Title: The Fall
Genre: General/Character Study
Word Count: 500
Characters: Lorna Bucket, cameo role for The Doctor.
Summary: The Gamma Forests are heaven-neutral. Lorna prepares to pick a side.
Set prior to the events of A Good Man Goes To War, so spoilers for that episode. It was autumn in the Gamma Forests, and the leaves were falling.
For the first half of the year they grew so densely that the sound of wind passing over the top branches was like a crowd in uproar. Now the slightest gust would shake them loose and send them whispering to the ground. Children raced each other to catch as many as they could, eager faces upturned towards the sunlight.
Come the next morning the trees would be stripped bare, and the Forests would be reopened to air traffic. Lorna pulled on her uniform and ran through a whirlwind of colour to the barracks. Before she joined up, the building had been a silo for the fruit harvest. The walls still retained a musty odour that clung to the roof of the mouth. Minister Goodfellow was already at his post, and - by the looks of it - well into his afternoon's drinking. When he swallowed his lips came together in a fat pout, like a baby nuzzling for milk.
"Well, Bucket, it's almost lift-off. Here for your kit?"
Goodfellow stifled a belch. In a flash of distaste Lorna wondered how she could ever have been in awe of him, this stubby Church apparatchik whose neck chafed against his shirt collar. Last winter, half the neighbourhood had turned out to watch his arrival. He'd enjoyed the attention, making great play of unloading his supplies. The guns were all filled with blanks, of course - nobody could carry live ammunition on heaven-neutral soil - but the sight was thrilling enough for most. A few of Lorna's old schoolfriends had stayed on through her early training, until its monotonousness took the edge off their curiosity. She was not sorry to see them go. This path was hers alone, and even Goodfellow could only lead her so far.
The minister was trailing his hands down her uniform, examining the seams. The smell of drink was almost overwhelming. "The teleport system will be looking for our bioprints at sunrise, so go to sleep as you are. And, Bucket - best not advertise your encounter too loudly up there. Gamma can't be seen to have fraternised with the enemy."
Lorna let her fingers close over the weapons pack. "I was a kid. And we weren't 'fraternising', we were running. You remember running, sir?"
The flush on Goodfellow's cheeks blossomed out to his ears. "I didn't hear that. Until tomorrow, Bucket."
New recruits were expected to spend their final hours of civilian life in isolation. 'Purgatory', the Church called it, from a long-abandoned Earth belief. Lying with her back to the silo's entrance, Lorna traced patterns in the dirt floor with her fingertips. On the day that changed everything, she'd waited in a room like this. Since then she had learnt all his faces, so the one in the memory was always shifting - older one moment, boyish the next.
I know you're afraid, he'd said. But I'm coming back. Stay here until it's quiet.