Alright, so I think I've made you guys wait more than enough. It's exciting to see that this story's picking up more interest, and I'm hoping this chapter continues to live up to your expectations.

Just to clear up some confusion, no the Teselecta and the Antibodies are not making an appearance in this fic; I'd completely forgotten the "You are unauthorized" connection, and there wasn't really a better phrase. Really what you should be picturing are the puppet-Daleks from "Asylum of the Daleks". I hope that makes sense. Enjoy!

Dobby's Polka-Dotted Sock

Chapter Seven

"Captain, what is it? Jack? Jack Harkness!" No one made a move to answer Kate's panicked transmission.

Martha felt frozen, clutching at Mickey, the whole group collectively holding its breath. The Dalek- the woman- the thing turned its head from side to side slowly, letting the eyestalk rove over each of them. She wished desperately she could see what was running through it's- mind? Was that even the proper term for something so horrid?

At last it stopped and Jack spread his arms even wider, knowing as they all did that running was foolish and impossible. They had nowhere to go. She tightened her grip on her husband and squeezed her eyes shut, prepared.

"Subjects unknown."

Martha's eyes snapped right back open in amazement as the eyestalk began to retract into the woman's head, the glaring blue light fading away. Once it had fully disappeared, the thing turned around and began to walk back into the darkness.

"What?" Jack breathed barely above a whisper, his arms still raised as though he couldn't believe it wasn't necessary. Martha, however, gathered her resolve and broke out of Mickey's arms, ducking under Jack's as she called after the retreating figure.

"Wait!"

"Martha!" All three men shouted in despair, both Mickey and Gregory rushing after her.

"Jack, pleased respond!" Kate was trying again.

"We're alright, we're alright," Jack hastened to reply. "We've encountered, uh, a life form. Dalek."

"Dalek!"

The thing, meanwhile, had stopped and so Martha drew up to it. She hesitated when it came to touching it, though, the memory of that dead pulse still making her shiver. "Yes?"

She faltered, staring into those human eyes. How? How could such a despicable thing be hidden inside this woman?

"Not a Dalek, Kate. Just Dalek-like," Jack was struggling to explain.

"Hold on, Captain, we're trying to temporarily connect you to the phone line."

"Does the subject require something from me?" The woman prompted, sounding almost curious if not for the flat look in her eyes.

"Um, hi," Martha managed to finally say, a weak smile flitting across her face. "Listen, just now you said we were 'unauthorized'."

"That is correct," the woman-Dalek replied with almost no inflection, just like everything else she had said.

"Right, well, why are you just…leaving us alone?"

"Don't make it kill us!" Mickey almost squawked behind her in alarm.

"Mickey, it—or she, I don't know—is at least part-Dalek. Don't you want to know why she isn't killing us?" She glanced back imploringly at the two men, who still appeared very apprehensive. Gregory at least had lowered his gun slightly.

"You are of no consequence. My orders pertain to the prisoner alone." That answer had her whipping her head back around. Doing her best not to get offended over the 'no consequence' remark, Martha pressed on.

"Who gave you those orders?"

"The Daleks."

She wanted to smack herself on the forehead. Of course the Daleks. "But—why you? Why not just station a Dalek here? What are you doing here?" She stopped herself from asking just what she was, not truly wanting to provoke the thing. The woman.

"This is a prison ship. I am the Warden."

She opened her mouth again when suddenly a burst of static shot through the earpiece. Grabbing at it, Martha winced along with the others as the director's voice was heard, "We've almost got it connected, there might be some issues with static, and we don't know how long it will last."

"Connected to who, Director?" Gregory inquired, bewildered.

"The—" but she was cut off by a very familiar voice, a voice that sounded as though it was reaching the end of a furious tirade.

"—just put me through!"

"I think you're through, Boss," Mickey commented, still rubbing at his ear.

"Mickey?" The Doctor almost shouted, sounding almost frantic with worry. "Are you all ok? Is Martha with you?"

"I'm right with him," she spoke through the communicator, feeling herself relax just at the sound of his voice. The Doctor would know what to do, he had to.

"Me too, Doc, in case you were wondering." Jack added somewhat cheekily. "And Gregory."

"Oh, good. Oh, thank heaven," the Time Lord spoke, incredibly relieved. It didn't last long as he continued, "This Dalek-like life form you've encountered, describe it."

"It's masquerading as a woman, sir, with an eyestalk hidden in its head," Gregory answered.

"She's not masquerading."

"What?" All four of them said it.

"She is—was a woman. They've turned her into a puppet now, created to follow orders without thought." He sounded a strange mix between disgusted and pitying. It had to feel so unnatural; a creature he so detested combined with one he so loved.

"They made her to be the Warden. That's what she said, she's the Warden of this Dalek prison ship," Martha said, her voice quaking with something close to anger.

"Yeah, but it doesn't matter if it's masquerading or not, Martha says it's dead," Mickey informed him.

"How do you know?" Rory's voice crackled through.

"No pulse," she answered quickly. The thing—the Warden—blinked once and then began to walk again.

"This conversation is unimportant."

"No- no, wait!" She really did reach out and grab her arm.

"Martha, just let it go," Mickey hissed in her ear. "The quicker it leaves without killing us, the better."

She ignored his concerns, instead reactivating the earpiece, "The Warden didn't kill us. Does that mean she's safe?"

"She has no orders regarding you. Because you shouldn't be there, I might add."

"Well if she's—sorry, if you're the Warden," Gregory addressed both them and the puppet-Dalek, "that means you know your way around here, right?"

"I know the complete layout of the ship," the Warden answered matter-of-factly.

"Nice thinking, Gregory!" Jack praised, coming forward. "Ma'am- er, Warden, we've been sent to repair your craft. You are aware that it crashed, right?"

"Yes."

"We'll need your help navigating the area," he continued, giving the rest of them a wink. "Will you help us?"

"Yes."

"Great! One moment, please," he motioned for them all to turn into a huddle of sorts, and spoke though the line. "Doc, Kate, we've got ourselves a guide."

"The Dalek agreed to help you?" Sarah Jane questioned in shock.

"Yeah, and that should be suspicious enough," Mickey remarked.

"That doesn't matter," the Doctor interrupted irritably. "Just have her take you back to hole—a Warden has higher clearance than you—and get out of there!"

"Come on, Doc, that's not the plan," the immortal man reminded him in an almost teasing voice.

"Do you think she'll take you to the control room?" Amy asked.

"If we tell her there's engine trouble or something, probably," Martha shrugged.

"Just because she will doesn't change the fact that it's too dangerous!" The Time Lord snapped.

"Do you want to continue the mission?" Kate posed the question. Martha looked around at the men's pale, drawn faces, likely a mirror of her own. She slipped her hand into Mickey's, and the slight scowl he wore left his face.

"Yes," all four responded.

"Do you even listen to me?" The Doctor demanded, but River must have made her way forward for she spoke next.

"Never mind him, if you feel you can do it, do it."

"Good enough for me," Jack replied.

"You—"

"Good luck!" Jenny cut across her father.

"Be careful!" Donna added, and there was another burst of static.

"We couldn't maintain the connection between the earpieces and the TARDIS," Kate explained after a moment.

"He's still ranting angrily to us, of course," Amy informed them.

"Tell him not to worry, it'll all be over soon," Martha assured. "We've got a guide. We'll be out before he knows it." She wished he would stop fretting; they could handle it.

"Do we really want it as a guide, though?" Her husband questioned. "Can we trust it?"

"The Warden's the best shot we have at getting this done, and quickly. Trust me, I'm not thrilled about it, either," Jack told him, and Martha sighed.

"She didn't kill us, and she doesn't seem like she's going to."

"Right, good point, Martha," the Captain acknowledged, facing the puppet once again. "Warden, we need you to take us to the control room. There's something about it that's interfering with our, uh, repair equipment."

She nodded and started back through the darkness without another word, so they hurried after.

"I still don't like it," Mickey muttered. Martha resisted the urge to sigh yet again. She loved her husband, but when he was determined to dislike something, there was no convincing him otherwise.

Stuck in formation between him, Jack, and Gregory, Martha could only watch the Warden from afar, her hair and dress swishing from side to side as she took measured steps. Was she making the decision to walk forward on her own, or was some Dalek observing from some distant mother ship, transmitting orders?

Martha had hated the Daleks since she first encountered them, but to take an innocent woman and transform her into this for some ghastly purpose? They had sunk to an all new low. Her fear fading fast, now Martha Jones just felt a growing curiosity. How had this woman fallen into the hands of the Daleks? And if she was the Warden, where and what were the prisoners?

OoO

"Of all the things! Why bother even asking my opinion when they're going to follow their own foolish little ideas!" Her husband was past shouting as he tore from one end of the platform to the other, in a furious frenzy. River frowned, but decided to allow Donna and Jenny the first crack at that while she wound down the conversation on the phone.

"Is he going to stop any time soon?" Her father inquired, and she sighed.

"Probably not. I think it's best if we just hang up for now. We'll be in touch," she promised.

"Try and be calmer, too," Amy shot back just before she hung up, and her mouth turned up in a wry smirk. She glanced up from the console to see the other two women were indeed doing as predicted.

"They're just trying to solve this, dad, getting angry at them won't do anything," Jenny was attempting to reason as she followed him back and forth.

Donna, meanwhile, stood by the railing with her hands on her hips. "Yeah, and they're not foolish. Just because we're not all nine-hundred-something doesn't mean we're not smart!"

"I'm not—" he broke off with a frustrated snarl, running an agitated hand through his hair. "I'm not calling you idiots," he said with decreased volume, though it clearly was an effort to do so. "But—you just don't understand. You can't understand. That ship—"

"I don't think I understand," River broke in, and he took a step back from Donna to look at her. "A Dalek prison ship is dangerous, of course, but a prison ship guarded by a single puppet? It's disturbing, but not impossible for them to take care of."

"So, it's ok, right? Everything's ok," Jenny ventured cautiously. But the Doctor closed his eyes and breathed in deeply.

"No, everything is not ok. We're still stuck up here! But that is going to change," he decided and stomped down to the lower level, presumably to start tinkering again.

"Does he ever learn?" River huffed, resigning herself to a future bumpy ride through the Vortex that would most likely end in failure.

"Mum," Jenny spoke up suddenly, "the guide that they've found—the Warden. They said it was Dalek-like, and you and dad called it a 'puppet'. What does that mean?"

It was a perfectly innocent question, and yet she closed her eyes for a moment, steeling herself. "The Daleks often use other life forms as servants by taking over their minds, destroying them. You may have heard of the pig men?" The other blonde nodded. "A 'puppet' looks and behaves very much like its original state of being—until it's activated. It contains Dalek technology, like the eyestalk, inside of a flesh and blood shell that has died, usually because of the Daleks. Though it may go about its normal business, it has no mind or soul of its own."

"Oh my God," Donna's voice shook and Jenny's eyes were wide. "That's horrible. That's- how—oh my God."

"I've never seen one for myself," she admitted softly, "but I have been told that yes, it is horrible." Unwillingly, her gaze dropped to the glass floor, where all three could make out the top of the Doctor's head as he sat in the hanging chair and worked.

"He's your source," the temp stated, completely certain. River simply nodded. "But he's never- and I've never seen the Daleks use them."

"It's been some time since he's heard of one being used, too." She didn't need to say exactly how long. Donna looked away, dabbing at her eyes, but Jenny took a breath and made her way down the steps as well.

"Dad?"

"What?" His voice still carried a biting edge, but it was wearing down, whether from having to sustain it for so long or because of his concentration on the TARDIS, she didn't know.

"What can I do to help?"

There was a pause. "Hand me that orbital adjuster." River gave a louder than necessary cough. "Please," her husband added.

Managing a tight smile at last, she met Donna's eyes once more. "See? We'll get him through this. He just feels trapped up here. Although, I'm not entirely sure it'll be best for him to be down there." A low, barely there hum from the TARDIS echoed her sentiment and her eyes widened. "It is you," she whispered, staring in shock at the time rotor. "You're keeping him up here."

"What? Why would she—" the redhead began, but River whirled around and put a finger to her own lips.

"I don't know why she's doing this, Donna, but not a word," she spoke in rapid, hushed tones. "He'll be livid if he finds out." So why? Why was the ship doing it at all, when she knew her own pilot so well? She looked back at the console in bafflement, but the ship did not offer an explanation.

"Ok, I- I won't say anything," the temp agreed, clearly as confused and even scared as she was. For they both knew, they could postpone it, but he would eventually find out. And then who knew what would happen?

The TARDIS is stopping the Doctor from landing? What? At least Jack and Co. have found themselves a bit of help, or perhaps a bit of trouble. Is the Warden really to be trusted? Who do you agree with: Martha or Mickey? Thanks so much for reading, and please review!