This chapter is greatly due to Tari, who said that Jenny needed to get a glimpse of the Time Lord Victorious. She helped me solidify my ideas for this chapter.
The TARDIS faded into existence inside the courtyard of the police station, engine grinding as it settled into place. Engaging the hand brake, the Doctor dashed out of the blue box and into the building. He spotted the reception desk and made a beeline for it.
"Hi, I'm John Smith, Special Investigations," he said, flashing the psychic paper. "I need to speak to whoever is in charge of investigating the off-worlder kidnappings."
"Yes, sir," the receptionist said, pressing a switch on her desk. "I have someone here from Special Investigations to see Jono Drake."
The Doctor did his best not to pace while waiting for Drake to arrive. He hated dealing with police, and he hated waiting for people, and he was currently forced to do both. The fact that the receptionist was giving him the most patronizing smiles did nothing to help. When Drake did arrive, it was all the Doctor could do not to yell in relief.
"Inspector Jono Drake," the small man introduced himself. "You're here about the recent kidnappings?"
"Yes, in particular, that of a young woman, this morning," the Doctor replied. "The incident follows the pattern of the off-worlder kidnappings. I need to see everything you have on this group."
Drake looked at him through narrow eyes, "What exactly makes this a Special Investigations matter?"
"Look here, the woman who was taken is my daughter," the Doctor snapped, not in the mood to put up with any bureaucratic nonsense. "I'll find her without your help, if I have to, but you do not want to stand in my way."
Drake seemed to get the idea, but it was clear he still had reservations. With a sigh, he turned and led the Doctor back to his office.
One thin folder was all Drake had on fourteen kidnappings. The man was either that incompetent, or these guys were that good. The Doctor tended to think it was both. It took him all of ten minutes to go over the papers with a fine-tooth comb, and there was little in there that he hadn't figured out from the shop girl.
With a frustrated sigh, the Doctor left and returned to the TARDIS. He knew he needed to act quickly; if the kidnappers followed their pattern, they'd keep Jenny for a few more hours before killing her. The police had been next to useless. They had no idea where this group operated out of, who their leader was, or how many of them there were. The Doctor had flown blindly into unknown and dangerous situations before, and he had no qualms about doing it again, but he did need to know where he was going. He didn't seem to be getting anywhere.
He let out an angry growl. This was not going to happen again. He was not going to lose anyone else. If the locals couldn't—or wouldn't—help him, he'd find Jenny himself. Flipping a few switches on the TARDIS console, he began going over his options. The one that stood out as having the greatest chance at succeeding left much to be desired, but it was all he had.
The one factor he had going for him was that Jenny's Time Lord biology made her unique to every other being on the planet, except himself, of course. If he had something with her specific genetic pattern, he could set the TARDIS's sensors to hone in on her. That's when he remembered her shuttle. Her clothes and other things should be covered in her DNA, giving him a "scent" he could track.
Not wanting to waste any more time than was necessary, he set the controls to land the TARDIS at the space port. Quickly getting his bearings, he headed to the overseer's office. He hoped this person proved more useful than the inspector.
"Can I help you, sir?" asked the portly gentleman sitting behind the counter.
"Yes, I'm looking for a shuttle that came in, within the last few days," the Doctor replied, trying to remain level-headed.
"Planet of origin?" the overseer asked, already pulling up the records on his computer.
"Messaline," answered the Doctor, after a moment's thought.
"Ah, here we go. A Class-B shuttle registered from Messaline came in two days ago."
"Great! Can you tell me where it's docked?"
"Can you tell me what business you have with a decrepit, one-man shuttle?" the overseer countered, eyeing the Doctor curiously.
It was enough to make some of the Doctor's control slip, and he lunged across the counter and grabbed the man by his collar.
"Listen, I've had a really bad time of it, recently. The girl who came in that shuttle is my daughter, and she's been taken, and the only way I have to find her is that shuttle. You really don't want to get in my way, right now."
The overseer visibly shrunk in the wake of the Doctor's anger, his tone and the look in his eye enough to make even the strongest man whither.
"Tier 23, third level down," he answered quickly.
"Thank you," the Doctor replied, releasing him and heading back out.
The docks were well labeled, so getting lost wasn't a problem, but tier 23 was on the other side of the vast space port. It seemed an eternity, but he finally found tier 23, and he took the stairs leading down to the third level three at a time.
The sonic screwdriver had the hatch unlocked in seconds, and he immediately began looking for something that would produce a viable sample of Jenny's DNA. He found an old hair brush that had no doubt seen better days, but he was more interested in the blonde hairs he saw woven through the bristles. He shoved the brush in his pocket, closed he shuttle back up, and ran back to the TARDIS.
Once back, he entered Jenny's genetic code into the TARDIS computer. Tracking someone by their DNA was hardly a swift method, the process only allowing the computer to analyze individual genetic codes at a time, but it was his only option. It only took seconds to scan each individual, but with the number of people that it could take to find Jenny, it could potentially take hours. He prayed she had that long.
After what felt like hours—but was only about thirty minutes—the TARDIS alerted him to a match. She had narrowed Jenny's location down to within a 200 meter radius, so he a least knew where to start looking. He flipped a few switches, dancing around the console as he directed the ship to land at the coordinates she had found.
After making sure that there was no one around, he quietly emerged from the TARDIS into what looked like part of an abandoned warehouse. However, signs of recent activity let him know he was on the right track. Now, to find exactly where Jenny was in this labyrinth.
He decided to take advantage of Jenny's newly revealed mental capabilities. Taking a breath, he dug down to that long empty place in his mind where the Time Lords had once lived. The quiet there was unnerving; but instead of dead silence, there was a faint hum. He focused on the hum, and turned to the door to his left.
He went down a long hallway, passing rooms stacked with weapons and supplies, enough to stage a small war. He made a mental note to deal with them after he had found Jenny. He continued on, following the hum as it got stronger. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he realized that it was far too empty and he was probably walking into a trap.
Finally, he came to a door at the end of another hallway. He swiftly pulled out his sonic screwdriver and unlocked the door. Slowly, in case there was someone inside waiting for him, he pushed the door open. He couldn't help he sigh of relief that escaped when he saw Jenny there, although his expression darkened considerably when he saw her red wrists shackled to the wall. Moving swiftly, he crossed the room and knelt by her side, immediately sonicing the chains loose.
"I knew you'd come!" she exclaimed, throwing her arms around his neck as soon as she was free.
"I'll always do everything in my power to come back for you," he promised her. "Let's get out of here."
The Doctor pulled Jenny to her feet, and they ran hand-in-hand back the way he had come. About halfway back to the TARDIS, he stopped and entered one of the weapons storage areas. All of the weapons were stored in a relatively central location, and he knew that all he had to do was set off an explosion in one, and it would start a chain reaction. It would undoubtedly take out the entire building and kill anyone inside, but he couldn't find it in himself to care.
He immediately set to work configuring a remotely activated detonator. Jenny stood back, watching him as he worked. The military training that she had been generated with told her what he was doing; the fact that it was the same man who refused to shoot Cobb after the colonel had killed her scared her more than anything.
"Dad, what are you doing?" she asked, even though she knew.
"I can't let these people continue to terrorize this world," he said in a low voice as he worked.
"You're going to kill anyone in the building," she continued.
"So be it."
The finality with which he said it silenced her, and as he finished working, she wondered what had happened since Messaline that would turn him into the hard man she now saw.
"Let's go," he said, arming the detonator and leaving the room.
Jenny followed him silently as he ran back to the TARDIS. She paused for a second when the blue box came into view; she remembered seeing the strange box in the tunnels after she had been created, but she hadn't really paid it any mind. Now she realized this was how the Doctor and his companions had mysteriously turned up, then. How had three people traveled in a three foot-square box?
The Doctor had just unlocked the door when the quiet click of a gun being cocked could be heard.
"That's far enough."
Jenny turned to see the man she had tried to escape from earlier, now joined by four other men, all aiming their weapons at her and the Doctor. She looked to him, expecting him to tell them to get out before their weapons cache exploded, but he simply stood there. He pointed his sonic screwdriver inside the TARDIS, activating something, but she couldn't tell what.
"The only place you're going is in a shallow grave," the leader ground out, finger twitching on the trigger.
"Go ahead," the Doctor said. "They'll likely be picking up pieces of you boys for days."
He turned back and entered the TARDIS as the kidnapers rained a hail of bullets on them without any effect, the projectiles bouncing off of the extrapolator shielding. Jenny stood in shock as the bullets bounced off of an invisible barrier, before following him. She looked wide-eyed around the control room as she slowly made her way up the ramp. Her father was already dancing around the console, sending the TARDIS into flight, back to the spaceport. The ship shuddered as she landed, causing Jenny to have to grab the railing to stay upright.
The Doctor pulled the hand brake and turned to look at her, satisfied grin in place.
"So, this is the TARDIS."
She stared at him, "You killed them."
"They had it coming," he replied, frowning.
"So did Cobb," she shot back.
The Doctor dropped her gaze and turned back to the console, "That was different."
"Yeah, Cobb actually killed me!" She stepped up and turned his face towards her, "You told me that once I started killing, it would infect me, eat away at me until there was nothing left. What makes you any different?"
His expression was hard, but Jenny could see something shift in his eyes. The Doctor took a deep breath and looked away.
"Time and again, I save worlds, countless billions of lives, and what do I get in return? I've had to say goodbye to everyone I've ever cared about. More than once. I lose everything, and the universe just stands by and laughs."
Jenny stood there, doing her best not to flinch at the anger that came rolling off of him in waves. The grief she had felt from him at the café earlier was just a shadow compared to the pain that she now saw. However, she could see that he was blinded by the pain.
"All those people that you lost, would you rather that you had never had them to begin with?" she asked softly.
"No," he replied instantly. "No, in fact, I can't imagine what my life would've been like without them. What are you saying? That it's better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all?" he finished sarcastically.
"I don't know," she shrugged. "But if you're better for having known them, isn't that worth it?"
The Doctor's mind drifted back, passing losses and victories, settling on a moment back when he was all leather and ears. All that kept him from destroying the Dalek that had wasted van Statten's bunker was a pink and yellow human.
"What about you, Doctor? What're you changin' into?"
He saw Rose's face—a mixture of dismay and confusion with a little fear added in—as he aimed the alien weapon before finally dropping it.
"Oh, Rose, they're all gone."
Past and present emotions mingled as his mind flashed forward three years from that point, and he was once again on that god forsaken beach in Norway, himself in pinstripes and the metacrisis in blue.
"He was born in battle, full of blood and anger and revenge. Remind you of someone? That was me when we first met. You made me better. Now you can do the same for him… He needs you, that's very me."
As much as it hurt, he was a better person for having been with Rose, and he wouldn't trade their short time for anything in the universe. But she was now living a life with the metacrisis, a life he could never give her, even had she stayed. Donna had shown up and convinced him to keep going—even if she didn't realize that was what she had done. He had considered her to be his closest friend, and he had basically killed her. Martha had been there when he needed someone, and she had taken a lot more from him than she should have, by all rights. He still felt a twinge of guilt when he thought about their time together, but he knew she was happy with her life now, and that made it better. There were countless others that he could list, each parting just as painful.
Would avoiding the pain be worth the cost of not having them in his life? No, he decided, the pain was worth it. Each person had played an important part, not just in his life, but in the whole of reality. Twice, Rose had helped him defeat the Daleks. Martha had been key to defeating the Master. Donna saved planets and averted the disaster that would have been Davros' reality bomb. And they had each made him better. So yes, they were worth the pain.
Jenny could see this thought process as he silently stood there. She could see when he came to the conclusion, as painful as it might be. She wrapped her arms around him and he held her tight, burying his face in her hair.
"You still have me," she said softly.
"For now," the Doctor relented, unwilling to allow his hopes to get too high. He pulled back and gave her a smile, "Ready to get your things?"
"Yeah, I am," she replied, returning his smile.
"Right, well, the shuttle should be right outside," he said, pointing to the door.
"Really? We're back at the spaceport?"
"Yep. Brought her back right after we left the warehouse. That thud was the old girl landing."
The TARDIS hummed darkly, annoyed that he would assign any amount of blame to her for his bad driving.
"Sorry," he sheepishly apologized to his ship.
Jenny realized that they were going to have to have a talk about why he kept talking about his ship like it was alive.
"Go on, then," he urged. "Once you're back, we'll have all of time and space at our doorstep."
Jenny cautiously walked over and opened the door. Sure enough, they were parked not ten feet from where the shuttle was docked. Until she had seen it, she hadn't quite believed that they had moved at all. It began to sink in that she was actually going to get to travel with her father. A mad grin spread at that thought as she gathered the last of her things.
Closing the shuttle back up, she slung her bag over her shoulder and ran back to the TARDIS. She closed the door and leaned on them, her excitement a match to the Doctor's.
"I had the TARDIS move a room up so you could unpack your things, if you'd like," he offered.
"Okay, first thing: why do you keep referring to your ship as if it's alive?" she asked, moving up the ramp to the console.
"She is," he defended his companion of seven hundred years. He explained further, "TARDISs weren't built, they're grown. There were some places on Gallifrey where the fields of TARDISs seemed to stretch on for ages. We make a matched pair, the two of us," he finished quietly, lovingly caressing the console, "both orphans of Gallifrey."
"So, what? There were fields of police boxes growing on Gallifrey?" Jenny asked, trying to lighten the mood.
"Oh, no, the police box is just a disguise. TARDISs have a chameleon circuit that's designed to change their shape to blend in wherever they land. I landed on Earth in the 1950's, and the circuit fried, so she's been stuck like this ever since. A TARDIS in its natural state looks similar to a colony of coral."
He could see that he was going to have to go steady in his instruction if he wanted her to have a solid grasp of Time Lord knowledge. She may have been created with Gallifreyan DNA, but her mind had been programmed to be human, and he didn't want to overwhelm her.
"Go put your things away, and I'll put her in flight," he gently directed. "The TARDIS moved it right up, so it should be the first door down the hall, but if you ever get lost, just ask her for help, and she'll direct you to where you want to go."
Jenny nodded, and went down the hall leading from the control room. The hall seemed to be made of the same coral-like material as the previous room, and she recalled what the Doctor had said about the TARDIS's natural state resembling coral. She was just about to pass a door when a direct hum stopped her in mid-stride. She realized that it must have been the TARDIS telling her this was her room.
"Thank you?" she asked more than said, and she got a pleasant hum in response. "Guess I better get use to this," she added to herself.
There was an amused hum, and she got the distinct impression that the TARDIS was laughing at her.
The room was modest, minimally furnished, but Jenny had a feeling that that would change as she stayed here. She set her bag on the bed and looked around. There was also a dresser and nightstand, and two doors leading out; one led to a walk-in closet and the other, a bathroom, much more comfortable than the cramped facilities she'd had on the shuttle.
Deciding that unpacking could wait, she set the bag on the dresser and returned to the control room. She once again found the Doctor leaning on the console waiting.
"So, where are we off to?" she asked, bounding up the ramp to join him.
"Your choice. Backward or forward in time?"
"Backward," she said after a second's consideration.
A grin spread across the Doctor's face as he turned back to the controls, setting them for the destination he had in mind, "I know exactly where to go. Earth, twenty-first century. Allons-y!"
He released the handbrake, and the TARDIS shuddered as she set off through the Vortex. Jenny squealed with delight as she held onto the console, watching as he made adjustments to their flight. She really didn't care where they went; she was just excited that she was with him. They were finally getting to see all those other worlds like they had planned.