Fandom: Doctor Who (Tenth Doctor)
Summary: At the age of three-and-twenty, Jane Austen was not a young woman anyone would have supposed destined for a remarkable life. And then she met the peculiar Dr. Smith.
Spoilers: None, really
Dr. Smith crossed the room in two great strides, donned a pair of monstrously large spectacles, and knelt beside the stricken Sir Thomas. “Hmmmm,” he said, peering into the ashen face of the afflicted man. “Hmmm,” he said again.
“What’s the matter with him?” demanded Mr. Debary.
“The matter,” said Dr. Smith, pushing his spectacles back up the bridge of his nose, “is that he’s dead.”
At this news Mrs. Debary let out a strangled sort of scream, clutched at her heart and promptly collapsed in a swoon. At the same time the three Debary girls, as one, dissolved into a fit of hysterical crying. Mr. Debary rushed to attend to his wife, leaving Peter to calm his three sisters, a task that would have been ambitious even for a man far superior to he.
Dr. Smith, meanwhile, was paying no attention whatsoever to the histrionics of the Debarys. Instead he had begun pacing about, his sharp gaze searching round the room, his brow furrowed in concentration. Wondering what he could possibly be looking for, Jane glanced around as well. It was only by purest chance that she happened to be looking towards the door to the hall when something small, silvery, and nearly transparent ran out from behind a bookcase, crawled over the floor, and slipped under the gap beneath the closed door. The strange thing was almost insect-like in appearance, but like no insect Jane had ever seen, and nearly the size of a salamander.
“Dr. Smith!” she cried in alarm.
He wheeled round. “What is it?”
“Some sort of creature crawled under that door and into the hallway.”
He beamed at her. “Brilliantly done, Miss Austen! Molto bene!” And then he darted out of the room in pursuit of the mystery creature, shutting the door in his wake.
The Debarys, otherwise occupied at present, noticed none of this, of course. It should perhaps be noted that Jane had felt the want of some excitement in her life for quite some time. She had spent much of her youth in prudence, and learnt the yearning for romance only recently, as she had grown older and begun to feel the walls of her life closing in on her. Her recent literary disappointment had only served to heighten her sense of dissatisfaction with her own situation.
Therefore, in the Debarys’ distraction Jane saw an opportunity and seized it, along with Martha’s hand. “Shall we follow him and see what he finds?”
“Do we dare?” asked Martha, aghast.
“Indeed, I think we do. Nay, I think we must! For how often is an opportunity for true adventure likely to present itself to us? When such an exigency occurs, Martha, will you stride boldly forth to answer, or will you recoil and tremble with fear of the unknown?” She threw a pointed glance at the Debary girls, to illustrate her point.
Martha acquiesced, albeit reluctantly, and allowed her friend to lead her forth. The two young women moved to the door through which Dr. Smith had disappeared and paused, hoping for a courage that will almost never be supplied by the outside of closed door. Finding no assistance from external sources, Jane looked to her own spirit to support her, and support her it did. She threw open the door and drew Martha firmly into the hall. There they found Dr. Smith standing in the open doorway of the library, searching for something in his breast pocket. “Ah ha!” he declared to no one in particular as he withdrew a strange-looking mechanical device that resembled a wand. He looked up at their approached and smiled. “Our mysterious visitor seems to have taken refuge in the library. Shall we?”
Jane nodded eagerly and followed him into Mr. Debary’s library, still grasping Martha’s hand. The smell of tobacco and Scotch whiskey lingered in the stale air, mingled with the musty odor of books.
“Keep sharp,” warned Dr. Smith, pointing his odd gadget round the room. “You don’t want to let it get close to you.”
Jane felt Martha’s hand tighten in her own, and she gave a reassuring squeeze in answer. “What, precisely, is it?” she asked, as they began searching the room for signs of the creature.
“Some species of parasite, I’d imagine. Possibly from Vesp or somewhere in the Pholgon System, though I’m just speculating, really. If I got a good look at it I might be able to tell you more precisely.”
“It was much of a size with a newt, or perhaps a little smaller,” said Jane. “Translucent. With a multitude of legs, almost like a centipede, but with a broader head.”
Dr. Smith tugged at his ear thoughtfully. “Well, now, that’s one I’ve not encountered before. Could be a construct of the Tygonites, though I’ve never known them to dabble in insects before. Now the Yssarions, they like a good insect — decorated their whole palace with the bloody things. ’Course they’re millions of years away from interstellar travel, yet.”
Jane stared at him in wonder. “You’re not from London, are you, Dr. Smith?”
“Not exactly,” he said with a sheepish grin. “I’m not really a doctor, either, least not the way you think. Nor am I a Smith.”
“Who are you?” asked Martha.
“I’m the Doctor,” he said, as if this explained all.
Just then there came a skrittering sound, like dozens of little insectile legs scritching against a wooden floor, and the small silvery creature ran out from under the billiard table. It raced for the cover of a nearby chair, but Dr. Smith darted into its path. Blocked from any obvious means of retreat, the buglike creature froze.
Dr. Smith flopped down onto the floor, so that he was at eye level with the thing. “Look at you!” he cried, peering at it. “Aren’t you a beautiful little thing!”
Jane found she could not agree. The creature had altogether too many legs for her taste, and appeared to have three beady eyes upon its wretched head. “Ugh,” she said.
The detestable thing spun round and looked for all the world as if it were glaring at her. Then it quickly scampered off behind a bookcase.
“Well!” said Dr. Smith, standing up and dusting himself off. “That was rude.”
“What sort of thing was that?” asked Martha.
“If you please.”
“Absolutely no idea.”
There was another skrittering sound and Jane turned to look as the silvery creature shot out from behind the bookcase and ran straight at her. She froze, unable to move or scream or do anything at all as the vile thing bore down on her.
“Oh no you don’t!” Dr. Smith lunged, grabbing Jane’s arm and pulling her out of the creature’s path. Unfortunately, she was still clutching Martha’s hand, so just as Jane was dragged out of danger, Martha was dragged into it. Jane looked on, aghast, as the creature leapt onto Martha’s skirts and wriggled its way up with astonishing speed until it had reached her face. Then, to Jane’s further horror, the beast crawled into one of Martha’s nostrils and disappeared.
Rather than cry out or struggle, Martha stood stock still as though paralyzed, her eyes gone strangely glassy and unseeing. Then she collapsed to the floor, utterly senseless.
Jane cried out and attempted to rush to her friend’s aid but Dr. Smith forcibly restrained her. “No!” he cried. “Keep away from her! It’s imperative that nothing happen to you.”
“But it’s somehow tolerable if something happens to Martha?” she demanded.
“Just do as I say,” he said sharply. “And stay back.”
Too furious to speak, Jane nevertheless submitted to his wishes and kept her distance as he cautiously approached the prone figure of Martha Lloyd. He knelt beside her and pointed his metal device at her face. It made an eerie whirring sound, and an unearthly blue light shone on Martha’s pale skin.
“Is she...” Jane trailed off, unable to voice her fear.
“She’s alive,” he assured her, not unkindly, as he tucked the device back in his pocket.
Just then Martha’s eyes flew open and she sat up, looking very much her old self, albeit somewhat disoriented. “Jane? What happened?”
Jane sighed with relief and started forward, but Dr. Smith put up a hand to halt her. “Who are you?” he asked the bewildered Martha.
She looked at him strangely. “We’ve met, Dr. Smith. I’m Miss Lloyd.”
“Not you,” he said. “I’m speaking to the other one in there.”
“I do not understand what you mean.”
“Really, Dr. Smith, there’s no need to be rude. She seems well, does she not?” ventured Jane.
“She’s not well, in fact she’s very much not herself at the moment. Now,” he said, fixing Martha with a menacing glare, “I’m the Doctor, the last of the Time Lords, and you will tell me who you are and where you come from or I promise I will make you rue the day you ever came to this planet.” His voice was cold as steel and his eyes burned with an intensity that caused Jane to take an involuntary step back.
Martha looked at him blankly, and then she said, in a voice that was dull and flat and very much not Martha’s, “I am Panthalassa, a triostreen from the planet Kaluthrix, and I am also the last of my kind.”