Subroutine Stream

by Amy L. Hull amilynh at comcast dot net

written for Cosmicllin in the Sarah Jane genficathon

beta by Merlin Missy, Emily, Ebony Secrets, and Rache

Prompt: "What if it really had been the Master who sent K9 to Sarah?" Set directly after the end of "The Five Doctors"


"And after all that, I still haven't seen Gallifrey!"

The Doctor followed her out of the Tardis. "Well, the Death Zone is on Gallifrey--" he began in soothing tones.

"But not Gallifrey proper! Just some old, abandoned, horrible thing you all pretend doesn't exist."

"Now, Sarah Jane--"

"Oh, don't 'Sarah Jane' me! You could've at least popped into the capitol with me before bringing me back--" Sarah looked around, blinking rapidly. " is my living room. You brought me home!" she spluttered, turning back to stare at him.

He just smiled that maddening, gently condescending smile of his. "Of course I did."

"'Of course?' As if it's that simple. Last time you left me high and dry--"

"Mistress! Doctor, danger. Doctor, danger!"

"I say, what's this--" The Doctor grinned broadly at the metal dog trundling into the room.

Sarah began, "K-9, it's all right. It's just the other Doctor--"

"Stand back, Mistress," K-9 intoned.

Sarah barely saw the barrel extend before the laser blast hit the Doctor and he crumpled into a heap. She heard that sharp, short scream that always made her hate herself. "K-9! What do you think you're doing? That's the Doctor!"

"I am aware of that, Mistress. Subroutine Stream now in effect. You will not intervene."

"Stream? What is that? K-9, that's the Doctor! I know he looks different--"

"I am aware this is an earlier regeneration of the Doctor. I must send the beacon." He rolled toward the Tardis.

"Stop it, right now!" Sarah wasn't sure if she sounded commanding or slightly hysterical. Probably both. "I don't know what you think you're doing, but this is insane." She reached to press the shut-down sequence and heard the blaster whine again. She felt an electrical charge fire through every nerve and then there was darkness.


Sarah heard her own whimper as she fought her way back to consciousness. "Oh, my head." She kept her eyes closed as she sat up slowly, holding her head tightly with both hands. "K-9, what--"

"I warned you not to intervene, Mistress," came K-9's distant voice.

Reality snapped back into focus and she remembered. It was not some intruder or alien. It was her dog. K-9 had gone mad, had stunned her and the Doctor, and was spouting nonsense about a subroutine and a beacon. Sarah looked quickly around the room, trying to ignore the piercing pain from the movement and from the light streaming through the windows. Such a lovely day, especially for London, and yet everything was wrong.

K-9 was exiting the Tardis and Sarah could hear a faint but repetitive beep from inside. On the floor between her and it, there was still a pile of deerstalker and wool on the floor. "Doctor!" She scrambled toward him, and a laser bolt scorched the floor directly in front of her.

"Mistress, do not interfere." There was a harsh, almost cruel, edge to the mechanical sound that she'd never heard before.

"But the Doctor--"

"The Doctor will remain unconscious while the Stream Beacon takes effect. You will remain silent or I will incapacitate you again."

Tears pricked at Sarah's eyes and she tightened her jaw. Anger was easier, more useful. "K-9, what is wrong with you?"

"I am completing my programming. Damage to you is not required, but will become necessary if you attempt to prevent successful completion of my task." K-9 approached the Doctor, prodded him with his antenna, and backed away, sonic screwdriver attached to the suction end.

So the screwdriver could undo this mess, Sarah thought. Be a reporter. Do what you do best. The Doctor made K-9. He would not have done this. There must be someone else involved, someone else who added that 'subroutine' to the programming. The Doctor could do something, could stop it, maybe with that damned sonic screwdriver. There's a beacon going out, presumably to whoever sabotaged K-9. And they're coming to my house. Gather information, find out what we're up against. Investigate.

K-9 had retreated to a position where he could guard both Sarah and the Doctor, laser still at the ready.

Sarah leaned against the chair behind her. "K-9, who are you working for?"

"I am following my programming."

"And who programmed you?"

"The Doctor."

"But then why have you hurt the Doctor? Why would you threaten to hurt me? Isn't your prime directive to protect me?"

There was actually a pause before the answer this time. "Yes, mistress, but the Stream Beacon takes precedence. It is more important. I will harm you if necessary."

"And did the Doctor write the subroutine for this beacon?"

"Negative. You will remain silent."

A shudder rippled through her. Sarah had never noticed before that it was possible for K-9's voice to resemble a Dalek's.

"So, how long are we going to wait?"

"You will remain silent!"

She bit her lip. Running for the door wouldn't work. She couldn't make it to the Tardis before K-9 could shoot. The Doctor was still unmoving. K-9 placed the sonic screwdriver and himself well out of reach. And something was coming, coming from somewhere, sometime. Something--someone--that was presumably after the Doctor, someone who had interfered with the Doctor's programming of K-9, someone smart but devious and malicious. Someone who understood Time Lord technology.

"Stream. Why 'stream' anyway? And what's going to happen when this 'Stream Beacon' is answered?" Sarah ventured.

"All will be as it should be. Remain silent."

Cryptic, smart--no, brilliant, devious...but simple. "Stream is an anagram. You're calling the Master!" she blurted.

"You will remain silent."

"How did he get to did he even know about you? What does he want?"

The laser hummed as it fired. "You will remain silent!"

"Ow!" She squelched the yelp and quickly batted out the flame on her sleeve with the edge of her skirt. So much for this outfit. She worked the jacket off and inspected the burn on her arm, carefully moving the melted white nylon of the blouse away from the burn. The beeping from inside the Tardis was falling into a rhythmic but more rapid pattern. That couldn't be good. She tried to regulate her breathing, tried to think of a plan, tried to think how to be clever enough to outsmart two Time Lords and a robot dog. She leaned back against the chair again, cradling her arm, as she looked around the room for ideas.

The movement was tiny, almost imperceptible. The first time, she wasn't sure whether it was her imagination. The second time she was sure and her eyes widened.

"What have you seen?" K-9 demanded.

"Nothing! My arm just hurts. Oh, and I'm being held hostage in my living room by my dog! Think I might react to that, maybe?" She pulled off her galoshes and wiggled her toes. These really were not meant for hiking and climbing and, in spite of everything, it actually felt good to have them off.

"You will remain still," K-9 barked.

Sarah just rolled her eyes, then allowed them to flit in the direction of the sonic screwdriver. The slight movement of the Doctor's eyelid acknowledged his understanding.

In an instant she threw the boots at K-9 and leapt to push him to face the other wall. Energy crackled through her again and she faintly heard the thump of her body hitting the floor.


"Sarah Jane?" A hand patted her cheek gently. "Sarah Jane, wake up now. Everything's fine."

"Doctor?" Sarah blinked. The floor felt soft.

"You're all right, Sarah Jane. I've taken care of it. It's all over."

Sarah shifted, turning her head, and realizing she was lying on her sofa. So like the Doctor, to carry her around while she was unconscious.

"Doctor! Doctor, it's K-9! I think he's working for the Master!"

"Yes, I know. I've shut off the beacon and shut down K-9." The Doctor patted her hand reassuringly.

"You've shut him off?" Sarah demanded sharply sat up quickly, wincing at the pain in her head as she did so and looking quickly around. K-9 was nowhere to be seen. "But--can't you fix him? And how did the Master get to him and why--"

"Shh, Sarah Jane. It's nothing to do with you. I'll take care of everything."

"Like you did just now? I suppose I didn't help at all?" She felt all her indignation and belligerence at the situation rising in her chest, ire now aimed at the only person still in the room.

"You did a fine job. Thank you."

"You still haven't explained what just happened here."

"The Master must have gotten to K-9 before you received him and broken into the system. I've already got the Tardis overhauling his system to remove any other little hidden surprises. I will say, the next me, Teeth and Curls was it? He did a rather dodgy job protecting that computer system."

"Do you carp at all the other yous?" Apparently she wasn't going to get the whole story, but when did she ever? And whatever the Doctor had done--with her help--seemed to have fixed things.

"It's almost done and then I need to leave a trail of that beacon through several times and systems so that the Master can't trace it. So I'll be off in just a few."

Sarah smiled slightly and shook her head at him. "And a good thing, too. I do have a life to get back to, you know. I don't even know what day it is and I'm going to have to figure out if I need excuses for work and if my car's been impounded by the repair garage. I mean, it's nice to see you and have my life threatened again and all, but I'm a busy woman!"

The Doctor smiled then, and the wild white curls and creases of his face made her stomach drop and her chest ache. She was not going to yell at him. She wasn't. This one was not the one who'd left her, and even if he were, he'd never answer her properly.

"I'm going to get us a cup of tea while that finishes up then."

"There's a good girl," he said, and the smile looked almost sad, unlike the pride and amusement that had shone from it moments ago.

She'd set the kettle on and picked two cups off the cupboard shelf when she heard the wheeze of the Tardis engines. She made it round the corner only just in time to catch a last phantom glimpse of the blue box. "Goodbye, Doctor," she whispered as she felt her shoulders droop.


The mechanical voice was cheery again, but Sarah still took a step back.

"Do not be afraid, Mistress. The Doctor-Master has purged my system of all unapproved or dangerous systems and has upgraded my safety monitoring abilities. I apologize for my earlier malfunction."

"It's all right, K-9. All's well that ends well, right?"

"Affirmative." K-9 wagged his tail and Sarah gave him a wan smile.

She looked around the empty living room, then down at the two cups in her hands. Slowly she walked back to the kitchen and put one away. After a moment she placed the other china cup on the shelf as well, and took down a large sturdy mug for herself. "K-9?" she called, wrapping her hands around the cool pottery, "What's the date and how much tidying up do I have to do from this visit?"

"You have been gone for three days, Mistress. I contacted your place of employment as necessary."

"What about the car?"

"It will be ready tomorrow, Mistress."

"What would I do without you, K-9?" Sarah leaned down and scratched between his ears as the kettle began to whistle. "Let's get on with it then, shall we?"