A Teaspoon And An Open Mind: A Doctor Who Fan Fiction Archive
Ninth Doctor
Times of Trouble by Coru [Reviews - 8] Printer
Author's Notes:
NOTE: I will not be writing the intervening episodes anytime soon. I'm sorry, the inspiration just wasn't there, and I figured it was better to go ahead and post this than nothing at all!


Disclaimer: I don't own anything, BBC owns it all.

Beta: Stephanie G is the best beta I've ever had, and I'm absolutely thrilled that she was willing to switch fandoms for me! A million thanks!

Tommy Connolly was still awed by the Doctor's adventures. He'd been on a few, sure–a planet held out of a black hole by sheer force of a demon's will, his own city six decades past his time, and any number of markets and cities throughout the cosmos. It was brilliant. Sometimes he helped, more than once he'd been responsible for all their troubles, but throughout it all he felt like he was part of something bigger. Tommy was one of the Doctor's companions, and that title was so much more than he had ever imagined himself to be.

He had found a niche almost immediately. The Doctor liked having someone to impress, and Tommy was very, very impressed. He loved the TARDIS, he loved the technology of it, and he loved learning everything the Doctor was willing to teach him. Rose Tyler had never been remotely interested in discovering the inner workings of the ship, but in Tommy the Time Lord had found an audience.

Rose couldn't count the number of times she'd wandered into the console room to find them both deep beneath the coral pillars, the Doctor explaining a random bit or bob that she had never had the slightest inclination toward learning about. Tommy might not really understand, but he soaked up the attention like a sponge.

On this particular day a sharp BRRRRING! brought them up short, interrupting the day's repairs. The Doctor's face appeared from behind the panel he'd pulled open, his eyebrows shooting almost to his hairline. Another ring.

"Going to answer it?" Tommy asked cautiously.

"I don't like it when phones start ringin' that shouldn't do," the Doctor replied, frowning. "No one has this number. Who would phone the TARDIS?"

"You could ask them," Tommy suggested, crawling out after the Time Lord. "Isn't that the fastest way?"

"Well of course I'm going to ask them," the Doctor replied scathingly. He picked up the handset. "Who is this?"

"That's how you answer the telephone? Haven't they got any manners in space?"

The Doctor's face twisted in annoyance and he pulled the receiver away from his ear. "Jackie," he said. "How did you get this number?"

"You kidnap my daughter off in a matchbox and don't expect me to ask for your number? Are you mad?"

"Rose." He scowled.

"Of course, Rose!"

"Are you dying, Jackie?"

"No–"

"Are you in immediate danger?"

"I don't think–"

"Well, you've tested the number and it works. Thanks for calling!"

"Oi, you!"

He sighed and put the phone back to his ear. "What is it?"

"Do you know how long it's been since I saw my Rose?"

"Of course I do," he replied. He looked at the console and twisted a few dials, idly attempting to pinpoint the day that Jackie was calling from and giving up after a few unsuccessful tries. "Did you ring me up just to ask silly questions?"

"No, that's not all!"

"Well, that's interesting. Lovely to speak to you, I'll let her know you rang." A tinny objection rang out from the phone as the Doctor placed it back in its cradle. It began to ring again a moment later and was just as suddenly silent when the cord that connected it to the console was roughly pulled free. He grinned at Tommy. "Better, eh?"

"Everything…alright?" Tommy asked cautiously.

"Just fine." There was a pause and the Doctor rolled his eyes, beginning to spin a few dials on the console. "Go fetch Rose, would you? We'll be landin' in London in a minute an' I don't plan on bein' there past tea."

The boy nodded and took off into the corridors that led to the rest of the ship. The Doctor glanced after, enjoying for the moment having a companion who didn't make waves. It was a nice change of pace, he thought. Rose appeared in the doorway, her hair tied back in a long golden braid over a bright blue top. She smiled at him, and he had to amend his own opinion. He'd take jeopardy friendly any day.

They jarred to a halt and Rose grinned as she took her place at his side. "London, is it?"

"Yeah," he said. "Thought you'd like to get the washin' done. That a problem?"

She tapped the rucksack strapped to her back and shook her head. The bag, he knew, was full of laundry–one hoodie lost in space and time and she never trusted the TARDIS with her clothes again. She took his hand and pulled him toward the door, Tommy following close behind.

There was a hop in her step as they walked across the Powell Estate, growing almost to a skip as they neared a tall grey apartment block.

"What year is this, again?" Tommy asked, glancing around.

"Two thousand, what? Six?" Rose tilted her head at the Doctor.

"Somewhere thereabouts. Six, seven, all the same really. Just plain ol' London. All a bit boring, really."

"A bit boring?" Rose glanced at him from the corner of her eye. "For 'a bit boring' you don't stop by a fair bit. We haven't gone more than two weeks without visiting London in some timeline or another since I've known you."

The Doctor grinned. "I'm good at pickin' the fun days."

"The Wire," Rose began to count off on her fingers. "Slitheen. Pencil monster. Absorbaloff. The Blitz!" She quirked an eyebrow.

"Like I said," the Doctor replied. "Fun!"

They arrived soon at a nondescript door and Rose pulled out a key that looked like it had been brushed with violently pink nail varnish. She threw open the door and her cheery voice rang through the apartment. "Mum! It's us! We're ba-ack!"

"Oh!" Jackie Tyler appeared from the kitchen. She pulled her daughter into a hug and then smiled smugly at the Doctor. "I see all it takes it a bit of botherin' an' even your old lump can be counted on."

"Botherin'?" Rose glanced between them, head tilted curiously.

The Doctor looked up at the ceiling innocently, hands thrust deep into the pockets of his jacket.

"All it took was a phone call." Jackie preened for a moment then pursed her lips. "Not that that even got him here on time, but I don't think an order from the Queen could keep him from being late."

"A Time Lord is never late," the Doctor corrected, grinning a bit.

"But arrives precisely when he means to!" Tommy finished the quote with relish.

"God, you're both geeks." Rose rolled her eyes.

"Who's this then?" Jackie stepped back to get a better look at the boy, eying him appraisingly. The Doctor brushed past her, artfully dodging the elder Tyler's attention.

"Tommy Connolly." Rose supplied, linking arms with her mother. "We picked him up in 1953, right after the Queen's coronation."

"We fought an alien in the television," Tommy added helpfully.

"Teach me to ask," Jackie muttered. She shook her head and gestured toward the living room. "Come on then, sweetheart, don't stand in the door forever."

Rose grinned and pulled the rucksack from her back, dropping it in her mother's arms. "I've got loads of washin' for you–and I got you this!" She pulled what looked like an ornate golden spinning top from her pocket and presented it before her. "It's from the market on this asteroid bazaar. It's made of, um…"

"Bezoolium," the Doctor filled in as he settled himself on the sofa, propping his boots up on the coffee table and leaning back comfortably with one of Jackie's tabloids.

"Bezoolium," Rose repeated, grinning broadly at the small device. "When it gets cold, yeah, it means it's gonna rain–when it's hot, it's gonna be sunny! You can use it to tell the weather!"

"I've got a surprise for you and all!" Jackie said, ignoring the gift.

"Oh, I get her bezoolium, she doesn't even say 'thanks'," Rose said, her smile dimming.

"And she says I've no manners," the Doctor said, not even glancing up from his magazine.

"Guess who's coming to visit?" Jackie's eyes were bright with excitement. "You're just in time–he'll be here at ten past! Who do you think it is?"

"I don't know." Rose raised an eyebrow.

"Oh, go on! Guess!"

"Mickey?" the Doctor suggested casually.

"Don't be daft, haven't seen hide nor hair of him since Rose pitched him off properly," Jackie replied, frowning at the pair of them.

"He's the one the deleted his number, don't go blamin' me." Rose shifted awkwardly. "Anyway, who's comin'?"

Jackie smiled suddenly, once again filled with light. "It's your granddad. Granddad Prentice. He's on his way–any minute!" She bounced a little as she turned and dropped Rose's bag near the hall and headed into the kitchen, humming about tea as she went.

Rose's eyes went wide, following her mother's progress. "Oh my god, she's gone mad," she murmured.

"An' that's new, is it?" the Doctor replied, finally looking up from the report on celebrity fashions.

"Alright, Rose?" Tommy asked, standing at her elbow.

"Yeah, it's just–Granddad Prentice, that's her dad." She glanced back at the Doctor. "He died, like, ten years ago. Oh my god, she's lost it." She followed Jackie into the kitchen, Tommy and the Doctor close on her heels. "Mum?"

Jackie turned and smiled at the trio, nodding expectantly.

"What you just said about Granddad…"

"Any second now," Jackie confirmed.

"But…he passed away. His heart gave out. Do you remember that?"

"Of course I do!" As if it were the silliest question.

Rose frowned. "Then how can he come back?"

"Why don't you just ask him yourself?" She checked her watch and beamed at the guests. "Ten past. Here he comes."

And there 'he' was. A form, ill-defined but clearly humanoid, was in their midst, moving about the kitchen for a moment before coming to rest at Jackie's side. There was a brief pause as the visitors gaped.

"Here we are then!" Jackie chirped. "Dad, say hello to Rose. Ain't she grown?"

The Doctor pushed Rose behind him and smiled merrily. "Hello, I'm the Doctor!" He waggled his fingers at the shape. "Who're you?"

"They don't talk," Jackie informed him sadly. "I know what he's thinkin' though–I can sort of feel it, you know?" She smiled at her daughter. "He's awful proud of you, growin' up so good an' all."

The Doctor ignored the majority of this, honing in on one word. "'They'?" he repeated.

"Yeah, there's loads of' em," Jackie replied. "All over the world–everywhere."

He barrelled past Rose, through the living room and to the open-air hall beyond. The rail impacted against his stomach as he leaned far over to see the courtyard below. Dozens of shadows passed between children playing in the streets. In the distance, he saw them in the streets, cars driving straight through them as if they were made of nothing.

"No one's runnin'," the Doctor said, disbelief in his voice. "That's–that's wrong. Why is no one scared?"

"Why should they be?" Jackie smiled. "They haven't got long. Midday shift only lasts a couple of minutes. They're about to fade."

"Shift?" The Doctor looked between Jackie and the sea of silvery forms in the courtyard. "What do you think they are, workers in a corner shop? Ghosts don't come in shifts."

"Oh, doesn't he just know it all!" she scoffed, turning her eyes to Tommy and Rose. "Maybe if His Lordship turned up more often, he'd have heard about the past two months we've been gettin' ghosts every day."

"Mum," Rose sighed. "Could you just–"

"Twelve minutes past," Jackie interrupted. She was right–in a moment the ghosts had gone, and London continued on. She smiled slightly. "Come on, you lot, time for tea."

They followed her back into the flat, but the Doctor refused the tea and pushed them to the living room. "Tell me what's happened."

Jackie shrugged as they settled on the sofas. "Oh, well, that. Woke up one morning, and there they all were–ghosts, everywhere. We all ran round screaming and that; whole planet was panicking... no sign of YOU, thank you very much..." She frowned at them then. "An' then it sort of sank in. Took us time to realise that...we're lucky."

"What makes you think it's Granddad?" asked Rose, leaning toward her mother.

"Just feels like him. There's that smell, those old cigarettes. Can't you smell it?"

Rose bit her lip and shook her heard ever so slightly. "I wish I could, Mum, but I can't."

"You've got to make an effort," Jackie said. "You've got to want it, sweetheart."

"You want it an' it's there?" the Doctor suggested. A frown was his only answer. "If it was real, you'd smell it, want it or not. It's in your head, Jackie, and they're using that connection to get closer."

"Hush you, now!" Jackie looked wounded. "Why've you got to spoil everything? Can't it just be beautiful, the people we've loved and lost come back to us?"

"Whatever it is, it's wrong, it's not supposed to be here an' that means it can't go on." The Doctor stood and began to pace.

"How do we stop them, then?" Tommy asked.

"But you can see them, they look human!" Jackie insisted.

"She's got a point," Rose agreed. "They're all sort of blurred but they're definitely people."

The Doctor scoffed. "Always assuming based on first impressions, you lot. You just assume because it looks human it's got to be. Any idea how many things look human that aren't? You can't trust just because it's shaped like you that it's like you."

"Yeah, after all, look at you," Tommy replied, a little grin teasing at the corner of his lips. "You look like us and you're not a thing like us."

"See, Tommy Connolly understands!" The Doctor beamed at his young friend. He turned to Rose's mother, serious again. "An' it's everywhere, Jackie–not just London?"

"All 'cross the globe, far as anyone knows."

"So, what do we do? Scan for alien invasions?" Tommy asked, rubbing his hands together eagerly. "Build a sort of ray gun to trap a ghost, like in that film Rose showed me?"

The Doctor looked affronted. "An' that sounds humane to you, does it? Trappin' it?" He shook his head and sighed heavily. "Thought we'd at least start by askin' about. Maybe try and communicate with one."

"Could call Mickey," Rose said, picking lightly at her fingernails. The Doctor reached over and flicked at her long braid, raising an eyebrow curiously. "Just sayin', he pays attention to stuff."

"And…who's Mickey again?" Tommy glanced between the pair. "Do we trust him?"

"Oh, of course we trust Mickey!" The Doctor scoffed. "Trust him to drink your tea, eat your bikkies and know the address of the closest pub. Trust him to save the world? Only in most dire circumstances."

"So…why are we asking him?"

"He's one of my best friends and he used to be my boyfriend. Doctor's just bein' petty," Rose explained. "Mickey's plenty smart and he used to help out, he's just not been around much since, well, he got a bit…um…"

"Jealous. Childish. Clingy."

"Opposite, actually." Rose shot him a dirty look. "He finally decided to stop holdin' out hope for me an' him. Asked me not to call 'round as much, or…at all, really, but I don't think he meant it forever. An' it's been almost a year now."

"Alright, we can go visit Ricky," the Doctor said. "But we are not sleepin' on that man's sofa ever again, no matter what happens."

"Come hell or high water," Rose agreed.

Jackie planted a kiss on each of their cheeks–much to the Doctor's abject horror–and saw them all off.

Rose was already twisting her fingers by the time they'd reached the bottom of the stairs. When they'd crossed the estate, she'd pulled half her braid loose with nervous fiddling and the Doctor stopped her before they could climb up to Mickey's flat. He made quick work of repairing the hairstyle–lingering only a moment over the silky strands–and quickly pressed his lips to hers.

She melted into him, and Tommy looked away, staring pointedly up at the block of flats.

"You've done your part," the Doctor said quietly. "You gave him time, an' if that's not enough…that's his loss."

"Just don't want it to be," Rose admitted. The Doctor gave her a sad smile, and tugged her up the stairs to rap sharply on an unmarked door.

There was a rustling from inside. The door opened, and Mickey Smith stared at them. He blinked, sighed, and stepped back. "Expected you months back. TARDIS broken or something?"

"Can't get the dates right every time," the Doctor muttered, following the young man into his home.

"You're lucky you caught me," he said, clearing some laundry from the sofa and tossing it aside. "Wouldn't normally even be at home, but I had to drop by to pick up a package." He tilted his head at Tommy. "Who's the tin dog?"

"This is Tommy Connolly, he's from 1953," Rose said. "Tommy, this is Mickey Smith." She chewed her lip. "Is this…okay? Us comin' by?"

Mickey rolled his eyes and pulled her in for a rough hug. "Don't be stupid," he said, holding her tightly for a moment before stepping back. "Of course it's okay. Here 'bout the ghosts, yeah?"

"Yeah, an' to see you," Rose bumped him with her hip. "Missed my best mate, you know. What's goin' on, how've you been?"

"'M alright, got a girl." He rubbed his neck awkwardly. "For real that is. She has keys an' everything. You don't know her; I think you'd get on, though. She's smart, she's in uni but she stays here a lot while she studies."

"That's nice." Rose grinned at him. "Sounds dead boring. I'm happy for you."

"Well, we met 'cause of you." Mickey inclined his head at the pair of them. "Gitta–Brigitta, that's her name–she was readin' up on the Doctor 'cause her dad used to work for UNIT, an' she found me. Tracked me down, asked questions, we started talkin' and before we knew it, we was together."

Rose looked alarmed. "Are you sure she's–I mean, she's not…don't take this the wrong way or nothing, but–"

"It's not about the Doctor, Rose, believe me, I thought about that." Mickey stared long and hard at her. "We talk, Gitta and me, and I've asked her about it. I've asked her if she'd go if he asked and she said she wouldn't, she said it isn't about that, she just wanted to know the truth an' now she does."

"Sorry."

"S'okay, not like I don't worry that ol' big ears over there isn't taking care of you." Mickey grinned and suddenly they were friends again. "Missed you, Rose."

"Missed you, too, Mick."

"Alright, niceties done?" The Doctor's lips curled in a vaguely grin-shaped grimace. "Now, Rickyboy, what've you seen that Jackie hasn't?"

Mickey went to a bookshelf and pulled out a white binder, setting it on the coffee table in front of them. "I keep everything printed out now, after that virus the Doctor had me use wiped half the internet. Me and Gitta've done a lot of talkin' to people, an' a lot of askin' around. We keep comin' up with a name of this foundation that seems to have more money than God."

The Doctor looked awkward squatting on the low couch, his knees ending up near his elbows, but he was instantly engrossed in the information spread out before him. "Oh, well done, Mickey!" The young man shoved his hands in his pockets and tried not to look so very pleased by the praise.

"Torchwood," Rose said, sitting much more comfortably on the sofa. "I've heard that before, haven't I?"

"The planet on the black hole," Tommy supplied. "They were sent there by a company called the Torchwood Institute. The captain told me about it."

The Doctor frowned. He had not liked that planet one bit and was steadfastly resolved to discuss neither the thing that lived there, nor its dire predictions. Rose and Tommy exchanged glances.

'The big bad wolf that will die howling.'

That monster hadn't been the first thing to call her a wolf. Rose shivered and leaned closer to the Doctor.

"Yeah," Mickey said slowly, looking between them. "Right, so, Torchwood's this big sort of shadow group. Can't find much out about them, no one owns it, no ties to any corporation or government, but they've got infinite money and own a huge building downtown."

The Doctor flipped past some pages, nodding occasionally. He muttered something vaguely derogatory about handwriting, but everyone chose to ignore it as Mickey continued summarizing what was in the binder.

"I managed to get in the tower a couple times as maintenance, but I haven't seen anything to say if they know what's going on with the ghosts. Maybe they do an' maybe they don't, but either way they're dangerous. They've got alien guns an' tech all over, stuff like you keep in that stupid box of yours."

The Doctor opened his mouth to object, though whether to the description of his precious ship, or to the suggestion that he kept guns aboard, was not to be known. They fell silent at the sound of the door opening.

"Mickey, you in?" A girl's voice rang out. "I've brought take away."

"Yeah, babe, but we've got company."

She appeared around the corner, and was not at all what Rose had expected. A bit nerdy, really. Dark hair pulled into an awkwardly high ponytail and thick dark glasses. "Oh," she said. "Sorry. Hi." She looked curiously at the trio, then at Mickey.

"Gitta, this is uh, Tommy, Rose, and the Doctor."

Brigitta squeaked. She looked quickly between all four of them, squeaked again and then fumbled frantically in her pockets.

"Babe, really?" Mickey rolled his eyes.

After a minute or so, she pulled out an inhaler and took a deep breath from it. She cleared her throat. "Sorry. Um." She swallowed. "Brigitta Osgood. Pleasure to meet you."

Rose was very clearly trying not to laugh. Mickey looked a bit pained, and the Doctor rather pleased. He smiled at her. "I hear you're clever, Brigitta Osgood. What's your next step?"

"Well…doesn't your ship sort of…disappear here and reappear there? Couldn't you just…go?" She waved her hand in a vague sort of gesture.

"To a place that's collectin' alien bits? Not likely. I've played that game, ended up ugly for me. The TARDIS is stayin' put."

†"Oh. Well, I suppose you could just walk up to One Canada Square and…do the alien thing." She pressed her lips together, smiled awkwardly and then giggled.

"Alien thing?" The Doctor looked at Rose, not entirely sure if he should be offended.

"You know, 'take me to your leader'?"

~*~*~*~

They decided to stop back at Jackie's first. Rose was determined to actually have that cup of tea that she'd been promised, and no one made tea like her mum.

The Doctor settled onto the sofa between Tommy and Brigitta and immediately took control of the remote, settling in for a quick perusal of humanity via the television set.

Rose and her mother took their moment alone at the kitchen table. The younger Tyler was soaking in the moment with the heat from her cup, when it was broken, rather abruptly, with a single question.

"You've been shaggin' him, haven't you?" Jackie asked bluntly.

"Mum!" Rose scowled at her. "That's none of your business!"

"Tell me you're bein' safe at least. Can you get pregnant from aliens? Is there alien STDs?"

"No. Or, probably not–the Doctor's handled it, he said so."

"Oh, I've heard that before–you should pick up some condoms while you're here."

"Oh, god." Rose's head dropped to the table and her arms wrapped around her head. "I can't handle this. Mum, I'm not havin' the safe-alien-sex conversation with you."

"But you admit it!" Jackie sighed. "Knew it was just a matter of time. Even with those ears!"

"Those ears can hear, Mum!" Rose hissed, looking anxiously at the divider to the living room. The Doctor didn't look back, but that didn't mean anything. "Would you shut it?"

"Will he take care of you? Forever? You said once his people live longer; well what about when you get old? What'll he do with you when I'm not around to dump you back on, sweetheart?"

"He wouldn't do that to me, Mum. We'll–we'll sort somethin' out. It's what we do."

"Even himself can't stop aging, love." Jackie put her hand over Rose's. "Just don't let him forget you, alright?"

"He wouldn't."

"Not my girl, that's right." She smiled and brushed a stray hair back from her daughter's face. "Don't ever let him forget that under the alien hair and alien makeup you're still Jackie Tyler's daughter and you learned to slap before you could walk, yeah?"

"Yeah." It was as tender and heart-warming a speech as one was ever like to get from a Tyler.

"Now, what are you dawdling over tea for? You say these Torchwood folks are up to no good, why aren't you off stopping them?"

Rose grinned and hopped to her feet. "Oi, lazy bums, you done with the telly?"

~*~*~*~

Arriving at Torchwood was easy enough. They took a bus. The Doctor paid his own fare even, grinning proudly at Rose as he produced an Oyster card from his limitless pockets and then leading them to the top so that Tommy could get a view of the new London as they rode about.

Brigitta made an excellent tour guide - she told Tommy all about the recent changes to the city.

The Doctor marched into One Canada Square with an entourage, and the poor boy at reception clearly had no idea what to think of the motley group.

"Hello!" The Doctor greeted cheerfully, wiggling his fingers at the young man in a highly starched suit. "I'm the Doctor and I'm looking for Torchwood. Would you, ah," he looked back at Brigitta, and then grinned at the boy, "take me to your leader?"

The receptionist swallowed hard. "Of course, sir." He lifted a phone to his ear, pressed a key and spoke to the receiver. "Ma'am? Henry, at reception. Yes, Ma'am….it's him. He'd like to speak to you." He swallowed hard. "Of course."

They all waited expectantly as he murmured a few more affirmatives.

"She'll be down in a moment," he said as soon as he'd hung up.

"Fantastic. Who's 'she'?" The Doctor raised an eyebrow at the nervous boy.

"Chief Administrator."

The lift opened with a 'ding!' and a woman in a very nicely tailored suit hurried out. She stopped in front of the small group, scarcely able to catch her breath. "Thank you so much," she said. "Terribly sorry, I wasn't expecting you today."

"Today?" The Doctor's eyebrows shot up. "Just expectin' me in general, were you?"

"I should say," she replied. She held out her hand, shaking each of theirs in turn. "Yvonne Hartman, such a pleasure to finally meet you."

"Rose."

"Tommy Connolly."

"Mickey Smith."

"Brigitta Osgood."

"And I'm the Doctor, but apparently you know that."

"Wouldn't have this job if I didn't," said Yvonne, smiling coyly. "Please, would you be so kind?"

She gestured to the lift and they all followed her in, squishing up a bit to all fit. Rose, unsurprisingly, found herself tucked under the Doctor's arm, her head resting lightly against his shoulder. Mickey rolled his eyes, and kept his hand linked with Brigitta's. Tommy rather awkwardly found himself pressed close to Ms Hartman.

"So you've been runnin' the ghost shifts?" the Doctor asked casually.

"Yes, indeed," Yvonne replied. "They're quite controlled, just a side effect really. You're not here for that."

"Oh? Bit surprisin', that. Why am I, then?"

"All in good time, Doctor." The doors opened. "Welcome to Torchwood."

It was like a parade of alien devices. Particle guns and magnetic clamps that could hold any weight without changing their own mass. The Doctor frowned quite a bit, and surreptitiously slipped a few small items into his pockets. 'If it's alien, it's ours' was apparently Torchwood's motto.

"I don't like the sound of that," Rose muttered. "Sounds a bit like…"

"Utah?" The Doctor nodded. "Never ends well for humanity, collections like these."

"Well, perhaps you could help us sort out a few mysteries," Ms Hartman suggested. A large black door was before them. It opened, and she smiled as they entered. "Now, what do you make of that?"

They all stared. 'That' was a sphere, about two meters wide, and it seemed to reflect and absorb the light around it. It…defied description. It was, but it wasn't.

A man in a white lab coat approached from a bay of instruments. "You must be the Doctor," he said, a bit awed. "Rajesh Singh. It's an honour, sir."

The Doctor grunted, but otherwise did not acknowledge the man.

Tommy was the first to break free of the spell of the sphere. "What is it?"

"What do you think it is?" Yvonne asked enigmatically.

"Wrong," Brigitta said softly. "It's…it's just wrong somehow. Doctor?"

He was still staring; slowly approaching it like one would a dangerous animal. He pulled out a pair of 3D spectacles from his pocket, slipped them on and then back off. He grunted, shook his head and then folded his arms.

"Not a fan of the special effects?" Mickey asked, ignored by all.

"We've tried analysing using every device imaginable," Rajesh said, trying very hard to sound important. "But, according to our instruments, the sphere doesn't exist. It weighs nothing. It doesn't age. No heat. No radiation. And has no atomic mass."

"But…it's there," Rose said, feeling a bit stupid.

"Fascinating, isn't it?" Rajesh said, rather condescendingly. "It upsets people because it gives off…nothing. It is….absent."

"Alright, Doctor, you've had your fun, now what is it?" Rose looked a bit green.

"It's a void ship. Not even supposed to be possible, that, but here it is." He turned, pulling the glasses off and hopped down the stairs, pacing a bit back and forth in front of the ladder. "When we went to Pete's world, I told you — thought we'd fallen into it, remember? The space between the universes? That is a vessel meant to sit in it. Whatever's inside it's been existin' outside of time and space, could've been there since the Big Bang and it would've passed untouched. An' I doubt it's come back for a cuppa."

Yvonne smiled. "Then we were right. There is something inside."

The Doctor raised an eyebrow at her. "Do you think people build impossible spaceships and send them into nothingness just for fun? You only do that because there are no options left in reality for you. Whatever's in there is nothin' you want to meet, I guarantee it. That ship is going back to the Void. Now how did it get here?"

"Well, that's how the ghosts started," she said, shrugging. "The sphere appeared and the ghosts followed in its wake."

He smiled grimly. "Let's go have a sťance, then."

~*~*~*~

She led them to a solid white room, bookended by two large levers. The Doctor ran his hand over the smooth wall at the end, the perfect paint job belying the energy humming just beneath the surface.

"The sphere came through here. A hole in the world." Yvonne smiled. "Not active at the moment. But when we fire particle engines at that exact spot, the breach opens up."

"How did you know about it?" the Doctor asked. "Or do generally you just fire particle engines at random until somethin' interestin' happens?"

"Well, we were getting warning signs for years. A radar black spot. So we built this place. Torchwood Tower. The breach was six hundred foot above sea level. It was the only way to reach it."

"Told you, more money than God," Mickey said.

"What are you testing?" Brigitta asked, leaning over the particle guns and peering inside. "Are you trying to open the breach all the way?"

"Not at all, we don't know what's on the other side." Yvonne gently guided her away from the engine. "It's a massive energy source. We'd like to harness it. Britain could be truly independent, never relying upon the Middle East again."

"Sounds like a load of bull to me," Mickey said. "Sounds to me like you're planning to get to that other world and just steal all of their oil."

"A possibility," Yvonne acknowledged. "We'd rather not, really. Should it happen that we make contact, an exchange of resources may occur, but we can't know if they mayn't choose to attack us."

"Doesn't the danger outweigh the risks, then?" Tommy asked. "I mean, what if there's just a parallel version of us there, but they've harnessed the energy of the breach, and they use it to obliterate us entirely because you kept opening it?"

Yvonne blinked. "I would say the likelihood of that is very low."

"Oh?" The Doctor grinned. "You don't think that there are alternate, blood-thirsty versions of yourself?"

She went a bit pale, but held her head high. "I'm willing to take that risk. I do my duty for Queen and country, Doctor, no more."

"You're willing to take that risk, but is every single living being on the planet Earth?" He moved closer to her. "Has everyone else agreed? Did everyone elect you to make this decision for them? Because I don't think they did, Yvonne Hartman, an' I don't think you've the right to take that risk."

"Not for me." Brigitta said, stiffly. "I do not authorize you to take that risk on my behalf."

"Good on you, babe," Mickey murmured. He folded his arms. "Not for me, either."

"Nor me," Tommy said. "I'm a citizen of Earth, even if not of this time."

"An' I know my mum wouldn't approve, even if she does like the ghost in the kitchen," Rose said. "So I'm votin' no for two."

"This isn't a democracy," Yvonne replied sharply. "I'm Chief Administrator of Torchwood, and I say the ghost shifts continue."

"I've given you the chance to stop this, Yvonne Hartman, an' humanity has voted," the Doctor said quietly. "Right now, you're sayin' no. Remember that."

"Very intimidating, Doctor." Yvonne met his gaze steadily. "But I have my duty to attend to."

He shrugged. "Your loss, then." He waited a long moment, staring at her.

The silence stretched.

"Alright then." The Doctor pulled his hands from his pockets and brandished the sonic screwdriver in one, and something that looked rather like a CD covered in wire mesh in the other.

"That's a–that's a sonic amplifier from the archive downstairs!" Yvonne objected. "You stole it!"

"Borrowed," the Doctor replied. He grinned and tapped the screwdriver against it. It lit up in glorious pale blue light and a horrible, horrible noise echoed throughout the room. It lasted only a few seconds, and everyone was left shaking their heads.

"What have you done?" Ms Hartman demanded.

"Reversed the polarity of the neutron flow," he said, grinning like a schoolboy. "Haven't had the chance in centuries, it was a bit fun, that. You turn on those particle engines without a full recalibration an' everyone here dies."

She shook her head. "Doctor, do I really have to summon the men with guns to threaten you until you undo the damage? I thought you understood me better than that."

"No." He stared her down, the mad smile still on his face. "Because I am going to win today, Ms Hartman. I've had a rather unpleasant couple of weeks and someone's made a nasty prediction at me, and I've decided to ignore it all and just win."

She sighed. "Really, this is disappointing, Doctor." She raised a hand and snapped her fingers. Within a moment, soldiers had appeared and surrounded the group. "Obviously threatening you serves no purpose; however, we can shoot your companions."

Brigitta squeaked, and Mickey stepped in front of her. "This is England, an' we're British citizens; you can't just execute us!"

"We have special authority of the Crown to use whatever means necessary to protect our borders from alien threats." Yvonne stared at them calmly. "But no, I won't have you executed immediately. Merely detained...indefinitely." She turned to the captain. "Have the humans taken downstairs to quarantine; we'll keep the Doctor up here until he decides to be helpful again."

"I'm not goin' anywhere," Rose said firmly. "Just try an' make me."

"Would you like me to try?" Yvonne smiled. "I can, if you'd like."

"How's this," Mickey said, interrupting. "You want prisoners? We go. Keep us locked up, Gitta an' Tommy an' me. Doctor an' Rose'll sort out your problems, like they always do, an' at the end, you let us all go."

Yvonne tilted her head, glancing between the Time Lord and the quartet of humans. "I accept the compromise," she said. "You can keep your girlfriend with you, but I reserve the right to shoot her if you destroy anything else of mine, Doctor. Escort them to Level One."

With that, the soldiers marched the young trio out of the room, even as Rose sent nervous glances between them and the Doctor.

"Let's have a chat." Yvonne smiled coolly.

~*~*~*~

Sometime later they sat in her office, staring at one another. The Doctor's legs stretched out in front of him as he leaned back in a tall leather chair, his arms folded calmly across his chest. Rose leaned against the back of it, her hip pressed against his shoulder.

"You think the ghosts built the void ship?" Yvonne asked.

"Could have done. Must have done. Who else?" The Doctor shrugged. "Someone sent it here, makes sense to be the ones who followed it."

"And your theory on whom the ghosts are?"

"Couldn't narrow it down enough to have theories. Too many variables. What I know is anything that wants into this world that bad shouldn't be allowed to do it."

"Hmm." She pondered that for a long moment. "You're confident that they are hostile, then?"

"I'm confident they won't end well for you."

"Then–" whatever Ms Hartman may have planned to say was interrupted by sudden whirring from the next room. She stood, staring at the moving levers. "What's happening?"

"The engines are on," the Doctor said, staring at them. "That's not even possible — how've they recalibrated that fast? Your computers aren't that good!"

"I didn't order a recalibration," Yvonne replied. She stepped into the room. "Addy, what have you done? Stop the ghost shift, I didn't order this. Matt? Gareth!"

The Doctor snapped his fingers in front of one of the young technician's eyes. He frowned. "Not good," he said. "Might go straight to bad."

"Doctor, those earpods–" Rose approached, eyes wide. "They're from…"

"Yeah, I remember." He stared at the levers locked into full ghost shift.† He took a deep breath and pulled out the sonic screwdriver, holding it against the young girl's earpiece. "I'm sorry."

She screamed, and the two young men on the opposite side slumped to their desks.

"Is she dead? Doctor?"

"She was dead before I touched her, now hush up, I need to think." He started to pace.

"But they were standard comms devices, how does it control them?" Yvonne reached for one from the girl's ear.

"Don't touch it!"

"But what are they — urgh!" She pulled her hand away, the earpod leaving a long trail of brain matter dripping to the floor. "Oh God, it goes into their brains!"

"Yeah, well, now I've got a theory." He had the sonic screwdriver in hand, and was aiming it at one of the abandoned computer terminals. "An' the shift?"

"It's at ninety percent." She swallowed her horror and rapidly became professional again. "It's still running–can't you stop it?"

"Can't, they've got control."

"They?"

"I've got the signal." He held the screwdriver aloft like a beacon and began to run from the room, Yvonne and Rose at his heels. "Remote transmitter, they're close!"

"Keep those levers down!" Ms Hartman shouted at the remaining technicians.

They followed the signal to a part of the building still under construction. Plastic sheeting lined the walls and blocked visibility.

"What's down here?" Rose whispered.

"Renovations, just new offices," Yvonne replied softly.

"Rose, you should–" The Doctor didn't even get a chance to finish his suggestion.

"Fat chance." She slipped her hand into his. "I'm not leavin' you. What do you think it is?"

"We're crashin' into another world."

"Is it–it's his world? My…Pete's?"

He stopped and took a breath. "Think so." He pulled her tight against him. "Don't move."

"What is it, Doctor?" Ms Hartman asked.

"It's the advance guard." The plastic began to clear around them, as metal forms filled the doorways on all sides. "Troops sent ahead to prepare the world."

"Prepare the world for what?"

"Invasion." He set his jaw. They were surrounded.

"We are the Cybermen." The Cyberleader stopped in front of him. "You will obey or be deleted."

"We'll obey," the Doctor said. He repeated, louder, so that the soldiers would hear. "Everyone obeys!"

"To the control room."

They marched quickly back to Yvonne's office, hands over their heads. "Away from the controls!" the Doctor shouted as they re-entered the room. "Don't fight them!"

Despite his warnings, the Cybermen attacked, killing the scientists who had been attempting to hold back the levers.

"What do they want?" Rose demanded.

"Ghost shift will increase to one hundred percent." The Cyberleader pressed its fist to its chest, and the levers locked onto their full and upright position.

"Online," chimed a pleasant, distant voice.

"Here they come," the Doctor said, numbly.

"Doctor, if the ghosts aren't ghosts, then…they're everywhere." Rose chewed her lip. "In every corner of the Earth. We're invaded already."

"That's just it. We're lookin' at the advance guard, Rose." Ghosts began to appear before them in perfect lines, slowly solidifying. "Now they're callin' up the troops."

~*~*~*~

Jackie watched as the ghost began to take form. Her heart lifted, her father's face was in her mind as she watched the shape begin to take its proper form. Slower than it should have, her excitement abated. Instead of twinkling blue eyes she saw only a blank mask. Silver metal instead of tanned skin, and a black hole where she had waited for a familiar smile.

It was a monster.

"You will be upgraded," intoned the creature, its gaping mouth unmoving.

"What's that mean?" she whimpered, finding herself pressed tight against the back cupboards, putting as much distance between herself and the monster as she could manage.

"You will be Human-Point-Two. You will be like us."

Jackie froze. "No," she whispered once, then again, louder, firmer. "No."

"Upgrade is compulsory, refusal is unacceptable."

She drew her shoulders back and though she trembled, she stood at her full height. "No," she said. "I won't be like you. I won't ever be like you."

"Rebellion is unacceptable. Remain where you are or you will be deleted."

"The hell I will!"

"Your refusal has been noted."

"Then get out of my house!" She stared it down.

As she fell to the ground, she felt a sense of gratitude to the man that had changed her for the better. Her last moments had not been spent cowering or crying. She had been brave. She had stood her ground. Jackie Tyler had died defiant.

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