Jo sometimes resented having to wear a disguise. Spandex wasn’t for her, so she resorted to a black suit, crisp white shirt, and simple black mask. She didn’t usually need to do a lot of running or physical labour; the telekinesis saw to that. So, when she heard a scream emanating from the address she had memorised from the scrap of paper on Yaz’s desk, she wasn’t quite prepared. Maybe she should’ve been. Nonetheless, she turned on her perception filter and sprinted toward the building.
Her hearts dropped into her stomach. She could smell blood, and there was someone groaning in the corner of the room. As she approached, she realised it was Yaz.
“Oh, Yasmin,” she gasped. She knelt beside Yaz’s unconscious body to assess the situation. Arm crushed under the desk, but the blood hadn’t coagulated too much, so it was unlikely removing it would hurt Yaz. She was unconscious, though.
Jo moved the desk with her finger, lifting it an inch above Yaz and a few feet back. Then she let it drop. The wall kept Yaz mostly upright, and in the fading light, Jo could see that there was a gash on Yaz’s head. It wasn’t until she went to pull Yaz forward to examine the wound that she sensed it. A timelock. No wonder Yaz was unconscious. Her body was here, but her mind was somewhere else entirely.
Jo grimaced. She would usually ask for permission, but Yaz wasn't exactly in any position to consent, and there was the little matter of the Watchmaker, who was still loose somewhere. Knowing him, there was more trouble to come. His plans were full of too many moving parts to be made sense of in the moment, and, like clockwork, you had to step away to see the way it all fitted together.
The expression on Yaz's face was not something Jo had ever wanted to see—stiff, with her eyebrows pinched together and a worryingly hard set to her mouth, like stone, or the frozen face of a corpse. Timelocks were never pretty, but this was something else. Jo touched her fingers to either side of Yaz's clammy forehead and closed her eyes.
When she opened them, she was stood on a road somewhere, far away from any cities or people. The sun glared overhead, but Jo didn't feel it. She couldn't feel anything, not really—it was all faint and murky, as though she experienced everything through a second skin, a thick membrane that kept sensation separate from the usual sensitivity of her nerves.
Jo was inside Yaz's mind.
Knee-length grass bowed in one direction and then another, though no wind blew it. The road stretched as far as the eye could see, dusty and rendered obsolete by the lack of cars, and the sky was clear and unobscured. Jo stepped forwards, her feet silent against the tarmac. The scene was heightened and unreal in the way only memories can be.
At the side of the road was a girl. She sat cross-legged, the grass itching her ears, and her face thrown into her hands like she was crying. No noise escaped her, but her chest heaved with sobs. Jo stepped towards her, her hand outstretched, and tried to catch a glimpse of the girl.
Who was this? Some relative, or a friend of Yaz? Her face was hidden, but the long black hair suggested a genetic connection. A pair of jeans and a dark hoodie swamped the girl despite the heat, and she didn't look up as Jo approached. She remembered Yaz once mentioning a sister—Sonya, she thought the name was—but then where was Yaz?
Jo crouched down by the girl and reached out to her. Her fingers appeared to touch the girl's shoulder, but Jo could barely feel it. Despite this, the girl looked up.
Jo started back in shock. She was younger than when Jo knew her—much younger, she looked maybe fourteen or fifteen, at most—but this girl was definitely Yaz. Strong, capable, resilient Yaz, reduced to tears on the side of the road. Jo suddenly understood why the timelock had taken her there.
"Hello there," said Jo. She would've used Yaz's name, but there was no reason some random superhero would know a detail like that. "I'm the Doctor, I'm here to help."
Yaz looked up through bleary eyes and a curtain of her own hair.
Part of her was relieved. Another part of her, the one locked away on that blistering hot Sheffield morning wanted to scream and shout and make this stranger go away. How could she help? What did she know of Yaz’s pain? The pain in her arm, in her head, in her heart.
The stranger stayed where she was, and it took Yaz a moment to realise that she was wearing a mask. Then the stranger’s words finally processed. She gasped and wiped her eyes. “
“The Doctor? But shouldn’t you be in London? Nothing ever happens in Sheffield.” Except bullies and bad grades and family drama. Yaz shook her head, which made it throb harder. Why did her head hurt so much? She knew, once upon a time, before she got stuck on the side of the road.
“Ah, yeah, quick update, you’re in London too, this is a timelock, and you aren’t really here. This is all in your mind. What’s your name?”
Yaz peered at the Doctor.
Another revelation. She remembered a life lived beyond this moment in time; she remembered ambition and drive and the laboratory! But thinking about that made her head ache too much.
“My name is Yaz. There was a man,” Yaz said, furrowing her brows and trying to reconcile her reality with the other life. “The Watchmaker? My head hurts.”
“That’d be the concussion. We need to get you out of here before I can take you to hospital.”
“If this is all in my head, how are you here?”
“Touch telepath. I’m going to need to do some things to release the timelock, but I need your permission. It’ll probably hurt.” The woman’s eyes crinkled with sympathy.
“Please just get me out of here,” Yaz begged. It came out as a whine, desperate and tinged with pain. If she were in less distress, she would have been embarrassed.
The Doctor started miming as if there were walls around her. “What are you doing?” Yaz asked, confusion settling in once more.
“I’m looking for the door. You sit tight, it should be around here somewhe—there we go. That were easy.” The Doctor smiled and took a deep breath. “You’re lucky. He doesn’t think much of you, otherwise, he would’ve used a better lock.”
The Doctor closed her eyes and concentrated on the air in front of her. A click reverberated around the world, and Yaz’s head exploded in pain. She cried out as she came to. A woman was knelt before her, the same woman, the Doctor.
“There you go, Yaz. Time to get you to A&E.”
Yaz couldn’t protest as unconsciousness, deep and dark and quiet, finally claimed her.