"All right, we're going in," Martha told John over the headset.
"Roger that," he drawled in a horrible parody of an American accent. "Just be careful, you two."
"We know," Jack and Martha chorused simultaneously. The lift doors closed, and Jack produced a small electronic device for the lock. It started beeping as soon as he pressed it to the surface, then sounded a chime that indicated that the lock had been successfully cracked.
"Amateurs," Jack scoffed. "There hasn't been a lock made that Tosh's equipment can't break through." He glanced down at Shadow. "All right, I don't suppose you know which floor, do you? Not that cats can press buttons, but it'd be helpful, you know? Just maybe miaow a few times?"
"I think," Martha said carefully, scooping the cat up before he could do anything inappropriate on Jack's shoes, "that he doesn't like it when you're condescending. And you need to try and get along with Jack."
"Maybe you ought to get him neutered," Jack joked, which made the cat flatten his long ears against his head and hiss at Jack.
Martha tapped Shadow on the nose to make him focus again and nearly got her arm clawed for her troubles. "Hey, behave." She held him up to the control panel. "Pick a floor."
He indicated the button for the third subterranean level with a swipe of his paw, and the button lit up as the lift shuddered into action. Having done his job, he squirmed free and took up a position on the floor again.
"All right, I guess he's not just a-" The headsets crackled into static, then silence, and Martha swore in an unladylike fashion.
"They must have something built in to block outside communications." Jack scowled at the wall. "We should have thought of that - if we'd just had time to plan and do a little recon, or even the damn floor plans for the secret bunker."
"Mind you, then it wouldn't be much of a secret." Martha folded her arms, her irritation plain in the crease of her brow. "I just hope they figured out what happened - I can handle radio silence, but I don't want them rushing in after us." And UNIT definitely didn't need a second captive with a Time Lord's genetic material - it was dangerous enough with them just having Donna, since they obviously knew something about what she was.
"I imagine Sarah Jane has to go back to her normal life soon, anyway," Jack observed. "Getting Luke ready for school, possibly doing some perfectly normal work. She can't spend all her time at our beck and call. She's a fantastic woman, but she has obligations the rest of us don't. She does things her own way; you can't expect her to adjust to ours."
Martha wondered if Jack was criticising her for getting Sarah Jane involved in the first place; she rather thought that the choice had been taken from her when UNIT barricaded her neighbourhood with armed soldiers. It certainly wasn't as if any of them were likely to sit idly by while the Earth was in danger - hadn't the Daleks proven that much? "I doubt that anybody's doing anything normal today, Jack," she pointed out instead. "She's probably trying to keep Luke and his mates from running out and doing stupid things - best to mother them, rather than us. Not that we don't need it sometimes." She gave Jack a sheepish smile as the lift drew to a halt.
"Well," Jack said, checking to make sure his gun was secure in its holster, "let the fun begin." He flattened himself against the wall of the lift as the doors opened; Martha did the same on the opposite side, readying her tranquiliser gun. Shadow simply trotted out into the corridor.
Martha listened for any reactions, but heard nothing. She'd expected there to be guards down here; even if the rest of the base was bare, the prisoners - let alone whatever else was stored in the secret bunker - needed to be guarded. But a quick peek around the corner revealed that there was nothing. She raised a quizzical eyebrow at Jack, then slipped out of the lift, still cautious in case they had missed something.
"This," Jack commented as they walked through the deserted corridors together, "is weird." They passed an abandoned guard station; looking at the monitors for the hallways seemed to confirm their suspicions. Martha wasn't entirely certain this was a good thing; in her experience, ease in reaching the target generally meant that it was a trap (and a really obvious one, at that). On the other hand, there wasn't any logical reason for UNIT to expect them to be there, so setting a trap hardly made sense. It was, in general, a highly paradoxical situation, and Martha wasn't fond of paradoxes.
Shadow, however, seemed perfectly at ease, his tail raised high as he led them through the twisting and turning hallways. Clearly he knew where he was going, even if the two humans didn't. (Martha decided that the next time she felt like owning a pet, she'd adopt one from a shelter. The situation was starting to make her skin crawl a little bit.) He stopped in front of a door that looked like all the other doors in the narrow hall and scratched at it, looking at them.
Jack blew out a long breath as he crouched in front of the lock, hitting buttons on his wriststrap. The lock beeped for a few moments, and Jack scowled at it, punching more buttons. Both the lock and the wriststrap sparked, but the door clicked open.
Martha opened it with trepidation, afraid of what she would find there; she'd heard whispered rumours about the containment cells, but had never observed anything first-hand, nor had she had any desire to do so. Her hands shook as she gripped the door and pulled it back, only to reveal...nothing.
"Oh, this is bad," Jack breathed. Martha agreed; a number of potential situations were flashing through her mind, and none of them were especially positive. Shadow pawed at the concrete floor, clearly confused, then blinked out - Martha was too worried to even be surprised by the teleportation. She frowned at the empty cell - and then alarms started going off.
"Even worse," she muttered. "Come on, we've got to get out of here. I'm pretty sure that anybody we run into will shoot first and ask questions later." Martha began jogging down the hall in the opposite direction from the way they had come originally, figuring that pursuers were most likely to be coming from the lift - which, as far as she knew, was the only way in and out of the bunker. (Maybe, she hoped, if they led them in circles long enough, they could slip past them and make it to the main base.)
Her mobile buzzed at her hip, and she glared at it, but answered anyway. "Malcolm!" she hissed. "This is not the time!"
"Uh, well, I think it might be if you want to make it out alive?" His voice was uncertain, as it often was. "I don't really know who's coming after you, but apparently the security system was rigged to display normal footage for a certain amount of time, then start playing an episode of...Teletubbies? At any rate, there's no footage of her anywhere, and I don't think you'll get a chance to protest your innocence."
"Yeah, sort of figured that." Martha eyed Jack as they kept running and wondered if his vortex manipulator could get them out, or if Shadow - who had run away anyway, just like a cat - could teleport someone with him.
"Look, if you get into the ventilation shafts, I can guide you through to a maintenance room," Malcolm explained. "From there, you can go through the sewers to get out; according to my calculations, they haven't got enough people to cover every possible route of escape."
"All right - I'll have to patch you through to my headset, can't exactly crawl through vents and hold my mobile at the same time." Martha attempted to use pantomime to tell Jack what to do, but had a bit of difficulty, since she could only use one hand while setting up the Bluetooth connection. Charades had never been one of her fortes, even with two hands. Finally, she rummaged through her waist pack and pulled out a screwdriver, then passed it over to him.
"Needs to be a little more -" Martha cut off Jack's obvious joke with a glare, and he sighed and got to work on the screws.
"How d'you have blueprints, anyway?" Martha asked Malcolm while she was waiting. "We couldn't find them anywhere."
"Oh, I sort of...well, made them myself. It wasn't terribly difficult using sonar and other forms of detection, just a lengthy process. And I did find a schematic for the air vents, but I had to match it up and scale it correctly." His tone of voice made it sound ridiculously simple - and it probably had been, for him, but nobody else was likely to accomplish the same thing anytime soon.
"Martha!" Jack hissed. "Running short on time here." He was holding his hands into a makeshift step for Martha, obviously indicating that she was meant to go first.
"Right. Give me a second, Malcolm. Can you trace the mobile signal to see where we are in here?" She let Jack boost her up, grunting a little as she wriggled into the air shaft. All right, so maybe she wasn't quite as thin as she'd been during the Year that Wasn't, but it wasn't exactly as if she'd gained loads of weight, either. And she worked out! She couldn't help but feel slightly disgruntled about it all, which was, perhaps, a sign of misplaced priorities.
"Okay, I've got your signal traced," Malcolm said after a few seconds of key-tapping. Meanwhile, Jack had managed to clamber into the vent behind Martha - it'd be obvious where they'd gone, of course, but there wasn't much they could do about it. She made a mental note to bring rope - or a similar material - the next time she infiltrated a secret base, which, at this rate, would probably be sometime next week. "You want to make a right at the first crossing you come to."
"Should've brought a torch," Jack grumbled under his breath. "Or a miner's helmet. Maybe a penlight, even."
It was, in fact, rather dark; Martha had to make her way by touch, feeling for the turns in the shaft and going by Malcolm's directions. It certainly wasn't as if they could turn around if they made a mistake. She could occasionally catch thin rays of light streaming in through the vents, but it wasn't a reliable source of illumination.
"I just hope," Jack commented quietly, "that they can't seal this off and flood us out with gas. Asphyxiation isn't one of my preferred methods of death."
"What, d'you have a list?" Given that he'd probably died of every accident known to man - and a few that weren't, besides - Martha wouldn't have been surprised if he'd made a list.
"Hanging's not bad if you have the right hangman - got to make sure you break the neck on the first try, though. I had the most incompetent one in Russia, took a good five or so tries. I was laughing at him while I was dangling from the noose, or trying to laugh. Don't recommend most poisons, entirely too painful - I don't know what Cleopatra was thinking when she used that asp. Wild animal attacks aren't too great, either - bears are vicious killing machines, let me tell you."
"Yeah, thanks, that's quite enough, Jack." Martha had become entirely too intimate with most forms of death far too quickly for her taste. "I really don't want to be thinking about death while I'm crawling through subterranean air shafts. Also, really, bears? Now I think you're just making things up."
"Just a couple more turns," Malcolm told her, and she was glad that he couldn't hear their macabre conversation - though he probably would've had his own scientific opinions to add to the discussion (hypothetical, obviously). "Right, then left, then you'll come to a grating in another six metres, and you'll want to come out there. I'm actually there now; I've been tracking you on my laptop."
"God, Malcolm, I could kiss you," Martha told him as she kept moving, heartened by their near-success.
"I'd love to," Jack added. "And tell him I'll take him out for drinks while I'm at it."
"Yeah, we've still got to get out of here alive." Martha shoved the grate onto the floor with a loud clang and poked her head out of the hole, grinning at Malcolm - who had also helpfully stacked crates to help them down. "Did I mention you're absolutely brilliant? 'Cos you are, really." After hauling herself out of the vent and clambering down the crates, she embraced Malcolm in a tight hug. "Just make sure you get out, yeah? Wouldn't want to have to search for a new job all by myself."
"Not that either of you would have to search long." Jack wrinkled his nose at the dust-covered state of his greatcoat. "Assuming you still felt like being employed by a top-secret organisation with nearly limitless funding, that is."
"In Cardiff." Martha poked at her receiver and frowned; they were still cut off from communicating with the other two.
"Hey, it's a great city! And the Welsh, let me tell you, they are some gorgeous people."
"I'd love to hear you rhapsodise about Ianto's perfectly-tailored suits, really, but we've got other things to focus on right now." Martha rolled her eyes at Malcolm good-naturedly. "So these sewers are simple enough to navigate, yeah? No chance of getting lost in the main tunnels and encountering, I dunno, lizardmen or Weevils or whatever bizarre carnivorous lifeform I'm sure resides down there?"
"You always assume the worst, Martha."
"I found Daleks in the sewers of New York! Daleks and mutated pigmen! I think I'm allowed to make snap judgments based on that. And you've got infested sewers, too, Jack Harkness, so don't you even start with me."
But Jack was looking mournfully at his slightly scorched vortex manipulator, much in the same way Martha had first seen the Doctor regard his ruined sonic screwdriver. (There was always some sort of technology blokes were obsessed with. She really needed to start meeting more normal men.) "Oh, come off it," she huffed. "Angry people with guns looking for us, remember? You can get shot, but I sure as hell can't." Maybe she sounded irritable, but it was already a really long day, and it wasn't even ten in the morning yet - not to mention that she didn't exactly relish the thought of mucking about in sewers.
"I could take a look at it?" Malcolm offered tentatively. "Your equipment has been fascinating to examine, Captain Harkness."
"Oh, I -" He was cut off from making any potentially explicit suggestions by Martha pointedly stepping on his foot, which, since she was wearing combat boots, was really more of a stomp. "I really shouldn't let you see this technology. Could change the future of the human race, and that sort of thing. Besides, I'd have to take it back to the fifty-first century to get it properly repaired, and I don't see that happening anytime soon." He scratched the back of his head. "On the other hand, you might be able to fix the local teleport issue, if you've got access to UNIT's research, and that could come in handy."
"Till the Doctor disables it again," Martha muttered under her breath, fairly certain he didn't even want Jack to have that much - and equally certain that all UNIT's teleportation research had been destroyed with the working prototype of Project Indigo.
"Yeah, well." He unbuckled the wriststrap and handed it to Malcolm. "I don't see him offering any other solutions. And if you destroy that, horrible things beyond the depths of your imagination will happen to you. I don't know what they are yet, but I'll find something." She could tell that he felt strangely naked without it on - the only time she'd seen him without it was, well, when she'd had it with her.
"We'd better get going, Jack." Martha leaned in and kissed Malcolm on the cheek. "Thanks for everything. Like I said, make sure you're safe." She smiled a little to see his embarrassed blush. Jack, thankfully, refrained from all physical expressions of endearment, opting to salute him instead. Then the two of them wrestled with a heavy steel door set into the side of the wall, and they set off into the sewer pipes.
"Why didn't I wear boots?" Jack wondered aloud. "And Ianto's going to kill me for this later – my dry cleaner is going to kill me for this."
"Lucky you can get away with dying twice, then." Martha rolled her eyes. "C'mon, wading through sewage isn't...um...that bad. I thought you lot mucked around in the sewers, anyway."
"I left the Weevils to Owen for awhile – haven't gone down to take a look at them since...well, you know. They aren't rampaging through the streets of Cardiff, so things are probably well in hand." Jack sounded casual enough, but Martha knew that he still had to be hurting from the loss of Tosh and Owen – she had more than a sneaking suspicion that he blamed himself for it.
"Maybe we'll find sewer denizens who're actually friendly for once," Martha tried to joke, wanting to lighten the tone of the conversation. "Don't you think they always get a bit of a bad rap for being vicious mutated murderers?"
"Weren't you the one who was just talking about Daleks and lizardmen, Doctor Jones?" She could see Jack's teeth gleam a little as he smiled, even in the darkness of the sewers. "Either they're friendly or hostile, make up your mind."
"I'd rather like to opt for fictitious, personally." Martha started climbing up a ladder – in theory, they had to come out somewhere in London if they just headed to the surface. Unfortunately, it wasn't quite as easy as that in a London under military control and filled with hostile extraterrestrials. (Ordinarily, they could've taken the Underground without anybody looking at them twice.)
The ladder led to another level of dank, dripping tunnels, and Martha sighed in disappointment. She knew that there had to be more than one level, considering how far underground UNIT had managed to excavate, but she really just wanted all this to be over already. Sometimes, being a hero wasn't all it was cracked up to be. (Actually, she'd found this to be true rather a lot of the time – right now, she was facing unemployment, and saving the Earth didn't exactly pay the bills.)
They kept sloshing their way through the sewer – they almost had to be outside the boundaries of UNIT's complex now, she thought, and she tried to get her headset working again. "Hello?" she tried as she flipped through the frequencies.
"Martha!" John sounded relieved. "What the hell happened?"
"Is Donna all right?" Sarah Jane chimed in.
Martha grimaced a little; this wasn't going to sound good. "Right, so we made it in, yeah? Jack and I think they had something to block the frequencies of the headsets, and that's why you got cut off. Anyway, we made it to the detention cells, but Donna wasn't there."
"Wasn't there? Like, wasn't there as in, she was carted off for more testing or something, or really wasn't there there?"
"Er, well, we aren't sure," Martha admitted. "Except that someone rigged the security cameras to show footage of Donna's cell with her in it for a certain amount of time, and that time ran out while we were there. That sort of argues that someone beat us to it, doesn't it?" It made sense in her head, anyway.
"So," she continued, "my mate Malcolm helped us escape – we're sort of in the sewers right now. You've got our position, don't you?" Knowing where they were would be helpful, even if she wasn't quite sure how to navigate the tunnels.
"Mr Smith's pulling up a map of the sewers right now," Sarah Jane offered. "We'll combine that with your location so we can figure out how to get you out of there."
"Just head for the surface," John added helpfully. "Once you're aboveground, things should be easier."
"Except for the aliens," Martha muttered under her breath, but she started looking for another ladder as they walked along. "Really, how did we not think to bring a torch?"
"Maybe if that idiot cat of yours – ow!" Shadow chose to make his presence known just then by teleporting onto Jack's shoulder and digging his claws in, by the sound of it.
"I don't really think he wants to walk down here. Can't say as I blame him." She was so going to have to buy new boots – and new everything, actually – after this. Well, the boots might be salvageable, but the clothing certainly wasn't.
"John," Sarah Jane said, "I'm transferring their tracking over to you now that we've got everything patched together." She laughed, a little ruefully. "Honestly, I don't know when I became so technologically inclined. I blame it all on having a supercomputer with an advanced AI – and a robot dog, for that matter. They practically do all the work for me, and then Luke makes fun of me when I barely even know how to set the DVR."
"It's practically a kid's job to do that," Martha admitted. "Honestly, we'll never stop taking the piss out of Mum 'cos she can hardly text." Doing things like that made life seem normal, though – like all her family had to worry about was trivial stuff. "Dad can't work the DVR, either – you should see him when he's trying to record the football." It was better than thinking of the other times, when her parents could barely function – her mum's panic attacks when Tish was late coming home or her dad's sudden mood swings.
"See what you've got yourself into, Sarah Jane, becoming a parent like that?" Jack teased her. "And you thought you were skipping the worst of it, too."
"You certainly won't find me wishing I'd gone through pregnancy," Sarah Jane remarked wryly, "but raising a teenager isn't easy, either."
"Hey, I didn't say being pregnant was all it's cracked up to be – like the cravings, for example. You try getting caviar from an extinct fish that's half a galaxy away and extinct and out of season – let me tell you, hormones like that make using a vortex manipulator hell. It's like morning sickness, only worse."
At this revelation, silence fell over the others, probably because, like Martha, they were trying to avoid picturing Jack pregnant and asking how he'd got that way. (Martha really didn't want to think about the anatomy involved.) Even the cat had taken it upon himself to disappear again.
Martha was relieved when they came across another ladder; she fancied she could even see sunlight at the top, though it could have just as well been her imagination. (She was also thinking fondly of hot showers and soft beds and being able to cut her damned boots off her feet, because it was starting to seem as if she might have to.)
Oh, God, I think that's a manhole at the top," she exclaimed with relief after she'd climbed several rungs of the ladder. "I was starting to think we'd be stuck down here forever." Martha tried to push it out of the way and frowned; it was a little too heavy for her to handle. "Come on, Jack, time to be the brawn of the team."
"If I'm the brawn," Jack commented as she climbed down, "and John's the brains, what's that make you and Sarah Jane?"
Martha smirked at him and dusted her hands off on her pants. "The beauty, obviously. Like you even had to ask."
"Well, then, I'd better keep you from breaking a fingernail." Jack shrugged his coat off and handed it to Martha, then made his way up the ladder.
"You know, I hate to interrupt your banter, but I thought I might ask a logistical question that nobody seems to have thought of yet," Sarah Jane spoke up. "No offence intended, John, but can you actually drive?"
Martha actually hadn't thought of that, and she was fairly certain Jack hadn't, either. If Sarah Jane and Jack were imagining the same thing that she was, they were probably equally horrified - having seen how he piloted the TARDIS, Martha wasn't sure she wanted anybody with the Doctor's memories driving a car.
John's sigh was audible over the headsets, and Martha felt a little guilty for leaping to assumptions. "I've got Donna's memories, too, you know. I'm not going to try whacking the SUV with a mallet or anything. I promise I won't crash your shiny car, Jack."
"Good, because I don't want to have to deal with the insurance paperwork. I'm really starting to run out of plausible lies." The manhole cover fell to the pavement outside with a clang, and the light of a typically cloudy London day shone down on Martha. "See, Martha? Here we are, safe and sound, and we didn't even run into one mutant turtle."
"Yeah, now we've only got to get through a city under a state of emergency and figure out how to find Donna," Martha commented wryly. "Simple."
"K-9 suggests that we take a blood sample from John and use it to track Donna," Sarah Jane spoke up suddenly. "Something about similar particles bonded to their DNA? I'm sure he and Mr Smith can figure it out without any help from the likes of me."
"I'm not too far from you two," John chimed in. "A couple of minutes, maybe. You're only just outside UNIT's perimeter - well, it covers a pretty big area for a secret base - excuse me, wildlife preserve, according to my map. Seems like a questionable term to me. D'you think it's meant to be some sort of clever euphemism? 'Cos I don't think UNIT are that intelligent - 'cept for you, Martha, of course."
Jack and Martha exchanged glances, Jack raising an eyebrow and Martha shrugging in response. She chose instead to try and brush some of the mess off her clothing, though she imagined that the SUV had probably seen much, much worse. "At least you've got spare clothes," she mentioned to Jack.
"Should've thought to bring some with you, Martha. I thought UNIT emphasized being prepared."
"No, Jack, that's the Boy Scouts. And possibly The Lion King." She fell silent again, wondering what could have happened to Donna. It didn't make sense, someone else kidnapping her before they'd got there. The only other person she could even think of who might do such a thing was the Doctor, and he certainly wouldn't have stopped to rig the surveillance cameras - he'd've materialised in her cell, grabbed her, and left. After the welcome she'd received from Sylvia Noble, Martha wasn't going to try and ring her; if Donna wasn't there, she and Wilf were probably even more worried than the rest of them. (Maybe she should call them because of that - but it certainly wasn't as if she had any reassuring news, was it?)
She was frowning a little as the black SUV pulled up next to them, just as shiny and undented as it had been when they'd left it. Hopefully Sarah Jane's - or, rather, K-9's - plan would work; Martha had no idea what they would do if it didn't. It might come down to having to call the Doctor in, and that was just about the last thing she wanted to do.
"Tuppence for your thoughts, Martha?" John asked as they climbed in.
"Well, for one thing, I think we need about a dozen of those little pine trees," Martha joked, trying to keep her tone light - though it sounded strained, even to her. "And I'd kill for some pastries, too, while we're at it."
John turned his head to look at her as he shifted to the left to let Jack drive; his concern showed plainly in his eyes, but he didn't say anything, for which Martha was profoundly grateful. (She wasn't half surprised by it, too, as he'd definitely proven to be a talker.) Instead, he turned back around and began to fiddle with the car's GPS, his shoulders slumping a little.
"Right!" Though she couldn't see him, Martha was fairly certain Jack was grinning. "Everybody's here, nobody's missing any appendages, and I really hope we don't have to find a petrol station that's open, but other than that, we should be ready to go." He shifted back into gear and pulled out into the road, accelerating at a speed that would have been illegal if the police had been watching - and if Jack hadn't reached over to the dash and flipped the emergency lights on, just in case. (Martha suspected it was also due to his flair for theatrics.)
She rested her head against the window for just a moment, and all the adrenaline that had been fueling her rushed out of her system, leaving her suddenly exhausted. With nothing better to do, Martha used her coat as a makeshift pillow and fell into a fitful sleep.