Lurky McLurklurk (ionlylurkhere) wrote,
Lurky McLurklurk

Long post is long

Results from that fic commentary meme:

livii wanted Going Forward in All Her Beliefs, which I wrote for her in last year's rose_lives ficathon. The exact prompt was "'I save planets, mostly'; an all-encompassing sense of bravery; and girls with guns. I'm happy with any new or old skool characters you want to use; het, femslash or gen; and would be excited to get post-Doomsday fic but am happy with any time period, really." It was very early on in my planning processes that I decided to turn all of that up to 11, which is basically where the whole story comes from:

* * *

Ready, Rose?

She could see Mickey through the diamondsteel window of the airlock, one finger pressed to his left ear, lips moving soundlessly.

Why do you always do that? she asked him as she activated her collar, forcefield helmet shimmering into place around her head.

Do what?

Pretend it's a radio. She smiled at him.

Because the thought that my brain is full of alien nanotechnology making me effectively telepathic really creeps me out. So thanks for reminding me. Now are you ready?

Rose gave him a thumbs up to match the ones that Dot and Izzy had been holding up patiently for over a minute now. Mickey thumped the switch that made the floor start to retract.

The planet seemed huge, filling most of their vision, yet they were high enough up to see its surface curving away at one side.

I hadn't quite realised how strongly this story sets out its exuberant technofetishistic SFnal stall from the very beginning, between the diamondsteel, the force-helmet and the nanites (which are probably the most important thing to establish, and I'm pleased I did it with Rose/Mickey banter).

Now, Rose said to her two teammates, and they jumped.

I am in love with the idea of jumping from orbit generally (sad confession time: this is because of a really, really bad episode of Voyager that I can't even remember the name of, but it was the one where B'Elanna was feeling all suicidal after they got back in touch with the Alpha Quadrant and discovered the Maquis had been wiped out), so I was pleased to use it. It does provide a handy opportunity to shoehorn in backstory (definitely one of my main writing tics, the alternation between present and past leading up to the big event, though this story hasn't got nearly as many tics as Turn of the Universe, so I shall save most of the discussion of that for the next commentary).

The fall was slow at first, the planet only gradually growing larger beneath them. Rose turned to either side. McShane was grinning, Sinclair wearing the same look of grim determination as ever. She never spoke about what had happened at Lumic's prototype labs in Stockbridge, but Rose knew that Izzy had only escaped, only been able to alert the Preachers to what was going on, by pretending to have died already. Rose found it hard to imagine what it must have been like to lie absolutely still, listening to the blood-curdling screams of her friends as they were cyberised. Found it even harder to imagine when she thought that the process had been even more brutal and drawn-out in the early stages of development.

Dot McShane and Izzy Sinclair are, of course, the Zeppelin-world-versions of Ace and Izzy from the DWM comics, who I'd only discovered and fallen instantly in love with a few months before writing this. They're the main ones of the many, many old/middle school characters I put in. (The original version had pretty much everyone who'd be of a vaguely appropriate age when Rose was doing her trawl, but I thinned them out a bit for the sake of sanity. They're all still on board Torchwood Five in my head, though.)

Glancing above, she caught the sleek outline of Torchwood Five, discernible only by the absence of stars in the patch of sky it occupied. Their ship, their temporary home, their embassy to the rest of the universe.

Rose felt doubly responsible for her crew. It had been she would had put them in harm's way in the first place: convincing her father to support her project to widen Torchwood's recruiting pool, identifying each of them in painstaking searches through reports of exceptional individual actions during the Cyber-crises, tracking each one down personally and persuading them to join the organisation. And it had been she who had brought them here, so far from home.

I am still very fond of this idea, not just as an excuse for putting all the alt-companions in, but because it feels right. It's what Rose would do, and the people who in our universe got their inner awesome triggered by the Doctor got it done by the rather more traumatic events they experienced instead.

It was over a year now. Fourteen months since the Special Ops division had discovered the seemingly derelict ship. Fourteen months since Rose's innocent brush against a console had reactivated the systems and catapulted them two spiral arms spinward of Earth. Fourteen months of learning to think in such wholly outrageous terms about place and distance. Fourteen months in an alien spaceship whose only navigational control they'd been able to work out seemed to be the "take us to the next planet in trouble" button, all the while trying to get back to Earth. Fourteen months that, Rose was sure, would have sent them all stark staring mad, if they hadn't had each other.

Another comics-y thing I had only recently discovered at the time of writing was Green Lantern, and this is definitely a Green Lantern spaceship, if they needed fiddly things like spaceships (blah blah Abin Sur hilariously patched and patched again origin story blah blah blah). I came up with it as a way of literalising saving-planets-mostly, but as soon as I saw the similarities I decided this in my head. (But then I've also been known to play Knights of the Old Republic II with the express intention of getting all the Jedis a green lightsaber and robes, so I may be a little obsessed.)

Sometimes she wondered if they were all stark staring mad, and just hadn't noticed.

The light around them changed subtly, the deep midnight blue of the uppermost atmosphere. Rose saw McShane's ponytail whipped up suddenly by wind as she allowed the tiniest fraction of the air around them to percolate through her fieldsuit. It was behaviour like this that really tended to make Rose worry about their sanity levels, until she remembered that McShane had always been this way. She'd blown up two Cyber-factories with her homemade explosives, and both times she'd stayed on the scene until she was sure the job was done.

You may have noticed before, but I ♥ Ace. SO HARD.

Farspeak voices began to filter through from the bridge. Trajectory matches perfectly. That was Jake. No unexpected meteorological events.

Obviously, I'm not going to let Mickey go anywhere without Jake.

Confirmed. This universe's Sarah Jane had never been a journalist, but Rose had discovered she still had that urge to double check everything. Bang on target, Rose.

The target was the Hegemonarch's Palace, a mile-high spire erected by the dictator as a monument to nothing more than his own hubris. It was protected at ground level by a gigantic, sprawling fortress -- more a complex of fortresses really, stretching for ten miles around, an ugly scar of straight lines and harsh angles on the planet's sinuous surface only just becoming visible as they plunged into the stratosphere. But through some quirk of culture or history the people of this world had never even reached orbit, for all their high technology. The Torchwood Five crew had spent considerable time debating how this could have happened, but no explanation had seemed fully satisfactory. But whatever the reason, the practical result was that the Hegemonarch had never considered the need for defence against assault from above. Once the rebels they'd made contact with had overcome their own two-dimensional biases and realised this, the solution had become clear.

I'm quite fond of this bit, for almost being proper sci-fi (lazily hinted-at weird alien cultures FTW) but mostly because I love making up weird leader titles. Back when I tried to write original fic I delighted in coming up with them. My favourite that's still never seen the light of day is "Idiosyncrat".

Jake spoke again. Commence deceleration in three ... two ... one ... Now.

As fast as thought, their antigrav boots engaged and began to apply enough counter force to bring them to a stop exactly at the designated coordinates. Rose saw McShane checking the readouts on her plasma cannon, a cube about a foot on each side bristling with dangerous-looking boxy attachments. Izzy reconfirmed the charge levels of her positron pistols. Rose contented herself with feeling the reassuring weight of her rifle strapped to her back. She had stripped and reassembled it three times in the docking bay.

In my original conception, all the shiny tech came with a cost attached, as a kind of no-freebies-without-the-Doctor-around thing. I'm glad I got rid of it because it really didn't fit the mood, but the antigrav boots were one of the main examples, and the cost of them was spectacularly mean. I decided they worked by manipulating Mach's principle and in fact every time you used them they rewrote the history of the universe to obliterate entire superclusters of galaxies on the far side of the universe in order to have the desired effect. Like I said, spectacularly mean. (Obviously, Rose didn't know this! She just thought she'd picked up some nifty tech somewhere.)

The spire itself was just coming into view now, feeble against the immensity of the sky, for all it looked imposing from the planetside perspective. Am I going to have that window, Bush? Although the tower wasn't secured against fliers, it did have a forcefield to keep the high altitude winds at bay.

And this is me desperately patching my own story, because I'd come up with the force field bit before the 2-d bit, and was too fond of it not to drop it.

Of course you are. Mel was remarkably good at inflecting her farspeak, and sounded positively snappy. The bug's working perfectly.

The farspeaking nanites originally played a far more pivotal role, and it's one that I feel rather sheepish owning up to. livii specified no first person narration, and I was sorely tempted to do second person instead, because that's just the way my mind works (I quickly talked myself out of it, but it is where some major components of the story originated). The gimmick was going to be that the nanites are more conscious than Rose and co knew, and were observing them throughout, recording their actions and reactions in second person: it was going to skip from character to character as they watched Rose. (So not just second person, but multiple second person.) And at the end it was going to turn out that they were using Torchwood Five's journey as a transmission vector to infect as many planets as they could, ready to carry out their vague unspecified masterplan -- this was the other big tech-with-a-cost thing.

Planting the bug -- really a distributed subset of the consciousness of a robot called Kamelion they'd encountered early on in their travels and who had willingly come with them -- had been far too much fun. Rose, Mel and Trix, their undercover specialist, had infiltrated the fortress complex disguised as maintenance specialists and planted it close enough to the forcefield control for it to worm its way into the right subsystems. This was what was now allowing Mel to manipulate the interference patterns of the generators and create a hole for them to fly through.

Sad-on-many-levels confession time: I'm an arch-arch-rationalist, but I do secretly-a-bit believe in the curse of Kamelion, and I was a bit scared of using him here, even though if it does exist it almost certainly doesn't apply to fanfic. Trix (the last of the EDA companions) on the other hand, I had no problem using, because she's great. Fandom does not give her nearly enough love.

As they slowed to a hover directly opposite the grand window of the Throne Room, Mel interpolated a false-colour image into their heads up displays. Rose saw a confusing blur of traffic light colours representing the forcefield's strength -- little splotches of red, amber and green -- until the generators swung round into the correct alignment and a large patch of safe green appeared directly ahead.

Go, Rose said, and all three unconsciously made a kicking motion as they impelled their boots into action. McShane, you're up.

I told you to call me Dot, came the reply, but even as she broadcast the thought, she brought the plasma cannon to bear and shot a bolt of blue fire that shattered the stained glass window into a million fragments.

Dot's gun, by the way, is the BFG3000 from Doom, but I changed the colour of its plasma bolt from green to blue in a vain attempt to hide the ripoff.

The trio flew into the throne room directly behind the explosion of glass, before the Hegemonarch or any of his high-powered but ultimately ornamental guardbots had time to react. Izzy scrambled the circuits of all the drones within a second, while Rose unslung her rifle and aimed it squarely between the tyrant's eyes.

Everything was going perfectly.

"Hello again, Miss Tyler," said a voice from behind the throne, and a cowled figure walked out to stand next to the ruler, hints of golden skin visible beneath the dark folds.

"You!" Rose breathed, the first word she'd spoken out loud since the operation had started. It was Ortisio, a strange creature with near-mystical abilities the Torchwood Five crew had encountered several times, most recently on Simmina, where he'd been trying to manipulate both sides of a cold war into a full-scale confrontation for little reason beyond his own amusement.

Bringing in a recurring antagonist was a big part of trying to establish that this is just one small slice out of Rose's overall adventures. I'm quite proud of Ortisio, though his picture-jumping ability is fairly obviously equal parts the Shape from Sapphire and Steel extended to more than photos and Jasper-Fforde-style shenagigans transferred to another medium.

"Me indeed. I've been the power behind the Hegemonarch's throne for quite some time now."

"I don't think you're meant to take it that literally," Rose replied.

The Hegemonarch spluttered. "You know this ... this ... terrorist?" he demanded of his advisor.

"I'm afraid to say we've crossed paths -- and swords -- before. I'd suggest you surrender now, to be honest."

"The Hegemonarch never surrenders! I shall fight to the death! I--"

--am a cheap pantomime villain, but he was never the point of the story.

"OK, have it your way." Rose pulled the trigger and the Hegemonarch disappeared in the broad beam of light.

Our friends confirm receipt of the package, Sarah farspoke.

Rose smiled. It was nice to be the one using the beam-weapon-that's-really-a-teleport trick rather than falling victim to it. The rebels were very keen that the Hegemonarch stand trial for his crimes, that the new regime should commence with the openness and fairness that his had lacked.

The real story that I haven't mentioned yet is how awesome wishfulaces's beta was, and it was particularly helpful here at the ending. Originally, the guards were living beings, and Rose just shoots the Hegemonarch. I did consider trying to capture him, but reasoned that since I was ending on the entire tower vaporising it was a bit of a waste of time. Aces pointed out that this was all a bit bloodthirsty for DW, and she was dead right. So I did an '80s US TV and turned the guards into robots (I find it intriguing that the BSG remake instantly makes the Cylons have blood and guts, given that they were invented so that the bad guys could be shot without any of that), and used the gun as a teleporter, which as the story points out is something Rose has herself experienced, so it shouldn't have taken me nearly so long to think of it. Anyway, the rebels being good upstanding justice-lovers is entirely because of Aces. The other really helpful thing she did was get the tenses straight: it was originally a complete jumble, largely because this was originally written long hand and then typed up, and I tried to convert the tenses on the fly. (Oddly, though, this story doesn't have a bias towards the short end of the sentence-length range, which is usually a key indicator of stories-written-longhand for me. Inasmuch as my pen-hand gets cramped before I get to the end of an overlong bunch of complicated subclauses, but I can type that shit until the cows come home.)

Looking round, Rose saw that Ortisio had disappeared up the spiral staircase at the back of the room. "Well, this changes things," she said to her compatriots. "Dot, can you set the charge by yourself?"

"'Course I can."

"And you're sure you can make it vaporise completely? No civilian casualties below?" They'd agreed with the rebels that the total destruction of the top of the Palace would send a resounding signal to the population at large that the reign of terror was over.

"I may not be a professional, but if I'm an amateur I'm an Olympic-standard one," McShane grinned.

It's a bit unfair, given that this is supposed to be a Rosefic, that Ace gets all the best lines. But to be honest I don't care.

"Good. Izzy--"

"There's going to be about a thousand dronesoldiers here any second. I'll cover McShane."

"Dot," Dot growled, even as she was unpacking explosives.

This is supposed to be Izzy/Dot subtext, though I think it's very hidden.

"OK, good, good teamwork guys. I'll go after Laughing Boy."

"Eight minutes," Dot warned.

Rose automatically subtracted ninety seconds, (yet more Ace-loving) and headed off after Ortisio. She finally caught up with him in a small circular room -- an entire floor of the Palace as it tapered almost to nothingness -- full of tapestries. He'd removed his hood to reveal his bald golden head, and was staring intently at the pictures around him.

"Planning your next holiday?" she said sarcastically. Ortisio had the strange, incomprehensible power to travel into the scene depicted in any picture he could see, as long as it had been based in reality. Liz had spent months trying to untangle how it might work, without even the tiniest hint of success.

Liz is the last companion to make an appearance. So in total we've got Rose, Mickey, Jake, Ace, Izzy, SJS, Mel, Liz, Kamelion, and Trix. And as I said, there were originally more.

"Did I mention, it also travels in time?" Ortisio said. "This knack of mine. I can go to when the picture was made as well as where. If you've got anything from home, I could take you back there -- all of you -- before you'd even left. Think of it ..."

One of my cheap tricks key techniques is quoting canon like it's going out of fashion (The Moment Has Been Prepared For is pretty much nothing but), but this one works really well.

But Rose was no longer listening, thunderstruck by the realisation that the echo in his words was deliberate. "How are you in my head?" she demanded.

"Oh," he said. "Of course. I upgraded my nanites recently. They now have -- what would your Bush girl call it? -- administrator privileges."

"Get out of my brain," Rose said, voice level and deadly calm.

"But it's so fascinating in there!" Ortisio protested. "From another universe entirely, eh?" He paused. "The offer was genuine, you know. I'd happily take you all back to that little planet of yours, if you'll just show me a picture of it ..."

"And the only price is letting you loose on Earth? I don't think so."

"Well, that's what makes you the hero, I suppose." He smiled, a thin expression that went nowhere near his eyes, which were still riveted on the scenes around them. "I trust you won't be offended if I say that I hope I don't see you again."

And with that, he vanished, the only trace of his ever having been there a few tiny extra yellow stitches in the background of one of the tapestries.

This is an image that I'm particularly fond of.

It wouldn't take him long to get back to somewhere more to his tastes, Rose knew. Ortisio carried a little flipbook of potential destinations with him at all times. Going into the tapestry had been grandstanding, a piece of theatre for her benefit.

Which I then go and completely undercut by worrying about the practicalities of it.

One minute, Dot farspoke.

Rose opened the door that led out from the tapestry chamber onto the battlements and engaged the boots, shooting upwards at near maximum velocity. She was three hundred metres above the spire before she even remembered to activate her fieldsuit.

As she looked down, the tower exploded, blossoming into a perfectly symmetrical fireball that, as promised, consumed all the fragments that flew upwards and outwards from the blast.

She felt rather than heard or saw the other two rising up behind her. Nice firework display, Izzy said grudgingly.

Thanks, hon, Dot replied.

Subtext moment number two.

Tyler to Torchwood Five, Rose butted in. Mission very much accomplished. We're coming home.

She always said that, always intended the double meaning, the reinforcement of their hopes to see Earth again.

And they would get home.

But she was damned if she was going to take a shortcut.

I haven't talked about Rose much yet, weirdly. But this is basically pure distilled Rose-in-my-head, just getting on with things without fussing and caring about everyone. It's the Rose we see when she's not being overloaded with shipping, basically. I do like this ending, for the resoluteness. To be honest, this fic could still happen post-JE, if we assume that Handy wasn't around when they found the spaceship.

* * *

and biichan wanted The Turn of the Universe, which is a Martha/Romana fic that I still like a lot, but does illustrate a lot of my worst habits, so I'm going to slag it off quite a lot. But I'm actually quite glad to have a chance to talk about that sort of thing.

Bit of backstory first: this grew partly out of a general desire to write Martha/Romana and partly out of a discussion somewhere, quite probably over in nostalgia_lj's journal, about which of the general types of ending Martha would get. (What we get here is my preferred type, the Steven/Romana/Nyssa/Turlough ending, going off to use all the stuff you've learned on board the TARDIS for good.) I wrote a whole load of it but then it stalled because I hated what I did at the ending. I then posted the first line in a "first lines of unfinished fics" meme, and in_the_end poked me with a stick to finish it, so I did. The fic has of course since been thoroughly Russelled, but meh, who cares? (When it was written all I knew was that there was going to be a Ten/Donna/Martha team for a while. The original writing came some time during S3, because I remember adding the Donna mention.)

Someone somewhere relatively recently (on the anon meme? or elsewhere? I honestly can't remember) pointed out that almost all Who femslash is really about the Doctor. To some extent I think it's inevitable as he's probably what any two given Whoniverse women have in common, but it's definitely an accusation that can be levelled at this one.

* * *

A shadow fell over Martha's table. A cut-glass voice from impossibly deep within it said, "Good evening. I'm told you're the person I'm looking for. Martha Jones?"

It was late, and Martha was tired. All she wanted to have a quiet drink and go home to bed. The regulars (and, so, telepathically, everyone on the planet) knew that this was the seat she used when she didn't want to be disturbed.

And yet ... No one here said "evening", they said "dreamshift". And between the ones who didn't believe in surnames and the ones who still insisted on using embarrassing honorifics every time they addressed her, no one called her "Martha Jones" either. Whoever this was clearly wasn't from around here. Which made them the first outsider to arrive here since Martha herself.

"And yet" is one of my most overused phrases, for sure.

She turned to see who it was. A lady with porcelain skin and pale hair, like a china doll but not so fragile. And eyes that were ... that were ...

Martha looked into her eyes and saw universes.

I'm pleased with the slight alienness of Romana here. I'm very keen on properly alien Time Lords, rather than just human-plus.

* * *

Romana looked back and saw the damage that the Doctor had done. Not intentionally, at least not in this case, she decided. Just the singe marks on the wings of the moth that drew too close to the flame. The madness of the mortal who got the briefest glimpse of the god's true face.

And here is the first of many bits of being-about-the-Doctor, in that Romana is out to fix all the things he's broken and is judgey of him. This is basically the default position of post-Time-War Romana in my head. (I have a lot of unfinished Romana fic on my hard drive, more so than for any other character, because I find her hard, at least like this. Playful fun S17 Romana is relatively easy, especially when paired with the Doctor as then you've not got the Time Lord/human disparity to negotiate, so you can dumb them both down a bit without anyone noticing, but I think I've only written her for the kink meme. At one point I was planning a whole series of fics during S3 where Romana was there just behind the Doctor, patching things up, but I didn't get anywhere with it.)

But underneath all that she saw the wonder, still intact after all this time. "You're ..." Martha tailed off.

"Yes," Romana said with an infinitesimal smile. "My name's Romana. And as it happens, I'm not just a Time Lord. I'm the last of the Time Lords."

Martha spluttered. "Yeah, right. I can think of ..." she counted on her fingers "... at least four others."

This was quite an important part of the fic, for me. One last Time Lord is one thing, two is just about OK, but any more than two is just "many", really, and making Romana exactly number three would have been a bit too pat. Plus I always like hinting at larger things.

"Renegades, all of them. The Doctor included." Romana straightened her back. "I am the last keeper of the true legacy of Rassilon."

"And then there's all those creeps in Mictlan," Martha continued, "though you probably don't count them either, do you? Wave your hands around and talk very fast about antiparallel space-time continua, retrospective reifications and things that never happened, except they did, kind of maybe sort of. That's what the Doctor did, anyway."

Romana shuddered at the memory of her own encounters with the Celestis, somehow still surviving in the pocket universe they'd evacuated to in the build-up to the War Before The War. If this human had gone through anything remotely similar it was no wonder she seemed so on edge. It was a wonder she seemed anything at all.

Yay book!canon. In particular, yay Milesian book!canon. (You should all give lots of money to Mad Norwegian and Random Static, guys, the FP books are the best things evah.) Anyway, this is the first example of one of my main tics, which is very present in this fic, which is gratuitous obscure-canon-referencing. I like to think it doesn't lose anything for the people who don't get it, but this is probably a lie. I'm just too in love with it not to do it. Just to be majorly contradictory, though, this is Romana II who has been in E-Space the whole time; at least it is in my head, though I think the fic is vague about anything other than the fact it's Romana II not III. Ah, who cares? Nothing is true, everything is permitted.

"Why are you here, anyway?" Martha demanded. "Crestopaloria IV's a long way off anyone's beaten track."

"I came looking for you." Martha's expression was sceptical. "The advances you've made here in recombinant meta-genomics are astounding."

"For a simple 21st century human who used to think of DNA as a double helix, you mean?"

Again, hinting at larger things. I have no idea what DNA is if it's not a double helix, but that's kind of the point. Maybe it has extra bits of structure we don't understand yet in a submolecular-level version of Mimsy Wore the Borogoves.

"For anyone. Even, dare I say it, for my people."

Martha's eyes narrowed. "What do you want?"

"I can't keep Rassilon's legacy all by myself. Not indefinitely." She paused. "I'm going to rebuild Gallifrey."

Martha's eyes widened again. "And you want to use our recombination engines to populate it?"

Ah, eyes! I am forever describing people's reactions in terms of their eyes, and what they're looking at, and Martha getting this treatment twice in two lines of her dialogue is probably the worst example. It's weird, because I don't think of myself as particularly visually oriented in the grand scheme of things, and I have often been told that I don't make enough eye contact IRL.

"The idea is ... not without precedent."

Loooooooooooooooooooms! Actually, I really love this line because it sort of hints at the canonicity debates, or, in-story, that maybe Looms only come from one version of Gallifrey's history

"Why should I let you?"

Romana put as much earnestness and sincerity into her voice as she knew how. "Because you know, deep down, that this isn't how the universe is meant to be. It shouldn't be a fragile bundle of events, held together by frayed causality and fading hope, lurching from one crisis to the next. The universe is falling apart, Martha. The Doctor can't keep it all together on a wing and a prayer forever. Nor can I. But the Time Lords, as a whole, could. Just by being there, at the centre of time, watching."

I still think of the Time Lords as intrinsically noble in the final analysis. A lot of this comes down to the Minyos backstory at the very beginning of Uncle Terry's Underworld Target.

"Didn't work out so well the last time, did it? What did you do in the Time War, Romana?"

Romana looked away. "All right, then. You should let me use your breeding engines because in exchange I'll give you the one thing you want most of all."

"And what's that then?"

"A lift home."

* * *

The reason for all the section breaks is that I'm constantly POV-switching, which is another of my bad habits, particularly in smut. To some extent it's because I need to convince myself that both parties are up for it. This is nowhere near as bad as Playing Doctors and Nurses, in which Martha and Rose finish each other's descriptive sentences, but it's pretty bad.

The lab was dark, and deserted except for a few robots maintaining their infinitely patient vigil over the Schrödinger experiments, tiny bubbles of normative probability bulkheaded against the planet's wild magic by arcane technology Martha didn't even pretend to understand. They were relics, well-preserved but inching ever closer to obsolescence; almost all the others on the planet had been decommissioned, the population only too glad to see the back of their terrifying saviours. Martha led Romana past them, suppressing a shiver as she thought about how close she, the Doctor and Donna had come to ruining everything based on their initial misapprehensions.

When the TARDIS had arrived on Crestopaloria, the robots had been vital to the people's survival, rebuilding them painfully every morning after the mutagenic terrors of the night. At first, they'd taken the screams as a sign people were being tortured, not rescued. But now Martha's work had allowed the people to rebuild themselves into a metastable form, one that flowed with the strange tides of quantum probability that washed across the planet without losing their individual identities. She, like the Doctor and Donna, had been immune -- some side effect of TARDIS travel, or so the Doctor said.

I am quite pleased with this little bit of SFnal back story, mostly because it arrived in my head almost fully formed and mostly because it's quantum weirdness without too many overtones of dodgy mysticism. Along with the Going Forward ... it's one of the most SFish stories I've done.

She wondered what else had changed about her, as a result of her journeys in space and time. Perhaps everything. Perhaps nothing.

I should probably have picked up on this more; it is something that canon and fandom both tend to brush under the carpet.

They reached the far end of the lab and the recombination device. The product of years of work, years in which she'd been woken every morning by the agonised cries of the Remaking. The single artefact that had turned Crestopaloria from a nightmare world into a dreamlike paradise. She had thought that that was enough, that she had done her bit. Now Romana said her invention could save the universe.

"Amazing, that you were able to build such a thing here." Romana was stroking its smooth metal sides in a gesture horrifyingly reminiscent of the way the Doctor used to handle the TARDIS. "I wonder if the probability fields helped somehow." Romana caught Martha's expression. "Not that that would have been any major effect. All down to you, Martha, absolutely."

I like this, it feels very in character for Romana.

"So ...?"

"It's exactly what I need. Seed it with Time Lord biodata and it would weave wonders. Oh, such wonders, Martha ..." Romana's voice drifted away into soft breaths as she disappeared into private thoughts.

* * *

Romana's eyes stayed fixed on the recombination chamber. For all that it would upset Martha to be told, she had reinvented the Loom. Crudely, certainly, but some of the details were so exact as to make it an inescapable conclusion that she had been guided by something, some combination of this planet's unique conditions and whatever strange effect it was that bent the timelines to reproduce Time Lord artefacts.

Romana had found such things throughout the history of the universe, in dozens of unlikely contexts. Panatropic networks on Xeraphas. Timeonic fusion devices in the armouries of the Wrarth. Dimensionally transcendental chambers on Manussa (even if the locals did think it was all done with mirrors). Sometimes she thought of it as a higher order conservation law that even she could barely sketch the parameters of. Other times she felt it was as though the Time Lords were too big an idea to be forgotten completely. As though the universe itself wanted Gallifrey to be rebuilt.

This is probably really my favourite bit of this fic, sadly enough. It has a nice hinting-at-larger-things-ness to it, and it's full of gratuitous technobabbley canon references ("panatropic networks" are what the computers on Gallifrey run on, originally mentioned in The Deady Assassin, I think; Xeraphas is where the Xeraphim from Time Flight came from; dimensional transcendentalism should need no introduction and Manussa is from Snakedance. You may notice a slight Five-era bias. My favourite line though is "timeonic fusion devices in the armories of the Wrarth", for marrying the Gallifrey audios (which probably didn't happen to this Romana), which is where the fusion devices come from, and the DWM strips, where the Wrarth are a bit like the Judoon in new school.

But Romana's mission had long since expanded from her initial desire to be the agent of that restoration. That was really only the largest example of her desire to repair all the things the Doctor had broken, to tidy up the messes he left behind and called "better". The planets. And the people. People like Martha. That was what she needed to address now.

This reeks to me of a desperate attempt to get back to the actual porn, rather than the canon-porn, but I don't know how transparent it is to anyone else.

"So, how did you end up here?" she asked her.

"I came with the Doctor, in the TARDIS. Obviously."

Romana felt the urge to respond in kind, meet sarcasm with sarcasm, rising within her; an easy, familiar habit. She resisted it. "I meant, why did you stay?"

* * *

Why had she stayed? It was a good question, and one she had asked herself many times in the early days and long, hallucinogenic nights. The planet could not affect her directly, but somehow it conjured visions, of all that she had left behind, that she had lost forever. So she had her answer down pat now, had spent so long convincing herself of it that she was sure she could convince anyone else. "Because the people here needed help. Help I could give them. It was the right thing to do."

"So, not all planets can be saved by reversing the polarity and inciting an overnight revolution after all," Romana said.

I will admit to being very pleased with this line, as a critique of the Doctor. Though of course it is still All About Him.

Martha felt her lips pulling themselves into a smile. Why was that such an unfamiliar sensation? "He's still out there somewhere, isn't he?"

"Somewhere." It was Romana's turn to smile slightly.

"Have you seen him?"

"I have," she said. "It didn't go well."

Romana clearly didn't want to go into details. "So how does this work? You take the blueprints and build your own? I can easily download the data structures for you ..."

"I'm afraid I'll need to take the working model. It needs to have arisen from a real timeline. Otherwise it wouldn't be history-proofed. Could be disastrous in the event of any future temporal hostilities. I'm sure you understand."

This is very much inspired by Faction Paradox stuff.

"But you can give it back, right?" Martha said. "Time travel. Go away and spawn a thousand thousand Time Lords and then bring it back here the moment after you left."

"But you don't need it any longer. The dream plague is cured. You cured it."

"Who knows what might happen in the future? We might need it again. And think of the potential for it to help on other-- Oh. That's what this is about. You want a monopoly on the technology."

Intrinsically noble, but also ruthless bastards. I see no real contradiction, but then I like Seven.

"It would seem wise not to allow the less-- less friendly species of the continuum access to its workings. The Sontarans, for instance, could go from pest to menace if they upgraded their cloning vats with this sort of technology."

I think this line was written before we heard anything about Martha v the Sontarans being in S4 -- they're the obvious people to talk about in this context, after all -- but it fits very well. Romana is cutting herself off from saying "lesser species", which is the FP term for everyone who isn't the Houses or the Enemy.

Asking was a courtesy, Martha realised. "I don't really have a choice, do I?" she said.

"I'm afraid not," Romana replied. "But the offer's still open. I can take you back to 21st century Earth. Or any other time period you'd like."

"I don't want to go home, Romana. Or anywhere else. This is my home now, for better or worse. I've built a life here. I have responsibilities I can't run away from. But ..."

This is so Martha, putting everyone else first.

Romana made an encouraging expression.

"... there is something I want that you can give me."


"I would like to ... feel it again. The turn of the universe."

This is, of course, referencing the speech about the Doctor from Human Nature which was all over the S3 trailers albeit delivered by someone else entirely. And it's also using-the-title-within-the-story, which I don't usually do. OTOH normally the title comes last with my fics -- I normally end up with something I'm pleased with, but it can be a long and painful process -- but in this case it was an obvious choice from relatively early on.

And then she kissed her.

And of course Martha's motivation for snogging Romana is that she's a Timey and she has a thing for Timeys after her time with ... the Doctor. For a fic that doesn't feature him at all, it's definitely all about him.

* * *

Romana took a few seconds to puzzle out the ethical calculus of the situation, even as her lips parted in response.

Remember how I said I have to convince myself that all parties are up for it? This next bit is a combination of being chronically unable to do that off the page, and massive, massive cheating by having the Loom influence Romana, kinda sorta maybe.

If she gave Martha what she wanted, would it help? Could it? Or would it be a sticking plaster, the removal of which would make the underlying pain even worse? Did she even have the right to make that choice for Martha? She thought not. But was that just an excuse to avoid making the decision? Or worse, to give in to her own desires? Her mind lapsed into total incoherence as the physical sensations of Martha's lips and hands -- when had there been hands all of a sudden? -- overwhelmed her. The decision was made, but she could not honestly say how.

Romana moved her hands up to hold Martha's head and returned the kiss more actively. Then her hands found Martha's back, stroking down from her shoulders to her hips. They reached inside her jacket and under her top to touch bare skin, soft and warm and unfathomably real. Martha's lips pressed deep into Romana's as her fingers fumbled with the buttons on Romana's high-collared jacket, scrabbling their way down her neck, her collar bone, her sternum until they cupped her breasts. Martha guided them over to one of the medical beds on either side of the recombination device, lying on top of Romana and kissing her again, deeply.

Romana is wearing the Nimon outfit. The collar isn't Gallifreyan levels of high, just high.

As Romana traced delicate patterns on Martha's chest above her, her senses came fully to life. Martha's biodata blossomed at her fingertips. Her past lay open -- unremarkable beginnings, then the strands took the familiarly wild twists and turns that came with travelling the Vortex, then an ugly knot of paradox followed by a brief return to linearity before another tangled whirlwind deposited her here. And hints, dim and imperfect, of her future, of a story whose final chapter was not yet written, that there was more to come than another thirty years of looking after this one place, however noble that might be.

I'm very fond of both this and the next paragraph as both proper-alien and porn-that-isn't-just-tab-A/slot-B. The "ugly knot of paradox" bit is obviously a later interpolation, given that IIRC the first draft was written pre-LotTL.

And as her awareness stretched out in five dimensions, Romana felt too an attenuated echo of the dreaming sentience of the proto-Loom behind her, waiting patiently to fulfil its potentiality. The recombination device was literally pregnant with possibility, its mind filled with the desire to reproduce. Romana knew now how the decision had been made; the Loom's subtle telepathic influence was doubtless responsible for the reflection of its desires in her and Martha's own minds. Probably. (Her awareness began to relocalise, as Martha opened her shirt to reveal bare flesh.) Possibly. (Martha's mouth engulfed one breast.) Not that it mattered now. (The very tip of Martha's tongue snaked out to flick across her nipple.) Not that it mattered in the slightest.

Like I said, I like this for the alienness. I enjoy writing Romana because I can do gratuitous technobabble with her and it's characterisation, not just me forcing you to sit through "how I think the Whoniverse really works". The one time I tried to write Romana I/Romana II, I had one little idea for the smut, and they took 4500 words to get anywhere near it becuase they decided to write an essay between them on parallel universes (Between Inferno and the Time Zero-to-Timeless arc in the EDAs, it is fairly obvious that anything you think you know is wrong, at least about the philosophical implications). Anyway, yeah, Romana is hard, which is why I never normally manage to finish fics with her in, but rewarding, which is why the ones that do have her in are some of my faves of my own stuff.

* * *

Martha felt Romana's skin, soft and cool: her fingers on Martha's breasts, her breasts under Martha's tongue. As Martha teased Romana's nipples into full arousal, she felt her hands move away, and then a solitary finger slipping down to her crotch, insinuating its way between her flesh and the cotton of her knickers. She gasped, and renewed her licking, making long, uncoordinated strokes with her tongue, abandoning technique to instinct, her conscious mind subsumed under the welter of sensations elicited by Romana's steady motion, all the way up the lips of her cunt, a single circle around but never quite touching her clit, and back again and again and again and ...

I have a huge problem with seguing from plot to pronz. A huge problem. It's part of the reason I like writing PWP so much; if it's all there is to the story then it doesn't feel like a jarring shift of tone. And conversely, it's why I give in to the smut-eating asterisks surprisingly often. But when I decide not to do that -- usually because the fic is being written because I want there to be porn of X/Y -- and I've got n-thousand words of plotty stuff and suddenly I'm talking about body parts it always feels a bit weird. I could go very political and talk about how societal discourse makes sex seem like not just another part of life, but I think it's really just my hang-up. The POV change helps here.

After an immeasurable interval marked only by the increasing speed of Romana's movements, she came with a cry that was practically a scream. Her head fell back onto Romana's chest as she took deep breath after deep, shuddering breath, her body slowly recovering from what she was fairly sure was the most incredible orgasm of her life.

"You enjoyed that, then?" said Romana archly.

All Martha could do was nod.

"Good to know."

"Don't worry, I'm going to repay the favour."

"Oh, that's not why I was asking."

"Of course not."

As Martha fully regained her senses, she reached out and began stroking Romana's breasts again, then licking them. She moved down Romana's body, never quite breaking the contact between lips and skin. She swooped down to Romana's navel, then back up to the other breast, then down one side, past her ribcage to the soft expanse of her smooth belly, and finally to her already wet pussy and hardening clit, which she began to lick, stroke after methodical stroke.

* * *

Romana's consciousness collapsed down entirely, concentrating itself into a single point between her legs as the action of Martha's tongue on her clit intensified. She allowed her self-control to slip for a moment, let a single moan escape her mouth. More than enough encouragement, she could tell, for Martha to carry on doing exactly what she was doing. She stroked Martha's hair gently, brushed it away behind her ear, and fondling her cheek with her thumb.

Also, almost all the sex I write is essentially the same, which bothers me a bit when I think about it. It's one reason I like kink, it sort of forces variety.

Just as Romana's arousal rose to a new plateau, she felt Martha's weight shift slightly, a series of little adjustments and fiddlings until suddenly there were two fingers snaking their way inside her, crooked upwards to find the sensitive patch of nerve endings on the front wall of her pussy. Combined with the continuing strokes of Martha's tongue, she quickly felt herself rising above the plateau to a new level of complete ecstasy.

I also tend to worry about the exact vocabulary to use in porn. I am very keen on "cunt" as a good proper Anglo-Saxon word, and find "pussy" a bit weird, to be honest (unless it's an American's POV for some reason), but I try not to be too repetitive using the same noun over and over. Even though I'm long since over the must-not-use-the-names-all-the-time "red-headed witch" thing.

As Romana climaxed, she felt her body go limp, eyes dilating, legs and arms simultaneously heavy as lead and light as air. Martha's head slumped motionless still between her crotch, giving occasional flicks with her tongue to drive her absolutely wild, sending aftershocks spasming through muscles she was no longer sure still existed.

For all that I've been slagging off my sex-writing, I like this orgasm description.

After a minute or so, Martha climbed back up to kiss Romana passionately. Romana returned it eagerly, gratefully.

"So, Romana," she said, drawing out her name as if embarrassed to say whatever was coming next, "I don't suppose you've got a sonic screwdriver?"

"As a matter of fact, I do."

At this news, Martha's eyebrows did something impossibly sexy, and Romana simply had to kiss her again.

And this is another thing where I have trouble writing what I really think. I firmly believe that sex is fun and should be portrayed as such rather than ultra-srs-bsns all the time, but seguing from all this Doctor-angst to vibrator-jokes and the obligatory descriptions of Martha's eyebrows feels a bit odd to me. On the other hand, it's sort of a now they've found each other, they can get over the angst together thing. Maybe.

Actually, yeah, definitely. Originally the fic ended just before this, with them both admitting to not being over the Doctor, and as soon as I'd written that line I put the story away, disgusted with myself for having fallen victim to that. After in_the_end encouraged me to look at it again, it still took a while for me to come up with the present, much more positive ending. So, yeah, that self-justificatory bit I just wrote is what's supposed to be happening, even though it still doesn't feel like it to me.

* * *

Romana was seated opposite Martha in the bar, the first person to occupy that chair in many a long year, tucking into her breakfast. Martha was fairly sure she was only doing it to be polite, didn't really need the nutrition. She knew she was good, but she doubted she was enough to make a Time Lord hungry.

"I take it you'll be going soon?" Martha asked.

Romana didn't respond directly. Instead, she said, "I appreciate your sentiments on the matter, I admire your sense of responsibility, but the people here don't need you any more, not as they once did. You're a figurehead, now, an inspiration. A living legend. But the power of a legend isn't dimmed by its object's absence. If anything it's enhanced."

"Oh, I know that well enough," Martha said, thinking back to her year of storytelling. So long ago now, but the memories so immediate, the scars of seeing the scarred Earth still vivid.

"My offer still stands," Romana said. "I can take you home."

"Don't take me home, Romana," Martha said. She swallowed, summoning up the courage to say the next words. "Take me with you."

Romana smiled, dazzlingly. "I'd been hoping you were going to say that."

while(1) { print "And then they saved the universe. And then they done sex.\n"; }
Tags: doctor who, dvd commentary, writing fic

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