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[personal profile] fic_of_fork
Word Count: 3294
Summary:  Chrono-tourism, a pair of alien con artists, and the US-USSR hockey game at the 1980 Olympics: just another day in the life of Margaret and Ada, as they race to correct a changed time line.
Warnings: None specific for this chapter
Rating:  Teen
Characters: Martha Jones, OCs (Margaret, Ada)
Genre:  AU, gen
Author's Note:  This story was written for the 2011 who_like_giants ficathon, and as such features two characters of mine, namely Margaret and Ada.  It takes place in an alternate universe, where the Time Lords weren't all wiped out.  Chronologically, it takes place after Season 3.  Thanks to[livejournal.com profile] lindenharp , [livejournal.com profile] persiflage_1  , and [livejournal.com profile] zurcherart   for the betas!
Disclaimer: I don't own Doctor Who, Torchwood, Bernice Summerfield, or any of its characters, and I'm receiving no profit from this beyond the joy of writing.

Prologue, Chapter 1


The next day, Ada pried open an eye crusted shut with sleep and blinked in the sunlight.  Jerking up in bed, she realized that not only had she slept the entire night, but most of the next day.  She bounded out of the bed, trailing blankets and sheets in her wake.  Still in her pajamas, she grabbed a towel, took a quick shower, then made her way back to her room to change into fresh clothing.  Another human male—not the one introduced to her as Mike and not one of the UNIT people--saw her clad in a towel, still dripping slightly, and yelped.  She shrugged and continued on her way.  Humans could be so quaint, she thought to herself. 

Dressed, she descended the stairs to the kitchen and rummaged around for something to eat.  She sighed at her choices, but settled on a granola bar.  Munching on it, she exited the priory and walked to the parish hall.  Halfway there, she put the rest of the granola bar into a pocket and listened.  Grinning—for the first time in longer than she could remember—she ran the rest of the way, weaving past the UNIT guards at the entrance, who greeted her, as she rushed past.  She didn’t stop until she reached the part of the parish hall where the Doctor’s TARDIS stood.  Around it were a few gray boxes.  Ada beamed at one of them and hugged it, as well as she could, since her arms couldn’t go all the way around the gray box.  She placed a palm against the surface, and a door swung outward. 

“Keyless entry option,” she said to herself.  “Worth its weight in gold.”

Inside, the door swung shut behind her, as she walked into a stark white room with roundels all along the walls.  Somehow, her time capsule had reverted to the default theme.  No matter.  She could redecorate later.  While some of her people would scoff at the idea, Ada always thought her time capsule appreciated her paintings.  Out of habit, she let her hands play along the console, and they were off, hurtling through the Vortex.  Ada needed to find a few things in her rooms, and she thought a short trip would be good for her time capsule. 

Past the console room, the walls were decorated with expansive murals painted directly onto the walls.  Ada looked at one that had been singed, when she crashed on Earth.  Sighing, she thought she could give it a quick touch-up later.  Finally, she came to a richly carved and gilded door.  It opened to her bedroom and her personal workrooms.  Walking into a wardrobe, she tried not to look at the heliotrope and purple robes she probably would never wear again.  With a lump in her throat, she found what she was looking for in a chest on the floor.

From the baroque chest, she pulled out a few sheathed daggers.  The style of clothing she wore would never accommodate their hidden holsters.  She felt naked without some sort of protection on this uncivilized world, so she decided upon a small dagger that could be worn at her ankle.  It would have to be enough, she thought. 

Back in the control room, she heard a soft ping, and a new key was waiting for her.  Grinning, she put it into her pocket and landed once more.  The door opened, and it was again night.  Cursing to herself, she realized she spent far more time away from her people than she intended.  She checked on each, and they rested as comfortably as could be expected, except for the sixth bed, which was empty.  Sighing with relief, she saw him in a corner, trying to fix one of the time capsules that had been found.  The sixth Time Lord saw her and acknowledged her with a slight nod.

Breathing easier, Ada made her way to the darkened priory.  It appeared to be deserted, except for a flickering light in one far room, on the same level as her bedroom.  Her curiosity piqued, she let herself into the kitchen and softly shut the door behind her, making almost no noise. 

Honed over long years of practice, Ada slowed her hearts and slipped between shadows of the darkened priory.  It was far from abandoned—she could hear three heartbeats clearly—but it was darkened because those still within had been occupied for some time and had neglected to turn on the lights in the lower parts.  Without the special clothing that made her blend in with the background of whatever she stood against, she felt slightly exposed, but also confident that nobody could even tell that she was there.  Her family had been the finest assassins on Gallifrey for good reason, even though she hadn’t practiced the family profession in quite some time.  At the foot of some stairs, she listened.  One heartbeat was considerably faster than the pair of heartbeats she knew to listen for.  There were only two people in the priory, aside from herself.

Undetected, she climbed the staircase that led to the upper rooms.  Both bedrooms stood empty and dark, but a third room was securely shut.  From the crack underneath the door, she saw a flickering light within.  Only breathing when absolutely necessary, she crouched down in front of the door and peered through the old keyhole.

Within, she saw two people seated on mats on the floor and facing the wall opposite of the door.  Between them and the door, in the center of the room, was a low table with a collection of various lit candles on top of it, the only light in the room.  On each of the mats was a person, one considerably taller than the other, as they sat side by side facing the wall.  The Doctor was instantly recognizable, even though the coat of his suit was elsewhere and Ada only saw his back.  She—like others of her people—knew when they were around other Time Lords.  The scent of the other person in the room—a female—was completely different and exotic.  Alien

Curiosity burned within Ada, although she didn’t dare enter the room for fear of detection.  She intently observed the activities within the room. And leaning closer, she pressed her eye to the keyhole as there was movement within.

The Doctor bowed low, and returned to his seated position.  She watched his shoulders move, as he took a deep breath and then slowly exhaled.  Ada could tell from the shadows in front of him that he held his hands about even with his hearts and palms upward, a gesture of openness.  What happened next made Ada nearly lose her balance, as she crouched in front of the keyhole.

The Doctor began to recite—in Old High Gallifreyan, no less—the private dedication that all Time Lords were obligated to make regularly as Time Lords.  Ada felt her jaw fall open, as the Doctor offered himself to time.  Her awe and wonder at the sheer power and beauty of the Doctor’s command of the ancient language changed to a slow burning anger, as she fumed at his audacity to make such a statement in front of a human

When the Doctor had finished, he bowed again and let his action lapse into a calm silence.  The human in the room faced him, as he explained the complicated meditation that would aid her perception of time.  Ada could just see a glint of tears reflected in the candlelight on the human’s face.  A part of Ada’s mind wondered why he was explaining such things to a human with a bit of curiosity, but it was singed away by her anger.  What possible right did the human have to learn such things? 

Ada was so distracted that her only realization that they had finished some time later was a creak upon an oak floorboard.  She jumped backwards into a shadow, hoping that the squeak of the floor in front of the door as she rapidly threw her weight off of it hadn’t registered inside of the room.  Ada held her breath and stopped her hearts, as the human moved past her and down the stairs toward the kitchen.  She knew she hadn’t been seen, at least not by the human.

“You didn’t have to squat out there,” the Doctor called into the hallway in modern Gallifreyan, their common language.  “Much more comfortable, not crouching behind a keyhole, that is.”  He bore no trace of accent from the southern mountains, a subtle touch that conveyed his famed facility with language.

Ada glided from her place in the shadows into the doorway.  Most who became aware of her presence generally didn’t live long enough to address her.

“I wouldn’t worry about your prowess,” the Doctor continued.  “You’re very good, I’ll grant you that, but I’ve had a bit of experience with your kind.  You could say I know what to look for.”

“What were you doing with that human?”  Ada demanded.

The Doctor scowled at her.  “Are the Patrexeans so lax at their Academy that they don’t learn basic time perception techniques?”

“You’re actually training a human?”

“I don’t believe I’m under any obligation to explain myself to someone several centuries my junior.”

“Why?”

“Why what?”  the Doctor countered.  “Why am I training a human? Her name’s Maggie, by the way.  She’s nice.  You’d like her.  Or why do I not need to justify myself to one not on the High Council, nor even a Cardinal of my Chapter?”

“Why are you teaching our secrets to a human?”  Ada managed to ask.  Her anger turned to dismay with an edge of hurt.  Her stomach growled angrily, interrupting their argument and betraying her.

The Doctor studied her for a moment, almost as if he were lost in thought.  “Follow me,” he said.

“What do you want in your omelet?”  a voice from downstairs yelled.

“I’ll be down in a mo’,” the Doctor yelled back.  “Coming?”

Ada’s stomach gurgled once more.  “You want me to meet her?”

“No, I want you to eat dinner with us.”

Ada followed the Doctor hesitantly down the creaking stairs—she didn’t bother to shift her weight so that the stairs were silent, since the Doctor made enough noise bounding down them for two Judoon, much less two Time Lords.  They moved through the darkened priory, past a parlor with faded furniture, and into a kitchen that was warm with the glow of incandescent lights and cooking.  A porcelain statue of a child in green robes held up a few cookbooks on the corner.  The proportions of the statue were all off—if a child tried to wear a crown like that, its neck would snap off, Ada thought to herself.  And the robes it wore struck her as being cheap and tacky, not at all regal or dignified. 

Ada looked from the counter closest to her to the table next to the door, underneath a window adorned with short avocado-colored curtains that clashed horribly with the dark peach painted walls.  On top of the table, a gaudy resin statue of a man in robes with an exposed, flaming heart weighed down a moderate stack of unread mail and catalogs.  Horrified at both the subject matter and presentation, Ada wondered how a human was supposed to survive with internal organs exposed, much less on fire.  Looking closer, she saw a wreath of thorns encircling the man’s heart.  There also appeared to be gaping wounds on the man’s hands and feet.  She resolved to ask the Doctor about it later, but the human’s voice snapped her attention away from the statue.

“There’s only onion, peppers, mushroom, and cheese,” Margaret said to the Doctor.  “Hope vegetarian’s okay for you.  Friday, so you know Mike won’t have any meat.”

Neat piles of chopped vegetables were mounded into bowls, and an entire carton of eggs was cracked into a larger bowl that Margaret—the human Ada had seen with the Doctor—was beating vigorously with a whisk. 

“And you shouldn’t either,” the Doctor said with a wink.

“Says the pagan,” Margaret retorted.  “Who’s your friend?” 

Margaret was still young—although Ada couldn’t be certain of human ages.  She was shorter than either the Doctor or Ada, with shoulder-length brownish hair that was pulled into a ponytail at the nape of her neck.  From the way she moved, Ada thought Margaret was either a dancer or an athlete.  She still retained a hint of the inner radiance of their previous meditation session.

“Ada, of the House of Jade Dreamers,” Ada offered, using the shortened form of her name.  She didn’t expect a human to be able to understand the significance of her full name.

The Doctor whistled in admiration.  “Now that’s a House you don’t hear of much.  Goes back quite a long time,” he explained to Margaret. 

Margaret grinned at Ada and bowed slightly, threatening to slosh her bowl of eggs, then gave the proper greeting to one of a higher rank.  For the second time that night, Ada gawped at Margaret in shock.

The Doctor, oblivious to the exchange, rummaged around in a cabinet and pulled out a pan.  He tested the heft of it while asking, “How are the headaches?”

“They come and go,” Margaret admitted.  “I’ll get a bad one in any big lecture.  Exam days, and I’ve got a migraine.”

“Not getting any better?”

“Hard to tell if it’s allergies or—”

“—Improper shielding technique,” Ada completed.  “The human is telepathic?  And time-sensitive?”

“I taught her myself!”  the Doctor snapped.

“The human has a name,” Margaret interjected.

“Well if she’s telepathic enough to be getting headaches in crowded areas, that’s poor technique,” Ada said.

The Doctor studied Margaret for a moment after setting the pan down on the stove on an unlit burner.  “Let me take a peep,” he said to Margaret.

“It’s nothing,” she muttered.

“Maggie…”  the Doctor gently chided. 

With a sigh more from discomfort at being put on the spot, Margaret heavily sank into a nearby chair at the Formica and chrome table.  The Doctor dragged another chair directly opposite Margaret and placed his fingertips on either side of her face, at her temples.  Margaret rolled her eyes at the affair, but closed them shortly after the Doctor closed his.

“Let me in, Maggie,” the Doctor said, then lapsed into silence.

“You’re making way too big a deal out of this,” Margaret said.

The back door to the kitchen opened, and Mike walked through, pulling the door shut behind him, as a cold draft swirled around and rustled the mail on the table.

“Am I interrupting?”  he asked.

“Nope,” the Doctor said without looking up or opening his eyes.  “Now this is interesting.”

“What’s wrong?”  Mike asked, concern visible in his face.

The Doctor became fully conscious and planted a kiss on Margaret’s forehead.  “Absolutely nothing.  Maggie’s telepathy is developing more rapidly than it would among one of us.  Well, comparatively speaking.  Someone about her age in the Academy would’ve had years worth of training by now.”

Ada studied Margaret intently, a mere inches from her, her head cocked at an awkward angle.  “Mutation or inter-species breeding?  I didn’t think the latter was possible.  Oh wait, you had a half-human great-grandson, didn’t you?”

Mike winced at Ada’s mention.  If she noticed his glare to change the subject of the Doctor’s family, she never noticed.  The Doctor said nothing, but focused his attention on the cooking.

“Of course I can’t imagine anyone wanting to have sex with a human,” Ada shuddered.

“Er, other humans?”  Mike volunteered.

“How old are you now, Maggie?”  the Doctor asked, quickly trying to change the subject.

“Almost nineteen,” she replied.

“That explains it.  Your brain isn’t fully developed until your twenties.”

“Would stand to reason,” Ada said.  “Instead of decades for telepathy to develop, it’s taking months.  No wonder the shielding we learned is inadequate.  She’s not learning it fast enough.”

“When are you due back at university?”  the Doctor asked.

“Another two weeks,” Margaret said.  “I’m spending the next few days at my mom’s, though.” 

Margaret’s mood visibly darkened, and as Ada was going to ask, she noticed a subtle glance from the Doctor.  Whatever the matter was, it wasn’t something she was supposed to question further.  Mike sighed heavily and began to say something, but didn’t.

“You catching the late train to Jersey?”  Mike finally asked.

“Yeah,” Margaret responded, as the Doctor slid the first omelet out of the pan and onto a plate he put in front of Margaret. 

“What will you have in yours?”  he asked Ada.

“Whatever is fine,” Ada said.

“Right then, one omelet coming up,” the Doctor said, as he sloshed some more eggs into the pan.

“Toast?”  Margaret asked, as she slid a plate of freshly-buttered slices at Ada.  Margaret grabbed two, and happily munched away on one. 

Ada studied the amount of food on Margaret’s plate, and mentally did the calculations as to how many calories the food contained and compared it to what was optimal for a human.  In the back of her mind she wondered if Margaret had some sort of strange metabolic disease.

“You getting enough to eat?”  Mike asked, breaking the silence.

“Yup. Fortunately my meal plan is one thing they pay for,” Margaret answered while coming up for air.  For Ada’s benefit, she added, “There’s like no scholarship money for women in hockey.  Not like the NHL and men’s hockey.  You need to eat during the season, you know?”

“I wish you didn’t have to work so hard, working two jobs,” Mike said.  “You need time to sleep and rest, too, you know?”

Margaret just shrugged.

Quieter, Mike said, “You know, you don’t have to go to Jersey, if you don’t want to…”

The mood of the room completely changed.  Ada, used to reading such things, looked up from the steaming omelet the Doctor placed in front of her.  Her curiosity was aroused at what wasn’t being said among the Doctor, Mike, and Margaret.  She glanced at the Doctor, and he shook his head at her when Mike and Margaret weren’t looking.  These humans were strange to her, but she understood the language of people hiding secrets.  Secrecy, intrigue, and the like were things Ada had known from a very young age.

Margaret burped loudly at the completion of her omelet, just as Mike and the Doctor were eating theirs.  Ada jumped at the sudden interruption.

“Bless you,” Mike quipped.

“I’ll take that as a compliment,” the Doctor said between mouthfuls.

“I should go pack,” Margaret said, her mood visibly darkening once more. 

As Margaret disappeared upstairs, Mike quietly said, “I know she’s an adult, but I worry, you know?”

The Doctor said nothing, but squeezed his arm in understanding. 

Ada sat and observed the Doctor and Mike after Margaret went upstairs.  Both were uncharacteristically quiet, and extending her senses only slightly, she could tell that no telepathy was being used.  Finally, Margaret’s footsteps banged down the stairs. 

“I’ll be off, then,” Margaret said.

“You need a lift?”  the Doctor asked.

“Naw, I’ll be fine.  I don’t mind the train,” Margaret said.  “Nice meeting you,” she said to Ada.

Ada smiled and waved.  When the door shut, and Ada couldn’t hear Margaret’s walking outside, she slipped after Margaret, disappearing into the dark.  She walked along the sidewalk, following Margaret’s footsteps in the light scattering of snow, but remembered her time capsule waiting for her.  Ada studied the direction Margaret had walked, hyper-aware of every little sound and movement around her.  Then, her mind made up, Ada walked to the parish hall.
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