Title: Copper Armour for Miss Jones
Spoilers: S04E12, E13, The Stolen Earth, Journey's End
Summary: Harriet Jones learns that Copper is much, much more valuable than gold.
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She wasn’t dead. Harriet Jones was almost embarrassed about that, given her carefully prepared final words, but she hurt too much to think about the irony.
She wasn’t dead, and she didn’t know where she was, and she certainly didn’t know what she was looking at.
Then the pain weaving a grey veil before her eyes repositioned itself to the small of her back, and the blurred tan and brown pattern above her resolved into the timbers of her front parlour ceiling. She was, she realized, looking up through the sagging and ragged frame of her destroyed parlour floor to that ceiling, looking at – she whimpered, and tensed, waiting for the real final blow.
But the Daleks – goodness, they looked odd from this angle – weren’t moving.
They were, however, shimmering. How unexpected.
The pain in her back flared its way up her spine and down into her legs. That was good, she thought muzzily, it must mean there’s no spinal damage. It wouldn’t hurt so badly if there was any paralysis....the veil descended again and she blacked out.
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“Miss Jones? Madame Prime Minister? Oh, I’m useless at these things ... Harriet, can you hear me?”
Harriet didn’t want to open her eyes for a moment, irrationally afraid that she’d start to hurt again if she did. But he really did need to stop shouting.
“Mr. Copper, you might lower your voice, and avoid attracting unwanted attention from upstairs,” she said faintly, deciding to sneak one eye open to confirm the identity of her companion. Yes, it was Copper, looking somewhat the worse for wear. His tie was askew, he had blood and soot all over his honest, frightened face, and what he’d done to his jacket and trousers didn’t bear thinking about.
“Oh my goodness, you’re alive! Oh, thank heaven!” The smile, though, that was quite something.
“Yes, I’m delighted too, but I rather think we need to be a little less noisy?” She regretted the hiss in her voice, but it couldn’t be helped.
“Oh, you mean the Daleks? Nothing to worry about,” he said airily. “Time locked, the lot of them.” The man sounded like a child who’d just been gifted with a Christmas pony, and if that beam on his face got any brighter, she’d have to shut her eye again.
No, that wouldn’t do. She really had to open the both of them. It was all becoming too intriguing to pass up simply because she didn’t want to feel that impossibly bad pain again. She shifted, and realized that she was no longer lying on her back in a pile of jagged debris. In fact ....
“There you go, Ma'am,” he said, putting a steadying arm about her shoulders as she struggled to get up from a rusty and broken camp bed. She'd forgotten she'd had the thing, she thought with surprise. When the room swam for a moment, and she decided simply sitting up would do for now, she was grateful it was still shoved against one wall of her little cellar.
He continued. “I had to risk moving you. The barrier has encapsulated their blasts, but the inertial blowback when I activated it caused the floor to collapse – I’m so sorry, I’d forgotten all about temporally kinetic energy, Dr. Sato did warn me – and what’s left of the floor is unstable. I was worried more of it would come down on top of us.”
“Quite right,” Harriet said, settling back against his arm. “Can’t escape certain doom from outer space, only to be done in by oak parquet. I suppose I should be grateful it was only a two meter drop. Mr. Copper, pardon my curiousity, but have you dosed me with something? I was in severe pain the last I remember, and I don’t seem to feel anything of the sort at the moment.”
Copper looked nervous.
I didn’t think you’d mind,” he said. “I used Dr. Sato’s scanner to confirm that you had no broken bones or internal injuries, but you do have a badly bruised coccyx, and a lot of contusions. I thought you could do with a little relief.”
“Well, it’s certainly better than paracetamol,” she said. “What is it?”
He looked more nervous. “Nothing you’d know, something from back home. It should wear off completely in a few hours.”
“Ah. Well, before that happens, and while I’m feeling quite up to it, would you mind telling me what on earth you’re doing here in Knaresborough? Weren’t you supposed to be someplace safe in Cornwall? I thought we agreed that we couldn’t be in the same place at the same time, not with the Daleks about.”
He nodded. “Quite right, and I shouldn’t have come here at all if I’d thought the original parameters of the plan were operative. But they aren’t...” He tailed off, his smile growing.
Harriet sighed; he wasn’t being particularly informative. With one more look over her head to assure herself that those monstrosities were really immobile, she said, “Fill me in, then.”
“If you don’t mind, Ma’am, I think we need to leave the premises,” he said. “The time lock’s power source is only good for an hour or so at most, and we’d best be as far away as possible when it burns out.”
He didn’t elaborate on what and where that power source might be. She added it to her list of questions for later, as she made ready to move.
“We can’t go upstairs, I’m afraid,” Copper said, getting up first, then offering her his arm. “The time lock appears to have included your cellar door. I had to go round, and break the window next to your coal chute to get down here. I’ll pay for the repairs, of course.”
Well, it would explain his deshabille, she thought. Breaking the glass and crawling through would account for the blood and rips, tumbling into the old coal room would account for the rest. The poor man ... Still, they couldn’t stay here, she thought, if her would-be executioners were only temporarily neutralized.
“I think we can unbar the outer chute doors, Mr. Copper, and that will give us egress. But it leaves us in the open, vulnerable to non-immobilized Daleks. Did you have a plan beyond this?”
Copper’s smile reappeared. “I think you’ll find that the three Daleks in your parlour are the last ones in England.”
After a moment, Harriet realized her mouth was hanging open, and she snapped it shut with a quickness. “I presume you can explain as we go?” she said, carefully picking her way around the debris, toward the old coal room.
He nodded, then sneezed, wiping at his nose and smearing the soot and blood on his face into an even more lurid paint job.
“Here, have my handkerchief,” she said, fetching it out from the cuff of her sweater. Then, drawing herself to her full height, she used her most prime ministerial voice: “And now, Mr. Copper, I must insist that you explain yourself.”
“Oh. Well. Where to start?” he said, nodding gratefully as he took the handkerchief and used it to further his personal smear job. “Firstly, I’m afraid I had no intention of letting you go it alone with this subwave business.”
“Mr. Copper! That was not the plan!”
“You see, that’s precisely why I didn’t tell you this before,” he said, not quite cowed by her expression or her horrified exclamation. “I knew you’d object, and we didn’t have time to argue.”
“You might not have got an argument out of me, Mr. Copper – ah, here we are.” Harriet slipped by him, and felt about next to the door until she found the ancient light switch. Turning on the bare and soot-blackened bulb provided only dim illumination. “Oh dear, it really is filthy in here ... I’m sorry, do go on.”
“Simply put, I didn’t want you to die. You were invited to join the Institute because you are everything our mission statement champions, and we didn’t want to lose you. If there were any chance to protect you from these...things, these Daleks, then we were going to take it.”
She raised an eyebrow. “‘We’ being, I presume, you?”
“In a manner of speaking,” Copper said. “The Institute is small yet, I’ll grant you that – but that only made your safety more important, don’t you see?”
She shook her head slightly. “No, not really ... You’ve mentioned this Doctor Sato twice now. Will I be meeting him?”
His smile abruptly disappeared. “Her. Dr. Toshiko Sato was a young lady. She was formerly of Torchwood, and she was my first recruit. She was just like you; she, too, surpassed the institute’s standards: ‘We are men and women of honor, good will, and special resources, willing to risk our lives to meet the universe on a peaceful footing’.”
“You found someone like that at Torchwood?” Harriet was openly skeptical. “How ?”
“That ‘s a story for another time, Ma’am,” Copper said. “For now, it’s enough to say that she provided me with a great deal of technological help setting up and provisioning our institute. The time-lock device, for one thing ... she was so excited about it. She’d already set up a larger program for Torchwood’s Cardiff headquarters, a sort of defense system. She thought it could be useful for field investigations, but something had soured her on Torchwood – I never got the chance to ask her what – and she delivered her first portable generator to us instead of Captain Harkness. Said she couldn’t trust Torchwood, or UNIT for that matter, not to develop it as a weapon. ‘You’re my ace in the hole,’ she told me. I was touched by her trust in me.
“She wanted to bring one of her team with her when she left for good, but ... it didn’t happen. She was a lovely girl, and I shall miss her a great deal.”
He volunteered nothing more about Dr. Sato or her fate, and might have stayed silent, had Harriet not pushed him gently: “I’m sorry, Mr. Copper, but where did Dr. Sato’s device even figure into our plan?”
“I had already lost Dr. Sato,” he replied, and she was surprised at how grim his pleasant face could look. “I didn’t wish to lose another Institute member, and I knew when we decided to trigger the subwave network that you’d be found and killed by the Daleks. I was preparing for my Cornwall run, worrying myself sick about your situation, when it suddenly came to me – the time-lock device might protect you. So I got it from my safe, put it in the boot of the car and drove for hours, got here as quickly as I could. Which was nearly too late.”
“What did you do?”
He looked proud of himself now. “I got to Knaresborough in time to see those three heading up your walk. I got as close as I dared, just feet outside your front door as a matter of fact, and triggered it when they gave that dreadful ‘Exterminate’ war cry of theirs. I’m grateful they did, actually; it gave me enough time to flip the switch and ensure that their shots were caught in the locked field.”
She finally allowed herself to relax. “And I am ever so grateful that you could do so, Mr. Copper. Let’s continue the conversation once we’re out of the house.”
It took the two of them five minutes to dislodge the bar across the outer chute door, and another 10 minutes to haul themselves up, out, and into her back garden. By the time they’d stopped to catch their breath, Harriet was as sooty as Copper. That bothered her less than her suspicion that this latest physical exertion would make his extremely efficacious painkiller’s disappearance even more regrettable.
Then she looked up.
“The stars! Oh, Mr. Copper, look at the stars!”
He was looking up, too, his smile now positively beatific. “That’s the changed situation.”
“Does this mean we’re back where we belong? That the Doctor actually saved us?” She felt giddy.
“I think we can assume so, ma’am.”
“And the rest of the Daleks?”
“They began leaving shortly after I got on the road. I imagine that’s one of the reasons I wasn’t stopped and exterminated myself. I also think triggering the subwave network may have had something to do with it, but I can’t be certain.” Copper started fishing about in a jacket pocket, “Just before I got into town, the planets started disappearing from the sky. I almost drove off the road when that happened, and the earth started moving – literally moving, Miss Jones, I don’t think I shall ever forget it ...aha, here they are! My keys; would you care to accompany me back to Institute headquarters?”
“Which would be where?”
“My home. It’s just outside London, won’t take long to get there.”
Harriet opened her mouth to accept, just as the world turned a harsh blue-white and the brutal percussion of her cottage exploding behind her tossed the two of them into her rose bushes. For what seemed like a very long time, all the thunders of heaven danced rudely in her head.
When they finally subsided, and she could trust herself to stand – that bruised coccyx would be a bear once she started to feel it, she just knew it – she looked for Copper. He lay face down a meter or so to her right, unmoving. Now it was Harriet’s turn to worry.
“Mr. Copper? David?” She fell to her knees and touched his shoulder very gingerly.
The rush of relief made Harriet laugh out loud; mortified, she clapped both hands over her mouth before saying, “Sorry, sorry ... I’m just glad to see – ”
“ – oh, I’ve survived bigger explosions than this,” he said, slowly getting to his knees. He looked back at where the cottage should have been. “Oh dear. The power must have failed ... but where are the Daleks?”
To her consternation, Copper scrambled to his feet and walked back to the very large hole that she’d once called home. He peered in for a moment, then called back to her: “They appear to have exploded too. I wonder why?”
She felt a shadow of pain in the small of her back, but kept smiling. “I haven’t the slightest idea, Mr. Copper, but I have no doubt that Torchwood, UNIT, or perhaps the Doctor himself, will soon have far too much to say about it. Before we absolutely must hear their explanations, might I bother you for a ride, a guest bedroom, and another dose of that marvelous painkiller?”
“My pleasure, Ma’am.” He made an odd little bow and extended his hand to her. Arm in arm, they headed for the car.