Written for: An oncoming_storms prompt
Fandom: Doctor Who/Sarah Jane Audios
Characters: Josh Townsend, Sarah Jane Smith, Vislor Turlough
Warnings: Spoilers for Sarah Jane Smith: Dreamland
Summary: If Sarah wants to get home, she'll need help from a friend.
Notes: Another bit of the Sarah Jane Smith/Vislor Turlough/NCIS timeline that will tie into what was my nano and will be my tardis_bigbang fic. This fic comes just before Back to Normal and is leading into the story hinted at in Tweets That Pass in the Night. Other fics which are in this timeline are The Science of Love and Trixie Belden and the Mystery of the Falling Star, which I wrote for Yuletide and will post here later this week. Eventually there will be a tag for this 'verse - for now I'm calling it Sea and Stars on AO3, but I'm not happy with that.
The Mandragora Helix was gone and Sarah allowed herself to breathe a sigh of relief. It would be another 500 years before they would have to deal with it again. She pressed her fingers to her helmet, not that it helped her headache. She still had much to do.
Kneeling down, she checked on Josh. Still breathing. She wished she could tend to his wounds, but she had to get the life support working before she could do anything to help him. Breaking the seal on his suit would be deadly now - if the lack of atmosphere didn't kill him, the shock would. She strapped him down. It was only residual acceleration that was giving them any semblance of gravity and as the ship slowed, they would lose even that.
She strapped Ben Kimmel's lifeless body into one of the seats in the body. The last thing she needed was that flying around when the gravity cut out.
Retrieving her sonic lipstick from where she'd stashed it during one of their training sessions, Sarah quickly moved to the control panel before surveying the damage to the hull. To her relief, it wasn't as bad as she'd expected. She'd lied to Mission Control about the fire to stall for time, but the stray bullets had knocked out the guidance system, and both she and Ben had sabotaged it in other ways, neither wanting the people watching on Earth to know exactly what was happening up here.
Her price for going up in the Dauntless had been simple - she'd asked Sir Donald to allow her to read the Book of Tomorrows, and what she had read there had spooked her badly. She'd deduced that the Mandragora Helix had been involved, but somehow she had never guessed what else she would find there, once all the pages were read as a single unit. She pushed it to the back of her mind. For now she had to deal with the problem at hand. Someday she might have time to worry, but this was not that time.
During their training, they had been shown a repair kit but the implication was that if they needed it, it was unlikely that they'd survive long enough to use it. But she had her lipstick, which would seal the patches quicker than the included kit, and she moved easily about the cabin's zero-g, patching the hull breaches first, then Josh's suit, before moving to the control panel. She wished she had the Doctor's toolkit, but she'd manage with the tools she had. A few patched wires and a few adjustments and she had the heat back on and the backup air supply circulating through the ship.
It would be a few minutes before it would be safe to remove her helmet, and she spent the time fixing the comm system. She could boost the signal to make sure it reached Earth, but that was her backup plan. If she had to resort to that - well, the air wouldn't last that long and she wasn't sure the Dauntless would retain it's integrity when it hit the atmosphere.
"What's that?" The voice was groggy, but unmistakably Josh.
It took her a moment to realise that he was referring not to the sonic lipstick, currently hidden by her body, but to the crackle of sound that came from the comm system, followed by a hail in no Earth language.
"That would be my backup plan." Sarah gave a quick answer in the same language, before turning back to Josh. "They're about 10 minutes away." This would have been easier if Josh had stayed unconscious, but all things considered, it was a problem Sarah was happy to deal with.
She abandoned any pretence that this was her first time in space as she made her way back to Josh. "How do you feel?"
"Groggy, I was fading in and out there for a while. You did something," he started to get up but the straps stopped him.
"Stay where you are," Sarah said, gesturing at the straps. "We've lost gravity and you're pretty badly hurt. "I was going to try to patch you up but the Trion ship is closer than I expected, and they'll be better equipped for that. Right now the best thing you can do is stay put. I need to go back to the controls to prepare for docking." Not that the ship was designed for such things, but Turlough had assured her they'd be able to manage.
Josh started to reply but instead closed his eyes, clearly still weak. Sarah wrapped another blanket around him before returning to the comm.
"You've been monitoring our transmissions, I assume." In English. Turlough's English was much better than her Trion but the radio wasn't strong enough to reach Earth and she'd taken the precaution of changing the frequency and encrypting the transmission.
"You're very good at sounding dead in the water, Sarah. Aren't you worried what your friends on Earth will think?" Turlough's familiar sardonic tone was a relief after the stress she'd been under.
"We'll be back on Earth soon enough. Right now I need medical assistance for my friend. The pilot is dead, and I doubt Josh will survive the trip back to Earth in his condition."
"You should be able to see me coming up to port," he replied, all business now. "Do you see the red lights?"
"Do you think you can manoeuvre the shuttle into that bay?" He sounded worried.
Sarah took the controls and tried to remember what she'd seen Ben Kimmel do. "I think so. It's not the most nimble of vehicles." She tested each of the controls slowly, experimenting with turning and braking. "We don't have much fuel, so I'm not going to have many chances to get this right, and it isn't designed to stop quickly ."
"My ship has inertia blockers," Turlough reassured her. "Just go in as slow as you can. And while you're doing that you can tell me all the Earth gossip. How's Tegan?"
"Still in Australia, last time I heard. Not sure what she's up to. Look, I can't talk and do this at the same time. You'll need to do the talking." She also had forgotten to strap herself in, so she did so now.
Turlough launched into a long, complicated story involving the Doctor and a cricket game on Wensal as she turned the Dauntless. She was relieved when she heard Josh ask a question about the story in a weak voice and was about to repeat it to Turlough, but he heard and answered it and Sarah turned her attention to the controls and let Josh and Turlough talk.
The controls felt stiff after the alien ships she'd flown in her younger days and it took several tries and the fuel gauge was lower than she would have liked when she finally had it pointed in the right direction. But the hard part was over. She lit the thrusters just for a second, knowing that Newton's laws of motion would propel her into the bay and hoping that she'd lined the ship up properly. Thankfully the bay was designed to accommodate much larger ships and the inertia dampers kicked in when they were supposed to so the Dauntless came to a neat stop where it was supposed to.
Gravity was less welcome. She unstrapped herself and started back towards Josh just as Turlough gave her the all clear. It took her a moment to unjam the door lever, but she quickly threw it open, took a deep breath and then realised that she'd never removed her helmet. She did so, dropping it and her gauntlets off to the side, before returning to Josh. Unstrapping him, she started to release the catches on his spacesuit while she waited for Turlough.
He wasn't long and with his help she got Josh out of the suit.
Sarah stepped out of the Dauntless and stripped out of her own, turning so that she could watch Turlough remove the bullet and heal the worst of Josh's wounds with his advanced alien technology.
"You don't look like an alien," Josh said, surprisingly cheerfully for a man who'd had his entire belief system thrown into chaos and had been shot in the stomach, making Sarah wonder if Turlough had given him something for the pain.
"You don't look like an alien either," Turlough said dryly.
A laugh escaped Sarah. There had been other people she could have called for help, but they'd been working together to repatriate the other Trion political exiles, and she'd known he was due back on Earth. In retrospect, it might not have been the best choice.
Her musings were cut short as Turlough and Josh emerged from the shuttle. Admittedly Josh was leaning heavily on Turlough, but he was on his feet, and Sarah watched his eyes widen as he saw his first alien ship.
"He'll need to rest before he can handle the trip back to Earth, Sarah," Turlough said needlessly. "Let's get you both into the hub. We can talk on the bridge.
"I doubt the Dauntless will make it back on its own anyway. We're going to have to fake a crash." They'd discussed this before, Sarah was only repeating it for Josh's benefit.
Josh stared at her. "You knew. All along." He stumbled and Turlough caught him.
Sarah slung his other arm over her shoulder. "I knew some of it. Not all. Not until your father let me read the Book of Tomorrows. That, with what I knew before enabled me to come up with a plan. It's complicated."
"It always is," Turlough said. "The Doctor didn't leave either of us easy tasks. At least you've got your own companions now."
Sarah stuck her tongue out at him, which got a laugh from Josh, and she and Turlough bantered all the way to the bridge. After all the stress of the past few hours, it felt good to laugh. Given what she'd read in the Book of Tomorrows, this respite wasn't likely to last long.