TEMPERATURE: 23C –
“Where am I?” Jack asked after he’d been time-dumped onto this planet – he’d been put here, while John Hart was getting put on some other world; in their opinion, their Time Agency superiors were sorely overreacting to this latest exploit. Clay and quartz ground under his hands.
The natives looked from downed Jack to Susan, and hissed from a hundred pores. Susan caught the image in her mind: Keep, Associate, with the attendant threat of death for noncompliance.
Jack stood up and was told Iaaaq,” by a flatfaced woman with bipeds on either side of her.
“Ya-aq?” Jack asked. “Ah, not one of those world-names that’re easily pronouncable.”
“The natives here don’t restrict themselves to a single vocal system.
“Is this summer?” he asked.
“Midwinter,” she answered. “And an unusually cold one at that.”
“Huh. Well, I’m Jack Harkness.”
“A human. Employee of the Time Agency.”
“That’d be me. And you are?”
“I am the Foreman.” The position she’d held in post-Dalek Earth. Her role in the Time War thus far. And a play on her first pseudonym. “Of the Time Lords.”
Holy sh- Stay cool, keep calm. “And what’s one of the masters of the universe doing here?” unable to resist adding, “Waiting for me?”
“I am a prisoner,” flatly, bluntly.
“Of these guys?” looking at the steadily-growing crowd of semi-armored amphibians encircling them harmlessly.
“Only peripherially. I was placed here during the War.”
“Which war?” And why would god-level beings concern themselves with a war?
“One raging far above the heads of your Time Agency.” The Daleks had dropped her here, counting on the native life to trap her here as thoroughly as it’d trapped the ancestors of these amphibians.
“We know every war that’s ever happened,” Jack asserted.
“And wouldn’t know otherwise.”
“Why did you think they dropped you here, Jack? Any escape would infect other worlds and other times. And your wrist-device’s programmed to not permit that.”
You never did tell me,” Jack said, “who our fine hosts are.”
“They’re the answer,” Susan said.
“That’s their name?”
“Then what was the question?”
“I see; so, all the universe’s unanswered questions, they’re they answer?”
“The handiwork thereof, yes.” Without their makers, Gallifrey would never have reached the dawn of time. The one force mightier than we Time Lords. But she said none of that.
TEMPERATURE: 33C –
Sitting in the whicker chair, Susan Foreman rested her arms on the railing, doing nothing more than this regeneration’s favorite pastime: watching her baby sleep. Right now, he is a nymph, the infant stage of the Time Lord life cycle. At some point in the next few months, he’d moult and become a child.
Susan remembered being a child on Earth. She remembered David, remembered David’s surprise that Susan didn’t have any equipment – she was a child; remembered how, after appearing anguished, David took someone else to wife – as his wife; he didn’t wait for Susan to shed into adulthood, into her first regeneration; he didn’t ask Susan to please leave and loop time when she was older – she would’ve done that for David.
“When you’re older,” Susan told her boy, “I’ll tell you all about your great-grandfather.”
In answer, the baby munched on his baby food.
They stayed there until Jack came by. “Hey,” Jack said to the pair of them, “how’s my little penal family doing?”
“Acclimatized to the temperature,” Susan said, “though not to the horror.”
“I’m looking at it.”
“You’re looking at me.”
“Aw c’mon, don’t you think that I’m just a little cute?”
“A lot cute?”
“A middle cute?”
“Anybody ever tell you that you’re one tough cookie?”
“No; a tough biscuit.”
“Owch.” Then, kindly, “Why don’t you go?”
“Go on. Take a stroll. Go swimming. Read a book. Anything. I’ll stay here and keep an eye on the little guy for you.”
“You’d eat him.”
“Not true. I don’t go for raw meals.” Raising one hand, palm closed in true Time Agency fashion, “I give you my word that he’ll be okay.”
Susan just looked at him.
TEMPERATURE: 46C –
“When the temperature reaches a critical point, the natives here all flee into the sea, diving to the deepest, coldest place. Any remaining up here die – their proteins fall apart.”
“And us?” Jack asked. “What about us?”
“Only when they’re all in the sea, will it be safe for us to leave.”
While watching the boy one day, Jack found himself grinning at the little guy – who grinned back, a far-too-toothy mouthful.
Shrugging, “Yes sir,” Jack said, giving the boy a real salute; not some mock-salute.
“Sir,” the boy repeated. “Sir. Sir. Stir. Stir,” the word emerging from his mouth like a gunshot. Or like a –
Nah, can’t be. Can’t be.
On Jack’s return to Torchwood Three, after time had been put to rights, he found a note on his desk:
No hard feelings about
that year now that
it never was.
Happy New Year, dad.