"How. Many. Times." Sarah Jane says through gritted teeth, "do I have to remind you? Stay away from UNIT!"
"Alright, alright, I get it." Clyde holds his hands up and backs away. "Men with guns bad. But you gotta admit they saved our bacon today!"
"Yes. Well." Behind them, sizzling and sparking, lies a giant robot, the mechanical guts of its wiring spilling out onto the ground. "I'd have preferred a less...violent solution to our problems."
"Oh, so men with guns are bad, but robots with guns are misunderstood? That thing was ready to kill us!"
"He's right," interjects a new voice, and both Sarah Jane and Clyde turn to see a tall blonde woman striding towards them. "We try not to do so much of the shooting-and-killing thing these days, but sometimes needs must." She smiles, a little sheepish, and holds out her hand. "Kate Stewart, UNIT. I'm sorry about the guns - they really were a last resort."
Clyde shakes the proffered hand; beside him, Sarah Jane lets out a disbelieving huff.
"We did just save your life," Kate says, hand dropping back to her side when Sarah Jane makes no move to take it. A tiny smile hovers, curious, at the corner of her lips. "Now, I'm not saying we deserve a parade, and I hate the all-guns-blazing approach just as much as the next person, but we really had exhauted all our peaceful options."
"You could have at least tried to talk to it!" Sarah Jane says, quick and indignant.
"There just wasn't time." There's a note of finality in her voice. "I brought a robotics expert along, just in case - I really hoped...well." She flashes a tired smile, and suddenly she looks less like a hard-bitten soldier and more like someone just trying their best to do their job. "Science leads, but not blindly. There were lives at risk - the choice had to be made, and fast."
"I just wish the choice hadn't involved blowing the poor thing up! It's not the robot's fault it was designed by a megalomaniac!"
"You're quite right." Kate sighs. "But we can't win all of them."
"I suppose not." Frostiness melts into a warm smile. "I do appreciate that you tried, though. It's...oh, it's not what I've come to expect from UNIT."
"Things change. And not always for the worse."
"I quite agree."
They stand for a minute, smiling bemusedly at each other, until the sudden hiss and spit of live electricity is punctured by Clyde's "Ouch!" from just behind them.
Sarah Jane whirls around immediately. "Clyde Langer, what part of "dangerous killer robot"makes you think that it's a good idea to play with it?" She holds up a hand to forestall Clyde's inevitable defence, ignoring Kate's soft noise of amusement at her side. "I don't want to hear it. I'm taking you straight home right now, before you decide it's a good idea to bring it back to life!"
Clyde grumbles, but lets himself be swept towards the door.
They're almost at the exit when Kate catches up, placing a gentle hand on Sarah Jane's arm to stall her progress: "Wait a minute.".
When Sarah Jane turns, Kate is holding out a card.
"My contact details," Kate says with a grin. "In case there's an emergency." She looks away, then back again, almost shy. "Or in case there isn't."
Sarah Jane raises an eyebrow, amusement dancing in her eyes, and takes the card.
Three Days Later
Kate Stewart picks up her phone on the third ring. "Hello?"
"Hello, Kate," says a familiar voice. "It's Sarah Jane Smith."
"I take it there's an emergency?"
"A dire emergency," Sarah Jane agrees, suppressed laughter in her voice. "I've got an entire bottle of wine and absolutely no-one to drink it with. Do you have plans this evening?"
"Paperwork, paperwork, and more paperwork," Kate says, settling back into her chair. "But I'll have you know that UNIT never ignores an emergency."