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
Jane gasped in shock, but Dr. Smith seemed utterly nonplussed by Martha’s strange declaration. “Triostreens,” he mused. “Can’t say I’m familiar with them.”
“We are — were — a race of telepathic symbiots who lived in peaceful harmony with our host species the skagra, on a planet called Kaluthrix, beyond the Flame Nebula. But Kaluthrix was subsumed by a dying star and I alone of all my kind managed to escape in a crudely-made space pod. There was no navigation system, and only enough life support to keep me in stasis as I wandered aimlessly among the stars, until finally crashing here, on Sol III.”
“Where you promptly crawled into the first human you could find and began feeding off his brain waves,” said Dr. Smith.
“Humans are the only sentient species on this planet whose brains produce enough electrochemical energy to sustain me. And without a host I would surely die.”
“Ah, but they’re not exactly sustaining you, are they? They’re dying off at a very inconvenient rate.” He shined his silver wand on her face again. “Well, there’s your problem! You’re feeding off theta waves! And humans don’t produce enough theta waves to sustain the both of you. Alpha and beta, sure, even a good bit of delta, but theta? Pfft. That’s why you’re killing them at a rate of nearly one per day.”
“The fat woman lasted almost two full days before giving out,” said the not-Martha creature flatly.
“She was a person!” cried Jane, finally finding her voice. “She had children and friends and you... you crawled inside her and killed her! Just as you killed Sir Thomas and the others!”
Martha’s eyes, looking so much like her dear friend’s eyes used to look, yet so much colder, gazed at Jane. “I do not kill for sport, as men who hunt the lesser animals of your planet do, but rather as the owl hunts mice for food, or the lion may feed on a gazelle. So am I now forced to kill for my own survival, though it was not always so. There are millions and millions of humans on this planet, but only one of me, unique now among the universe. Do I not deserve to survive, if I can?”
Jane turned to Dr. Smith for support, only to realize his once-angry features had softened to an expression that was alarmingly close to sympathy. “You must do something!” she insisted. “Tell her! Tell her she must stop!”
“She’s not wrong.”
“And what of Martha Lloyd?” demanded Jane. “Is she not unique among God’s creatures? Is she not deserving of life, or is she to be sacrificed in order to unnaturally extend the existence of another? Where is the fairness in that?”
“I’m afraid there is no fair,” said Dr. Smith softly. “There’s only life.”
Jane’s heart was heavy with self-condemnation. It was she who had been so keen to make Dr. Smith’s acquaintance; she who had wanted to know more about the meteor; and she who had dragged poor Martha along unwillingly in pursuit of this adventure. And now look what had happened! Her friend was in danger and she had no one to blame but herself and her cursed curiosity. “Please, Dr. Smith, I beseech you. You must make her give up Martha’s body! Force her out if you must!”
The doctor frowned. “I don’t know if I can. Maybe, but... not without considerable risk to your friend.”
The agony of Jane’s mind at this news was extreme. Unable to bury the tumult of her feelings, she fell to her knees beside Martha’s body, grasping her friend’s hands and pressing them to her own breast. “Please,” she said to the thing that had stolen Martha. “Please let her go. I’m begging you with all of my heart.”
The cold, empty eyes stared back at her. “You ask me to give up my own life for another. Why would I do this? Unless...” The creature paused. “Would you offer yourself as host in her place?”
“Yes!” cried Jane.
“No,” said Dr. Smith, firmly pulling Jane to her feet and away from Martha. “That I cannot allow.”
“Why? Why am I worthy of your protection but not Martha?”
The Doctor opened his mouth. Then closed it again. Then said, “It’s complicated. I don’t have time to explain, just... trust me. I’ll find another way to help Martha, I promise.”
But Jane could not trust him, not when he seemed resigned to abandon Martha to this dreadful fate only a moment ago. She drew herself up to her full height, looked him in the eye and said, in a quiet but very firm voice: “You would do well to devise another solution quickly, Dr. Smith, because if you will not save Martha I shall, by whatever means are within my power.”
“Give me a minute, I’m thinking!” He sucked his teeth as his brow furrowed in concentration. “Hang on!” he cried suddenly, turning back to Martha. “You want another host, yes? But what you really need is one that won’t burn out in a few hours like these humans do. So all we need to do is find you a better host, one that can sustain you indefinitely like the skagra on your homeworld.”
“Humans are the most compatible extant species on this planet.”
“Well, we’ll just have to go to another planet, won’t we?”
“My capsule was destroyed in the crash. Even if it were to be repaired I doubt it would carry me to another suitable planet.”
He grinned smugly. “Good thing you’re not the only one round here with a spaceship, then. So! Who wants to go for a ride?”