Chapter 1: Prologue
The Doctor's POV.
Another macro-ovum teases, shoving apart the lips of my abused nethers. But I pass the egg, feeling like a mother octopus half-frozen in a glacier twenty kilometers above sea level, wishing she could see the food and babies swimming about below.
As I dig my hands nails and all against the glass of the console floor, I know the light is leaping away from me, in little ellipse-shaped bounds again. As well it should. I’ve been laying someone else’s eggs all day.
After collapsing in the hallway, I am on my side, having long since resigned myself to the inevitability of misery. Adrift in a haze of birth and rest and birth and rest and birth, I await my eventual lapse into the temporary bliss of sleep. Whatever possessed me to agree to carry an entire race’s hopes and dreams in my apparently not quite so vestigial womb in the form of a multitude of eggs? I mean really, what was I thinking? I can only lay one at a time, and as soon as I have, another begins to grow. There are millions of them, still. I won’t be done for days…
There are countless piles of the things in the console room alone, already.
My vital fluids will run out before then. I’ll be sucked dry by the constant need to lay these eggs, the poor things. But it’s not their fault. They need electrolytes to grow, coming from a sodium-rich ocean planet as they do. As they did, rather. Their planet is gone. I’ll find them a new one. Damn it.
Oh well. As I write this, I imagine the TARDIS is calling Jack. I can hear the chime of buttons that sing out his cell phone number.
I can’t remember? Did I set him up with universal roaming when he was here last?
I do hope he hurries… my skin is dry and I’m becoming salt deficient. The proper growing of these eggs inside me requires salty fluids, and my own electrolytes are nearly depleted to levels which would render me comatose. Soon, there won’t be anyone home when they…
Oh, there’s that banging again? And the lights are dimming… wait those are my eyelids.
Chapter 2: -
Words fill the window of Jack Harkness’ cell phone. Words sent from THAT number. But they don’t sound like the usual sender…
He needs to clear it out in case of more messages, but he won’t. Because he can’t. The blue box is standing there naked in front of him. Mickey is with him. Martha is with Mickey.
Their faces are a triangle of shared purpose as they stare at each other.
“What the hell?” says Mickey as he runs up to the phone box –shaped ship. “Since when did the TARDIS have stealth mode?”
“The text said something about dying, Mickey, I don’t think it was him.” Jack murmurs as he touches the blue double doors. “I think it was Her.” He turns to the doors again. “Let us in, Sweetheart. Show us where he is.”
The doors shift open, outward onto their waiting faces, revealing the promise of dimly lit gold as light issues forth from the console room.
Jack tosses the phone to Martha and pulls the doors completely out the way. He can’t wait. And who could? Somebody was dying, and the Doctor was involved. Somehow.
“Personally… I’d rather be dancing…” gasps an unfamiliar voice from somewhere; doubtless the TARDIS is piping him in from wherever he’s at inside her.
“Find me, Jack! Don’t… let me… fall asleep! The rest… of them… will die unless… I keep this up, but I… I haven’t… haven’t anything left… need… I need…I… need…”
“Salt.” Jack says softly, looking up in the general direction of the comms hidden in the TARDIS’ walls. “The eggs we saw, they must need electrolytes… which means he is dangerously close to catatonia.” He turns to Martha, his eyes lit with the ancient fires of fear. “Saline! Do you have any in your kit?”
Martha slides to an alcove with her medical kit bag and attacks the catch, tossing the metal clasp to the pale glass floor as she clicks open the bag.
“I ain’t believin’ all these eggs, Doctor!” Mickey yells to the hidden comm as Martha hands him the bag of saline from her kit then packs the kit back up again and stands.” Are you all right in there? Are you on the floor or somethin? You sound… really low! Boss! Boss?”
“…mmm… I’m going … oh god, I’m going to… no, no I promised them I’d... I can’t die here! Please hurry…” the comms screech out this new Doctor’s voice into snippets of speech, the sound of him always narrowing, thinning, being herded toward an outcome like cattle shoving through a chute. But all three of them know that if they don’t find him soon, the cows will have one up on their friend, and two races will die.
“I know it’s a cliché, but this doesn’t sound good.” Jack murmurs, checking the touch screens that flash from every alcove as they run by. “The TARDIS is monitoring his vitals… she seems to be leading us to his general area- which means she still can’t find him.” He pushes a button on his wrist strap, connecting the node that appears to the node that suddenly appeared near him on the wall.
“From all these scans, it looks like the eggs really are sucking him dry,” Martha calls from somewhere ahead. “You were right about the saline, from what I can see. The body charts are showing pictures of his uterine structures! He’s got to lay a lot more of those eggs before he’s done…” She points to the picture on the screen, where the shape of a man is flashing, and near where the legs join the torso, an organ resembling a double caduceus with hanging glands on either side and a slight bulb at the bottom is blinking on and off on a black background.
“Oh god, Boss…” Mickey mumbles as they all crowd around the twinkling gaslight image of the Doctor’s womb.
As they watch, the middle space between the staves of the double caduceus begins to bulge to either side, like a time-lapse video of a fruit growing on a tree.
“…looks like a clockwork orange…” one of them says, and the comms sputter again with the Time Lord’s voice, so weak now, and tinny, as though it’s coming from the basement plumbing. At least they’re getting closer...
Behind them, the hallway shifts silently and spins a new direction, a little like the hydraulics at a carnival... The wall screen beeps. A blue light covered in red orange sludge situated in the middle blinks its diamond soul. Larger lights begin blasting up and down the side ways on either end of the forward-backward walk.
Another set of lights comes on, closer to the screen they’re all standing at.
The hallway stops shifting, and as it clinks against the floor there and melts into the ground, becoming solid again, a single floor light blinks its eye upward from the glass and shines on the silhouette of something man-sized, partially hidden from view by a half-open door that reads:
Environment Room, 7b; Swamp and Wetlands.
“Why’s the door half-open?” Mickey asks, taking a step toward the door. His foot catches on something bony and naked, and he goes down…
Chapter 3: -
Before Mickey has got himself completely free, Jack falls down beside the Time Lord’s gore-streaked face. His hands grab the long baby-cheeks, searching for broken bones there, his long fingers smushing against streams of dried blood clots that coat the man in uneven waves like the crusty rise in the innards of a dirty fountain drink dispenser. The Doctor’s been lying in his own birth fluid for hours…
“I’m… so… tired…” the alien whimpers, his entire body seeming to originate from his shaking lower lip and chin. “So tired, so tired, so tired I can’t… I can’t… Jaaack…I wish River was he-he-here, t-too! Waaaaah-ahahahaaaaaaaaaaaaaah! Ow, ow ow ow owwww…”
The exhaustion is so great he can’t even hold his mouth closed; his jaw just falls back down again, followed by a line of thin silvery drool.
Ancient green jewel eyes try and fail to float toward what Martha is doing to his arm with that sharp, sharp needle topped by a little plastic orange thingy at the back. Is that a tube? Are they going to intubate him? The Doctor shivers in Jack’s arms, feeling a sudden tremor take him.
“…m’ in sh-shock, I think.” he manages, lolling his drooping vision in Martha’s general direction again. “Is that…. uhng. Is that saline?”
“Yeah, it is, Doctor.” says Martha around another bag of viscous clear fluid marked 09% Sodium Chloride; her teeth are imprinting on the plastic, and he can see the bag pulling between her lips. “There’s a slot in the wall; it keeps spitting them out. The TARDIS must be worried for you just a bit, eh?”
“Oh she’s… always worried. I worry her to death. Blimey, I… do feel better. Thank…thank you for figuring it out.” the Doctor gives a weak grunt, then reaches down to gently slide another slightly sticky egg from between his legs.
His fingers flatten over his stomach afterward, and stay there, placidly awaiting the five minute interval between birthings.
Martha takes his arm, bends his wrist away and inserts an orange-capped iv into what she was hoping was his median cubital, the major vein near the elbow most commonly tapped in humans. At the soggy, limping –much better thanks- nod of his sweat-damp rabbit hair, she knows it was an accurate assumption.
Soon after, the Doctor begins to wilt like old flowers, his fluttering eyelids closing slowly on metal shutter eyes that might have caught the sun spectacularly, if there’d been a sun in the Swamp Room. It is relief, married to exhaustion, which causes him to fall asleep, too, with most of his body propped against Jack’s chest. The Time Agent, in the meantime, strokes the Time Lord’s soaked hair and murmurs soothing little nothings.
“That’s it my beauty, just go back to sleep- Uncle Jack will take good care of you and your babies, don’t you worry.”
Noting Martha and Mickeys’ hooded looks, Jack rocks the Doctor gently back and forth in his arms and hums through a mouthful of hare-colored locks. His chin is lost in the straggly mess of brown, and he can smell feathers and sunshine there, now that the Time Lord is asleep and glistening with dried crystals of precious sweat-salt.
“The poor thing.” she says, brushing a strand from the alien’s face as Mickey comes over and sits beside them. “It’s odd enough seeing him in a new body, but like this? Weak and sickly, like a drowned rat…it’s so not him, regardless of the regeneration. He needs cleaned up, undressed and in bed. He’s laying every five minutes or so, so someone needs to keep time. Jack, Mickey?” She looks at both men in turn, asking only part of the question with her licorice pool eyes. “Can we get a bed of some kind through that door? If this type of climate is what he prefers right now I wouldn’t move him. But I won’t feel safe about moving him until his hearts rate slows a bit; his right side’s running quite fast.” She looks up at her husband, then at Jack, her mouth in a small line, tight and hopeful. “We need to make him comfortable, as much as we can. And we need more saline. Jack, find out if the TARDIS can keep replicating these indefinitely. At the rate he’s downing these, he’ll only last a few more hours.”
“I know , Nightingale. I know. And there’s something else wrong with this picture, kids…” says Jack as he gingerly lifts one of the soft-shelled, watercolor-grey eggs the Doctor has just laid and examines it, turning the macro-ovum over once or twice in his hand before he sets it back down amongst the others on the floor and turns around mid crouch to look outside into the hall. “Mickey, why don’t you go and check the hallway for us. In his condition, we’d be crazy to leave him alone, but there’s also the issue of that locked Environment Room across the way. Why did he go to the trouble to drag himself in here when the Ocean Room was what he needed?”
Mickey’s nervous laughter echoes through the Swamp Room as he answers. “I know what you’re gettin’ at, Cheesecake- the Ocean Room is the only one that’s double dead-locked. And you want to know if he locked it and why, am I right? I’ll try to pull up the cams.”
As Mickey disappears out the door, the Doctor whimpers and shifts in his sleep on Jack’s lap.
Chapter 4: -
The Doctor's POV.
I lean the small, vaguely trilobite-shaped case with a curling label marked EUBULIDES’ egkekalummenos against the wall as I search for what goes in it. I never have anything to put away anyway, don’t know why I keep it around. Stupid thing - it’s gone off somewhere again.
I’ve been here for a while now, in the TARDIS, searching for it. I need it, you see. Need it for dinner. All these eggs need some relish, after all… and it wouldn’t do for the main course to be incomplete. But there is time to find the pepper; the eggs of the Ruler and its thousand consorts have not yet been laid. I would smell them.
I’ve been careful not to make scuffing noises on the floor; the humans might hear me. And we can’t have that.
My feet are so very large, after all. They’re topped with back-tipping toe claws similar to those of an old Earth raptor, if my history is correct.
I listen at the door, my long thin hands wrapped about the handle to my locked hideaway in the… what is it called? Ocean Room. Yes. Ocean Room. It must have been mislabeled, because the only things in here are a bunch of chairs for bipeds, covered by dusty old sheets, the scratchy old tags of which read:
100 Percent Balatruvian Cotton. 500 thread count.
Outside my safe little cabinet of a room, footsteps fall. Soon, through the screen of the small box-like device I am working in my smooth-scaled foreclaws, I can just glimpse a dark skinned human with an earpiece slipping out of the Swamp Room door, scurrying for the darkest part of the hallway some two and a quarter metres away to my right.
Humans, I think to myself as I pad forward on thick-soled narrow lizard feet and exit the storage, make very good lunch dates, with their two legs and their crunchy bones. I will follow the dark one into the dark, hiding in the plap plap clack of his hard foot coverings.
Plap plap clack.
Plap plap clack.
Plap plap clack.
Chapter 5: -
“It’s been a day now, Mickey’s gone. This can’t be good.” Jack says, scratching his head as he lifts the Doctor’s face to a drinking bulb and wets the Time Lord’s dry, cracking lips with the clear salty fluid inside. “I bet he tripped over a coupling and is sprawled somewhere with a nosebleed.”
“That’s my husband you’re dismissing, Jack!” Martha cuts him off with a punch to his bicep. “My Mickey can take care of himself, mostly… but I’m not happy about him being gone this long- he’s usually not this bad at gettin’ back on the comms. Do you think we should worry? ‘cause frankly I’m not willing to sit here much longer unless one of us goes out and finds him safe and sound and passed out on the floor because he hit himself in the head on an overhang.”
Her hands pull gently on a round object attempting to flush out with the latest rush of birth fluid from between the Time Lord’s legs. Another glistening egg, but larger than the last set and deep crimson in colour, like an uncut ruby.
“Hey, Jack, this one’s red, and bigger- do you see how his lower abdomen is crunching up, straining around it? His body doesn’t want to push it out. The tip is slightly more pointed as well. Must be the start of a new caste level! With the four days we calculated him startin’ this, then, judging by the data I gathered from the TARDIS banks… this looks like human bees but works like human lizards. I’m thinking, with the advanced rate of growth, we’ve got… three more days of this, with him? He can’t do this much longer, even with the TARDIS providing the saline, it’s just not enough.”
Jack bends his hand back, replacing the Doctor’s water-drenched head on the remains of his greatcoat.
“We’ve got to get him through this, Martha. To do that, I’ve got to find Mickey and get that door open. You have your weapon?”
Martha turns to the holster at her side, her fingers running over the slim little black tranquilliser gun.”It’s not really a weapon, Jack. But I have more than just this, hidden away. Oh, wait a minute Jack, our boy’s done it again.” Her hand comes away from the Doctor’s legs, a big ruby egg sitting perched in her splayed palm. “Good job, Doctor, you’re doing great! Just keep… what is…”
A streak of silver scurries across the floor.
With a shriek, it lifts up and hurtles toward Martha’s face.
On his arse in the comm room, Mickey sits and stares at the big alien lizard keeping him hostage.
“You a Silurian? Never seen a Silurian looks like you before!”
The big tail flicks up, smacks him across the face. Another smack ensues; he falls.
“You’ll speak when spoken to, idiot, and not before. Because I have something to say.” The smooth-skinned lizard murmurs from a long snout hung between two lazy, half-shut milky eyes. “Is he awake? I need to speak with him.”
“Ha! Yeah right! You wanna eat those eggs, is what you want!” Mickey chides, shaking his head and grinning as the lizard glares at him with a sudden mouthful of long fangs growing straight and long and moving in a shrinking triangle right for his…
The teeth smush close to his jaw; he can feel their tips digging into the flesh of his cheek like those old toys where you can push your face into the pins.
Its cool breath skirts his nostrils, and he sniffs at it eagerly. “Go on then! What you waitin’ for? Eat me! You ain’t getting’ in the room with the Doctor and my wife. Jack’ll eat you for breakfast, lunch and dinner!”
But the mouth just… leans in, like a pillow, nuzzling against his cheek. A little water falls out the alien’s eye; it blinks triple eyelids, and three cloudy filters rise and fall across the eye’s orb-like surface, each one set at a different angle then the last. The long black tongue plops out, sharp, thin as a needle and… shakes against the roof of the gaping maw. Words form, somehow… perhaps some kind of device in the snout bone?
“I appreciate your loyalty, Mickey,” something warm and bookish says in Mickey’s head, blending into the scenery like a fine dust in some gigantic library, the tone of voice like soft silt settling in the bed of a stream. “But I’m not in there with Jack and Martha and all those vulnerable eggs. I’m out here with you. Which means…” The tongue flicks along Mickey’s cheekbone now, tapping along the bridge of his hyperventilating nose. “Guess what you left in there with your wife?”
Chapter 6: -
The scrape of a gun travels across the floor.
A line of bright purple skews from the thin black barrel toward the silver thing; it squeals a tin can squeal, dropping to the grass and scurrying away.
Jack takes a step toward the Doctor, his fingers itching to crawl over his own weapon.
Martha puts a hand to her mouth.
The Doctor just moans, his lower body raising to project another reddish huge egg onto the blood-gooey ground. The small stun pistol slips from his hand and clatters, hanging from his big squarish thumb as his fingers ease and pull apart like the petals of a death lily.
Then his limbs suddenly woodlouse, curling him until he resembles the weak, unstruggling ball of a spider’s lunch. His face half smothered in thick red-orange mess, he gives one shake, a second, tottering on the edge of some physiological precipice.
“He’s really deeply out this time, Jack,” says Martha, kneeling beside her patient and shoving her fingers to both sides of the Doctor’s neck. “He’s thready- there’s little time left.”
“I’ll go find Mickey,” Jack says just as gravely.
He turns to the panel that operates the outside door.
But then the door won’t give, no matter how many times he presses the button…
Chapter 7: -
The Doctor's POV.
“…just like that, good man,” I lisp, patting Mickey on the back with a proud fatherly claw. “Using morse code is quite nice, once you get the hang of…”
Mickey raises a fist to bang on the door again, bursting a knuckle. With a hiss, he continues banging in sequence; soon, red blood sprays over the silvery outside.
I snatch his hand to lick it with my borrowed saliva and he bats me away. I understand completely- his wife is in there. And so am I.
After a few minutes, his ear is to the door, because Jack is banging out emphatic whole phrases to him on the other side.
“What’s he sayin, boss? I can’t understand it anymore!”
I force the lizard’s brain to process the data, but the going between Mickey and Jack is slow. I know my body must be dying as they speak, and with it, all those eggs will soon follow, leaving a promise long ago to the Mother of the Limbs of Valkor, to honour the ancient bond between the Great Root of Valkor and the Great Trees of Gallifrey, unfulfilled. Without the Limbs, the Great Trees would never have been born.
Baaaang baaaang bang.
Bang bang bang bang.
Bang baaaang bang.
Baaaang baaaang baaaang bang.
Bang baaaang baaaang.
Bang bang bang bang.
Bang baaaang baaaang baaaang baaaang bang.
Bang bang bang.
Baaaang bang bang.
Baaaang bang baaaang baaaang.
Baaaang baaaang bang.
Bang baaaang bang baaaang bang baaaang.
“I’m sorry Mickey,” I say, rubbing a claw in a careful circle over his back, “…this reptiliform’s brain isn’t used to the rate at which my presence burns up its resources- I have to stop every so often to keep from harming it. You’re doing fine. Move a bit; I want to test the strength of this door.”
I lift up on one powerful leg and set a padded, scaled foot to the middle of the Swamp Room door. I press, bending my knee as I build up to a shove that should prove a theory I’ve just had. The metal easily caves to my touch, crunching out the way and knocking poor Mickey back into my free claw a bit.
Before the dust settles, Jack is on me, and gun metal shoves past my fangs, raping my mouth.