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19 May 2011 @ 09:10 am
A Message in the West  
Title: A Message in the West
Rating: G
Characters: Martha
Spoilers: None
Chapter: 1 chapter, complete
Disclaimer: Characters and settings belong to the Beeb, Grub Street Productions, Grammnet Productions, and Paramount Network Television. I make no claim to them. I’m just here to have fun.

Summary: Martha Jones’ walk across the world brings her to Seattle, where she encounters a pirate radio station perfect for getting the word out about The Doctor. When she finds the pirates, she has to argue her case to another doctor before she can access the airwaves.

Abandoned houses, their windows like black, astonished eyes, lined the right side of the street. They still creeped out Martha Jones, even after crossing the entire American continent. Here in Seattle, her last stop before turning south, somehow it was worse.

And she knew all about just how bad it could get: navigating the Midtown Tunnel in Manhattan in total darkness, water and corpses around her knees; escaping the Duke of Chicago's toclafane hordes; crawling through the muddy, blood-soaked corpse fields outside of Dubuque. She rubbed one eye -- no makeup to smudge at this point -- took a deep breath, adjusted her backpack on her shoulder, and kept walking.

To her left stretched a large lake across which she could see the downtown skyscrapers with their shattered windows, other buildings half blown away. Columns of smoke rose from the concrete canyons there. And off to the west, the toclafane swarmed around the top of the Space Needle.

Must be their hub. They had one in every place she'd visited, a place to converge. They did it once a day, a different time each day, as though they were having some sort of gigantic robot staff meeting. They paid attention to nothing else at those times. And at those times she could make real progress, getting to where she had to go.

She was heading into the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle, following the directions she'd gotten from a resistance cell east of the city. That eastern crew was holed up at the old Microsoft headquarters, pushing their technical knowledge to find a way to get around the Archangel Network. They'd hacked it enough to be able to communicate with cells in Seattle proper without being caught. No one knew how long it would last, but they were using it for all it was worth.

Martha had their help, but she'd also been following a trail of graffiti filled with coded language and targeted at resistance members who knew what to look for.

She was following their lead toward a pirate radio station that she'd picked up on her little hand-cranked radio calling itself Radio Free Seattle, urging the human population to continue the fight. Their spokesman called himself the Doctor.

It couldn't be her Doctor, could it? Would he mess with the timeline to be here when she arrived? She hoisted her backpack up onto both shoulders and ran.

She followed the road past coffee shops and apartment buildings, windows broken, tattered curtains blowing out, into a small retail area. To her left was a blue and orange drawbridge. To her right, sprayed onto a restaurant window in blue paint, was an elaborate graffito. She scanned the thing; with its emphasized initial letters and symbols, she knew in which direction she had to go next. She headed into the retail area and off to the left, where a small shop was mounted with a large rocket sculpture on one corner. That's what she was looking for.

Now, she had to wait. The only problem? Off in the distance she heard a sound she knew well: the buzz and hum of the toclafane spreading out over the city to patrol. She had to find a place to hide.

A quick scan of the area offered little cover. She'd already learned that parking garages like the one beneath the nearby supermarket were traps. Bushes were no good. Staying against the wall of the shop, she sidled over and tried the door. It opened. She slipped inside and held the door so no sound escaped as it closed. She hunkered down behind the counter at the front of the store. She pulled a dentist's mirror from her backpack and poked it around the corner of the counter so she could watch the window and the door -- the tricks you pick up, she thought. Soon enough, she saw the reflection of two toclafane buzzing the street outside. She pulled the mirror back and shoved it into a pocket. She had to figure out where to hide next; this wasn't an optimal hidey-hole.

A hand landed on her shoulder. She jumped, turned, and splayed herself against the cabinet beneath the counter.

"Sorry," the woman said. "Didn't mean to scare you." Martha suppressed a laugh.

"No?" she said aloud.

"We have to move quickly; they're back and they don't take prisoners." All except one, Martha thought, all except one. "Out through here. The Doctor's waiting for you." The woman disappeared through the door behind the counter and Martha followed, having barely gotten a decent glimpse of her.

They passed through the darkened storeroom toward a back door.

"Who are you?" Martha asked. "Resistance?"

The woman turned to her and held out a hand. "Daphne Crane. Yeah, resistance." Martha took her hand and Daphne shook it briefly. "Again, sorry to scare you. Come on."

That was an accent from home.

"You're English," Martha said.

"Oh, I've been here a while."

They stepped out into the alley behind the store. Daphne turned to Martha and put a finger to her lips. Now that Martha could see her in the afternoon shadows, she could also see the scar that crossed her cheek. It was new, still an angry red-brown, and stretched from her hairline to her chin. It looked as though it had been treated, and by someone who knew how. The woman had been pretty -- still was, with her great cheekbones, big, brown eyes, and full lips -- but she was all business now, her auburn hair pulled into a pony tail, and her clothes dark, loose, and easy to move in.

Daphne led her down the alley to a building with a cellar staircase. They went down the wooden stairs quietly. At the landing, Daphne hit a doorbell. Martha heard no sound. A slide in the door opened just long enough for someone to peer through, then the door opened. The two women slipped through.

Martha found herself in a darkened room with a face full of gun muzzles.

"Who are you?" said a man from beyond the circle of people holding guns at her.

"Martha Jones," she said. She'd encountered this sort of caution before. "I've come from the Doctor."

"Is he real?" asked the voice.

"Real as you and me," Martha said. No response. She tried to look past the circle of people surrounding her and into the shadows beyond.

"It's all right, folks," another voice said, gruffer than the first. "Let the lady through. She's come a long way."

The group pulled back and melted into the shadows of the ill-lit basement. From what she could see, all the walls had been lined with styrofoam egg crates. She'd seen this sort of homemade soundproofing elsewhere. Sleeping bags, crates, and folding chairs littered the floor, backpacks were piled in one corner. In another, a radio rig, its guts exposed, sat on a hammered-together, ramshackle wooden table. A laptop computer sat there as well, its screen glowing blue in the dark, displaying something that looked like an EEG skittering across it. Cables ran all around the corners of the place and snaked out into the next room. At the table, a man with thinning brown hair sat in one of two folding chairs, his arms crossed. He wore a button-down shirt, a patch over his left eye, and a dour expression.

"Don't mind them." An older man, shorter than Martha, the one with the gruff voice, hobbled forward on a cane, a grin on his face and one hand extended. "Martin Crane. Welcome to Radio Free Seattle." She shook his hand. There was a sadness about him even as he smiled. Still, when he said, "The miles sure have been kind to you," his eyes crinkled up with his grin. Martha couldn't help but smile in return; his charm and ease was a surprise, and it was refreshing. "Somebody get the lady some coffee!" he yelled, "And something to eat!" He turned back to her. "Go have a seat. My son's the one you want to see." He motioned to the man in the corner.

The man with the eye patch watched her approach. His expression was hard, wary. She took the empty chair, and held out one hand as Martin had just moments ago. "Martha Jones, and you are...?"

"I'm the Doctor," he said. "Doctor Frasier Crane." He didn't take the hand she offered. She withdrew it. "Not that it means much anymore," Martha caught him say under his breath. There was a world of hurt in those words that she didn't want to hear. They'd all lost so much.

"What I hear, it means a lot."

Crane said nothing.

Martha let it pass. "So you run the broadcasts?"

"We'll be here for another day or two," he said irritably, "and then we'll be moving again, so whatever you have to say, make it good because we don't have a lot of time."

"No time for chitchat, yeah?" Martha couldn't hide her own irritation. Who was crossing continents to help save the world? And this one chose to be rude.

To his credit, the man deflated a bit. "My apologies," he said. "We get so many people here, refugees coming through. We put out as many messages as we can, but there's so much to do...." His accent was educated, but it had been roughened by time and, she suspected, loss.

Martha's heart swelled in sympathy. She leaned forward and put a hand on his arm. "I know. But we have to go on."

Daphne brought cups of coffee, then retreated. Martha wrapped her hands around the warm cup and savored the smell and the taste. Still, she longed for a cup of tea.

"So," Dr. Crane asked after he sipped, "Is it all true, these stories about the Doctor?"

Martha leveled a straightforward gaze at the man; she had to steel herself for the discussion these days. Asserting the fantastic had gotten more difficult lately. "Yeah. He's the only one who can take Saxon down, and the toclafane with him."

"And how, exactly, is he going to do that?"

She'd been asked that before. Skepticism was at an all-time high, everywhere she went.

"I dunno," she said honestly. "What I do know is that we've got enough of a plan to make a difference, to use Archangel against him. And I believe in the Doctor. All I'm asking is that you do, that everyone does. If we do our part, then he'll do his."

"So you're asking us to go on faith. The stories we’ve heard are outlandish: an immortal time traveler . . . "

"I know it sounds mad, but I'm telling you, it’s all true. He can do it. He can defeat Saxon and Archangel. The things I've seen . . . " Images flashed through her mind: the Doctor saving her from an escape pod hurtling toward a sun, freeing millions from New New York's tunnels, driving the daleks from 1930s Manhattan. And beyond all that, she simply couldn't stop remembering his eyes. Tim had described the Doctor as the storm at the heart of the sun, and he'd been so right. The Doctor's fire burned there, in his large, dark eyes.

"You love this man," Frasier said, not unkindly.

She looked at him point blank as she said, "Yeah, I do."

"So on the strength of that, you want us to spend airtime on this . . . this fairy tale."

"It's not a fairy tale." It wasn't defensive; it was a fact. "He's saved the world before--remember the Sycorax? He's the reason they left. And the Cybermen? The Doctor made that happen, too. "

Frasier put down his coffee, leaned forward, elbows on his knees, hands folded loosely, and examined her with his one good eye. On closer inspection, she saw scar tissue around the edge of his eye patch, the kind of scarring that suggested he'd been burned. His left hand was spiderwebbed with pale scarring that traveled up his arm beneath his rolled-up shirt sleeve.

"I lost my brother to the toclafane," he said quietly, his gaze never wavering, "And my nephew. I haven't heard from my ex or my son since the invasion."

"I'm sorry."

He wrung his hands, then. "Our airtime is so limited. We broadcast, then we move. We don't know how long the rig will last. Roz says it’s delicate and we've been so careful, but we're bound to have some misfortune along the way."

"We also don't know how much longer it'll take the toclafane to hack our hack." Apparently Martin had been hovering; Martha hadn't noticed until he spoke. "We've been lucky but it can't last."

Frasier cast his eyes away from Martha.

She sipped her coffee to fill the pause, and to think. From their perspective, it was a choice between airtime and survival. But what was this invaluable tool better for than to spread the kind of hope she wanted to share? She couldn't force it.

And he had a point: the story of the Doctor was science fiction to most. Creating faith was hard. Not for the first time did she find herself choking on the Scriptural parallels to their situation. It was almost too perfect: she, the traveling apostle to the Doctor's savior figure. If it weren't so ridiculous, it couldn't be true. She'd once compared the Doctor's companions to stray dogs, but they were apostles, in a way, following him through danger with complete faith. The feeling made her uncomfortable.

"Well," Martin said, placing a hand on Frasier's shoulder. "We don't have to make a decision right now. We don't broadcast for another couple of hours, until after sunset. Martha, you want something to eat?"


The suspense was killing her. Martha, her arms crossed, stood in the doorway to the other room where a meager meal had been provided. Martin, Frasier, another man, and two women had been huddled in the corner for a half hour after dinner. No voices were raised, but she could hear a heated discussion going on. The few others in the room were huddled in pairs over their food, not saying much, occasionally glancing her way. She glanced at her watch. Had they made a decision?

"Martha." It was Daphne. She drew Martha back through the door, away from the crowd. They leaned against the wall facing each other. "What's it like, back home?” Daphne asked.

"A nightmare." Martha steeled herself to telling this part of her story: talk of home, talk of devastation. "Toclafane everywhere, London burning. You could smell it on the air, the death."

Daphne put her hand on Martha's arm, a comfort.

"I'm sorry; I shouldn't have asked. I just . . . there's been no international calling since the invasion, and some of my family are still there."

Martha nodded. What could she say? She knew how it felt, leaving her family there.

"The stories say you met Saxon," Daphne said softly. "Is it true?"

Again, Martha nodded.

"What's he like?"

"He's mad," she said without hesitation. "Charismatic," she conceded. "Brilliant. Completely mad. A monster." Her throat tightened, and she had to fight tears as she said, "He's got my family. He’s got the Doctor. I don't even know if they're still alive."

Daphne put her arms around Martha, and Martha held on. She'd spent months going from place to place, seeing things she wanted to forget, never asking for anything except help getting to the next destination. She'd asked nothing for herself, only for the Doctor. Something inside her broke when Daphne hugged her, and she gave in, just for a moment, to the urge to weep. She was tired. And sometimes, this all felt too huge.

But the scale of a problem never phased the Doctor. She had to go on, following his example.

She didn't indulge herself for long. Soon enough, she pulled away from Daphne and wiped her nose.

"God," she said, "I feel wretched." But even as she said it, she found herself smiling. She wiped one eye. Daphne looked sympathetic and smiled back.

"There, you're just tired." She glanced through the doorway at the group huddled in the corner. "And they're no help. They're trying to do the right thing, but . . . " Daphne paused, a crease appearing on her brow. "We're all afraid." She looked off into the distance as she said, "The toclafane killed my husband . . . and my son."

"You're Doctor Crane's sister-in-law."

Daphne nodded.

"I'm sorry," Martha said.

“He was a beautiful boy,” Daphne said, and Martha could see a tear start at the corner of one eye. “Blond, like his father.”

“With you as his mother, I’m sure he was handsome. And I’m sure his father loved you for your strength.” Martha put a hand on Daphne’s arm. She sensed in Daphne something she could use, a conviction she could tap as ammunition against Dr. Crane’s reluctance. “Don’t give up now. Keep fighting for them. You make their deaths meaningful every day you’re here, doing what you do.”

Daphne looked at her then with a searching expression. “This Doctor of yours. Is he really everything they say he is?”

“And more. Daphne, do you remember, two years ago now, maybe a little more, the story about the hospital in London that disappeared?”

Daphne thought for a moment. “Yeah, yes. I remember that! I thought it was some novelty thing; didn’t think about it, but then me mum sent me a clipping and told me she saw the hospital disappear with her own two eyes.”

“I was in the hospital. The Doctor brought it back. That was the day we met. I’ve traveled with him back and forth in time, to the farthest reaches of the universe, and I’ve seen things you wouldn’t believe. But here’s one thing you can believe: I promise — the Doctor can stop Saxon. He can save the world. And I believe it because he’s done it before. I know he can do it again.”

Daphne didn’t say anything. Martha could see her thinking behind her searching gaze. She desperately wanted something to hold onto, something that could justify the fragile hope she seemed to nurture.

“Okay,” she said finally. “Okay, I believe you.”

The voices of the group in the other room began to get loud; they were arguing. Daphne turned and headed toward them. Martha followed.

“Enough of this! Enough!” Daphne said. She didn’t seem to raise her voice, and yet it carried across the room and cut through the clamor, effectively shutting everyone up. They all turned toward her. Martin and Dr. Crane stood.

“She's right. We’re getting loud enough, someone will hear us,” Martin admonished, motioning at the boarded-up window with his cane.

“You’re all so busy arguing about airtime, but you’re not talking about the message,” Daphne said. “What’s the message we send every day? It’s hope — hope for the future, hope for our families, for our children. Martha says this Doctor can beat Saxon. I believe her. We’ve got to spread the word. We’ve got to get her on the air.”

“Daphne, you know how absurd it sounds,” Dr. Crane said gently.

“Absurd? Absurd! How absurd is it that our world’s been invaded by aliens? How absurd is it that my husband — your brother — died in my arms, killed by an alien laser beam? What’s absurd? The only thing that’s absurd is you all arguing about the message. The message is hope — and that’s what Radio Free Seattle is about.”

Martha wanted to grab Daphne and hug her until she was blue. For the first time since she’d arrived in Seattle, she felt like there was a chance she could get the word out and be heard.

For a moment, none of them said a word.

“This is crazy,” one of the women said.

“No crazier than what we’ve been doing these last seven months,” Martin said evenly. Martha smiled at him; he seemed to be the one steady rock in a group of people rattled and brittle from the toclafane invasion. “It’s one broadcast,” he went on. “We do this one, and then we do the next, and the next, like we always do. And what do we lose if she’s wrong? One broadcast out of . . . how many now?”

“He’s right,” the other woman in the group said. She stood up, put one hand on her hip. She had long brown hair, a slim figure, and a practical look about her. “Frasier, what could it hurt? If people hear the story and believe it — and it’s not like the story hasn’t been circulating for a while now — then we’ll have done some good. If they hear it and don’t believe it, then it’s a bedtime story to keep the toclafane away.”

“Roz . . .” Dr. Crane sounded like he was going to protest.

“Oh, stop it,” Roz interrupted. “It’s my hardware, it’s my rules. When do I ever tell you what to broadcast? Listen to me this once, will you?”

The others behind her, one by one, nodded. Martha turned her attention to Dr. Crane; they all did. It seemed his was the final word, no matter what anyone else thought or said. He looked at them all, each in turn, and his gaze landed, finally, on his father. He looked at the floor, thought a moment, and then said, “All right. We broadcast at midnight, and then we move.”


Once the decision was made, there was a flurry of activity. Roz and one of the men who weren’t introduced to Martha spent nearly two hours making adjustments to their broadcast equipment. The others spent time preparing weapons, packing their few belongings and supplies, and getting ready for the move to their next location. The only one who wasn’t doing anything was Dr. Crane. Martha watched him wander to the door. She followed him. He opened the little slide in the door and peered out the opening. When he slid it closed again and turned back to her, she took a couple of steps back so he could come back into the room again.

“You’re doing the right thing,” she said.

He smiled briefly. She could see where, once, it had been a warm smile. “I know,” he said. He walked past her, across the room to the chair she’d first seen him sitting in, and seated himself again. She pulled up a crate and sat on it.

“You know,” he said wistfully, “I used to have an apartment on Queen Anne Hill in a lovely building, view of the Space Needle. You could see the city in all its splendor: the lights at night, twinkling over Elliott Bay.” Then his voice hardened. “Now all the twinkles over the bay are the toclafane.”

“This will help change that,” Martha responded without hesitation. She knew what he was feeling. She’d had such conversations about London that very day.

“I hope so.”

“Don’t ever doubt that what you do makes a difference,” Martha said. “What they’re doing out at the Microsoft redoubt, down at the Boeing plant — they’re doing it partly because of what they hear from you. There are pockets of us everywhere, and every time they hear our message, we make a difference.”

He looked at her and smiled again; this time it lasted longer and there was warmth. “You’re very good.”

She smiled weakly. “Thanks.” Sometimes she wondered.

“You’re going to get on the air, and everyone who can hear the sound of your voice will hear that conviction. You’re making a difference, too. You know that, I hope.”

Martha couldn’t maintain the gaze. She looked at her hands curled in her lap. She’d encountered so much skepticism in her travels, so much hardship. This kindness, this reassurance, was rare, and it was almost too much to handle. These people — Daphne, Martin, and now this Dr. Crane — had given her a kind of emotional support she hadn’t had in months. It filled her up.

“There’s only one thing that keeps me going,” she said, her hands curling into fists. “The people I left behind: my family and the Doctor.”

“Well, whoever he is, he’s certainly made a difference to you,” Dr. Crane said.

The tenor of the noise in the room changed. Things seemed to settle down, suddenly, as if a decision had been made or a process had been completed.

“You ready to tell your story?” Dr. Crane asked her.

“Ready as I’ll ever be.”

They both got up, Martha with a renewed vigor as she followed Dr. Crane to the table where the transmitter sat. There were two pairs of headphones and one microphone on the table. Dr. Crane handed her one pair and then sat on a plastic crate next to the table. Martha sat in a metal folding chair beside him.

Roz reached between them, flipped a couple of switches, fiddled with a knob, and then banged the top of the unit with one hand. Martha heard a bang and crackle through her headphones.

Dr. Crane pulled the mic toward him. She saw his back straighten a bit and his shoulders square. He squeezed the control on the microphone and began to speak, his voice becoming a velvet baritone Martha wasn’t sure she would have recognized as his.

“This is Radio Free Seattle. The Doctor is in, and tonight we have a very special message. She’s seen the face of Saxon and lived. She’s crossed toclafane territory and survived to tell the tale. Ladies and gentlemen, Martha Jones.”
markbourne: pogomarkbourne on May 20th, 2011 01:56 am (UTC)
Love it! Now I want to read more. And thanks for making Daphne (oh, poor Daphne!) a linchpin character. Double-fave squeeee!
scarlett_keyscarlett_key on May 21st, 2011 05:59 pm (UTC)
I kind of love Daphne. Her character grew and changed so much over the course of the series, but the one thing that was always clear was that she was far tougher than she looked. After everything Martha has been through by the time she gets to Seattle, finding someone from England who also had left people behind there would be a balm to her, at least from my perspective. Daphne seemed like the perfect fit.
e_bournee_bourne on May 20th, 2011 02:01 am (UTC)
That's awesome! I love seeing a very different Frasier. And I've always felt it was too bad we never got to see Martha's heroics. Yay!
scarlett_key: DrWho: Burns at the center of timescarlett_key on May 21st, 2011 06:00 pm (UTC)
I dug the opportunity to write Dark!Frasier. Kelsey Grammer occasionally gave the character a dark edge and I loved exploring that a little bit.
It All Comes Back to the Breathjo02 on May 21st, 2011 12:06 pm (UTC)

Oh my goodness we need to get the message out about this story!
I love Frasier, and your mind is a scary brilliant place to come up with a crossover between these two shows that made really good drama. I loved it!
scarlett_key: DrWho: Burns at the center of timescarlett_key on May 21st, 2011 06:04 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much! I wanted to write about Martha coming to America, and I wanted to write about her in Seattle. (The story is set in my neighborhood.) Once I made that connection, Frasier seemed like an interesting place to go--and then I got to torture even more characters I love. :-) I'm so glad you like it!

I haven't loaded this to Teaspoon and an Open Mind yet. I probably ought to.
classicist lass: Frasier: the Gangclassics_lover on March 29th, 2015 12:43 pm (UTC)
I stumbled on this story purely by accident, and I am so glad that I did. I don't often enjoy crossovers but this one has such love for both fandoms in it, and such strongly written characterisations that are true to the originals and still in keeping with the spirit of the Year That Wasn't, I just adored this.
scarlett_key: Doctor Sonicscarlett_key on March 29th, 2015 04:14 pm (UTC)
Wow! Thank you so much! I had such fun writing it. Glad you liked it!