A/N: It's only as AU as you want it to be, baby.

*** 6:05 AM GMT, in the prisoner quarters of the Valiant ***

"So," drawled Jack, speaking over the endless drone of the Valiant's engines. "You here to bring me my breakfast of champions?" He flashed his undefeated grin at Tish.

"Same as every day," she answered quietly, setting the tray down and starting to spoon up Jack's gruel.

"Nah, not today," he said. "Today's the big day. Launch Day! Do you think everything's ready? Has our Lord and Master got everything in place?" His manner was the same over-the-top, indomitable charm as always, but it didn't matter—Tish knew what he was really asking.

"I'm sure he has," she said, but the pinch of her lips and faintest shake of her head told him the real answer.

Jack swallowed the next spoonful, trying not to break character even as his mind raced. A year of planning, of mostly-fake escape attempts, of torture stoically endured, and in the end, it was all going to be screwed up by some stupid machine.

What in the name of hell were they going to do now?

*** 7:14 AM GMT, on the bridge of the Valiant ***

"He's captured Martha."

Jack stopped walking abruptly halfway through the doorway to the bridge. One of the guards escorting him prodded him with his gun, but Jack ignored him and stared at the Doctor in his tiny, swinging prison. "How do you know?"

The Doctor clutched at the bars of his cage. "He came to tell me himself. He'll bring her here to kill her."

Jack grunted as the guard gave him a sharp jab to the spine. "Over there," the guard barked. "Against the wall. No talking."

Jack took his place on the opposite side of the room. Neither he nor the Doctor really needed to say anything more out loud anyway. After a year of desperate planning and subterfuge, they had both developed the fine art of the silent conversation. Jack locked eyes on the Doctor.

You know damn well what we have to do. What I have to do.

The Doctor frowned and his eyes flickered away. But Martha…

Doctor. Jack glared at him until the Doctor looked back. We've only got one shot. He shot a meaningful glance at the device, that god-forsaken device, attached to the underside of the Doctor's cage.

The Doctor gave a single nod and closed his eyes against the apology he knew would be written across Jack's face, an apology that he didn't remotely deserve.

It was entirely his fault. And Martha would likely pay the price for it.

He should have known better than to try to press against the Master's consciousness, looking for a niche, a crack, some entry that would allow him to heal the mind of the damaged Time Lord. If only he could help him, if only the Master would LET him help him… In the end, the temptation had been too great for him not to try.

The Master had not taken kindly to the attempt, to put it lightly, and, after much unpleasantness, he had brought in a localized telepathic dampener. The machine had severed any mental links between them, but it had also severed the Doctor's link with the Archangel Network.

No link to the Archangel Network, and all the humans in the world could chant his name for days without it doing a damned thing.

Now, Jack would have to make a desperate bid to try to smash the device, but not until the last moment. Everything would balance on a knife's edge—act too soon, and the Master would be tipped off. Act too late and they'd miss the swell of psychic energy. Either way, Jack would certainly be killed again, and, far worse, he wouldn't be able to shield Martha like they'd planned.

There were so many ways it could go wrong.

Their exchange was interrupted when the Master swaggered into the room, arms spread wide.

"Well, boys, have I got a show for you today," he said, clapping his hands together and taking the stairs up to the upper level two at a time. Pressing a button on the comm system, he asked, "Has our guest disembarked yet?"

"Not yet, sir, but she's on her way," a voice squawked from the machine.

The Master frowned. "I want her here by the countdown," he snapped.

"Yes, sir. There was a minor glitch with the Skylift's levitation module, but it's operational now. ETA's in twenty-six minutes. In plenty of time for the countdown, sir."

"Good," answered the Master. "And have the Jones family sent in before she gets here."

"Yes, sir."

Stepping away from the comm-panel, the Master smiled down at his prisoners and drummed his fingers impatiently on the railing. "It's almost time," he said, sounding half-giddy. "Today, we will watch the dawning of a new empire. The launching of two hundred thousand ships to…"

A chime rang on the comm system, interrupting him. He stalked over to the control panel and pressed a button. "What?" he snapped.

"Sir, permission to bring a prisoner to the bridge, sir."

"Prisoner, what prisoner?" he asked. "Martha Jones shouldn't be here yet."

"Identity unknown, sir. She was captured onboard the Valiant."

The Master paused, considering. "Torchwood?" he asked at last.

"Negative, sir. Doesn't match any existing profiles. She was armed with a gun and had a number of unidentified tech items on her person. We've scanned them; no weapons. We are conducting diagnostics on all essential systems but it doesn't appear that she was able to sabotage anything."

"How did she get onboard?"

"Unknown, sir."

"Hmm." The Master waggled his eyebrows. "Mysterious. Well, I've got some time to kill before killing time," he said, grinning. "Bring her on up. And bring the tech, too."

"Yes, sir."

The Master looked down over the stair railing, glancing back and forth between the Doctor and Jack. "So, is this a little surprise present for me?" He clasped his hands together in a parody of delight. "Oh, you shouldn't have!" But both his prisoners looked genuinely perplexed.

The Master was mulling over the possible implications when the doors to the bridge room swung open. Two guards entered, one of them carrying a small black satchel. Between them walked a woman—a blonde woman in a blue leather jacket. They pushed her to the base of the stairs, directly below the Master.

"The prisoner, sir," said one guard, saluting. "She was detained on floor 38 near the aft crew quarters."

Meanwhile, the woman was looking around at her surroundings. "Huh," she said, sounding vaguely put-out. "I think I liked the green better."