
The robot groaned. "You do not understand," it said. "My Creator. My...my...I...I have no choice."
Martha could see the keypad. They looked like standard earth numerals, but with the TARDIS nearby, who knew?
"What?" Martha heard the Doctor say, as she stabbed at the keyboard haphazardly."Are you saying what I think you're saying? Martha, stop!"
Martha froze. "Too late," she said. "Have I done something wrong?"
"The Creator. The Master. No choooooiiccceeee...
A blue white light drenched the room, and the robot seemed to shrink in on himself, before disappearing with an electric fizzle.
"Oh dear," the Doctor said.
"What? What did I do wrong?" Martha asked.
"Nothing, you did nothing wrong, Martha," he said. "It was I who was the fool."
Martha looked down at the Doctor at her feet. The metal tubing in his head shrank and evaporated in front of her eyes.
"A bit like those little stitches that melt way," the other Doctor said quietly. "He'll wake up with a clanger of a headache, but he'll be okay."
"Something awful just happened, didn't it?" Martha asked softly. "I did something awful."
"No, Martha, I meant what I said. You did nothing wrong," the Doctor said. "Neither did I, for that matter. We did what we had to do. The person responsible for this is long dead, and deserves to stay there, as far as I'm concerned. I just feel sorry for the A.I."
Martha blanched at the harshness in the Doctor's voice. "He kept repeating it," she said, figuring it out. "That he had no choice - he meant it literally, didn't he?"
"Free will," the Doctor said. "We take it so much for granted, sometimes." he sighed. "Come on, I'll help you get him to his rooms."
The Doctor was waiting for her, when she arrived at the TARDIS the next morning. There were two warmed cups on the silver service tray.
"They let you go," the Doctor said, eyeing the satchel by her side.
"Oh no, they didn't just let me go, they fired me - without pay," Martha said tartly. "And, apparently, I should consider myself lucky that they didn't call out the local constabulary. They've somehow decided that last night was all my fault. Something to do with my Voodoo heritage, it seems.
The Doctor's eyebrows rose. "Your Voodoo what?"
"That was pretty much what I said," Martha said. "And when I asked him what exactly he’d been smoking last night, he told me to it was useless to deny it, because Jenkins had told him all about my upbringing on the sugar plantations of Jamaica, and how my Master also happened to be my cousin... it went downhill from there."
"A bit too fond of Jane Eyre, obviously," the Doctor said. "Charlotte has a lot to answer for, in that regard, and the Vodoun religion is much maligned–“”
Martha lifted a hand. “Don’t.”
The Doctor sank back into his chair and, for a moment, the only sound in the TARDIS was the hum of her engine and the tinkle of a spoon. "I am sorry, Martha,” he said eventually. "This makes things difficult for you, doesn't it?"
"I'm going to try and get a job at the local pub, but without references it's going to be hard, yeah," Martha sighed. "The Doctor isn't talking to me, either. He says he doesn't remember last night, but you should have seen the look he gave me this morning."
"It sounds like a problematic situation," the Doctor said quietly. "And I can't just leave you here like this."
"And I can't go with you," Martha said, before he could offer.
"He's not a child."
"He's not himself, either," Martha countered. "And he may as well be a child, if the Family of Blood find him in this condition."
"The Doctor looked down and studied his hands. “I can make it all go away," he said eventually. “Change it."
"I didn't think that was possible," Martha said.
"Oh, it's possible, at least for the next few hours. The A.I. came from the future, remember? This wasn't supposed to be the present timeline, and it won't be set for another few hours. I can give it a little nudge, push it back into its original groove, and time will heal around it again. It can be done."
Martha looked at the pensive expression on his face "I won't remember this, will I?" she asked softly. "I won't remember you."
He nodded. "This will be good bye."
"No, it won't be," Martha protested. "This is just good bye until the next time."
"It won't be the same," he said. "I can see it in your eyes. I can even see it in his; human as they are, at the moment. How ironic, a Time Lord with a bad sense of timing. Sorry about that."
Martha wasn't sure who he was apologising for, him or his future self. It didn't really matter, she supposed. "So, do I have to do something in particular?," she asked, to break the silence. "You know, click my heels, count to ten?"
"Find your tin man?" He smiled and leaned forward. "I'm going to miss you too, Martha Jones," he said, before he kissed her.
And then, as if from a quiet dream, Martha woke up.
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