AN: This is a birthday present for my sister, the other half of our (awesome) Doctor Who braintrust. (Thanks again for the help/inspiration/encouragement!). And yes. All my Benton fics do have to have coffee in their titles.
"Martha Jo-ones!" the metal sphere called, voice high and sing-song. "Miss Martha Jones, where are you?"
Martha huddled in the shadow of a half-destroyed building. Don't see me, don't see me. . . I'm not here, there's nothing here. . .
She didn't know where she was, exactly, just that it was somewhere east of London. She'd run, and hid, and stowed away in the backs of other people's lorries-with the TARDIS key around her neck, they usually hadn't even noticed her, which was a blessing in all the terror and devastation.
It had become even more of a blessing after the Master's last broadcast.
It had come while she was sitting at a bus stop, amid a crowd of other frightened, weary people (not waiting for a bus, but just needing a place to rest before continuing their attempts to get . . . somewhere else). Suddenly, every screen and every speaker, down to the mobiles of the people she was next to (she'd dropped her own, first thing), had begun blaring his mad drumbeat. People had dug their phones out of their pockets with the urgency of terror, while the billboards above lit up with the Master's face.
It was like something the Doctor would do, she'd thought, and shuddered at the comparison.
"Oh Martha Jo-ones!" the Master singsonged from the man's mobile, his image leaning gleefully into the camera overhead. Beside him floated two Toclafane. Behind him, Martha saw her mum, her dad, Tish, and the Doctor, all grouped together under guard. "Come out, come out wherever you are-I know you're still alive, the Doctor's little toy will fool the kiddies here, unfortunately, even if it won't fool me! So come on, come out, if you want to see your lovely family alive."
Martha's heart had leapt into her throat. She couldn't turn herself in, she knew, not when she was the only one free to do what the Doctor had asked. She couldn't, she was their only hope, but if she didn't-
"She knows better," the Doctor (and oh, he looked so old ) had scoffed from where he's been dropped behind the Master, lifting his head for the first time. "You'd kill them all as soon as you got your hands on her, and we both know it."
She'd closed her eyes, in grief and in relief. He was right.
"Well, if you know so much, why should I keep them alive at all? What good are hostages if no one believes they can save them?"
The Master had raised that awful "screwdriver" of his, and Martha almost cried out-but the Doctor had stopped him, again, speaking low and urgently.
She didn't know what he said, but the Master had laughed. "Oh, you think so?" he'd said gleefully, and turned back to the camera. "Change of plans, Martha sweetheart. They can live as long as you don't cause me trouble. Run, hide, do what he taught you if you want to try. But don't move against me-got it? And your precious family can live safe and sound with me." He'd grinned, wide and manic-and again, horrible as it was, he'd reminded Martha of the Doctor. "Doesn't that sound nice?
"However , that doesn't mean I'm giving up on the pleasure of your company! So, boys and girls of Earth-those of you that're still alive-I've got a scavenger hunt for you!"
The billboard changed then, and this time Martha had gasped aloud. On all the screens, suddenly, big and small, was a picture of her .
She didn't know when it had been taken, but from the angle it looked like a security camera. She was leaning against a wall, arms crossed, wearing her favorite jacket, laughing at something outside the shot. It was an excellent likeness.
"This," the Master had announced, as the screen jumped back to him, "is Miss Martha Jones! Anyone who finds her and brings her to the Toclafane gets-oh-I know. They get safety!" He'd leaned forward again, lowered his voice confidentially. "You and your family will be safe-just like I'm keeping hers safe from that mess down there. Doesn't that sound nice? And all you have to do-" the screen switches back to her picture "-isbring me Martha Jones!"
Martha had bit her lip as the phones went dead, but the screens stayed fixed on her picture. Around her, people were looking at each other, beginning to murmur to their friends and family. Then the man next to her had looked at her- really looked-and she'd seen the recognition dawning in her eyes.
She hadn't waited. She'd gotten up, without a word, and done what the Doctor would have done. She'd run.
And now, here she was. In the shadow of a Toclafane-blasted building, praying the key would do its work against them better than it had been against humans. She'd been chased twice already in the hours since the broadcast.
I guess it doesn't work if someone really wants to see you, she thought bitterly. It hadn't even been a day, and already the Master was turning the people of Earth against one another.
Still, she could understand. Her family might be imprisoned-most of them-but at least they were alive, and probably wouldn't be blasted by a Toclafane on a whim, or killed in the societal upheavals she knew were coming. The people around her had no such certainties for their loved ones.
But that didn't mean she could let herself be caught.
"Are you here, Martha Jones?" the ball of death called once more, spinning idly in the air.
Get bored, she willed it. Shove off somewhere else.
But it didn't. In fact, it was drifting closer. . .
"Hey!" a young voice called. "I found Martha Jones!"
Her head whipped around in shock. There on the corner, across the street from her, were two men around her age. They stood apart, as if traveling separately, but Martha thought she saw a family resemblance. One of them was looking at the Toclafane.
"She's over this way!" he said, face earnest and urgent. "Come quick, before she runs away!" And he pointed-
Down the street, in the exact opposite direction from Martha's hiding place.
"You found Martha Jones?" the Toclafane chirped, whizzing toward him. "Hurray! Take me there, boy."
He ran off, Toclafane behind him.
Confused, but with a dawning hope, Martha turned her gaze to the other young man . . . who was looking straight at her.
When he saw she was looking at him, he winked, lightning-fast, and beckoned to her.
Well, she thought, if he wanted to sell me out he already would've.
"Hullo," she said quietly, jogging across to him. "Thank you." She looked down the street. "But . . . will he be all right?"
"Sure he will," the young man said dismissively. "He's Paul, he knows these streets like the back of his hand." Martha thought he might be trying to convince himself as much as her, but she kept that thought to herself. "But c'mon. We've got to hurry."
He began walking quickly down the street. She followed, frowning.
"Hurry where?" she asked. "Not that I'm not grateful, but who are you? And where are we going?"
He turned around, with a rueful smile. "Sorry," he said. "Guess aliens make me lose my manners, huh?"
She quirked a smile back at him. "Can't imagine why."
"Yeah." He sighed, glancing up at the darkened sky for a moment. "Anyway. I'm Roger Walker. That was my brother Paul who led that thing off. And we've got an uncle with a secret bunker-yeah, that's weird to me too-but it should be safe for now. He said to help you out if we saw you-any enemy of his is a friend of ours." Then he hesitated, glancing at her uncertainly. "You, uh . . . you are Martha Jones, right?"
She actually chuckled, her first laugh in what felt like forever. "Yeah, that's me," she said, holding out her hand. "Glad to meet you, believe me."
He smiled as he shook her hand, briefly but brightly. "Come on, then, Martha Jones. We should get off the streets, right?"
"Sounds good to me," she agreed, and followed him. She wasn't used to not knowing what was going on (well, all right, with the Doctor she neverentirely knew what was going on, but she usually understood more than most), and now she had a surreal feeling of having fallen into someone else's story. But he seemed a like a good type, and anything would be better than the streets.
She reconsidered this a few minutes later.
"Really?" she muttered to him, as he heaved the manhole cover out of its setting. "The sewers?"
"Uncle John says the Tocla-whatsits probably won't consider them for a while. Says they're good for getting through London undetected." He looked up at her and grinned. "Course, if you'd rather stay on the streets. . ."
"Sewers sound great, thanks," she said hastily, dropping down beside him. He gestured for her to climb in first. "Your uncle sounds like quite a guy, though."
He laughed, pulling the manhole cover back over them. "Ex-military," he said briefly. "Believe me, though, we were surprised too. He's been saying for months and months now that something was wrong in the government, but . . . you don't expect Uncle John to suddenly go survivalist."
"Huh," Martha said thoughtfully, standing at the foot of the ladder. "I look forward to meeting him, then." She did. He sounded clever.
Roger jumped down the last few rungs. "Well, come on then," he said, pulling out a torch. "This way-we left markings."
She followed him. The smell was bad, and the thought of what she might be touching worse, but she couldn't deny it felt safer to be underground. And, in a surprisingly short time, they reached another ladder.
"And here," Roger said, handing her the torch and beginning to climb, "we have the back door to the new Benton-Walker family estate."
"Benton-Walker?" Martha asked, shining the torch on the manhole cover above him.
"Benton is Uncle John's family," he explained. Reaching the top, he rapped on the cover, and Martha watched in fascination as a small strip of metal slid aside.
"Password?" a young female voice demanded.
"'Watkins,'" Roger hissed. "Let me in, we found Martha Jones!"
There was a moment's pause, and then the cover was heaved up. Martha blinked in the sudden light, swinging the torch down automatically.
"Come on, come on, come up!" the female voice said quickly, and Roger complied. Martha followed after him.
When she'd emerged, and her eyes had adjusted, she found herself in a small, mostly-concrete room with one door and no windows, illuminated by sconce lights on the walls. Roger was off to her right, being hugged by a girl who looked to be in her late teens.
"Everything all right here?" he asked, holding her tightly. "Any more news?"
She drew back a little, still holding onto him but meeting his eyes. "Not much," she said. "Joey came in-hurt, but not bad. No news of your Dad yet. Sorry." She bit her lip. "Where's Paul?"
Roger's face had grown drawn at her news, but he summoned up another smile. "Paul went to lead the Toclafane on a wild-goose chase," he said. "He'll be fine. And he got them away from Martha here." He gripped the younger girl's shoulders and spun her, gently, to face Martha.
"Hey," Martha said, giving her a smile that felt sadder than she meant it to. "Martha Jones."
The girl smiled back, face lighting up. "It's so good to see you!" she said, and Martha felt like a fraud. "I'm Sally Benton."
"Believe me, I'm just as glad to be here," Martha told her. She looked between the two. "So you two are cousins, then?"
"Yeah," Sally said. "Roger, go bring Martha to Dad. He's somewhere in Residential, but he said anybody that came in should go to him first, and-" glancing back to Martha "-I know he'll want to meet you."
"Yeah, yeah," Roger said. "You take care of yourself, kid. Got your radio?"
She patted something black and bulky clipped to her belt, making a face at him. "Rather have my mobile, but yeah."
Martha's stomach lurched. "Oh, don't use your phones," she said urgently. "Archangel belongs to the Master, he's been using it to control people."
Roger and Sally's eyes widened, and Roger swore.
"Really?" he asked, and whistled at Martha's nod. "Score another for Uncle John, then. He dug these things out of some military storage unit months ago, apparently."
"Yeah," Sally said. "We figured he was being overprepared-" she bit her lips again. "But turns out Dad wasn't thinking big enough. "
"He said Saxon, the Master, whoever, he must've used hypnosis," Roger said suddenly. "Was he right?"
Martha blinked. "Yeah," she said. Uncle John was impressing her more all the time.
Roger shook his head. "Fine, you win," he said to Sally. "Uncle John knows everything."
She rolled her eyes, smiling. "Then go report in, idiot."
"Roger!" he said, with a grin and a sloppy salute.
Sally rolled her eyes again and, with the tone of someone fulfilling an old and disliked obligation, said, "No, that's you."
Martha was smiling as Roger ushered her through the door.
"Here we are," Roger said, opening an odd-shaped door in the wall. "I know it's a bit weird-Uncle John says this place used to be a mock-up of a spaceship. Don't ask me why!" he added, grinning. "We're using it as living space right now."
Martha raised her eyebrows, that feeling of being in someone else's adventure returning to her. Who just happened to have a secret bunker with amock spaceship in it?
She stepped through, though, and found herself in a strange, incongruously bright-looking space-a set of rooms apparently decorated entirely in blue and now-yellowed white, full of shallow sets of stairs, plexiglass half-walls, and built-in upholstered seats. Martha could see it as a spaceship, but . . . she wasn't sure she would have recognized it as such without being told. Then again, it probably wasn't designed to be convincing thirty years down the line, considering all the plastic and such.
That, and the designers probably weren't planning for a deal folding table to be set up in the center space.
There was a man seated at the table, looking over papers and scribbling down notes. As they entered his area of the "ship," though, he looked up from his work.
"Uncle John," Roger said, putting a hand on Martha's shoulder. "Paul ran off to divert the Toclafane, but I think he'll be fine. And . . . we found Martha Jones."
John Benton stood up, and Martha found herself surprised. She'd been expecting a mastermind, a strategist with plans for every contingency-a seasoned, confident commander, with keen eyes and an incisive manner.
But the man in front of her looked as though he should be operating a village pub somewhere. He was tall, but not in an imposing way, and his face was open and a bit harried-looking. He seemed like any older man she'd see in a Tesco's, or out a walk with his wife, or maybe admitted to the hospital for stroke observation back in her clinical days (the type, she thought, that immediately won all the staff's hearts by being friendly and cheerful, while his adult kids hung around and harried him to take better care of himself). He certainly didn't look like a brilliant commander.
But then he smiled at her, bright and genuine, and she saw that Roger's grin clearly came from his mum's side. "I'm glad they found you, Miss Jones," he said, holding out his hand. "You've had a rough day of it, haven't you?"
She took his hand. "Yeah," she said, blinking at the unexpected kindness. "I have."
"Sit here," he said, steering her to the nearest seat. "I've got to talk to Roger for a minute, and then I'll be right with you."
Martha sank back against the vinyl padding as he moved to confer with his nephew, relishing the chance to rest properly. After a moment, though, she found the already-unfamiliar feeling of safety was giving her entirely too much time to think.
Her brain, out of survival mode for the first time since the Toclafane descended, began whirling with doubts and plans and terrors. What was happening to her family now? Leo-oh, Leo , where was he, was he okay? He must have seen the broadcast-and the Doctor's plan, how was she supposed to carry it out? Paul Walker-was he really going to be okay? If he wasn't he'd have died for her- And she had to stay alive, but she couldn't cover the Earth in a year, not like this, she didn't know how-
"Miss Jones," a voice interrupted her, and something warm and solid was pressed into her hands. "You okay?"
She blinked, only now realizing she'd shut her eyes, and looked up to see John Benton's concerned face in front of her. He'd put a mug in her hands-coffee, she realized from the smell-and her fingers curled instinctively around the comforting familiarity.
She managed a shaky smile. "Yeah. Yeah, fine. . ."
"Miss," he said gently, putting a hand on her shoulder, "you're shaking."
She paused. "Oh."
He smiled a little, sitting down beside her. "You don't need to be okay," he said. "Not right now, anyway."
And his tone was so calm and reassuring that Martha felt all her hard-earned composure fall to pieces.
"I don't know what I'm doing," she confessed, hiding her face in one hand. "I have to save the world, the Doctor said, but I don't know what I'm doing and the world just ended, practically, and my little brother's out there somewhere-Leo-he's practically a kid . . ."
She felt his hand on her back again. "Hey," he said. "Whatever it is you're supposed to do, you don't have to do it alone. The Doc wouldn't want you to. And you might find your brother-where was he last?"
Martha's head came up swiftly. "London, with friends," she said automatically, and then, "You know the Doctor?"
He looked surprised for a moment, then his expression cleared, with a touch of humor in it. "Sorry, forgot I hadn't said. Yeah, I've known him a long time." He gestured around the "spaceship" with a twitch of his head and a smile. "How d'you think I know what I'm doing now? Believe me, Miss, I've been on the front lines of more alien invasions than you can shake a stick at."
She laughed, feeling suddenly lighter. "I've shaken sticks at more alien invasions than most people, you know," she said, and he chuckled too.
She really wasn't alone. There was someone else who understood-someone else who knew.
(And who wasn't Rose the Incredibly and Utterly Perfect-but, no, that was petty in these circumstances, and she told her brain to shut up.)
"So . . . did you travel with him, then?" she asked. It explained so much, him knowing the Doctor-but at the same time, she was a little surprised. He seemed too . . . steady . . . to have a pursued life on the TARDIS.
But Roger's Uncle John-Mr. Benton, she corrected herself-just chuckled. "Oh, lord, no," he said, withdrawing his hand from her back to cradle his own mug. Reminded by the gesture, she took a sip from hers, and found it unexpectedly good. "The Doctor was stuck on Earth for a while, back in the day-not willingly, not for the first few years, but we grew on him. The aliens I knew came to us." He shook his head, eyes lost in half-rueful reminiscence.
She huffed a laugh. "I can't imagine," she said. "I was stuck in 1969 with him for a little while-not long, but that was bad enough! He was trapped on Earth for years? "
"Yeah," Mr. Benton agreed, with an affectionate smile. "Maybe it was a good thing we had all the aliens to keep him busy, eh?" He grimaced. "And the Master, of course."
"Sorry," she said. "What?"
He couldn't have meant what she thought he did. He couldn't have.
"What, the Master?" he asked. "Oh, yeah, I know him. Used to pop up with a new scheme every month, seems like."
"But . . . But . . ." Martha trailed off, suddenly understanding. "You must be from the Doctor's future ," she said. Which meant-
But he gave her a doubtful grimace at that, forehead furrowed with skepticism. "Oh, I don't think so. The Master certainly remembers our lot-worse luck-and the Doctor I saw in the broadcasts didn't look like one of the early ones."
She stared at him, mouth agape. "But . . . he said. He said he was the last-he was sure the Master was dead, like everyone else. . ." She shook her head. "He thought he was alone," she whispered. "I know he did."
"Whoa." Mr. Benton held up a hand. "What do you mean exactly, 'the last'?"
She took a deep breath to compose herself, holding her steaming mug close to her face, by reflex, as she did. The scent cleared her mind a little, and she took a moment to get her thoughts in order.
Then she rested her forearms on her knees again. "The Doctor," she said, slowly and precisely, "is the Last of the Time Lords. At least, he thought he was, until we found the Master at the end of the universe. There was a war. Everybody died. And I mean everybody. He's been very clear on that." She met Mr. Benton's eyes. "But you're saying you've met the Master? Before?"
He was staring at her, now, confusion and a dawning horror in his face. "Miss Jones," he said slowly, "when I knew the Doctor, Gallifrey was definitely still around. They'd drag him off to fix their problems every so often." He frowned. "They were the ones who exiled him on Earth."
She shook her head, staring into space. "There was a Doctor before the Time War," she said slowly. "Maybe I shouldn't be surprised, but . . ." Somehow, knowing he'd had a life-and knowing what that life had been, that he'd been himself, fighting aliens, having adventures-before the devastation of the Time War . . . That made it more real than it had ever been. It wasn't . . . it wasn't an origin story. It was a thing that had happened. And there was a time, a real time, when it hadn't happened yet.
She blinked back unexpected tears. "It's all gone now," she said, looking back to Mr. Benton.
He'd known Gallifrey.
He frowned, what she'd said slowly sinking in. "Strewth," he said quietly. His eyes were fixed on hers. "The whole planet? "
Martha nodded, biting her lip.
Mr. Benton shook his head, gaze now lost and bewildered. "Lord, the poor Doc. I know he didn't like them much, but having them gone. . ."
"He didn't?" Martha had to ask.
His mouth twitched in a half-hearted smile. "Miss Jones, he complained about them more than he complained about us. And we were humans and military."
She frowned. "I guess," she said, "maybe I don't know him as well as I thought."
Mr. Benton looked disapprovingly at her. "I don't know about that," he said. "He's never liked talking about the past-" his lips twitched "-well, except maybe to impress people."
She laughed involuntarily at that, and he gave her a smile of complete and total understanding.
"But he didn't talk about the important stuff, not really," he continued. "And knowing someone's past isn't the same thing as knowing them . Especially when it comes to the Doc."
She sighed, and smiled. "S'pose not," she said, taking another gulp of coffee. Then she frowned. "Wait, did you say you were military when he knew you?"
"UNIT," he said. "Unified Intelligence Taskforce-well, that's not what they called us then, but close enough. Founded to protect Earth from aliens, robots, nutjobs who wanted to bring back the dinosaurs . . . You name it, we blew it up, probably." He paused. "Not that we always blew things up. Though if you listened to the Doc's version. . ."
"Wow," Martha said. Three or four questions were jostling for space in her head-but, somehow, what made it out was, "I thought the Doctor hatedsoldiers."
Mr. Benton didn't seem offended, though, thankfully. He just rolled his eyes. "Yeah, he told us that. A lot. But . . . He does that, doesn't he?"
Martha thought of his frequent digs at humanity, and smiled wryly. "Yeah, I see what you mean," she said. "So you're saying he was putting it on a bit, then?"
"A bit, yeah. And . . . I dunno. At the end of the day, he knew he were all trying to do the same thing. We were all in it to keep Earth safe-keep the Autons or the mad scientists or . . . well, the Master, from ruining the planet for the rest of us." He sighed, gaze falling for a moment. Then he looked back to Martha. "But you said the Doctor had a plan, didn't you?"
She straightened, feeling the weight of her task settle on her once more. "Yeah," she said. "Yeah, he does. It's. . ." She frowned, wondering where to start.
"Okay," she said, after a moment. "So the Master, he came into power using the Archangel Network. He . . . It's got some kind of psychic component, apparently. It convinced people to vote for him, and I'm pretty sure it's still going-it's hooked all of us into some sort of psychic network." She grimaced. "And I'm so glad you know the Doctor right now, because this sounds bonkers to me, and I'm the one saying it."
Mr. Benton snorted. "The Master using hypnotism? Nah, that sounds pretty standard, really. Explains why I voted for him-that was embarrassing, let me tell you."
"You're telling me, yeah," she said. "No, that was Archangel. And the Doctor said. . ." She shut her eyes, remembering. "He said, the Master would keep it going, use it to keep people afraid. But . . . it goes both ways. We're all connected, now, I think, so if we all focus on the same thing, at the same moment . . . we can give that thing, or that person, power." She opened her eyes and smiled at Mr. Benton. "At least, we can if what we focus on is the Doctor."
"Huh." He looked thoughtful. "So we give him our brainpower and he knobbles the Master with it? I like that. But . . . for this plan, you needeveryone to be on board. Right?"
"Right," Martha said bleakly. "If this were a week ago-well, and if the Master weren't controlling it-we could just use social media. Now? Word of mouth. I've got a year, the Doctor said, before the right moment comes. A year, while the Master's ruling, to cover the Earth."
Mr. Benton blinked. "He can't be planning to wait a year, " he protested. "I mean, what'll be left? The Master can't be left alone that long!"
"I know, I know," Martha said. She hunched over, staring at the dark ripples in her mug. "But it's what he said. I think-there wasn't much time for him to explain, but-he said we could fix all of it. I think he meant everything-even the Decimation."
Mr. Benton's brow furrowed. "But . . . Oh. Time travel? But he always said he couldn't do that."
"Yeah, but . . . the Toclafane shouldn't be here. I mean really shouldn't-they're from the far, far future, and the Master had to turn the TARDIS into something called a Paradox Machine to make them coming here possible. I think . . . If I've got this right, the Doctor can undo that-save the TARDIS, unmake the paradox, everything . And then none of this will have happened at all."
He considered this, and she saw the hope dawning in his eyes. "I hope you're right," he said quietly.
"The Doctor said he could fix it all, if he got the power," Martha said firmly. "He promised it. So I'm gonna trust him."
Mr. Benton smiled, then. "I don't think we can go far wrong there," he agreed, raising his mug.
She grinned, and raised her own to clink against his. "To the Doctor."
"To trusting his plans," John Benton said, "even when, frankly, they sound a bit mad."
Martha laughed and drank.
"And to somehow spreading this plan across the world," she added, grimacing, "without the Master catching on."
"Hmm." Mr. Benton turned his mug thoughtfully round and round. "Did you have a plan yet?"
Martha shook her head. "I figured just . . . talk," she admitted. "Tell stories, maybe, about the Doctor. Try and convince other people to believe in him." She glanced down. "The way . . . The way I do."
When she looked up, Mr. Benton was watching her, contemplatively. "How much," he asked, "do people need t'know?"
She frowned. "For the plan to work, you mean?"
"Yeah. We've got to spread it across the world-all right, how much exactly do we need to spread?"
"Huh." Martha thought about it. "We need people to be focused on the Doctor, at the right moment-he said there'd be a countdown, in about a year, we could use. Don't know how he'll fix that, but. Well. We didn't exactly have much time."
"All right. So the world needs to be focusing on the Doc, when the countdown comes. It'll be across the world?"
"Yeah-I guess. He said the Master'd have a countdown."
Mr. Benton snorted. "Well, that sounds like him. Probably be broadcast, then-can't miss a chance to grandstand, not him."
"Take your word for it." Martha took another drink-her coffee was getting low by now. "I can't tell you how glad I am you know the Master," she said, looking at him with a faint smile. "And the Doctor."
He huffed. "Did us some good today," he agreed, looking around. "If he hadn't been petty enough to start going after old UNIT crew months ago, we would've been caught flat-footed. But we knew someone in the government had it in for us-my family, the Brigadier's, all of us. So we got ready for anything."
She stared at him, mouth open in delighted shock. ". . . Is that why you had all this ready?" she asked. "The bunker and the radios and everything-because he couldn't wait to get even?"
Mr. Benton grinned. "That's it," he said. "This bunker? It's from an old UNIT operation-not that we built it, but we had to deal with the loonies who used it last. It's old enough that it's off the electronic records, and he had nothing to do with it, so-here we are."
"That," Martha said, "is brilliant. "
He laughed. "If you need stories, Miss, I can tell you plenty," he said. "Can keep them spreading after you're off, too, if you like. But . . . what is your plan, exactly?"
She heaved a breath, brought back to reality. "Right. We've got to get everyone on Earth-near as we can-focused on the Doctor once the countdown starts. So we've got a year-but we need everyone on board, and no one can spill it to the Master. . ."
Martha trailed off. "I'm not sure how to manage that," she admitted.
She looked to him, hoping for an answer, but he looked as puzzled as she was. "Don't know, exactly," he said, "but . . . well, we can make a start, anyway. Tell people about the Doctor, let them know he'll help . . . and maybe the instructions about focusing can come later."
"Maybe," she agreed. "It's a start. And I should really start traveling as soon as possible-after all, I've got a lot of ground to cover."
"S'pose you do," Mr. Benton said. "And you should get out of the country as soon as possible anyway, I'd think-he'll be looking hardest for you right here. But we can work on that plan for you-me and whoever I can get in touch with." He frowned at that, and Martha's gut clenched in sympathy.
They might be safe in here, she remembered, but the world outside was still burning.
"But anyway," he said, shaking his head, "let us handle that bit. You'll have enough to do, Miss Jones."
She smiled at him, a little self-consciously. "You can call me Martha, if you like," she said. "You've certainly done enough for me!"
"Well," he said, looking thoughtful. "Not used to it with the Doctor's friends-I was just a Sergeant, back in the day-but I can try." And he smiled at her.
Martha blinked. Tilted her head to one side. "How many of the Doctor's friends have you known, sir?"
Mr. Benton chuckled. "Well, you certainly don't need to call me 'sir,'" he said. "And . . . oh, not that many, I s'pose. McCrimmon and Miss Heriot I barely knew, really-Miss Waterfield not at all then. But . . . there was Liz Shaw-if she's out there still, she'll help. And Jo Grant-Jo Jones, now-she might know the Master better than any of us, always running about with the Doctor. And Sarah Jane Smith-she can definitely help, though I haven't been able to get in touch with her yet. I'd bet she's just gone to ground, though. Can't keep Sarah Jane down."
Martha felt herself grinning, even though she knew he wouldn't understand all her reasons for it.
Rose wasn't the first, she thought gleefully. Rose wasn't the first at all, and I have names now.
If the Doctor hadn't talked about Rose Tyler so much, Martha thought, she could imagine being hurt to learn about all these other friends of his. As it was, though, she wasn't even surprised-just glad to hear something concrete about the other people out there, about others who'd seen what she'd seen, shared what she'd lived . . . and weren't Rose . (. . . Or Jack Harkness.)
And who could help. Help was good. Help was excellent.
"Thanks," she said. "Who else is there?"
Mr. Benton smiled at her. "It's a long list," he said. "Look, let's get some food into you, and let me start the wheels turning on sneaking you out of here. Then . . . Well." He grinned. "Then we can tell stories, Martha. All the stories you've got time for, anyway."
"Oh, I think I've got plenty of time for stories," she said, and felt something bright and fierce awake inside her, kindling into a smile of her own. "After all, if we're going to win this . . . we're gonna do it with stories, aren't we?"
". . . Yeah," he agreed, standing. "And lucky for us, Martha, we've got plenty of those."
She stood as well. "Yeah, we do. Let's get started."
Stories, she thought, following him down the hallway, and friendships. Stories and friendships and trust . . . and really great coffee. That's what we've got.
. . . Against six billion Toclafane, and the Master's Archangel Network.
She thought about this, weighing the two sides. And then she shrugged, making a dismissive face to herself.
Whatever, she decided. I'll take those odds.