Disclaimer: It all belongs to the Beeb.
I don't know how many of you were waiting for it, but here we go again. The return of Sarah Jane and Handy... Oliver he's reminding me. Carrying on with their life and how they manage it with everything that happens on Bannerman Road.
Thank you to Sue and Stella for the beta and contributions to this chapter. Without you, this wouldn't be half as good as it is.
And here it is, the finale of the adventure but not of the story. :) For our grown up readers, a grown up, follow up chapter will be posted shortly as a seperate story. Just so I don't have to change the rating on this and I can know that any junior readers we might have can keep reading uninterupted. As well for any of you who don't like adult stuff, please feel free to skip it, there won't be major story developments in it.
"What kind of problem?" All of Oliver's attention focused on the call now, leaving the alien healer and his apprentices to continue setting up slides the way he'd shown them.
Clyde reached out and took Sarah's hand comfortingly. "We think Sarah's sick."
"THINK…" Oliver half yelled and half growled. "It should be bloody obvious, shouldn't it?"
The stress made Oliver react that way, but it was obvious Sarah had heard and had jumped a little as well as the pressure on Clyde's hand increased. "Her symptoms aren't the same."
Oliver let out a breath in an effort to calm himself. "Could it be stress?"
"Don't think stress causes …" Clyde left off as he watched Sarah's shoulder's droop and her look out the window of the car.
"Causes what?" Oliver's voice started to rise again.
Sarah reached out and took the phone from Clyde. "I tried to run over one of the aliens, Oliver. One of the ths'Tain. I felt an overwhelming rage. No other way to describe it than a blood lust."
"You have to come here, Sarah." Oliver couldn't keep the fear out of his voice. "It can't be a coincidence."
"I can't. You know I can't." Sarah Jane swallowed hard as she spoke. "Even if the aliens allowed it, which we both know they won't – especially not with whatever is happening affecting my behaviour the way it is, someone has to do something to keep the ths'Tain from finding you."
"You don't know what's going to happen next, Sarah." Oliver argued. "You aren't safe to be driving and neither of the children can drive. If you won't come here then at least go home."
"I can't do that." Sarah could feel the anger rising in her, the tension rising through her body. "Please Oliver – my control isn't very good right now."
"All the more reason you should go home." Oliver said softly. "Please Sarah Jane."
"NO!" Sarah Jane snapped and found herself breathing hard. "Find the cure for whatever it is that Luke has and with any luck it will work for me as well." She snapped the phone shut ending the call.
"This isn't going to work," Rani spoke up from the back, only to have Sarah Jane whip around and turn a baleful glare on her. She shrank back a bit, but continued to speak. "I mean what we're doing right now. They know we're a fake now."
Sarah Jane closed her eyes then nodded slowly. "You're right, Rani." She took a deep breath then looked at them both. "I need the pair of you to listen to me. If I get too out of control you have to get away from me, get home and warn Oliver then have Mr. Smith contact the Brigadier and Jack Harkness. If I'm dangerous – I trust them to deal with the situation however they have to."
"Oliver won't like that." Clyde scowled. He didn't like it either, but he wasn't about to say it out loud.
"I know but Oliver won't be able to be objective." She forced a smile. "Not to worry, though, we're not there yet." She paused. "And I'm sorry for scaring you and for anything I might do that scares you."
"No worries, Sarah Jane." Rani reassured her older friend. "We know it's not you."
"Good," Sarah nodded at the children. "Now, what do we do next?"
The mobile rang once more and the call display revealed it was Mr. Smith calling. Clyde answered the call and put it on speaker. "The ths'Tain have filtered out the readings being transmitted by your two mobiles, Sarah Jane."
"We thought they might, Mr. Smith." Sarah confirmed. "We were just discussing what to try next."
"Mr. Smith, can you transmit the same signal but vary it a little, so it looks like different numbers of aliens not just the high intensity signal you were using with our mobiles to random mobiles all over the country? Even over the planet?" Rani asked obviously brainstorming a new plan.
"I can." Mr. Smith answered, "Within the same limitations."
"Alright, keep scanning though. As soon as you see the alien's transmatting to a location, move the signal to someone else's mobile and change it up a bit in intensity." Rani instructed. "And let us know if they start filtering out your signals, Mr. Smith."
"Rani, that's brilliant!" Sarah Jane exclaimed with a smile.
Seeing that Sarah seemed more like herself, Clyde decided to chance it. "Now, we should drive back to Bannerman Road," he saw Sarah's gaze become decidedly chilly but decided to keep on going, "and I'll stay with you while Mr. Smith does his thing. Rani can go home to bed because it's almost midnight, then in the morning you can make whatever calls need to be made to get me, Luke and Oliver out of whatever we're meant to be doing."
The look in Sarah Jane's eyes had Clyde wondering if he had gone too far, but then she took a deep breath and nodded. "You're right, Clyde. Let's get home where we can keep an eye on everything." As she focused on the road in front of her, she found herself thinking, 'And you can call Oliver and apologize as well.'
The phone call from Clyde hadn't made Oliver's night any better, "Damn, stubborn woman." He snapped the phone shut.
"What is wrong with Mistress Sarah Jane, Master?" K-9 rolled up, his ears twitching.
Oliver looked down at the robot and couldn't contain his laughter for a moment. "Thank you for that, K-9. You'll be glad to know I won't tell her you knew who I meant." He crouched and patted the dog's head. "Sarah Jane is sick. She's not acting like herself. She's acting like…" His words trailed off as a thought came to mind. "Oh… Oh yes!" He dashed towards the aliens. "Once those slides are prepared, you need to present them to K-9 for analysis." His mind moved at light speed. "You said your females weren't always the way they were…"
"In legends long past they were not, but that is merely myth, Oliver," the alien healer admonished.
"Yes, I know, but do you have scrolls – written versions of the legends?" Oliver insisted.
"Our keepers of the histories would have them, but they are written in our language." The alien healer didn't seem to be making any connection as to why it would be important.
"That's fine. I'm still very good with languages, thankfully." Oliver grinned. "You keep working with K-9." He dashed out of the laboratory and into the common area where most of the aliens were congregated, which looked to have once been a large sitting room. "Ts'mert," he called out to the familiar face he'd found, "where are your record keepers?"
"I can show you, Oliver." The soft spoken male led Oliver to a wizened looking alien with shaggy hair covering his body.
"Thank you, Ts'mert." Oliver touched the alien's shoulder. "I need your legends about the females who used to care for their young and when it all changed." The old alien considered him with eyes that were almost pure white then nodded regally, never speaking. It shuffled to where a bundle of scrolls were piled and selected several from the pile then carried them back to the former Time Lord. "Thank you, elder," he bowed slightly then took the scrolls to a table and set them down, pulling his glasses out and perching them on his nose before he carefully unrolled the first scroll and began to read.
Ts'mert had followed him back, curious as to what his human friend hoped to gain from the scrolls. "This will help you cure your cub?"
"I hope so." Oliver answered without taking his eyes from the parchment. "I'm trying to find the origins of the disease."
"Perhaps," Ts'mert fell silent, unsure of how to offer his assistance.
"Pull up a chair, friend and take a scroll." Oliver looked at him and smiled. "And thank you. It's not just Luke's life, but Sarah's as well on the line now."
The alien's eyes widened but he settled in to assist, selecting a scroll and beginning to read.
The sun began to crest over the horizon, when Oliver's phone rang again. "What are you playing at, Oliver? I was beginning to wonder, so I asked your little tin friend the last time he transmatted me some samples…"
"Sorry, Liz." Oliver winced at the sharpness of the woman's tone and pulled off his glasses. "Sarah is sick as well."
"Then why haven't you sent me any samples from her? The disease might be even more virulent in her. I know she thinks she's indestructible but she isn't." Liz began her tirade.
"I know." Oliver snapped as he pinched the bridge of his nose before reigning in his temper once more to deliver the explanation. "She can't come here because the aliens are afraid of females. The only upside to this is that the symptoms aren't the same. She's just aggressive."
"Just aggressive?" Liz sounded exasperated now. "Instead of relatively simple physical symptoms that can be controlled with medication and cool blankets, she's suffering from changes in her mental status. Oliver, that is in no way better." The mobile went silent for a moment. "Don't tell me, she wouldn't come in anyway?"
"Clyde, Luke's young friend managed to convince her to go home." Oliver admitted. "She called me late last night to apologize for her behaviour." He set down his glasses and rubbed at his eyes. "She doesn't sound good, Liz."
"I imagine not." Some of the anger had gone from the scientist's voice now. "That young man should be given a medal frankly. I've dealt with more than one stubborn, indestructible person in my time."
"Have you made any progress, Liz?" Oliver asked.
"Would I be harassing you if I had?" Liz countered. "No, there's something just not right about this disease."
"Like it had been engineered, yes?" Oliver decided to let her onto his theory.
"Yes." Liz agreed immediately. "That's what I'd been missing. You're right, it's exactly like it's been engineered but what sort of monster engineers a disease to affect only children? And its efficacy is far less than 100% if they were meaning to actually kill them."
"I don't think that's what it's meant to do." Oliver said cryptically. "Does it change the range of anti-virals you'll test on it?"
"It does actually," Liz agreed, "but I'm going to need to get the Brigadier to pull in some favours in order to test the ones I want to."
"Do it, Liz. I think this is much worse than we thought." Oliver couldn't keep the worry and stress out of his voice. "You might want to contact Sarah's computer; Mr. Smith – he'll be able to provide you with scans from Sarah Jane."
"A very good idea," Liz agreed, "We'll beat this, Oliver."
"I know." Oliver agreed, but looked to the place where Luke was swaddled in the cooling unit and couldn't help but wonder if they'd beat it in time.
Morning came to Bannerman Road at the same time as it came to Moreton Harwood and much like Oliver, Sarah Jane hadn't slept. Aside from the worry over Luke and wanting to be certain that she was awake if Mr. Smith had to warn them of something, there was a very real fear that if she went to sleep she wouldn't wake up herself. That the rage building inside her would take over, if she didn't keep it at bay with her will.
"Got your cuppa, Sarah Jane." Clyde announced as he came through the attic door.
"Thank you, Clyde." Sarah said, unable to keep the affection out of her voice and not really wanting to given she wasn't certain how long it would last. "You should have slept."
"More important to be up," Clyde said with a shrug as he handed her the cup then a sly grin crossed his lips. "It's you…"
Sarah felt her ire rise as she saw what was coming, "Best to stay away from the old folks jokes."
"Right," Clyde nodded, his expression turning grim. "So how are you doing?"
"I could be worse," she took a sip of her tea and closed her eyes, letting the soothing warmth flow through her, "but it's getting harder to control."
"Oliver will find a cure." Clyde said with absolute confidence.
"I know he will, Clyde." Sarah Jane was certain of that as well, she only hoped it would be in time for her as well as Luke.
"Sarah Jane," Mr. Smith's voice echoed through the attic. "The ths'Tain have filtered the life sign traces I have been creating."
Clyde could see it happening. As the fear rose in Sarah Jane, her expression changed becoming a mask of anger and hatred. She discarded her cup on the desk and focused on the super computer. "How long before they find them at Moreton Harwood?"
"I may be able to slow their progress by intermittently blocking their scans, but I estimate that they will have found them in two hours at maximum, Sarah Jane." Mr. Smith advised then did another medi-scan of Sarah Jane.
"What was that for?" Sarah spat.
"Liz Shaw has requested another full medical scan," the super-computer advised.
"I don't have time for that now." Sarah scowled then headed for the door of the attic.
Clyde was right behind her.
"Where do you think you're going?" Sarah Jane whirled on the boy, but he stood his ground.
"With you," his eyes never left hers. "Luke and Oliver would never forgive me if I let you go on your own."
"I don't need a keeper," she hissed at him.
"No," Clyde agreed, "but you do need back up."
Her eyes narrowed then she nodded. "Try to keep up, boy."
Oliver still poured over the scrolls when his mobile rang. "Oh Liz, I hope you have good news for me."
"I was hoping for the same. Sarah Jane's Mr. Smith just sent me another full medical scan…" Liz started.
Oliver's fist clenched. "It's not good is it?"
"Her body is being flooded with so much adrenaline and a cocktail of other hormones. It's not the virus that's liable to kill her, Oliver. She's just liable to have a heart attack." Liz said frankly, seeing no reason to keep it from him.
"Oliver," Ts'mert's soft voice caught the former Time Lord's attention. "Is this what you were looking for?"
Oliver moved to look over the alien cat's shoulder. "Brilliant. You're bloody brilliant. It was a bio-warfare weapon, Liz. The anecdotal evidence in this history – it spells it all out."
"Get your little metal friend to scan it and send it straight to my terminal, Oliver. That might be exactly what we need." Liz's voice was filled with determination.
"K-9," Oliver crouched down beside the little robot, holding the scroll. "You heard the lady."
"Affirmative, master," K-9 responded enthusiastically and began to scan the paper, translating and sending the information onwards.
The Figaro rounded the corner at the Moreton Harwood sign, kicking up a plume of dust as Sarah took the turn too sharply. "How long until the ths'Tain lock on?"
"They have already begun to triangulate on Moreton Harwood." Mr. Smith responded.
Sarah growled out loud and sped up in the direction of the manor house, no longer dealing with anything but instinct. Clyde, on the other hand, thought ahead. "What do you know about the ths'Tain, Mr. Smith?"
"They are a magnesium based lifeform. Similar in form to both an Earth lizard and an insect. They are egg layers." Mr. Smith began his lecture. "Their society is a military oligarchy. They are warriors and will only acknowledge a proven warrior's claim to Earth's sovereignty."
"And how do we get a proven warrior? If Oliver pretended to be the Doctor…" Clyde planned.
"He would have to challenge their leader to become a proven warrior." Mr. Smith supplied. "They would not automatically acknowledge the Doctor's status."
"How do I challenge, Mr. Smith?" Sarah's voice was gravelly.
Clyde shook his head. "You don't. You're sick, Sarah Jane. You don't believe in fighting…"
"My original Doctor taught me Venusian Aikido and the Brigadier made certain I had hand to hand training." Sarah snarled. "I wasn't always a pacifist, now how do I do it, Mr. Smith?"
"Tradition would demand that you throw your weapon at the feet of the ths'Tain leader." Mr. Smith answered her demand smoothly. "It will signal that you wish to prove that your hands are as deadly as your weapon is."
"Will my sonic do?" Sarah Jane asked as she could see the manor house and a group of the alien soldiers heading towards it.
"It should." Mr. Smith answered. In the same instant, Sarah Jane came to a skidding halt in front of the aliens, moving faster than Clyde would have expected as she opened the driver's side door and moved out in front of the armoured warriors with no hesitation or fear.
"How dare you bring your filth to my planet?" Sarah spat, then threw her sonic at the feet of the most elaborately armoured creature.
"You challenge, little pink thing." The insectoid's expression, if it could be said to have an expression, was almost bemused.
Sarah stalked up to the creature, glaring up at it. "I am Sarah Jane Smith. I was a companion to the last Time Lord of Gallifrey and now I protect my planet. Are you such a coward that you would deny me my right?"
The creature's eyes dilated - its equivalent reaction to flaring of the nostrils in another species. "Miox of the ths'Tain has never been a coward. You will be no challenge, female." It stepped back and stripped off its cloak and then began to unbuckle much of its armour. "I will even ensure that you have a minute chance of succeeding."
"Your generosity underwhelms me," Sarah scowled but moved off slightly, stalking around the creature, her head tilting as she took in its form then coming around to face it head on.
Clyde swallowed hard. He imagined that Sarah's chief advantage might be her speed, but it was hard to tell with these things. They could be just as fast as the tiny woman. He knew he couldn't interfere, but he wished that Oliver would come out and call a halt to all of this. Especially since Sarah didn't seem to be moving to start the fight.
There was stillness in the air which was broken as the large alien rushed towards Sarah Jane. She dropped at the last second, ducking beneath the thing's arm and slamming her elbow into its side, then hitting the ground and rolling before she jumped to her feet and launched herself at the aliens back.
Speed was Sarah Jane's battle plan, but a different sort of speed than what Clyde had expected. Even in her blood haze, Sarah knew she couldn't withstand a prolonged battle. She had to finish it quickly or she couldn't hope to succeed. Her skills of observation were actually her best weapon; as the Doctor would have argued they always were; and had revealed what she hoped would be the alien's Achilles heel.
As she wrapped one arm around the alien's neck to keep herself there, her other hand slid into a slight slit in the carapace, hoping to find even vestigial remains of what she suspected had been there before. It was only her slender hands that allowed her to probe within and find her prize. With a sneer, her hand wrapped around the limb she found there and pulled hard.
The alien screamed in pain and spun as Sarah Jane dropped from his back, a gossamer thin wing clenched in her hand. She crouched on the ground as the alien charged her, its hand going to a knife hidden in its belt. Dropping the wing, Sarah came up suddenly and slammed her hand against the alien's wrist as she stepped out of the way, just the way the Doctor had once taught her. The knife dropped and she followed it, grasping it as her leg shot out to take the alien's from beneath him.
Clyde watched in fascination and horror as the woman he'd known to always look for another way, had somehow transformed into a warrior the like of which he'd never suspected. From her crouched position she sprang up once more, adrenaline keeping her moving faster than she would normally. She was on the creature's chest, pinning it as she slid its own knife beneath its chin.
He was about to call out when Sarah's voice, sounding terribly wrong, echoed through the silence that had returned. "I could kill you now. Not even your own people would stop me. You're threatening my planet. My son…" She hissed.
Sarah raised the knife, glinting in the morning sunlight, as yet unstained with either combatant's blood. Then suddenly it descended and dug into the dirt beside the alien's head. "That isn't who I am…" She pulled herself up and stepped back. "I won't let this virus, I won't let you, change who I know I am." She looked in disgust at the wing she'd pulled from the alien leaders back. "I won't let that change who I am." Her posture became even straighter. "I want you to get off my planet."
"You harbour killers." The alien snapped at her. "You are a mighty warrior, Sarah Jane Smith, but you harbour cowards."
"You are the cowards." Oliver's voice stopped Sarah's response. She turned to see her family, both Oliver and Luke emerging from Moreton Harwood, but neither of them had smiles on their faces.
"Lies! They poison us. Our eggs will not hatch. The shells are soft. They never mature." The alien demanded.
"You did it to yourselves." Oliver spat. "Your military. Expansion. It's all your kind ever think about."
"Those were the dark days, not now." The alien leader insisted.
"Yeah, well those chickens have come home to roost," Oliver scowled. "Your people unleashed a virus on the Ptherians, to clean their home world for colonization. Except your lot are too ritualistic and not efficient enough. You thought turning the females against the young would finish the job. Make a virus that turns the females into vicious killers and the race wouldn't survive. No young. No next generation, except it doesn't work that way in their species. They raised their young together, so they only lost a few – then the males learned to restrain the females, take the young and raise them on their own."
He stalked up to the alien, meeting him eye to eye. "You didn't destroy their race, just their families. Like your conflict nearly destroyed mine and Sarah's." He watched as Luke carried the injector that Liz had sent down with the effective anti-viral agent and pressed it to his mother's neck with a slight smile. He turned his attention back to the alien. "When it didn't kill them your people took it as a divine sign. That they weren't meant to be there, but when you went back, you didn't know that the virus had mutated. It turned into something that affected the children first and then it became something that could affect you. It was never meant to affect your race, but now it did." He got close enough that the alien could feel his breath. "Our people have a very old saying. Hoist by your own petard."
He moved back to stand with his family. "Normally I'd let you hang. I haven't been very merciful for a very long time, but my mate values mercy. Which is why you're still alive." He breathed out slowly as he wound his arm around Sarah's waist. "Our scientist is going to work with the Ptherians to make the anti-viral effective for their people. If you swear, on your honour, on your ancestor's honour that you will help them – take them home, help them find their females, then I will ask her to help your people as well."
"Why would you do this?" The ths'Tain leader looked confused.
"Because it's what she would want." He pressed a relieved kiss into Sarah's hair as he held her close. "Now do we have a deal?" He held out a hand to the alien.
Slowly the alien leader took Oliver's hand. "Yes. We have a… deal."
Luke, who had after being administered the cure been the only one fit to drive the friends from Bannerman Road home, had done just that, with Clyde beside him snoring in the passenger side front seat, while Sarah Jane and Oliver had fallen into an exhausted slumber in the back seat. When they did arrive home, Oliver had awoken enough to carry Sarah Jane to their room then had once again fallen asleep with her in his arms, stretched out on their bed.
The two adults woke slowly to the smell of pizza and the sounds of teenagers laughing. "They bounce back quick at that age."
"Oh, I don't think I was ever that age," Sarah said with a slight smile but one that never reached her eyes.
"Beg to differ," Oliver teased. "I remember you at that age. Well, maybe just a touch older." He paused then in a more serious tone he spoke again. "Sarah, look at me."
His insistence that she look at him, just made her turn away more. "I don't know how you can stand to look at me."
"I know how. You didn't kill him, Sarah. That virus was reacting to the oestrogen in your body, it was changing the way you think. It should have made you a killer without a conscious." Oliver pointed out.
"So I should be glad that I'm in menopause? Or it would have been worse?" Sarah rolled her eyes at him.
"Actually from what Liz said, it doesn't sound like being a bit careful would be too amiss, if you catch my drift." Oliver countered. "And no, you controlled yourself, Sarah Jane Smith. You and only you. That wonderful mind of yours, your spirit. That's what stopped you from being what that virus was intended to make you." He touched her chin gently. "And since you convinced me that the Time War wasn't my fault, I'm going to have to reconsider if you really meant that if you don't listen to me about this."
"You're impossible you know," Sarah looked up at him and ran her finger against his lips.
"Birds of a feather, Sarah Jane." Oliver grinned. "Birds of a feather."