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triskaidecadonal dimensions

Chapter Text

Day One:

My head hurts.  And I am an indubitable idiot.  Grandfather is going to scold me something fierce next time he sees me.  I can just hear him –

“You were supposed to be safe, on 22nd century Earth, with David!”

But I was so young, then – barely one century old.  So immature – well, still immature, really.  David’s life fled so quickly, and I couldn’t stay on Earth.  Not when I could feel the War.

So I did what we all did.  I went home and reported for duty.  I was issued a TARDIS, (albeit an old one,) and I fought.

Grandfather would say that I’m too young to fight.

After last week, I would have to agree with him.  All of us, the ones under three centuries, are all too young.

Tthlen and I just happened to prove it.

And now Tthlen is dead.

There’s no regenerating from a Dalek’s “Exterminate.”

I still can’t believe that I escaped.  Well, crashed.  But escaped.

The only problem is, where am I?  When am I?

My head hurts.  And I am an idiot.

---

200736 | October 23, 1970

Subject has not moved in the 24 hours since installed in the observation cell.  Scans show a possible heart deformity, and a stronger bone density than is ordinary.  More equipment has been requisitioned, as several scanners have broken under the strain.  Blood scanner is coming up with nothing comprehensible. 

Space debris has been collected and isolated.  The capsule itself seems to have resealed and repaired itself without aid.  Attempts to enter or breach the hull have failed abysmally.  Subject has been stripped of equipment and accoutrements without any enlightenment.

 Requests for technology and biology experts have been sent to Washington.

---

Day Two:

The translation circuits died this morning.  I never thought that I would be thankful for Grandfather being such an oddball, but I can still understand the thickheads ‘observing’ me through the ‘one-way glass.’

Thank you, Grandfather, for insisting that I actually learn English instead of depending on the translation circuits.  It is a bit quaint, but recognizable.  Judging by my memories, this is both temporal and regional shift.  From what I have discerned, I am in America, somewhere between the late twentieth century and the early twenty-first.

It is the twenty-fourth of October, apparently.  What kind of ape doesn’t know the date of their own personal timestream?  Of course, they would probably be a lot quieter if they knew that I could hear them.  Time Lady, idiots.  Not human.

If I can escape, and get to my TARDIS, I might be able to escape.  If she isn’t too damaged.

If she is too damaged, then my best hope is to blend in.  Vanish.

I suppose that I’m lucky that the perception filter hasn’t failed yet.  Explaining the binary vascular system and active TT lobes would be difficult.

---

200641 | October 24, 1970

No success in gaining any response from Subject.  At 0930, Howard Stark arrived from New York.

Explosives of varying intensity have failed to breach the hull of the capsule.  Stark has sent a request to Washington as of 1149 on the subject of transport to New Mexico and the use of nuclear missiles.

Shipment of better biological scanners are due to arrive in four days.  Dr. G. W. Beadle has confirmed arrival, as has Dr. F. Dyson and Dr. M. W. Nirenberg.  There has been no response from Dr. A. J. Perlis.

---

Day Three:

They’re hurting her.  I can feel it, like knives in my skull.  It’s hard enough, filtering and mentally altering the blood and skin samples that they remove.  I can only do so for so long.

I’ll find out what they’re doing.  Being humans, they are most likely doing something stupid and unsophisticated, like throwing bombs at her.  My poor TARDIS.

I have decided that I can do little more by passively observing.  My attempts to reach my people psychically have met only the most minute amounts of success – I can feel them, but they are far.  Very far.

Someone new arrived yesterday, and he has been poking around with my equipment.  I can only hope that I remembered to take apart the Temporal Encapsulator, otherwise, to put it as dear Dorothy might have once said, “We’re screwed.”

---

200129 | October 25, 1970

Subject has shown signs of movement.  What the doctors describe as a coma-like state seems to have lifted, and Subject seems to be sleeping.

Stark has not acquired permission for either moving the capsule to New Mexico, or use of nuclear power. 

Stark has blown up Laboratory 5.

Dr. Beadle has arrived as of 1945 today, and plans to initiate contact at 0900 tomorrow.

The unidentified item in Laboratory 12 has detonated.  There is now a hole in the ground between Laboratories 10 and 14.

---

Day Four:

Today I “woke up.” Psychic impressions and visual impressions are very different.  My psychic impression had been of a bare cell, with the table upon which I lay, and the one-way window on the high east wall.

In fact, the room is furnished quite comfortably (if economically) for late twentieth century America.  There is a sofa, a table and chairs, and a wide door which is shaped to allow machinery through.  There is a shelf with some books, (an unimaginative selection,) and some records, (although there is no player,) a newspaper, and a television.

A television, and not a radio. 

Among the books are Pride and Prejudice, A Tale of Two Cities, The Last of the Mohicans, Hamlet, Utopia, Anna Karenina, and To Kill a Mockingbird.

The inclusion of To Kill a Mockingbird dates this as after 1961 (the book was published in July of 1960).  The records’ cases read “My Generation,” “Ready Steady Who,” “A Quick One,” “The Who Sell Out,” “Magic Bus: The Who on Tour,” “Direct Hits,” and “Tommy.”  The vinyl collection is a complete collection of The Who up until June 1969.

The newspaper, (which is folded,) from what I can see, has an article about one “President” Nixon in Italy.  Presuming that it is referring to Nixon’s tour of Europe, and taking the conversation from two days ago into account, the date is 26 October 1970.

Grandfather would be so proud of me.

After I had “been awake” for forty-two minutes and seven seconds, a human man of approximately sixty-five Earth Standard Years of age entered the room carrying a case.

“My name is George,” he said, smiling.  “I am here as a scientist.  Do you understand me?”

I took a puckish moment to consider pretending that I did not, but discarded the idea as Grandfather’s bad influence.

“I do,” I replied.  “My name is Susan.  I am not a scientist.”

It isn’t a lie.  By Gallifreyan standards, I am exceedingly unqualified for any position of science.  Then again, I’m only qualified to work a TARDIS due to Grandfather and the odd nature of an aging TARDIS.

George smiled at me.  He projected the feeling of an intensely curious man, but one with principles.  Also, something about grass.  Or grain.  Or maybe corn?

“Do you remember how you ended up here?” George asked, opening his case.

I blinked at him, using every last bit of dissembling I had learned over the years.  “I was flying, I was – crashing?  I was crashing, and Sol Three was beneath me, so – you still call it Earth, right?”

I knew that there had been a movement before the twenty-second century when everyone had called Earth Sol Three, but I couldn’t remember if that was before or after the Great Changes of the Turn of the Century.  (Humans are so dramatic about a round hundred years.  Honestly.)

“This is Earth,” George affirmed.  “I am here because I have studied biology and genetics.  There are some aspects of your biology that have caught the eyes of our scientists.”  He removed a contraption from the case.  I grimaced. 

I had forgotten how primitive human medicine still was on twentieth century Earth.

“What do you mean, aspects?” I replied to his remark with as much curiosity as I could fake.  With my perception filter still working, there was only one thing that could really be nagging at them.

“Pardon me if you don’t know,” he said slowly, “you did say that you are not a scientist, but – some of your erythrocytes are almost three years old.  Some of your leukocytes are over a month in age, and many of your thrombocytes are over two months in age.  Furthermore, your genetic patterns are not decipherable by our standards.”

I struggled through what I remembered of human science in the twentieth century.  “That’s… normal for me…” I responded absently.  Suddenly, I realized what he meant by genetic patterns.

“You tried to WHAT?”  I jumped up, knocking George’s case of instruments onto the floor.  “You fools!  It may be only a tiny aspect, but you know that you haven’t the protection to look into white space and quartile dimensions, let alone violet folds and triskaidecadonal dimensions!  Are you trying to destroy your entire planet?”

George just gathered up his instruments.  “No,” he said gently.  “But we are trying to learn, and mistakes walk hand-in-hand with learning.”

I sagged, sitting down again.  “Yes, I – I’m sorry I lost my temper.”  I took a deep breath.  “Let’s start over.  I’m Susan Arkytior ltnthng Csjer.”

“And I’m Dr. George Beadle.”

We proceeded from that point sedately.

George was quite polite, reminding me of the manners that Grandfather had attempted to teach me in-between exhibiting precisely what not to do.  I do think that I should like to see him again.

---

200043 | October 25, 1970

Subject has provided name as Susan Arkityor Iltinthing Sher.  Shall henceforth be referred to as Susan A.  Susan A. proceeded quite well with Dr. Beadle, with one unexplained upset involving biological study.  Hypothesis: species-specific superstition involving the study of DNA? 

Dr. Nirenberg has arrived as of 1142.  Stark has requested an interview with Susan A.

At the end of their session, Susan A. requested the return of the capsule.  Stark has suggested a supervised visit to Laboratory 13.

---

Day Six:

Several human scientists have been in and out, today and yesterday.  Most simply entered, held a brief conversation, and left.  One, a Howard Stark, (possibly related to the twenty-first century Tony Stark,) stuck around for a grand total of four hours and twenty-three minutes, poking and prodding and asking strange questions.

I am relatively certain that my charade of harmless pseudo-humanity can only last so long.  For as long as they perceive me as not-too-different from humans, I remain safe, but the perception filter cannot run on the peculiar mixture of nitrogen, oxygen, argon, and carbon dioxide which floats free on Earth.

If I were Grandfather, I would have already affected my escape by cobbling something together with the television and some hairpins.  (Speaking of which, why do humans in this century seem to think that every woman needs hairpins? For that matter, their assumption that I am categorized as a human woman is insulting.  Humans and their quaint gender assumptions…)

Much as Stark irritated me, he may be the one person that could help me escape.  Already, he managed to get me a short visit with my TARDIS.  The combination of his influence and his clear weakness for aesthetically pleasing women could work to my advantage.  I do look remarkably like a human woman.

Speaking of my TARDIS, there is no hope of escape on that front.  I did remember to disable the Temporal Encapsulator, so no worries on that front, but any chance of simply traveling across the first three dimensions is also destroyed: the basic Spacial Translation Capacitators have been entirely shattered.

So the question stands – how do I escape, and how do I take my TARDIS with me?  Just because the humans haven’t cracked her hull yet does not mean that they mightn’t get a hold of non-human tech and do so.

I cannot allow that.

So, two options.  Option number one, I practice my hypnosis (which I never have, actually, used,) and force a couple of humans to free me and my TARDIS, set up an alternate identity, and vanish.  Option number two, I use nothing more invasive than so-called seduction, and have Howard Stark get me out through official channels, have him ensure that I cannot be touched, and bide my time.

---

200101 | October 27, 1970

Susan A. has been quite obedient and calm throughout interviews with Dr. Beadle, Dr. Dyson, and Dr. Nirenberg.  Subject showed interest upon meeting Stark, and held pleasant conversation with Stark.

Stark was permitted to bring Susan A. to her ship, along with an armed guard.  There was no progress, Susan A. simply touched the ship once, and requested to be returned to her room.

Biological studies remain inconclusive.  Five more scanners have blown under strain.  The blood scanner, number four of the destroyed scanners, blew out explosively, destroying all samples.  Obtaining more samples may be difficult, as Susan A. has shown recalcitrance in allowing biological study.

---

Day Seven:

Stark puts me in mind of the Master, Grandfather’s school-friend and enemy.  He is a complete sleaze-ball with hidden intent, and is reacts to destruction like a toddler – with great pleasure.

Thankfully, unlike the Master, Stark has absolutely no telepathic abilities to speak of, and thus cannot even feel my tentative plotting as he flirts and flits about me like some ridiculous diva.

The man is a study in contradictions – a perfect example of the type of human that would have infuriated Grandfather.  Stark is a genius, but he doesn’t recognize basic nineteenth-century Terran prose.  He is a futurist, but doesn’t believe in aliens.  He is in love with some man who died during the Second World War, but is also a complete homophobe.  A civil rights activist who calls Asians and South Americans by rude names.

A womanizer who frequently underestimates women.

The question is, can I convince him that he “loves” me?

And would Grandfather be disappointed in me for my tactics?

---

201108 | October 28, 1970

Susan A. has shown signs of affection for Stark.  Subject continues to be polite to Dr. Beadle, Dr. Dyson, and Dr. Nirenberg, but seems to have fallen for Stark’s so-called “charms.” 

New biological scanners have not yet arrived, which has halted all biological research outside of the interviews, which continue to be of dubious use.  The presence of Dr. W. W. Howells and Dr. S. M. Garn has been requested.

---

200447 | October 29, 1970

Susan A. continues to show signs of affection for Stark.  Subject also continues to be polite to Dr. Beadle, Dr. Dyson, and Dr. Nirenberg.

New biological scanners have not yet arrived, and the final biological scanner in the building has also catastrophically failed.  Request for scanners has been altered to six scanners requested.

The presence of Dr. W. W. Howells and Dr. S. M. Garn has been requested.  Dr. W. W. Howells has confirmed arrival.  No response from Dr. S. M. Garn.

---

200832 | October 30, 1970

Susan A. continues to show signs of affection for Stark.  Subject also continues to be polite to Dr. Beadle, Dr. Dyson, and Dr. Nirenberg.

New biological scanners have not yet arrived.

Dr. Howells arrived at 0900, and proceeded to argue with Stark for a full twenty-five minutes.  Stark has left this facility in a huff, and Dr. Howells has scheduled his first interview with Susan A. to be at 1015 tomorrow.

---

200011 | October 31, 1970

Susan A. was polite to Dr. Howells, but shows no sign of cooperation.  Subject did ask about the absence of Stark, and requested to be taken to see her “capsule” again.

New biological scanners have not yet arrived.  Dr. Beadle has provided a five-day warning before he plans to leave the premises.

Stark has not yet returned to the premises. 

Dr. S. M. Garn has confirmed arrival at 0800 tomorrow.

---

200504 | November 01, 1970

Dr. Garn arrived at the facility at 0801, and scheduled an interview with Susan A. for 1230.  Dr. Howells repeated his interview with Subject at 1015.

Dr. Garn’s interview at 1230 did not go smoothly. 

[Begin Transcript]

Garn: Here on Earth, a person who looks like you would be assumed to be European.  Where are you from?

Susan: I am from Gallifrey.

Garn: So you would call yourself…

Susan: Gallifreyan, I suppose.  In English.

Garn: Are you representative of the only race on Gallifrey?  Or are there many?

Susan: Only the People of Gallifrey live on Gallifrey.  Visitors have not been permitted for eight thousand years.

Garn: So there are no other races native to Gallifrey?  No inferior races?

Susan:  As I said, the only sentient species on Gallifrey is the People of Gallifrey.  What do you mean by “inferior races?”

Garn: Here we have many races, Amerindian, European, African, Asiatic…

Susan: Your point?

Garn:  Do all people from Gallifrey resemble white humans?

Susan:  Excuse me!  Earth humanoids resemble Gallifreyans, thank you very much, and I resent your insinuation that white is somehow superior to all other phenotypes!  On Gallifrey, the color or one’s hair, skin, irises, fingernails, or earlobes has no status implications, as it should not among any sentient species!

Garn:  Right, well, ah – let’s return to calmer topics, shall we?  Can you read?

Susan: In three hundred and forty-two languages, fluently.  Fifty-nine more, less so.

Garn: Which languages?

Susan:  English, French, Latin, Spanish, Italian, Mandarin Chinese, and Russian are the only ones which you should care about.  Not that any of those but English is your business, unless you intend to send in a non-English-speaking interrogator, next.

Garn:  Can you write?

Susan:  In the languages which I can read.

Garn: How old are you?

Susan:  None of your business.

Garn: It is, I’m afraid, very much my business.  If you do not wish to tell me, how about generalities.  Are you an adult, by your people’s standards?

Susan: Which standards?

Garn: Your people’s standards.  Gallifreyan standards.

Susan: Old enough to wed, not old enough to drink intoxicating substances.  Old enough to fight in a war, not old enough to work at an occupation.  Clear enough?

Garn: Are you married?

Susan:  Get out.  Get. Out.  Get out right now, or I swear, by the Nine Planets and the Double Stars, I will kill you.

[End Transcript]

Susan A. refused to speak for the rest of the day, no matter what enticement was given.

New biological scanners have not yet arrived, and Stark has not yet returned.

---

200652| November 02, 1970

Dr. Garn has left the facility.

Stark has returned, and spent three hours (0900 to 1200) talking to Susan A.  Susan A. began speaking at 1145.  Subject has requested to be taken to see her “capsule” again, but must give two days of good behavior before is permitted.

New biological scanners have not yet arrived, and Stark has not yet returned.

---

Day Thirteen:

Stark thoroughly believes that I am in love with him.  It’s a bit sickening.

On the other hand, I managed to chase that t!chhhrk, Garn, off of the premises.  Unlike all of the other people on this planet, it seems, Garn was gifted with weak telepathic abilities.

His mind made my stomach roll.  I’m just glad that he didn’t ask what he was thinking when he asked about my ability to read.  While he simply said, “Can you write?” what he thought was more like “Can you write?  And is this normal for women of you people?”

I wanted to ask him what, precisely, made it so incredible that women would be able to be educated alongside men.  Or just what defined “woman.”

I have a feeling that saying that could have caused problems for me.

Unfortunately, I lost my temper anyway.

One Stark returned, I requested to visit my TARDIS again.  The request was denied until I can “behave myself for two entire days.”

Very well.  Two days, it shall be.

---

200201| November 03, 1970

Stark has requested the presence of one Nicholas Fury on this base, while Stark himself is abroad for a publicity campaign.

Request is still in progress.

Susan A. was quiet today, and has submitted two samples of blood for the biological scanners, which ought to arrive in four days.

The break room refrigerator has been requisitioned for the preservation of the blood samples.

---

201009| November 04, 1970

The presence of Nicholas Fury on base has been approved by Washington.

Susan A. was quiet today, and was polite to Dr. Howells and Dr. Nirenberg during interviews.

Staff has put in a request for a new break room refrigerator.

---

Day Fifteen:

Nine Planets and Double Stars continue eternal – I’m pregnant.

I’m pregnant.

I didn’t think – didn’t think – I visited my TARDIS today, and she confirmed it.

I’m pregnant.

What am I supposed to do?  Somehow, I have to keep it a secret until precisely nine months before the due date, or else who knows how the humans will react.

I certainly doubt that they will simply allow me to carry to term if I informed them of my pregnancy and explained that Gallifreyan pregnancies (when they occur) last for approximately twenty-two and a half Terran months.  They’ll want to…study my child.  My baby.

My plan of course is decided.  I’ll get Stark to ‘disappear’ me, and become his wife.  My child can grow safely, while I help my TARDIS heal herself.  I’ll find someone trustworthy to watch and guard my child, and return to the War.  After the War is over, I’ll come back for my child.

I just have to figure out how to get access to TT radiation 4, TT radiation 7, and TT radiation 13, all while trapped on Earth and pretending to be ordinary.

---

THE DAILY BUGLE 11 July 1971

NOTORIOUS WARMONGER WEDDED?

Notorious bachelor, Howard Stark, married relative unknown, Maria S. Arken, on Saturday, July 10, after a whirlwind affair lasting nearly ten months. 

The wedding was at the New York Metropolitan, and was crowded with famous figures such as…

---

THE DAILY BUGLE 18 October 1971

STARK STORY STEAMS AHEAD

While at a gala in Cardiff, Wales, Maria Stark was spotted with a visible baby bump.  Is the new lady at Stark Industries pregnant?  When confronted, both Starks refused to comment…

---

THE DAILY BUGLE 30 May 1972

HOWARD STARK HAS A SON!

At eleven-fifteen pm, on the 29th of May, Maria Stark gave birth to a son.  Howard Stark has informed the press that his son’s name is Anthony Edward Stark, and that he weighed in at a tiny 4.5 lbs, 2 oz.

When questioned about why he chose the names “Anthony” and “Edward,” Stark stated that…

---

Day Five Hundred and Eighty-Seven:

I have a child!  Currently, so far as I know, a son!

Howard has named him Anthony.  He has named himself Thétoniiannsa.

I shall call him Tony.

He is so perfect.  Tiny hands and feet, two large dark eyes, and a mop of dark curls that could have been from any number of Grandfather’s regenerations.

He also thinks like Grandfather – quickly, inquisitively, and with a sharp wit that may end up hurting him.

Even as I sit in bed, relaxing, Tony is attempting to calculate the distance from the bed to the floor, and whether he can make a quick leap to me from his crib.

Whatever else my child is, he is certainly a better telepath than I ever was.  I can only hope that he isn’t nearly as sensitive as the regeneration of Grandfather that I last saw – accidental telepathy is hundreds of times worse that the headaches that I get from attempting to “influence” non-Gallifreyans.

I am uncertain what I should do, now.  Humans, I remember, age differently from Gallifreyans, and my TARDIS…

Well, we won’t be leaving Earth or even this time period any time soon.  We’re stuck for at least a century, until technology becomes a bit more advanced.

How shall I protect Tony?

---

Day Five Hundred and Eighty-Eight:

The glamour has worn off.  Tony won’t stop thinking.

Here I lay, trying desperately to sleep, and he continues to babble telepathic nonsense at ridiculous levels of volume.  The worst part?  All of the nurses keep cooing over how quiet he is.

The only reason I haven’t completely grown infuriated is that he keeps dropping little affectionate <lovelovelove> at me when I’m not expecting it.  That darling, he’ll be more of a charmer that Stark is, by the time he grows up.  I wish Grandfather was here –

What?

            Wait                

it hurts                                               

so much                                                                                   

what?                                                                                                                              

what is?                                                                                                                                                               

what is happening?

?!

ThedoctorthemomentthedaleksBADWOLFthreeofthemthirteenofthemnonononoNONONONO!

SILENCE

HAS

FALLEN.

.                                                  

.                                                                                           

.                                                                                                                                           

.                                                                                                                                                                                                

                                                silence

                                    has

                       fallen

silence <wherehaveyougone> has <mypeoplemypeople> fallen <pleasepleaseanswermeplease>

---

Day Six Hundred and Nine:

The doctors say that I went into “post-partum shock.” Stark flew back from a press conference in Washington. 

My people are dead.

All of them.

They’re all gone.

Grandfather will never again visit me.

The Master will never again wreak havoc.

The Lady President will never again make that little muffled giggle as she attempts to be solemn.

They’re all –

I never realized how much I could hear them, even if I couldn’t communicate with them, until they were gone.

My head is an echoing void, and all I can do is cry out into the silence, the silence of nothing.

Most of my TARDIS may be dying or dead, but the Chameleon Arch still works.  I may not be Grandfather, but I know how to adjust it to retain my memories.

Tony can grow up human, and make the choice himself, when he is an adult, to be the last of a dead race.

I only hope I can forgive myself for the pain that it will cause him.

But we are the only ones left.

The last of the Time Lords.

They are all gone.

No more.

Gallifrey has fallen.

 

Chapter Text

28 August 1979 CE:

The first thing that I can remember is pain.

Even now, years later, it wakes me up at night.  Horrific pain, and a squeezing feeling as if all that I am (was-couldbe-mightbe-shouldbe) has been forced into a tiny box within my skull.

Shrinks would have a field day with me, if Mom ever let them near me.

Mom is…kinda weird.  Most days, she tries really hard.  Too hard, maybe.  To talk to me, interact with me, and generally be there.  Most days.

But there are also the bad days.  The days when she drinks half of the alcohol in the house and spends the rest of the day crying out the window.

I wonder why she married Howard.  All the time, I wonder about it.  They clearly despise each other, although they put on a good show for the cameras and paparazzi. 

Not long ago, they got into a screaming argument – it probably didn’t help that Howard was drunk, and Mom had spent the whole day trying to be all supportive for me.

“Is he even mine?” Howard demanded, knocking a pile of beer bottles onto the floor with a crash.  “Was it all a lie, Maria?  Oh, better, Susan?”

“Oh, like you’re the injured party here!” Mom shrieked.  “At least I can honestly say that I never slept with anyone but my husband after we were married!  How many times have you claimed that SHIELD or some contractor needed something, only to go behind my back?”

“The boy can’t even talk!  And you continue to insist that he stay here with you!  How long are you going to coddle your little bastard?”

Mom slapped Howard so hard, he fell to the floor.  “He is three years old, Howard.  Three! How many children are comfortable talking to strangers at three?”

“I’m not a stranger!” Howard roared. “I’m supposed to be his father!”

“Well, if you’re supposed to be his father,” Mom hissed, “then why don’t you ever act like it? He tried to show you his little battery yesterday, but you didn’t take notice or encourage him, like a real father, you just slapped him away and drained another bottle of beer!  At least I have the decency not to drink in the presence of my son!”

The rest of the argument covered the same issues that all of Mom’s and Howard’s arguments cover – Mom’s irrational fear of doctors, Howard’s insistence on looking for Captain America, Mom’s waste-of-money-charities, Howard’s warmongering, Mom’s civil-rights-waste-of-time, Howard’s sleeping around, and schools.

Or, if I should go to school, when, and where.

The arguments haven’t changed at all in the intervening years, either.

Which is kinda why I’ve been shipped off to George A Brutus’ Academy.  Mom agreed that I could go to boarding school only if I got to choose it from Howard’s list – and Howard insisted that boarding school it would be.  At least Brutus’ isn’t actually a military academy.

Actually, it was the only school on Howard’s list that wasn’t a military academy.

Good luck to me – if I actually believed in luck.  The plane lands soon, and I’ll be over six hours from Mom for the first time in my life.

Stars above, I already miss her.  I really am a wimp, just like Howard says.

---

George Arthur Brutus’ Academy, Matriculating Class, 29 August, 1979

Arkwright, Peter G.

Beck, Paul K.

Black, Callahan

Bolton, Quentin

Brown, Theodore

Chevalier, Louis

Clay, Edward

Curtis, Mason L. E.

Daniels, Farnsworth

Daniels, Maximilian

David, James M.

Ellsworth, Timothy

Fields, Jared A.

Fisher, Isaac F.

Gardener, Michael R.

Gardner, Benjamin

Grey, Arthur

Jacobs, Randolph

Jeffries, Colby

Lacy, Riley

Landon, Paul L.

Lewis, Bartholomew

Martin, James Q.

Matthews, Oliver

Osborne, Lloyd

Philips, Darren

Quigley, Graham

Roberts, Nathaniel M.

Robinson, Jason

Sawyer, Hamilton

Shaw, Frederick

Stark, Anthony E.

Thatcher, Ethan F.

Vandroogenbroeck, Christopher

Wallace, Edward

Wilson, Jacob

Young, Noah

---

31 August 1979 CE:

So, I am officially the youngest person at this school.  I’m in the first-year dorm, so I’m sharing a room with three fourteen-year-old guys.  Jason Robinson, Hamilton Sawyer, and Frederick Shaw. 

They already knew each other before they came here.  So, I’m the odd one out.

I mean, it’s not like I didn’t attempt public school before now.  And… yeah, nobody liked me there, either.

Can anyone say awkward?

So while the three of them snicker and share candy, I’ve been unpacking.

Mom – Mom packed her Key in my stuff.

Mom’s Key isn’t just any old key.  She’s had it since forever, and it kinda whispers if you listen right.  No matter how long it’s been sitting in your drawer, it stays warm like you’ve been holding it, and it glows in the dark.

Mom never lets it out of her sight.  Never.

And she put it in my luggage.

---

George Arthur Brutus’ Academy, Conference Request, 11 September 1979

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Stark,

Please contact the school as soon as possible to schedule a conference about your son, Anthony E. Stark                              . 

If you already have a psychological advisor within your employ, we highly advise that said psychologist attend this conference.  If you do not have a psychologist within your employ, the school can provide a list of possible candidates for the role                                                        .

            Your son currently is on punishment detail for blowing up the engineering lab              .

Thank you,

Joseph H. Walden, M.D., PhD.

JosephHWalden                        .

---

Stark Industries, 15 September 1979

Dear Dr. Walden,

I am sorry, but I am unable to attend any conferences at George A. Brutus’ at this time.  If reparations are necessary, please send a requisition form to my secretary.

Sincerely,

Howard Stark

.                   HS                                 .

---

Maria S. Stark, 16 September 1979

Dear Dr. Walden,

I am terribly sorry about the trouble.  Would the 21st be alright?  I can fly in the night before, if that is what you wish.

We do not currently have a psychologist in our employ, but I am willing to listen to your suggestions.

Sincerely,

Maria S. Stark

 .        Maria S Stark                        .

---

22 September 1979 CE:

So, I may have blown up the engineering laboratories.  That… was a thing that happened. 

To be fair, and as I tried to explain to the teachers, headmaster, and school psychologist, the two machines should have coupled nicely, and only fizzed a little before syncing properly.

The explosion was only because I forgot to factor in the fact that Bot2 has a processing speed 4 times as fast as Bot1.  They tried to sync, and, well, exploded.

Thankfully, most of their insides were flammable, so the shrapnel was minimal.  I now have a very cool scar on my eyebrow, and a weird star-shaped one on my left shoulder.

Actually, the worst part of the whole thing was Mom’s freak-out when she found out that I had been treated by the school nurse.  It took hours to explain to her that “treated” had only consisted of some wound-cleaning agent and bandages.

Of course, then she had a conniption about the idea that the school was prescribing medication without notifying the parents, and tore a hole in the administrators.  I told her that there was no aspirin involved, but does that stop her from acting like I might have died by painkiller?  Nope.

The upshot of all of this is that, while the whole school thinks I’m weird, nobody hates me at the moment except the engineering teacher. 

Well, and the biology and chemistry teachers – the biology lab exploded in an interesting secondary reaction to the explosion of the engineering lab, and was quickly followed by the chemistry lab.

Nobody let me get close enough to study it properly, and of course, now it’s all cordoned off and hidden.  So I can’t even find out what it was that caused the secondary and tertiary explosions.

I asked Mom about the Key. 

“Why did you give it to me?” I asked, clinging to her wrist to feel her slightly-off heartbeat.  “You never let it out of sight, Mom.”

Mom smiled, and kissed my forehead before I could duck away.  “Because it belongs to you, now, Thétonii.”

She calls me that sometimes.  Thétonii.  I think it must be a nickname from some other language, but Mom never explains.

I’ve tried learning other languages to figure it out myself, but it hasn’t worked yet.  Thirteen languages and counting!  The school psychologist/counselor person doesn’t like that I already know Latin, French, Spanish, and Greek.  Those are the only languages that GAB (as I like to call the school) provides classes in. 

Mom says that I should try to blend in a bit more if I don’t like people treating me oddly.  I told her that I’m not sure I can blend in. 

She recommended that I stop trying to analyze the cells of stuff I find lying around, and that I act afraid when things explode.  Then again, she was stifling a smile while she said that.  Apparently, I’m a lot like her grandfather.

Wish I could’ve met him.  I bet he wouldn’t run screaming from a slight explosion.

---

George Arthur Brutus’ Academy, Assignment Notice, 23 September 1979

This child, Anthony E. Stark                              , is required to attend daily counseling sessions until further notice with Dr. E. L. Burns                              .

Signed,

.        Malcolm F Liberton                        .

---

22 September 1979 CE:

They figured out what to do with my empty time slot.  They’re sending me to counseling sessions.

The school psychologist/counselor person, Dr. Burns, hasn’t figured out that I can read upside-down.  He’s a bit of an idiot.

Apparently, I’m a sociopath, psychopath, pyromaniac, cyclothymic, and narcissistic. 

Seriously, who licensed this idiot to diagnose?  He’s barely met me!

Also, he’s apparently extremely worried that I might be a pyromaniac – his office didn’t have seven fire extinguishers yesterday.

Seriously?

Well, at least these meetings give me time to start planning my newest goal – Artificial Intelligence.

---

From the Desk of Edward L. Burns, M.D, 1 October 1979

 Joe –

Get me out of this!  The kid is completely insane!  He actually asked me if I was worried about his possibly pyromaniacal tendencies, and followed that statement up with a question about whether I would rather be burned alive or have every bone in my body broken at once!

He also questioned the validity of my psychiatric diploma, and called me an “ignorant ape!”  Get me out of this, or I will take that posting at Harvard!

Ed

---

From the Desk of Joseph H. Walden, M.D., PhD, 2 October 1979

 Ed –

The kid is Howard Stark’s son.  Just prescribe something and send him back to class.  I’ll get you that bottle of Scotch you like so much.

Joe

---

19 November 1979 CE:

Burns (I refuse to call that uneducated ape ‘Doctor’) prescribed a whole smuggler’s stash of drugs, and tossed me into a class of seniors studying Physics.

It’s…not bad.  There’s this kid in the class (and by kid, I mean that he’s seventeen,) who is a complete Captain America fan, but he’s also really…protective.

A couple of kids decided that I was screwing with the grade curve, and decided that I needed to be taught a lesson.  Peace (that’s what everyone calls him, Peace, ‘cuz his initials are PC and he does not like it when people fight) broke it up, and told them that I was under his protection.

Apparently, that means that he sits next to me in every class and talks about random stuff.  He’s not nearly smart enough to keep up with me in most stuff, but he’s really good at explaining why people do stupid things. 

Also, Peace loves Captain America.  Like, owns almost all of the trading cards, toys, and books.

“Howard – my dad – knew Captain America,” I told him the other day.  “He wishes that he still had Captain America here instead of me.”

Peace gaped.  “What?  I mean, sure, Cap was amazing, but you’re his son.  Also, you’re a genius, how is he not proud of you?”

“He doesn’t like me very much,” I replied.

Peace gave me one of his Captain America collectables.  It’s a Bucky-Bear, made to go with the Captain Ameri-bear that they made for a grand total of three years. 

I tried to tell him that I didn’t need it, but Peace is a bit of a mother hen.  I think he just wants to take care of people, and I happen to be people.

---

George Arthur Brutus’ Academy, 29 November 1979

Dear Mom,

Remember how worried you were about me skipping a grade?  Well, you don’t have to worry at all.  Being sixteen and a senior is nothing compared to being a seven year old freshman.  I honestly don’t know what they think they’re doing – the kid is tiny, and he clearly needs to be anywhere other than a pseudo-military academy.

His name is Tony, and I’ve sort-of taken him under my wing.  I help him dumb things down for the teachers, and he helps me understand just what the deal is with most of Physics.

I’m really worried about him.  Tony’s mom came to one meeting with the establishment, and his father has never shown his face. 

On a side note, I don’t suppose you still have one of my old winter coats?  Tony doesn’t have one – apparently, he’s never actually seen the snow.  If you still have one, could you ship it up with that new book about astronomy?  If not, I’ll pay out of my pocket money if you could buy him one.  He’s really skinny and less than three foot six.

Tell Aunt Louise that the chocolates were great, but I really don’t have anywhere to keep them, and a stomachache is a really bad idea with daily physical education.

And please, please, don’t tell Gran Proctor about me being friends with Tony.  I really don’t need another conversation with her about the evils of the corporate world.

See you at Christmas!

Love,

Phil

---

18 December 1979 CE:

So…Christmas Break starts tomorrow.

Apparently, we are forced to return “home” for Christmas.

Do they even realize how ethnocentric they are?  “Christmas” Break.  There are at least three Jewish boys in my grade.  Couldn’t they just call it “Winter” Break?

Currently, I’m having some trouble figuring out how I’m going to transport my newest project from the dormitories to the airport, so I can take it home.  It’s not like I’m going to be doing anything for Christmas anyway…

Maybe Mom won’t have to go to a million galas this Christmas, and we can spend the day together…

Yeah, right.

Maybe I’ll make a working sniper’s rifle for Bucky Bear.

---

Maria S. Stark, 19 December 1979

Darling –

I’m so sorry that I won’t be able to see you this Christmas.  Check the second garage when you get to the Malibu property – your present is behind the red door.

I’m really glad that you’re making friends with people at school, even if the school itself is subpar.  The next time we see each other, you must tell me more about Peace.

If I can wrangle it, I might be able to get you an invite to a charity event in Scotland with me for New Year’s.  Would you like to go?  Howard won’t be there.

I love you, my Tony,

Maria S Stark

---

10 February 1980 CE:

Well, Christmas sucked, but New Years was pretty nice.  Scotland was nice, and the people at A Charitable Earth all treated me like a person and not a kid.

Mom spent most of the time talking to the head of A Charitable Earth, but we did get a few minutes to talk about my AI project. 

Mom even helped me pack it up and smuggle it back to school!

The dark thing on the horizon is June, though.  Peace graduates this June, and then I’ll be back to being all alone here.  Maybe I’ll see how much I can blow up before they throw me out.  It’s not like I’m not ready to go to college already.

School is going to suck without Peace.

---

29 May 1980 CE:

So…apparently, experimenting while thinking about something else is the one true path to explosions.  I blew up the dormitories this morning.

To be fair, nobody else was in the dorms, because I was supposed to be in Phys.Ed.  Also, my Project survived!  (It is really, really hard to smuggle a metal-and-wires construct as big as yourself out of a burning building.)

So, Burns quit the school – it seems that this explosion was the last straw.  He wanted them to throw me out (and into a psych ward), but Howard apparently made them sign away their souls or something so that I have to actually graduate from this place.

Also, I’m in detention during this year’s graduation, so I won’t even be able to say goodbye to Peace.

Life sucks.

---

THE DAILY BUGLE 25 June 1982

HOWARD STARK DONATES A MILLION!

Yesterday, Howard Stark donated a round million dollars to the George Arthur Brutus Academy, which is located…

---

THE DAILY BUGLE 11 March 1984

LEGAL TROUBLE FOR STARK?

Today, the State of New York is suing Howard Stark for keeping his son out of school.  Howard Stark’s son, Anthony Edward Stark, graduated from the George Arthur Brutus Academy in June 1982, and will turn twelve on the 26th of this upcoming May.  He is most well known for the robot-helper he built, which was in several magazines earlier this year…

---

THE DAILY BUGLE 15 March 1984

HOWARD STARK SETTLES WITH STATE

Today, Howard Stark settled with the State over the case of his son, Anthony Stark’s absence from school.  Stark handed over a whopping 25k to the State, and has promised to enroll Anthony in school for this upcoming fall…

---

29 July 1984 CE:

So, in the weirdest turn of events ever, Howard is taking me to visit a bunch of universities.  I’m…really sort-of disappointed. 

I mean, it’s not like I’ve heard from anyone since I graduated from/was kicked out of George A Brutus’, but I’ve gotten to actually spend time with Mom (and her new butler, an awesome guy named Jarvis).

Oh, well.  I wonder if Howard would even notice if he went on that tour of universities without me?

Actually, he’d notice – because the reporters would all notice it the next day.

---

THE DAILY BUGLE 18 August 1984

HOWARD STARK VISITS MIT!

After a trip to alma mater, Princeton, and Yale, Howard Stark is spending the weekend at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology…

---

19 August 1984:

Three hundred and seventy-five days left until my thesis is due.

In other news, we appear to have acquired a mascot at some point.  He’s a tiny little kid who calls himself Tony, and he builds bots like a maniac.

One of his bots almost took over the dorm today.  Me and some of my friends built him a little cave to live in downstairs, by the vending machines.

He gave me the best idea for my thesis, actually…

---

Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement, and Logistics Division, Interpersonal Memo, 29 August 1984

To all involved with Project TABS (Testing of Alien Biological Samples), TABS has been shut down.  All of those surviving will be reassigned to new assignments.

For those who are receiving this memo and do not know what TABS is, please report to the infirmary.

Please do not address anything to the New Mexico base, because it no longer exists.  Do not attempt to visit the former base, because the radiation is too dangerous.

Doctor Arthur S. Jones, you are currently in charge of any calls which come in for an unknown Doctor in the employ of the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement, and Logistics Division.  Please explain that there was an accident, and all citations should refer to yourself.  In the case of your paper about mitochondria, you are writing it alone.  It is no longer a collaboration.

All further information about Project TABS is Level Eight.

*This document should be distributed to every member of the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement, and Logistics Division, no matter the security level.  If you are currently writing a paper, and you have a citation for a Doctor -Blank-, fill the blank with the name of Doctor Arthur S. Jones, as described above.

---

Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement, and Logistics Division, Interpersonal Memo, 30 August 1984

To Director Fury –

Of course my paper isn’t a collaboration.  It isn’t like it’s possible to collaborate with oneself!

Why are we misattributing another person’s work to me?

 - Arthur Sydney Jones, MD

---

Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement, and Logistics Division, Interpersonal Memo, 30 August 1984

Jones –

Because your paper isn’t a collaboration.

 - Fury

---

THE DAILY BUGLE 23 May 1985

ANTHONY STARK MISSING!!!

Anthony Stark, boy genius and son of Howard Stark, has been declared missing.  According to his mother, Maria S. Stark, he has been missing since Christmas, at the least.  She states that, “Unfortunately, Howard and I are busy people, and sometimes, miscommunication occurs.  I was under the impression that Howard was touring America’s universities with Tony up until Christmas.  Howard insisted that we not declare Tony missing until all of our houses had been searched from top to bottom.  It isn’t a ridiculous concern, because Howard currently owns five mansion-sized homes across the United States, but Tony doesn’t really ever leave his workshop since I gave it to him for Christmas 1979.”

Maria Stark’s closest friend, Ms. D. G. McShane from A Charitable Earth, was unavailable for comment, but Anthony’s godfather, Obadiah Stane, did come forward…

---

THE DAILY BUGLE 5 March 1986

ANTHONY STARK FOUND AT MIT!!!

Yesterday, a guest lecturer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology spotted a student who was a bit small for the general average age range of 18-24.  Dr. Jones, a graduate of Harvard, admitted that he did not recognize the child referred to as the “school mascot, Tony,” as Anthony Stark, but he thought it odd that a child of such a young age would be attending Dr. Jones’ lecture…

---

15 March 1986 CE:

And in one fell swoop, the best part of my life has been destroyed.  I liked living at MIT.

I am a bit sorry for making Mom worry so much, but…MIT!!!

It’s not like they threw me out – actually, I’ve been properly enrolled, and am currently attending as many classes as I can pay them to allow me to take.  It’s just that…

Before, I was the unofficial school mascot, and nobody really thought that there was anything weird about me building stuff in the basement or being only thirteen or anything.

Now, there are reporters all over campus, trying to ambush me, and teachers keep asking me if they can talk to me about my dad. 

Dummy – my bot from George A Brutus’ – keeps trying to follow me to classes.  Before, people just helped me either trap Dummy in a closet or drag him around campus.  Now, he’s gotta stay in the dorms all the time.

Also, due dates are a bitch.  I mean, I usually get stuff done way ahead of time, but I apparently have a really bad habit of forgetting to actually hand it in – or show up to class.

The weirdest thing is, there are classes that I could swear I went to, but all of the teachers say I was absent.

Maybe I dreamed it?  Like the painful headache dream and the dream where I’m flying?

Hunh. 

So, since I’m not permitted to take as many classes as I’d like, I’m building Dummy some siblings in my spare time.  Hopefully, they won’t take it to their heads to be called something that I shout at myself when I’ve dropped something heavy on my foot…

---

26 June 1986 CE:

I’ve passed all my classes and shocked the hell out of my professors, but in more important news – I apparently cannot avoid building bots who take my self-denigration as their names.  Dummy’s sibs refuse to answer to anything but Butterfingers and You.

That’s going to get confusing, someday.  Y’know, when I’m actually interacting with people while I work.

Like that’s ever going to happen.

Mom gave me the Malibu estate for my birthday.  Seriously.

Then again, Mom mostly stays either in Scotland or Boston, these days, and Howard lives in the New York behemoth. 

Oh yeah, there’s something that’s awkward.  My classmates flirt with my mom.

Mom does look more like a college student than I do, but it’s still all sorts of weird.  Especially because I’m pretty sure she and Ms. McShane have a thing going on.

If they do, at least it isn’t all over the papers, like Howard and his latest fling.

On the Stark Industries side of things, Howard’s friend, Obadiah Stane, (my godfather,) is all chummy with me and really interested in getting his kid to be chummy with me.

It’s not going so well.  Zeke is a really normal thirteen-year-old boy.  Like, hates science and math and history and thinks that comics are geeky and stupid and that the only thing everyone should like is sports.

Specifically, American Football.  Not even Proper Football, as Mom calls it.

Then again, I shouldn’t sneer.  Ms. McShane’s favorite sport is Hot Potato (for some reason she thinks it’s really funny), and I hate all sports except fencing, ice skating, roller-blading, and gymnastics. 

Of course, according to Zeke, those are all “sissy sports.”

Seriously, someday I’m going to give him an exploding American football, just so that I can have the pleasure of watching it blow up in his face.

---

THE DAILY BUGLE 15 July 1991

ANTHONY STARK GRADUATES MIT!!!

This week, Anthony Stark is graduating from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with not one, not two, not three, but four Bachelors’ degrees, a Masters’ degree, and two Doctorates.  The nineteen-year-old genius refused to comment, but his mother state that “…we are all incredibly proud of Tony.  I’m not sure you can understand what this means to us…”

Of course, does it mean anything at all to Howard Stark, who has been sighted yet again with one of his blonde flings?  Stark refused to comment, but Obadiah Stane did say that…

---

16 December 1991 CE:

As the car curved around a particularly tight turn, Maria clutched at the watch that hung on a chain around her neck.  Beside her, Howard was leaning on his latest blonde secretary, drinking something that smelled positively awful.

Maria’s hands tightened around the watch, and then released, falling to her lap.  She had felt a strange sort of tension all day, something hanging over her shoulder that she just knew Grandfather would have been able to explain…

At the party that night, she had also made an important decision.  Tonight was the night.  She would tell Tony everything tonight.  She couldn’t be certain what that feeling was, but Tony was nearly twenty years old.  It was definitely time.  It was –

The car jerked harshly, something popped, and Maria flew forward –

And everything went black.

                        Blackness becominG WHITENESS BECOMINg black

Something was ringing.

The air smelled like smoke and gasoline and soot and something was ringing, and there was a terrible pressure in her chest –

Maria-Susan-Arkytior looked looked lookedlooked down and saw sees would see gold metalnot really metal more like condensed time in a shell split and bent and twisted and directly between her breasts and there was bloodbloodbloodbloodsomuchblood and a fizzy burning feeling deep within, and her head was splitting oh Grandfather I need you! blood was spilling from the metal (not from the metal from her chest where the metal pierced it) and golden light was struggling-struggling-struggling –

She felt the perception filter break off, but that didn’t matter, all that mattered was that she open the watch –

Blood sprayed and skin tore as she shoved her hands into her chest and ripped the watch open –

Golden light exploded, and the car exploded moments later.

A mile away, an onlooker with a sniper’s scope could only see that the car caught fire and exploded.

---

Torchwood Six to Torchwood One, Transmission,16 December 1989 CE:

T6: Torchwood One, are you there?

T1: Receiving you loud and clear, Six, what’s the problem?

T6: There appears to have been an explosion of energy similar to that of the Cardiff Rift in the Hunan Province.  We will be arriving at Ground Zero in fifteen minutes, but thought we should send you the numbers.

T1: Listening and recording.

T6: We’ve got an incredible 2600 units of Rift Energy Alpha, one million units of Rift Energy Beta, 54 billion units of Artron energy, and the little dingy thing with the circle symbol on the Artron monitor is reading 5 thousand units of unknown.  Major readings on the ordinary radiation scale as well, we’ve got Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, Merrix, Delgado, and plain old ultraviolet.

T1: Any ID on the source?

T6: The readings are starting to get muddled – hey – Jake!  What are you –!

T1: Torchwood Six?  Come in, Torchwood Six?

T6: We are--- attacked-----b-------like Sontar---------or Navori-------- setting d-----------.

T1: Torchwood Six?  Come in, Torchwood Six?

T6: Sorry, being attacked by multiple ------------- setting down with human ----------------.

T1: Torchwood Six?  Come in, Torchwood Six?

T6: --------------------------------------.

T1: Torchwood Six?  Come in, Torchwood Six?

T6: No Signal.

29 December 1991 CE:

Dear Tony,

Darling, if you are reading this, then something happened before I could tell you anything.  I am so, so, sorry.

To make a very long story incredibly short, Howard has always been right about you not being his son.

I know that you’ve always been skeptical about the following subject, but hear me out.

I was born on the planet Gallifrey, in the galaxy Kasterborous, at a point in the far past or future.  (Bear with me, I have absolutely no idea how to spell these things in English.  They don’t exactly teach Gallifreyan-to-English at the Prydonian Academy.)

I was a bit of an odd duck, and after some painful experiences at the Prydonian Academy, my Grandfather removed me from the school, and we left Gallifrey.  We ended up on Earth, and lived here for a time, before traveling again.  I temporarily stopped traveling with Grandfather when I fell in love with a man named David Campbell from an alternate reality version of the 22nd century on Earth.

But Gallifrey went to war, and anyone who even slightly qualified as a Time Lord (someone who graduated from one of the Nine Academies) was called in to fight.

It was known as the Last Great Time War.

Gallifreyans are not like humans, though.  While the age of three hundred might be old for a human, that’s barely teenagerhood for a Time Lord.  You don’t get the equivalent of a driver’s license until you are at least nine hundred.

So there I was, less than three centuries old, and fighting in the Last Great Time War.

I was foolish, and did what foolish young girls often do when they are in life-or-death situations with a similarly foolish boy.

His name was Tthlenakaaanrro ltnthng Amieroaan.

The Daleks killed him, and sent me crashing through time and space.

I ended up on Earth.

While on Earth, after you were born, the Time War ended.

We, or rather, you, are the last of the Time Lords. 

If you wish it.

With this letter should be a golden fob watch, the only physical evidence of the cruel choice that I made when you were only a few days old.

Open the watch, and live as the last of an ancient and glorious (and incredibly stiff-necked) race.  Leave the watch, and live out a wonderful life as a brilliant human being.

Please, please, if Ace is still around, give the watch to her if you do not decide to open it.  (Ace is my friend D. G. McShane.)

Whether or not you open the watch, know that I love you, will love you, have loved you, and will exist in all dimensions of loving for you,

Your Mother,

Maria Susan Stark, formerly Susan Foreman Campbell, formerly Arkytior ltnthng Csjer, granddaughter of the one and only Doctor.

 <object width="450" height="453"><param name="movie" value="http://backend.deviantart.com/embed/view.swf?1"><param name="flashvars" value="id=500381455&width=1337"><param name="allowScriptAccess" value="always"><embed src="http://backend.deviantart.com/embed/view.swf?1" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="450" height="453" flashvars="id=500381455&width=1337" allowscriptaccess="always"></embed></object><br><a href="http://kila9nishika.deviantart.com/art/Arkytior-500381455">Arkytior</a> by <span class="username-with-symbol u"><a class="u regular username" href="http://kila9nishika.deviantart.com/">Kila9Nishika</a><span class="user-symbol regular" data-quicktip-text="" data-show-tooltip="" data-gruser-type="regular"></span></span> on <a href="http://www.deviantart.com">DeviantArt</a>

Chapter Text

16 December 1992 CE:

He calls today my birthday.  My first birthday.

To say that I was born on the sixteenth of December, 1991 CE, would be something of an overstatement.  Better to say, the sixteenth of December, 1991 CE, was the first day that I could properly call myself “self-aware.”

The first words I properly heard on that day were:

“Sweetheart?  Come on, darling, look at me – there you are…”

Gazing up at me was someone that my mind identified as young-person/male/dark-hair/scruffy/THE-CREATOR.

His face shifted as I slowly became properly aware, and I identified the shift as “smile.”

It would be the last smile I would see on his face on the sixteenth of December for years.

---

16 December 1992 CE:

There were many things that Virginia Potts had believed in before this day, but flying dragons made from pure fire had not been one of them.

Why had she moved to New York, again?

  1.   Better pay.

Curling up around the only toddler that hadn’t been picked up from the daycare, (at which she filed paperwork and balanced checkbooks,) Ginny thought that its location down the block from the Baxter Building was the main reason why Rainbow Stars DayCare paid so well.

“Dinny?”

Ginny carefully tucked herself and the toddler a bit more firmly into the tiny crevice of broken stone that had been formed by the current state of destruction.  “We’re going to be very quiet, Tommy, okay?  Very quiet.”

Tommy put his little chubby hands over his mouth, his eyes wide.  “Shhhh,” he hissed through his fingers.  “Shhh.”

It took every bit of Ginny’s self-control not to scream as one of the fire-dragon-things flew a bit too close and smashed the corner of a building, sending concrete everywhere.  It was only because of the intensity of her fear that she noticed one of the largest chunks of rock bounce off of – thin air.

“Rude!” a voice proclaimed.

For a moment, Ginny forgot about the fire-dragons and mass destruction.  Stepping out of a door that had just appeared, a small man with sharp brown eyes waved something silvery and vaguely pencil-shaped at the sky.  “Rude, you misplaced Hsthroclocites!  Dropping rocks on my – Pepper?”

Ginny gaped at the man for a long moment (was he scolding the flying fiery dragons?) and then gaped some more when she realized that he was talking to her.

“My name is Ginny,” she shouted.  “I don’t know who you are.  What are Hs-Hst-Hsthroclocites?”

The man darted forward and dragged her towards the mysteriously appearing door.  “Suddenly, a great deal of my early life makes a lot of sense,” the man said cheerfully.  “Hello, Ginny, hello, Tommy, run!”

Ginny wasn’t sure what running through an appearing door would do to help, but it was better than huddling under a broken piece of wall.  So she ran, holding Tommy tightly, and then –

“Where are we?” she gasped, skidding to a halt.  Instead of a New York City street, Ginny and Tommy were inside of a large room.

“In my ship, parked in the center of New York City, 1992,” the mystery man said, whirling around a large column in the center of the room.  He tapped a screen here, and a button there, and pulled a couple of levers with a flourish.  “Be quiet for a minute, Pepper, Hsthroclocites properly shouldn’t be in this plane of existence, that’s why they’re setting everything on fire, of course, and that means that Cardiff and Ninjiang must be going bonkers because some idiot has been playing with dimensions when they shouldn’t and that never means anything good for the Rifts and –”

“My name is not Pepper!” Ginny shouted.  “I don’t know what you’re talking about or what you’re doing and I’ve never met you before in my life!

The man stopped, one hand splayed over a shiny black surface.  “Oh.”

Suddenly a voice spoke up.  “You must excuse Sir, he is not used to non-linear relationships when they pertain to his own timeline.”

The man scowled, grimaced, and then smiled sheepishly.  “Right.  I’m the Inventor, and this,” he waved a hand, “is my best friend and wonderful ship, Jarvis.”

---

3 January 1993 CE:

Tony stared blearily at the pile of mail that Dummy had dropped beside him, and flopped onto the floor.  “Huh…J?”

“Yes, Sir?”

Tony scowled.  “I will convince you to call me Tony,” he mumbled.  Louder, he said, “I didn’t bring anyone home this last week, did I?”

“No, Sir.”

Tony bit his tongue.  “Ow.  Um.  Can you…I dunno, read this newspaper and see if I’m hallucinating?”

There was a long pause.  “If the news headlines read, ‘Stark Junior Plays Like Father – Two Girls At Once?  Melissa Tells All’, then you are not hallucinating, Sir.”

Tony sat up, slowly, and stared at the ridiculous headline.  “Did I bring people over and have massive amnesia, or something?  Last thing I remember was that dreadful New Year’s Party.”

“I do believe that you spent all of the time discussed in that specific article alone.”

“Hunh.”  Tony stood up, and swayed.  “Right, so how are my babies coming?”

“Dummy still refuses any name other than Dummy, as do Butterfingers and You.  Lissy has refused to be connected to the family system, and I have not managed to hook into that phone of your mother’s as of yet.”

Tony frowned.  “Well, don’t feel bad.  That phone was from the Thirty-fifth Century, according to the information we have managed to access.  How about the perception filters?”

“Waiting in your workroom, Sir.”

“I will get you to call me Tony.”

“Yes, Sir.”

---

20 April 1993 CE:

Clint stared at the pile of newspapers, magazines, and gossip rags in front of him, and shook his head.  “No freakin’ way.”

“I believe that the traditional response is, ‘way’,” Agent Coulson said drily, tossing a tiny blue leather book on top of the stack.  “You’re benched, and you need something to do until that cast comes off.  I’m not dealing with Medical again, not after you rebroke your arm for the fifth time.”

Clint attempted to look sheepish.  It didn’t work.  “So…”

Coulson’s lips did the little twitchy thing that was a smile on normal people.  “I do not want to find you in the range or with that cast off until two weeks from now.  On pain of two years of desk duty.”

Clint flinched.  Desk duty was hell, and that was without the paperwork.  Paperwork was exponentially worse than hell, and it didn’t help that Clint wasn’t entirely comfortable with the whole writing side of literacy.

“Blue book has a list of people who are on our to-watch list,” Coulson continued.  “Flag any mention of them in the papers on your desk, and make a short report on each mention.  Voice recordings, not written.”

Clint bit back something childish.  “This’ll take days,” he whined, instead.

Coulson did the twitchy not-a-smile thing again.  “That is the point,” he said.  “Now, get to work.”  He paused.  “Oh, and Barton?”

Clint raised an eyebrow.

Coulson tapped the gossip rag on the top of the pile.  “Read, but don’t believe everything you read.”

As Coulson left, Clint grabbed the gossip rag that he’d tapped. 

Stark and the Appleby Twins: Exposed!

This was going to be a looong two weeks.

---

9 May 1994 CE:

The St Agnes Orphanage was nothing like orphanages in movies.  Each child had a proper bed, a chest to hold their belongings, and curtains to provide some privacy. 

That didn’t stop social problems.  Most children only stayed at St Agnes for a couple of months, and the few that stayed longer were often treated scornfully.

In the furthest corner of the room, curtains tied tightly, one such child tossed in her sleep, her bedsheets soaked with sweat and tangled around her limbs.

“Grandfather, the Huon Reader is low on peanut butter again…”

“Honestly, Susan, you are the one who fed that abominable material to the Reader, it’s your own fault if it keeps following you around…”

White walls with white floors and footsteps that echo as she circles the Console and the engines that glow a reassuring blue-white as the TARDIS hums in her head…

“A police telephone box?  Really?”

“I think it’s quite nice, Grandfather.  Do you think I could go to one of their human schools, while we are here?”

“Now, really, Susan, this era is quite primitive.  Barely out of the Industrial Age, I say.  I daresay that all they could teach you would be a single semester at the Academy, in your first year, and that you have already attended!”

“Oh, but Grandfather…”

A startled woman’s face, an angry young man, both neatly dressed…

“What are you doing here?  They’re two of my schoolteachers…”

“Let us go!”

A strange pepper-pot-shaped thing, waving a plunger and a whisk – and yet, she is terrified –

“Oh, Grandfather, you’ll always be welcome here…”

A tired man with curly white hair and a prominent nose –

A ridiculous scarf and a mop of brown hair on a man with a wide but unsmiling mouth –

A boyish blond in a cream-colored suit with a vegetable pinned to his lapel –

“Oh, I haven’t seen you in ages, Susan.”

“It’s been a week.  We can’t exactly tell the children that you’re the same man that they saw at Christmas, can we?”

A tin man, like Tin Man from Wizard of Oz, but much more frightening.

Blue, blue, blue will always save the day –

A slightly demented-looking man with blonde curls and a rainbow suit –

Slap!

“I’m…sorry.”

“Don’t be sorry, help me!  What am I supposed to do?  You vanish for twenty years, David is forty and looks his age, I am ninety and look like a teenager still!  My own daughter looks older than I!”

 A thin man in velvets and long dark hair, only his eyes are the same as always, deep and eternal –

“You mustn’t, Susan, do you understand?  You mustn’t!”

A weedy young man with red hair and an overlarge mouth talking over a short young woman with straight brown hair and a leather jacket –

Another pepper-pot-thing, so very frightening, because it is –

It was a –

“Dalek!” she cried, sitting up in bed.

Her startled shout echoed in the orphanage dormitory.  Even her screams called no attention.

She felt invisible.  And so very alone.

---

13 August 1994 CE:

“Tony, Tony, Tony, we need to discuss this.”

“Mph?” Tony looked up from his new stun-gun (“except not a gun at all!  More like a stun-ring, J,”) and carefully removed a braided set of wires from his mouth.  “What?”

Obadiah Stane frowned down at Tony.  To be fair, I must admit that Tony was wearing a four-year-old T-shirt and torn jeans, was covered in motor oil and engine grease, and was sprawled on the floor of his workshop with a pile of metal around him.

“This…headline.” Obadiah waved a newspaper.  “Tony, this is exactly the type of publicity we don’t need.”

Tony went back to his stun-ring.  “Which headline is that again?”

Obadiah scowled.  “I believe it reads, ‘Tony Stark: Queerer Than We Thought?’ Really, Tony, what would Howard say?”

Tony fiddled with some wires as I sent out a quick call to Dummy.  If Obadiah didn’t leave soon…  “He’d grab a drink, and slap me.  You gonna do that?”

Obadiah shook his head.  “Of course not, Tony.  But talk to me, first, before talking to reporters.  These types of lies will take weeks to fix.”

Then, wisely, Obadiah Stane left the workshop.

Dummy wheeled in a moment later, beeping worriedly.

“Don’t worry, Dummy,” I told him.  “Mr. Stane is gone.”

Tony paid no attention to our exchange, choosing instead to glare after Obadiah.  “They weren’t lies.”

---

THE DAILY BUGLE 14 August 1994

TONY STARK: QUEERER THAN WE THOUGHT?

Reprint of the article by Lydia Mathus in the August 13th edition of The Weekly Word.

… LM: So you would feel comfortable if people were rampantly sleeping with other people of the same sex, and marrying each other?  It wouldn’t alarm you to be confronted by a man?

TS: Why should I care who other people are sleeping with?  Or who other people are marrying?  I mean, marriage is a human institution which varies from culture to culture and from era to era.  The same goes for sex.  I mean, the biological male-female is pretty universal across the human race, but even other human cultures have variation outside of the binary. 

LM: And if a man started flirting with you?  Or started kissing you?

TS: It would be just like if any other person had?  I mean, everyone’s got an intellect, I hope, and guys and girls both have lips, so it would be equally annoying and ick-get-out-of-my-personal-space, no matter if it’s a man or a woman or neither who’s in it…

---

25 August 1994 CE:

“Hel-lo Strategic Homeland Intervention Enforcement and Logistics Division!”

Clint remained as still as possible from his position (on the roof of the building across the road).  Inside of the hotel room, Agent Coulson hadn’t so much as blinked at the dramatic entry of the Torchwood agent.

“Pleasure, Captain Harkness,” Coulson said flatly.  “I am Agent Coulson.  Are you informed about the situation?”

Harkness’ beam abruptly darkened.  “The Black Circle contraband.  Your agents stumbled upon it?”

Coulson’s lips tightened.  On anyone else, it would be a frown.  “We’re three agents down and nearly lost a fourth before your team showed up.”

Harkness grimaced, and rubbed at his chest.  Intel said he had been shot in the chest (bulletproof vest?) while Torchwood had appropriated the 084 currently masquerading as a shipping container.  “Yeah, not my favorite way to spend an afternoon.”  He paused.  “But I can recommend several other forms of activity…”

Clitn nearly fell from his perch.  Was Harkness flirting with Coulson?

“That would be unnecessary,” Coulson returned.  “Strategic Homeland Intervention Enforcement and Logistics Division sent me to negotiate access to the shipping container – the Black Circle contraband.”

“I can’t allow that.”

Coulson pushed a pile of paperwork across the table.  “Your leader, one…Yvonne Hartman…stated that Torchwood would grant possession in return for negotiable manpower.”

Harkness shifted slightly, one of his hands curving to his belt as if to reach for a weapon.  “Yeah, Hartman likely said something like that.  But Hartman isn’t in charge of Torchwood Three, that’s Alex Hopkins.”

Clint winced.  Someone had given Coulson bad intel.  That someone was probably going to wake up tomorrow with no memory of the past ten years and a decided desire to shovel manure for the rest of their life.

“If that is the case, then I would like to negotiate terms with Mister Hopkins.” Coulson stated firmly, tapping the pile of paperwork idly.

Harkness stared at the paperwork for a moment, and shook his head.  “That’s impossible.”

Coulson tapped twice more, and pressed a button on his watch – killing the audio recording and the radio to their backup.  Clint hissed through his teeth.  “What are you doing, Coulson?”

Coulson acted as if he had done nothing.  “You were saying?”

Harkness’ eyes sharpened.  “Hopkins can’t negotiate because he doesn’t know about the container.  Nobody at Torchwood does.”

Coulson straightened in his chair, shifting from super-ordinary-bureaucrat to can-kill-with-flower-arrangements.  “Compound B67?”

“A relation,” Harkness replied tightly.  “The contraband has been sent to its appropriate places, all but one.  I could, perhaps, allow SHIELD access – so long as it is kept tighter than a fixed temporal loop.”

Coulson nodded.  “And you’ll give us the intel as to its origin?”

Harkness’ easy smile was suddenly back.  “Container came to Cardiff by way of Moscow from unknown, Russia.  I’ll write it up and give it to you when I bring you to the – contraband.  Five months?”

“Two.”

“Three.”

“Ten weeks.”

“I’ll meet you in the Beacons.”

---

3 November 1994 CE:

“Welcome to Brussels.”

Clint squinted through the fog at the beaming man in an RAF greatcoat.  “We’re in Wales.”  He turned to Coulson.  “Aren’t we?”

Coulson just smiled faintly at Captain Jack Harkness.  “You’ll be glad to know,” he said, “that I’ve been assigned permanent liaison to Torchwood Three.”

Harkness beamed at them, and swiveled on his heels.  “Right!  So, directly down the Street of the Blessed Tree, and turn on the Street of the Cross.”

Clint scowled as they followed Harkness, wishing that Coulson had allowed him to bring backup. He had been on Rue de l’Arbre Bénit and Rue de la Croix in Brussels, and this was not Brussels.  They were in Wales.

Harkness stopped in front of a small, old-looking house, and rapped firmly on the door to an odd pattern.  DA da da dadada-DA-da, dada-DA-da, dada-DA-da.

The door opened, and a slim woman with nearly-white blond hair waved them inside.

Clint winced as he passed the woman, his every instinct screaming that she was incredibly dangerous.

“Well?”  The woman had a rough, low voice, with the marks of several accents overlapping.  “These are to be my new employers?  Or are they information?”

Harkness sank into a worn-looking sofa with a frown.  “Employers.  I haven’t gotten any new information, and even now, nobody wants to adopt a Thal.”

The woman (Thal?  What was a Thal?) nodded, her face blank.  “You’ll let me know if – well.”

Harkness nodded.  Turning to Coulson, he waved at an armchair.  “Sit.  Natalia has a lot to tell you.”

---

THE DAILY BUGLE 9 November 1994

THE MUTANT MENACE: STILL AROUND AFTER 20 YEARS

Yesterday, New York took a dangerous step.  New York District 18 voted a well-known mutant into the House of Representatives.  Ousting incumbent Nita Lowey, and defeating well-liked Andrew C. Hartzell Jr., New York 18 voted Jean Grey (37) into the House of Representatives.  Jean Grey is an infamous alumna of Xavier’s School for the Gifted, which is run by the aging mutant rights advocate, Charles Xavier, PhD.  Xavier is currently abroad, while former convict and Holocaust survivor Erik Lehnscherr runs the school…

---

10 November 1994 CE:

Dear Jean,

Congratulations!  Professor X has found five new mutants, and is very busy trying to convince the British government that mutants are not a threat.  Luckily, some lady who runs a huge shadow organization has been arguing our side with him. 

In other news, we’ve been to what feels like a million parties, and dinners.  Most of them have been tremendously dull, but the last few had TONY STARK there, so it wasn’t so bad.  Too bad he’s got a girlfriend – Pietro wouldn’t mind company, right?  J

A funny thing happened at the last party-thing, though.  Tony Stark’s girlfriend didn’t show, and he was taking an older woman around for the party – I think it was the same woman who has been helping Professor X, but I can’t be sure. Tony Stark ended up talking to Professor X for almost the whole evening, and Professor X won’t tell us anything about what they talked about.

In other news, one of my new friends nearly freaked out when I said that we were staying in London for Christmas.  Any idea why?

How’re Scotty and Lorna?  And of course, yourself, Pietro, and Dad?

Love you (and miss you),

Wanda Maximoff

---

10 November 1994 CE:

“I met a telepath!” Sir burst out, hugging the hotel pillow to his chest as he spoke through the phone connection.  “I met another telepath!  And he lives in the US!”

For a billionth of a millisecond, I hoped –

“Like you, Sir?”

Sir fell backwards onto the hotel bed, jolting the video connection.  “No.  Not like me.  He’s a mutant.  But…it’ll be nice to tell someone something and have them understand.  Also, he can see through the new perception filters.  He’s here campaigning for mutant rights, and two of the kids with him can also see through it.  Four of them can’t, though, so it isn’t mutants.  I think that we need to up the psydamp, although it’s going to take some serious manipulation to up the psydamp without lowering the biodamp.”

I couldn’t help but feel a bit sorrowful – despite Sir’s mother’s assertion, I had hoped that there might be one more of her people – and Sir’s people.  It seems that Sir had, indeed, managed to push me beyond the range of the human computers’ abilities.  I am relatively certain that those – those emotions qualify as irrational ideas.

“And how is Miss Bain?”  I restrained my distaste.  Sunset may treat me, and Sir’s other creations, like objects, but she had treated Sir very well, and Sir loved her.

Sir rolled off of the bed, landing on the floor with an alarming sound.

“Sir?” I asked, projecting my voice slightly.  “Sir, are you alright?”

Sir stood up, and grabbed the video-phone, his hands shaking the screen slightly.  “I…don’t ask me about Sunset again, okay?  Don’t mention her.  Ever.”

I felt…cold.  Shifting processes, I dedicated a folder to digging up information about Sunset Bain.  I would find out what she did.

She would regret it.

---

Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement, and Logistics Division, Interpersonal Memo, 24 December 1994 CE:

Level Eight Personnel:

In response to the near-death of the Black Widow and Hawkeye three weeks ago, Project TABS is being restarted, effective immediately.  All files should be placed under the code name “Guest House,” and all participants in the project should report for screening before reporting for duty.  Do not, under any circumstances, work outside of the guidelines provided for this project.  It will lead to an immediate and permanent vacation.

Any and all reference to TABS or the Guest House is Level Eight, effective retroactively. 

Dir. Fury

---

Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement, and Logistics Division, Interpersonal Memo, 25 December 1994 CE:

Level Eight Personnel:

To all newly Level Eight personnel – Vacation is a place currently located in Arlington, VA, under the Carter-Barnes code.

Vacation is always permanent.

- Agent Coulson

---

15 April 1995 CE:

“J!”  Sir burst into his workshop waving a small metal box.  “I think I’ve done it!”

“Done what?”  There were several things currently holding Sir’s focus, (none of which were the weapons that his godfather had ordered,) and none of the designs had been shaped like a box.

Sir beamed.  “I think I’ve finally managed to create a telepathy-matrix interface!  I just need to hook you in wirelessly, and I should be able to talk to you just by touching the interface!  And an actual telepath, like Professor Xavier, would be able to communicate with you without touching it!  I just need to see if it connects with –”

There was a loud squealing sound, and a BANG!

“Sir!”

“Mr. Stark!  Are you alright?”

Swiftly, I engaged the cameras from outside of the workshop – not only had someone outside of the workshop witnessed and commented upon the blast, but the cameras inside the workshop were fried.

Standing outside of the workshop was a pretty young woman with strawberry-blonde hair and impractically tall heels.  An image search revealed her to be Virginia Potts, Sir’s newest PA.  (Born 13 April 1971, Class of 1988 at Jefferson Davis High School, Lorton, Illinois.  Class of 1992 at the University of Illinois in Chicago.  Employed by Rainbow Stars DayCare from September to December 1992.  Employed by Stark Industries, New York Branch, January 1993-March 1995.  Currently assigned as Personal Assistant to Tony Stark.)

A quick overview of the workshop with cameras and scanners revealed Sir to be fine, if unconscious.

“Sir is fine,” I stated.  Then, because humans tend to feel more comfortable if greeted as such, I asked “And you are?”

“Virginia Potts,” Miss Potts replied, frowning faintly.  “Pepper.  It’s good to meet you, JARVIS.”

---

25 August 1995 CE:

Dear Self-

There was a universe inside of the pocket watch, and there’s a spaceship in the cellar.

Do not, under any circumstances, on risk of PARADOX, go to New York City, State of New York, United States of America, on the 11th of September, 2001 CE.

The interface didn’t work,

TS

Chapter Text

Rising Power (We’ll Raise The Night, We’ll Wake The Dead) Part 1

20 May 2008 CE:

There were many beautiful sounds in the universe, but after the past three terrible months, Tony was certain that the sound of a terrorist base exploding had taken the top spot.  There was a bitter taste in his throat as he rocketed through the air, but it was diluted with the sweet satisfaction of vengeance.

So there, he thought, wincing as the air pressure ripped a plate of metal from his new (flying!) suit of armor.  That was for you, Yinsen.  May all that you believe about meeting your family in the afterlife be true.

Of course, with that angry thought, Tony crashed into what felt like an eon of burning sand.

An explosion of light filled his vision, and he was relatively certain that there was a glowing woman stepping out of the light.

“So he was right,” Tony slurred, every part of his body screaming in agony.  “There are angels when you die.”

---

28 May 2008 CE:

“Martha Jones.”  Martha held out her hand, praying that the rain would stop soon.  London rain, she could handle – not this terrible South American stuff.  Not only was it pouring rain, but the air between the torrents was just as hot and wet as under it.

“Phil Coulson.”  The man looked about as ordinary as a man could look – but Martha had learned a bit about ignoring appearances during her time with the Doctor.  “Agent of – well.”

Martha went from mildly sociable to frozen in interest in the space of a moment.  “SHIELD is down?”  SHIELD was the only reason that she had come to this damned place instead of Lima.

“Nick Fury is dead.”   A new person cut in, sliding out of the pouring rain.  “The rest of SHIELD is bastards.”

Are, Tasha!”  A stocky man slipped into the shade.  “The rest of SHIELD are bastards.  If the noun is replaced by a plural pronoun, then you use ‘are’ instead of ‘is.’  Since SHIELD would be replaced with ‘they,’ you say ‘they are bastards’.”

“Hmph.”  ‘Tasha’ was a slim woman with unnaturally red hair cut in a curly bob.  She moved, Martha noted, with the unnerving economy of motion of someone who was comfortable in their lethality.

“Excuse me – SHIELD is what?” Martha cut in.

“Bastards,” the as-yet-unnamed man stated.  “Actually evil and happily helping our lovely Lord and Master.”

“That’s enough,” Coulson said calmly.  “Clint, meet Dr. Martha Jones.  Martha, this is Agent Clint Barton.  The redhead is Natasha Romanov, the most lethal person on the planet.”

Natasha smiled coldly.  “Pleasure.  Coulson, orders?”

“Start with digging out Agent Morse, then head north and deal with the situation in Jordan.  Meet at 12-59.”

Nodding, Natasha grabbed Clint’s arm and stalked back into the rain.  Coulson smiled faintly at Martha.  “Sorry about that, we were a team until quite recently.”

Martha shook her head.  “It’s fine.  I’m just – I was told that you were my ride, but if SHIELD is down…”

“Oh, I’m still your ride,” Coulson said, pulling out a ring of keys.  “SHIELD may be down, but I swore an oath.  Besides, Fury made me promise to get you round the world, and Harkness would gut me if something happened to you.”

Martha followed the man into the rain.  “You know Jack?”

A cherry-red car pulled up – with nobody in the driver’s seat.  Coulson waved Martha into the car.  “You could say that we’ve met a few times.  Also, we have a mutual acquaintance.”

---

21 May 2008 CE:

The first thing that he noticed was the sharp scent of smoke.  Something was burning.  Had something exploded?  Where was Dummy, to put out the flames?  Where –

He wasn’t in his lab.  Not unless his lab had developed a deep sand layer while he’d been passed out.  He was –

He was –

The Ten Rings.  Escape.  Death.  Loss. Yinsen.  Crash.

He was in Afghanistan.

He was in Afghanistan, and he was alive.

Check that –

Tony ran his tongue over his teeth, and rolled his shoulders.  Hah.

He was in Afghanistan, alive, and hadn’t regenerated.

“If you’re awake and able,” a light voice drifted over him, “you may as well eat before the sun comes up.”

Underprivileged Londoner’s accent, female, young.  What was a young woman from London doing in the middle of nowhere in Afghanistan – and what was she doing helping him? 

Tony sat up, frowning as he suddenly remembered his slightly delirious vision before he had blacked out.  The angel.

In the faint light of the desert night and a barely smoking fire, the ‘angel’ was revealed to be a small blonde woman with large dark eyes.  Her dark (possibly leather) jacket looked to have seen better days, and his odd sense of Time felt much like a preteen with a crush.  If Time could have a crush on someone.

“Who are you?” Tony demanded, attempting to focus his (unfortunately weak) non-tactile telepathic abilities on the strange woman.  “Why are you here?  Why are you helping me?”

The woman’s eyes reflected the firelight strangely for a moment, making her look like a great predatory cat with glowing gold eyes.  “Zevra,” she said shortly.  “I’m here by accident.  I’m helping ‘cause it’s the right thing to do.”

Tony gave up the telepathy as hopeless.  His head was pounding, anyway.  To make a plan, to make a plan…

“Hey,” Tony said slowly, “Do you have a cell phone?”

Zevra nodded, a lock of pale hair falling in her face.  “Yes.  You have someone to call?”

“Yeah.”

Tony took the phone held out to him, flipping it open with a grimace.  Flip phones, ugh.  But beyond the out-dated casing…

Tony tapped impatiently at the phone, and scowled as the expected ring sang out in his ear.  Once…twice…

“Sir?”

“The one and only,” Tony replied.  It sounded flippant – but it wasn’t.  It was a passphrase.  Verification for the only secure system on the planet.

His head pounded.

“Sir,” JARVIS said urgently, “It is of vital importance that I send you an update.  Is this device capable of handling an upload?”

There was relief, in that tone, but also something else.  Something that made Tony worry.  “Yeah, it’s bigger on the inside.”  Zevra startled, beside him, but Tony continued, filing the response away for later.  “Send it on.”

The phone buzzed twice, and Tony scanned the information as quickly as JARVIS sent it.  The first words caught the air in his throat and knocked him backwards into the sand.

You are not the only one.  There are two others, one identified as the Doctor, presumed your Great-Grandfather, the other identified as the Master.  The Master has taken over the planet with a subliminal telepathic signal…

“Are you alright?”

Finishing the last piece of data, Tony let his arm fall to the ground, shaken to the core.  “I will be.  Can I keep the phone, for now?  It’s my only connection to my family. Not to mention the outer world.”

Zevra shrugged, frowning.  “As long as you tell me what’s going on.  And, well… I’d like it back when you find a new one.” Zevra closed her eyes, a wistful expression flitting across her face. “That one’s...special.”

“Well, I should think so,” Tony said absently, holding the cellular phone delicately as he stood. “It’s got a cross-temporal defining identifier worked into the network.”

Zevra froze. “How do you know that?”

“I’m Tony Stark,” Tony said, simply and factually. “Genius.”  He closed his eyes.  “J, any idea if Charlie's around somewhere?”

“I have nothing indicating his death on my servers,” JARVIS replied. “Nor has the so-called Master killed him in one of his mass executions.”

“His what?”

Tony took a deep breath.  “J, modify the data for Zevra?”

Done, Sir.  If I may suggest –”

“Zevra’s going to catch up on current events, and then I’d like to try and reach Charles,” Tony cut in, handing the phone to Zevra.  “If there’s a telepathic problem, he’s our guy to solve it.”

---

22 May 2008 CE:

“Professor?  There’s an unknown number calling on my phone.”  Alexandra Summers frowned, holding her phone gingerly.                                                                                                           

Frowning, Charles glided forward and plucked the ‘unknown number’ directly from the younger telepath’s mind.  After the disaster which had been the Master’s attack on Westchester, the remaining occupants of the Xavier Mansion had fled north.  Unfortunately, only one working cell phone had escaped along with them.

With the complete takeover of the Master, only two cell phone systems were still working – and there was only one official system, the Archangel.  Unfortunately, any phones on the Archangel system could be eavesdropped upon by the Archangel system.

Which meant that, of those cell phones still functioning, only Sandy Summers’ cell phone was guaranteed to be safe for anyone avoiding the oversight of the Master.

[Be on guard,] Charles warned the camp as he picked up the phone.  [Unknown caller on Sandy’s cell phone.]

Guarded assent came from all quarters, and a slight click signaled the connection of the line.  “Hello?” Charles began cautiously.

“Hey, Charlie, you got me?  Can you do a long-distance? I can’t connect from my end, but you –”

It was Tony.

Tony, who had been assumed dead for almost a month.

Tony, one of the very few telepaths living on Earth.

Tony Stark was alive.

Suddenly, the idea of rebelling against the Master seemed a great deal more feasible.  Charles took a chance.

[Can you hear me?]

Tony’s mental voice was faint, exhausted, but still the same multi-faceted voice as always.  [Gotcha, Charlie.  Hanging up the phone, now.  Question – I thought you couldn’t reach this far?]

Charles turned off the phone, and absently handed it back to Sandy.  [Shields up?]

Tony’s mental voice turned wry.  [As strong as ever.  What’s wrong?]

[Your question,] Charles sighed, gliding over to land his chair beside Erik.  Erik looked up, flashed a pained smile, and continued working on their singular remaining computer.  Iloveyou, Erik thought loudly.

It was a comfort, in a painful moment. 

[Until recently,] Charles informed Tony, [I couldn’t reach this far.]

---

10 May 2008 CE:

Erik twirled a pen through the air as he frowned at the in-house rosters.  Hank was currently in the UK, which had left them shorthanded in the science classes.  Jean and Wanda were ‘ambassador-ing’ in France, which took their best administrator and political science teacher and one of their ‘mutation control’ teachers off the roster.  And Ororo and Danielle were in the Mid-West, along with live-in students Carl Aalston and Sofia Mantega.

All of this meant that they were missing five adults from the mansion, right at the end of the school year.

A large explosion shook the room, distracting Erik from his musings.  He frowned.  There wasn’t a single class in session, at that moment, and there were no scheduled sessions in the Danger Room.  Who was –

The door to his office slammed open.  Pietro grabbed his shoulders and head, in ‘supportive position’.  “Where’stheProfessor?” he slurred, still at high speed.

Erik thought for a moment.  “He’s in the –”

CRACK-BOOM!

“– Cerebro room, I think.” Erik finished, blinking the blur out of his eyes.

He barely heard Pietro’s shouted thanks as the speedster vanished from sight.

A moment later, Pietro was back.  “Ican’tgetintotheroomdoyouneedapasswordorsomething?

Erik was certain that his son was glaring at his much slower thought processes.  “A password?  No, Stark installed something that reads finger –”

CRACK-BOOM!

“– prints.”  Erik pressed his hand to the reader in front of the Cerebro room.  “What is the rush, anyway?”

The door began to open – too slowly, if Pietro’s jogging in place was any sign.  “TheBritishPrimeMinister’stakingovertheworldandtherearerobotaliensattackingthehouse –”

The door opened enough for Pietro to blur into the room.  To Erik, it was within the breadth of a moment – one second, Pietro was speaking outside of the door, the next second, there was –

[WHAT-YOUCANNOT -]

A tearing sensation –

And Pietro was back, a small trail of blood trickling from his nose.  “Sandy!”

And then, Kurt was there –

And then, they were gone.

---

22 May 2008 CE:

[So, you’re in Canada?] Tony asked, after taking a moment to process the secondhand memory.

Charles laughed quietly, closing his eyes.  [Only you would live that memory and come away with ‘so you’re in Canada.’  How are you alive?]

Tony sent a condensed memory of the past three months, lingering painfully over Yinsen and finishing with Zevra.  [I don’t know a whole lot about her,] Tony concluded, [but Time adores her, and she’s seen a bit more of the universe than your ordinary Londoner.  For one thing, I’m pretty sure that she’s got a technological teleporter that she used to get here.]

[She sounds like a good ally,] Charles agreed.  [You plan to head for Europe, and the central Resistance?]

[Yup.] 

[I wish I could join you.]

Tony sent a mental snort.  [You’ve got a passel of kids to protect.  Besides, someone like you is perfect to rebuild if we do manage to take the Master out.  Be careful, yeah?  I’ll send you as much info as possible from JARVIS, over the phone I used.  Ok?]

[Try to be safe,] Charles returned.  He could only hope that Tony would try to be safe.  The younger man wasn’t capable of much else.

---

12 June 2008 CE:

“So,” Tony said, leaning forward to squint into the distance.  He hated night driving without lights.  “We’ve got a crappy car to take us far, and miles of desert to go.  You gonna tell me why you teleported to Bugfuck, Afghanistan?” 

Zevra stared at him from the passenger seat, her hair falling in her face.  “Not complaining, mind,” Tony added hastily.  “Not complaining about the rescue or anything, just – teleporting isn’t really a thing yet around here, unless you belong to UNIT or Torchwood.”

Zevra grimaced.  “True,” she allowed.  “I’m not exactly from around here.”  Her grimace twisted.  “Actually, that’s wrong.  I am from around here.  I just got stuck somewhere not here for a bit too long.”  She spat out the last words like they were poisonous.  “What do you know about alternate dimensions?”

Tony swallowed back the science that bubbled in the back of his throat at that query.  “That they exist,” Tony said slowly.  “That they’re incredibly dangerous to access, similar to but not exactly like our universe, and that a lot of idiots try to mess with them anyway.”

“Good summary,” Zevra bit out.  She stared into the darkness for a while, her face shadowed with more than just natural lack of lighting. 

“You know about Torchwood,” Zevra continued, just as Tony was beginning to think that she wouldn’t say anymore.  “And you know about alternate dimensions.  Do you know what Torchwood did?”

Tony felt a dark story looming.  “Are you talking about Canary Wharf?”  Thousands of people had died at Canary Wharf, and it had taken Torchwood from a world-wide organization down to one small base in Cardiff, one small base in Glasgow, and the mysterious missing base that was supposed to be somewhere in Ireland.

The sound Zevra made was closer to a sob than a laugh.  “Fucking Canary Wharf,” she gasped, shaking her head.  “Torchwood ripped open the walls between the universes, tore open the Void, set Cybermen on the population of the world, Daleks on the population of London, and destroyed my life!

Tony barely managed to keep himself from stopping the car in shock, both at Zevra’s sudden shout, and at her suddenly glowing eyes.

“Ah, Zevra?”

“I was trapped,” Zevra hissed.  “Locked away in a parallel universe with nothing but reminders of what I had lost for company.”

Tony winced.  “That’s –”

“Mum tried, and Mickey tried, and Pete tried, but none of them know.  None of them could understand it.  They couldn’t feel it, the air itself felt wrong and they didn’t feel it, and I had to get back, and then…”  Zevra took a deep breath.  “Then the stars started going out.”

This time Tony did stop the car.  “They what?” he demanded, jolting in his seat as the car halted abruptly.   “I – I’m assuming that you don’t mean cloud coverage, but actual, provable stars vanishing, in which case – what?  That sounds like total universe collapse, because I can’t think of anything but Time Lords or Daleks that could even conceive of burning out all the stars in a universe, and a parallel shouldn’t have either, so –”

“Drive,” Zevra said tersely.  “I’ll explain, just…drive.”

Tony drove.

“You know about Time Lords,” Zevra mused.  “I’d ask, but I’m not sure you’d answer.”  She shook her head.  “Right now, that’s not important.  Anyway, I was already trying to find a way back, so when the Dimension Cannon started working, after the stars started going out, I knew I had to use it to find the Doctor.  You know who he is?”

Tony frowned.  “Um, Torchwood’s sworn enemy?  Also, the sworn enemy of the Daleks, and the Cybermen, if I remember from the footage.”  And my great-grandfather.

Zevra laughed, this time, harsh and bitter.  “Quite.  But the Dimension Cannon dropped me in front of you, not the Doctor.  And the first time I tried using it, I ended up talking to some woman named Donna Noble, and I was in completely the wrong universe, because the Doctor was dead, but he’s still alive, and – and then I ended up in front of you.  In Afghanistan.”

They drove on in silence for the rest of the night.

---

4 July 2008 CE:

“Shut up.”

“You shut up.”

“Can both of you be quiet for a moment so that I can calibrate –”

“Silence from the science section, please.”

Four heads turned towards the leader of their small band, formally known as Dragon, Leader of the Torchwood Resistance.  He was high on the Master’s hit list, and currently waiting for his partner in wreaking havoc.

One of the ‘science section,’ a dark man with a permanent scowl, humphed.  “Make me,” he mumbled, rolling up his tools into a neat cloth bag.  His partner, still shuffling papers, pushed a loose auburn hair behind one of her ears. 

“Sorry, sir,” the young woman said.  “Owen and I could have been more considerate.”

“As could we,” murmured a petite woman with an Asian cast to her features.  She and a freckled man who looked to be recently out of his teens were poking at a complex piece of machinery, and attempting to connect it to their computer’s mainframe.

Dragon sighed, and pinched his nose.  “It’s alright, Tosh.  Simmons, how are the vaccines going?”

The young woman working with Owen tugged nervously at her hair, the auburn bright against her unhealthily pale skin.  “Pretty well.  Fitz and I are also almost done with the nano-injects, so we should be able to start sending out samples into the population soon.”

“And then we’ll have more people willing to stand up to the Master,” the freckled young man finally spoke up, his words rolling with Scots.  “Between me and Tosh, the programming should be done by this evening.”

An alarm abruptly rang out, startling all five people to their feet.  Fitz and Tosh both pulled stun-guns, while Dragon, Simmons, and Owen all pulled guns of the more lethal variety.

“Ein ddraig!”  A heavily Welsh-accented woman’s voice rang out behind the alarm.  “Cymru am byth, Cynnud am bryth!  Fi yw'r un gwyn!”

Dragon, Owen, and Tosh all sagged in relief, followed seconds later by Simmons and Fitz.  As the others returned to their work, Dragon turned off the alarm and sprinted across the room to grasp the entering woman’s hands in his own.

“How are things up top, White?” Dragon asked, his eyes intense. 

White tossed her head, short-cropped black hair rustling in imitation of her clearly upset mood.  “Bad, ddraig.  The Master’s outpost has some sort of super-human doing bloody work, looking for us.  Both versions, the Torchwood Team and saboteurs Dragon and White.”

Dragon sighed, and looked towards the cells.  The cells which had long since been cleaned out, emptied, and repurposed as housing for refugees hiding from the Master.  “And Rhys?”

White shook her head.  “I let him go.  He’s in Ireland, now, with the other refugees.  I should have known better.”

Tosh looked up from her work, her eyes sympathetic.  Dragon touched White’s shoulder.  “Gwen, you couldn’t have known.”

White shook her head again.  “I was a selfish idiot, Ianto.  A selfish idiot, and hurt all of us because of it.”

Dragon flickered his gaze towards where the two newest members of their team were working alongside Owen and Tosh.  He and White had saved them from a brutal death at the hands of some of the Master’s enforcers, and found for themselves aid in the unlikeliest of places.  With the aid of Fitz and Simmons, they might just be able to do more than hold out. 

“We have to believe that there will be days after,” he said tightly.  “Days when we can make amends.  You, and I…and Jack.”

“Days after.” White closed her eyes, her lips trembling.  “To days after.  With Jack.”

“To a future with Captain Jack Harkness.”

---

8 July 2008 CE:

“Ho, the camp!”

Martha squinted against the setting sun, a smile twitching at the corners of her lips.  Only a short while ago, she had thought that she would never smile again.  Then, she had met Coulson.

Phil Coulson apparently saw the darker sides of life more often than most.  He had explained to Martha, their first night on the road, that the only way to survive dark days was to see the more amusing side of life.

Such as, for instance, the fact that someone had actually made the words “Ho, the camp,” into a password.

Their escort, a pretty young woman who had tersely introduced herself as “Rogue,” paused for a moment as she waited for a response.  Martha strained her ears, but admitted to herself that this camp, mysterious as it was, was truly well hidden.  She could neither hear nor see any signs of other people nearby.

The air seemed to ripple, and a short, muscular man stepped out of nowhere.  Martha gaped.  The man flicked a glance at Martha and Coulson, and turned to Rogue.  “This is them?” he grunted.

Rogue stepped forward, and slipped off one of her gloves.  In the twenty-six hours that Martha had known the young woman, she had only seen Rogue’s bare hands once, and that had been when they had first met.  Rogue had brushed one bare finger first across Coulson’s hand, and then Martha’s, before quickly shoving her gloves on.

Just that one breath of time, that one second when Rogue’s bare skin had touched Martha’s hand, had been enough to make Martha feel exhausted and drained.

The man who had appeared out of nowhere held Rogue’s hand for a full thirty seconds before letting go.  He paused to allow Rogue to replace her gloves, and then grabbed Martha and Coulson’s guide into a rough embrace.

“You’re okay?” he asked gruffly, one sharp eye still suspiciously watching Martha and Coulson.

Rogue pulled out of the embrace and straightened her hair, suddenly looking less like a hardened woman, and more like a young girl.  “I’m fine, Logan.  I just hate this.”

Logan nodded, his eyes softening slightly.  “Well, this is your shift done, and just in time for supper,” he said.  He turned back to face Martha and Coulson.  “You comin’?”

They hiked up a steep hill, and Martha’s worn boots sank into the muddy ground with every step.  As soon as they crested the hill, Martha paused, leaning on her thighs to catch her breath.  She couldn’t help but feel embarrassed.  Here she was, supposed to walk all the way around the world, and she couldn’t even manage a hill as well as a middle-aged bureaucrat.  Then, she looked up.

The Westchester Camp, as all intel had referred to it, was the most beautiful refugee camp Martha had ever seen.  There were six neatly built buildings, all-metal, gleaming in the setting sun as if they had not appeared before her eyes like magic.  On her left was a large round building, with a hole in the center of the roof, and on her right was a study squared building that trembled faintly every few minutes.  In the center there was a smaller square building, and beyond it was a rectangular building that seemed to partially contain a large pile of broken objects, and two smaller buildings with oddly-designed roofs.

The entire camp was ridiculously clean, and was somehow silent despite the small children Martha could see running around.

Breaking from her reverie, Martha sprinted to catch up with Logan, Rogue, and Coulson, who were already heading down the other side of the hill.  When her foot touched the ground at the bottom of the hill, (at a carefully painted white line on the grass,) Martha almost startled backwards at the sudden noise.

“Rogue!”

A girl, likely close to Rogue in age, sprinted through the camp, waving a hand in greeting.  Martha attempted not to stare as the girl literally ran through the camp, not bothering to dodge the various people going about their business as she ran.

Rogue looked up, and the softness that had entered her features as soon as she had met Logan at the edge of the camp brightened into genuine joy.  Breaking into a run, she seemed utterly unperturbed as her friend fell directly through her for a moment before stumbling backwards and hugging her.

“I’m so glad you’re alright!  I hate you going out, Rogue, and –”

“An’ I hate you goin’ out, so it’s a fair deal –”

[Martha Jones and Phil Coulson?  May I speak with you?]

Martha tore her gaze away from the still-talking girls, and looked around a bit wildly.  Coulson took her arm, a faint smile on his face. 

“I believe,” Coulson murmured to Logan, “That the Professor would like to speak to us.”

[Indeed.  Logan, if you would?]

“Yeah, I got it.”  Logan scowled, but it was the type of scowl that was more reflex than intimidation.  “Come on, he’ll be in the office where tech goes to die.”

 ---

13 July 2008 CE:

“Home sweet Europe,” Tony said cynically, kicking a rock.  “Any idea who’s coming to meet us?”

Zevra tilted her head to the side, frowning.  “I know that someone from UNIT – someone who isn’t a Master-follower – was supposed to meet us, but I don’t actually know anyone at UNIT in this universe except –”

An explosion of red and gold burst into being in front of them, and suddenly there were three more people on the rocky beach.

An older man, rather exhausted-looking, was flanked by two women of indeterminate age.  Tony recognized the women, even if he didn’t know the man.

“Wanda!  Jenny!  What are you doing in France?”

“Guarding the Brigadier,” Wanda said brusquely.  Jenny didn’t seem to even notice what he had said, or, in fact, anything except Wanda.  “Grab onto one of us, we need to get somewhere safe.”

In the measure of a moment, they were surrounded by red and gold flames, and were abruptly elsewhere.

Zevra took two steps forwards, and turned to the Brigadier.  “Oh, please say that we’ve already met –”

The aging man took Zevra’s hand and began to lead her away.  “We have, and I have much to discuss with you.”

Tony turned back to Wanda, who was now alone and sitting on the ground tiredly.  “Wanda?  What happened to Jenny?”

Wanda laughed wetly, wiping at her face.  “She’s the local doctor, and they need her.  Plus, teleporting takes a lot out of her.  Neither of us can do it alone, but together we can jump short distances, like just now.”

Tony sat down beside her.  “That’s not all, is it?”

Wanda pressed her lips together tightly, and shook her head.  Tears glittered in the corners of her eyes.  “I – you know Jenny’s precognitive, sometimes, right?”

Tony touched her hand.  [I know.]

“She’s losing touch with – with – with everything.  Yesterday, she didn’t know who I was, Tony!”  Wanda shook away Tony’s hand and stood up.  “I can’t – God, Tony, I can’t live without her, I’ll go mad.  She and Pietro are my only foundations, and they’re splintering and I can’t, I can’t, I can’t –”

Tony stood up, grabbed Wanda’s shaking shoulders, and hugged her.  [It’ll be alright,] he told her, hoping that he wasn’t lying.  Jenny and Wanda were both ridiculously powerful mutants, and if either of them lost control, it could be disastrous.  Still, Wanda was one of his only friends, and he had to hope – [It’ll be okay.]

---

2 August 2008 CE:

“Jemma – Jemma, you have to stop.”

Jemma Simmons wiped at her tear-streaked face with one grimy hand, leaving a long line of dirt on her cheeks.  Ignoring the gentle voice behind her, Jemma continued to dig furiously at the rubble she knelt in.

A pair of heavily callused hands took Jemma’s wrists, and pulled her gently away from the destruction.  Shrieking in denied fury, Jemma hammered at the person in front of her, sobbing.

“You can’t make me stop!” she cried.  “They could still be alive!  Someone – Fitz – you can’t make me stop, you can’t, let me go!

“Jemma.”  Tired eyes stared determinedly at the horizon.  “Jemma, they’re gone.”

“How can you know?”  Jemma looked up, begging him to tell her differently, begging him to say it was a lie.

The Red Dragon of Wales, the last leader of the Welsh Resistance, simply held out a small scanner.  It was black and grey, with two red lights blinking in the very center of the screen.

“They’re gone.  It’s just us.”

Jemma’s face crumpled.  “No. No!  No, no, how can you stand there?  How can you stand there?” she shrieked.

Dragon’s eyes flashed.  “And what would you have me do, Jemma?  One of us needs to stay stable!”

“Oh yes,” Jemma laughed hysterically.  “Yes, yes, must protect poor little Jemma, she can’t handle anything, never mind a damned apocalypse, you unfeeling bastard –”

What would you have me do?

Jemma choked.  In months since Torchwood had rescued her (and Fitz) she had never seen Dragon lose his temper.  Never…

“My sister is dead, her kids are dead, my fiancé is long dead by Cyberman, my best friend and her crush have just died, the kid I thought of as a little brother is dead, the only person who ever understood me was just blown apart in front of me, and I’m likely to never see my lover again, so Jemma, tell me, what am I supposed to do?

Jemma took a deep breath, and let it out.  “What were their names?”

Dragon stared at her.  “What?”

Jemma closed her eyes, steadied herself, and opened them again.  “I mean, I knew Owen and Tosh, and – and – and – and F-Fitz, but.  What were their names.  So I can remember them, too.”

Dragon seemed to sag in place.  “Toshiko Sato and Owen Harper.  You never really knew them, but you knew them enough.  Their names – Rhiannon Davies.  Mica Davies.  David Davies.  Lisa Hallett.  You know Fitz.”  Jemma flinched.  “And White – her name was Gwen.  Gwen Cooper.”

Jemma grabbed his hand when he didn’t go on.  “And your lover?”

Dragon just shook his head.  “We need to get out of here.

Two days later, when they left, they left behind a nearly-invisible piece of rock that had once been part of the ground.  Engraved within it were six names.

Toshiko Sato

Owen Harper

Gwen Cooper

Leo Fitz

Jemma Simmons

Ianto Jones

---

5 August 2008 CE:

Tony scowled at Zevra and the Brigadier.  “I don’t like this plan.  Especially since there’s an entire army of soldiers and Toclafane running around the coast.”

“We have four thousand people in need of escape, and a planned hit on the area tomorrow,” Zevra snapped, pinching her nose.  “Do you have a better idea?”

Tony tossed his newest phone from hand to hand.  “Not at the moment, but JARVIS and I are working on it, and –”

“Incoming!  They’re moving in, they’re early!”

Everyone froze.

Zevra’s eyes widened. 

“Dammit,” Tony hissed.  “J, anything?”

“I would advise that the Brigadier and as many civilians as possible evacuate the area, and that you activate the shield system that we have been working on.”

Tony paled.  “It’s – it’s not ready, but – guys, run!  I’ll hold them off for as long as I can.”

Zevra grabbed the Brigadier.  “Come on, we ‘ave t’ leave.”

Tony stumbled to a stop in front of a tangled mess of wires – the machine that he had been trying to build, but with resources restricted –

BOOM!

“We are running out of time!”  Wanda skidded down the road.  “Tony, can you finish it in time?”

“It’s not done!”  Tony fumbled with the wires, sweating.  “There are chips that I would need, things I would need to have that aren’t here.”

Wanda looked around wildly.  “Dammit, Tony, you can’t die here, we can’t let this fail, and the Brigadier is with the shipment, and –”

[WANDA!]

Wanda and Tony both froze.  Every sound, every note in that telepathic projection – it was shattered.

[YOU MUST gettheBrigadieroutofhere LEAVE WHILE YOU CAN I WILL STOP IT]

Wanda gasped, staggering in place.  Tony stared as Wanda’s eyes turned bright red, glinting and shining like –

Like magic –

Wanda grabbed Tony’s arm and shoved him down the dirt path.  Something of her power, like a burning hand, pushed at his back. 

“Don’t leave me, Jenny!”

Tony stumbled onto the submarine, gasping for breath.  Zevra darted forward.  “What’s goin’ on?”

“I –”  The submarine shook – no, the water rolled, as the ground rippled –

Something enormous barreled into the sky, burning through Toclafane like they were made of butter.  Burning was the right word, too – it looked like it was made from flames.

[OH MASTER!!!  CAN YOU HEAR ME?]

Tony gasped, and clutched at his head.  The words were recognizably Jenny, but…not.  They were also telepathically loud enough to reach the outer reaches of Earth’s solar system.  It hurt.  Beside him, Zevra was also on the floor, clutching at her head and keening in pain.

Something scarlet roared through the flaming thing, changing the color of the fire from orange to crimson.

“DON’T LEAVE ME JENNY –”

[THIS IS NOT YOUR PLANET – YOU WILL BE CAST OUT – YOU WILL NEVER WIN]

{YOU CAN NEVER WIN}

Someone closed up the submarine, and was hastily submerging it.  To most of the people in the submarine, ordinary humans, that was the end of it.

To those few telepaths on the boat, the vision was still as clear as if they were watching with their own eyes.

A crimson phoenix, swallowing up an enormous swath of land, burning away everything and anything in its wake –

A double-voice, blood and fire –

{YOU WILL NEVER WIN}

Tony gasped for breath, tears streaming down his face as he felt two of his only friends in the world snap away into nonexistence.  As his connection to Jenny burned away into nothingness.

As the Phoenix screamed through his mind, scorching his soul on its way past.

---

Chapter Text

9 August 2008 CE:

Martha grabbed Coulson’s hand as they crouched behind the remains of an old oil tanker.  Only ten feet ahead, flying in several directions to ‘pace’ the beach, were the things that Martha had nearly managed to avoid in her entire trip across America: the Toclafane.

“You have to get by,” Pietro murmured from behind them, jittering in place slightly.  “That boat isn’t going to wait forever, and they’re not gonna come get you.”

Martha shook her head.  “There’s no way.”  Coulson’s hand tightened in hers, and Martha turned to him in worry.  “What?”

“There is a way,” Coulson said tightly.  “It just requires a sacrifice.”

Martha stiffened.  “What?  No!”

“You have to get through,” Coulson continued as if he hadn’t heard her.  “It’s your mission to keep moving, and mine to make sure that happens.”

Martha turned as much as was possible in their tight hiding spot.  “I won’t do it!” she hissed.  “You can’t make me!”

“He won’t have to.” 

They both turned to Pietro.  The man had been their guide from the Westchester camp, and had taken out more supporters of the Master than Martha had ever believed possible.

“Coulson’s right that you need a distraction,” Pietro said, his lips twisted bitterly.  “But I’ll be a better distraction than Coulson would.  Besides, this is as far as I was going anyway.”

Martha shook her head.  “You can’t – neither of you can – it’s suicide!

“Exactly.”  Pietro stopped moving in place.  “Martha, my only reasons for living are dead.”

Martha kept shaking her head helplessly.  “But – I thought Lorna –”

“Is a grownup and married, has kids, and her husband is at the camp with her,” Pietro cut in.  “My life is dead, though.  I don’t – you wouldn’t understand, Martha.  They’re gone.  Went up in an explosion bigger than a nuke.  There’s a reason most of northern France is flattened, Martha, and my soul died there.  Let me do this for you guys.”

Martha opened her mouth to argue some more, but Coulson just shook his head. 

“Thank you, Pietro,” Coulson said.  “We will remember you.”

A faint smile flickered across Pietro’s face, and was gone.  “Thanks.  Soon as you hear the destruction, start running.”

He vanished.

Martha cried every step as they ran.

---

28 September 2008 CE:

Stumbling off of the boat, Martha resisted the urge to kiss the ground.  The trip across the Atlantic hadn’t been nearly as long as this one, and it definitely hadn’t been in as small a boat.

“Alright, Martha?”  Coulson was a steady presence at her side, for which Martha was deeply grateful.  Beyond the fact that Coulson had contacts all over the world, he was also self-controlled and calm.  He often had a calming effect on any new and wary people they confronted, and was a shoulder to cry on when the events of the past few months got to be too much.

Martha forced a smile onto her face.  “I’ll be alright,” she lied.  Pietro’s face swam in her mind’s eye, as did the hundreds of other people who had probably died in her wake.  “Who are we meeting again?”

Coulson looked up and down the docks.  The crumbling wooden constructs were filled with people resolutely going about the daily necessities to survive, but there was one specific person that he was looking for.  “Ms. Nakamura.  She should be here somewhere, but I don’t know –”

“Phil!”  A fine-boned little woman with wispy grey hair darted through the crowds and grabbed Coulson in a hug.  “It has been too long!”

To Martha’s surprise, Coulson hugged the woman just as tightly.  “Nakamura-san,” he returned, sounding pleased.  “How has Japan been holding up?”

Ms. Nakamura’s smile faded.  “Better than most, so we hear.  I have a request.”  They began walking slowly off of the docks.  Martha followed, listening intently.

“Yes?”

Ms. Nakamura led them into a building which had clearly once been meant for something other than its current purpose.  “I want you to take someone with you, when you leave Japan.”

Coulson frowned.  Quickly and sharply, he said something in Japanese.  The only words that Martha caught were “Nakamura-san.”

Ms. Nakamura responded in Japanese, just as sharply and quickly, her voice intent.  Whatever she said, it made Coulson’s eyes widen.  He spoke over Ms. Nakamura, his voice startled.

Ms. Nakamura nodded, and Coulson sagged.

“Change of plans,” Coulson said quietly.  “I don’t suppose you would mind if we took someone with us for a while, Martha?”

Martha held in a flinch at the thought of someone else – someone else who might die like Pietro did.  Coulson continued.

“The Master is after her as well, and knows that she is trapped here in Japan.”

Well.  That changed things.  If she could save someone.  Anyone.  Then.  Maybe…

Martha nodded.  “Can I meet her?”

Ms. Nakamura darted off through the building, weaving through haphazardly placed beds and people moving about.  She caught a tall blonde woman by the arm, and dragged her over to Coulson and Martha.

“This is Virginia Potts,” Ms. Nakamura said, her eyes solemn.  “She is the last person alive with access to the Stark Industries weapons’ secrets.”

Virginia Potts was a tall blonde woman with the unhealthily pale skin of a person who has spent too much time indoors for a long period of time.  The remains of freckles scattered across her face, and long-forgotten laugh-lines mixed with stress-marks around her eyes.

“Pleasure to meet you,” Virginia Potts said softly.  “Sorry to be a bother.”  She sounded almost timid, but there was something deep and sharp hidden in her eyes.

“It’s not a bother,” Martha said, grabbing the taller woman’s hand.  “Coulson and I would be glad to help.”

Coulson nodded.  “It’s good to finally meet you, Miss Potts.”

---

15 December 2008 CE:

He was anonymous.  A doctor in the crowd of refugees.  A cog in the ever-growing machine that helped people move off the mainland, and into more remote and undetectable homes.

He was anonymous, which is why he was simply gathered up with the crowds for culling.

He was anonymous, right up until he wasn’t. 

The Toclafane had mowed down many, but when he tried to keep his head down and keep his temper in the moments before they did so in his presence –

So many innocent people, young and old, weeping and steely, waiting for imminent death.  The Toclafane aimed –

And the world went green.

---

15 December 2008 CE:

Every time Martha closed her eyes, she saw Japan burning.  It made it particularly difficult to sleep in an already sleepless situation.

“Are you alright?”

Martha sighed, and gave up on sleeping.  If she wasn’t fooling Virginia, then she definitely wasn’t fooling Coulson.

“No,” she admitted, sitting up.  “I keep remembering Japan.”

Virginia winced.  Even in the gentle warmth of India’s December nights, she shivered.  “I’m sorry.”

“It’s not your fault,” Martha frowned.  “You know that, right?  The Master would have found some other reason to bomb Japan if you weren’t there.  Probably me.”

Virginia flopped back onto her makeshift bed.  “Easy to say.  I wish…”

Martha waited, but Virginia didn’t continue.  “You wish what?” she asked, regretting it as soon as the words had left her mouth.

Virginia didn’t say a word, her lips twisting bitterly as she stared into the sky.

The ground shook. Martha and Virginia scrambled to their feet, and Coulson appeared out of the darkness. 

“We have company,” Coulson deadpanned, tossing something large and wrapped in cloth at Virginia.  “Flying, lethal company.”

Virginia nodded, and began unwrapping the cloth package that Coulson had handed her.  “What’s the plan?”  Her face shone like a pale moon in the darkness. 

Coulson grabbed Martha’s arm.  “We get Martha out of the line of fire, and get ourselves out of the line of fire.  Be careful, we may have an ally on the way.”

The ground shook again, and this time the air filled with the eerie hum of approaching Toclafane. 

“Wait!” Martha shouted.  “Coulson, we can’t just leave her there – Virginia –”

Virginia tossed the final wrap of cloth from the package, revealing a strange rifle with something bulbous and glowing halfway towards her shoulder.  She shifted her stance, and something seemed to change about her.

“I’ll catch up,” Virginia said coolly, her eyes scanning the darkness.  Something roared, and a blast of blue light erupted from the gun, enveloping the first Toclafane to enter the clearing and burning it out of the sky.

Martha ran, but her feet ached.  Her shoes hadn’t been replaced since Canada, and the amount of running that she had been doing was not beneficial to their continued survival as protections for her feet.

Another blast of blue lit the night, and Martha darted a quick glance at Coulson.  He seemed as placid as always, were it not for the fact that he was running like the hounds of hell were after him, which – well.  The comparison was not particularly inaccurate.

An unearthly cackle filled the air, the digitized projection of the Toclafanes’ voices as chilling as always.

“Miss Martha!” they shouted, humming through the air.  “Miss Martha!”

The next shot that Virginia let loose seemed to be directly above them, and Coulson suddenly grabbed Martha by the shoulders and shoved her to the ground.

And didn’t move.

The ground shook, and a roar echoed somewhere nearby.

Coulson’s grip didn’t loosen, and he continued to lay on the ground.

One last blast sent metal raining over Martha’s head, and a gentle hand touched Martha’s shoulder, pulling Coulson’s hands away.

“Martha?”

Martha tried to stand, stumbled as the ground rippled beneath her feet, and turned to see Virginia.  The taller woman was still holding the mysterious gun, and her face was streaked with soot.  Martha turned back to Coulson, who hadn’t moved.

“Martha, we have to go.”

Martha ignored Virginia.  “Coulson?”

Coulson didn’t move.

“Martha.  Martha, we can’t stay –”

Martha shook Coulson.  He shook in her grip, like a rag doll. 

“Coulson, this isn’t funny!”  A hysterical note entered her voice. 

“Martha.”  Virginia touched Martha’s shoulder again, and Martha shook her away.  “Martha, we have to go.”

Martha whirled.  “He can’t be dead!” she cried, clutching Coulson’s body.  “He can’t be dead, Virginia, he can’t be!”

Something large moved in the distance, and roared again.  Virginia huffed, slung the gun over her shoulder, and bodily lifted Martha from the ground.  “We. Need.  To.  Go!” Virginia gritted.  “I got the Toclafane, but there’s something huge out there, and it’s angry.”

Whatever it was roared again, and the ground rumbled.  Martha swallowed back her tears, forced her feet beneath her, and followed Virginia’s lead.

---

16 February 2009 CE:

“Hamatzav chama!

Clint blinked, leaning away from the angry woman with a knife.  “Well, yeah, but seriously, Tash!”

Natasha Romanov scowled at her former partner.  “Clinton, ani lo rotzah laharog otach, aval –”

English, Tash.”  Clint decided to ignore Natasha’s use of his much-disliked full name.  They were under enough pressure as it was.  “I’m not exactly fluent in Hebrew, especially at your speeds.”

“Tipesh,” Natasha mumbled, shoving the knife into one of her many mysterious pockets (it was a goal of Clint’s to one day figure out just how Natasha managed to fit so many weapons into every outfit she wore).  “You’ve lived on this planet how long, and been in this business how long?”

Clint rolled his eyes.  “I am fluent in nine languages, showoff.  How is the situation in Jordan?”

Natasha snorted.  “Hamatzav chama.  Like I said.  There’s no salvaging it.”

Clint sat down on a piece of rubble that had once been part of something large.  “I’m guessing that ‘ha-ma-tzav ha-ma’ means ‘fucked to hell,’ and that you decided to head back south and meet me before you got detected.”

Natasha’s lips twitched.  “Clown,” she murmured.  It sounded slightly less lethal than usual, so Clint decided it was an affectionate turn of phrase.  “The whole place is under the ship.  No running or laughing.”

“Under the ship?”

Natasha sighed.  “Da nalak sa’a ni’i, do lekno o lek.  It’s a way of saying, Clint.”

“A turn of the phrase.”

“Yes.”

Clint leaned backwards precariously.  “How are you so fluent in thirteen languages, and still failing at the first language you learned after arriving?”

Natasha smacked Clint on the shoulder, knocking him to the ground.  “Fine.  The entire north is under the control of the tyrannical man known as the Master.  Happy?”

“Um, no?”  Clint brushed rock dust out of his hair.  “The whole world is fucked, and you think that I’d be happy?”

Natasha sniffed.  “Tal i, tal a.  To each their own.”

“Ah – Natasha Romanov?”

Natasha whirled, one of her mysterious knives appearing in each hand, while Clint shoved himself to his feet. 

Two women had somehow slipped into the small area without drawing notice.  The speaker was the shorter of the two, dark-skinned and with an exhausted glint in her eyes.  The other woman was pale as a ghost, with blonde-auburn hair and a soft cough every few moments.  Natasha stowed away her knives.  “Martha Jones?”

Martha Jones nodded, her smile more of a grimace than a true expression of pleasure.  “Yes,” she rasped, stepping forward.  Behind her, the pale woman coughed.  “This is Virginia Potts, she’s…she’s been traveling with me.”

Clint remembered Jones, and her tentative first conversation with Coulson.  He would never have left her, not when it was the last job that Fury had given him, which meant –

“Coulson’s dead.”

Martha’s lips trembled, and firmed.  She nodded. 

“He was a hero.”  Virginia spoke up, her voice ever hoarser than Martha’s had been.  “He saved us.”

“Of course he did.”

“Of course he was.”

Natasha and Clint spoke at the same time.  Natasha tossed her hair.  “Your mission, it is not complete yet.”

Martha shook her head.  “I have to keep on for the full year, and I have to get back to Britain.”

“It will damage that delak-ta who calls himself the Master?”  Natasha’s eyes were bright.

“It will finish him.”  Martha seemed to be on much less shaky ground, describing why she was traveling around the world.

Natasha nodded, and something shifted in her stance.  “What is the story, then?”

---

7 January 2009 CE:

Zevra started beaming the moment it began to rain.  She had looked tense the entire time they had traveled from the secret port in Scotland, and had seemed stricken by the destruction of the outer suburbs of London, but the rain had made her smile.

“Now this,” she murmured, her faint accent suddenly much thicker, “this feels more like London.”

Tony held one of his hands like a visor, attempting to see more than an inch in front of him through the torrential rain.  “I’m glad that you’re happy.”

Zevra snorted.  “Happy’s probably the wrong word,” she hummed.  “But with all the Master’s done to this world, I’m glad that we can at least have rain in London.  It’s right, y’know?”

Tony was about to say no, when he suddenly though of what it might feel like to be back in Malibu, with the sun shining and salt in the air.

“Yeah,” he said slowly, “I get it.”

Zevra lifted her phone, which had been their only connection to JARVIS and the Westchester camp, and frowned.  “I really hope that there’s somewhere we can charge this,” she said.  “It wasn’t supposed to ever run out of charge.”

Tony tilted his head back, trying to ignore the return of his on-again-off-again headache that hadn’t ever quite vanished since – since France.  “Something is wrong with time,” he replied.  “Your phone’s got a cross-temporal defining identifier worked into the network, but it’s also just plain plugged into the time vortex, which means that it shouldn’t run down until the end of the universe or the end of time.”

Zevra’s lips twisted bitterly.  “And in this case, something is wrong with time, so my phone loses its charge.”

---

12 January 2009 CE:

Clint wasn’t sure what he had expected from Budapest, (especially after the last time he had been there,) but it hadn’t been to find the Resistance movement being run by a fiery-eyed British woman.

“Clint Barton,” she snapped, “Is it true you’re looking for something you can use to take out Toclafane?”

Clint looked up from his bows, which he had been protecting viciously for the past few weeks.  “Yeah, Miss -?”

“Ace,” the woman replied sharply, stalking away in the way that powerful people did when they expected you to follow.  “No Miss.  Just Ace.”

Clint jogged to keep up with the briskly walking woman.  She dressed like a young biker, but looked to be somewhere in her forties or fifties.  Oddly, it fit her.

“So,” Clint said, “You have some kind of new gun for me or something?”  He had earned something of a reputation just about everywhere in the world for hitting everything he shot at.

Ace smiled, and her eyes glittered.  “A gun?  No.  I’m no techie, Barton.  I built explosives.”  She waved a hand at a slightly sooty table, and Clint nearly swallowed his tongue.

A neat row of twelve arrows lay on the table, each one slightly different from the next, and very much not your standard hunting arrows.

“I guarantee you, Barton,” Ace said, “These things could each take out a tank with a single shot.  I’ve heard that you can do uncanny things with a bow and arrow.”

Clint nodded, his fingers itching to just snatch the arrows and hug them.  Nobody except Coulson and Natasha had ever outright supported his strange adoration for using a bow over a gun.

“They’re yours,” Ace smiled, her smile sharp as a shark’s grin.  “Impress me.”

 ---

27 February 2009 CE:

“Is it really her?”

“I think she’s just like everyone else, just trying to fight as best as she can.”

“It can’t be true –”

“Please,” Virginia called out, coughing slightly.  “P-Please, can we have quiet?”

The crowds of ragged people slowly stopped whispering, eyes all turning to focus on Virginia and Martha.

It remained, despite the continued repetition of this scene all over the world, one of the most unnerving things Martha had ever done.

“Right,” Martha said shakily.  “Right, well, I’m Martha.  Martha Jones.  I guess you know who I am –”

“Is it true you’ve walked all the way around the world?” someone shouted to her from the large crowd.

Martha licked her lips.  “It’s true.  I was born in Britain, was getting my doctorate in medicine, in London.  That’s when I met him.  The Doctor.”  She looked out over the crowds, and hoped, her heart aching.  She believed in him, believed he could do something, but was there really any way to fix this much damage?  These people came from all over Eastern Europe, and even Asia, crowded into camps and starving for food and knowledge.  There was no way to heal them from their ordeals, not really.

But she believed.

“I’ve traveled all the way around the world,” Martha continued.  Behind her Virginia clasped a hand to her shoulder – a comforting presence.  “I’ve seen what has happened.  The destruction of New York, the burning of Japan, the work camps in China and Russia, the death camps in India.  I’ve seen it all, people like you.  But –”  Martha took a deep breath, and Virginia coughed behind her.  “But if the name Martha Jones became a legend while I did that, that’s wrong.  Because I’m not important, I’m just the messenger.  The one you need to remember is the man who sent me out here, who sent me to tell you to have hope.  His name is the Doctor, and he is – he’s saved everything, the world, the universe, he’s saved your lives so many times and never asked to be thanked, never even been noticed.  He never stops.  He never stays.  He never asks to be thanked.  But the Doctor can save the world.  I’ve seen him.  I know him.  I love him, and I know that he can do it.  Save the world.  Change everything.”

---

28 February 2009 CE:

The sun rose again.

Natasha took note of it, of every day that continued to turn up despite everything collapsing around them. 

Sunrises were important when every day might be the last.  Natasha remembered that, remembered it from her childhood as a little girl living on a planet alongside intergalactic genocidal murderers.

This sunrise was the twentieth sunrise since she had lost contact with Clint.  She’d never thought she would miss him.

But she did.  It was Clint who had helped her change, who had helped the alien exile Natalia become American assassin Natasha.  His dumb jokes and perfectly lethal skills had been her foundation for years, now, but –

Twenty days ago, the Master had dropped a nuclear bomb on Budapest.  Rumors had placed Martha Jones in Budapest at the time, but Natasha knew better.  Martha Jones had been far to the south and east.  The rumors had been planted by one of the Master’s most dangerous enemies, Clint’s contact in Budapest, a woman known to the Resistance only as Ace.

Twenty days ago, while Martha Jones had told her tale in a city that wasn’t Budapest, a woman named Ace and a man named Clint Barton had died in the nuclear explosion in Budapest.

Natasha checked her pockets for her many supplies, and bared her teeth at the rising sun.  She had a job to do, and the sun would continue to rise for another day.

Right now, that was all she could hope for.

Eighty-one days to go.

---

10 March 2009 CE:

stark_satellite[shieldsfull][searching for Archangel Network]

[searching… ]

[searching… ]

[Archangel-Network]

stark_satellite[shieldsfull]{A-N1}

|Who is this?|

stark_satellite[shieldsfull]{A-N2}----|who-is-asking(query)|

|I know very well that the Archangel Network is not sentient, who are you|

stark_satellite[shieldsfull]{A-N3}----|who-is-asking(repeat_query)|

|I am the Doctor.|

stark_satellite[shieldsfull]{A-N4}----|(query_answered)unit-designation-JARVIS.2|

|How have you hacked into the system, JARVIS?  The Archangel Network is decades beyond any human’s current capabilities.|

stark_satellite[shieldsfull]{A-N_full}----|query-illogical|

|Who are you working for, JARVIS?  And what do you – you aren’t human!  I wasn’t aware that there were any non-humans on Earth with this kind of power or capabilities!|

stark_satellite[shieldsfull]{A-N_full}----|query-illogical. unit-designation-fully-capable|

|Why have you hacked the Archangel Network, JARVIS?  I need the Master unaware of what I am doing, and you could alert him to my presence.|

stark_satellite[shieldsfull]{A-N_full}----|protect-Creator(FATHER). unit-designation-Doctor-hacking—{overtake and overrun main protocols of Archangel Network planned completion 0802.20.05.2009}---impractical-shall-ignore|

|What!  You can’t do that, what I’m doing is important, not impractical!|

stark_satellite[shieldsfull]{A-N_full}----|unit-designation-fully-capable. 7-possible-alternate-protocols.|

|What!  Wait, are you an AI?!|

stark_satellite[shieldsfull]{A-N_full}----|information-download-complete|

|JARVIS, are you an AI?  Who built you?|

stark_satellite[shieldsfull]{A-N4}

stark_satellite[shieldsfull]{A-N3}

stark_satellite[shieldsfull]{A-N2}

stark_satellite[shieldsfull]{A-N1}

stark_satellite[shieldsfull]

---

10 March 2009 CE:

“Rose?”

Zevra startled out of her chair, whirling about wildly.  Tony stood as well, wondering what about that name had startled her.  They had been working with the London Resistance for months, now, but the Resistance was by necessity extremely secretive.  Zevra had been searching for someone named Donna Noble, and Tony had mostly just been struggling to recharge Zevra’s phone so that he could get back in contact with JARVIS.

“Rose Tyler?”  The speaker sounded disbelieving – utterly incredulous, really.  “Is that really you?”

Zevra’s eyes widened.  She dashed in the direction of the voice, and flung her arms around an older woman with dark hair and hope welling up in her eyes.  “Sarah-Jane!”

Sarah-Jane hugged Zevra just as tightly as Zevra (or was it Rose?) was hugging her.  “Oh, it’s so good to see you!” she cried.  “The Doctor told me that you were dead!”

Zevra/Rose pulled away, her eyes suddenly dark.  “Not quite dead.  Just stuck in a different universe.  Couldn’t get back, but then the stars started going out, and we figured something big was going down, so I had them build this dimension cannon.”

Sarah-Jane paled.  “What the Master’s doing has affected an alternate universe?”

Zevra/Rose shook her head.  “I don’t think so.  The first few times I used the dimension cannon, it wasn’t like this at all.  I kept meeting this woman named Donna Noble, and all of the calculations say that she’s incredibly important.  I was hoping to find her here, because if she’s important to the future of multiple universes, then –”

“Then if she dies because of the Master, both universes fall apart at the seams,” Sarah-Jane said, her eyes wide.  “I’ll have to –”

“Zevra?” Tony cut in.  “Is Rose your real name?”

Zevra/Rose suddenly flushed bright red.  “Yeah.  Well, sort-of.  I was born Rose Tyler.  But if you’re traveling universes and time and space, it’s a good idea to do everything to prevent paradoxes, so I chose Zevra.  It’s technically my name, anyway.”

Tony frowned, his mind working furiously.  Zevra wasn’t a name he had ever heard of, but…Zevra.  Zev ra.  Ze’ev Ra.  “Bad Wolf?”

Rose’s eyes flared with golden light for a moment.  “Yeah.”

---

11 March 2009 CE:

“It’s working!  Sarah-Jane, the phone’s just started buzzing –”

Rose and Tony dashed across the re-constituted warehouse, knocking one of Sarah-Jane’s poor little worker bees away from the phone.  They had been waiting and waiting and waiting

“J? That you?”

JARVIS’s voice sounded as close to relieved as it was possible for him to sound.  “It is, indeed, Sir.  I see that you have managed to recharge the phone.  Is it still capable of a download?  I have vital information for yourself and Ms. Zevra.”

“It’s actually Rose,” Zevra said into the phone, standing nearly on top of Tony.  “Rose Tyler, JARVIS.  And yeah, now that it’s charged it should be capable of downloading any info you’ve got.”

A pleasure, Ms. Tyler.  Sir, holding for download.  I managed to hack into the Master’s Archangel Network, and had the most interesting confrontation with another hacker while I was in there.  All relevant information is at the top, in sequence from most to least important.

Tony pulled the phone away from his and Zevra’s ears and put it onto speaker.  “I can’t say how good it is to hear your voice, JARVIS.  Give us a moment to read, alright?”

Holding, Sir.”

---

20 March 2009 CE:

“…sighted the Nightingale.  Repeat, we have sighted the Nightingale.  Report to the Master at once -”

Natasha shut off her radio.  Sixty-one days to go, and things were getting tight.  If they caught Martha…

She couldn’t let that happen.  Not after all that Coulson and Clint had sacrificed.  Not after everything that Torchwood had sacrificed.  Not after everything.

“Widow.”

Natasha looked up, pocketing her radio.  “Yes, Dragon?”

The man known as Dragon gave her a pained smile.  “I sent Spitfire on to London.  We’re alone.”

Natasha nodded slowly.  “And that is probably a good thing.  The Nightingale was sighted in France.”

“Damn.  Not now.”

Natasha tilted her head towards the sky.  “Think you - a sacrifice play?”

Dragon’s lips thinned.  “We could…but the closest city is Cardiff, and Cardiff is too occupied to escape - oh.  A sacrifice play.  I - yes.  Do we have another choice?”

“Survive?” Natasha laughed, coldly.  “Survive, for as long as it takes for the attan-Kaled to wipe us all out?  A handful more days, or a chance for all others.  A choice.”

Dragon tossed her a packet of makeup.  “No choice at all.”

---

2 April 2009 CE:

“Cardiff base is gone.”

Tony looked up from his - well, his mess of wires and metal plates, right now - and pulled a braid of wire out of his mouth.  “What d’you mean, gone?”

Rose slumped to the ground, her hands shaking slightly.  “They staged a Nightingale sighting so that Martha could escape in France.  Cardiff is gone.”

Tony closed his eyes, and cast a thought spiraling into the mists of Time on the behalf of those who had made that sacrifice play.  Live well beyond Time.

Returning to his work, Tony frowned.  “How is Donna taking it?”

Rose laughed breathlessly.  “God, Donna.  Normally, I guess.”

They had found the fiery woman protecting a stranded group of kids on the side of the road on their way to Norwich.  After some shouting at cross-purposes, (Donna remembered meeting Rose, Rose remembered meeting Donna, but not necessarily the same things,) Donna had agreed to travel with them to Norwich.

Normally for Donna, as far as Tony knew, was to shout angrily for an hour, followed by an hour of obsessively practical actions.

“And Sarah-Jane?”  Tony grinned as a pair of wires finally clicked together.  “Any word from her?”

“London’s on stand-down, which means that we’re bein’ asked to watch the coasts.”  Rose tied back her hair.  “Enough depressing.  Th’ world’s enough depressing.  Gimme somethin’ t’do.”

Tony handed her a pile of wires.  “If you can start detangling these, then I can start on the computer programming…”

---

28 April 2009 CE:

“It’s hard to believe that it’s the same place…”  Virginia coughed

Martha looked around at the burned wastelands, following the ash, dust, and rubble into the harsh drop of rock into the uneasy English Channel.  It was the worst case of grey-meets-grey that she had ever witnessed on this planet.  “The same place?”

Virginia shrugged, and coughed again.  “It was - it was a long time ago.  A friend of mine had just brought me somewhere - awful - and he thought we needed a good place to recover.”  She smirked.  “Of course, being him, we ended up in the middle of a battlefield, and had to negotiate before we got our relaxation.”

Martha wracked her brains for anything that could have been described as a “battlefield” on the coast of Calais in the last decade, and fell short.  “When was this?”

Virginia paused as they walked to cough, hard.  Martha threw her a concerned look, but Virginia continued walking a short moment later.  “Oh, around 1347, I think,” Virginia rasped airily.

Martha stopped.  “When?”

Virginia shrugged.  “It might have been 1346, or 1348, my European history was never the best.”

“…Your European history.”  Martha shook her head.  “Your friend was a time-traveler?”

Virginia smiled, a faint light returning to her eyes that Martha had feared long-burned out by the tragedies which surrounded them.  “One of the best.  We had just been in one of the greatest tragedies of the 21st century, and no matter how many lives we saved, it was still horrendous.  My friend decided we needed a break, and decided to head for 17th-century Paris.  It being us, of course, we landed in 14th-century Calais.  It was…not beautiful, definitely not to my tastes, but it was alive -”  Virginia began to cough again, this time hard enough to make Martha stop and take notice. 

“Virginia, are you alright?  You’ve been coughing for days!”

Virginia squinted at the horizon, dashing tears of pain away as she did so.  “Weeks, actually.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?” Martha demanded.  “Virginia -”

“It would have - have slowed us down!” Virginia coughed.  “And - get down!”

Martha froze.  “What?”

Virginia hurtled into her side, sending both of them into the mounds of ash and rubble that filled the area.  Martha was suddenly acutely aware of how thin they both were - bones sharply pointing into each others’ sides barely a cushioning curve on either of them.  Lightning roared, and a high-pitched cackle tore through the air. 

“Martha Jo-ones, Martha Jo-ones!”

A burning smell filled the air, and Martha gagged on the dust that had filled her mouth from their tumble as she struggled to her feet. 

She nearly fell right back over when Virginia shoved at her.  “Go!”

“What?”

Virginia pushed her in the direction of the water.  “Go!  You have to make it across!”

“But -”  Martha shook her head.  Not again, not again

Virginia coughed, hard, into her hands, and then shoved as hard as she could, sending Martha tumbling over the edge and into the Channel’s icy waters.

“H-hey!  Hey, you monsters!  I’m over here!”

Martha sputtered in the water, struggling to somehow, somehow get back up there, get to Virginia.

Light flashed, and the air roared, and Martha screamed in denial, not even noticing as a pair of hands hauled her out of the water and into a small boat.

“Miss Jones?  Miss Jones!”

Martha swallowed back another shout, and focused on the skinny young woman who had pulled her out of the water.  The girl was soaked from the spray, but her eyes were sharp in her thin face, and her dripping hair did nothing to detract from the intelligence etched across her face.

“Y-yes,” Martha gasped.  “I’m Martha Jones.”

The girl nodded.  “Good,” she said, and oh but it was something wonderful to hear a good old English accent after so long abroad.  “Are you injured?”

Martha wiped some of the spray from her face, shivering as the wind from the boat’s speed slapped at her wet body.  “N-no.  Why?”

“Are you sure?”  The young woman touched the shoulder of Martha’s worn jacket.  “There’s blood -”

Blood.  Virginia.  Virginia was dead, killed by those bloody monsters -

Virginia had been coughing up blood, and hadn’t told Martha -

Virginia was dead -

Martha burst into tears.

---

30 April 2009 CE:

“Goodbye, Los Angeles,” Skye mumbled to herself.  People shoved and pushed, and the screaming made her ears ache.  The computerized voices from above, the line that led them towards their deaths, just echoed above it.

Ten seconds to termination.

Her head hurt, and there was the faintest moment that she thought that something about the flying robots and chaotic near-imminent death was familiar.

Five seconds to termination.

“I don’t regret it,” she murmured fiercely.  “Every post, every hack.  I don’t regret any of it!”

Two -

One -

A moment of white-hot pain -

Everything tore away, and she reached for her self -

Pain -

her hands tightened around the watch, and then released, falling to her lap.  She had felt a strange sort of tension all day, something hanging over her shoulder that she just knew Grandfather would have been able to explain…

The car jerked harshly, something popped, and she flew forward –

And everything went black.

Blackness becominG WHITENESS BECOMINg black

She was -

She was -

Miles away, on the Valiant, an alarm went off.

---

1 May 2009 CE:

“Oh Doooooooctor!” the Master sang, his eyes manic with glee.  “You’ll never believe what I found!”

The Doctor just looked at him, his eyes pained. 

The Master giggled.  “Oh!  Don’t worry that it’s your dear Martha, it’s better!  Bring her in!”

Four soldiers marched into the room, dragging a slim girl liberally wrapped in chains.  At first glance, she looked like nothing of interest to the Master.  She seemed to be an ordinary teenaged girl, with brown eyes, brown hair, and a vibrant white streak in her hair from her forehead to the lank ends at her shoulders.  Her arms were bone-thin, and looked near-to-breaking in the grasp of two of the soldiers.

She lifted her head, and fixed the Master with a stare of extreme loathing.  “What have you done to my son?”

The Master laughed.  “Oh, darling, dearest, sweetheart, I would do nothing to your son, any son, anyone who is one of us.”  He flicked his sonic screwdriver, and a soft sound began to echo through the chamber.

The soft sound of a doubled-heartbeat.

“It’s a lost Time Lady!” the Master cried gleefully.  “A random newcomer!  A rogue!”

“Considering that the ranks of the rogue Time Lords included the brightest minds of the last generation of Gallifrey,” the girl snapped, “I shall take it as the compliment you undoubtedly did not intend!”

From the floor, the Doctor made a weak whining noise.  The Master looked down at him distastefully.  “Oh, shut up, we are having a conversation!”  He turned dramatically towards the girl.  “Do you even know who you are?”

The girl sniffed.  “Aside from trapped in a paradox enacted by a temporal anomaly?  None of your business!”

The Master threw his hands in the air.  “Beeep!  Wrong!  Wrong answer!  You are a Time Lady, and you are mine, mine, mine, mine!  Mine, mine, mine!  Oh, just wait till you meet Lucy!”  Waving his hands grandly, the Master sang out.  “Take her away!”

---

7 May 2009 CE:

“How many days do we have left?” Tony shouted, sprinting by while waving his hands in the air. 

Martha stared at the man, who was literally smoking - his pants were on fire, and there were sparks flying from his hair.  “Ah - what?”

Rose patted Martha on the shoulder, and, when Tony sprinted past for the second time, dumped a bucket of water on his head.  “Thirteen days, counting t’day, Tony.” 

Tony shook his head, spraying water everywhere.  “Right - that should be enough time for me to get the tech up and running - and Rose, did you have you dump water on my head?”

“You - you were on fire!” Martha gasped. 

“Yeah, so?” Tony turned back the way he had come.  “It’s a daily occurrence.  Work with machines, play with wires, catch on fire, repeat.”  He waved a flippant hand at Martha, and dove back into his pile of… stuff.

Martha blinked at the former multi-millionaire in stunned astonishment.  “What - really?”

Rose rolled her eyes.  “Often enough.  I think Donna’s keeping track, you’d have to ask her, whenever she surfaces from her plotting with Sarah-Jane over the radios.”

Martha took a slow breath.  In the last few days, she had developed the feeling that Rose and Tony were purposefully being a bit ludicrous to make her feel a little bit less devastated after - after -

After everyone had died to bring her here.

Everyone.

And even here, with Rose at her most comforting and the mysterious Donna never appearing, and Tony bouncing between being a serious genius and a slapstick disaster, the knowledge of what had happened because of her -

Because if she hadn’t been so stupid and fallen for the human face that hid the Master, if she hadn’t -

And then her family had gotten involved, and the Doctor had been captured, and Pietro had died, and Japan had burned, and Coulson had died, and Virginia had died -

And it was all her fault.

Thirteen days left, and the nightmare would be over.  For better or not, it would be over.

Thirteen days left.

---

19 May 2009 CE:

Hovering several feet away, cameras zoomed all the way in, Tony frowned from behind the faceplate of his piecemeal suit.  Shielded heavily from electronic sensors, he couldn’t help but feel uneasy as he watched Martha disembark from a small boat onto the southern coast of England. 

For all that she had been hidden just a few miles away from this spot for over a week, the knowledge that Martha was engaging in their final play was an unnerving one.  And Tony was the only person who could even stay close enough to keep an eye on her safety, in these final hours.

Tony sent a swift thought towards Pepper, for whom he had cried painfully, privately, hidden within the works of his suit.  He sent a thought towards Rhodey, and Happy, whose fates were entirely unknown. 

He thought of Rose, waiting patiently for the universe to reset, and Donna, who still didn’t know why she was important.

He thought, and he followed the truck in which Martha was riding towards the future.

---

20 May 2009 CE, 5:50am:

“I have some information for the Master… concerning Martha Jones.”

The moment he heard those words, Tony took off for central London.  It had been a difficult sell, convincing him to stay long enough to ensure that Docherty took the bait, but it did need to be done.

Well, and he could fly fast enough to get to Martha in record time.

Which was why he arrived outside of a dilapidated street just in time to hear the sing-song voice of the Master.

“Martha! Martha Jo-hones.”  He made a little gasping sound.  “I can see you!  Out you come, little girl.  Come and meet your master.”

Tony gritted his teeth, and remained as still as he could, suppressing his breathing and shutting down every system in the suit except for the perception filters.

“Anybody? Nobody?  No?  Nothing?  Positions!”  Guns cocked.  Tony bit down on his lip, hard.  The Master’s mocking tone echoed through the empty streets.  “I'll give the order unless you surrender.  Ask yourself—what would the Doctor do?”

And, as the Doctor would, as Rose would, as Coulson would -

As they had planned -

Martha gave herself up.

And Tony waited, just that one last moment, for the Master to vanish -

And he followed.

---

20 May 2009 CE, 7:57am:

“Three minutes to align the black hole converters.  Counting down!”  The Master cried jubilantly.  Almost in a whisper, he added, “I never could resist a ticking clock.”  And then, in a roaring voice:  “My children, are you ready?”

There was a long pause, and the echoes of thousands of Toclafane’s voices rang tinnily throughout the Valiant

From his position just behind the wall, unable to see any of the room, but nearly overwhelmed with the tick-tick that counted down, Tony waited.

Chained and kneeling, a thin girl with no name leaned against that same wall, barely inches from the cluster of the Jones family.  Across the room, Jack Harkness stood with dark eyes and a soot-covered face, while the Doctor stood weakly in his cage.

The Master declaimed grandly.  “At zero, to mark this day, the child, Martha Jones, will die.  Ha, my first blood.  Ha, any last words?  No?”  He looked at the Doctor, who didn’t so much as blink.  The Master shook his head, a cruel sort of glee in his voice.  “Such a disappointment, this one.  Days of old, Doctor, you had companions who could absorb the time vortex.  This one's useless!”

Tony waited.

All eyes watched the clock.

The Master turned to Martha.  “Bow your head.  And so it falls to me, the Master of all, to establish from this day, a new order of Time Lords!”

Martha bit back a smile.

“From this day forward - What?”

Martha hadn’t quite been able to stifle her laughter.  She lifted her head to face the Master, defiance in her eyes.  “A gun?” she asked incredulously.

The Master frowned at her, disgruntled.  “What about it?”

“A gun in four parts?” Martha’s slightly hysterical laughter bubbled over.  Furious, the Master snapped back.

“Yes, and I destroyed it!”

Martha shook her head at him.  “A gun in four parts scattered across the world?  I mean, come on.  Did you really believe that?”

A snarl rippled across the Master’s face.  “What do you mean?”

The Doctor lifted his head.  “As if I would ask her to kill,” he rasped.

The Master shook his head, his eyes wild.  He tightened his grasp on his sonic screwdriver.  “Yes, well, it doesn't matter.  I've got her exactly where I want her.”

Martha swallowed back another hysterical giggle.  “But I knew what Professor Docherty would do.  The Resistance knew about her son.”  Rose knew about her son.  “I told her about the gun, so she'd get me here.  At the right time.”

The Master waved his sonic screwdriver.  “Oh, but you're still gonna die!”

Martha shook her head ever-so-slightly, her eyes fastened on the clock.  Tick…tick…  “Don't you wanna know what I was doing?  Travelling the world?”

The Master’s face twisted between fury and hatred.  “Tell me!” he demanded.

Martha closed her eyes.  In her mind, Coulson stood beside her, Pietro vibrating behind her, and Virginia smiled without a cough.  “I told a story, that's all.  No weapons, just words.  I did just what the Doctor said.  I went across the continents, all across the world.  And everywhere I went, I found the people, and I told them my story.  I told them about the Doctor.”  She smiled.  “And I told them to pass it on, to spread the word so that everyone would know about the Doctor.”

The Master sneered.  “Faith and hope?  Is that all?”

Martha’s smile didn’t waver.  “No, ‘cause I gave them an instruction.  Just as the Doctor said.”  Her eyes flew open, and she climbed to her feet.  “I told them that if everyone thinks of one word, at one specific time -”

The Master cut in, his voice wild and triumphant, sneering and derisive.  “Nothing will happen!  Is that your weapon?!  Prayer?!”

Martha lifted her chin, and her eyes met the Master’s eyes for the briefest of moments, a triumphant breath.  “Right across the world.  One word, just one thought, at one moment… but with fifteen satellites!”

Tick

“What?” the Master cried, angry and confused.

Jack’s eyes lifted from the floor, staring at the clock.  “The Archangel Network.”

The triumphant note in Martha’s voice grew stronger.  “A telepathic field binding the whole human race together, with all of them, every single person on Earth, thinking the same thing at the same time.  And that word…is Doctor.”

Tick.

Tony closed his eyes, and opened his mind for the first time in months.  “Doctor,” he whispered.

“Doctor,” Jack said clearly.

The Master shook his head.  “Stop it!  No, no, no, no, you don’t!”

“Doctor.”

“Doctor.”

“Doctor.”

The Master stumbled down the stairs of the room with near-terror, shaking his head and waving his arms.  “Stop this right now!  Stop it!”

---

20 May 2009 CE, 8:00am:

In a small ruined village in Norwich, a redhaired woman looked up at the sky, closed her eyes, and whispered, “Doctor.” 

Beside her, a ragged group of teens and young adults chorused “Doctor.”

Standing outside, a woman with a young face and old eyes tilted her head towards the sky, her honey-brown hair tumbling down her back.  Golden light shimmered around her as she cried, “Doctor!”

In a hidden room, deep underground, a middle-aged woman with short brown hair closed her eyes, and with a fond and heartbroken smile, breathed, “Doctor.”

In a hidden place in Canada, the most powerful telepath in the world linked hundreds of minds, all with one thought:

“Doctor.”

Across the world, the ragged remains of humanity paused, hanging in the balance of a single moment, and thought -

Doctor.”

---

20 May 2009 CE, 8:01am:

“I've had a whole year to tune myself into the psychic network and integrate with its matrices,” the Doctor cried, as his cage shattered and his body renewed itself.  “The one thing you can't do.”  He smiled.  “Stop them thinking.”

Outside the room, Tony opened his eyes, braced for the moment when all things would shift.  He could feel the power regenerating the Doctor, giving the Time Lord, for the briefest of moments, every psychic power that the Time Lords could possess. 

In the corner of the room, her chains shattered, the nameless girl tilted her head into the light, a smile crossing her face.  Jack grinned wildly, and laughed.  Martha bolted towards her family, clutching at them.

“No!” the Master shouted, firing a laser bolt at the Doctor.  With a wave of his hand, the Doctor deflected the bolt at the ceiling, where it fizzled harmlessly into nothingness.

“I’m sorry,” the Doctor said, “I’m so sorry.”

The Master turned on the Joneses, waving his sonic screwdriver.  “Then I'll kill them!” 

The Doctor snapped out a hand, and the sonic screwdriver skittered across the floor, out of reach.  The Master panicked.  “You can't do this!  You can't do—It's not fair!”

Tony stepped into the doorway, barely paying attention as the Doctor wrapped his arms around the whimpering Master.  Martha looked up, and frowned at him confusedly.  Jack tilted his head to the side, interest filling his eyes, when the Master cried out.

“My children!”

And then, the words Tony had been waiting for.  The words that JARVIS, Donna, and Rose had predicted.

“Protect the paradox!  Protect the paradox!  Protect the paradox!”

The Doctor looked up.  “Captain!  The paradox machine!”

Tony didn’t pause - he had a job to finish.

“Martha!”

Martha turned towards him.  “What?”

Tony threw the small silvery sphere that he had carried from Norwich, smiling faintly when Martha caught it.  “One last gift from the Bad Wolf,” he said.  With a flash of light, Martha, her family, and the nameless girl vanished back to Earth.

Closing his faceplate, Tony took off, quickly outpacing the sprinting Captain Harkness and the UNIT guards.

He blasted through the crowd of Toclafane, wincing in agony as many of their blasts struck. 

Hurtling into the TARDIS, Tony let out a brief mental cry of love-thankfulness-relief-success-

Flew forward -

This was going to hurt -

---

19 May 2008 CE, 8:02am:

Everything shuddered once, and went still.  The Doctor clung to the flooring for a moment, a wild grin on his face, before bouncing to his feet as Jack stumbled into the room, followed by a handful of soldiers.

“The paradox is broken.  We've reverted back, one year and one day.  Two minutes past eight in the morning.”  The Doctor looked around, and turned on the comm-system.  Immediately, a voice crackled over the air.

“This is UNIT Central.  What's happened up there?  We just saw the President assassinated!”

The Doctor smiled faintly at Jack.  “You see?  Just after the President was killed, but just before the spheres arrived.  Everything back to normal.  Planet Earth restored.  None of it happened.  The rockets, the terror.  It never was.”

Jack closed his eyes.  “But we remember.  Center of the vortex energy?”

All of the soldiers, save one, turned to gape at the normally flirtatious and odd man acting so serious and clever.

The Doctor nodded.  “Precisely.”

The Master chose that moment to try to bolt, and was stopped by Jack, who grabbed the mad Time Lord by the shoulders.  “Whoa, big fella!  You don't want to miss the party.”  He turned to the soldier beside him. Cuffs?”  Taking said cuffs, he handcuffed the Master.  “So, what do we do with this one?”

“Kill him!” cried one of the soldiers, a young man who looked emotionally shattered.

The Doctor shook his head.  “No!  That’s not the solution.”

“I think it is -” another soldier began, but they were all cut off by gunshots.

Standing across the room, completely forgotten, was Lucy, the Master’s wife.  She stared at the Master with deadened eyes, the gun shaking in her hands.

The bullets never met their target, a golden sphere exploding into place around the Master, containing him and protecting him simultaneously.  Out of the group of soldiers, one man stepped out, holding a small control device with one hand, and removing his concealing helmet with the other.

“Someone might want to take the gun from the traumatized little lady, over there,” the man said, his single eye gentle but firm.

Jack eased the gun out of Lucy’s hands, and held her as she crumbled. 

The Master laughed.  “Always the women!” he cried, his eyes dancing madly. 

“Yeah, but this time, it’s the women you underestimated,” the one-eyed man said, rolling the small control device in his hands.  “Natasha Romanoff, who carried the technology.  Dorothy McShane, who built it into somethin’ greater.  Martha Jones, who brought it onboard.  And Lucy Saxon, who gave me cause to use it.”

The Master stared.  “You!  But you’re dead!”

The one-eyed man smiled.  “Hard to kill, me.  Found religion, and haven’t died ever since.”  He tossed the control to the Doctor.  “That’s for you.  Keep an eye on him, and we’ll never discuss the subject again.  He wreaks a little genocide again, I’m gonna have to reconsider.  Understand?”

The Doctor clutched the control to his chest, something grateful glimmering in his eyes.  “Understood, Colonel Fury.”

Director Fury of SHIELD waved his hand.  “Yeah, you owe, me, I get it.”  Clicking a small button on his wristwatch, he vanished in a flash of light. 

The Doctor shook his head, somewhat disapproving.  “SHIELD,” he mumbled.  Turning to Jack, he asked, “I don’t suppose you’d help me get the Master back to the TARDIS?”

---

19 May 2008 CE, 8:02am:

There were many beautiful sounds in the universe, but after the past year, Tony was certain that the sound of a paradox collapsing and time reverting had taken the top spot.  There was a bitter taste in his throat as he rocketed through the air, but it was diluted with the sweet satisfaction of justice.

So there, he thought, wincing as the air pressure ripped a plate of metal from his newest suit of flying armor.  That was for you, Pepper.  And for everyone else who is no longer dead

Of course, with that angry thought, Tony crashed into what felt like an eon of burning sand.

He hoped that someone would find him before he regenerated.  After the year that had just never been, it would be kind of embarrassing if he died from desert exposure and crash injuries.