Fandom: Doctor Who
Characters: Jo Grant Jones, Martha Jones
Summary: For Jo Grant, The Year That Never Was started with a sorrowful flight up Brazil's Rio Negro, and continued with a year-long struggle to keep people alive. When she met Martha Jones and heard of her travels across the globe, she was driven to help.
Author's Note: This was written, with a great deal of affection, for scripsi , in the 2015 fandom_stocking fun. She admitted to a love of Jo Grant and the Master. While I didn't think I could do justice to Delgado!Master, I share her love of Jo, who is an underestimated Companion with a ready smile, a quick wit, and a spine of steel hidden underneath her gentle seeming. I thought about what Jo might have done during The Year That Never Was — a thought that dovetailed nicely with my musings on how Martha Jones might have made her way around the world. This story is the result.
Disclaimer: Much as I wish it were otherwise, nothing in the Whoniverse, save the occasional original character, is mine. All others belong to the BBC and their respective creators. I intend no copyright infringement and take no coin. I simply love them, and thank the BBC for letting me play in its sandbox.
The late June morning that the Toclafane descended on the world, Jo Grant Jones was driving through Manaus, intent on getting to the wharf at Colonia Oliveira Machado. A boat waiting there would take her north and west up the Rio Negro, back to the Pico da Neblina national ecological park and the camp she and Cliff had been living in for the previous eight months. Cliff was still in Sao Paulo, securing their latest round of university financing, but he was to meet her at the camp in a week or two.
Manaus must not have been very high on the Master’s list; she was able to get to the boat, and it was able to cast off before the cloud of metal-clad horrors converged above the city, then dropped into it. She and the crew stood at the stern and watched in disbelief as fires blossomed and the percussive thumps of unseen explosions carried out to the smooth, dark waters of the river.
The captain wanted to go back, but Jo convinced him that he needed to take them as far away from the city as possible. She also convinced anyone who didn’t absolutely have to be on deck to shelter below. She sat in the tiny radio cabin with the operator, and they listened to the increasingly incoherent news reports of some sort of alien attack taking place around the globe.
When she heard the rumor that the British prime minister was behind the attacks, and that he wasn’t really Harold Saxon but someone who called himself The Master, Jo began waiting for the Doctor to show up and deal with his mad enemy.
The Doctor didn’t show up that day, nor in the terror-filled days that followed, while the crew navigated as close to the river banks as possible, moving only at night, headed toward the increasingly dubious refuge of the camp.
In the hours before they tied up at Parque Nacional do Pico da Neblina, the radio operator heard one last fragmented report; Sao Paulo had disappeared in a fire-storm. Jo excused herself and made her way up to the deck. She looked over the rail at the black waters and eventually allowed herself to cry into them, instead of jumping.
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For the next three months, Jo welcomed survivors to the camp, the shocked and burned who streamed in all directions away from cities, towns and even hamlets. She poured herself into keeping their new home as safe as possible, and as capable of feeding and housing as many refugees as possible. It was hard work, and she welcomed it, because it meant that she only had to mourn in her dreams.
Her team of botanists, archaeologists, and ecological rabble-rousers were alive when she arrived at the camp, and she cried again, this time from relief. A couple of her senior team members, one or two of the crew of the boat she arrived in, and a few of the refugees who arrived in the first week became her council.
She learned who had usable skills and put them to work. Two newcomers were doctors, for instance, three or four more were nurses; they were kept busy, although less with Toclafane injuries — if you were attacked by one of the horrid little monsters, you generally died — than with the ailments that come with living in the forest. Other refugees were good with their hands, and still others could turn the fish from the river and the produce and hunting prizes from the forest into nutritious meals.
One of Jo’s first decrees was that electronics should be used sparingly. They stopped listening regularly to her wind-up radio once they realized that the Toclafane might be able to use radio signals as a path to their door. The isolation was hard on people, but she eventually impressed its necessity on everyone.
Harder to deal with were the limits she imposed on everyone when it came to running the generator for lights and coolers, not only to avoid the Toclafane, but to save on hard-to-replenish petrol. Two to four hours a day, barely enough to keep medications cool for the other 18-20 hours, and not enough to make perishable food safe. Everyone learned to do without things that couldn’t be gathered, dried, salted, or eaten immediately.
As the populace grew from a few dozen to nearly 350, Jo and the council decided to expand the camp, not by clear-cutting more areas, but by moving many of the newcomers farther into the forest, where the multiple canopies could provide some protection from discovery. She moved into the jungle with the newcomers, helping them build their shelters, struggling along side them and thereby silencing their grumbles that they were getting the short end of the stick in the more primitive quarters.
The camp coalesced, but no one pretended it was easy going. The worst of it, worse than the heat, and the illness, and the shortages of food and medicine, was the constant fear and depression that threatened the people she was trying to keep alive and hopeful.
Some people left, chased back into the danger of the open roads by the vicissitudes of jungle living. Some died, from illness, injuries, occasionally suicide. Jo suffered along with everyone else when food ran short, and people had to make do with things they never would have eaten before. She cried when too many of the few children who made it into the camp were the ones who succumbed first to illness and malnutrition.
But Jo didn’t dare let despair win. With the red-rimmed vision of Sao Paulo seared into her memory she kept smiling, slowed down to play with the children who lived, brokered peace between people who quarreled, visited the ill, planned with the council, sang snitches of songs as loud as she could in a voice that was never true but always passionate … and every day that she awoke was another day that she was alive.
*** *** ***
Keeping her alive was one of her council’s top priorities.
Despite their isolation, news eventually arrived at the camp, even if it was days and weeks late. Among all the bits and pieces of rumor, hearsay, probable lies and possible truths, came word that the Master was systematically hunting down anyone who had worked with the Doctor. Many had been arrested; most of those taken in had disappeared. One or two had been shot on live television. And, while the bulk of the Master’s efforts appeared to be trying to find a woman named Martha Jones, the list of those he had named “Traitors to Their Master” included Jo Grant.
Camp council members quickly refused Jo’s offer to leave in an effort to increase their safety. They needed her, they said. But they imposed guidelines on her — no more scouting trips down river, no more explorations up river either. She had to stay within camp borders, and she had to have at least one armed person with her at all times. It did her no good to argue that a gun was no help against the Toclafane; it could help against the Master’s human minions, her people said.
She could not change their minds, and ultimately gave in, but it lay heavy on her heart to be essentially jailed by the people she cared for.
Six and a half months after Sao Paulo, Jo was in the optimistically-designated mess hall, drenched in sweat and fighting a headache for which there were no more painkillers, going over a list of their remaining supplies in the forlorn hope that they didn't have to risk sending someone downstream to scavenge in the mostly empty villages between there and Manaus.
With every trip, even at night, even with the river masking their heat signals, it had become increasingly dangerous; the Toclafane, after a glorious month and a half of complete inaction, had reappeared. Word filtered into the camp that the Master wanted to engage in massive deforestation of the Amazon basin, possibly to hunt for more veins of iron and bauxite. Jo knew that he wasn’t apt to find them, since most Brazilian iron and bauxite was mined far to the south of the Amazon, but she also knew the idea of despoiling one of the magnificent wonders of Earth would appeal to him. So she and the rest of her refugee band moved farther and farther under the forest canopy, farther from the waters of the Rio Negro, and hoped the returning Toclafane and human slaves of the Master wouldn’t find them.
As she contemplated the deteriorating situation in camp, Jo’s second in command came in with a stranger. The woman was beautiful, her skin dark as coffee, her hair pulled back into a short pony tail, her eyes clear and striking despite her obvious weariness.
When she introduced herself as Martha Jones and said she came bringing a message from the Doctor, Jo felt an unexpected stab of rage; where had the Doctor been when Sao Paolo went up, where had he been in all the following days of pain and fear? She was even, irrationally, angry at Martha for having the same last name as Cliff.
Almost as soon as the thoughts entered her head, she pushed them out, painfully tempted to laugh at herself. Instead, she took a deep breath and asked what she could do for the younger woman.
That was when Martha Jones told Jo Grant Jones what she had come to the Amazonian jungle for. She was spreading the word.
Jo learned that the Doctor hadn’t abandoned Earth. He wasn’t missing in action, he was the Master’s prisoner, caged and tortured physically and emotionally in every way that the Master — so much more unstable, so much crueler than he once was — could devise. But he hadn’t given up, Martha said. In fact, right under the Master’s nose, he had come up with the kernel of a plan, whispered it into her ear in a frenzied moment before she escaped the Valiant, and sent her on her crusade.
She had walked thousands of miles thus far, aided by people willing to fight and die to resist the dictator. And for each one’s death, Martha said, she swore she could go on a little longer in their names; Sarah Jane Smith, Ian Chesterton, Dorothy McShane, Kate Stewart, too many others to mention. She’d never been very eloquent, she told Jo, but for the Doctor, for their shared mission, she would try to become a troubadour.
Once again, Jo excused herself, promising to be back. She left the mess tent, walked into the dark green undergrowth until she could walk no further, and cried again. Then she walked back to Martha and asked how she could help.
Martha needed to get to the coast of what had once been Columbia, to what remained of Cali. She was traveling up river as far as she could, before she had to take land routes. Could Jo provide any guides?
Where had she been, Jo asked.
Martha looked very tired, as she gave her particulars; away from Britain, south through Europe, crossing from Malta into Morocco and east across the furnaced countries of the northern part of the continent, through Egypt, south along the Nile, then a dhow across the Red Sea, a dangerous incursion into Saudi Arabia and Yemen, back across the Gulf of Aden into Africa, and west through Ethiopia, Sudan and Chad, through the still heavily populated countries of the Gulf of Guinea, chased by the Master’s agents, once they found she was still alive and not dead, as her story originally maintained.
From Gabon, she hurried south through the Democratic Republic of the Congo, going to Rwanda and Burundi to try to put pursuers off her trail, engineering another “death” in Tanzania, then another dhow south along the eastern coast of the continent until she made landfall again in southern Mozambique, west again through northern South Africa, stopping in Pretoria before a frantic dash into Botswana and a final run to Capetown, and a 3,600-nautical-mile journey across the southern Atlantic to Montivideo in Uruguay, plagued by storms, thirst, even scurvy, but buoyed by the men and women who suffered with her in order to get her to South America.
She’d spent six precious days in Montivideo, sending out feelers to confirm that Jo Grant was still alive and in Brazil. Then she’d traveled north, telling her story everywhere she stopped en route to the remains of Manaus, and found her way upstream.
Jo swallowed hard and asked Martha why she had bothered to find her.
Because Jo was one of the Master’s publicly-avowed enemies, Martha said — was, in fact, one of the former companions of the Doctor that he seemed to be fixated on. Ensuring that Jo evaded his agents was a blow against him — here Martha stopped, and handed Jo a small composition notebook, telling her that it contained the names of people she could trust, and people she and her team should avoid when they ventured out of the jungle — and that by itself made her important to the resistance. Because Jo’s history with the Doctor ensured that she would understand the importance of getting the message to every possible human.
It was all those things, Martha said, but ultimately, it was one simple reality. Jo was her sister.
Jo, startled, stared at her for a moment, motionless. Then she leaned over and threw her arms around Martha. Martha flinched for only a moment, then hugged back, just as intensely. And for the duration of that hug, Jo felt something hard and sharp inside her melt and soften, felt muscles relax, muscles she hadn’t realized were tight with fear and determination. It felt good.
Martha wasn’t able to stay long. Jo briefly considered going with her up through the headlands of the Rio Negro, helping her to get to Cali, her own advisors be damned. It was Martha who convinced her to stay, and to oversee the spread of the Doctor’s word. There might not be that many people in the camp, or the abandoned towns up and down the river, but every single person who was willing to go out on the road and pass the story on was valuable. And she, Jo, had to be here for all the tale-tellers to come back to, for shelter and healing.
More, she had to be there to make sure they did what they had to at the appointed time. That timing was so important that Martha made sure everyone she told the story to understood that it had to happen on GMT, not their local time.
Jo had been inclined to argue; the camp was running well, she could afford to leave and was in fact desperate to do so. She’d been living in a well-intentioned prison under the watchful eyes of the people who loved her, or at least considered her important, and it was driving her spare, she said, deliberately ignoring the reality that she’d been functional but not quite sane ever since Sao Paulo.
Martha, ever the doctor, understood. She was gentle, but she wasn’t swayed by Jo’s argument, any more than it had swayed the council months ago. She had to stay alive, Martha told her softly, holding Jo’s shoulders so that Jo had to look at her. She had to be a living, breathing rebuke to the Master, the same rebuke she’d been to him all those years ago — Jo had told her the story of how she’d resisted him — she had to be a symbol for people. All the Doctor’s friends, the ones still living free, had to risk the dangers of being places they didn’t want, doing things they weren’t made for, all in order to beat the Master.
Once again, Jo gave in, but she glared at Martha as she did so. Jo told her that Martha was growing very Doctor-like. Martha shook her head, obviously unwilling to hear it. The two women continued to look at each other. Jo raised an eyebrow; so did Martha. Jo, reluctantly, started to laugh, and Martha laughed with her, because there was nothing else they could do.
Just before Martha climbed into the dugout that would take her north and west, Jo asked her one final question.
What did Martha expect would happen when the time came, Jo asked. Even if they managed to beat the Master, perhaps even kill him, how could the bloodied, starved populace of the world ever come back from what the monster had done? Martha was visibly troubled by the question. She didn’t know, she said, but it would be — had to be — better than what was going on now.
Jo nodded. Martha settled herself into the dugout, and the men piloting it pushed out from shore. Jo watched as long as she could in the jungle dusk, then headed back to camp. She had work to do.
The day eventually came.
Japan had died, but Martha Jones had not. She had made it to the ruins of Seoul, had headed west into China and spread the word until it became too dangerous for her to stay either in the coastal cities or the interior. She had eyed the calendar and the clock; had made one last frenzied dash south into the crowds of the Indian subcontinent and then, under a pitiless schedule and the guns of even more pitiless hunters, made her way north and east one last time to escape the death squads sent after her, then doubled back west by way of the silk road, then through the dry and bitterly cold steppes, eventually to the snow-covered railway tracks that marked the western end of the Siberian railway and the door to Europe.
It was spring again when she ran from another boat onto England’s shores, to meet with Tom Milligan and make use of Alison Docherty’s tortured betrayal.
Jo, an ocean away, had assembled everyone in the camp, now numbering almost 2,000, into an open square, risking the Toclafane. She raised her eyes, thought of Cliff and Sao Paulo, thought of Martha and the Doctor, and then solely about the Doctor, and then the world changed.
Jo Grant Jones and her husband Cliff were having dinner in Sao Paulo, celebrating a larger than expected research fellowship from the oddly-named Copper Foundation, one that would keep their work comfortably financed for the next three years, when they a woman neither of them knew came up to their table.
Doctor Martha Jones introduced herself as a former colleague of the Doctor’s, and said she was in town for a conference and heard through academic gossip that Jo and Cliff were there as well. She just wanted to say hello, she said; just wanted to meet someone else in the small club of former companions.
Jo began to shake Martha’s hand, then stood up, giving in to an unexplained desire to hug the other woman. Cliff, used to his wife’s quick affections, didn’t seem surprised. Neither did Martha.
That night, Jo had one of the dreams that had dogged her for the better part of a year. This one, though, was not a nightmare about the Master. It was about Martha, walking the world as the Doctor’s troubadour, telling a tale that needed to be told.
She awakened and looked up at the hotel room ceiling in the dark. The dream faded into forgetfulness, leaving her happy for no reason that she could understand; she had no way of knowing that, like all of those who had traveled in the TARDIS, she was more sensitive to time’s tricks than most humans.
The dream about Martha was the last dream of its type, good or bad, that Jo had. The door to another timeline shut for good in her head, which was just as well.
But when she and Cliff eventually moved back to England, Martha Jones was one of the first people Jo looked up. She had a friend to make.