Secrets Underground

by Shivver [Reviews - 1]

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  • All Ages
  • None
  • General

Stuffing the two slips of paper into her jacket pocket, Martha stepped to the side to allow the man behind her to approach the ticket window. In the press of the crowd, she held her elbows in as she sorted through the coins in the palm of her hand, trying to count up her change. “These are half-crowns,” she mumbled to herself, “so that’s eight, no, ten shillings. These are two shillings, and these are...” She flipped a coin over and stared at the reverse side. “Sixpence. So I have… Wait, these are halfpennies. Why? Did he just...? Ooh!” she grunted in frustration.

Looking up, she saw both the man in the booth and his customer smirking at her difficulties. She could read what they were thinking in their expressions: how could she, with her skin colour and her gender, expect to be able to understand money and maths? She’d encountered that attitude many times in the weeks she’d been here, and it infuriated her every time. Trying to deal with actually living in this time zone - holding down a job, finding a place to live, and guiding that big baby of a universe-travelling alien - had eroded her confidence. She hadn’t had the time to sit down and understand the real value of the money her shop job had brought in, and it didn’t help that this confusing, archaic system of florins and threepenny bits had been abandoned over a decade before she was born. Living as a maid in 1913 had, in that way, been easier than surviving in London in 1969: though she’d been worked to the bone and she’d ventured off the school grounds only a few times in two months, her meals and living quarters had been provided and she’d barely needed to touch the meager wages she’d earned.

Jamming the coins into her pocket, she flashed the men an angry sneer and stalked off, melting into the crowd. It didn’t take her long to find the Doctor, who, for once staying true to his word, had remained where he had promised to be. Near a frayed advert poster for Henrik’s, he stood flattened against the wall to keep himself out of the traffic into and out of the Underground station, the tip of his tongue pressed to the roof of his mouth as he craned his neck to watch the people passing by. She couldn’t help grinning as she realised that for once, the man’s odd appearance, with his sideburns and mod suit, might actually fit in. Of course, the spiky shock of hair wasn’t suited for the 60s, and trainers would never be considered to match in any decade.

“Okay, Doctor, I have them,” she called as she stepped up beside him. Fishing the tickets from her pocket, she handed one to him. “One fare to Holborn. Don’t lose that, now.”

“Splendid!” The Doctor peered closely at his ticket to read the information on it.

“Come on.” Beckoning with two fingers, she turned and stepped smoothly into the pedestrian flow. With a wide grin, the Doctor followed her and immediately collided with the man behind her. Without stopping, the man frowned at him and ignored his hurried apology, and the Doctor fell in behind him.

At the turnstile, a uniformed woman threw a cursory glance at the slip of paper in the Doctor’s hand, then looked forward to the person behind him. Puzzled, the Doctor wiggled the ticket again, and the inspector glared at him. “Go on,” she urged with a jerk of her head toward the gate.

“Doctor!” Martha hissed, waving him through.

The Doctor looked rather crestfallen as he stepped through to join his companion and follow her down the corridor. “That was it?” he squeaked as he craned his neck to peer back at the inspector.

“Yes,” Martha exhaled heavily, trying not to reveal too much exasperation with him. “What were you expecting?”

“Don’t I get a stamp?”

“What for?”

“To show that I entered.”

“Of course not. That would slow down the queue. Besides, you’re in now and the ticket already says where you started from.”

“Oh. I wanted a stamp.”

The grin on Martha’s face was exactly that of a mother trying not to laugh at something daft yet utterly adorable that her child had done. “Don’t go losing that thing in those pockets of yours, by the way,” she cautioned. “We really can’t afford replacements.”

“Yes, Mum,” he grumped, then shot her a cheeky grin. “Oh, a brilliant system, this is!” he enthused as he swept an arm to encompass the whole Tube network, nearly slapping a man hurrying by in the chest. “Simple and efficient, minimises the delays for the travellers whilst ensuring that they pay for their appropriate transportation.”

“Not that efficient,” Martha countered. “The modern automated system is more reliable and allows for a lot more throughput.”

“But this is the best system given the technology at hand. And besides, this system has character! It has history!” Martha couldn’t help but grin at his excitement. “There’s nothing like the London Underground, now is there?”

“I haven’t ridden on many others, so I wouldn’t know.”

“I would.” He nodded sagely, as if he’d sampled every metro system on Earth and, Martha suspected, he had. “Most metros, they lack a certain… atmosphere. Take New York City, for example. Their subway is just that, a way to get from point A to point B. Here, the Underground is as much a part of the flavour of London as the aboveground city.”

“Why don’t you tell me all about it on the train?” Martha suggested as they dodged the oncoming passengers from the latest stop. “It’s hard enough trying to keep up a conversation here.”

The two travellers reached the platform just as the train arrived. Martha grabbed the Doctor’s hand and pulled him onto the train, knowing that left to his own devices, he’d stop and goggle at the platform and miss boarding entirely.

Whilst not packed, the carriage was full enough, with only a seat here or there empty, and Martha chose to stand, moving toward the centre and clinging to the support pole in front of the seats of a pair of women in psychedelic skimmer dresses, sporting large plastic bangles and beaded chokers. Trying not to stare, she forced herself to watch the Doctor as he spun around to look at everything at once and hoped they wouldn’t be stuck in 1969 long enough that she had to start dressing like that.

As the train began to pick up speed, the Doctor ducked to peer out the window at the retreating platform then, when the carriage entered the full darkness of the tunnel, he jammed his hands in his pockets and loped over to stand with his companion. He beamed a greeting at the two women, then turned to Martha. “Trains. Always liked ‘em. Still’d like a chance to drive one.”

“I know,” she replied. “You told me.”

He frowned. “I did?”

“Yeah.” He’d mentioned that back in 1913, back when he wasn’t quite himself, but neither of them liked to bring that up, and Martha found herself scrambling to send the conversation in a different direction. “But I don’t think you’ll get a chance to drive one this time around. Next time you get us stuck somewhere, maybe.”

“I could probably arrange that,” he mused. His eyes lit up. “Oh, I’d love a good steam locomotive. Big ol’ iron horse, shovelling coal and billowing white smoke, and a great brass steam whistle. That’s a train to drive! Or, did you know there’s a replica of the Orient Express in space? We-ell,” he drawled, “there will be, in a few centuries. Runs on a hyperspace ribbon rail. I got some free tickets for it once but never went. That’s probably more my speed, running an arrhythmic tachyon drive. Maybe we’ll head there next, when I’ve got the TARDIS back.”

Martha smiled in sheepish apology at the two women, who were eyeing the madman with nervous frowns and clutching their handbags as they inched away from him. The Doctor rarely recognised his strange behaviour and outlandish claims, and since his voice carried without any effort on his part, this kind of thing happened at least twice a day. She grabbed the Doctor’s sleeve and tugged him toward a slightly more private standing spot. The overhead speaker crackled and a gruff male voice announced, “Approaching Warren Street.”

The Doctor glanced up at the speaker. “How much further now?”

“Three more stops after this,” Martha replied. “Then we transfer and two more stops until Holborn. And then you’ll be navigator. Where are we going again?”

“A little shop not too far from the station. Sells antiques.”

“You and your little shops,” she teased, nudging him with her shoulder as she clung to the pole to counter the train’s deceleration. “And why this particular shop? There’re any number of antique shops near the hostel.”

“Oh, there’s the platform,” the Doctor exclaimed, ducking again to watch out the windows as the platform came into view. “Crowded, this one is.” Martha knew better than to try to pull him back into their conversation. Unlike their embarcation point, this platform was packed with travellers, and when the doors opened, Martha pulled out the Doctor out of the way as the crowd pushed their way in, filling every seat and available standing space. “Oh, that’s brilliant,” murmured the Doctor as the doors slid closed.

“What is?”

He jerked his head toward the platform where those who weren’t able to board the filled carriage settled back to wait for the next train. “You all collectively decide when enough’s enough, rather than hold everyone up.”

“That’s just being British,” Martha countered. “Don’t rock the boat. Keep calm and carry on.”

“Ah yes,” grinned the Doctor. “Maybe that’s why I keep coming back here. Well, this particular one has something very specific I need.”

“Sorry?”

“The little shop.”

“Oh!” She’d already forgotten what they’d been discussing. “For your time thingy… device... whatever it is.”

“A very crude detector of excess artron energy, it is,” the Doctor sniffed. “Best I can do under the circumstances. There’s a puff of artron energy when an angel sends someone back through time, and I need to look for Billy Shipton’s puff. Thing is, I don’t have the parts.”

“And this little shop carries…” Martha tried to remember the terms he used. “...Artron detector parts?”

“Oh, yes. Well, close enough. One thing I can adapt, anyway. I called around a bit and nothing nearby. This was the closest I could find.”

“You called around? How’d you do that? The hostel won’t let us use their phone.”

“There’s a box on the corner. Red one with glass panels.”

Martha frowned. Public phones weren’t the cheapest method of communication. “Is that what you did with that two quid you asked for last weekend?”

“Oh, no.” He patted the breast of his jacket. “I used the sonic for that. The two quid got me some tools and wire, and some jelly babies.”

“Jelly babies?” Martha sighed. Of course he’d spend her shop wages on sweets. “Doctor, we can’t afford things like that!”

“We can always afford jelly babies.” He stuffed a hand in his pocket and pulled out a white paper bag. He offered a sweet to her, and when she refused, he popped one in his mouth and put the rest away.

Martha took a couple of deep breaths to let her frustration subside. It wouldn’t help to yell - she’d tried many times to educate him on the basic necessities of life as a human with no success - and at least he’d only bought a small bag of the sweets. A couple of bob, as she’d learned to call it, wouldn’t make a difference either way. “All right, then. So what’s this thing that’s so special that you had to call around for it?”

“A silver snuff box.” The Doctor grinned, please with his own cleverness.

“A snuff box.”

“Yes.”

“A snuff box can detect this artron energy.”

“Well,” he drawled, “not just any snuff box. And not by itself. This particular one, it’s a heptagon, the perfect shape and size to focus the waves, and the sterling silver won’t distort the signal.” At Martha’s sceptical stare, he shrugged. “I could make it myself but you won’t let me buy the equipment.”

“No, I won’t,” she agreed. “A few jelly babies, maybe, but not big tools and machinery. Not on my wages.”

“Then we do the next best thing. A snuff box.”

“Fine,” she grinned. “A snuff box.”

“Then I’ll need to build the receiver and the encoder, but I’ve got good leads on parts for those right near home. See? This time zone isn’t as backwards as you think, Martha Jones.”

“Shush, Doctor. Stop that.” She could feel the curious, slightly offended stares coming from all sides.

“Honestly, you can find anything you need in any era, if you know where to look.”

The speaker crackled again. “Approaching Goodge Street Station.” Perking up, the Doctor whirled, his coat flaring out to sweep the knees of the seated passengers nearby, and ducked to stare out of the windows at the blackness outside.

“Did he say Goodge Street?”

“That’s where we are, yes.”

“Yes!” he exclaimed, punching the air and startling everyone nearby. “Come on!” Without waiting for a reply, the Doctor began pushing his way through the crowd to the doors of the train.

“Doctor!” As she called after him, Martha lashed a hand out and managed to catch his sleeve. “Come back! That’s not our stop!” Her tug pulled his coat half off his shoulder.

The Doctor paused to jerk his sleeve out of her grasp and straighten his coat. “I know, but I’ve got something to show you. You’ll love it!” Flashing a manic grin, he slipped between the two women in front of him. His tousled head bobbed above them for a moment then vanished.

“Oonh!” Martha groaned as she clenched her fists at her hips and dove after him. Keeping him on track was like trying to rein in a frisky greyhound pup with a candyfloss leash. Catching up to him at the doors, she found him bouncing on his toes as he waited for their arrival at the station. Martha grabbed onto the railing just in time to catch herself from tumbling as the train slowed, but the Doctor continued to fidget with excitement, adjusting his stance smoothly to accommodate the change in momentum. As soon as the doors slid open, he burst out onto the platform, colliding with a young woman in a solid yellow dress suit waiting to board the train.

“Sorry, sorry!” With a mollifying grin, he steadied her with both hands on her shoulders and nodded a quick bow, then slipped off to the side to get out of the path of the boarding and alighting passengers. As Martha joined him, he stared around, over the heads of the others on the platform, his eyes wide and enchanted.

“Martha Jones, welcome to Goodge Street Station!” the Doctor announced with a flourish, as if he were ushering her into the throne room at Buckingham Palace.

As the crowd thinned, Martha got a better look around. The platform looked just as she’d always remembered it, though lacking the oughts-contemporary adverts and electronic scheduling boards. The white-tiled concave walls, tinged gray with the dirt of constant train traffic and thousands of daily travellers, were broken with brightly-coloured posters announcing upcoming films and plays and the best shops in the area. Near the corridor that went up and out to the street, a sign proclaimed the station name in large, clear letters, and just a bit up the hallway, the ubiquitous map of the entire Underground covered the wall from floor to ceiling. Puzzled, Martha spun to scan the entire station to look for anything that might be out of the ordinary here and, finding nothing, inspected the ceiling above her head and the tile beneath her feet. Shrugging, she turned to the Doctor. “It’s a Tube station. I’ve been here before. In twenty-five years.”

“Oh, now, Martha. It’s more than just a Tube station. This is where it all happened!” he announced as he twirled in place, scanning the platform and staring off into the tunnels like he was trying to get his bearings. “Well, most of it. Well, all of the science and the figuring things out. The final showdown was at Piccadilly.”

Martha rolled her eyes, quite aware that the Doctor was off again in his own little world. “Where what happened, Doctor?”

“The shutdown of the Underground!” At Martha’s blank stare, he ventured more clues. “The entire system, shut down? By the British Army? Come on, you must know. Earlier this year, 1969.”

She thought for a moment, then shook her head. “Nope. Doesn’t ring a bell. This is a decade before I was born, you know.”

“Don’t they teach such things in history class?”

“I’ve never taken ‘History of the London Underground’, if such a class exists.”

“I’m sure it does somewhere,” the Doctor replied as he tugged at an ear, “but this was much more important than just transportation history. Lasted nearly two weeks, shut down the whole city, it did.”

“Really?” Martha had never heard anything like that happening in London. “Why was it shut down?”

“Well, first,” he began, “there was a deadly fog that started in South Kensington. No one came out of that alive. Then a giant fungus started taking over the Tube, encroaching on the stations, so they shut the whole thing down. Then the yetis appeared and -”

“Yetis appeared?” squeaked Martha. “In the Underground? How do yetis get into the city at all?”

“It’s not hard when an alien puts them there.”

Martha rolled her eyes. “Of course it’s aliens. It’s always aliens.”

“Alien,” the Doctor corrected her. “Singular. There was only just the one.”

Martha added the obvious. “And of course, you were there, too.”

“Yup-ah! Though I suppose that would make two aliens.” Pursing his lips, he nodded his agreement. “You were right. Aliens.”

“There’s your answer right there, then, why I’ve never heard of it.” Martha twirled a finger to indicate the entire system. “This would have all been covered up. Though how you manage to cover up killer fog and the shutdown of the Tube and the city, I’ve no idea. Never heard a word of it.”

“Ah yes,” he agreed. “I bet if you look hard enough, you’ll find something about a hazardous mechanical failure, a gas leak or something causing sickness and a system-wide shutdown, but not much more. Yes.” He nodded sagely, like a professor considering some new truth of the universe. “I’m sure this is how the Brig got so good at it.”

“The who?”

“Never mind that.” He grinned, his eyes wide and sparkling like a child’s on Christmas morning. “Want to see an alien invasion?”

Martha couldn’t help smiling back; his excitement was infectious. “I suppose I would.”

“Come on, then.” Grabbing Martha’s hand, he led her to the platform exit, but rather than heading for the escalator to the upper part of the station, he turned down a side access corridor. “I believe it’s just down here. Been a while, but I’m sure this is right.” They stopped in front of a heavy sliding door with a thick padlock on it. Plastered over its painted metal surface were signs that proclaimed, “No access”, “Condemned”, “Danger of death”, “Structural damage”.

“In here, then.” Fishing the sonic screwdriver out of his breast pocket, the Doctor began working on the padlock.

Martha touched a sign with a finger, underlining the bold words. “Danger of death?” she inquired as she glanced back behind them to see if anyone had followed them.

“Nah.” The Doctor waved away her concern as he unhooked the lock. “These are just to keep people out, I’m sure. Ready?” Without waiting for her acknowledgement, he pulled the door open and, stepping through, flipped on the lights.

Martha recoiled from the stale air that puffed from the narrow corridor beyond the door, but any discomfort was forgotten as the Doctor strode away and disappeared through the first dark doorway in the left wall. Trotting after him, she walked into what looked like a converted storage room just as he found the light switch. Tall shelving stood in rows on her left, and a table with bits of machinery and what might have been a radio dominated the centre. What caught her eye, however, was a partially disassembled display of the nearby Underground paths and stations standing against the far wall. The missing panels and wires poking out showed that it once was lit from behind. Boxes and crates lay scattered around the room in various states of packing and sealing, obviously abandoned in a hurry.

“Aha!” exclaimed the Doctor. “Got it on the first try. Still remember this after six hundred years.” He stepped back to let her investigate. “What do you think?”

Martha peered at the equipment. Other than the disarray from dismantling the equipment, nothing was damaged. “This wasn’t where the aliens invaded. This is a control room of some kind, or maybe a headquarters.”

“Brilliant as usual, Martha Jones!” he proclaimed, then bounded forward, too eager to look around himself. “Yes! The British Army set this place up to monitor the situation in the tunnels. The fungus did get here eventually, as well as a couple of yetis, but not for long.” He spun around the room, snatching up various components, inspecting them, and dropping them just as quickly. “There was no UNIT back then, though this is probably what got it all started. The colonel in charge here was killed fighting the yetis, and the colonel that took over, a chap by the name of Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart, he established UNIT after he discovered that the force behind it all was extraterrestrial.”

Martha stepped up to the Underground display and ran a hand over the controls. “So they used this to map where the yetis were?”

“Even better,” he grinned, pointing at the map of the tunnels. “This system detected the fungus in the tunnels and displayed where it got to. It was the only way to know which way was safe to go.”

Whilst it was crude by Martha’s twenty-first century standards, she was sure it was well ahead of its time in 1968, and she said as much.

“It was. Ingenious and invaluable. But if you really want some surprises, follow me.” The Doctor swept back out, Martha close on his heels. He poked his nose into the next room, a narrow chamber with a table and some chairs, and a few boxes packed with sundries. A dartboard hung on the wall by the door. “Common room. Rule number one is always set aside a place to have your tea.” Martha barely got a glimpse in before he strode off, but she stopped to peer into a box and, taking an object from it, dashed out to follow him.

The final room in the complex contained worktables cluttered with tools, instruments, and components. Half-laden boxes sat open on the few stools around the work surfaces whilst a few empties were stacked in a corner, waiting to be packed. The Doctor stood in the center of the room, turning this way and that, as if he couldn’t quite decide what he wanted to look at first.

“And what’s this place, Doctor?” Martha prodded, as he seemed quite lost in his nostalgia.

“The lab. This is where I spent most of my time. Though,” and he scratched at his chin, “it’s not quite as I remember. Everything’s so small,” he proclaimed as he knelt a bit to peer around from Martha’s level. “I suppose I was quite a bit shorter back then.”

“Shorter?” echoed Martha, perplexed. “How’s that, then? Were you a teenager?”

“Oh, never mind that.” One hand shooed off the notion as he sprung up and snatched a piece of circuitry to inspect. “This is where it all happened. The Intelligence planted it -”

“The ‘Intelligence’?’ she queried as she started sorting through the mess on the table in front of her.

“Oh, yes.” He dropped the metal device and, with an eager grin, began rooting through a nearby box. “That’s what it’s called, the Great Intelligence.”

Setting her fists on her hips, she fixed the Doctor with a sarcastic smirk. “And I thought ‘Time Lord’ was pompous.”

The Doctor glanced up, his eyes dancing with amusement. “They both are. But yes, the Great Intelligence. Ancient consciousness. It planted it all here, the fungus and the yetis, and then drew the TARDIS down right in the middle of it.”

Martha leant against the table and crossed her arms with a disbelieving scowl. “So it was after you.”

Glancing anywhere other than at her, the Doctor rubbed the back of his neck. “Well, yes, it was.”

“Why am I not surprised?’ she breathed, shaking her head. “Drawing you to Earth, then, was just a strange coincidence? I mean, of all the planets in the universe -”

“Well, I suppose it might have happened anywhere, but the Intelligence was called here, actually. I met it before, in Tibet, where it was trying to gain itself a corporeal body. We stopped that, but one of the men there, Professor Travers, he kept some of its devices and managed to activate one in his lab. It homed in on the signal and came back to Earth. Don’t know why it decided to set up shop in the Tube, though.” Scrubbing at his chin with one hand, the Doctor gazed around the room, trying to suss it out.

Martha struggled to make it all make sense. “So… it brought yetis with it from space? Or are yetis really real and it brought them here from Tibet?”

“Neither,” he replied as he sorted through a jumble of metal objects. “It made them.”

Silly Martha, trying to make anything the Doctor said make sense. It never did. “It grew yetis in the Tube?”

The Doctor paused to figure out where his explanation had gone wrong. “Oh! No, no, no. Not real yetis. They were robots.”

Setting her hands on her hips, Martha glared at him with a disbelieving smirk. “Robot yetis.”

“Oh yes. It controlled them with a control sphere set in a cavity in their chests.” He tapped his solar plexus in demonstration.

“So let me get this straight.” She ticked off on her fingers as she spoke, but ran out of digits halfway through. “You assisted the British Army in investigating the spread of a deadly mist and fungus through the London Underground that was caused by a disembodied spacefaring alien and its army of robot yetis.”

“That’s it in a nutshell, yes.”

Martha crossed her arms and smirked at the Doctor. “Has anyone ever told you that your life sounds like a cheap sixties sci-fi film?”

The Doctor’s face fell, and he rubbed at the back of his neck. “Well, if you have to phrase it like that. Really, though, it was quite thrilling. Touch and go at points.”

“Doctor.” Martha grinned at him. “I’m teasing you.”

The Doctor grinned back, his boyish smile all teeth.

“More like the seventies, I’d say," Martha declared. "But definitely low-budget.”

“Oi!”

Martha pulled the object she’d found in the previous room out of her pocket and inspected it. Now that she’d heard more of what had happened here, she could identify it, a figurine of a yeti. “So this is what they looked like?”

“Bit bigger than that,” he commented, holding his hand up to give her an idea of the yetis’ height, “but yes. That’s a yeti homing device. The Intelligence got control of one of the soldiers, you see, and he’d drop one of those in people’s pockets. Then the yetis’d track the thing down and kill the person who had it.”

Martha froze, the yeti figurine right in front of her face. Her eyes twitched to the Doctor. “You don’t think there are any yetis left do you?”

“Perhaps. You never know down here, now do you?” He smiled at her mock nervousness. “Nah. Even if there were, the Intelligence’s gone. Nothing controlling them. They’re only active if something’s telling them what to do. Nothing to worry about.” He returned to inspecting the hastily-packed boxes.

“When you say that, that’s usually when we should start worrying.” She put the figurine down and wandered over to one of the boxes to inspect its contents. “So, how’d it all end? We’re still here and the Tube’s running, so you must’ve won.”

“Yup. Jamie destroyed all the devices linking the Intelligence to Earth and that was the end of what it could do.” He clicked his fingers. “The yetis, the fog, the fungus, all of it, dead on the spot.”

“Jamie?”

“Yup. Told you before, I travel with friends. Quite a few of them now.”

“Sounds like she saved the city. Good for her.”

“Good for him. And he shouldn’t have, because I had it all under control -”

“Of course you did,” she teased.

The Doctor looked quite put out. “I did! Had it all rigged and everything! But it turned out all right in the end, I suppose. Haven’t heard a peep from the Intelligence since. Hopefully never will again.” The Doctor’s eyes lit up. Reaching into the crate in front of him, he pulled out a long strip of dull grey metal and brandished it like it was Excalibur itself. “And look what we have here!”

“What’s that?”

“Silver-chromium alloy. High quality, too. Used this stuff to jury-rig one of the yeti control spheres. Nice long bit I can polish up and bend into a heptagon, and the alloy’s even better than sterling silver. That bit of copper in it gets in the way. And…” he drawled, pointing over at the main lab bench, “all the tools I need to cut it to size and bend it into shape. No need for that frankly too expensive snuff box now, Martha Jones. Plus, there’s other bits I can scavenge for the detector. Not all of it, mind you, but this’ll save a few of your hard-earned wages.”

Martha popped on her tiptoes to peer over the lab bench at the metal, then settled back with a sigh. “That’s why you brought us here? To find that? You should’ve said. It would’ve saved us ten pee apiece on the tickets.”

“Oh, no,” he growled with a proud grin. “Serendipity, this is. Completely forgot this lab was here. Might look like forty years’ gone to you, but to me, centuries, it’s been.”

Cradling the precious material in his hands, the Doctor stepped back and took a long, slow survey of the lab as the tip of his tongue traced his upper lip. “It’s dangerous, you know, travelling with me. We-ell,” he drawled, “you know that better than most. You’ve seen it all: Daleks, mad scientists, witches, sentient stars, and I’ve gone and gotten you stranded on the moon and in 1913 and 1969. And look at you, you’ve actually had to take a job to support me! Twice now! Worst fate that can befall one of my companions.” His cheeky grin conveyed his appreciation of her efforts, then softened as he continued.

“This place, a lot of good people died here, defending London Town and battling a menace they never saw. But we did good work, Jamie and Victoria and I. Got back with Professor Travers, met his daughter - a brilliant scientist; you’d like her, Martha. And I gained a staunch ally in the Brig, though I didn’t know it at the time. These adventures, they’ve their share of good and bad. Once in a while - once in a very long while - I like to remember them.” He didn’t smile, but his eyes sparkled as he gazed at her. “And memories are better shared.”

Martha stepped up and laid a hand on his arm. “Thank you, Doctor. I’m honoured that you brought me here.”

The Doctor shook a finger at her. “I hope you still feel that way after we’ve picked through every bin and dusty corner in this place.”

“I might, if you tell me more about what went on here. And about Jamie and, what did you say her name was? Victoria? I’d like to hear more about them. But let’s get this organised first.” Martha turned and grabbed an empty box, which she placed on the floor at the Doctor’s feet. “There. Throw whatever you don’t want in there. This end of the table’s for what you do want.”

“All right.” The Doctor laid the silver-chromium strip on the table, then sighed. “Bonnie James McCrimmon, piper of Clan McLaren,” he pronounced in a thick Highland accent. “Met him at Culloden, I did.”

Martha collected an armload of devices from a shelf and brought them to the table for the Doctor’s inspection. “The battle? In Scotland?”

“There’s another?”

She shrugged. “I suppose not.”

“Then that’s the one.” He began sweeping piles of junk into the box. “It’ll take a while to tell you about Jamie. He travelled with me for a long time, longer than most.” The Doctor glanced around the remnants of the army laboratory, a fond, nostalgic smile playing at his lips. “But I think we have the time.”