Characters: Ninth Doctor, Rose Tyler, Jack Harkness
Summary: A supposedly harmless planet holds unexpected dangers, and disturbing revelations about the Doctor's past.
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: Wow. It's been a lot longer than I realized since I last posted a chapter of this story. Seven months. You might want to go back and re-read the earlier parts. Go ahead. I'll wait. Thanks to my wonderful betas, canaana and wendymr , who always ask good questions and make me think.
or read it on Teaspoon.
When Jack tires of pacing the small room, he throws himself down on one of the narrow beds and stares at the patterns of the grates covering the ventilation shafts in the high ceiling. Although he's tired, he's in no danger of drifting off. Even if he felt safe in this place that is not-quite-hostile-territory, he's not feeling calm enough for sleep. His emotions are bouncing like ions in a collider. Satisfaction at what he's accomplished. Annoyance at the Doctor. Worry for his partners. Dammit, where are they? He knows exactly how far away the TARDIS is. How long can it take to gather up a few tools?
Maybe Rose wanted to change into clean clothing? He rejects that thought almost before it forms. In other circumstances he could believe that Rose paused to shower, wash her hair, try on three different outfits, and paint her toenails. But not now. Not with him waiting. And if she somehow got distracted, the Doctor would remind her.
What if someone followed them back to the TARDIS? He trusts the Council -- mostly -- but that doesn't guarantee that some hothead won't take action on his own. The nausea gas that disabled them earlier isn't the only nasty item in the A'atrans bag of chemical tricks; that's one bit of information he picked up during his tour.
He glares at the closed door. It isn't locked. He knows, because he quietly tested it as soon as his escort walked away. Not that it matters. He isn't a prisoner; he's a hostage, and what holds him in here is something far stronger than any lock or bolt or chain.
In one fluid motion he sits up and hurls his pillow with deadly accuracy at the door. "Oh, Gods!" He doesn't know if it's a curse or prayer. With a groan, he jumps to his feet and resumes pacing.
The short distance back to the TARDIS feels like a million light-years, and the Doctor ages at least a century before he sees Rose. She's standing, hands on hips, staring down a group of a dozen A'atrans. They're young -- adolescents, judging from the length of their hair. Their expressions range from frightened to embarrassed to sullen. The gangly boy standing closest to the TARDIS is holding a short knife at his side.
The boy is pale, but he looks directly at the Doctor. "I'm a carver. I wanted to know what it's made of. It looks like wood, but it doesn't feel like it. It broke my knife," he adds with a sudden flare of indignation.
The thin-bladed knife lying in the dust is missing its tip. "That's what happens when you muck about with other people's things," he tells the would-be vandal. "Count yourself lucky that it's only your knife that's broken." His gaze sweeps over the entire group. "An' why were you lot here in the first place?"
"We've never seen an Outsider space ship before."
"There's a model of her in the learning centre," adds a girl whose short hair identifies her as the youngest of the group, "but we wanted to see a real ship."
Then the questions come flying from all directions. Where is their ship? What kind of energy source does it use? How many crew members are on board? What planet do they come from?
"Our ship is none of your business," he growls, "so don't be stickin' your noses where they don't belong." This hushes them for a moment.
Rose wrinkles her forehead in concentration. "Your parents don't want anything to do with ali-- Outsiders, but what about the Journeyers who're just a bit older than you? The ones who were little kids when they left Lyonnesse?"
"There aren't any," Danichen says, shaking her head at Rose's ignorance.
He jumps in. "Why not?"
Several of the Haveners reply at once, and he shushes them with a look. "You first," he commands the boy in the green tunic, who turns out to be Kurden, younger brother of the reckless Vannarik.
The youngsters tell him what they know, which doesn't amount to much. Other than the Prince, only adult A'atrans had boarded the Arrow of Hope. They were the elite of Lyonnesse in all fields: scientists, statesmen, artisans, warriors, and poets. He thinks about what they don't say, perhaps don't know.
He looks at Rose, and he can see that she is having similar troubling thoughts. "Right. Time we were goin'. The Council's waitin' for us, an' so is Jack." He points the sonic screwdriver at the TARDIS. The shrill buzz and the light have all of the young Haveners staring at him with avid curiosity. "I've activated the anti-intruder systems," he says to Rose, but loudly enough that everyone can hear him. "Anyone tries gettin' in... zap!" He holds one hand upright, then quickly bends it parallel to the ground, miming sudden collapse. "Now, scat!" An excited murmur runs through the group of A'atrans, and they head upstream, though with many backward glances at the blue box and the two Outsiders.
Rose walks briskly beside him on the path to the settlement. "Anti-intruder systems? Since when have we got those? And what if someone who didn't hear the warning--"
He smiles at her worried expression. "'S all right. It'll jus' give them a mild jolt. Not much worse than static electricity."
Rose nods. She's doesn't speak until they're out of sight of the TARDIS. "Doctor, they left their families behind. How could they do that?"
"The Queen wanted to make sure that the best of their civilisation survived," he says. "You heard what the Elders said. Only room for three hundred people in the ship."
"But some of them must've been married, maybe had kids," she protests.
"Yeah." Probably most of them did.
"Maybe they figured they could go back when the danger was over?"
"Maybe so," he agrees. It's possible, but he doesn't think they were that naive. "War forces people into hard decisions." Impossible decisions.
"I know," she says, carefully not looking at him.
He know she's being kind, and careful not to pressure him. He ought to say something casual to reassure her that he's okay, because he is, but nothing seems to come out. He speaks five million languages; you'd think he could find something to say in one of them. She slips her hand into his. Words are overrated.
They go the rest of the way in silence.
Two guards meet them at the border and escort them to a different stairway than the one they used before. This one is at the far end of the cliffs, and takes them up three stories. The featureless white door opens into a featureless white chamber, unlike any other she's seen in the settlement. The stone walls curve gracefully up to a high ceiling. They've been coated with some sort of plaster, only it's got shiny bits like mother-of-pearl in it. The furniture -- not that there's much of it -- is white and sleek, like some of the ultramodern stuff at Ikea. A small, utilitarian mirror hangs on the back wall.
Jack is standing in the middle of the room, face wary and focused, body poised to move. When he sees them, he lets out a loud breath, and some of the stiffness flows out of him. Rose hurries forward and pulls him into a hug. The Doctor wraps his long arms around both of them.
When they detach from one another, Jack's hands vanish into his pockets. "You two take the scenic route back?" The tone is polite -- too polite.
"Stopped for a chat, actually," the Doctor replies. He's examining the room with more attention than it deserves. "Not up to their usual standards."
"I think it's a medical isolation room. They don't seem to have any visitor quarters here."
The Doctor snorts. "Big surprise, that."
Rose gnaws on her lower lip. What is it about the male of the species -- any species -- that makes them so bloody impossible? Silly prats! "Jack, on the way back from the TARDIS, we met some of the local kids--"
The Doctor raises one hand, gesturing for her to wait. He pulls out the sonic screwdriver, scanning the room. Jack moves silently to the door and cracks it open, checking for eavesdroppers. Satisfied, the two men gesture for her to continue.
When she finished summarizing what they learned, Jack is frowning. "If those kids have dreams of visiting other worlds, they're going to be seriously disappointed."
"We know their parents cannibalised the ship for parts--" the Doctor begins.
"Not just for parts -- or metal," Jack interjects. "They deliberately turned it into scrap so that it could never fly again." He looks back and forth at his partners. "We were wrong about these people. They haven't moved on. They've moved back into the past."
Rose stares at him, certain that she isn't going to like what he has to say. "But there's the art and... stuff."
"Turns out, suiting the art to the locale is just an aesthetic decision. And they had to change the form of government -- the Prince was the only member of their royal family on board the ship. A council of elders is something out of their ancient history, before they adopted a monarch."
"Jus' how did you find this out, Captain?"
Jack smiles. "I got the ha'penny tour of this place. And my guide just happened to be an old friend of yours, Rose."
"An old-- you mean Merron?"
"Nope. His big brother, Havrukiy." Jack stresses the last syllable.
"Blimey, I'll bet he loved doing that." She remembers how he'd pronounced 'Outsider', as if it had been something nasty-tasting in his mouth.
"He was polite. Mostly. And very cooperative, once I mentioned Merron's little art project. Seems that it's a really big no-no for a kid who isn't an apprentice to be copying sacred symbols. And since their dad's on the Council, it would be a major embarrassment for this to come out."
The Doctor raises a brow. "You blackmailed him?"
"We reached an understanding."
For a moment, Rose can almost see the Time Lord thinking, then he grins. "Good on you, Jack. Well done."
Praise from the Doctor normally makes Jack happy, but he only nods in acknowledgment. "Bottom line is, most of the older generation, the Journeyers, have become very reactionary. They don't want anything to do with the Outside -- meaning the rest of the Universe -- and they definitely don't want their children going out there."
"And the kids are just mad to see other worlds." Rose sighs. "P'raps they're the ones we ought to be helping, Doctor."
"Could do..." the Doctor muses aloud. "'Could organise a transport ship."
"You mean, take them away from here? Away from their parents?" Rose suddenly remembers Jackie's face, that time that she'd come home after twelve months away. She was hurting so much... I couldn't do that to someone else's mum or dad.
"Course not," the Doctor says, looking offended. "Jus' give them the means to get off-world. An' not 'til they're older."
"You might have to wait until the Journeyers have died off," Jack warns, "because I think they'd fight tooth and nail to prevent that."
The Doctor shrugs. "Can come back in ten years, see which way the wind blows. If the time isn't right, pop back into the TARDIS, an' go forward a few more years. Easy enough."
"But what if--" Click. Rose looks up in time to see a shadow flicker behind the mirror on the back wall..
"What the--?" Jack reaches instinctively for the pocket where his blaster is normally kept, and curses when he realises that he had to leave it behind.
"Hidden observation window," the Doctor says grimly. "This is a medical isolation room. In case of something contagious, they'd want a way to check on the patient without getting too close."
"Someone's been listening to us." But for how long? Rose tries to remember everything they said since she and the Doctor came into the room. Had they mentioned Time Lords or the War? She didn't think so, but still...
Jack looks at the mirror, then at each of his partners in turn, and sums up the situation in two words. "Oh, shit."