The Doctor straightens her coat around herself and lets out a tiny “Oooof,” as they hit a muddy embankment.
Jack loses his footing completely and slams into the ground with a grunt of his own.
The Doctor offers him a hand up while looking around. “I didn’t think that was going to work!”
“Thanks for keeping that to yourself,” Jack groans.
“Worked better than expected too,” she says brightly, looking at her watch. “We’re exactly where we wanted to be. Stangmoor Prison, 1973.”
“And this is where we wanted to be, why?”
“Because, I happen to know where there is a TARDIS that, with a few minor repairs, will be perfect for our purposes.”
“It doesn’t work.”
He just looks at her.
“The Time Lords trapped me on Earth. They took away my knowledge of time travel and stuck me here to learn my lesson.” She sets off.
“And which lesson was that?” He follows.
She shrugs moodily. “To do as I was told.”
He can’t quite restrain a grin, but since her back is to him, Jack doesn’t worry about it too much, and keeps following her across the dank field. That lesson clearly never took. “And this TARDIS will still be here?”
“Yes. If my timeline is disintegrating due to a divergence, it will disintegrate from the end first. This version of me is pretty near to the beginning.”
Jack nods. They’re making good time across the field, almost at the squat, dismal looking gatehouse. “Stangmoor Prison. That sounds familiar.” He snaps his fingers. “Wait. Torchwood was desperate to get in here in the early 70s. Or was it 80s? There was a special prisoner here. Prisoner M. Was that you?”
She flicks a quick look back over her shoulder, insulted. “Of course not.” His gaze burns between her shoulder blades. “The Master.” She admits.
Before he can say anything else, the Doctor is fishing out her psychic paper and waving it at the guard. “Hello. When’s the next UNIT convoy?”
He squints at whatever he can see on the page and offers a crisp salute. “Bout an hour, Ma’am.”
She nods. “We’ll wait in the canteen. We need a ride back to base.”
He blinks, but doesn’t contradict her. He salutes again as he lets them through.
“Who does he think you are?” Jack whispers as they head across the tarmac. The Doctor seems to know where they’re going.
“Errr. She glances down at the paper. “Minister for Defence’s cousin. Cousin? Sometimes being female is such a pain!”
She wrenches on a heavy door that could use a new coat of paint. Jack leans forward to help her and she gives him a look that might strip a few more flecks from it. He raises his hands and she eventually heaves it open.
“So where are we going?”
“Canteen, Jack. Weren’t you listening? I need a cuppa and a chip butty.”
It’s fairly rundown on the inside. Clean, but looks like it hasn’t been decorated since World War One. Jack settles at a table with a few stains and cracks and in a moment the Doctor is back with two cups and a plate with a sagging slice of chocolate cake.
They don’t have to wait that long before a tall man, dark with a few hints of ginger under the sharp fluorescent lights, comes in. He’s wearing a UNIT beret and in full uniform.
The Doctor leaps to her feet. “Mike!” She beams.
The man stares at her. “Do we know each other?”
“I-” she stops, considers. “I’ve heard about you,” she finishes lamely.
He grins uncertainly back. “All good, I hope.”
“All good,” she assures him. “Now, we were hoping for a ride back to base, we have business with the Brigadier, but our...transport broke down.”
“We only have the troop carrier. I can have a car sent?”
“Troop transport is fine, Captain.”
He shrugs. “If you’re finished then, ma’am?”
“Call me-” she hesitates another beat. “Jane.”
Jack smooths the awkward moment by offering his hand. “And I’m Jack. I’m Jane’s Aide.” He smiles.
“Don’t start, Jack,” the Doctor sighs.
Mike drops his hand. “We’re parked just outside.”
The ride back to UNIT HQ is bumpy and uncomfortable. The Doctor squirms with an adorable excitement that intrigues Jack. He’s always thought that she disapproved of UNIT on principle.
They are shown into an office containing a desk, an old fashioned red telephone and an irritated looking man.
“Thank you, Captain,” the Brigadier says and Mike makes a quick escape. “To what do I owe a visit from the Home Office?” the Brigadier asks with a veneer of civility that the Doctor knows masks deep seated irritation at what he perceives as meddling.
She spreads her arms and spins. “Don’t you recognise me? It’s me! The Doctor!”
The Brigadier closes his eyes, then pinches the bridge of his nose, then tugs at his moustache as his eyes rove over her from ridiculous stripy t-shirt, to trousers that are several inches too short. His gaze lingers on the neon braces. Well. She certainly dresses like the Doctor.
He counts breaths. In. Out. He tries never to give the Doctor the satisfaction of an expression. In. Out. He sits down at his desk and starts moving papers from one pile to another. “I’m really terribly busy, Doctor.”
She scowls. “No, you’re not. I arrived during a week nothing much is happening. I’m in my lab right now doing experiments on nothing important.”
On cue, there is the muted but distinctive sound of an explosion.
“Your experiments on nothing much important have been making a mess of my base.”
“Well. I’ll clear up afterwards.”
He raises an eyebrow.
“No one else comes in the lab anyway.”
His eyes move from the Doctor to Jack, stood at ease behind the Doctor, ruined eyes still hidden by sunglasses. Something in Jack’s bearing screams military, and the Brigadier doesn’t ask about the glasses which seem so out of place.
“It’s usually your female companions who get replaced with a younger model. Doctor.”
Her lips twitch. “No one could ever replace you, Alastair. This is Jack Harkness. He’s from Torchwood.”
The Brigadier pauses in the act of offering Jack a hand. “You brought Torchwood onto my base!” he says, shocked. “We have weekly meetings about not letting Torchwood on my base.”
“Jack’s an old friend,” the Doctor says firmly.
And, though the Brigadier eyes him suspiciously, he accepts that enough to finish offering Jack the handshake, even as he demands, “Tell me why you’re here, Doctor?”
“I don’t answer to you,” she snips.
He ignores her. “Do you need to speak to your counterpart?”
“No. My timeline is in enough danger without running into myself.”
The Brigadier nods as though that makes any kind of sense. “What is it that you want?” he asks with a sigh.
She sucks on her bottom lip for a second. “Can you get me out of the way for five minutes? I need to borrow my TARDIS.”
“Because your TARDIS is..?”
“Not here. I’m just going to borrow my younger self’s one. I’ll bring it right back.”
“How am I supposed to get you in?”
She smiles. “You’ll think of something. I remember you being resourceful.”
“I like a resourceful man,” Jack grins.
The Brigadier colours slightly.
The Doctor gives a grin of her own. “Well done, Jack! I can never embarrass him anymore.”
The Brigadier scowls. “I’m used to your brand of idiocy by now. Torchwood is a shock!”
“Well-” Jack begins and the Doctor cuts him off by pulling on his coat.
“We don’t have time. Five minutes, Alastair!”
The Brigadier gives a tiny nod and his eyes meet the Doctor’s for a second. She looks back. She’s missed him. “Thank you.”
Seconds later, there are yellow lights and sirens. “Fire drill,” the Doctor says cheerfully. “Classic distraction.”
The TARDIS hums with pleasure when she enters and flickers between some different desktop settings. “None of that,” she says, patting the wall and smiling at the round things. “I won’t appreciate my older self redecorating. Now, let’s get you working again.” She fiddles under the console for a second. “This is such an easy fix, it’s actually humiliating that the Time Lords removed the information I needed and kept me here for years.”
The column moves up and down lazily. “Where to go,” she plugs her sonic into a convenient port and taps at the library computer. “There!”
“What are you looking for?”
“Ruth. I scanned her when I met her to see if we did have the same biosignature. We’re similar enough for the sonic to tell we were the same person but, provided I have the biological code, I can search for any one of my regenerations. Handy for making sure I don’t end up at a beach resort over the same holiday weekend. There she is.”
The column began moving in earnest.
“Where is she?” Jack’s voice is admirably steady.
The Doctor pulls a lever and adjusts a couple of settings. “Where did I keep the...oh yes,” she twirls a handle. “Fifty second century,” she answers after a moment. “Intergalactic stock market.”
There’s a silence as they land. The Doctor sets the viewing screen to get a quick look at the outside before committing to a course of action.
“I...she. The version of me before her...He made a deal with a creature that feeds on chaos. The version of me that is her, is seeking to cause chaos across the galaxy, across time, by undoing what I have done and by pushing things over the tipping point.” Her expression darkens, “All my lives, I have tried to pull worlds back from the edge, and she is doing the opposite. She is corrupting everything I have ever tried to be.”
She stares unseeingly at the crowd on the selling floor.
“Sentiment before sense,” she mutters bitterly, “just like he said.”
“Why would she do that? Be that?” Jack asks. “How could she be so different from you?”
The Doctor’s mouth pulls in a grimace. “Part of the bargain he made; made for the right reasons, but with terrible consequences.”
Jack doesn’t ask further. The Doctor looks back at the viewing screen and is just about to suggest they go and poke around when someone catches her eye. She peers closer.
“You said she wanted information from you.”
“I said I gave her information, Doctor,” Jack confesses, looking away from her, even though he can’t see. “I told her everything.”
“But you weren’t there when- Martha. You told her about Martha.”
Jack nods silently. His voice drops. “Yeah. Martha. Ianto.” His voice drops further. “Rose.”
“OK.” The Doctor straightens, energy flowing through her like a tide. “Time to go. She’s here.”
Jack hesitates only for an instant, then his stride is sure as he crosses to the Doctor, still next to the console. She notices anyway. “You can stay here if you need to. I don’t- I’d never think less of you, Jack.”
He shakes his head. “I’d think less of me.” He pulls himself up to his full height. “I won’t leave you. I’ll stand with you on the edge of the universe and watch the last star burn out.”
“We’ve already survived that.”
“My point exactly.”
She huffs a laugh. “Come on then. Stay close.”
Jack nods. “No arguments here.”
She hesitates a moment more, playing with a few buttons. “Return engaged, and a subroutine to set the dematerialisation circuits to return to their misalignment and…”
The central column moves again. The walls fade, and suddenly Jack’s glasses are registering a boxy hallway. The TARDIS is gone.
“Now we find her and her TARDIS.”