Yes, it's been a while, but I found it very hard to get the ending just right
With thanks to Tabi for beta-reading
There are hints of the events of season 5 of Doctor Who,
but no actual spoilers that I can see
To the best of my knowledge the term "Time Lord" is non gender-specific,
but I apologise in advance if I'm wrong
The Sleeper Awakens
Part 8: Distant Thunder
Jack woke with a start, his entire body aching with the promise of bruises to follow, while his head felt like someone had shoved a pickaxe through his skull. Looking around, he discovered that he was in the small infirmary, his jacket draped over the chair by the door. He got to his feel slowly and somewhat shakily, his head spinning like mad, and recovered his coat before making his way back out into the cargo bay.
The TARDIS was still standing where he had last seen it, while the Doctor was sitting on a crate, playing with a brightly coloured yo-yo.
"I haven't been knocked out in a fight for centuries." Jack wince as he lowered himself onto the Mule, his body already starting to heal, but still evidently unhappy about what it had been put through, "What exactly did you do to me?
"Venusian Aikido." The Doctor looked somewhat apologetic, "Sorry about that; did kind of get a little carried away." He looked Jack in the eye, "How long has it been?"
"Not long enough." Came the stern reply, "The beacon wasn't meant for you; you're not the only one out there with that kind of technology, you know."
"I don't know what's happened between us, but I do know a Class 9 Distress Call when I pick one up." The Time Lord responded, "It's not the kind of thing you set off on a whim. What happened?"
"I needed some help with something, and it's all I had to hand." Jack gave his best poker-face, "Nothing you need worrying about."
"You're lying to me, and that alone is enough to get me interested." There was a buzzing as the Doctor scanned the room with his sonic-screwdriver, "I'm picking up faint traces of..." He paused, his eyes not believing what the probe was telling him, "No, that can't be right."
"She's not a Time Lord; she's a confused young woman who doesn't need you in her life, getting her involved in things she's not ready for." Jack's voice was cold and sharp, "I called in a favour and had her taken somewhere safe."
"How old was I, the last time we met?" The Doctor asked, outwardly surprisingly calm given the circumstances, but there was a tranquil fury behind his eyes, "Because evidently something has happened, something in your past and my future."
"Spoilers." Jack shook his head in warning, "You were on your next regeneration, which based on the way you look now, can't be that far off." There was a pause, "This is one of the things I hate about time-travel; you end up hating people for things they haven't done yet."
"Yet there is a Time Lord out there," The Doctor jumped to his feet, waving one arm around to take in the whole universe, "Untrained, unprepared, and alone."
"No, not alone." Jack shook his head, "There are still have some people I trust."
"Who?" The Doctored asked mockingly, "Who could you possibly trust with something like this?"
"I don't know, perhaps a certain Spacefleet captain I met a while back; she knew a lot about you, as a matter of fact." There was an unmistakeable glimmer in Jack's eye, "Does the name Dorothy Gale McShane ring any bells?"
"Ace? You know Ace?" The Doctor blinked, all the myriad of possible scenarios running through his brain, all at once, followed by just what his somewhat volatile former companion might get up to with a young, untested Time Lord in tow, and his face became somewhat pale, "Runtse de fwotzoo, ching baoyo wuomun..."
"Hey, she's calmed down a lot." Jack couldn't help but laugh, "She hardly ever carries around flaks of Nitro-9 any more."
"So this untrained and potentially dangerous Time Lord you found is safe, or at least the closest thing to safe we're likely to get, but that's only half the question." The Doctor stood, his demeanour shifting back to deadly serious, "That doesn't explain just how she even got here in the first place."
"That's a very good point." Jack looked around, a glint in his eye, "In fact, I think I know where we can find just the people to ask..."
"We're clear of the gravity well; nothing on the scanner's that could even come close to catching us." Jenny sat at the Asimov's controls, a pair of tinted glasses pulled down over her eyes to reduce the glair from the controls, and looked across at River, who was sat in the co-pilots seat with an identical pair of glasses, "It's a hundred and six parsecs to Earth, we've got a full tank of fuel, half a pack of jelly-babies, it's always dark in space, and we're wearing sunglasses."
"Hit it!" River gestured forward with one finger, a contented smile on her face; this was going to be so much fun!
The Mauvais Loup say high up on the edge of a cliff face, like a gigantic metallic bird of prey surveying it's aerie. The senior Operative stood beside one of the landing struts, desperately trying to work out just how to explain what had happened to his superiors in a way that would at least earn him a quick and painless death. He was even more concerned over his partner's fate; over the years they had been working together, he had started to care for her in a way he was most unaccustomed to. There was nothing sexual about it, far from it, in fact, but she was the one constant in his life, the one person he had come to trust a rely on without question or reservation. In return, she had become somewhat reliant on him to reign in some of her more aggressive and at times self-destructive tendencies. While her unusual mental problems meant that she was unable to exercise any control on her own part, she was aware that it might be a good idea at times.
He was so deep in thought, in fact, that he almost didn't notice Jack stepping out of the tree line and stride confidently towards the Strike Cruiser as if he was taking a walk in the park. The Operative recovered quickly, drawing his side-arm and signalling for the crew to stand by for trouble.
"Relax, big guy; I'm unarmed." Jack held his hands out to show that his holster was empty, "I think it's time I had a little word with your bosses. And I mean the Organ Grinder, not the Monkey."
"I think that can be arranged." The Operative drew a pair of hand-restraints and tossed them over, "Let's go for a little ride, shall we?"
"You sure Jack knows what he's doing?" Mal asked as he watched the Mauvais Loup climb above the distant mountains, engines glowing brightly as it burned hard for orbit.
"He's been in tighter spots." The Doctor shook his head, holding out his Sonic Screwdriver, which was emitting a steady bleep, "And it's the only way I'm going to get to the bottom of this in the time I had."
"Funny," Mal smirked, "I would have thought that time was something you had an abundance of?"
"I have an appointment to keep with an Ood named Sigma." The Time Lord looked almost pained, "And I can't be late."
The members of the Special Security Council were not accustom to being summoned without due notice, least of all in the middle of the night, and without being told why. Despite this, they remained civil with one another as they took their seats and awaited the arrival of their returned prisoner. The heavy doors opened and Jack shuffled in, his legs bound by heavy shackles that where attached to the belt and cuffs he wore, his usual blue uniform replaced by a bright orange jumpsuit intended to make it harder for him to vanish into a crowd. Most people in his position would have been cowed if not outright terrified, but he maintained a cocky little smile, the kind that indicated that he knew a secret and wasn't telling.
"Well now, this is a nice little place you've got here." He looked around the room, the walls lost in shadows, "We've got to me, what, two kilometres underground? Three?"
"That's enough." the chairman leant forward, still little more than a imposing silhouette, "I was told you were willing to tell us what we wanted to know about your immortality."
"Yeah, I lied." Jack flexed his arms and the chains holding him fell to the ground as a deep, grinding noise echoed around the chamber, "Just needed to know where exactly here is so a friend of mine could pop buy to say hello."
The Council members stood, calling for security and a thousand other things as the TARDIS finally materialised behind their prisoner, the door opening and allow the Doctor to step out.
"Now then." He looked around, rubbing his hands, "I have some questions for you."
"We are not in the habit of giving answers." The chairman sat back, "But in your case, we'll make an exception, Time Lord."
"Good; if you know who and what I am, that means you know what I can do, which should speed things up a little." The Doctor nodded, thrusting his hands into his pockets, "The girl, River Tam: where did she come from?"
"She was brought to this system from outside by a woman who no name, but who carried with her the mark of your people." The shadowy figurer recanted, "Our predecessors did not ask questions, but simply followed the request to keep her safe."
"I'd hardly call cutting open her head and rummaging around inside her brain 'keeping her safe'!" the Time Lord snapped back, his eyes burning with righteous fury and indignation, his voice cold enough to freeze hell itself, "If one of my people brought her here, you must have known that, one day, they'd come back for her."
"Our ancestors may have chosen to isolate themselves here, but we still hear things from the outside." Another Councillor spoke up, "Word eventually reached us that the war your people had been fighting had ended, with no victor, and we were told, no survivors."
"Yeah, I like to keep to myself as much as I can." The Doctor did his best to sound convincing.
"And we were left with what many would consider a god on our hands." The speaker continued, ignoring the interruption as best they could, "Faced with an uncertain future, the decision was made, after much debate, to learn all we could about the individual in question..."
"River." Jack spoke up, his voice cool and calm, "Her name is River Tam."
"A name we gave her." The chairman pointed out, "No matter what you think of us, Captain Harkness, we are not evil, and we do not hurt people for entertainment. We would very much like things to be different, but that facts remain that Miss Tam was a potential Pandora's Box. You have evidently spent time with one of her people, you know what they are capable of, even on worlds more technologically advanced then ours."
"Yes." The former Time Agent nodded, "Yes I am..."
"Then you can well imagine what havoc she could have wreaked if she set her mind to it." The faceless shadow continued, "We did what we felt was in the best interest of every man, woman and child in this system, and if forced to make the same decision again, we would, because someone has to be willing to make the hard decisions. Would I have preferred there was another way? Of cause I do. But at the time there was not. Had we known about your true nature, and capabilities, we would have most likely approached you with a mind towards taking her somewhere else, somewhere safer."
"You can justify what you did as much as you like, but you still crossed a line." The Doctor warned, his body almost radiating cold fury, "Be glad that I have more pressing matters to attend to, or I would find a way to express my displeasure to you fully." His eyes moved about the room, as if he could see into the very souls of those present, "But remember this; I am now aware of this system and what its people are capable of. Expect to see me again, very soon." He turned to his companion, "Let's go."
"Be seeing you." Jack shot the council members a quick salute, then stepped into the TARDIS, which faded from sight with the same deep, grinding that had heralded its arrival.
"That went better than expected." Jack lent against one of the support struts that surrounded the control console, "If you want to just drop me back at my ship..."
"I'm sorry." The Doctor looked at him, his face transformed to one of deep regret, "What ever I did, what ever I will do that made you so angry, I'm sorry." He offered a hand, "And thank you for helping with this; there aren't that many people I can trust these days."
"There are more than you think." Jack shook the offered hand, "Say hi to infinity for me."
"It's a big space-time continuum, but something tells me we've not seen the last of each-other." The Doctor smiled, "And I wouldn't have it any other way."
"How long do you think it's going to take for life to get back to normal around here?" Zoë asked as Serenity came down to rest at a small space-port on Beaumonde. "Or at least, as close to 'normal' as we ever get?"
"Well, I guess that depends on how long it takes Kaylee to get Simon to stop fretting about his not-so-little sister." Mal smirked as he shut down the engines and stood up from the pilots seat, stretching to work out the kinks that had built up in his back, "And given I just saw her leaving Inara's shuttle with a hand fully of very skimpy clothing, that's probably not very long."
"I'm just glad we have a legitimate job this time, even if it is transporting some historian to Persephone." The first mate countered as she led the way down to the cargo bay, "Feels nice to have a job where there's only a slim possibility of people shooting at us for once."
"Doesn't it just?" Mal smiled as he pressed the controls to open the outer hatch.
The sound of gunfire filled the air, and Zoë pushed him out of the way as a stray bullet ricochet off the edge of the hatch. Drawing their side-arms, they glanced out to see what had, just moments before been a typically busy but peaceful dockyard had turned into a minor war-zone, with multiple factions fighting it out, regardless of any bystanders. There was a blur of movement, and a tall, blond-haired woman with a satchel and backpack barrelled through the open hatch, colliding with Mal and sending the two of them tumbling into the cargo bay even as Zoë closed and dogged the hatch. Looking around, she saw her captain laying on top of the stranger, a shocked expression on his face.
"Captain Reynolds, I presume?" The woman looked up at Mal with what could only be described as a predatory smile, "Professor River Song. I believe you're expecting me..."
Yes, I am an utter bastard; I make no apologies for this fact
Runtse de fwotzoo, ching baoyo wuomun...- Oh merciful Buddha protect us...