Author's Notes:
Summary: The search is on

By the time Jack follows her through the door, the TARDIS is in directed flight, not simply drifting through the vortex. He leans a hip against the console and sweeps his eyes over it. The whole console room is totally different to any other way he has seen it laid out. He files the look of the room into what he knows about the Doctor, he has been around the Time Lord for long enough that he knows the console room is a reflection of a sort.

She leans over the console, pulling a lever on the far side and twists a knob with the other hand. “Gotcha,” she says, and smirks up at Jack.

He smirks back and feels a bolt of something he’d thought long since cut out of him, but then, he’d loved the Doctor for longer than some dynasties have clung to power. It’s not surprising she could remind him of that.

Before he has a chance to say anything (he hasn’t even tried to make this Doctor blush yet, and an almost forgotten flutter inside him reminds him that was a favourite game once), the others come in.

“We heard the engines,” Yaz says. “We off somewhere?”

“Deira Minar,” the Doctor says, spinning a huge brass dial, seemingly randomly.

“Bless you,” Graham responds drily.

She half smiles in his direction. “Sounds weird, I know. But-” she breaks off, pulls a screen in front of her and uses her finger to flick it through another couple of screens, “Earth standard calendar 2147, huge agricultural plague. Perfect place for someone trying to cause chaos.”

“What’s the plan?” Ryan asks, bouncing on the balls of his feet.

“We need to find the other Doctor,” Jack starts and the Doctor gives him a reproving look.

“Sorry,” he mutters, completely unrepentant.

“We do need to find the other me,” she starts, “but I don’t want anyone making contact with her. I’ve spoken to her and she should be having some doubts, hopefully that’s been enough to break through the Trickster’s mental control, but I just don’t know. I don’t want anyone else getting hurt.”

“The Trickster feeds on chaos, right?” Yaz asks.

“Yeah. So?”

“So, stop her causing chaos and she’ll come and find you.”

“Nice plan,” Jack beams at her. “You must be the brains of the outfit.”

“Oy,” argues Graham.

Jack affects not to notice the glare the Doctor aims at him when Yaz flushes lightly and instead continues. “Lets us choose the ground of engagement which means much less chance of an ambush.”

“Torchwood thinking,” the Doctor argues half heartedly.

“Saves us walking into a trap though,” Ryan points out.

The Doctor sighs. “We don’t walk into traps that often. Alright, fine. Ten points to Yaz for being brilliant.”

“Agricultural plague,” Graham brings them back on topic. “Sounds like chaos is already here.”

“And it can only get worse,” the Doctor agrees. “In a hundred years or so, this place is a huge hub of scientific and medical research. In a little under a hundred, a human scientist called Pranav Jain will be the key notes speaker at a symposium here. That conference will pave the way for a true melding of cultures and a welcoming of aliens into the First Great and Bountiful Human Empire. But right now...desperate, frightened people do stupid, cruel things. The world outside is starving, a tiny nudge could change everything.”

They swap looks, the tone of the Doctor’s voice impressing the gravity of the situation on them.

“How long has she been here?” Jack asks.

The Doctor shrugs. “Not more than a week. Week and a half at the absolute most.”

“We’ve got our work cut out for us,” Graham observes.

The Doctor’s face is pale, her mouth a grim determined line. “Come on, fam. There’s work to be done.”

“What are the three rules?” the Doctor cautions them as they all file out of the TARDIS some minutes later.

Behind her back, Yaz and Ryan swap an aggrieved look, but dutifully chorus, “Don’t wander off, don’t engage with other you or any of the other Time Lords that might be here, and don’t accept any free tickets to stand up comedy.”

“That’s the most important one. Beautiful minds, the people of Deira Minar, but no sense of humour.”

“So where are we?”

The Doctor licks a finger and holds it up. “Southern continent. Usually this place is the agricultural centre of the planet: fruit groves, grains, incredible wildflowers...”

“We’re going to help them, Doctor.”

“Yeah.” She firms her expression. “We absolutely are.”

They keep walking across what at first glance appears to be a wasteland, but as Jack looks closely, he realises that the scrubby naked plants aren’t simply the tufts of barely there grasses common to areas of planets deprived of water. Instead, these are an unnatural blackened colour, as though they have been burned, bending to look closer, he realises that there are large pustules growing on the stems and leaves, like blisters or warts.

“Don’t touch them,” the Doctor cautions.

Jack nods once and straightens, and, without need for discussion the group speeds up slightly, heading for the sad looking collection of buildings at the peak of a hill about a mile away.

About three quarters of the way up the hill the Doctor stops and looks around as though getting her bearings. From up here, the devastation wrought across the countryside is clear. As far as they can see, they are surrounded by neatly bisected fields and Yaz knows that each should be filled with a slightly different colour, creating a chequered board of growth. Now though, each of those sections is identical, filled with wilted and blackened plants.

“What happened?” Ryan wonders aloud, shocked.

“Pollution,” Yaz says sagely.

“No. Well. Yes. But not just pollution.” The Doctor turns back to the hill and starts walking once more, the others trailing in her wake. “They wanted to help. They were trying to engineer plants that would grow in all climates. The human race is spreading out now, colonising, interbreeding with various indigenous life forms. Humans are amazing in terms of their resilience, you can live, even thrive, in some real extremes of temperature. Your foodstuffs though are much more limited. Deira Minar wanted to fix that with grains that would grow in ice and deserts, even under water.”

“Sounds wonderful. What happened?”

“Jack?” The Doctor prompts.

He looks surprised, glancing around in a panic. “I don’t know!”

She looks faintly disapproving. “You should. This is your history. You must have done this at school.”

“I hated history.”

“Says the Time Agent.”

He raises an eyebrow in challenge. “Wouldn’t want to steal your thunder. You like doing the clever bits.”

“He’s got you there, Doc. You do like doing the clever bits.”

She doesn’t argue, and goes back to her explanation. “Well, they were genetically engineering the plants, like you lot with your GM crops, but on a massive scale. Once they had a perfect prototype though, it was cheaper to clone that than continue trying to modify each individual one.”

“Oh no!” says Jack.

Yaz sees the Doctor grimace in agreement, but she doesn’t break stride again. “What?” she asks her.

“Isn’t it obvious?”

“They’re all genetically identical,” Jack explains. “A single virus that one is susceptible to can take out all of them. And I’m guessing there was cross pollinating of their perfect prototype?”

“Yeah,” the Doctor agrees quietly. “Every plant growing has some identical core components to stimulate quick growth in all climates. The grains, the fruits, even the grass.”

“That doesn’t seem fair,” Ryan puffs from the back of the group. “They were trying to do something good and it still all goes wrong.”

“The road to hell, as your Gran used to say,” Graham chips in.

“And,” the Doctor adds, “I’m not sure being fair is really the universe’s primary motivation, or there would be much less payoff for being greedy and unpleasant.” They are on the outskirts of the buildings now and she stops again, “Although, now I’m wondering just how natural this was. The whole situation could have been orchestrated to cause chaos.”

“You said she could only have been here for a week or so.”

“Yeah. And I’m sure my calculations can’t be that far off.” The Doctor brushes her hair off her face in an uncharacteristically uneasy gesture. Then she smiles broadly as though amused by her own foolishness. “Well, I just finished saying the universe sometimes acts without reason, and not like you humans aren’t capable of causing chaos all on your own.”

They all swap slightly disgruntled looks.

“Shall we go and see who’s around?” she asks obliviously and they head into the town.

No matter how long he does this and how many planets they land on, Ryan never quite gets used to it. He supposes that he would have guessed that the people who lived in these houses were human because they look how he expects houses to look: a front door, usually two storeys, curtains in the windows. Nonetheless, there is something indefinably alien about them, perhaps the stone they have been built from with an odd phosphorus sheen; the futuristic code box each has instead of a door handle; or the windows that have a distinctive ripple that he identifies as a forcefield, before wondering where his life went so sideways he is now confidently identifying forcefields.

“Seems empty, Doctor,” he says quietly. The oppressive feel of the silent streets and rotting vegetation giving him the urge to whisper as though he is in a library under the glare of a particularly strict librarian.

She scans with the screwdriver and brings it up to eye level. “There are lifesigns. This place hasn’t been completely abandoned.”

“We should split up, go door to door.”

The Doctor gestures furiously. “What a brilliant idea. That will mean we’re all far away from each other and unable to help when one of us runs into difficulties.”

Jack stifles a smile that the Doctor still gestures like a wacky waving inflatable tube man- Err...woman.

“‘When’ is a little pessimistic, Doctor,” Graham objects.

“You say pessimistic, I say learning from experience.”

“I’m trained in community outreach,” Yaz objects.

“And I quizzed Grace for one of her exams on community care,” Graham adds. “I think I remember how to talk with people with trauma.”

Yaz slants him a narrow-eyed look, like she thinks he might be making fun of her, but before she can say anything, the Doctor cuts over her. “We’ll be safer together.”

“Intimidating though,” Ryan notes, “All of us knocking at your door. A bit weird.”

“Fine. Fine, but no one goes alone.”

“Buddy system,” Jack sings cheerfully. “I’m with Yaz.”

“Fine,” the Doctor says for the third time. “Yaz, hit him if he flirts with you.”

“And what if she flirts with me?”

“She won’t.”

Graham looks back and forth between them all and decides to ignore them in favour of getting on with the task at hand. “Leaves Ryan with me.”

“Well, yeah. You’ll need someone with social skills.”

“I have social skills.”

“With people who remember the war.”

“You cheeky beggar, Ryan. I’m not that old.”

“Who are you going with, Doctor?”

“Plenty of room on our team,” Jack teases with his most lascivious smirk.

Yaz punches him in the arm and the Doctor sticks her tongue out at him. “I’ll go on my own. Keep the numbers even.”

“The buddy system,” Jack points out because he feels like he should, not because he expects to change the Doctor’s mind.

“Is for humans. I’ll be fine.”

“I think we’ve just been insulted.”

“And when I get shot by daleks, almost end up as James I’s chief torturer, nearly destroy the universe by refusing to leave an anti-matter parallel universe, or wake up an entire army of Cybermen because I don’t check what’s in the cupboards before rebooting their spaceship, then you can insult me.”

Jack and Yaz swap a grin. The Doctor is adorable when she is trying to convince them she’s an Almighty Timelord.

“Meet back here in an hour?” Jack asks.

“Synchronise watches,” Ryan responds in his best Tom Cruise voice and the Doctor rolls her eyes as they actually all pull out their phones to do just that.

“Look out for each other,” she reminds them and takes the narrowest path into the twisty centre of the town.

“See you in a bit,” Yaz waves and they part ways.