"I promised you one trip," said the Doctor, walking towards the door as the three girls recovered from the bumpy ride. "Outside this door, brave new world."
"Where are we?" Martha asked the Doctor.
"Take a look. After you." The two stepped out of the TARDIS.
"What if we die?" April asked Harriet, who was standing by the door.
"We'll be fine," Harriet laughed. "Don't you wanna see Shakespeare?" April put on a smile. It would be really exciting, and if she was going to go travelling around with the Doctor, she might as well make the most of it. Even if it did mean she would have to deal with evil alien witches. Taking a deep breath, April stepped out into the world.
It was night, and the streets were bustling with people, wearing dresses and old-fashioned suits, though April supposed some would be considered the latest new fashion at the time. The smell of horses permeated the air. April could hear whinnying in the background as people bartered at the marketplace and urchins ran through the streets. Torches lit up the city, their glow warming the air and giving it a cheerful atmosphere.
"Oh, you are kidding me," Martha said. "You are so kidding me. Oh, my god, we did it. We travelled in time. Where are we? No, sorry. I gotta get used to this whole new language. When are we?" April and Harriet smiled. They had travelled in time before, yes, to get to Logopolis, but it felt different. This was Earth at a different time. A whole new world, and right there in their past.
"Mind out," the Doctor said, pulling Martha back as a man emptied a bucket from a window. April and Harriet had both made sure to get out of the way beforehand.
"Watch the water!" Someone shouted. April could've sworn that they'd spoken in French during the show. She remembered arguing with one of her brothers about whether it made sense for Martha to hear a different language. TARDIS translation circuit, she reminded herself.
"It's like in the films," Martha was saying. "You step on a butterfly, you change the future of the human race."
"Tell you what, then," the Doctor said, rushing forwards. "Don't step on any butterflies. What have butterflies ever done to you?"
"It won't cause a problem," Harriet assured her.
"And this is London?" Martha said, catching up with the Doctor.
"I think so," he said. "Round about 1599."
"Oh, but hold on," Martha said. "Am I alright? I'm not going to get carted off as a slave, am I?"
"There's got to be some sort of perception filter or something," April said, hoping to avoid the Doctor's insensitive answer.
"Humans tend to ignore anything that doesn't fit in with their worldview," he said. "Just walk about like you own the place. Works for me." April could see Harriet cringe. "Besides," he said, either ignoring her or not realizing Martha's discomfort, "you'd be surprised. Elizabethan England, not so different from your time. Look over there. They've got recycling. Water cooler moment. Global warming. Oh, yes, and entertainment. Popular entertainment for the masses. If I'm right, we're just down the river by Southwark, right next to—"
He pulled them along until they could see it. "Oh, yes, the Globe Theatre! Brand new. Just opened. Though, strictly speaking, it's not a globe, it's a tetradecagon. Fourteen sides. Containing the man himself."
"Whoa, you don't mean."
"We get to meet Shakespeare!" Harriet said, bouncing up and down. For the older one, Harriet can sometimes act much less mature, thought April.
"Well, would you like to take a look?" The Doctor asked them.
"Shakespeare," Martha said, shaking her head. "Oh, my god, we can see Shakespeare!" April followed as they walked towards the theatre, nervous about what was to come. If she could persuade the Master of the Revels not to cancel the show, he wouldn't be killed. Or if she could do something about Lilith…but would the Doctor get upset with her for acting on future knowledge? Convincing the Master of the Revels to let the play happen would work; she would just be excited to see something lost to history, in the Doctor's eyes. He wouldn't know that she was trying to change things.
No, said a voice inside of her, somehow convinced in its truth. He would, he would somehow. Do you really think you could trick him? For once, April, you're not the most intelligent person around, it's the Doctor, and he'll know.
There's no way he would.
And besides, the Doctor said you can't for a reason! It's not like he wants people to die. He said you could destroy the universe with a paradox.
I'm from another universe—it wouldn't cause a paradox.
You don't know that.
Yes! I! Do! Someone's life was in danger. She couldn't just stand there and let a man die, whatever stupid rules were there to stop her.
Had Mr. Stoker died, back at the hospital? She'd never asked. Did the Doctor get there in time to save him without her slowing him down? Did her advice save a life? Or had he died all the same? I've got to do something, April decided. But what was there to do, without breaking one of the Doctor's rules?
Lilith gets one of the Master of the Revel's hairs, doesn't he? April realized. If I can position myself to stop her…She looked at Harriet, cheerfully walking along and chatting with Martha and the Doctor, meeting her heroes. But April couldn't just forget about it, let the story play out. Because Harriet had been right earlier. Harriet had been the most adamant about stopping everything that went wrong, but she had also completely dropped it. And April wasn't going to let herself do that.
Back at the tavern, April was sitting down at a table with Shakespeare, watching him attempt to flirt with Martha.
"Such unusual clothes. So fitted," he said, staring at her like she had a horn growing out of her head.
"Er, verily, forsooth, egads," Martha tried.
"No, no, don't do that. Don't. I'm Sir Doctor of Tardis," the Doctor said, showing Shakespeare his psychic paper. "My companion, Miss Martha Jones, and my, er, nieces, Harriet and April."
"Interesting, that bit of paper," said Shakespeare. "It's blank."
"Oh, that's very clever," grinned the Doctor. "That proves it. Absolute genius."
"No, it says right there. Our names," Martha protested.
"And I say it's blank."
"Psychic paper. Er, long story. Oh, I hate starting from scratch."
"Psychic?" Shakespeare asked, trying out the word. "Never heard that before and words are my trade. Who are you, exactly? More to the point, who is your delicious blackamoor lady?"
"What did you say?" Martha asked, affronted.
"Oops," Shakespeare said, embarrassed. "Isn't that a word, we use nowadays? An Ethiop girl? A Queen of Afric?"
"I can't believe I'm hearing this."
"It's political correctness gone mad," the Doctor said. April glanced around nervously, waiting for the Master of the Revels to arrive. "Er, Martha's from a far-off land. Freedonia." Finally, a man in expensive clothing entered the room.
"Excuse me! Hold hard a moment, this is abominable behavior. A new play with no warning? I demand to see a script, Mr. Shakespeare. As Master of the Revels, every new script must be registered at my office and examined by me before it can be performed."
"Tomorrow morning, first thing, I'll send it round," Shakespeare promised.
"I don't work your schedule; you work to mine." 'Shedule.' I'm sure they find our way of saying it just as strange. April tried giggle at his pronunciation. And she was pretty sure that the Master of the Revels noticed. "The script, now!"
"He can give it to you really quickly," April said. A pretty girl with light brown hair was spying from the shadows. "Tonight. Just a few more hours."
"I listen not to the whining of undignified women!" He said. Harriet snorted.
"But the people love his stories," April tried. "Imagine their disappointment when they discover that Loves Labors Won won't be performed! And, good sir, they would blame you, uneducated as they are."
He paused, clearly thinking about it, and April's heart filled with hope. If he didn't interfere, then he wouldn't become involved in this. And no one else would have to be hurt. This could work.
'What are you doing?' Harriet mouthed. April didn't respond.
"I heed not the likes of you!" Insisted the Master of the Revels. "I'm returning to my office for a banning order. If it's the last thing I do, Love's Labours Won will never be played!" April could see Lilith slip away as he turned on his heels and stomped down the stairs.
"I thank you, for trying," Shakespeare said, his head in his hands, "but he cannot be dissuaded."
"I have to get something," April lied, standing up. "I think I dropped my polishing cloth for my glasses on my way." What are you doing, what are you doing, what are you doing?
I'm saving his life.
Then you're an idiot!
Well, I'm not going to be a coward!
I am not going to sit here calling myself names when someone is going to die!
April hurried out before anyone could stop her, including Harriet. Rushing down the stairs, she only hoped that she would get to the courtyard in time.
"Begging your pardon, sir," Lilith was saying to the Master of the Revels.
"You!" April said. 'Walk around like you own the place,' April remembered the Doctor saying. Straightening her shoulders, she held her chin up and looked down at Lilith like she was a creature hardly worthy of her time. "Are you not supposed to be working?"
"Of course, ma'am, sorry, ma'am, I'll be on my way, ma'am," Lilith said humbly. She looked over at the Master of the Revels, and began to reach for his hair.
"Stop!" April said forcefully. "A person of your station belongs far away from the likes of us. Do not dare presume to touch him." Lilith regarded her carefully for a moment.
"And what would your name be, ma'am?" She asked.
April opened her mouth to tell her. No! What're you doing? She'll name you! April caught herself just in time. "That is none of your business," April said. "Now off with you!" She watched as Lilith ran away.
"What are you doing out here?" The Master of the Revels sneered.
"I came to warn you. She is no witch, but she is dangerous all the same. Don't let her lay a finger on you."
"I need not your help or aid," he said, chin even higher in the air as he pranced off. April sighed. You idiot! Said that annoying voice that had been speaking up quite frequently in the past…how long had it even been? What did you do?
I saved his life.
For all you know—
Shut up! April silenced it. Hopefully the Master of the Revels would listen to her. Then she went back inside, and sat down at the table.
"You're alright!" Harriet said, smiling.
"Why wouldn't she be?" Martha asked.
The Doctor watched Harriet's worry fade away, and frowned. "Something's wrong. This isn't the only reason the play was never performed."
"Shouldn't—" Harriet began.
"Don't tell me," the Doctor insisted. "If you cause a paradox…"
"April, what did you do?" Harriet asked.
"Nothing," April said. "I got my glasses cloth."
"There's supposed to be—"
And then there was a scream. Just like there was supposed to be.
"No!" April shouted, jumping up. He hadn't listened to her, and now she was dead. Dead. Forever. What was his name? It was so cliched that April almost laughed in spite of herself. She had been calling him 'The Master of the Revels'. And she had tried everything she could, and he had still died. It was straight out of a storybook. Even with all of her knowledge, she still couldn't change the future.
The Doctor ran outside, his coat billowing out behind him. So, what now?
We go on. More people to save. One person died, yes. And there's…plenty of people in the world that haven't. The rest of the group ran out, leaving April behind in the inn. So, she took a deep breath, and then she followed them out into the night.
"This way!" The Doctor yelled.
Then there was another, higher scream. "He's dead! Oh, he's dead!" The group ran into an alleyway, where the Master of the Revels lay on the ground. But instead of his mouth gushing water, he appeared to have just…stopped.
"No," April whispered. "I stopped her, I—" She ran to the body, kneeling over it.
"Got to get the heart going," Martha said. "Mr. Lynley, come on. Can you hear me? You're going to be—" The Doctor touched her shoulder gently.
"His mind is gone."
"His mind is gone?" Martha asked faintly. "It doesn't work like that!" She began to prepare for CPR. "If I can just restart his heart—"
"He's dead," April said. "I can't believe it." She looked at his eyes, glassy, unfeeling. He hadn't deserved this. No one deserved this.
Yeah, well, life's not fair.
Shut up, shut up, shut up!
"Watch the water!" Someone above them shouted, and April jumped back just in time to avoid the bucket of waste falling on her. It covered Mr. Lynley's body and face, soaking his well-made, old-fashioned, modern fashion clothes. Slimy, dirty water all over him, and Martha, to her credit, didn't even blink. She leaned over him to start CPR, but Shakespeare held her back.
"Get off me!" She yelled, and April reminded herself never to get in the way of a doctor and her patient.
"His soul is with God now," Shakespeare said. "And he is at peace."
"That's not how it works!" Martha yelled again. "We can save him, if you just let me go!"
"I'm so, so sorry," the Doctor said to the body. April bent down to close his eyes, ignoring the smell. She felt sick, and it wasn't the bucket of sewage. Then the Doctor turned to the woman who had screamed. "Good mistress, this poor fellow has died from a sudden imbalance of the humours. A natural if unfortunate demise. Call a constable and have him taken away."
"Yes, sir," she said, running off.
"And why are you telling him that?" Martha demanded.
"His entire psyche disappeared, wiped. He just died for no apparent reason, and his heart stopped because there was no one to keep it beating for," the Doctor frowned. "This lot still have got one foot in the Dark Ages. If I tell them the truth, they'll panic and think it was witchcraft."
"Okay," Martha said, calming down. "What was it then?"
The Doctor stood up, and despite everything that had happened thus far, he smiled. "Witchcraft."