Doctor Who: Life with Theta

Signal Strength

“Where... do... th... n... borns... go... m... here?”

“Where... do... th... n... borns... go... m... here?”

“Where... do... th... n... borns... go... m... here?”

“Where... do... th... n... borns... go... m... here?”

“The signal’s getting stronger, sir! It’s coming from the sealed basement!”

“What? Not there again! Are the feeds back working yet? I want that intersection, now!”

“Yes sir!”

“Oh, sod it. I was afraid we’d missed something. Better send a detail down...wait.”

A glint of silver flared in the camera. A tiny pen shape shone on the floor not far from where The Doctor had taken ill. It was the sonic screwdriver.

“By God. That’s his sonic! The Doctor’s sonic! How could we have missed that? He’ll never take tea with me again!”

“Permission to speak freely, sir?”

“Oh all right. Permission granted, Misha. Carry on, then.”

“Well, I think that’s taking it a bit too far, sir. Shouldn’t we call his boyfriend, that Captain Harkness? He’s leading Torchwood, now... maybe he’d come round for it?”

“Splendid idea, Lieutenant! But, we’ve no word on whether The Doctor’s properly recovered yet. Remember the briefings on what happened the last time he was this unwell? He nearly didn’t regenerate. Got a bit of a push from another Time Lord, but from what I hear that can’t possibly happen now, or ever again. Sad thing, to lose him for good, what with those newborns and all. He’s the finest, bravest man alive, even if he is another species.”

“... Quite right, sir. I’ll contact the Captain presently. Shall I contact Doctor Jones as well? She may want to be apprised...oh!”

The signal from the Sonic becomes louder as earpieces and sound equipment are tweaked. Cameras all over the control room are zooming in on the slim probe, which is blinking blue.

“Where do the newborns go from here?”

“Whatever does that mean? Someone tell me what that means!”

“No idea, sir! Perhaps it’s a data ghost?”

“Send someone down there to get it, then, Lambtree, maybe. He has a death wish anyways. We should notify Captain Harkness of this development. That message won’t play forever, I’ll wager, so use the Indigos and fetch him, The Doctor and those two adorable cherubs. Fetch Jones too, if she’s available, so we can keep an eye on The Doctor’s health and keep the tots in line.”

“Yes, sir. Oh! Hold on, sir! There seems to be another signal cutting in... wait! But that’s the... ”

“Out with it then, lad! What is going on? Show me the screen.”

“Sir! The TARDIS just materialized right behind The Doctor’s Sonic! See there? Oh! The doors! They’re opening! But who could it be? The Doctor is unconscious... ”

“Shut up and watch! We can’t do anything now. The bloody ship’ll be up and gone before we reach the lift. We’ll just have to wait until our alien science advisor recovers from his coma. Captain Harkness! Now! He ought to see this.”

A slim figure stepped out from the TARDIS’s blue double doors, in a black velvet cloak that clung to slight, uneven shoulders and a slender frame. One arm slid from the big square of fabric, dangling loose wires as if they were the tippets of a renaissance gown. The shaded head, hidden in the dark mushroom of the hood, turned then, tilting up toward a corner mounted camera, one red photoelectric eye gleaming out from the cowl’s wide berth.

“What? Oh, hello Colonel! Is that a scowl? Well, not to worry. I just came by for this!”

The voice was cool and peppery, like the spicy ding of glass on galvanized steel. It was also tinny, as though their uninvited speaker had been standing in a bit of piping. It was the Major’s voice. But the mind behind it... there was no mistaking that jovial arrogance, that... singular alien eccentricity.

“Quite right... now, I’m not going to ask how you came to inhabit the Major’s cybernetic body, Doctor. However, don’t you think you ought to be with your children, now? And that Captain of yours... he must be worried sick! How do you intend to reverse this?”

A shrug lowered the line of those lovely shoulders, and then the one hand lifted, lowering the deep hood to reveal a pale, dented mask of partially melted epidermal plating and pseudoskin. This half of her face had been reduced to barely humanoid slag, and parts of the cranial hull -which concealed the elongate, walnut mass of the Major’s remote cyberbrain- could be seen through the few strips of pseudoflesh still peeling from the surface.

“This husk could do with a few repairs... but I don’t have time. I’ve got to pop back by our flat and check in on Jack and the children. Oh... ”

He waved the hand in the air, one pinkie dangling from a mass of spark spitting wires. “... and, uh... my body. The boys must be hungry... I really hope Jack had the presence of mind to set them at my breast... vestigial though it may be. Human males can breastfeed, too. Bet you didn’t know that, eh?”

The Major’s lips smiled thinly, a strange thing, as they had been quavering somewhat when The Doctor first started using them. Gingerly, he reached to touch his borrowed face with slender fingers beneath which hints of silver glinted like gold dust in a stream. There probably wasn’t anywhere on the cyborg’s body that wasn’t affected by the encounter with Lao-Tsen.

“Yep. Gonna have to tune these properly for you when everything’s settled. A few bangs here, a few tweaks there, a new flesh job, quality replacement parts, some technical improvements... that ought to fix you up quite nicely, Major. What do you say?”

The red eyes turned to the side, scanning for an answer from the ether. He didn’t need to turn them, but he did, for the sake of the UNIT members watching from the camera array.

This time the Major’s voice resounded in their ears.

“I look forward to a tune up from you, Doctor. You know I always appreciate your handiwork. But Jack sounded depressed. Shouldn’t we hurry?”

She withdrew her left hand from the long black coat, the fingers clean and free of mars or scratches. Perfect. Trapped together in one body, they were like two sides of a coin. One half was functional but in ruins, while the other half was near pristine, but inseparable from the affected side without loss of function. It seemed a kind of poetry, the sway of lagging steps, the dance of mechanisms struggling to remain in motion. They were a good team.

“Ah, before you go, Doctor... ”

The damaged eye stirred in its half-melted socket.

“Yes, Colonel?”

The Colonel could feel the piercing glare of that red photocell hold him in chains as though the Doctor stood there in his own flesh, his real, living body, instead of the twitching, dollish wire frame remnants of the Major’s metal one.

“Good luck to you both! And if we can help, you know the secret handshake, eh Doctor?”

“Good man. Oh! And in case you were wondering, I chose this cloak because it’s a classic. A right well handy duster, just perfect for lurking and acting mysterious! Course, you could say I borrowed the look from my old friend, Lady Cassandra, but... weeellll, you lot need not know about that. Anyway, it’s lovely, isn’t it? Conceals pretty much everything one might wish hidden on my kind of short notice.”

Then, the loosened fingers attempted an awkward, waggling flourish of wires and skin, and achieved it.

“And besides I’m not much to look at, at the moment. The Major, on the other hand... Well, I’ve got to get on with... things. Cheerio, then!”

Then he replaced the hood over the Major’s face, and her soft chuckle was the last sound that played before she spoke again, just as the Doctor guided her lame footed cybernetic shell through the blue double doors of his beloved TARDIS.

“Colonel, a hint, from one soldier to another... this cloak doesn’t absorb light. It bends it, which is why you haven’t seen us on the evening news. In other words, he was putting you on.”

The Colonel beamed.

“So I gathered, Major, so I gathered. I’m only glad we could be of some small assistance to you both,” he said, and held a salute as the TARDIS began to depart, its signature whir a sharp, triplicate echo against the thick walls of the bomb shelter intersection.

“Well, lads, lasses... that was rather a bit of intrigue. Now could someone please get Harkness on the line? Jones? Anyone?”

“Well that’s just it, sir... we know he’s at home from surveillance, which he knows about of course, but still, we can’t get through. And Torchwood phoned in. They say Jones is off on assignment.”

“Well, that’s expected, what with the Captain off taking care of the family. Keep trying his flat. He’s bound to wake up some time. Why, when my children were that young, my wife and I were right bombarded with baby bottles and diapers and spit up and all kinds of lovely. Thought we were in for a second blitz, those first few years... ahhh. I imagine The Doctor’s kids might be somewhat better behaved, but they’re still infants. And infants need direction, discipline. They’re vulnerable. They need their parents’ support and care. I very much hope that The Doctor can come through this, for their sake at least. The Captain too.”

“Yes, sir. They’re both extraordinary men. Universe needs more of em.”

“Right you are, Sergeant. Right you are.”

“Shall I go retrieve Lambtree? He hasn’t reported back since you sent him down there, sir.”

“What? Oh dear... bring your ice gun, Misha. And round up some more willing participants. Something tells me we’re in for round two down below, and a few extra hands with displacers will be, well, handy. This will not proceed as it did a week ago.”

“Very good, sir. I have the rest of them on recharge, and the calls to Harkness are already on automatic... Thirdly, I left the Bomb Shelter schematics up, in case one of them pops back by. Will that be sufficient, sir?”

“It will have to be.”

Click.


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