: And the second half of the Martha's World section.
Would it be clearer if I just always put a "Martha's World" or "Seo's World" tag at the beginning of each chapter, even when we don't switch worlds from one chapter to another? Or is it pretty clear, already, which world we're in?EDIT
: The verdict is in, and the verdict says to put in tags in every chapter. So... there we go!
(I really love Seo and the Toclafane.)
In Happy Endings
, Seo does mention that her dad gave her 'Don't Destroy The World' lessons. Remember that? Well, it comes up again!
The journey to banish the Toclafane very clearly got easier to deal with, emotionally, Buffy knew, when they finally made it out of London, and intersected with the M25.
The abandoned, forlorn-looking M25. Car and traffic free, as far as they could see.
"We can take the M25 to the A1," Seo proposed. "That'll lead us north."
Willow shook her head. "Following roads — bad idea," she said. "We'd be sitting ducks for any UFC convoy passing by."
Buffy nodded, then quickly led them all away from the main road. Darted, instead, into an abandoned field of farmland, her eyes constantly peeled for cover.
"Out here, it doesn't look as bad," Alison muttered. Glancing at their surroundings. "I can almost believe… we're just… heroes, struggling against an evil, magical foe. Like the Fellowship. I can almost believe… we might actually win."
Luke didn't say anything. He was very clearly still trying to pull himself out of the emotional breakdown that had overtaken him, just a few hours ago, as he'd woken up and realized that he was never going to see his mother, again.
Alison took his hand in hers. Squeezed it.
She'd been the one to talk him down, earlier.
"Of course we'll win," said Buffy, still looking for cover. "If we can avoid the Toclafane, getting there."
"They just… don't know any better," Seo muttered.
Willow gritted her teeth. "Not this, again."
Buffy spotted a small house, up ahead, at the end of the field. Cover.
"That way!" Buffy said, urging them on.
Then the roar of a distant engine swept through the air, towards them. They turned, glancing back at the road, in unison. Knowing… the only vehicles still left… the only people still driving… were…
"UFC!" whispered Alison.
"Run!" Buffy cried, as they all belted for cover, fast as they could. But not fast enough, as the UFC truck pulled over, and the sound of gunshots pierced the air around them.
Buffy throwing herself against the ground, rolling out of the way, Willow doing the same beside her. Alison and Luke rushing off, as a group of UFC troops began to chase them, heading for woodland a short ways away. Seo… was with them. Had to be.
Willow grabbed Buffy by the wrist, dragged her into some overgrown crops, the two of them scuttling through the long wheat-looking-things, hoping the troops wouldn't notice.
The shooting stopped.
"Come in, again," said one of the UFC troops.
He paused, listening.
"Roger that," said the UFCA, nodding. He gestured at the others. "Jones spotted, west of here. Valiant wants us to find her, round her up."
"And these fugitives?" said another UFC troop member.
"Toclafane'll get 'em," said the first UFCA.
And as the UFC troops drove off, Buffy turned her eyes to the sky. Watching, with dread, as a cluster of Toclafane zoomed towards them.
"I see you!" said one of the spheres, zeroing in on Willow and Buffy. It giggled, then dropped down.
Buffy and Willow jumped to their feet. And ran for their lives.
"Toclafane!" Alison whispered, as she watched them descend. She grabbed Luke, dragged him back into the woodland, hoping the Toclafane wouldn't be able to find them, in there.
"Scared little people," said one of the spheres. "Trying to run and hide."
"Coming to find you!" sing-songed another, swooping down. Then, with a shot of its weapon, it struck one of the trees near Alison, the leaves and trunk igniting in an instant. "Coming to burn you!"
Alison felt herself yanked down, against the ground, by Luke, who offered her a handkerchief. "Carbon monoxide poisoning."
Alison took it, held it against her mouth, trying to figure out how she was supposed to get out of here, before burning to death, and still not let the Toclafane find her.
Moment they left this woodland, the Toclafane would be waiting to cut them down. That was clear.
"Phone," Alison muttered.
Luke coughed, struggling to breathe, as the conflagration spread around them, amplified by occasional blasts from Toclafane weaponry. Flames lapped at trees and consuming branches.
Alison just barely managed to yank Luke out of the way of a falling branch, in flames, collapsing onto the ground beside them.
Then brought out her mobile from her pocket.
"You're clever," said Alison, thrusting the phone into Luke's hands. "If Archangel's more than just a phone network, it should be able to scramble the Toclafane's circuits."
Luke coughed, even harder, and Alison thrust the handkerchief in front of his mouth, so he could breathe.
The air burned her lungs.
Luke fumbled with Alison's mobile. His brain working overtime, as he tried to figure out some way to hack into the Archangel network. Tried to find some backdoor, some entry point. But… no. No luck. Archangel was hack-proof — everyone knew that.
But what if…?
Luke grinned. Struck the phone against a rock, pried the casing open, adjusted some things inside. Then put it all back together, and jumped to his feet, dragging Alison after him, as he pressed the green call button.
Pointing the phone straight at the Toclafane, while emerging from the woodlands.
The Toclafane twirled round and round and round, out of control, their chorus of shrieks and confusion ringing through the air, as they ascended into the heavens, and raced away.
Alison and Luke stepped out into the open, gasping for breath.
"What… what did you…?" Alison asked.
"I made your mobile send out an American frequency, but still use the British encoding functions," said Luke. "The confusion temporarily scrambled the Toclafane's functions."
"Temporarily?" asked Alison.
Alison glanced out, across the field, trying to find any signs of Buffy, Willow, and Seo. Then spotted a cluster of Toclafane, shooting and chasing someone.
"Better make the most of it while we can," Alison said, as she and Luke darted forwards to save the others.
Buffy and Willow had been cornered by the Toclafane, when Alison and Luke suddenly raced towards them, raised up a cell phone, and scared the Toclafane off. Buffy stared at the two.
"What… what did you…?" Buffy spluttered.
Buffy had gotten off lightly. The Toclafane had sliced up Buffy with their knives and things, but they'd been taking their time. Hadn't cut too deep, yet.
They'd cut Willow a lot deeper.
"We used the Archangel network against them," said Alison, helping Willow to sit down, ripping makeshift bandages from the bottom of her shirt. "Luke had the idea."
"Alison," Luke corrected.
Buffy snatched the cell phone out of their hands, looking it over. Then smashed it against the side of the building, hard enough that it broke into a shower of pieces and electronics.
"Wait!" shouted Luke. "You can't—"
Buffy turned on him. "I've got no idea how the Doctor's plan is supposed to work," she said. "But Seo says it involves the Archangel Network. And that means we never, ever
use the Archangel Network to our advantage. You got that?"
Alison and Luke exchanged a nervous glance.
compromise the Doctor's plan," Buffy said. Her voice shaking, a little, as the words left her mouth. "No matter what."
Willow looked over at Buffy, through pain-filled eyes. "You really believe in him," she whispered.
Buffy clenched her fists. Eyes squeezed shut. "Always."
Buffy knew. If she just gave the Doctor the starting blocks — banished the Toclafane from Earth — then Martha could put her plan into action. And then…
The Doctor would make it better, again.
Alison looked down at the ground. "I believe like that," she whispered. "In Seo."
Luke peered at the area around them. "Where is
The others hadn't spotted the man who came out of the farmhouse. The one who'd seen the Toclafane, and run for his life.
Had raced after him, tried get him out of the way of the Toclafane blasts. And nearly succeeded. Nearly gotten him over the hill and into a ditch where he could hide.
Less than a meter away, he screamed. And his body exploded into nothing.
"No!" Seo shouted, turning on the Toclafane.
The Toclafane circled, curious, their childlike voices all overlapping, with giggles and chants and excitement.
"—not nice to Mister Master—"
"—want to hurt—"
"—want to kill—"
Seo spun out of the way of their next few shots. If she just kept weaving and darting and dodging enough, she could keep them off their guard. They couldn't see her, after all. Only knew where she was based on the sound of her voice.
"Look at what you did!" Seo demanded, pointing at the spot where the farmer had once been, despite the fact that they couldn't see her. "You've all been very naughty. And I am extremely
disappointed in you."
For a few moments, the Toclafane just hovered there. Not saying anything.
"Invisible lady is stupid," said one of the spheres.
"We don't care what invisible lady thinks," said another.
"Mister Master likes us!" said a third. "Mister Master thinks it's good."
"Mister Master saved us," said another Toclafane. "We love our Mister Master."
Seo paused a moment, her eyes studying them, curiously. "You do what he tells you," she confirmed, "because he saved you?"
"The Master came in his wonderful machine," said one of the Toclafane, blasting at Seo's spot. Seo just barely managed to get out of the way in time. "To rescue us."
"Now it's always playtime!" said another.
Seo gave an involuntary laugh. "Just because he rescued you doesn't mean you have to do what he says," she told them. Remembering her own childhood, a grin spreading across her face. "Dad saved me — from the end of the universe. And I rebelled against him all the time."
The Toclafane really did pause, now. Paused for a lot longer. Thinking this all through.
"Invisible lady… comes from Utopia?" asked one of the spheres.
"No, it… wasn't a utopia," said Seo. "Not at all." She shuddered, recalling her earliest memory. "It was… the end. The nothingness. Everything falling apart. I could feel it." Her voice shook. "No more sky. No more sun. No more anything."
The Toclafane didn't answer.
Seo put herself back together. "But then… Dad came," Seo said. "Rescued me. Brought me to a new world. Brought me…" She glanced at the world around her. "Home."
"You're like us!" chirruped one of the Toclafane.
The others broke out with surprised affirmations. Swooping through the air, curious, as if trying to see Seo, even just once.
Seo stood very still. Mustering her nerves, as the Toclafane surrounded her.
"Yes," Seo told them. "I'm like you. But I learned. People are a privilege. The world is a privilege." Her eyes narrowed, her voice grew dark. Bitter. Angry. "And if you can't play nicely with them, I'm going to have to take them away from you."
The Toclafane all whined out, in unison, firing randomly.
Seo ducked, rolled across the grass, sprung to her feet, and leapt away from them.
"Not fair!" the Toclafane shouted, swirling through the air in what could only be described as the floating-sphere equivalent of a temper tantrum. "Not fair! Not fair! Not fair!"
"Don't want to go back!" shouted one sphere. "Don't want the dark!"
"Mean lady!" shouted another spheres.
"Stupid lady!" shouted yet another.
"We're telling!" they all cried, in unison. "We're telling on you!"
Then, as a group, they zipped through the clouds. And vanished from sight.
Seo stared after them. A little shocked at what had just happened. Then a small smile appeared on her lips, a short laugh passing through her.
"They listened to me," she realized. Looked down at her hands. "They actually—!"
At which point Seo was tackled and dragged off by a seriously panicked Mom, who had clearly only just managed to be held back by Alison and Luke, while Seo had been talking to the Toclafane.
"Don't you ever
do that again
!" Mom snapped.
Seo struggled to extract herself from Mom's grip. "But they listened," Seo explained. "Mom, they're like I was. Children, destroying the world because they're bored and don't know any better. I know how they feel!"
"They're killing people, Seo," Alison snapped. Took a breath that shook with bitter anger. "They killed my dad."
"My mum," Luke added.
"Don't you see? They're nothing
like you!" Alison concluded.
Seo finally managed to squirm out of Buffy's grasp. Popped up, facing Luke and Alison, a sad smile touching her lips. She opened her mouth to speak, then stopped.
They wouldn't understand.
Wouldn't understand what it felt like, being a powerful child who had no idea of consequences or the value of life. Wouldn't understand what Dad had done, when Seo was young and didn't realize that the world was something to be saved, and lives were something to be valued.
It had been a simulated world, of course. Its people all imagined projections originating in her own mind. But Seo hadn't known that, when it happened.
She'd thought she was breaking out of the Axis. She'd thought it was the real world.
And she'd destroyed it.
For no reason.
Only realizing… after days turned to weeks turned to months… that the world wasn't coming back. That the fun part wasn't destroying the world — but enjoying it. Only realizing, after it was too late, that she'd had everything, once. And turned it back into the nothing she came from.
The Toclafane would do that. And wouldn't realize, until it was too late.
"But they are
," Seo insisted.
Mom buried her head in her hands. "She believes she's just like the metal balls who want to kill everyone," she muttered. "Some mom you turned out to be, Buffy."
"No, I meant…" Seo started. Then stopped. Paused. As she noticed there was someone missing from their party. She spun around. "Where's Willow?"
Alison grimaced. "Alive," she said.
Seo's eyes went wide, a sinking feeling in her chest. "Alive where?!"