The sound of the universe echoed through the hangar as the TARDIS materialized. As soon as the sound faded into silence, the Doctor ran out the doors, closely followed by Donna. "Where are we now?"
The redhead's question was a rather legitimate one considering this was the fourth place they had landed in the last fifteen minutes alone. Two deserted London streets and Martha's empty home later and now she was baffled as to why he had landed them in a hangar. When he ignored her and took off towards the door, she was quick to punch him on the shoulder, stopping him dead in his tracks.
"Oi! What was that for?" he whined, staring at her with an utterly confused expression and rubbing his shoulder. She narrowed her eyes at him.
"You're running all over the place dragging me along without actually saying anything. There are bodies on the streets and it looks like a nuclear bomb has gone off, so I want to know what's going on now, Doctor."
He had to admit she had a point there. Ever since he had told her it was the end of the universe, he had not uttered a word to her, instead dragging her along from one destination to the other. With a sigh, he started scratching the back of his head as he spoke, looking into his companion's eyes. "I don't know Donna, I'm sorry. Something's attacked this world and all I know is that Rose tried to contact me, but I don't have a clue what's going on."
Donna stared at him in silence for a long moment, letting the notion that he was in the fog just as much as she was sink in. Then slowly, she let her eyes drop to the ground as words and images flashed through her mind. She thought of her parents, of her home and her friends. Fear gripped her heart as she thought of what might have happened to them, while at the same time she tried to fight back the notion that they were dead. Even if they were, it would do no good to crumble now. Not after going through what she had just done in the alternate universe so that she could set everything back into place. Confident in her resolve that she would do everything she could to stop whatever was going on, she looked back up at the Doctor. "Then let's find out. Does this look like anything you've seen before? Modus Operandi? Anything?"
"The Earth's been attacked more times than I can count, well, not literally, but still, it's been attacked a lot, Donna," the Doctor began, shaking his head as he rattled on. Donna slowly nodded, then repeated the words Rose had told her, their only clue to what could possibly be happening to her homeworld.
"From your reaction to them, I gather that's something you've heard before, yeah? When was that...and, you know, what happened then?"
For a moment, he just continued staring off into space with a deep frown creasing his brow. All of a sudden, recognition spread over his face. It was something she had often seen before while they were reasoning through problems together and she said something that sparked an idea in his timelord brain, but this time, his following reaction was different. As she watched, she saw his eyes turn black, his jaw set as he seemed to contemplate a prospect that was truly horrifying to him. As if he were trying to find evidence to disprove the conclusion he had just come to, he turned back to her. "What else did Rose tell you, Donna? Think."
In her mind, she went through all she could remember of the misadventure during which she had encountered the mysterious blonde that had turned out to be Rose Tyler. Her memories were starting to become hazy, as he had told her would happen now that the universe had never existed, but there was nothing that she could still make out that could be of use to them. Then, as she was about to admit to that very fact, something caught her eyes above his shoulder. With a gentle smile, she turned to him. "Why don't you ask her yourself?"
The Doctor frowned, then slowly turned to follow Donna's gaze. Across the hangar, he saw her. She was framed by the bright light coming from the open door behind her, the vision bringing back memories that had haunted him almost daily while she had been lost. I want you safe, my Doctor. He felt frozen in place, as though if he were to move, she would disappear. But then she smiled, that beautiful, bright smile of hers and he was running. He was making his way through the clutter that covered the floor, leaving the pain behind and she was running as well, though her progress was slowed down by the weight of the gun she carried.
He saw her smile fade away before he understood what was happening, heard her shout his name before she crouched down and took aim at his left. Instinctively, he threw himself to the ground, just in time for the Dalek death ray to split the air just above his head. The too familiar sound of the Dalek's screeching voice calling the death order a second time was quickly followed by the sound of a loud explosion and when he looked up, all that was left of the creature was something that looked like a grotesque podium of melted metal surrounded by smoke. Behind him, Rose discarded the gun and the next moment, she was on him, checking him over franctically.
"Are you okay? Did it hit you?"
He was too taken by the sight of her, the smell of her and the feeling of her hands on him to answer at first. He simply stared at her, too dazed to think about picking himself back up.
"Doctor? I've heard that in polite circles, it's rude to stare."
Then she was laughing, all the worry gone from her beautiful face. She was there, so beautiful and so...Rose. Wrapping his arms around her, he pulled her on the ground with him in a crushing hug, his face in her hair as he whispered her name over and over again as if it were some sort of mantra. Even as he held her so close he could feel her heart beating against his own chest, he could barely believe that it was not all a dream. He rarely slept, but on the rare occasions where he did, he always dreamed of her. Dreamed he had found her, dreamed he was holding her in his arms or dreamed that he was making love to her like he had a lifetime ago. Every time, he had woken up crying out her name. The last few times, he had woken up to find Donna, looking at him from the doorway in silence. He had pretended not to see her and she had pretended to believe him. They had never talked about it, but he knew she watched over him, she always had since the day they had met. And now, she did still, beaming with joy for her best friend as she looked at Rose and the Doctor, lost in their embrace.
"You may have a respiratory bypass system, but I still need to breathe, Doctor," Rose laughed after a moment, still engulfed in the Doctor's arms. He released his hold on her just enough for her to pull back, but refused to let go of her. Her eyes were glistening with unshed tears as she looked down at him.
Then the moment was gone, with the sound of the doors being blown off their hinges by a cascade of death rays. Rose broke free from him, diving for her gun, then aimed at the first Dalek she saw. A second later, Jack was by her side as she aimed for the second Dalek.Without losing a second to give Jack's sudden appearance a thought, the Doctor sprung into action, jumping to his feet and running towards Donna. He pushed his baffled companion onto the floor and out of harm's way as his two former companions cleared out the hanger, leaving fuming piles of metal in their wake. Regrouping, they all made their way towards the closest door — the one Rose had come through, leaving the TARDIS behind as too many Daleks stood between it and them.
"Don't worry, Doc, we'll come back for her," Jack said, his back to the door as he closed it. Behind it, they could still hear the commotion of a dozen Daleks trying to shoot their way through the clutter. Then, he turned to Rose, shock and confusion written all over his face. "I thought you were stuck in another universe."
"I thought you were stuck in the very distant future."
And then, another bone crushing hug, this time between the two long lost companions. Jack's laughter echoed above the sound of the deathly threat behind the ridiculously feeble wooden door. Next to Donna, the Doctor shifted uncomfortably from foot to foot as the hug prolonged more than he would have liked, then cleared his throat. Donna smirked.
"Right, save the universe now, make up for lost time later," Rose said to Jack as she pulled back with a smile on her face, though the side glance she gave to the Doctor clearly indicated that her words were aimed at him more than anyone. They all nodded, then followed as she made her way through the maze of corridors.
Martha came to in uncomfortable circumstances. Her limbs were all tightly secured, but even without the ability to move, she realized rather quickly that the fall had not been kind on her body. Her breathing was rendered difficult by what she supposed was at least an airline rib fracture and the sharp pulsating pain in her right arm made it quite clear that something just wasn't quite right with her wrist.
She could remember falling, though she wasn't exactly sure what had caused her to trip down the series of stairs she was rushing down to meet with Rose. However, she knew that her fall had not been accidental.Even if her current predicament had not already clued her in to that very fact, she clearly remembered the feeling of being pushed from behind.
Her head was not immobilized, so she raised it and examined her surroundings, all the while ignoring the throbbing pain that threatened to split her skull in half. There was not much she could tell through the darkness, other than the fact that she was in some sort of control room. Then, her eyes locked on what hung right above her, aimed directly at her chest.
Taking a deep breath to calm her nerves, she pulled at her restraints to check just how much liberty of movement she really had. The nylon ropes were tight enough to keep her in place on the steel table, but loose enough to allow her to reach in her pockets, where she found her very own UNIT issued army knife.
"Pretty much everyone at UNIT is either dead or gone in hiding, or in the field. I know for a fact that they were still alive when I came in and it looks like the Daleks have no intention of going anywhere. I've been trying to access the main control rooms for about two hours, but they're guarding that area."
They were all making their way down the corridor as Rose talked, the Doctor and Jack gaping at her while Donna stared at both of them with a frown. She could not figure out exactly what would cause them to both look at the blonde as though they did not quite recognize her. The Rose Tyler she had met in the other universe had been quite like this, taking charge and knowledgeable. Then her own words echoed in her ears, something she had told the Doctor not too long ago in reference to Martha. Is that what you did to her, turned her into a soldier?
Jack secured the way as they reached a corner and they moved on, coming up to a set of doors. The Doctor reached out and brandished his sonic screwdriver, but before it could be of use, Rose typed a code sequence into the computer monitor that was placed by the door. Jack smiled fondly as the computer screen filled with a series of unsensical characters, then flashed and turned off, the doors opening with a soft woosh. "So, I take it you've got a Toshiko Sato at your Torchwood?"
"We've got a Mickey," she explained with a smile, and the Doctor grinned as he followed the two of them, Donna in tow. Rose resumed her explanation of the situation. "I know for a fact, however, that they need to have a living DNA sample to code whatever they're working on."
The Doctor frowned questioningly, wondering how exactly she could be so secure in that knowledge. As if she had anticipated his question, she threw him a glance over her shoulder. "Mickey gave me hacking lesson, that's how I was able to tap into their database earlier. Honestly, Doctor, two hours is a long time."
Before turning back, she gave him one of her teasing grins, her tongue poking out between her teeth and he felt his hearts leap in his chest. Then she continued, and his hearts jumped in his chest for an entirely different reason.
"I was able to track the name of the person they're holding. Martha Jones."
Jack, the Doctor and Donna stopped dead in their tracks and after a few steps, Rose followed suit and spun on her heels to look at them. "I take it you know her, then?"
There was a long silence that hung heavy on the small group, then without a word, the Doctor took out his sonic screwdriver and shifted through the settings until he found one that would be able to locate Martha's trace signature. After losing track of Rose more than once, thanks to her tendency to wander off, he had resigned to adding settings that would be able to trace his companions' energy signature and DNA sequence. He had never had to use them before now, but he mentally thanked his foresight as he felt the object he held pull his hand towards the right. Everyone else frowned, but they followed wordlessly, until they reached a large steel door. There was no handle, nor any control panel on either side.
"This might be a problem."
The Doctor refrained from commenting that Jack's comment was a massive understatement as he waved the sonic screwdriver in front of the door to no avail. Martha was definitely in the room behind that door, but there seemed to be no way to access it, at least not through any way they could make out from their side of the entrance.
"Maybe it's an exit, but not the way in? Would certainly explain why there's no security," Donna offered, approaching the door and pressing her palms down on the cold steel. Rose nodded, coming up next to the other woman and mimicking her movement as she voiced her thoughts.
"If it's a way out, there's a panel on the other side."
And then suddenly, she pulled back and smashed her first down hard against the wall on the left side of the door. Donna stepped back with a loud gasp, stumbling back into an equally shocked Jack. Rose's fist came down against the wall a second time, that impact leaving a deep imprint on the wall. As she pulled her arm back, preparing to hit the wall again, the Doctor caught a hold of her arm and held her back.
"What are you doing?" he cried out, almost angrily. Rose held his gaze, clearly not intimidated. She knew him far too well for that.
"Trying to access the panel, to save Martha and possibly everyone else at the same time. Gun's too big to use to smash the wall, can't shoot at it or it'll blow the panel and seal the door shut. Unless you have a better suggestion."
After a beat, he let go of her arm and silently backed away, letting Jack take his place. Both his and her fists slammed down hard against the wall, bits of plasters crashing to the ground at their feet, slowly creating a hole big enough to reveal the back of a high-tech access panel.
"Was she like that when you met her?" the Doctor asked as he turned to Donna, who had been observing the exchange in silence. In his eyes, she could read the question he truly wanted to ask her, the underlying fear and pain.
"Yeah. Well, you know, less with the gun toting and punching, more with the helping and caring." He nodded absently, his eyes already drifting back to look at the blonde, who was taking a step back and tilting her head as she observed her work. With a sad smile, Donna continued in a low voice. "She's not broken, Doctor."
"Okay, Doc, do your magic."
Jack dove to the side barely in time to duck an object that was thrown his way as the door opened after the sonic screw driver had been used on the panel, but the Doctor was too slow and a human form came crashing into him as it rushed out of the room, screaming. Both went down, Donna catching the sonic screwdriver as it escaped the Doctor's fingers from the force of the impact and went flying through the air.
"Doctor?" Martha Jones whispered before she faded into unconsciousness.