Five days after coming home from Pharos and the Slitheen, Luke figured out for sure that Sarah Jane was tiptoeing around him a little. She stopped buying peppers entirely after he mentioned that Jay and Heidi said he liked them and made no more than a half-hearted attempt to send him back to school for two days after beating the Xylok. Then one afternoon after school she saw him reading with the telly on again, very clearly started to scold him for it, and just as clearly cut herself off before she said a word.
“It’s okay, Mum,” Luke said, reaching for the remote. “You can tell me not to waste electricity.”
She half-smiled. “You noticed that, did you? I just can’t help thinking what happened–well, last time I said that.”
“An alien conspiracy doesn’t make you a bad mother,” he said, surprised. “All that happened because of me, not you.”
“I nearly let Mr. Smith destroy the earth because I was foolish enough to trust an alien crystal I knew nothing about, so–” She shook her head sharply. “No. Let’s neither of us blame ourselves. Introduce yourself to the universe and get the unwelcome attention along with all the wonder.” She frowned at the telly. “Speaking of which–”
Luke had already turned up the volume. New prime minister Harold Saxon beamed at them from the screen. “My purpose here today is to tell you this: citizens of Great Britain, I have been contacted. A message, for humanity, from beyond the stars.” He nodded to someone off-camera, and the screen cut to a shining metal sphere, its tinny, childlike voice speaking of great gifts and wisdom its race would bring to Earth.
“That fool,” Sarah Jane said, staring at the screen in distaste. “UNIT should have shut him down months ago. Have to, now, and it’ll be ten times harder.”
“They’re called the Toclafane,” Saxon told them, “and tomorrow morning they will appear–not in secret, but to all of you. Diplomatic relations with a new species will begin. Tomorrow, we take our place in the universe.”
“Maria said her parents both voted Saxon,” Luke said absently, distracted by a sudden and specific unease he couldn’t identify. “I asked why and she didn’t know.”
“No one does,” Sarah Jane said tartly. “All as foolish as he is. I need to ask Mr. Smith about these Toclafane.” She hurried upstairs. Luke followed her, drumming his fingers on one leg, trying to pin down the source of his disquiet. Saxon had something to do with it, but he had no idea what–
“You’re absolutely certain?” Sarah Jane was saying as Luke ducked into the attic. “Nothing?”
“The name ‘Toclafane’ is not present in my records,” Mr. Smith said, his calm, computerized voice rather less soothing after–well, after. They’d disabled the headset and Mr. Smith was thoroughly reprogrammed, but at times Luke still found himself wishing they didn’t have to rely so much on a sentient computer that had made a very good go at using Luke to destroy the world. The Slitheen pulling the telekinetic energy from his head had been nothing compared to the Xylok using him to haul down the moon. Last night he’d woken up from a dream of dark and abstract colors and the same feeling of claws in his mind so intense it hurt. He’d lain awake for a long time after that, sweaty and shaking, and no logical argument that it was just a nightmare could banish the fear that this would happen again.
“A species that does not appear in my records is unlikely to exist in the present,” Mr. Smith continued. “Visiting alien ships bring records from millions of lightyears away, so my database is roughly equal to any elsewhere in the universe. If these Toclafane are not the products of a human hoax, it is possible they have come out of time from the future.”
“I suppose that’s one bit of good news,” Sarah Jane muttered. “One group of time-traveling aliens rarely appears without another particular time-traveling alien showing up. Can you tell us anything about this Harold Saxon?”
“Searching.” Color swirled onscreen. Luke stepped up to join Sarah Jane, hanging back from Mr. Smith a bit. No harm in being cautious, and he did feel better if he wasn’t alone with the computer.
“Harold Saxon: married to Lucy Cole, no children, recently elected prime minister on platform of bringing needed change to a struggling country. Verifiable records date back 18 months; previous data of childhood, schooling, and family appear to have been forged. There is no certain record of Saxon’s existence prior to 18 months past.”
“So he might have come from the future and brought the Toclafane with him,” Luke said.
“It’s possible.” Sarah Jane sighed. “Pull up any broadcast you find on or by Saxon. Any information you have on him–legitimate information–I want to see it. Particularly whatever UNIT have on him. Torchwood files, too. I want to know everything I can about him. Though I suppose we won’t know much until the next broadcast.”
“He doesn’t have any connections to other names, does he?” Luke asked. “Mr. Saxon could be a constructed persona for another ordinary human.”
“There is no evidence of that being the case,” Mr. Smith told him.
Luke nodded but edged away to put a little more distance between himself and the computer.
“You may want to see this, Sarah Jane,” Mr. Smith said, a television image appearing on his screen. “They are known to be armed and extremely dangerous,” the newscaster was saying; next to her, three pictures showed a young black woman and two men. “The man in the center calls himself the Doctor–no other name is known–and he is believed to be the ringleader of these fugitives.”
Luke looked quickly at Sarah Jane. “Your Doctor?”
“With…Jack Harkness?” She frowned. “I don’t like this at all.” She bent over the giant computer, calling up more information, and eventually Luke went back downstairs to wait for the broadcast.
Some hours later, Luke sat down to stare at the telly, turning the volume nearly all the way up. Sarah Jane stood beside him, and they watched: onboard the Valiant, a UNIT airship, President Winters made a speech, and then the Toclafane went offscript.
“You’re not the Master,” one said in a tinny child’s voice. Two more chimed in: “We like the Mister Master. We don’t like you.”
“The Master?” Sarah Jane repeated.
“What?” Luke asked.
“The Doctor’s archenemy and polar opposite,” she said absently, attention on the screen, “in a nutshell–I’ve met him–but that isn’t possible, all the Time Lords died!”
But Saxon stood up and said, “I’m taking control, Uncle Sam, starting with you. Kill him.” A sphere swept toward the president and disintegrated him.
“If that’s the Doctor’s nemesis trying to take over the world, he might’ve just made a good start,” Luke said into a stunned silence.
“Now then, peoples of the Earth, please attend carefully,” Saxon began–
And then everything shifted.
Luke flung both hands out for balance, felt Sarah Jane grab his shoulder, but nothing was moving, though he could have sworn he felt the Earth shake. The telly exploded with static, an undefinable something washed through his head and was gone, and then the picture resolved again from a different angle to show the Doctor coming down the steps from the Valiant’s bridge, Martha Jones behind him. A sudden scuffle: Saxon bolted offscreen, Jack hauled him back, an unfamiliar black woman in a maid’s uniform pointed a gun at Saxon, now handcuffed; the Doctor talked it away from her, but then a dazed-looking woman in red (what could possibly have happened to Lucy Cole in the last several minutes?) scooped up the gun and fired. The picture finally cut to black and a BBC anchorman who clearly didn’t know whether to look puzzled or appropriately grave and concerned.
Luke shut the telly off, head spinning. “Did you feel that?”
“Something. I’m...not sure what.” Sarah Jane shook her head. “What just happened there?”
“Massive spatial-temporal shift,” Luke said. “That’s what it felt like.” He frowned in concentration, fingers tapping the armrest. “It wasn’t like the shift when the Trickster let you go–that was precise and localized. This was generalized, maybe even universal.” He looked up at Sarah Jane. “I think someone rewound time.”
“I don’t know whether the problem’s solved or it’s only just beginning,” Sarah Jane said, heading for the stairs again. Luke stayed on the couch, rolling the sensation of the temporal shift through his head, trying to work out its particulars, why it had left him so unsettled. A time-reversal with the Doctor at its center must have happened for good reason, so why had it felt so incomplete and…wrong?
When he finally gave up and attempted to put the question out of his mind, his disquiet lingered, and he couldn’t dismiss as paranoid the vague sense that something bad was coming for him.