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 the BBC. I'm just playing here, in the corner, making little sand-TARDISes. Not making any money, not asserting any claims.
A/N: This story was begun over 2 years ago, and the end is finally in sight. Chapter 15 -- the last chapter -- is nearly done, and should be posted sometime in the next few weeks. My deepest gratitude to my fantastic betas:canaana , yamx , and wendymr . I owe them more than tongue can say or keyboard can write.
Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8
Chapter 9 Chapter 10 Chapter 11 Chapter 12 Chapter 13
There is a brief pause, and then the room erupts with sound. Most of the Elders are shouting at the Doctor, while Dathiha tries unsuccessfully to quiet them down. Only Sojore is silent. She and the Doctor stare at each other with expressions that Jack can't decipher.
Sojore! How the hell did I miss seeing that?
Beside him, Rose is seething, and 'lying bitch' is the mildest of her muttered remarks.
Jack grabs her hand and holds it tightly. He doesn't feel any desire to protect Sojore, but he'd like to get some answers before Rose rips her face off.
"Doctor! What is the meaning of this outrageous accusation?" Elder Dathiha demands.
"Outrageous? Yeah, I'd call attempted murder outrageous," the Doctor replies.
"And you expect me to believe that a respected Elder of this Council -- a medic sworn to healing -- poisoned Captain Harkness?"
"She poisoned the Doctor, too," Rose calls out.
Dathiha gives her a hard look. "And how is it that you were spared?"
Rose flushes with anger. She looks at the Doctor. Jack gives her hand an approving squeeze. Let's see how he wants to play this.
"I analysed the poison. 'S a psychotropic drug that only affects telepaths," the Doctor says. "Induces a real mish-mash of symptoms." He ticks them off on his fingers. "Elevated blood pressure an' heart rate, dizziness, panic, disorientation, an' hallucinations."
Jack curses silently. Hallucinations? The Doctor had it a lot worse than I did. Makes sense -- stronger telepath, stronger reaction. And he didn't have anyone taking care of him. A glance at Rose's pale, taut face tells him that she's having similar thoughts.
The Doctor continues, "Most humans haven't got much in the way of psychic abilities. Rose was as safe as any A'atran drinkin' the drugged juice. Dunno if she knew that, or cared." A curt jerk of his chin in Sojore's direction makes it clear which 'she' he means.
"Your analysis--" Dathiha begins.
Sojore interrupts her. "With respect, Elder, may I speak?"
Dathiha nods assent.
"I am willing -- for the moment -- to believe the Doctor's analysis found what he describes. What I do not understand is why he believes this . . . substance was deliberately and maliciously given to him and his companions, and why he names me as the culprit. I did my best to aid Captain Harkness. I am guilty," she says, with emphasis on the last word, "only of misdiagnosing a reaction to an unknown drug in a member of an alien species I had never before examined."
In other circumstances, Jack might accept that as a reasonable argument. He doesn't clearly remember the details of his ordeal on top of the cliff, but he's heard Rose's account of how Sojore reacted, and he knows whom he believes.
Sojore throws her hands up. "Even if I were the monster you seem to think me, Doctor, why would I use this particular drug? Few humans are telepathic, you say -- how could I know that you and Captain Harkness are among those few?"
"We heard someone eavesdroppin' on us yesterday. Medical isolation room -- you'd know where the peephole is."
"Certainly I know," she snaps. "I am the Senior Medic. The other medics know, and many other people besides. Why would I want to use it to spy on you?" Sojore raises a hand to halt any answer the Doctor might give. "Let us say that I did listen in, for curiosity or amusement or some dark motive that you cannot name. What did I hear that provoked me to violence? That you are a telepath?"
Only someone who knows him well would notice the Doctor's slight pause. "I'm not just a telepath," the Doctor says. "I'm a Time Lord."
Jack has learnt that there are as many kinds of silences as there are sounds. There is the silence on the beach when the tide is about to turn. There is the silence after Mama finishes singing, in the moment before you fall asleep. There is the silence when the trauma surgeon walks into the waiting room. The silence following the Doctor's words is like the moment after you drop an incendiary grenade and you're not sure if it was primed or not.
Dathiha says softly, "You lied to us."
"No, he didn't. I did." Rose pulls her hand from Jack's grasp and takes a step forward. "He was about to tell you the truth, and I jumped in and told you that load of bollocks about Time Agents."
My turn. Jack moves beside Rose. "And that was only half a lie. The Doctor isn't a former Time Agent, but I am."
The Doctor looks at them with affectionate exasperation. "An' then I held my tongue. It was a lie of omission." He turns back towards the Elders, and any hint of affection vanishes from his face. "Everything else is truth. 'Specially what I said about her."
"Elders, this is absurd," Priyan sputters. "They have no proof whatsoever for these wild accusations, these vile lies."
Jack decides that self-restraint has become as useless as a blaster with a melted firing circuit, and he tosses it aside. "Someone's lying here," he agrees, "but it's not the Doctor."
The Elder beside Priyan frowns. "If this poison . . . drug causes delusions, is it possible that they are not yet free of it?"
The Doctor snorts. "You'd like to think that, wouldn't you? Makes it easier to ignore what I'm tellin' you."
Rose says, "I wasn't poisoned. I didn't have any hallucinations, and I know what I saw. Sojore was confused when she examined Jack, but not until she scanned his chest. She thought he was a Time Lord, so she expected him to have two hearts."
"She already knew I was a Time Lord, cos she overheard me talkin' about my TARDIS," the Doctor says. "Everyone knows that Time Lords don't partner with 'lesser species'," he adds scornfully, "so she figured that Jack must be a Time Lord, too."
And since Rose is from a technologically unsophisticated era, Sojore probably decided that the adorable 'primitive' was the Time Lords' pet. Jack concludes it will be safer not to say that aloud. "Rose and I are human, " he says, thumping his chest. "Just one heart."
All eyes are on Sojore. "Yes, I was confused. I freely confess it," she retorts. "I was faced with an alien species I had never before examined."
The other Elders are nodding and murmuring. Jack feels a cold tingle in his gut. This is not going well. He glances at the Doctor to see how he is reacting. Beneath his careless grin, the Time Lord is simmering with anger.
"Doctor, a question, if I may?" The owner of that calm, dry voice is Estridon, the Senior Engineer. Of all the Elders, Jack knows him best. A few hours atop a cliff, rewiring a temperamental power system despite sun-glare, dust, and untrained helpers, and you get the measure of a person. Tedium, frustration, and physical discomfort had not diminished Estridon's good humour.
"Yeah?" The Doctor's voice thaws just a little.
"On the Journey, whenever we visited a world, we asked about the Time War. Everywhere we received the same answer: the War was a legend, and if the Time Lords and the Daleks had ever existed, they were long gone." Estridon bows his head before continuing. "We thought that your world had suffered the same fate as Lyonnesse."
Oh, gods! Doctor, you don't owe them an explanation. Beside him, Rose has gone stiff, and she's barely breathing. Jack's free hand curls into a fist.
"Near enough," the Doctor says flatly. "Gallifrey is gone. The Daleks an' the Time Lords are gone. I'm the only one left."
"We share your sorrow," Estridon says. It has the sound of a ceremonial response, but he says it as though the words have real meaning to him. Like a mistimed chorus, the other Elders echo him with varying degrees of sincerity.
The Doctor's only acknowledgement is a nod. "There's still the small matter of poison an' attempted murder. Or is justice no longer counted as one of the Shining Virtues?" he asks.
Dathiha looks steadily at the Doctor. "Justice requires proof of guilt."
"I've given you all the puzzle pieces. You jus' don't want to put them together because you're afraid of what you'll see." The Doctor turns to look at Sojore. "You ought to be very, very glad that Jack is alive an' well." His shoulders sag.
"I am glad," Sojore replies smoothly. "I tell you yet again that I did not wish harm to him or to any of you."
The Doctor lets out a long breath, and his shoulders drop another few centimetres. "Maybe it's just as well," he says to his companions.
"What's that, Doctor?" Rose asks.
"Maybe it's just as well that the Prince is gone."
There are sharp gasps all around the chamber.
"You go too far, Doctor," Dathiha warns.
The Doctor ignores them. "Y'know, Jack, I never met Prince Zathek, but I heard he was a good lad. Bright, well-mannered, kind. Wonder how he would have felt if he'd known that someone he loved an' trusted nearly murdered a good man?"
"Do not speak his name," Sojore commands. Jack observes that her hands, clasped tightly in front of her, are trembling.
Jack isn't quite sure where this is going, but that's nothing new when he's following the Doctor's lead. "I guess he'd feel confused. And sad."
The Doctor turns to Rose. "Betrayed," she replies promptly. "When you love someone, and you find out they've done something bad, you feel betrayed. And it's got to be even worse for a little kid."
"Yeah. S'pose you're right. Betrayed by the person who taught him about the Virtues, an' corrected him when he was wrong." The Doctor looks steadily at Sojore. Jack is standing at the wrong angle to see his expression, but he knows what it's like to be on the receiving end of that cold-steel gaze. "Poor Zathek would be very disappointed in his Soji."
"Silence, Outsider!" Sojore hisses. "Do not defile his name with your mouth."
"He died with his illusions intact. If he'd survived, he'd be a grown man now, an' rulin' as King here." The Doctor cocks his head to one side. "I hadn't thought about that. If Zathek was still alive, he'd have to judge you. Wouldn't that be an awkward--"
"Havru will be my judge," Sojore snaps. "Not you." She looks pleadingly at Jack. "I swear I meant you no harm, but that one--" She jerks her chin at the Doctor. "--how could I let him go free? He murdered my Prince."
"Gotcha," the Doctor says softly. Rose grins at him, and Jack gives him a jaunty salute. He gives them both a quick smile, though he's feeling anything but cheery. Shooting fish in a barrel, this is. The way to provoke a confession is to push on a weak spot. He'd known from the start that Sojore's weak spot would be her lost Prince. It doesn't please him to use a dead child as a weapon. He could almost feel sorry for the woman, but then he remembers Jack's blood on his hands. Inside the pockets of his coat, those hands tighten into fists.
Meanwhile, the other Elders are busy being gobsmacked. Dathiha recovers first. "Sojore! What in Havru's name are you saying?"
"She is overset," Priyan sputters. "The stress of having these Outsiders here, their foul accusations--"
"Hush, Priyan! I have no need of you to make excuses for me. I have done nothing wrong. Whatever harm I did to the human was unintentional, and he has recovered. As for the Time Lord--" Her voice grows icy and disdainful. "--he murdered my Prince! He destroyed our world and all that we knew and loved."
Dathiha looks from the Doctor to Sojore and back again. "Doctor? Is this true? Were you responsible for the destruction of Lyonnesse?"
He looks steadily at Dathiha. He knew when he chose his strategy that this question would arise. "I didn't cause it. S'pose you could say I was responsible if you want."
Rose gasps. "Doctor, she can't blame you -- you were in another galaxy!"
Oh, Rose. . . still so young, even for a human. Young enough to expect the universe to be fair. Still, he can't fault her for her loyalty, or wish to see her shining idealism tarnished. "Who else is she goin' to blame?" he says gently. "I'm the only one left." He lets out a huff of breath and looks again at Dathiha. "I wasn't there. Didn't know about it until long after."
"Of course he denies it," Priyan says, but his voice lacks conviction.
The Doctor ignores him and addresses Dathiha. "Right. You've got your confession now. Poisoning an' attempted murder. What are you going to do about it?"
She exchanges glances with her fellow Elders. "I believe that we must ask our sister to remove herself from the Council." Nods of agreement follow: some immediate, some hesitant. Dathiha and Estridon approach Sojore, and with slow and solemn movements, remove the embroidered band from her neck.
"That's all?" Rose demands. "You're just going to sack her? She ought to be locked up!"
Jack says dryly, "I'm going to take a wild guess that they don't have a behavioural rehab centre here."
Dathiha's shoulders droop, but her voice is clear and strong. "What would you have us do, Doctor? Even in the dark days before we knew the Shining Virtues, a life was not forfeit unless a life had been taken. Shall we lock our sister in a cage? What purpose would that serve?"
She's got a point, not that he's going to admit it. If he hadn't landed on Haven, stirring up memories of the Time War and her dead Prince, Sojore would never have done anything violent. Once he leaves, she'll likely go back to being a peaceable and useful member of her society. He knows -- who better? -- that the universe is not fair, and revenge is rarely satisfying, but this offends him. Sojore is unrepentant. Jack's pain and Rose's terror meant nothing to her, and she would still try to take his life if she were able.
He looks at his companions. Rose is quivering with indignation. She'd like to give Sojore a good hard slap. They are fierce, those Tyler women. Jack is harder to read. He's not openly angry. Instead he seems. . . accepting? No, resigned. He doesn't think I'll do anything. Jack knows him well enough to understand that he won't use violence to resolve this, not when Sojore has ceased to be a threat.
There's no real satisfaction in revenge. It damages both parties, sometimes in ways that can't be seen, like a canker at the root of a tree. At the same time, he won't let this go. He can't let this go. Sojore can't hurt people under his protection and get away without consequences.
"She's got to pay," Rose says to Dathiha. "She tried to kill the Doctor -- kill all of us."
She's got to pay. Rose's words echo in his mind. It's a problem faced by nearly every intelligent species with a system of law and justice: how do you balance an offence with its punishment? By Rose's time, 'an eye for an eye' is synonymous with legal harshness, but that was never the intent. When it was first introduced, it was intended to prevent excesses of punishment. 'An eye for an eye' was much, much kinder than 'a life for an eye', especially once the notion of monetary damages caught on.
He smiles. "Yeah, I'd say payment is due. Elders!" He raises his voice just enough to make sure that he has their attention. "In accord with the Shining Virtue of Justice an' the ancient laws of Lyonnesse, I demand khatra-price for myself an' my companions."
Another ripple of murmurs goes through the room. Dathiha looks relieved. Not surprising, that. She doesn't believe Sojore's rubbish about his destroying Lyonnesse, but she knows enough about Gallifrey and the Time War to be wary of a pissed-off Time Lord.
"Khatra-price has not been a custom for some centuries, but I see no reason why it cannot be applied in this case," Dathiha says.
He suppresses a grin. You haven't heard my price yet.
"Doctor? What's this price thingummy?"
He smiles at Rose. "It's a very old custom from Lyonnesse. In cases of murder or accidental death, the guilty party would pay a fine to the dead person's family. Later, it was extended to cover assault an' other crimes. Lots of cultures have done the same, including some on Earth."
"Yeah?" Rose sounds intrigued.
"Yeah. Your ancestors did it, an' the Irish an' the Vikings." He doesn't mention that there are still places on Earth in the twenty-first century where blood-price is law, and compensation for her life would be valued at 4000 pounds.
"Doctor, what's the calculation based on?" He's sure that Jack's seen similar practices on many planets, and wouldn't be surprised to learn that his worth would be either 8000 or 1100 pounds, depending on his religion.
"On Lyonnesse? There was a complicated formula, mostly havin' to do with status. What job you held, if your family was nobility, that sort of. . . thing." He almost says 'rubbish', which is his honest opinion. The Doctor was raised in a far more status-conscious society, and he remembers the distorted views it held of so-called ordinary people. Nonsense, yes, but it isn't wise to openly insult a social practice that he intends to exploit for his own purposes. Not yet, any road.
"Being a Time Lord will not give you any advantage." Sojore's eyes are bright with malice. "You will be valued the same as any alien visitor."
He tries to remember if the status of a Time Lord has ever been an advantage for him. Ignoring Sojore, he turns to his partners. "Elder Dathiha will have some questions for you. You need to answer them fully an' truthfully."
It's a bit like filling in an application form, except that 'place of birth' doesn't usually mean 'planet and galaxy.' The Doctor provides the galactic coordinates for Earth, then helps her explain off-the-rack designer clothing. Yes, Henrik's sells clothing made from plants, insects, animals, and reptiles. Yes, she used to work in a chippie. No, she didn't invent the recipe for fish and chips.
Jack's last paying job -- con man doesn't count, evidently -- was as a barman on a space station in the Andromeda galaxy. She's surprised to learn that he's older than she thought. It's got something to do with 51st century genetics.
It's all completely barmy. She can't imagine what any of this has got to do with compensation for attempted murder, but the Doctor sounds completely confident, so she answers every barmy question.
It's the Doctor's turn. He doesn't wait to be asked; he starts spouting the answers to the questions. Place of birth: Gallifrey. He doesn't offer the galactic coordinates, and Dathiha doesn't ask for them. Perhaps it's like the postal code for Buckingham Palace, and isn't needed because everyone knows where that is.
His last paying job? Rose can't imagine the Doctor holding down any kind of regular job with a pay-cheque. "I was scientific adviser to a planetary defence organisation. On Earth," he adds.
Rose is still trying to wrap her mind around this revelation when the Doctor comes up with the last answer on the list of questions.
"In Lyonnesse reckoning, I'm--" He pauses, and it's got to be deliberate, because there's no way the Doctor has to stop to think about a basic maths problem. "I'm one thousand, two hundred and forty-six years old."
There are audible gasps around the room. "Havru's name!" one male Elder exclaims.
"Impossible!" Priyan insists.
Rose can't blame them for being gobsmacked. She remembers how she felt the first time the Doctor mentioned his age. She looks at Dathiha. The Chief Elder isn't surprised; she's uneasy, or even frightened.
"How do we know this is so?" Dathiha asks.
"Could cut me open an' try to count the rings, but since I'm not a tree, that wouldn't do you much good. DNA sequencing might do the trick -- if you had someone capable of analysing triple-stranded DNA. Or--" He gives the Chief Elder a hard, cold stare. "You could accept that I'm tellin' the truth. You know enough about Time Lords to know that twelve hundred isn't much more than middle age for my people. An' why would I lie about this?"
"Because you desire vengeance," a sharp-faced Elder in yellow says.
The Doctor doesn't say a word.
"Rufenin, you're an idiot," another Elder snaps. "If the Doctor truly is a Time Lord, then he has more direct ways of seeking vengeance than lying to inflate his khatra-price. Or do you suppose that he fears us more than a Dalek battle fleet?"
He might do, Rose thinks. Daleks just kill. You make him remember stuff he'd almost rather die than remember.
Dathiha bows her head and murmurs something under her breath, then looks straight at the Doctor. "We could never pay khatra-price for you and your companions, Time Lord. I believe you knew that even before you made your demand. What do you want of us?"
The Doctor smiles like a cat that sees a whole flock of canaries in a birdbath full of double cream. "If you lot can't pay khatra-price, then I demand indemnity service instead. The traditional eleven years should do nicely."
Dathiha looks so bewildered that for a moment Rose wonders if the TARDIS translation circuit has gone wonky. "Indemnity service? You want Eld-- Healer Sojore to be bound to you as an apprentice? For eleven years?"
"Her? I wouldn't have her for a nanosecond," the Doctor retorts. "No, I meant her accomplice -- the one who actually gave us the poison."
Rose and Jack stare at the Doctor. Before the Time Lord can say another word, his partners stammer, almost in unison, "Kurden?"