Jack pointed at the corridor they’d just escaped from with his now-empty gun.
“You know, kiddies... ” he said, grinning at the newly-freed UNIT members who’d joined in the fracas in the previous hallway, “... that was more fun than I’ve had in sixty years! It’s a good thing The Doctor wasn’t here to see... ”
He shoved a flat hand across his neck, signaling silence, then pointed to the overhead vents crisscrossing the building.
“There’s something up there!”
At his warning, a storm of automatics swung and aimed, cocking and clicking and jolting to mechanized life. The thing in the vent tapped weakly against the metal then, once, twice, in sequence, almost as if it were... communicating. But, how could a ravenous alien lizard baby know Morse Code? A sudden mass of acid realization burned in his throat like bile.
“If any one of you shoots into that vent I’ll kill you myself!”
The Time Agent spat the order at the UNIT soldiers, who were slow to lower their reddening displacer rifles despite his frantic command.
“Listen, all of you! It’s the damn Fibonacci sequence! What alien would think to use that?”
Then the vent door swung open, and a bloody, tangled mess of wet trousers, pale toes, ginger hair and scratches slid out of the shaft and landed in Jack’s arms.
“Hullo, Beautiful! Snog any intelligent life today?” the Time Lord whispered with a soft laugh. Then he went limp.
“Martha!” Jack screamed into his headset, clutching the shaking Gallifreyan to his chest, “... I need a saline pack and I need it yesterday!”
He sank to the ground along with his lover’s chill form, holding him as firmly as the alien’s pregnant belly would allow.
Martha was busy tending to Lao-Tsen, but when she saw the Doctor, she relegated the reptilian to a colleague with a hurried apology and scrambled toward them, grabbing up her kit and a fresh bag of saline solution as she struggled to keep her footing on the now-icy floor. That ice was there because of the displacer rifles the soldiers were using. She was grateful to Jack for making the necessary modifications. Hopefully the Doctor would be too, if he woke up in time to appreciate the man’s thoughtfulness. Biting back tears, she skidded the last few steps and landed next to the Time Agent with a thud. Everything was sticking to the half-melted floor, but soon the room would thaw from all the activity, especially now that the reptiliform child had been safely contained.
The other UNIT members, with the help of the Major and her anonymous friend, had gotten the toothsome infant into a displacer ambush, successfully sedating it with several cold blasts. They had then trapped it in a newer, maximum security refrigeration unit until The Doctor and Lao-Tsen had recovered. As she bent over the Time Lord checking pulses and gauging temperatures and palpating the hard evidence of his pregnancy, she had to grin, because after everything he’d done for the human race, now it was her chance to save him again, even if it was only from exhaustion and forced salt-deficiency. All those nasty scratches...and oh, how she cherished the chance to care for him once more.
”Your bump’s grown bigger since you left us at the blast door, Doctor,” she mused, closing her kit, “... did something happen?”
“You’d be surprised, Martha dear.”
His breathy rejoin was so quiet, she nearly misheard him. Then he bolted upright, eyes shining like blue furnaces.
“Speaking of the blast door, I left my sonic there...could you have someone fetch it for me? I’m in no condition to go anywhere near that blue glop again. And about that blue glop... I see the thermal displacers worked their magick on the baby... poor thing. Stranger in a strange land, all alone in the world, the whole bit.”
The alien gave a long sigh and pushed himself to his feet, drawing concerned looks from every available face, as well as crushing glares from Jack and Martha. “Martha,” he said softly, shoving an arm across her chest as if to keep her safe. She looked down at the arm, which was clamped tightly across her bosom, then she turned and looked at his face.
His lips curved slightly, forming a slim, barely arching line of feral determination as he took a step toward Lao-Tsen, who lay sprawled on his back, his smooth head tilted away from them. Martha’s subordinate was reaching down, about to take his temperature.
“You don’t mean... ”
She held her breath, then found the words she wanted and said them.
“I’ll have Lambtree relieve Misha straight away.”
“No. Don’t let on. Don’t tell anyone anything.”
His whisper was a soft command that echoed in her head, and she found herself wanting to obey so strongly that it frightened her when he finally spoke aloud again.
“I’ll take care of it. All of it. Just... stay here with Jack.”
Then he slipped his turtleneck off and handed it to her. Jack was standing now, swearing in some other language. But he didn’t move. She couldn’t understand it. Why wasn’t Jack going to stop him?
This time it was Jack’s voice she heard, muttering beside her, just loud enough so that the Time Lord could hear.
“I can’t believe this. He’s going to do it. Damn it, Martha, he’s going over there! Even Kusanagi’s not fast enough to match him... he’s the only one. Damn him anyway! ”
“Oh, don’t worry, Jack!” The Doctor said over his shoulder as he strode across the ice to meet Lao-Tsen, who had risen on sleek white haunches and was watching him approach. “Just stay here and shut up.”
“And me?” quipped the Major flatly via the uplink.
Her perfect features, sculpted of metal and covered in synthetic flesh, held no amusement now. She was evaluating him, her eyes like lightless garnets against the bright, sterile white of the walls. Then her gaze drifted downward over his stomach and back again.
“Your hearts are beating so fast they’re raging against your ribcage. Planning to cause some trouble, Old Man?”
A grin spread thick as molasses over his face, and he turned to beam at her. It was a false smile, meant for one person, and only that one. But in the privacy of the uplink, he said this: “Always. Did you get my sonic?”
Suddenly a white blur skidded past the Time Lord, backhanding him into a nearby wall. It was Lao-Tsen. The lizard was heading for the containment area...changing shape mid-leap as he jumped into the gaggle of UNIT soldiers who were busy clearing away the ice.
The Doctor growled something in what sounded like Sycoraxic.
“I claim right of judiciary combat by article 14 of the Shadow Proclamation! You, Lao-Tsen Rin, are no Reptiliform! Now get your blubbery illegal arse back here and fight like the filthy, baby eating Bok Sek you really are!”
The Doctor was a swaying mess, but somehow he managed to get to his feet again and started off after Lao-Tsen, who by this time had metamorphosed into a massive, roiling bipedal Transluce with inky black innards and gaping holes that could have been eyes, except that they were leaking blue glop, the same blue glop that had been on the walls.
“Don’t let it escape! It’s after the real Reptiliform, and she’s just a child! And that child is drowsing away in that oversized meat locker! Soldiers, on your feet! Ready your weapons and... ”
Before he could finish he crashed to the ground, grabbing his sides and heaving, curling tighter and tighter on himself as another deep contraction finally wracked him, pushing the second watery plug free of his body and into his trousers, soaking them through. A dark puddle spread beneath him as he writhed there, his lower muscles jerking, quivering with the violence of a labor too long delayed.
The Lao-Tsen thing emitted a gurgling laugh, then shoved a hand into its chest and drew out a small, shell-shaped device. A button clicked, and then the encircling UNIT dragnet fell backwards onto the ice like a mass of human dominoes.
“Oh, great. So much for them,” Jack muttered, removing a handgun from a hidden shoulder holster and tossing it to Martha while he ran to The Doctor’s side.
“You all right down there, Theta? Theta! Oh shit. Hold on!”
The Time Lord shoved up then, his mouth widening in animal effort as his choking throat filled with groan after groan. His fingers tightened convulsively on Jack’s, his blue eyes fixed and staring and fully dilate while his body struggled to expel its squirming, twofold burden. Then he arched upward in a stabbing curve that drove a thick scream from his chest as his womb suddenly constricted, forcing him back down onto his knees so sharply he saw stars. One final, feeble push later, he felt a thick rush of fluid and heard a soft cry, then another, and promptly passed out in Jack’s arms.
The Time Agent had made the decision long ago that he would be the only one to remember all that blood, and so he drew a long, slow breath and stuck his hand in his coat. But as he withdrew the retcons from his pocket, a long-fingered hand popped up and snatched the pills out of his grasp.
“What did I tell you about those nasty things, Jack Harkness? You’d hand em off like Hallowe’en candy if I let you. And you were about to stick one down my throat!”
The Doctor made a choking sound, then continued sniping while Martha examined his newborn children for signs of distress.
“I’ll have you know that just thinking about using one of those primitive memory scrubbers on me could have disrupted who knows how many timelines! In fact, it probably would have given me brain damage, and then it would have been twice the travesty. Gobs! Have to watch you every minute!”
Unable to contain herself, Martha looked up briefly from her charges and interjected.
“Well, Doctor, wouldn’t you know which ones? I mean, you are in the room.”
A sudden silence and a sniff were all she got before their ears again were filled with the sounds of fighting. The Time Lord cracked his neck from side to side, stood up without assistance. Then, patting his two infant sons on their pale little heads, he crossed over to where the third wave of UNIT soldiers stood blocking the way to the Reptiliform child in her box behind Jack and Martha. He could feel her mind rousing inside the box, waking up from the racket outside. That, and the unit was defrosting. He would have to hurry. But where was Lao-Tsen, the polymorph? Grabbing one of the soldiers by a little known deltoidinal pressure point, he eased the unconscious man to the ground and proceeded to steal his trousers and shoes.
“Needed fresh clothes did you, sir?” chortled one of the newer recruits, a lean young woman with short black hair. Her green eyes sparkled like emeralds whenever she got to shoot the large displacer she held to so tightly. She was going to die in her late thirties of cancer, alone in a room with only a stranger for company, unless her timeline shifted soon. Why? Always, why? The familiar lethargy of second hand knowledge took him then, and he found himself pinching the bridge of his fine nose. A hand touched his shoulder. It was her.
“Sir? Are you all right? My mates and I, we were all taking bets that you wouldn’t regenerate during the birth. I’m glad I won, but I don’t want to see you collapse over a few quid. You looked sick there, for a few.”
He looked at her, smiled blankly, dutifully. Even saluted. But he didn’t say he was all right. He knew he should have lied for her, said something at least, but the words just wouldn’t come. As he raised his head again, he could just see the Polymorph as it crept along the outer walls of the underground bunker, heading for the back of the containment unit. No more mister nice Time Lord. That ravenous thing was after his children, after everyone’s children, not to mention the one sleeping not so peacefully in the oversized icebox. Little Lizzie was only one of many prized morsels, of that he was certain. Shrugging on the downed man’s slacks and boots, he sprinted hard toward Lao-Tsen, casting his telepathic senses out in wide, sweeping waves for any sign of the Major. Suddenly the cyborg burst out from a ruined section of wall, right in front of Lao-Tsen. The polymorph screamed its defiance in a rage of watery, wild laughter, then lunged for her. But she was grinning, and as the thing slammed her against the wall she drew back her arm and pitched something silver and pen shaped over Lao-Tsen’s head. Then, a sick metallic crunch erupted in a resounding five part discord from the place of their encounter, and as The Doctor casually swiped his sonic screwdriver from mid air without a glance, both the presence of Motoko Kusanagi and the hum of the uplink were instantly seared from his mind like ribbons of smoke from a pinched candle.