A/N:- Guilty as charged, and me won't deny it – kill me as muchios as you likes! Am quite vair muchily sure that you'd much rather get on with reading the story than listen to mah everlasting buckets of excuses, sooooooooo … I won't bother spilling them. (But you'd be vair welcome to ask me in a review which I will vairy enthusiastically reply with bananas and bananas AND bananas of my "reasons" as to why I didn't update…)
Thanksies for the many cheesilicious and fab reviews I got, once again all ye faithful reviewers! ;D (Shout outs, McFlurries and frantic, hysterical hand-waving to talkstoangels77, xkissfromarosex GoldenWolf43, Taylor Harkness, Dinny93,oddood – still have that meme to swipe ;D, xLaramiex, EleBother and BananaDaquiri for ye latest reviews!!!)
Disclaimer: - In. My. Dreams.
And then a cheerful, chirpy, familiar voice crackled into existence.
"Rose Tyler, where the hell have you been?!"
"... Personnel," Donna was saying, whilst the Doctor yapped away to Rose over her mobile. "That's where the weird stuff's happening - in the paperwork. Cos, thing is, I spent years working as a temp: I can find my way around an office blindfolded, and the first thing I noticed is an empty file ..."
"What d'you mean?" questioned Martha.
"Sick days." She opened up the folder to reveal ... nothing. It was empty. "There aren't any. Hundred of people working here, an' no one's sick. Not one hangover, man flu, sneaky little shopping trip. Nothing. Not ever. They don't get ill. I don't know about you, but I'm findin' that just a little bit weird."
"That can't be right," Colonel Mace joined in.
"See for yourself."
Donna shrugged, passing him the empty lever-arch folder.
Using the sleeve of her jacket to wipe up any traces of tears or watered-down mascara from her face, Rose quickly checked her appearance in her convenient, mirror-equipped, powder compact, smoothed her clothes down - in an attempt to make herself look presentable again - and pulled the door open, stepping back into the light.
She glanced warily at the SAT-nav like system running on her mobile.
"Right. This looks simple enough."
Chapter 27 - The Ally of the ATMOS Part 5
"You've been checking out the buildings; should've been checking out the workforce," Donna summarised triumphantly.
Martha smiled, saying to Donna, "I can see why he likes you."
The Doctor and Donna exchanged a look, sharing a grin. Donna then let out a small "hmm" of agreement.
"You are good."
Donna's grin broadened. "Super Temp."
"Doctor Jones," Mace said, breaking the small silence that had been conjured up due to a lack of topic for conversation, "set up a medical post, start examining the workers. I'll get them sent through."
"Come on, Donna, give me a hand," Martha said breezily, moving behind a desk.
Taking his cue, the Doctor grabbed the ATMOS device from its allocated table and swiftly followed Colonel Mace out of the room.
He had no problems keeping up with the Colonel's fast pace - all thanks to his conveniently long legs that had come in the package that was his current incarnation. It wasn't too bad a regeneration, thinking about it – well, appearance wise anyway. Oh, come on, you would have to be as blind as a bat – two bats! – not to agree: he had a nice set of teeth – he did have to admit, the teeth felt weird to begin with, a reasonable amount of hair – as scruffy and chaotic and tall as he could possibly make it, perfect sized ears – goodbye Big Ears, a slim figure - too thin perhaps? - and as far as he was concerned, a very handsome face. Though, his only complaint about this regeneration was the one being the blatant fact that was his not-ginger hair.
Ten different incarnations and yet, not even one ginger hair in sight – not even once! Although … if seen in a very, very, very bad light, his seventh incarnation would've probably passed for a tad ginger. He actually found himself envying Donna's hair, all … ginger and red-ish. Not that he'd ever tell her he envied her hair, of course. Unless he wanted to earn himself a look that could make whole civilisations flee. That he didn't want. And, ooh, he was being rude again … Better distract himself before he started being rude again.
"So," the Doctor said to Colonel Mace abruptly, as they walked along an open corridor parallel to another work area, "this, this ATMOS thing, where'd it come from?"
"That'd be Luke Rattigan himself," the man-in-question replied succinctly.
He mentally praised himself; it looked like he'd picked as good conversation starter. Luke Rattigan … Luke Rattigan … where had he heard that name before? Oh, that was right … never!
His eyes danced with a mix of curiosity and confusion. "And himself would be?"
I'm not lost … I'm not lost … I'm not lost … Rose let the words repeat themselves over and over in her head, soon letting them overlap each other and turn into a messy jumble of words, as she turned into another long, winding corridor.
She frowned at her mobile, continuing her way down the corridor, as the SAT-nav thing insisted that she was going the right way.
Fat lot of good this SAT-nav thing turned out to be. Instead of taking Rose down the quickest possible route directly towards the Doctor, it seemed to be giving her a detailed tour of the factory and dragging her around the long way. This just couldn't be the shortest route to the Doctor; and she was absolutely, positively certain of this. Once you'd been led down dark corridors, empty work areas, more corridors, rooms full of high-tech machinery and confused-looking UNIT soldiers, like she had just been, it was pretty hard not to believe this.
(Taking all this in mind, it wasn't such a surprise to her; ordinary Earth Satellite Navigators were bad enough, at least the last one she'd had an encounter with anyways. The one time involving Shareen, Keisha, a rented car, a pre-planned holiday to Brighton and an extremely irritating and confusing SAT-nav had not been the greatest experience in her life. Nor had it given her a great first impression of SAT-navs. Especially when a quick, sunny, relaxing weekend-trip to Brighton had turned out to be a chaotic, busy motorway-induced, hellish tour of the regions.
The Satellite Navigator had had no problems directing them through the longest route possible.
Worst of the worst – it was only Keisha who'd passed her driving test meaning she was the only one who was licensed to drive a car… and Keisha wasn't exactly the most talented driver in the world. They'd astonishingly managed to slide past at least half a dozen close calls on the motorways … They had ended up screaming their way down a motorway going into Reading before they'd finally saw some sense and (miraculously) managed to drive all the way back to London, safe and sound.
Rose, Keisha and Shareen had pinky-promised and agreed not to tell their mums about this one event – knowing that they'd have some all-too furiously worried mums on their tail. Rose was particularly worried about Jackie.
"You ought to sue that bleeding SAT-nav company, Rose! You could've been killed!" she imagined her mum's reaction - and not wanting the fuss, had no problems agreeing.)
It didn't help very much either that the alien SAT-nav was now hurling out readings that subject B was almost constantly on the move, so Rose had to change directions every few minutes or so. Trust the Doctor to be so restless and-
"SUBJECT B IS MOVING TO THE LEFT." Rose's line of vision moved to the offending article in her right hand, as a cool, loud female voice reached her eardrums. Rose deeply suspected that it had something to do with the fact that, on the odd occasion, she purposely did the exact opposite of what the SAT-nav told her to do. "SUBJECT B HAS NOW MOVED 15 YARDS TO THE LEFT. I REPEAT, SUBJECT B HAS MOVED 15 YARDS TO THE LEFT. "
Great, Rose thought to herself, now the SAT-nav can talk. Just what I need. And now, I can't even pretend I didn't notice it.
"SUBJECT A MUST CHANGE DIRECTION. SUBJECTA MUST TURN AROUND." Rose grunted. "I REPEAT, SUBJECT A MUST TURN AROUND. I REPEAT, SUBJECT A MUST TURN AROUND."
"Alrigh', keep your hair on," Rose grumbled, stiffly turning around on the balls of her feet, knowingly enduring the fact that the SAT-nav thing wouldn't shut up until she did as it said.
"SUBJECT A MUST TURN AROUND AND HEAD NORTH. SUBJECT A MUST HEAD N-"
"Righ', that is it, I've 'ad enough with you!"
As if the system had heard her, the SAT-nav fell abnormally silent.
"Well … that was easy enough …" Rose breathed, sighing in relief. Too easy, croaked a voice in the back of her head.
"SUBJECT A MUST HEAD NORTH."
It was too good to be true … Rose groaned. She jabbed at the touch screen, willing there to be an 'exit' button to press. There wasn't.
Sighing, Rose reluctantly gave into the inanimate drone of the alien SAT-nav - which the Doctor had installed onto her mobile – and sloped off grudgingly down the corridor.
Little did she know, just under a diagonal 30 yards away from where she'd been last standing the Doctor and Colonel Mace were discussing one Luke Rattigan …
Bending over the computer's keyboard, Colonel Mace pulled up a picture of Luke Rattigan onto the screen.
He tapped the screen. "Child genius. Invented the Fountain 6 search engine when he was 12 years old. Millionaire overnight," he told the Doctor, who was only half-listening to him and busily reading Luke's profile instead. "Now runs the Rattigan Academy. A private school educating students handpicked from all over the world."
The Doctor raised his eyebrows, impressed and intrigued. "A hothouse for geniuses - wouldn't mind going there," he smiled pensively, receiving a puzzled look from the Colonel. The Doctor caught the quizzical look. "I get lonely," he said, as if that explained everything.
If anything, this made Colonel Mace even more confused. There was a lapse of silence in the air, intruded only by the de-pocketing of the Doctor's glasses, and the sound of dextrous fingers flying across the keyboard as the Doctor pried more into the life and files of Luke Rattigan.
Suddenly, he craned his neck up, jerking his head up and away from the computer screen to face Colonel Mace.
"Is there a problem, Doctor?" Mace asked him.
The Doctor ignored him. Instead, he whipped off his glasses and furrowed his brow. "Can you hear that?"
"That voice …" he said, frowning and chewing on the end of his chunky-rimmed glasses thoughtfully. "Sounds like a …" … MUST TURN AN IMMEDIATE RIGHT. "like a ….SAT-nav."
Colonel Mace shook his head slowly. "Why, should I have heard something? Is there something important that I should know?"
"Naaaah!" The Doctor's face broke out into a wide grin. "Was probably some poor, lost soul following the advice of a SAT-nav whilst trapped in congestion on the motorway. Mind you, if that is the case – which I highly suspect it is, whoever it is won't be having much luck, for … oh … about … what's the date today?" He turned to Colonel Mace.
"6th of March."
"6th of March … which means … the congestion's gonna last for another two and a half hours, if I remember my dates correctly …" The Colonel stared at him. The Doctor responded with playfully raised eyebrows and tap to the side of his head. "Time Lord, remember; hearing's at least three times more sensitive than your average human's, ten times if I concentrated hard enough."
He paused, before adding, "Which makes me … more or less, the equivalent of a typical Earth dog! Ha! Imagine that! – a Time Lord having the same standard of hearing as a dog! Not that I'm complaining, of course – if you ask me, I'd rather it be a dog than a cat … Can't say I'm too fond of them: cats. Weeeeeeeell … Novice Hame wasn't too bad. And, then again, neither was Brannigan – nice chap, Brannigan. Lovely wife, too. Whatever the matter, the point still stands: dogs have much more potential than cats – and never trust a cat wearing a nun's wimple. Anyway!" He stared at Colonel Mace expectantly, who looked just as bemused as any other sane human being would've done. "Now that I've told you about my super-sensitive Time Lord hearing and expressed my contempt for cats, where were we?"
Colonel Mace smiled, and raised an eyebrow. "I believe you were looking into the files of Luke Rattigan, before you, err, heard something."
"Nah, finished that ages ago."
The Colonel frowned in slight confusion. "Then, what were you doing?"
"Seeing what else UNIT does, now, except for raiding factories and pointing guns at everyone who's not UNIT," the Doctor replied casually.
Now thirty-five yards away, Rose moved slowly further and further away from her supposed 'destination' and, on the SAT-nav's instructions, trekked the longer route round the factory just to reach him – instead of the two minute's walk that Rose was completelyunaware of.
"Do you think I should call my mum?" Donna regarded the look on Martha's face, before supplementing, "About the ATMOS in her car, I mean?"
"Better safe than sorry," answered Martha.
"I'll give her a call." Donna smiled at Martha gratefully, before she turned and started to leave.
Martha nodded thoughtfully, turning back to the unkempt pile of paperwork, when a thought crossed her mind and-
"Donna-" Donna stopped in her tracks and spun back around again – "Do they know where you are?" Martha continued. "Your family, I mean, that you're travelling with the Doctor?"
Donna paused. "Not … really. Although... my granddad sorta waved us off. I didn't have time to explain."
"You just left him behind?" It sounded more of a statement than a question, but Donna dismissed it, her mind now drifting among other – more important - things instead …
She'd … She'd never thought of it like that before, but now Martha was saying it … everything was coming into perspective now and … Martha was right, and it was true. She really had just … left her granddad (and her mum, on that matter) behind.
"Yeah," Donna replied finally.
Martha nodded acutely. "I didn't tell my family," she said quietly. "Kept it all so secret and it almost destroyed them."
"In what way?"
Martha looked up to meet Donna's eyes before her dark chocolate orbs fell back down to the paperwork, her eyes skimming each document briefly.
"My family, they'd gone all into hiding – they'd been warned, just in time, by Rose actually – but … 9 months later, he found them. They ended up imprisoned," she explained softly, eyes distractedly swimming over the current page of paperwork. "They were tortured - my mum, my dad, my sister ... Would've ended up with a lot more scars if they hadn't been warned when they had."
A sad, distant look crossed her face, but it disappeared as fast as it had appeared.
She glanced up at Donna. "And it wasn't the Doctor's fault, I want you to know that, Donna, but you need to be careful. 'Cos you know the Doctor, he's wonderful, he's brilliant, but he's like fire - stand too close and people get burned."
A/N:- Some of the next chapter's been written – me be writing up and posting the rest of it tomorrow. Am leaving this a shortish – weeeeeell for this story anyways, pointless chapter 'cos when I tried to write more this afternoon ze common-cold got the better of me and the room kept spinning and the computer wouldn't stay in focus. Not so dizzy now, but got lotsa lotsa mind-engulfin, boredom-creating, sproutsworthy homework to be done and handed in for tomorrows, and I take it you wouldn't really want to wait another day for this update????????????
Am hoping to toss an Allergies update at you too, tomorrow.
And yesh, I solemnly swear that the basic original Sontaran Stratagem plot is flying out the window from this point onwards.
ONE MORE THING: - Suddenly I See by SimpleSerenity- READ IT! 'Tis seriously CheeseOnToastWorthy and full of flawless bananarificity – and is a vair, vair good remedy for dizziness and heavy colds!)
OK, ANOTHER THING: Huge apologies to anyone whose 'fics I haven't been reviewing latelies – will do as soonio as possible!
=D =D =D =D =D