Series: Two Travellers
Characters: Tenth Doctor, Jack Harkness
Genre: drama, episode-related, gen
Length: 1993 words
Spoilers: Spoilers for Children of Earth.
Summary: "I've got an errand to run. A loose end to tie up," The Doctor tells Jack.
Disclaimer: The sandbox belongs to RTD and the BBC. I'm just playing here, in the corner, making little sand-TARDISes. Not making any money, not asserting any claims.
A/N: Sorry for the very long delay since the first chapter came out. Many thanks to my most excellent betas, wendymr and canaana .
Jack tightens his grip on the slaver's throat. The Squerri makes some wordless sounds of protest and tries to claw at Jack's arm. He squeezes harder, then eases off when the claws pull away. He doesn't want to give the bastard the mercy of oblivion. His mind runs through the steps he learned long ago in another life. RIPPI. Restraints. Isolation. Pain. Psychological manipulation. Interrogation.
He can strike the last one off the list. There's nothing that he wants to learn from this scumbag -- except how loud he can scream. Isolation will be difficult to achieve under the circumstances. Blindness might do the trick. There's a biro in my coat pocket. A couple of quick jabs to the eyes.... He's vaguely aware that the Doctor is saying his name.
"Jack? Ja-ack? Don't kill him." The calm, matter-of-fact tone penetrates his awareness in a way that shouting never could.
"Why?" He doesn't deserve to live.
"Aside from the fact that we have other priorities right now? You're scaring the boy."
Jack turns his attention outward. The young Squerri is standing motionless, half-hidden behind the Doctor. He's staring at Jack and the slaver, but the look in his unblinking green eyes isn't fear, it's resignation. Like a trapped rabbit watching two wolves fighting. He doesn't really care which one is going to eat him. That look jolts him more than a physical blow, but he can't blame the kid. He knows a monster when he sees one.
The slaver takes advantage of Jack's distraction to pull free, and sprints towards the doorway. Jack turns to follow, but the Doctor's voice stops him. "Let him go. He's not important."
”He's a symptom, Jack. We're here to deal with the disease."
Jack's not in a mood for reason and self-control, but he's willing to allow a minor scumbag escape in exchange for a shot at the real enemy. Belatedly, he wonders if his scuffle with the slaver is going to create any problems. The other aliens in the waiting area are watching him warily, but none of them are making any threatening moves. No alarms are sounding, no guards are rushing in -- even the Minhag receptionist seems unconcerned.
The Doctor has one arm wrapped around the shoulders of the rescued slave. "Jack, meet Anaphu. We're going to take him home when we're done here. Anaphu, this is my friend Jack. He is a chaluk zev." The Doctor looks at Jack. "Loosely translated, 'protector of the weak.'"
Dammit, Doctor -- don't tell him to depend on me. I don't protect the weak. I get them killed. He opens his mouth to protest. "I'm not--"
But the Time Lord is stepping up to the desk, "Hullo again!"
"State your name and business," the Minhag drones.
"Right. I'm the Doctor, and this is Jack Harkness. We need to speak to someone in charge."
"I am in authority here."
"I'm sure you are, but what I had in mind was someone in charge of the planet, actually."
"You will speak to me. State your business."
"I seek parlay with the ruling body of the Paequorixi, in accordance with Convention 15 of the Shadow Proclamation."
Minhagil don't have much in the way of facial expressions, but Jack can read the tension in her stiff posture.
"Paequorix is not a signatory to the Conventions. If you are from the Shadow Proclamation, you should know this."
"I didn't say I was from the Shadow Proclamation. I'm not here from any organisation. I don't do organisations. Well, there was UNIT, but those were special circumstances, and that was a long time ago. Two hundred years? Maybe two hundred and fifty. I lose track sometimes," the Doctor tells her, as if confiding in a friend.
"What is your purpose here?"
The Doctor's cheery smile vanishes. "To warn Paequorix about a very serious danger."
Jack expects the Minhag to scoff, or at least demand details. Instead her twelve fingers skim across the touch-screen embedded in the desktop. She pauses, frowns at something on the screen. "You will wait." She waves vaguely at the metal benches attached to the side walls of the room. There are no vacant seats, but the Doctor leads Anaphu to the left, and Jack follows behind them.
As they approach the crowded bench, half a dozen beings look at him, then jump up and scuttle to the other side of the room. He would be amused if he wasn't feeling worried. Any race as suspicious as the 456 will keep a close eye on visiting aliens. Did he attract too much attention by grabbing the Squerri? The Paequorixi won't care about the fate of one off-world criminal who's already served his purpose, but what if they recognise Jack? Is that going to screw up the Doctor's plans? Not that I know what his plans are.
As the three of them settle on the bench, the Doctor says in a low voice, "Jack, I've been thinking. Maybe you should take Anaphu and wait in the TARDIS."
What the hell? The kid's not in any danger from the 456. He's too old for-- Shit! I really did screw up. He feels the familiar heaviness of guilt settling on his shoulders, followed by a flare of anger. "Doctor, I don't--
"I should have suggested it before," the Doctor continues.
Jack blinks. The Doctor is speaking in Rhaedic. He's not surprised that the Time Lord knows it: Rhaedic is a widely-spoken trade language in the Triangulum Galaxy. The really odd thing is that Jack is hearing him in Rhaedic, not English. Judging from Anaphu's blank expression, he's hearing Rhaedic, too.
"No, he can't understand us," the Doctor says. "I've turned off the TARDIS translation circuit."
Jack blinks again. He knows that the TARDIS's translation circuit is telepathic, and that the Doctor is part of the circuit. According to Harriet Jones, it stopped working when the Doctor was going through his regeneration crisis. He didn't know that the Time Lord could disable it on purpose -- though perhaps he should have done.
"Doctor, don't shut me out of this. Maybe I lost it for a moment, but I am not going to sit in the TARDIS and play babysitter." He expects several possible reactions from the Doctor: anger, disapproval, maybe even sympathy. What he doesn't expect is soft laughter.
"Jack, take it from someone who knows -- that wasn't 'losing it'." The Doctor's amusement vanishes as quickly as it came. "I went mad after the War. Loony. Bonkers. I was better by the time I met Rose, but still... did she ever tell you about our visit to Van Statten's underground museum?"
"Not much. Only that you'd been there. And that his collection included a Dalek. She said you were... upset."
The Doctor lets out a sound that is somewhere between a chuckle and a sigh. "One way of putting it. I was raving. Bet she didn't tell you that I pointed a gun at her."
Maybe Jack isn't as fluent in Rhaedic as he used to be, because he must have misheard. The Doctor pointed a gun? At Rose? Impossible. No, several magnitudes beyond impossible. "Ummm."
"Complicated story. She didn't want me to kill it. Turned out that it was already dying. Anyyyyyywayyyyy... I thought that maybe you don't need to come along."
Belated, Jack realises that the Doctor is trying to be kind, giving him an excuse not to face the 456. "Someone has to watch your back."
He waits, studying the Doctor's face more intently than he studied the radar screen the first time he made a night landing in the rain.
The Doctor raises his eyebrows. "Are you sure it's my back you'd be watching?"
Jack grins, and something inside him eases just a little bit. "I like to be thorough."
Anaphu sits on the cold bench, wondering how long it's been since he basked on a properly sun-warmed rock. The cages on the ship had overhead lamps so bright that they hurt his eyes, but he never really felt warm enough, and neither did any of the other Squerri. Even the non-Squerri captives -- and they were mammals from much colder worlds -- had complained of the chill, though that might be because Laagun took away their wrappings. The shaggy pelts that grew only on top of their heads didn't seem to do much to keep them warm. He hadn't met many offworlders back home. Tirphil was a small farming community, and the nearest spaceport handled mostly in-system transport barges.
He risks a glance at the mammals sitting on either side of him. Are they of the same species? Their head-pelts are similar, and so are their wrappings. But where the Protector's eyes are almost normal (sea-colour is common enough in some Squerri clans), the Wise One has truly alien eyes, darker than his spiky pelt. The Wise One says they're going to bring him home. Anaphu believes him. It's one of the ways he knows that this alien really is a Wise One, just like in the stories: when he says something, Anaphu knows it's true, no matter how impossible it sounds.
And because the Doctor truly is a Wise One, Anaphu must believe him when he says that Jack is a Protector. It is hard to accept, and not just because he's an alien. He is frightening -- so angry and dangerous. When he grabbed Laagun, I thought he was going to rip his head off. Another voice in his mind chides, What of it? How often, on the ship, did you lie awake and dream of doing the same thing?
When Anaphu was young, hardly more than a hatchling, he loved to watch vids of the old sagas. In all of those, a Protector only had to bristle his crest and wave a spear to defeat the servants of evil. Now he is no longer a child, and he knows that in real life evil is stronger and more vile than anything in the vids, and those who fight it must be as fierce as the Protector called Jack.
Still, he is afraid. He remembers conversations in the holding pen, after he was taken off the ship. Some of the captives were from planets that had been raided many times, and they knew the fate that awaited them. Laagun's evil is nothing compared to the Devourers. Against such creatures, can even a Protector triumph?
As the Protector and the Wise One talk across him in a language he does not know, he stares at the floor, thinking of sunlight and the clean smells of saltwater and rock-moss.
They wait. Five minutes. Ten. Finally, the creature at the desk beckons them over. "You will be permitted to speak now." She touches a control, and part of the wall behind her slides open. "In there."
The Protector insists on going first. He pauses in the doorway, waiting or searching for something. Reluctantly, he steps inside, allowing Anaphu and the Wise One to enter. The door slides closed behind them.
It's a tiny space, hardly bigger than a storage shed back home. The walls in here are the same grey that he's seen everywhere else on this planet. Only the lighting is different. Light strips in recessed niches near the ceiling cast a cold blue glow on the room.
"Speak." The harsh voice comes from nowhere and everywhere. Anaphu wants to drop to the ground, to curl up and make himself small, like a hatchling trying to crawl back into the egg. Instead, he looks at his alien companions. The Wise One is standing still, his head cocked slightly, listening. He sees Anaphu looking at him, and twists the corners of his mouth upwards.
The Protector is also motionless, except for a slight shaking of his hands. His mouth is open, and he draws in many quick breaths while the voice of the Devourer commands, "Speak!"