A/N: This is certainly a departure from my normal stories with pretty much any Doctor and Sarah. It was written quite a while ago, but I'm just getting around to posting it...
THE LAST FAMILY SOLDIER
Lexi had been in jails before, so most of them were run of the mill for her. Her profession almost demanded jail time, usually in remote places, but nothing had been as bad as this dark and stinking hole of a cell on the planet Anseda Major. She'd seen things that should only exist in nightmares.
She crouched in a corner, forcing herself to keep still as the guards entered to dish out their special treatment to Endri, her cellmate. It was times like these that she wished the light in the cell wasn't as bright. Each act of abuse played out for her in living colour, burning their horror onto her brain. Darker would definitely be better because even her vivid imagination couldn't come up with images worse than what she was seeing in front of her.
She bit her tongue, holding back her anger, fear and helplessness as she heard the sharp snap of a bone being broken. There was another piercing, audible whack from across the cell that sent something warm and wet splattering across her face. She wiped it away and looking at her hand, shockingly discovered it was blood. Endri's blood. She gagged involuntarily in disgust, but held back from rushing to Endri's aid. She couldn't achieve anything by being heroic. She closed her eyes to block the image of Endri's pained expression from her vision. She heard a thud; followed by a grunt and realised the guards must have dropped Endri on the floor.
Once the guards left and closed the cell door, Lexi rushed over to Endri, lying like a disguarded heap on the rough, filthy ground. She dropped down beside him, touching first his battered face, then the wounds in his chest. It was obvious, he was dying. She pulled a blanket, stiff with the dried blood of previous beatings, off Endri's cot and gently pushed it under his head. Anything was better than nothing.
'Keep safe,' he managed to whisper before his life escaped him.
Taking a deep breath, Lexi's hand hovered over Endri's face before closing his eyes. She eased the blanket out from under his head to cover the body. For a while, she sat there, completely drained. Finally, she lifted the blanket to take one last look. She noticed the body had already lost colour as heat escaped and blood drained from the open wounds.
'That's easy for you to say, Lover,' Lexi replied as she replaced the blanket over the body.
She absently rubbed the back of her neck, feeling the tender skin, knowing there must be a bruise. They had viciously yanked her around by the strap of her camera just two days previously. She should have known that pretending to be a tourist on this primitive planet would get her killed, but she had her orders. Lexi thought of her mission objectives, given to her by General Andrews on Mars Base Delta – scout out Anseda Major to determine the worthiness of the planet to join the Earth Conglomeration. It was nothing she hadn't done before, many times over. Her previous scouting reports had brought countless planets into the Conglomeration. Absently, she thought future tourist guidebooks to the planet would refer to this place as unfriendly. A laugh escaped her despite, or perhaps because of the dire circumstances.
She never knew what Endri had supposedly done wrong, but she was sure it was minor. Chaos and torture reigned supreme on this backward planet. They were primitives, unsure of their place in the galaxy. It hadn't taken long to determine that the Ansedan code of ethics didn't mesh with the Conglomeration's, but that didn't matter. The Conglomeration had picked this planet as next on the list to be annexed, provided her report was favourable. A good report was beginning to seem less and less likely. In Lexi's opinion, the best thing to do would be to leave this planet alone and let it find its own way.
Everything was just a matter of timing. She'd only be stuck in this place until her superiors pinpointed her location, sent in the backup troops and closed this place down. Two days at the most. Anseda Major's defence forces didn't stand a chance against the Transfer Force. If the Transfer Force was ordered to annex the planet, Lexi reminded herself that anything done would be for the benefit of the inhabitants of Anseda Major. The Conglomeration was good, terrorism and incivility were bad. The longer she spent in this place, the more distorted the lines became.
In the end, Lexi lost count as the days dragged on. She refused to reveal her true identity to her captors despite the increasing severity of her treatment. The days dragged on, blending into each other as she was dragged from the cell to the interrogation room almost hourly. Time became a blur. The dim light in the cell never changed and the beatings and questionings merged into one perverse event. Only her training kept her going. She made herself eat and drink whatever she was offered and she often repeated her cover story – she was just an ordinary tourist on vacation. Injuries and deprivation finally took their toll and her spirit broke. At last, no longer able to walk on her own, she realised her beloved Conglomeration would be too late to free her. She was as good as dead. The darkness engulfed her.
The cell was quiet and it was the quiet that finally roused Lexi. She felt something covering her, something soft. It wasn't the stiff, dirty excuse for a blanket that the Ansedans had given her, but a sharp contrast to the cold, hard ground she was lying on. As she slowly opened her eyes, they were accosted by the bright colours of the garment covering her. She gingerly rubbed away dried blood from around her eyes.
'If I were you, I wouldn't move too fast, Lexi,' a brusque, masculine voice told her.
'Who are you?' she croaked, her voice cracking from lack of use and dehydration.
Lexi felt a hand on her arm as the voice softened and said, 'Don't worry. I'm a friend. I'll get you out of here.' A figure swam into her vision as the man held a tin full of water to her lips.
She heard another voice from the adjoining cell. This time it was an irate female voice. 'How? You don't even know why we're in here.'
'Peri, not now!' the man's voice barked back in sharp contrast to the gentle tone of a moment ago.
'How do you know her name? Why was it so important for us to come to this hellhole?' the woman asked.
The woman posed interesting questions that Lexi wanted the answers to as well. She tried to sit up on her own, but needed the assistance of the man kneeling beside her. He had curly, blond hair and bright blue eyes. Lexi looked at the coat in her hands. It was a garish multicoloured mix that would only accentuate the rest of his bizarre outfit. Lexi wondered if she was dreaming, but surely apparitions wouldn't be so outlandish. Would they?
Lexi allowed the man to help her to her feet. Normally, she'd never let a complete stranger this close to her, even in these extreme circumstances, but she was somehow strangely comforted by this man's presence. She couldn't take her gaze away from his eyes; they radiated a warmth she hadn't seen in a long time. Ever since…
Lexi could see the woman in the other cell peering through the iron bars, trying to get a better view of what was going on. The woman interrupted again. 'Doctor, this isn't getting us out of here any faster.' Lexi noticed that her voice was oddly accented and she finally realised it was an old Earth accent.
Lexi picked up on Peri's use of the Doctor's name. She turned to the man next to her, but moved too fast and faltered. 'You're the Doctor?' she asked, her trembling hands reaching out to him.
'Yes, but…' he started.
'You're an illusion!' she interrupted. Her vision blurred and she grabbed hold of the Doctor's arm, steadying herself. 'You're my family's ghost. How can you be real?'
Peri laughed. 'Well, that's certainly an improvement over what most people usually think of you, Doctor.'
A smile briefly crossed the Doctor's face. He ignored Peri, but addressed Lexi instead. 'Well, I'm not exactly a ghost, but I have been watching your family for several hundred years.'
Lexi shook her head slowly, trying to clear out the cobwebs, both from her imprisonment and her disbelief. She looked through the bars into the other cell and regarded Peri for a moment. 'Are you in on this as well?'
Peri shook her head. 'I have no idea who you are or what he's talking about.' She gestured at the Doctor. 'But then again, I frequently feel left out.'
The Doctor looked from Peri to Lexi. 'Introductions, yes,' as if the thought just occurred to him. 'Peri, this is Alexandra Kathryn Lethbridge-Stewart. Lexi, this is Perpugilliam Brown.'
For a moment, Lexi forgot her surroundings. She felt better than she had in days, despite her injuries. She once again had a shred of hope to hang onto. She nodded at the Doctor and stage whispered to Peri. 'Is he always so absentminded?'
Lexi looked back at the Doctor. 'OK, you seem to know so much about me, would you mind explaining what's going on?'
Peri nodded. 'Yes, that would be nice, for a change.'
The Doctor looked at the two women and sighed. 'Lexi is part of a long-running family of soldiers.'
Lexi agreed. 'My family has served the Conglomeration and Earth all the way back to the turn of the 20th century when Earth was still divided. Thirteen generations have served our government in some form.' She looked at the Doctor and sighed. 'I'm not just part of the family, I'm the last.'
Concern quickly covered the Doctor's face. 'The last? But I thought…'
Lexi stared at the floor. 'My brother was killed in a supposed avalanche on Anseda Minor. That's one of the reasons I was sent here. They thought that someone from Major's government set up his death. The Conglomeration was going to use that to oust…' she stopped short of finishing her sentence and looked around, remembering that she was in a jail and could be observed by anyone. 'Well, it doesn't matter anymore,' she added quickly. 'He's dead and nothing's going to change it.'
Lexi suddenly felt exhausted and sank onto the cot. 'Major's leader is a tyrant who doesn't believe in any form of freedom for her people. The Conglomeration was going to come in and get rid of her.' Lexi's talking reopened a gash on the side of her face. The blood began flowing again. She wiped it away absently with the back of her hand and sighed.
Peri looked at Lexi's casual reaction to the blood. 'What have they done to you since your imprisonment?'
'Standard stuff, really. Well, not on Earth, but on the outer fringes of the Conglomeration. It's not pleasant, but there are no regulations on how to treat prisoners, and basically they do whatever they want or think they can get away with. Even if it means torturing you until you tell them what they want to hear. Reminds me of some of the old stories that have come down the family line.'
Lexi shook her head. 'It's fear. It's a control thing for most of them.'
Peri sighed. 'It's very sad.'
The Doctor noticed the guards approaching from down the corridor. 'We can't stay here much longer.'
'Gee, Doctor, that's a nice thought. Now, any ideas on how to get out of here?' Peri asked.
The Doctor smiled. 'We create a fracas.'
Lexi remembered nothing else until she woke up in a cool room snugly covered by a duvet. She immediately noticed the pale white walls and could feel the softness of the bed underneath her. She recognised her surroundings as being her bedroom in her flat back on Earth. Disbelievingly, she ran a hand over her eyes. 'What the hell happened?'
Peri was sitting in a chair next to the bed, reading a book. 'Ah, you're awake.'
'Peri? How did we get out of the jail?'
Peri smiled. 'The Doctor started bellowing at the guards until they came into the cell. You jumped on one of them. He threw you against the wall, leaving you out cold. The Doctor was able to knock some sense into them and grab the keys. Then he tossed you over his shoulder and we left. Well, ran out would probably be more accurate.'
Lexi sat up. 'No one is ever going to believe this.'
The Doctor came in carrying a piece of paper. Seeing Lexi sitting up, he smiled. 'Oh good, you're awake. A messenger from General Andrews just delivered this for you. It's about the annexation of Anseda Major, I would imagine.'
She read through the note quickly. 'The Conglomeration has abandoned its plans for Anseda Major. The people of Anseda Major are going to have to ask for help before the Conglomeration feels justified in taking any action.'
'Is that good or bad?' Peri asked.
Lexi shrugged. 'I don't know. There are still people being tortured down there. There's no justice in that, but there's also nothing we can really do about it. Sure, I guess they could overthrow the planet's leader, but what good would that do?'
Peri looked up at the Doctor. 'Is there nothing we can do?'
The Doctor sighed. 'We don't have to like it, Peri; we'll stand up against injustice whenever we can, but there's never a guarantee of any sort of resolution. As much as I'd like to think that I could go in and correct every injustice in the galaxy, I can't.'
'And there isn't a quick answer in this case, unfortunately,' Lexi added.
The Doctor looked at Lexi. 'I trust that you have this situation well in hand?'
She looked down at the letter. 'There's nothing I can do now, except go on to the next mission. I am a soldier, after all. I have a strict family heritage to maintain.' She managed a weak smile, despite her sagging spirit.
'Try to stay out of trouble, Alexandra. I might not be around to rescue you next time.' He gave Lexi's arm a reassuring squeeze before turning to Peri. 'Let's go, Peri. There are other injustices that we can do something about.'
Peri stood up and shook Lexi's hand. 'Good luck.'
'Thanks. I think I'm going to need it.' Lexi watched them go with a mix of dread and relief. Yes, the Doctor had broken her out of prison, but as he said, there were other injustices to fight. She was sure the Conglomeration would manage to send her into the thick of things once again. Only one thing was certain, she didn't care to spend any more time in jail – anywhere.