Doctor Who: Life with Theta

Quoth the Raven

Bubbles of shallow breath slid from The Doctor’s mouth as Jenny watched and waited. Of course, at seemingly random moments a tremor would take him, running through every limb and ending in his thin, bony shoulders, while an occasional blink shook his eyelids from their pallid moorings every few hours. But still, none of these things were proper indicators of the return to wakefulness they were seeking from him. Martha had said his condition would have seemed more hopeful if he hadn’t been breathing, something about a respiratory bypass he could engage at will. She touched the thickened, pectin-like wall of the console cocoon, felt it give a little under her fingers. Agent Pendergast was still sitting before the pulsing column, had been for half a day. What was he doing in there, in that place he’d gone to? Captain Jack was still outside. He’d gone out earlier that day to check on the strange scratching noises coming from outside the TARDIS. What had happened to him? It must have been instant, as she hadn’t even heard a scream. Being a soldier, she knew that it would not be wise to venture out after him, or... after his body, if he were dead or dying. That would have to wait until the lives of her companions were secure, until the threat outside was neutralized or eradicated. It was too much to hope for that whatever was making the noise would leave on its own, and the probability of a hostile force being behind the strangeness grew greater with every second Captain Jack Harkness stayed outside.

Jenny sighed. If only Agent Pendergast would wake up. Then they could at least bounce off each other, compare stratagems, outline plans of action. But he was not awake. He was deeply, necessarily involved inside his own mind. She didn’t like feeling useless. And, what was worse, the only person capable of piloting the Ship was floating in some sort of GOS-F (gelatinous organic stasis fluid) compound above the central control console in front of her. It was silently, inescapably maddening.

“Jenny? Have you eaten yet?”

Martha came over to her from a suddenly-near corridor. The kitchens hadn’t been that way before... the Ship was sentient; perhaps it had moved them.

“The TARDIS doesn’t always take to every companion that stumbles onboard. But I think even she realizes the mess we’re in. I mean, look at her!”

Martha held up a nutritive pill pack and waved it limply at the center console where The Doctor floated.

“She’s even contained him within a kind of... placental gelatin. She’s keeping him safe from whatever’s outside. But not from us. That’s something, at least.”

Jenny couldn’t move. All she could do was stand there and watch her father’s bare chest rise and fall, feeling the slow, steady thrump-thrump! thrump-thrump! of his beating hearts as he slept like a moth in a chrysalis. Her eyes kept creeping down over his stomach, as though she expected him to be carrying more girth than he was. His slim mid-section certainly wasn’t showing now, if it ever had. Strange; Captain Jack had said The Doctor had conceived the triplets four months ago. Well, there were those three odd wings on his back. Perhaps he’d just... absorbed the foetuses and then transformed them, for some reason. But he would never just cannibalize his own unborn children, would he? No. After all, what was it he’d said on Messaline as she lay dying in his arms? ‘I never would.’ Jenny felt her brow furrow slightly in vague irritation. Something indefinably massive was taking place all around them, something she didn’t have enough experience to properly evaluate. She was born of her father, born of a Time Lord, but she lacked the knowledge, the skill, to be of any use as one. Then what was left to her? The food pills in Martha’s packet were sounding good... she asked for one.

“Martha. May I have a pack of those? I need to concentrate, but I’m suddenly hungry. Can’t think on an empty stomach... well, not as well, anyway.”

She flashed the woman a grin, which Martha returned as she tossed a pill pack Jenny’s way.

“You’re just like him, you know,” Martha said, coming around the occupied console to stand beside her, “... can you sit here with me? I would like to tell you about him. Might as well, since we’re stuck here, doing nothing! What do you say?”

“Yeah! I want to know. Everything!”

Martha laughed, then cast a wary look toward the TARDIS’ double doors.

“Well, I don’t know all that much, but what I do know, I’ll share.”

Jenny turned to smile at her, because suddenly it was as if a light had flashed on in her mind.

“Concentrate! That’s it! That stuff he’s floating in is a form of concentrated GOS-F! Gelatinous Organic Stasis Fluid! It’s what we used on Messaline to keep organic foodstuffs fresh! It shields what’s inside from all sorts of signals, but not waves generated in dream state! Agent Pendergast must have reasoned it out. Now, if we could just weaken a single point in the fluid, we could-

Martha shook her head. “That’s good, yeah, but we have to consider the medical ramifications of it. What if we hurt them both? If there was a surge in the system, we could kill Special Agent Pendergast, and seriously harm The Doctor, in his condition. Are you willing to risk that? Placenta conduct electricity with extreme efficiency, due to their being mostly water, and right now the resident genius is encased in a giant one, to say nothing of those triplets of his. Neither Grace or I can even tell if the babies are still alive, whatever form they may or may not have taken. We don’t want a suicidal Time Lord on our hands, even if we do manage to wake him up...”

But Jenny was ready for war. She had been born for it.

“I understand the risks, Doctor Jones. That’s why I want to test my theory on myself first.”

“Hello, all!” Grace Holloway said as she came in from where she’d been working in one of the TARDIS’s medlabs with a handful of books on Time Lord physiology, “... I found what looked to be Time Lord Biology books while you two were sleeping, but I can’t read them. Feels like I’m back in med school again, studying for my cardio exams. Jenny, do you think... what’s going on? Is the TARDIS so distracted she can’t translate for me? Or... is it that she won’t?”

Jenny looked at Martha; Martha looked at her, and then they both answered like twin sisters.

“Why would...never mind that! We found a way to wake him up!”

Grace frowned.

“I heard. Something about passing a low electric current through a weak point in the placenta-like cocoon that’s surrounding him. A nice idea, but... what if there is no weak point? The Captain might know, but, he’s still not back yet, is he? And... ”

She turned, staring off into the hallway where she’d come from. “Is it just me, or have the scratching sounds stopped?”

Jenny cocked her head, waving for the other two women to keep quiet as she set a hand to her ear.

“They have. But there’s something else, something hungry. That whirring!”

She leaped to her feet and ran for the doors.

“It’s that whirring I heard on the TimeStation! That means-”

Before she could step back, the TARDIS’ twin doors slammed open, and a one-armed figure appeared, casting a lone shadow before the ungodly whiteness outside.

“Hello, ladies, I’m back!” Jack said simply.

Then he was on the floor.

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