|In the Land of the Long White Cloud
Author: Eledhwen PM
Originally written for the LJ Telling a story challenge. Martha Jones has been walking the Earth for six months, and she reaches a forgotten corner. Spoilers for season 3.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Words: 3,483 - Reviews: 9 - Favs: 3 - Published: 09-28-07 - Status: Complete - id: 3808533
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Disclaimer: How I wish I owned them! Anyway, I don't; they're the property of the BBC. And New Zealand belongs to the Kiwis.
In the Land of the Long White Cloud
Even after six months, the teleport leaves her feeling shaken and queasy. She stays doubled over for a moment, regaining her balance from the rough landing.
Then it hits her. Six months. She's been travelling for six months. It feels like forever; like a hundred trillion years; like two seconds. Just six months and a few days, in real time, since she went to the Moon and met the Doctor.
The thought of the Doctor makes her stand up and take in her surroundings. She had expected - had hoped for - a town, some sort of civilisation at least. Instead, she finds herself gazing out over farmland and heath, the land rising inexorably towards the hulking shape of mountains. Martha looks harder. Not mountains; volcanoes.
There is a distinct lack of people. A distinct lack of any life, in fact. She wonders if there is anyone left here. Sometimes it's hard to keep track of which countries the Master has chosen to attack already, and which countries he has overlooked, and which countries he is saving for another day. She hopes this wild, beautiful place has been overlooked.
Hoisting her backpack on her shoulders, and slipping on sunglasses against the bright light, Martha turns and scrambles down from the bit of raised land she had landed on. There is a gravel track leading away into the distance, and using the logic that the path must have been man-made at some point, she sets off.
Six months - a million years before - Martha Jones would have baulked at the idea of serious hiking. Not that she was ever unfit, but at the end of the day, she was a Londoner. But her boots now are worn and supple, fitting to her feet like gloves, and walking feels normal. Walking, now, is part of her life, and she quickly gets into a steady rhythm. The air here is clear, fresh, and breathing it in she remembers the dense fogs of New York, of the fires of Cairo and the chemical tang of Rio. This is different, and Martha's hopes that she has finally found somewhere forgotten by the all-seeing eyes in the sky above rise.
She walks for several hours, and there is nobody. Not a farmer in the fields, or a car on the track, or a sphere spinning in the sky. Martha wishes she had come here in a better time - with the Doctor, full of some little observation nobody else would have noticed or cared about. That thought makes her smile to herself, but it also makes her pick up her pace. She needs shelter by nightfall, and the sun is already beginning to set.
Another hour along the road, and she turns a corner to see a low, wooden house with a tin roof and smoke drifting from a pipe. There is a fence, and a few scrawny sheep and two horses in the field next to the house. A battered old truck is parked next to the house.
As she approaches the door opens, and a man - a large, burly man - comes out and cocks a shotgun.
"Stop right there," he calls. Martha halts, raising her hands in the air.
The man moves towards her, aiming the shotgun loosely at her stomach. "Haven't seen any strangers round here for a while."
"I've come from over there," says Martha, jerking her head back in the direction she has walked from. "I'm just a traveller. I'm unarmed."
"No travellers now," the man says, but he lowers the shotgun. "Last tourist round here was five months back."
"I'm not a tourist," Martha says. "A traveller. My name's Martha Jones."
"A Pom, eh," the man remarks. "Long way from home." He puts the safety on the gun, and props it up against the wall. "These might be odd times, but you don't look dangerous. Hungry?"
She nods. "Starving."
Inside, the house is plain and clean. The man puts a kettle on to a gas stove, and produces bread and cheese.
"Sugar?" he asks.
Martha shakes her head, and accepts the big mug of strong tea he brings over. He pulls up a chair, and slurps his own drink.
"I'm Steve," he says, between slurps. "Used to be a farmer."
"I was nearly a doctor," Martha returns.
"And now you're, what, travelling?" asks Steve. "Used to get lots of backpackers through here. Idiots in campervans. Breaking down." But he smiles, affectionately; Martha thinks he probably misses the backpackers more than he would admit.
She looks at Steve, sizes him up. He'd be a perfect candidate for the Master's force on the ground, but he doesn't have that look about him she's learned to recognise.
"How bad has it got here?" she asks.
Steve cuts a slab of bread and a slab of cheese. "You see anyone else out there?"
"No," she says. "But it's clean. There aren't any spheres."
"Not out here," he says. "What use would they be out here? He," Steve jabs his thumb in the general direction of the ceiling, "he's not stupid."
Martha thinks of the Master's manic energy and his systematic destruction of so many places, and shakes her head. "No. He's not stupid."
"He came to New Zealand, back when he was Saxon," says Steve. "Talked about nuclear power and that, with the Prime Minister. Everyone thought he was great."
"Everyone at home thought that too," Martha remembers.
"So after, he sent some of those sphere things, and they killed half of Parliament, and he said he'd get back to us. People reckon he's going to use the volcanoes for something. Stick a power source in Ruapehu. Sounds mad, eh?"
Martha shrugs. "Six months ago I'd have said yes. Now …"
Steve picks up their empty mugs. "So, Martha Jones, whoever you are; what's your story?"
"I'll tell you, but I need help," she says. "More help, I mean. I have to get to Wellington. There's something I have to do. It might help, to stop him. Can I, I dunno, borrow your car?"
"If you don't have a car, how'd you get here?" asks Steve. It is a perfectly reasonable question, and Martha decides it deserves a perfectly honest answer. She rolls her sleeve up and displays Jack's wristband.
"Teleport," she says. "Really. But it's not very precise - and the battery's wearing down. I'll need it after, to get to Sydney."
He dumps the mugs in the sink, and brushes his hands down on his jeans. "I'll take you. We'll leave tomorrow - tell me your story in the car."
Martha stares at him. "Seriously?"
"There's something about you," says Steve, slowly. "If you think you might stop him," again the jab of the thumb at the ceiling, "then I'll help you. If not … well, it's a nice drive down south, even now. You can sleep on the sofa."
She realises, as he speaks, that it is dark outside; and she realises too she is tired. It would be good to sleep on a sofa in a safe place for once. She nods, and watches as he pulls a pillow and a blanket from a cupboard and throws them on to the soft couch.
"You'll be okay there?" he asks.
"Yes," she says.
"Sweet as," Steve remarks. "I'll wake you in the morning. We'll be off early."
They are; it is still dark when Steve wakes her from a dreamless sleep. He bustles her out of the house and into the battered truck, which smells faintly stale, and they are off. For the first few bone-crunching miles on the gravel track neither of them says anything, but once they are on a smoother, sealed road Steve turns to her.
"You promised me a story."
"I did." Martha looks out of the truck window at the view, of mountains and bush and the rose-tinted morning sky. "Just over six months ago," she says, "my hospital went to the Moon."
She talks for a long time, telling Steve about the Judoon, about the Doctor, about meeting Shakespeare. She talks about realising that the Doctor had become her world, about John Smith, about the trip to Malcassairo, about discovering who Harold Saxon was. He listens silently, asking the odd question, but mainly letting her talk.
Martha ends her account by telling him of the moment she teleported away from the Doctor. They have come to a small, silent, deserted town, and Steve pulls up outside a small garage with two petrol pumps. He gets out and begins to fill up the truck.
"Quite a story," he says.
She climbs out and stretches. "It's all true," she insists.
"So what's the Moon like?" Steve asks, throwing her off with the question. She had expected him to ask about the TARDIS, or about the Master.
"It's … it's like the Moon," she says, as they get back in the truck and head off again. "Grey. Bare. Incredible." She thinks back, to the moment when she stood on the balcony, next to the Doctor, gazing out at the lunar surface and the glowing emerald and sapphire of the Earth in the distance.
Steve glances at her. "Sounds like it's not so different from Tongariro," he says, cryptically.
"Tonga … what?"
"Tongariro," Steve says. He gestures backwards. "The National Park; the mountains, where we've come from. Up there, it's wild and bare and beautiful. A man can lose himself up there - plenty have." He falls silent.
Martha watches him drive for a while, the green hills passing by relentlessly. "He won't destroy it," she says, eventually. "That's why I'm travelling. I just need to talk to as many people as possible."
"You've come at the right time," says Steve, with quiet satisfaction. "Happens there's a meeting tonight." He pauses. "Well, officially it's a rugby match, but it'll be safe to talk there. Seems the spheres don't like rugby. We reckon they're worried they'll get mistook for a ball."
She sleeps some more during the rest of the drive, spending her waking moments looking out of the window. The land still seems untouched, but it is noticeably empty. The first cars, the first people, begin to appear as the shadows lengthen, and they come into the city.
Steve parks in a quiet residential street, and leads her down a complicated route to what turns out to be a school sports ground. "Stadium's out of bounds," he says, in answer to her look.
But the sports ground is busy with people, and a buzz of chatter, and she can't quite believe it when Steve hands her a plastic cup brimming with cold beer. It turns out to be slightly too fizzy and a bit weak, but nevertheless it is beer, the first she's had for a long time. Since 1599, possibly, and Martha is not sure whether the ale she shared with the Doctor and Shakespeare really counts.
Steve introduces her to a bunch of people, and she fails to catch any names. But they're all friendly, and noisy, and as the rugby begins it is overwhelmingly normal. She is reminded, suddenly, what life used to be like. What life should be like.
Martha has never understood rugby, but the enthusiasm of the Kiwis around her is infectious. She joins in the chanting and cheers, and when Steve's team wins she finds herself being hugged by the men and women around her. She hasn't been hugged since … since the Doctor.
That thought reminds her why she's here, alone on the other side of the world, and she taps Steve on the shoulder. He looks round at her, and nods, leading her across the pitch to the small booth where a microphone had been set up to make announcements during the game. Tapping it, he leans over.
The crowd hushes, almost instantly. Martha gets the feeling they are used to this, to a double life of secrets. Steve moves aside, and she takes the microphone.
"Hi," she says. It is an inadequate way to begin. "My name's Martha Jones, and I'm here to tell you a story. In six months' time - six months to the day, actually - we're going to bring him down." She points up, at the starry night sky. "At 8am, British time, on June 30th, it'll be the end. But it's going to take everyone; every member of the human race."
"Lot of bloody people!" says someone from the crowd, and there is general laughter. Martha smiles too.
"That's the key. That's the point. The Master used his Archangel network to get everyone under his control. We're going to use it to get control back. There's a man, just one man, and he can do it. I want you all, everyone here, to remember this name. Remember the Doctor."
"Doctor what?" calls out someone.
"Just the Doctor," says Martha. "He's not from here. He's from the same planet as the Master. He's …" she pauses for a moment, thinking of the Doctor and everything he is. "He's amazing. He's more alive than anyone I've met. And everywhere he goes, he's thinking of doing good, of helping people. When I first met him, he almost died, just to save a building full of people he'd never met before." She gazes around the crowd, who are listening in silence. "I love him. I'm travelling because of him. All you need to do is remember the Doctor, and when it gets to the 30th, you need to think about him. Just think about him then. Tell everyone, tell them to tell everyone."
"What'll it do?" asks a voice.
Martha is not sure - there was not time to find that much out, not when the Doctor was whispering instructions in her ear. She has learned that honesty works best, and so she looks out at the crowd.
"I don't know. But I know it'll work. The Doctor's going to have had a whole year of planning, and he knows the Master. And I know the Doctor, and I trust him. So I'm asking you to trust me." Normally this is where Martha's speech ends, but she feels something more is needed. "And I'd like to thank you, for reminding me why I'm doing this. There's hope here. This," she gestures at the crowd, at the pitch, "this is the most normal place I've been in six months."
She steps back from the microphone.
Steve takes over, talking for a while about issues of resistance, reminding the crowd not to attack the spheres, giving them an update on recent volcanic activity. There are a few more speakers, and Martha listens with half an ear. This, she has heard before, in tens of different languages.
The meeting breaks up soon afterwards. As she is waiting for Steve, people pass Martha. Most of them smile at her. A few nod, and say, "the Doctor. We'll remember". One lady presses her hand, and says, "bless you, girl - and your Doctor". She looks astonished when Martha thanks her, and Martha realises the TARDIS's translation circuits are still working for her, even so many thousands of miles away.
"Didn't have you down as a te reo speaker," says Steve, coming over. "Maori," he clarifies at her look.
"I'm not," Martha says. "It's this thing the Doctor's ship does. Translates languages for me, in my head."
"That's a good trick," Steve observes. "Hey, I've found you a bed for the night with my mate Pania, she's got a spare room."
Steve's mate Pania turns out to be a young woman not much older than Martha, with a warm laugh and a cosy flat a short walk away. There is a proper shower, and a proper bed, and Pania throws Martha's dirty clothes into a washing machine for her. Steve stays only a short time, before saying he has to set off again.
Martha goes to the door with him. "I can't thank you enough," she says. "For helping. You could have just ignored me."
"Rough times," says Steve. "We have to stick together, us humans." He pulls up his collar. "If we get through this, bring your Doctor out to visit. There'll be a welcome for you."
"We'll come," says Martha. "I'll get him to take you for a ride. You can spend the next six months deciding where you'd like to go - anywhere in time and space."
"I'm happy in Godzone," Steve says. "And don't you worry, eh. We'll remember. We'll be thinking of the Doctor, when you said."
He goes, and Martha closes the door behind him.
Martha sleeps late, waking only when Pania begins making coffee in the kitchen. "It's the last of the good stuff," she says, bringing a cup into Martha's bedroom. "God knows what we'll do when it runs out. Can't imagine this country without decent coffee."
Accepting the cup gratefully, Martha sips. "It's fantastic."
Pania sits on the edge of the bed. "So, where're you off to next?"
"Australia," says Martha. "Sydney, then Melbourne. After that, Japan."
"Long journey," says Pania. She gets up, and returns a moment later with a pile of neatly-folded clothes. "Here."
Martha puts them away in her battered rucksack. "Thanks."
"Bit of laundry, seems the least we can do." Pania pauses. "Did you mean that, last night? That this is normal?"
"Yes." Martha puts down her cup. "I saw London on fire. New York, turned into factories. Los Angeles is just a wasteland. They were burning bodies in Mexico City, and there's a shipyard in Cape Town. So much of the green has gone, it's all been burned."
"Has he forgotten us?" asks Pania.
"I don't know. I don't think so. I think he'd want to use you, somehow. Sorry."
"It's not your fault," the other woman replies. "You're doing your bit."
Martha stands up, and fastens the teleport around her wrist. As she often does, she raises it to her nose briefly, catching a faint smell of leather and metal that reminds her of Jack Harkness.
"I'd better carry on doing it," she says, tapping in coordinates before putting on her backpack. "Just another six months."
"I'm sure it'll fly by," Pania says.
Adjusting her straps, Martha finds it hard to smile at the weak joke. "I wish it would," she responds.
Pania steps back, and Martha presses the button. The teleport whisks her away, into the nothingness between departure and destination. Onwards, for another six months, and then either the sweetest victory or the despair of utter failure.