The Shape of the Dalek by vegetables



Summary: Nobody’s scared of the Daleks, on the city in space that’s called Edinburgh Four. They’re strange and colourful and they look completely ridiculous, and they’ve now been around for a very long time indeed. So perhaps there’s no harm, in listening to what they have to say. Maybe it’d be better to give them the chance to exterminate. They built lasers and spaceships and reality-warping guns. But all they had to do was change the way they spoke.
Rating: All Ages
Categories: Other Doctors
Characters: Other Character(s), The Daleks, The Doctor (Author-Created), The TARDIS, The Time Lords
Genres: General
Warnings: None
Challenges: None
Series: Be Afraid
Published: 2018.09.08
Updated: 2018.11.23


Index

Chapter 1: Cover
Chapter 2: Chapter 1
Chapter 3: Chapter 2
Chapter 4: Chapter 3
Chapter 5: Chapter 4
Chapter 6: Chapter 5
Chapter 7: Chapter 6
Chapter 8: Chapter 7
Chapter 9: Chapter 8
Chapter 10: Chapter 9
Chapter 11: Chapter 10
Chapter 12: Chapter 11
Chapter 13: Chapter 12
Chapter 14: Chapter 13
Chapter 15: Chapter 14
Chapter 16: Chapter 15
Chapter 17: Chapter 16
Chapter 18: Chapter 17
Chapter 19: Chapter 18
Chapter 20: Chapter 19
Chapter 21: Chapter 20


Chapter 1: Cover


cover

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Chapter 2: Chapter 1

Author's Notes: I should put a disclaimer at the start of this that Jessica the Dalek isn't based on a real human person, and any resemblance she has to one is a coincidence. I don't think Edinburgh even has a Mayor, but if it turns out we do and she is also called Jessica, then this is not about her; I did not know she existed.


In a wood outside of time and space, a siren was blaring a very unnatural sound. The sky above the TARDIS console was flashing red and blue, and a woman in pyjamas was shouting at a woman in visible dismay.

“I KNOW it’s a major thing!” Lorna was saying again. “You’ve said it sixteen times by now, and I’ve still got no idea what’s going on–“

“But it is a major thing!” said the Doctor, running round her console in as many circles as the argument. Lights were blinking and dials were switching and strange runes were throbbing on the floor, and leaves were falling into the room from the trees of the forest above. Desperately, the Doctor grabbed one that had fallen onto her head and jammed it through nearby slot, then shook her head when it resulted in nothing happening at all.

“My child’s in here!” said Lorna over the din. “I thought your machine was safe; you let us go on holiday in it! You couldn’t run much of an airline!”

“This isn’t helping!” cried the Doctor as the trees behind her started to glow. Somewhere a bell was tolling with desperate bong, and flickering images of men in horrible clothes appeared to shout baffling things.

“What can help?” shouted Lorna. “What’s even happening?

The Doctor had stopped being frantic; stopped doing anything at all. She was looking up at the false sun high above the TARDIS wood, which was dim and slight against the flashing sky. It was darkened and still getting darker, as something that wasn’t a moon began to eclipse it in shade.

“I’m sorry,” breathed the Doctor. “But I think it’s–“

Suddenly everything stopped, the flashing and the glowing and the holograms of the men. A gentle breeze blew through the console room, and Chris walked in from the door at the far end.

“It’s my birthday,” she said.

Lorna and the Doctor stared at her.

“I set an alarm on your phone,” she said to the Doctor, “so you wouldn’t forget.”

“But,” said the Doctor, “I have a password”–

“I guessed the password,” said Chris. “It was incredibly easy.”

“Then we’re not going to die?” asked Lorna apprehensively.

The Doctor breathed out an enormous sigh of joy and relief.

“Didn’t you listen to your daughter?” said the Doctor with delight. “It’s her birthday. So we’re going to do the exact opposite of dying! Living, going on an adventure. Travelling with me… on a mystery tour!

“Can we have a lie down first?” said Lorna. “There’s just been so much sound and noise.”

“Right. A lie down. And then, an exciting mystery trip”–

“I don’t want to lie down,” said Chris. “I want to have my birthday present now!

“This is why I forgot when my own birthday was,” said the Doctor with a sigh.

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Chapter 3: Chapter 2

It was clear from Chris’s face that she was prepared to be disappointed as she opened her present from the Doctor, but she somehow managed to look even more glum as she pulled it from out of the wrapping.

“It’s a tin,” she said.

“It’s what’s in the tin that counts! That’s a Paradox in a Can; open it and it sets off a bomb that blows the whole thing up ten seconds before you tried. Very popular in Time Lord nurseries, before they all got banned.”

“A bomb?!” gasped Lorna. “You’ve given my child something that’ll explode?”.

“That is a philosophically difficult question to answer,” said the Doctor, “but the bomb is just for starters. We’re going on a day trip as well, to somewhere nothing will explode at all!”

“I wanted a party,” said Chris.

“Well, you made a lot of inappropriate sound and light. That’s basically a party. But where we’re going is somewhere that you’ll love.”

She grinned.

“Have you been…” she smiled, “...to Edinburgh?”

“Once,” said Lorna. “We were going to go to the castle, but it was too expensive. Then we were going to go the zoo, but it was even more expensive than that.”

“Well, the place we’re going has a castle that’s also a zoo! ‘Cos we’re going to the exciting city–”

She whipped herself round her console dramatically.

–“of Edinburgh Four.”

Lorna and Chris stared at her for a while.

“...Edinburgh Four?” said Lorna in the end.

“It’s in space! You see, way in the future when Scotland went up in a rocket”–

“No, I mean. What happened to the first one?”

The Doctor looked tense. “I, ah. I probably shouldn’t answer that.”

“The second one?”

“I definitely shouldn’t answer that. But I can tell you what happened to the third one!”

“What?”

“Nobody knows,” said the Doctor cheerfully. “But you see, Edinburgh Four is special. It’s built like the first one, all cobbles and spires, but in a sort of wedding cake that all just floats, that can be seen for miles around! When they put together the list of the Earth’s best cities five billion years from now, it comfortably makes it into the top three thousand. And that might not sound impressive, but five billion years is really a very long time”–

“Does it have a hill?” said Chris.

“What? It’s in space! You can’t just go putting a hill up there!”

“The Edinburgh we went to had a hill,” said Chris. “We went up it, because it cost a lot less than the zoo. It had just been on fire, but it was fine when we were there.”

“Well, this Edinburgh has aliens, and holographic tartan, and this game called ‘Mega Pinball’ which I’m not sure is especially safe”–

“I want to go up a hill,” said Chris.

“This is a time machine,” said the Doctor through clenched teeth. “You don’t need a time machine to go up a hill!”

“There must be some good hills, though,” said Lorna. “In time and space.”

“Edinburgh Four, everyone,” said the Doctor as the TARDIS wheezed and groaned. “Try not to get too excited by it.”

The white door at the edge of the wood swung open, and they stepped out onto the cobbles of a city suspended in space.

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Chapter 4: Chapter 3

“This is nice,” said Lorna, looking up at the corkscrew of a street. Its buildings were painted all different colours with eyes and cheeses and trilobites painted on the sides, and locals looked suspiciously at hairy and ginger men who were decked out in tartan for the tourists.

“It is nice,” said the Doctor, and she was going to say more, but the part of her brain that knew what speaking meant then suddenly flushed with fear. Horrified, she looked straight at a shape that was as terrible as it was familiar, and which should very definitely have not been sitting in the city of Edinburgh Four.

“Oh, Hell,” she said. “Oh, oh no. Oh Hell.”

She turned to her companions.

“Well, we’ve had a nice adventure on Edinburgh Four!” she said, “standing on this street and looking at shops for a while. But everything is very tiring, isn’t it, when you’re human and eleven years old? Perhaps it’s time that we drew all this to a close–”

“No!” said Chris.

“We’ve been here for less than a minute,” said Lorna.

“It’s just that, well, there’s a chance that…” the Doctor paused, choosing her words, “that this place might be… it might be a bit less safe than I’d thought. A lot less safe. Less of a birthday party, more of a birthday massacre.” She pointed at the shape.”Because of that.”

Chris and Lorna frowned, following her ashen gaze. Behind a crowd of humans and humanish aliens was a big yellow thing, a bit like a shuttlecock that was taller than a person. It was covered in big black spheres whose colour clashed badly with its body, and an eyestalk sprouted out from a dome that stuck out of its top. The Doctor was looking at it like it was all of the most dangerous animals in the world, which was odd, as–

“It looks ridiculous,” said Lorna.

“It’s not ridiculous at all! It’s a creature that’s totally bent on destruction, that kills everything that’s not exactly the same as it ‘cause difference is the one thing it can’t stand. It’s the most dangerous thing in the universe, and it’s called a Dalek.

“Really?” said Lorna.

“Yes, really! That’s why we have to go”–

“It isn’t very scary,” said Chris.

“I was thinking it looked like a cake,” said Lorna.

“It’s not a cake! It’s a terrifying death machine! The Daleks have killed more people than every other species in the universe combined! And the way they speak is awful, this horrible, ugly sort of voice–“

“Hello, Doctor,” said the Dalek amiably.

“Her voice is fine!” said Lorna. “You can’t go saying people have horrible voices, just because they sound a bit Scottish and posh.”

“Daleks aren’t people,” said the Doctor.

“That’s pretty racist,” said Lorna. “I’m sorry,” she said to the Dalek. “She’s from the North. You know what some of us up there can be like”–

“I’m not from the North! Or a racist! I just think the Daleks are evil to the core, no matter who they are, and there’s absolutely no possibility that one of them could ever turn out to be nice!”

She paused, reflecting on what she’d just said.

“For anyone else! Then yes, saying that’d be very racist indeed. But the Daleks… they’re an exception to all the rules. Love, and caring, and tolerance. It all depends on never tolerating them.”

“Come on,” said the Dalek. “I’ve only said ‘Hello!’ Surely that’s not worth getting so worked up about.”

“I know,” said the Doctor, “exactly what you’re like.”

“But you don’t know me,” said the Dalek. “You don’t even know my name!”

“Daleks don’t have names! Except the ones that did, and they’re now all very dead.”

“My name’s Jessica. I’m standing to be the Mayor.”

The Doctor boggled. “Daleks aren’t called Jessica! Of all the names you don’t have, that one’s quite high on the list.”

“Nonsense. I’m a Dalek, and that’s my name. You need to get over your prejudices.”

“I’m sorry about our friend,” said Chris as she fiddled with her tin, “she can be extremely rude.”

“Then maybe it would help,” said the Dalek, “if she could put a face to the name.”

Above the yellow dome at Jessica’s top, a cone of blue light fizzed above lamps like eyes. Within it, the hologram of a woman’s face appeared, high cheekboned with an affable human smile. Her hair was tied back in a tight bob, and she looked nothing like a Dalek at all.

“That’s not you!” said the Doctor. “You’re a mass of tentacles, heaped up like a big lump of snot!”

“That’s true,” laughed Jessica. “I don’t deny it! But this is a new era for the Daleks, with new discoveries. And we’ve found out about the concept of cultural outreach.

“That sounds like exactly the sort of idea,” said the Doctor, “that a Dalek might want to destroy.”

“Oh, we will. We’ve lots of plans, for the city of Edinburgh Four. But I’m giving a big speech later, up on the peak of the city. Not exactly for the tourists, but. Everyone’s welcome.” She laughed. “Until I win, of course!”

Her hologram face smiled at Chris and her mother.

“See you around,” she said. “Enjoy our wonderful city.”

Jessica’s face flicked off, and she was a strange yellow thing again. Slowly, she hovered slightly above the street, then rose in a spiralling way that mirrored the turn of the city. The Doctor watched her go in absolute disgust, like she’d discovered the worst smell in the world.

“It’s ridiculous,” she said. “It’s unreal.

Did you see that?” she said to a passer by.

“See what?” he said, looking confused.

“A Dalek! Right there she was, clear as day. With”– she mimed with her hands–“with the plunger, and the other bit!”

“And what’s wrong with that?” asked the man. “‘At least they’re doing something about the bins.”

“The bins?” said the Doctor disbelievingly.

“A total nightmare, they’ve been, since all the felt arrived. Time was you’d finish another big pile of oranges, throw the skins out when you were done. Giant bins we have here, on Edinburgh Four: you wouldn’t know that, being tourists. But now they’re full of wee bits of alien felt, breeding fast as you like in these horrible pastel colours. There was already a lot of tweeness and litter here, you know,” he said. We didn’t need the Felties to come here and make things even worse.”

“Oh!” said the Doctor. “If that’s all that’s bothering you, I can definitely do something about that. There was this one time I was on a planet that literally was a bin”–

“It’s nothing like all that’s bothering me,” said the man. “Everything’s cramped and mouldy and dirty; there’s noise and its crowded and we all have to smile all day. Everyone’s angry at everyone else, and everyone knows it’s everyone else who’s the problem. Makes you think that those Daleks might have the right idea. We all think how much better it’d be if the folk who annoyed us weren’t there, right? It’s like they’re going around saying. Exterminate. Exterminate.”

The conversation stalled, and it dawned on the man that he might not be painting Edinburgh Four in the best possible light.

“Enjoy our wonderful city,” he said tersely, walking off before any of them could respond.

“I didn’t like him,” said Chris.

“Well, people say they’re not very friendly, don’t they?” said her mother. “Edinburgh folk.”

“This isn’t going how I hoped it would at all,” said the Doctor, realising the time had come to take drastic measures.

“I know it’s your special day,” she to Chris. “But I’m afraid we’re going to have to do something awful. We’re going to have to go,” she grimaced, “to a tourist shop.

“That doesn’t sound so bad, really,” said Chris.

“I can see you haven’t been to the city of Edinburgh Four,” said the Doctor with a horrible scowl.

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Chapter 5: Chapter 4

The bins’d be full, Young Joyce knew. The Mayor had bought in some huge ones, long and black and large enough to fit several Daleks. But the Felties bred fast, and it wouldn’t be enough. It didn’t matter how large the bins were, when they were full of creatures that multiplied as fast as her problems could.

Still, you had to try, where getting rid of rubbish was concerned. Old Joyce liked the food you got in those big disposable packets, with the odd-coloured sauce that stuck to the sides no matter how hard you would scrub. The packets would pile up until they filled up most of the kitchen, growing moulds that would creep down the carpets and up through the walls. The giant binbags sagging in both of her hands contained only a fraction of the packets in their house– but it’d be enough to give them space to move, and maybe even to cook something else for a change.

Their flat’s communal bins were down a darkened alley, which sloped down so steeply through the city that several couldn’t walk up it at all. Still, a Dalek was managing to make its slow way up it, its huge grey base navigating the cobbles in a way Joyce could only imagine. Old Joyce loved the things — especially ones as shiny and red as this — but Young Joyce had always been suspicious of them all. To talk so openly about killing, even if it always meant nothing: it was wrong, and the fact people didn’t seem to care just made it all the wronger. Thinking about it would always give her the shivers, in just the same way as the wind.

The Dalek had stopped in front of a bin that Joyce could already see was full. The alien, the bin and the piled up rubbish took up most of the street, so she couldn’t get past to where the remaining bins were kept.

“I’m not voting for you, if that’s what you’re after,” she said tersely to the Dalek. “And you’re not going to get many supporting you by getting in everyone’s way.”

A yellow Dalek would've had a response to that; a witty line said in a posh, refined Edinburgh voice. But this red one just looked down at her with its eyestalk, making her very aware of how big it actually was.

“FABRICATE,” it roared in a voice nothing like the yellow ones, “FABRICATE!”

“Are you mad?” said Joyce, worried the answer was ‘yes’.

The Dalek didn’t say anything in response. Something was happening to its plunger, making it contract it with the strength of an extremely powerful hoover. The suction it produced blew the open lid of the bin clean off, and the rubbish people had managed to wedge in splattered over the dark street and walls.

“Stop doing that!” said Joyce. “This city’s a designated area of beauty!” The Dalek was still silent as the first Felties flew out of the bin, small squares of lime and teal you could barely even tell were alive. The suction of the plunger thrust them out into the air, where they floated in a clumping sphere like an enormous ball of wool. The sucking sound of the Dalek’s plunger turned to a blowing one, and Joyce’s eyes widened as she realised what was about to happen.

“You can’t!” she said as the sphere made its way towards her. “I’ve not done anything to you!”

WE REQUIRE SOME EV-I-DENCE,” bawled the Dalek, “IT WILL BE FABRICATED! FABRICATE! FABRICATE!

Stop!” cried Joyce, dropping her bags of rubbish and throwing her hands in the air. She tried to push away the living felt as it started falling upon her, but there was so much that she was soon trapped in a growing and brightly coloured pile. She felt something nipping at her ankles, and with horror remembered the rumours of what they’d done elsewhere.

“I don’t want to be eaten by felt!” she cried. “My friend was going to vote for you!” She tried to say more, but the pile of Felties was covering her face and mouth, and her whole body was pinned underneath it as it moved and writhed. For a while furious mumbles came out of the pile, before the whole thing became completely silent and still.

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Chapter 6: Chapter 5

Whole streets near the top of Edinburgh Four were dedicated entirely to tourism, with hundreds of curved stone shops selling bagpipes and curious jams. The Doctor and her friends had come to the one that was less loud at than the others, which all bellowed out tinny music until anyone would want to exterminate all life from the world.

Chris was flicking through an enormous book, THE FOUR-YEAR OLD’S GUIDE TO EDINBURGH FOUR. Whoever had written it had known nothing about young children: it was full of incredibly dense text and long words, and had almost no pictures at all. It made Chris happy, in an odd sort of way, like people were finding new ways to misunderstand each other.

“Hey,” said her mother. “I’ve had a thought, right. If this is the fourth version of Edinburgh, and there’s a bridge on it, then y’could call it–“

“Mum,” groaned Chris before she could finish.

“Nobody likes a terrible joke,” said the Doctor. “Only my really brilliant ones.” She seemed distracted by a display of Dalek toys, souvenirs of Edinburgh Four that sold for a horrifying price. There was a life-sized Dalek standing beside it, coloured in lurid tartan in a way that no real version was.

“OCH AYE THE NOO,” said the tartan Dalek.

“That’s not what Daleks say,” said the Doctor. “Or Scottish people, either.” She waved her sonic screwdriver over the souvenirs, confirming her awful suspicion.

“You know these are Daleks, right?” she said to the man at the till.

“Of course we do!” said the shopkeeper. “They’re an icon of the city!”

“No. I mean they’re actually Daleks. Not just toys. They’ve dessicated themselves, so they’re small and ground up like powder. But they’d assemble again, if someone just gave them the signal.”

“Maybe there’s powder in the ones from the tackier shops,” said the man indignantly, “but not in any of the stuff we sell.”

The Doctor sighed. “Did you find anything, Chris?” she said. “Any reason why you’d want to be Mayor of this place, rather than leaving it as soon as you could?”

“It’s all dull stuff,” said Chris. “They sort out the parking. See things are done with the bins.” She kept reading. “It says they have sole ownership of the Edinburgh Rock, and sole command of the Lumenmill“–

“Ah, yes,” said the Doctor. “The Lumenmill!”

She looked over at the shopkeeper.

“Most tourists these days,” she said to him. “They probably have no idea what that even is.”

“No culture,” spat the man.

“Or why a Mayor would want to have sole control of it,” said the Doctor.

“Because they’ve not seen what it can do!” said the man. “Back in the day, when I was a lad. They’d create all sorts with the Lumenmill, anything anyone imagined. Giant constructions hovering over the city, limited only by the Mayor’s imagination! But the current one hasn’t got any. Or any desire to use the thing.”

The Doctor’s hearts sank, and she hated herself for having to say what was next.

“Tell you what some of the girls in Chris’s class might do. Give them something like the Lumenmill, they’d try and make an enormous and terrible weapon, which’d make the whole universe tremble in its wake! But they couldn’t do, of course. There’d be restrictions against that sort of thing.”

“Oh no,” said the man. “That mill can make just about anything.”

“You’re an incredibly stupid species sometimes,” said the Doctor in an innocent way, “I do hope you know that.”

“Are you just going to stand there insulting my merchandise and the human race,” said the man, “or are you actually planning on buying anything?”

The Doctor’s gaze wandered to a shelf full of heavily discounted gadgets, strange and ugly like bits of old meccano. The future was broken into pieces, but those things were in every future, and it was about time she started to take a closer look at them.

“Can’t shift those,” said the owner. “They’re just too useless, even for souvenirs.”

“I’ll take them all,” said the Doctor, throwing the owner an ancient dubloon that was worth more than the entire city. She began heaping them into the pockets of her jeans, not bothering about how they all couldn’t possibly fit.

“You’d better enjoy the time you have left,” said the Doctor to the shopkeeper. “And get out now, if you possibly can. ‘Cause this many Daleks, coming to life in a space as small as this–“ she shook her head. “You wouldn’t stand a chance.”

“It’s a good job you’re all just mad,” laughed the shopkeeper to himself, “because the number of Daleks we sell! Dalek posters and Dalek soap dispensers, little Dalek hats for the children. Probably everyone has a Dalek in their house, maybe without even knowing it! And if they all just came to life and started killing,” he laughed, “I’m not sure there’d be anyone left at all!”

“No,” said the Doctor. “No, neither am I.”

She turned to Chris and her mother.

“I don’t think we can stop this,” she said to them. “But we have to try. I know it’s your birthday, Chris, but”–

“It’s fine,” said Chris, although it wasn’t really. “If it’s this important, and it’s this many people. It’s fine.”

“It’s not fine at all. I hoped we could… go and look at the dog show, or the Nessie they have in the lake. But the Daleks break the rules, even when it’s your birthday. So instead we have to go,” she sighed, “on a very uncomfortable walk.”

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Chapter 7: Chapter 6

Near the top of Edinburgh Four the streets turned to spiralling slopes, each twisting round and split up by narrow alleys. Chris’s mother wheezed as her ankles ached up to the summit, but her daughter hardly noticed how steep the ascent seemed to be. Her mind was too busy on other things, filled up with what the Doctor had said about the Daleks.

“You hate them,” Chris said. “I know you’ve fought some very unpleasant things. But I don’t think I’ve ever seen you hate them.”

“I’ve seen…” said the Doctor. “I can’t tell you what I’ve seen them do.”

“Because you think I’m not old enough, even now I’m eleven?”

“You wouldn’t be even if you were a hundred. Humans don’t live so long, to become old enough for the Daleks.”

“Oh,” said Chris. “Then if they’re really that bad? I’ll try hard to hate them as well.”

Christina!” said her mother. “You shouldn’t go around hating people.”

“No,” said the Doctor, “but you should go round hating the Daleks.”

“When she saw me in the hospital, Mum,” said Chris. “She was the only one who understood what the skull men were. If everyone feels safe, and nobody’s scared. Maybe that means that it’s better to be afraid.”

“Sometimes I worry about your influence, Doctor,” said her mother with a sigh. “They’re not like those skulls were, going round burning people to death. They haven’t actually done anything that’s wrong. And I’m not comfortable thinking that there are people who we should just hate for no reason. There’s too much of that, isn’t there, out there in the world? You have to at least give them a chance.”

“Well, you’ll get that chance now,” said the Doctor as they neared the top of the city, “because we’re going to hear Jessica speak.”

They started walking up blackened and narrow steps. Beyond them, a grimey spire stretched up like a rocket, marking the highest point on Edinburgh Four.

“That’s the Scott Monument,” said the Doctor as they puffed their way upwards, “not a monument to Scotland at all. It’s built in honour of a really famous author; the only thing that’s left from Edinburgh One.”

Chris looked at the information board that sat at the top of the stairs.

“I don’t know who Scott is,” said Chris. “But he didn’t write Harry Potter. That’s by a girl!

“A great girl! But no one remembers that now. Time gets rewritten, and it’s men who do most of the edits. Women get forgotten, sometimes, no matter how brilliant they are.”

“There’s still one woman they’re into,” said Lorna, nodding towards the monument’s base. A crowd was gathering there, eager to hear the speech of the yellow Dalek sat up on a stage. Behind her and just before the monument stretched an enormous billboard, which was covered with a curtain and surveyed by tight security.

As the three of them watched the hologram of a head flicked on above the Dalek’s dome, and Jessica grinned as she prepared to get ready to speak.

“People of Edinburgh Four!” she shouted in her seemingly human voice. “It’s a beautiful morning! Are all of you having a nice day?”

“No!” shouted the crowd happily.

“I can’t hear you!” said Jessica. “Us Daleks don’t have any ears! I said ‘are you having a nice day?’

NO!” roared the crowd in a cheerful way.

“Of course you’re not happy!” shouted Jessica. “Look what’s happened to this place! This monument’s dirty and there’s plastic bags stuck on the gargoyles; you can’t even throw away litter because the bins are all stuffed full of felt!”

“They won’t be happier with you!” shouted the Doctor, in a voice that felt louder than a human’s could ever have been.

“That’s what a tourist would think, of course,” said Jessica. “I bet we all look delighted to you! It’s good for business, isn’t it, to grin through the bagpipes and crowds? If you ever showed how you were really feeling, then people might not come back at all. But you don’t need to hide any longer. A vote for the Daleks is a vote for embracing your rage.”

“It’s a lot more than that!” shouted the Doctor. “They’re talking about killing, taking people out all through the city! I’ve found out a bit about what they’re planning–“

“But everyone already knows our plan!” said Jessica, “And they’re finding it’s very much to their liking. Say it with me, everyone!”

“Exterminate!” shouted the crowd happily. “Exterminate!”

“It’s a good slogan,” said a woman in the crowd. “Catchy. Easy to remember.”

“Yes,” laughed Jessica. “We’re not trying to hide what we’re planning to do. In fact, we’ve made it very prominent indeed.”

“Our new poster!” she said to the cheering crowd, “for the final phase of our campaign!”

The curtain pulled back slowly and flawlessly to reveal a giant white billboard that was almost entirely blank. In the middle and written in lowercase, the word Exterminate! stood out in a jolly way.

“Exterminate!” said Jessica happily. “You’ve all thought it! The people walking slowly through the streets! The men who are so much prettier than you, having too much fun at the bus stop! Children shouting swear words! Pensioners spitting gum! All we’re saying is that it’d be nice if all of that went away”–

“She’s tricking you!” said the Doctor. “She’s talking about how everyone’s annoying to someone, so you won’t notice that you’re annoying to someone too! They want to kill you, and as soon as they can, they will!”

“This is typical of what we’re up against,” said Jessica. “Ignorant people who know nothing about anything”–

“I’m a qualified psychiatrist!”

–“lecturing us from their ivory towers,” continued Jessica. “But I’m not here to talk about hypotheticalkilling.”

She nodded to the side of the stage, and hesitantly an old woman hobbled on. She was nervous and clearly not used to handling a crowd, and had not done enough to hide how heavily she had been crying.

“Joyce!” said Jessica in a voice that cracked with outrage. “A woman in the crowd’s going on about killing. Perhaps you’d like to tell her a thing or two about that?”

The old woman spoke into her microphone from slightly too far away, her voice going quiet and loud in all the wrong ways. Chris and her mother wouldn’t have known it, but she sounded more like a Dalek than Jessica did as she struggled to get out her words.

“She was under it,” she said. “They found her on the street and her body was under it! A great pile of felt, that was all the colours in the world!”

She let out a loud, anguished wail, and the crowd became silent and tense.

“My sister’s dead!” she wailed. “Because of this nonsense with the bins! It’s not just annoying, or just about us getting angry! It’s killing people! Nobody’s doing anything, and it’s killing people! And the Daleks,” she sobbed, “The Daleks are the only ones who can stop it!”

“That’s okay, Joyce,” said Jessica. “You don’t need to say anymore.”

The old woman hurried awkwardly off from the stage.

“You’ve not been here long,” said Jessica down to the Doctor. “So it’s fine that you wouldn’t have known. That people are dying now, that they’re suffering now. That they’re right to be angry at what’s happening to this place! At the state of the city, at the state of each other! When I see the mess everyone’s making of everything–“ she shook her holographic head “–you know what it makes me want to do?”

Exterminate!” bawled the crowd, no longer happily. “EXTERMINATE!”

“And we can,” said Jessica. “If you let us, together. Then we can.”

She grinned, and the crowd burst into applause. Between clapping hands and angry cries, two women and a girl looked tense and a little unnerved.

“That was quite scary,” said Chris. “Even though she’s painted that bright shade of yellow.”

“This is bad,” said the Doctor. “This is very, extremely, incredibly bad indeed.” She turned to Lorna, and grimaced. “This is bad.”

“I should listen to you, shouldn’t I?” said Lorna to her daughter. “Perhaps this won’t be a good place to be, if she does become the Mayor. But we’ll be long gone by then, I expect. They’ll have to hold the election, count up who everyone’s voted for. It’ll be some time, before anything actually happens.”

“Not here in the future,” said the Doctor. “You decide who you want to be Mayor just by thinking about it, so the whole thing’s over in a second. I checked on my phone while she was talking. It’s all going to happen tonight.”

“Then should we go, shouldn’t we?” said Lorna. “Being exterminated doesn’t sound much fun on your birthday.”

“We should stay,” said Chris sadly. “If there’s some chance to stop it, the Doctor’s right. It’s more important than turning eleven is.”

“You shouldn’t have to say that,” said the Doctor. “There shouldn’t have to be the Daleks, turning up just to ruin the world.”

“No,” said Chris. “But it doesn’t change that they’re here.”

“Yes,” said the Doctor, “yes, that’s the problem with that. Still, there’s good things about Edinburgh Four, even now.” She smiled. “Galaxies of culture and millennia of cuisine, and all of it congregated here. And that means,” she smiled, “that we’ve a whole lot of choices for a birthday lunch.”

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Chapter 8: Chapter 7

Lank prided himself on how much he knew about the Daleks: his family once threw a quiz about them and seethed when he’d got every question right. He’d never had much time for the real ones, but he’d fallen in love with the toys. When there was nothing inside it the shape was quite beautiful to him, sleek and timeless in a way that seemed like nothing else.

The Mayoral campaign had been good for a collector as determined as him. He’d gone out at night to rip down the rarest posters, spent half his salary on a signed photo of Jessica herself. Mr Mynalband could claim otherwise ‘till he was blue, but this was the greatest collection of Daleks in the city. His life was built around making sure that was true, and he’d keep on doing so right up to the day that he died.

He stepped back to survey his attic room, shelves all filled up with toy Daleks. There were Daleks of every colour and from every shop in the city; commemorative Daleks and limited edition Daleks, even the horrible one they’d sold down on Glasgow Five. There were too many Daleks for a person to take the scene in, so it took him a while to notice how they were all starting to move.

“TEST REVERSAL OF DESSICATION,” shouted a voice from nowhere, and he was jolted to his senses. He’d lived alone since he’d driven his partner away, and no one in the neighbourhood — no one at all — sounded anything remotely like that.

“I’m sorry?” he said, hoping the voice was something to do with his boiler.

“EXPERIMENTAL RE-VITALISATION HAS BEEN AUTHORISED,” said the voice. “INVIGORATE! INVIGORATE!”

“I don’t have time for door to door salesmen!” Lank shouted, clinging to the chance that thought would solve anything at all. Now that he’d been frightened his body was hyperalert, and he could see the tiny eyestalks of the toys moving in ways that shouldn’t have been possible.

“That’s not possible!” he cried, continuing the train of thought. As well as the moving there was an odd rattling noise, coming from one of the shelves on the nearest wall. He looked with horror at the crown jewel of his collection– the only Platinum Dalek ever produced, still sealed in its original packaging. It was moving in there as if it was alive, struggling to get out of the plastic shell and not doing too bad a job of it. The cardboard was crumpling and the plastic was cracking, and despite the danger he was in Lank found himself getting quite angry.

“Don’t do that!” he shouted. “Don’t you know how valuable that is?”

“ASSERTION OF VALUE WILL BE ANALYSED,” screamed the voice from nowhere. “INITIATE FULL INVIGORATION! INITIATE! INITIATE!”

The priceless packaging of the toy Dalek literally exploded, into flaming shards of card and plastic that streamed down over the room. Some of the more poorly made Daleks caught light, and flames began to flicker across the walls.

Lank should have turned and run, at that point, but he was frozen in shock by something even worse than his fact his collection was burning. The Platinum Dalek was growing, now, filling up what little space wasn’t taken up by the shelves. Belatedly Lank thought to run for the door, but the Dalek was already blocking it, enormous and as heavy-looking as if it really had been cast out of metal.

“YOU ARE AN ENEMY OF THE DALEKS,” it yelled, which Lank felt was clearly unfair. “YOU WILL BE EXTERMINATED!

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Chapter 9: Chapter 8

The three travellers were staring blankly into their soup a whole hour after Jessica’s speech had ended. Chris had tried to be enthusiastic about the menu, but if she was honest she had barely noticed it. She sat there thinking of nothing at all, scooping up ladlefuls of broth and letting them plop back to her bowl.

“That didn’t go well,” said Lorna as her spoon hit the soup with a splosh.

“I didn’t expect it to,” said the Doctor. “But I didn’t think it’d go that badly, either.”

She looked around the horribly decorated café.

“I didn’t think they’d find it this easy,” she went on. “They’re good at winning, but to see them win this much? And just by doing something as simple as that. Funny, isn’t it, in a way? They built lasers and spaceships and reality-warping guns, and all they had to do was change the way they spoke!”

“It’s very odd,” said Chris. “That someone could stand on a stage and say they’re going to kill you, and you’d stand and clap, like that was a good idea.”

“But then that’s what’s so clever about it,” said the Doctor. “It’s like that cannon that’s here.”

“That cannon?” said Chris as a low boom rumbled through the shop.

“Yes, that one. Firing on the city every day, but there’s no reason you should go about being scared of it. Never got anything in it, that’d be able to kill a person. The Daleks have guns, but they never use them; they make threats, but they never follow through. When you see a threat long enough it stops feeling like one at all, right?”

“I don’t know about that,” said Lorna.

“But you do!” said the Doctor excitedly. “Now you know about me you know how you’ve always been in danger. Your whole world sitting there at risk, from creatures you never even saw. But because you never saw it you never felt it, not really; you didn’t even see the danger when it was right there in front of your face. It’s what happens anywhere, when people are safe for just long enough. And it’s a nice way to be, ‘till the day that the danger comes true.”

“I’m not sure,” said Lorna, “that you’re telling the whole of the story.”

She looked at her daughter, who was still staring into her soup.

“Chrissy, lovely. You like odd drinks, don’t you?”

“They’re not odd,” said Chris. “They’re just from other places.”

“And this is a very different place, isn’t it? They probably have… Haggisade, or some deep fried Coca Cola!”

“They have both those things,” said the Doctor. “They like leaning into the stereotypes.”

Chris frowned. “But how could a drink even taste like a haggis? That sounds like it would be horrible,” she said in a voice that made it clear she wanted some anyway.

“It’s exciting adventures,” said her mother, “and you can go and find out right now!”

The Doctor gave Chris something that was apparently a coin, and waited until she’d walked up to the queue for the place where you ordered.

“You want her away,” said the Doctor, “because you want to say something a child could never here. And that’s bad,” she said, “if we’re talking about the Daleks.”

Lorna didn’t respond to that, playing awkwardly with the white rim skimmed round her bowl.

“I don’t…” she said. “It’s difficult for me, Doctor.”

“And should it be?” replied her friend in a voice that held no warmth at all.

“I don’t want to kill anyone,” said Lorna. “You must know that, right? That it’s not something I’d ever do?”

“People always surprise you, I’ve found. Only sometimes they do it with knives.”

“Then if,” said Lorna. “If I said that I thought you were wrong. That it’s not just about safety, not really. But that sometimes people do…”

She looked away.

“Sometimes we do want to blow up the whole of the world,” she said.

The Doctor gave a heavy sigh.

“Anger is one thing,” she said at last. “But if they really knew. That for everything you hated to really go away, everything you loved would have to go too?” She shook her head. “You might be human, Lorna,” she said, “but I’ve had a long time to know what a human might do. It’s not that. There’s some things too important.

“So you don’t think…” began Lorna, choosing her words very carefully. “that there’s some who would do it anyway, even if they knew it’d be that bad? That they’d feel so angry and so hopeless that they’d just want everything to all burn down, even if it was them who’d burn right along with it?”

“If there are,” said the Doctor, looking her in the eye, “then I’d be fighting them after the Daleks.”

“Is that what they are, then?” said Lorna. “That sort of feeling; that kind of rage?”

“Yes,” said the Doctor. “But even worse. Nothing feels that like the Daleks.”

“Then my Chrissy has the right idea, doesn’t she? That’s the most dangerous thing in the world.”

The Doctor looked down at her soup, then up at her friend, then looked at her soup again, as if by staring hard enough at it she’d find a way to avoid the next question.

“If… if you lived here,” she said at last, “and you had to decide…”

“No. Absolutely not, not ever. You must know that, right?”

The Doctor looked at her gently. “But?”

“But… but there’s a part of me that would want to, yes. Sometimes I just feel so angry, Doctor; I don’t even know what at. And… and it’s overwhelming, and if it really just takes one single thought–“

She let out a tiny cry, despite herself.

“I listen to you,” she said, her voice trembling, “talking about what the Daleks are. Saying they’re nothing, or less than it, and I think, ‘well, if she could see inside my head?’ How much I’ve hated everything in the world, wanted everyone to die, even”– her eyes barely flickered towards her daughter, but enough for the Doctor to see. She was hugging herself, trying very hard to hide the pain she was in.

“It makes me think,” she said, “that one day you might just kill me.”

The Doctor looked at her with a million expressions, trying to find a way to show pity that wouldn’t say she thought her friend was a pitiable thing. From a pocket she dug out a fat, pink rubber band, and held it out for Lorna to take.

“Have a gift,” she said, “snap it on your wrist.”

Her friend looked extremely apprehensive, but did it anyway. She looked at it for a while, as if it might grow teeth.

“What does it do?” said Lorna. “Is it, like, some sort of antidepressant?”

No!” said the Doctor, horrified. “I don’t just go giving out Prozac without telling anyone! I have a medical degree now.

“It’s a universal citizenship,” she went on, “very hard to obtain. Means you’re welcome everywhere, native anywhere, just as if it’s the place that you were born. Gives you some civic duties, that thing does.”

She paused.

“Lets you vote.”

Lorna looked horrified. “But–“

“If you really want to blow up this city. If you’re really that angry, want any sort of change. Then you can do it, now! It only takes a thought.”

“Is this real?” said Lorna. “It’s not just a big rubber band?”

“That’s not who I am anymore. It’s always real, when I give a choice like this now.

And that was true, Lorna realised, because she could feel it in her mind. The choices she had, only one of them for the Daleks. She felt hollow, like all her organs had been replaced by nothing, and the nothing was filling up with pencil shavings and things that shouldn’t be in a person. If any of the options had been for exterminating herself, she’d have done it, then, without a second thought. But the thought of doing that to anyone else made the shavings go hollow again.

“I did it,” she said. “I voted. And it wasn’t for the Daleks.”

“‘Course it wasn’t.” She sighed. “Lorna, you know what a very wise man once said? ‘It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are.’ Not what we feel, right? But what we actually do. Albus Dumbledore, Chamber of Secrets.” She grinned. “I have mine signed.”

“Point is,” she went on “A Dalek doesn’t feel any guilt at its hate. It loves the hate, and it acts upon it. I’m not about fighting people just ‘cause they’re fighting themselves.”

She smiled at her.

“And I’m not about fighting my friends.”

Lorna winced at that, a mix of relief and dread that was just enough to let out the thing she’d been fearing all along.

“You think you know all about the Daleks,” she said, “But–“

Something inside her broke.

“But you don’t understand how dangerous they really are!” she said in a sobbing squeal.

The Doctor laughed. “I really do.”

“No!” Lorna took a deep breath. “You know a lot, but there’s things that you don’t get at all. You don’t know what it means to have to say it, to go somewhere and cross a box that says you’re fine with things as they are. This city’s crap, isn’t it? You thought it’d be better than it is. All of it’s falling apart, everyone’s hating each other. To say you’re happy with all that carrying on…”

“Would be better than saying you’re happy with the Daleks,” said the Doctor.

“Yes. Of course. Yes. But–“

She swallowed to herself.

“But it scares me there’s those who’d disagree,” she said. “And if things get worse that there might be more and more of them, until all of it happens again.”

“Take away any hope that anything could ever change,” said the Doctor, “and then give someone a hope, but take it back, or leave it to go wrong in broken ways. And after that give them a new hope, but break it yet again, keep smashing and crushing it all. Maybe not on purpose, maybe not even consciously. But in the end, yes. You might well end up with the Daleks.”

“Thank you,” said Lorna. “Thank you for saying that.”

“But that doesn’t justify it!” said the Doctor, waggling her spoon at her friend. She turned and saw Chris coming back to the table, then panicked and threw the spoon away.

“Chris!” said the Doctor. “Your mother and I were talking about. Um. This lovely weather that we’re having.”

“No you weren’t,” said Chris.

“No,” said the Doctor. “It was the slow collapse of society. But still! You know. You’ll enjoy that drink.”

“I won’t,” said Chris. “It tastes of haggis.”

“Also true,” said the Doctor. “So no enjoyment at all.”

The three of them were silent for a while.

“Somewhere, y’know,” said the Doctor, “people’re having adventures that are happy.”

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Chapter 10: Chapter 9

They knew she was sad, of course: it didn’t take a genius, although of courses both of them were. What her mum and the Doctor might not have realised was why she was so upset, beyond the bits of it that were obvious.

Chris had been finding the world hard for a long time now, before everything horrible and wonderful had happened in her life. She wouldn’t have said it like this, but she’d hoped it was just the world she lived in: her friend’s miserable father telling her the world would end, and her own furious father making her wish that it would. She’d hoped it wouldn’t follow her everywhere, through all of time and space. But it had, and it did, and that made the sadness much worse.

The Doctor kept apologising about how awful her birthday trip was. But she hadn’t even guessed what had made Chris saddest of all. She didn’t mind about the Daleks, that the soup had been cold and the Haggisade really disgusting. She didn’t even care that her birthday present had been a can. What made her sad was that the city was beautiful, and that it hadn’t been enough to make her happy.

But the place she’d been taken to was helping her, at least. The far future of Edinburgh Four was home to many new inventions, like strange sorts of flan and a robotic nose. As her way for apologising the Doctor had taken Chris to one of them– a whole playpark designed especially for eleven year olds. Whole teams of researchers had spent time on it, the Doctor had said, working to make something children that age would really enjoy. Her mum and the Doctor had both been baffled by it, but Chris could kind of see what the scientists had been going for. If nothing else, the park had places she could be alone.

There were plastic doors that were in the shape of eggs, that led down to places an adult couldn’t see you. They were scuffed now, and discoloured by the sun, but Chris didn’t care about the shabbiness as she made her way underground. There were no other children here, and it felt like there hadn’t been for a long time. Something had happened to the people of this place, so that even having fun was unappealing.

The hollow she emerged into was bright lime green and furry, lit with gentle lights that mostly still just about worked. There were puzzles of exactly the right difficulty set in the walls, and rides that actually looked exciting dotted throughout the room. Normally, this was the sort of place that would have excited Chris, but there was something in the middle of it that wasn’t exciting at all. Painted bright turquoise and covered in twirling globes was a plasticky model of a Dalek, whose eyestalk was turning towards her in a way it shouldn’t have been able to do.

“YOU SEE WHAT WE ARE!” cried the thing that wasn’t really a model at all. “YOU KNOW OF OUR PLAN!”

“Everyone knows your plan,” said Chris. “You put it on a sign.”

“THEY DO NOT KNOW, IN THE WAY THAT REALLY MAT-TERS. THEY DO NOT FEAR THE THINGS WE PLAN TO DO. BUT YOU SEE US! YOU! ARE AFRAID! NO-ONE! IS AFRAID! OF THE DALEKS! ANYMORE!”

Chris wasn’t sure it was a good idea, to engage the most terrifying thing in the universe in conversation. But there was no way round the Dalek sat stuck in the room, and turning away from its gun seemed the stupidest thing she could do. So she kept speaking in as confident a voice as she could, as she carefully wrapped her hand around he thing she had kept in her pocket.

“It was hard to be scared of you at first,” said Chris. “I tried to do it by thinking, but it didn’t work. But I saw how a Dalek made my mum and my friend unhappy, even more than they already were. And that made me hate you, in the way they said that I should.”

“DO NOT THINK YOUR HAT-RED WILL SAVE YOU,” blared the Dalek as it interpreted her totally wrongly. “YOU CAN-NOT FEEL THE HATE IN THE MIND OF THE DALEK! YOUR BRAIN IS IN-CAPABLE! YOUR SOUL IS IN-FERIOR!”

And why does that even matter? she almost said. But as she thought it she thought about a pig, asking her why it mattered that she was more intelligent. How she might not know and how she would eat it anyway, because arguments didn’t matter if you weren’t the superior being.

“You’re going to kill me,” she said, as if saying it would stop it from happening.

“WE ARE GOING TO KILL EV-ERY-THING. WE WERE AL-WAYS GOING TO KILL YOU! THE ONLY! DIFFERENCE! IS THAT WE! WILL KILL YOU! NOW!”

The lights on its dome flashed disco hues.

“EXTERMINATE!” it screamed. “EXTERMINATE!”

A white beam of light shot out out of the Dalek’s gun, and Chris threw herself to one side to avoid it. The laser hit a smiling plastic sphere at the far end of the room, shattering its cartoon face to half a grin.

“You weren’t always going to kill everything!” shouted Chris as she dodged the deadly beams. “You weren’t going to succeed! My friend knows all about how to fight monsters, and she knows how to beat something that’s as stupid as you!”

“NOTHING CAN STOP US NOW!” blared the Dalek, “NOT EVEN THE DOC-TOR! TIME IS WARPING ROUND OUR VIC-TORY! THE SHAPE! OF THE DALEK! APPROACHES! THE DALEK! ETERNAL! WILL RISE!”

If Chris had been the Doctor she would have had a good quip about that, something clever about what paradoxes did to time. But she was an eleven-year-old girl, and so she was much too sensible to bother with any of that.

She tugged the ringpull so her Paradox in a Can burst open, then flung it as hard as she could towards the Dalek.

“EXTERMINIMRETXE,” said the Dalek, as time began to go wrong

–before the universe wobbled, unsure what should happen next. There both was and wasn’t an explosion, and those contradicting things rubbed against each other until they each exploded as well. The future was already fractured, but the paradox smashed it some more, and the sharpness of time as it all fell down to bits hailed against the Dalek like shards. It roared and screamed in confusion and pain, and by the time causality had reasserted itself there was nothing in its space except ash.

Chris looked at the blackened mess that had once been exciting for children.

“And this bit of it actually looked fun,” she said to the ruined room.

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Chapter 11: Chapter 10

The Doctor and Lorna sat on a bench made just for adults, frowning at the playground straight ahead. As they looked at its various shapes a glass tube popped out of the ground, which stored strings of coloured lights and a slowly rotating sheep.

“It’s all very odd,” said the Doctor.

“I don’t think the people who built this place knew much about eleven-year-olds,” said Lorna.

The Doctor looked at her with a disbelieving grin, then started laughing despite herself.

“That wasn’t funny!” said Lorna. “You don’t laugh at my actual jokes, and then you go laughing at that!”

“Sorry! It’s just… it’s a very human thing to say. Sometimes I forget, how it’s different being human. With your one heart and your horribly rapid aging.”

“And would it be very human if I slapped you in the face?” said Lorna without any malice. “Laughing at me like I’m stuck in your Time Lord zoo.”

“I don’t know how you do it, that’s all,” said the Doctor. “Your species. How you can see something like the Daleks one minute and the next you’re all fussed about a playground. How that first thing doesn’t overwhelm the other. ‘Cause I’d go insane, if it were me.”

“That assumes,” said Lorna, “that I didn’t go insane.”

“Oh.”

“What’s sanity, anyway? In a place like this. With the evil felt, and this really terrible playground. Or even without them. Sometimes I don’t know what it’d even look like, to be sane.” She sighed. “I just can’t get a handle on things.”

The Doctor looked past the playground to a steep road, which looked completely ordinary as people walked up it and down. At nightfall Daleks would come down it fast as cars, and in the morning there’d be no people left on it at all.

“I still can’t get over how small it was,” said the Doctor.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” said Lorna. “You’re a bit like a crossword, sometimes.

“What? Oh, the Daleks; the way they’d change. I thought it’d be bigger than this.”

“Why’d you think they would change at all?” asked Lorna, who knew the answer as soon as she’d said the words.

“That siren wasn't for her birthday,” she said.

The Doctor shook her head.

“The TARDIS would've timed it like that. Understood the warning, waited. Knows a lot, she does, about how to put on a disguise.”

The Doctor sighed, and looked down at the pebbled ground.

“I trust you enough to tell you the whole truth. But I can’t tell Chris, and you can’t do that either. It’s too big a thing for a child. Especially one who’s gone through a very big number of things.”

“You’re not her mother, Doctor. I can make up my own mind on that.”

The Doctor smiled sadly. “But I’m still her psychiatrist, right? And in my position, any doctor’d feel that they’d have at least some responsibility.”

She pulled up closer to Lorna on the bench. “This is a long explanation. A lot of talking. You don’t have to listen to all of it.”

“You already know,” said Lorna, “you won’t keep me from the truth by babbling on.”

“Then here goes,” said the Doctor, squinting up at the city’s false sun.

“That future we saw,” she began, “where the Cybermen won. It’s still out there, in some way or other, but it’s not now a part of space and time. Can’t access it, no going back. Kicked straight right out of the universe. Because what the universe is, it changes, right? Like a sort of… big quilt, that’s constantly shifting its shape.”

“That’s a very bad analogy,” said Lorna, “but I understand what you mean. And you think it’s all changing to be more Daleky?”

The Doctor shook her head. “Worse than that. Worse than anything. When a Time Lord hears that sound flash through her TARDIS, well… we call it the death of hope.”

She looked up at the safest sky in the universe, as the sun bled through the air and the lack of clouds.

“It's called the Fell Siren,” she said, “and it's only sounded once before. And it means that possibility is close to collapsing, that the universe is changing into something that can’t change shape any more. The Shape of the Dalek; Daleks everywhere and everywhen, with no chance that any of it could be changed. They call it the Dalek Eternal; it’s what Jessica was built to bring about. And it’s what they were fighting for, long ago. Wresting time and space from my people so that everything would be like them. And they almost did it,” she said. “We were all becoming Daleks, towards the end.”

Lorna took a deep breath. “But they didn’t win?”

“No. There was a miracle, and it turned out I’d planned it all along.”

“And you’ve got some more of those miracles, which’ll all be coming along soon?”

“Not quite. I have two ideas. They’re both awful, and neither of them’ll work. But I have to try.”

She looked over to Chris coming back from the playground underside, emerging from something like an upside-down Christmas tree.

“When I first met your daughter, Lorna. I told her to see the beauty in everything. Because it is beautiful! Even this playground is, if you really screw up both your eyes. And the beauty that’s here doesn’t go away now, even if it might go away forever. ‘Cause where there’s life there’s hope, and where there’s hope there’s life, and if both of those things are in danger, well.”

She smiled at her friend.

“Then you don’t need me to tell you to keep her safe. But I do know that’s harder, than anything I might have to do. I know its a weight, and a different responsibility. But we can’t forget it, any of us, now the Daleks are warping the world.”

The Doctor walked off in a direction that didn’t make sense. She was old, Lorna knew, but that level of fear had seemed new to her– like after an impossible volume of time she’d finally understood she could die. As she looked at where her friend had been she felt somehow far older and younger than her, and something felt strange about the whole concept of time.

Christina walked half-slouched towards the bench, her hands in her pockets and her eyes looking old and dull.

“I’m sorry about the playpark, love,” said Lorna to her daughter. “Children probably like different things, now we’re here in the distant future.”

“There was a Dalek, and it was going to kill me,” said Chris. “But I killed it, with my special can.”

It all hit Lorna then, the stupid amount of danger the Doctor had put her child in by giving her a dangerous weapon, and the even stupider fact that they’d come somewhere where you’d need to use it to survive. And the fact that was worse than that, if the Daleks would soon come through everywhere– that being friends with that incredibly dangerous woman might mean her daughter was the safest person in the universe.

She smiled at Christina, hoping she showed no fear.

“We’ll have to get you out of here, won’t we?” she said, wrapping her child into her arms. “Before it gets even less safe. But you’re safe here, now, away from that stupid old Dalek. You’re safe in my arms here with me.”

They hugged each other tightly under the spattering rain.

All over the city, people kept casting votes for the Daleks.

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Chapter 12: Chapter 11

Flattened away where a human could never find her, the Doctor took out the chalk she never used. It was the sort of thing that would get you burned as a witch through most of time and space, no matter what gender it looked like you might be. Too much was already on fire already, she’d thought, for her to start burning as well.

She drew a blue circle in the air, chalk sticking to air in a totally impossible way. The space within the circle grew thick like bubbling milk, and after a while the face of a man appeared. He was stern and wide and dressed in ridiculous robes, and he did not look pleased to see the Doctor at all.

“This is a call from the High President of Gallifrey!” said the Doctor, feeling incredibly stupid. “The bell rings once, but the bells now ring for us all! I call the fourth article of the Cloister sanction! I call for a Council of War! Also,” she said as an afterthought, “who exactly are you?”

“I’m the Regent,” said the man wearily, “The supreme ruler of Gallifrey.”

“No you’re not! That what I am! Weren’t you listening to me just then? I memorised all the words!”

“Not very accurately. Look, Doctor. It might be that the people think of you as their leader. They think all sorts; it’s the kind of thing we encourage. But the day to day running of our people’s affairs, well. It needed delegation.”

“And of course that delegation,” sighed the Doctor, “would have to come from you.”

“It was all above board. There are strict rules, for what to do in an unsuitable presidency. We call them the Doctor protocols.”

“Okay.”

“We call them that because of you.”

Okay.” The Doctor glowered. “I don’t care about that; not really. It’s not the power that I want. But the Daleks are here, and they’re more dangerous than I think they’ve ever been. And I’m worried that if these ones get going… that it’s going to be worse than the Time War. That there might not even be a war; that they’ll just win.”

“That’s the sort of thing you always say. But it isn’t what happens in practice. The Daleks don’t win; the Daleks never win. Sometimes they hurt us, and sometimes they wound us greatly. But we’ve made very sure that history’s arc bends right towards the Lords of Time.”

“So it’s a no, then, is it? Nice to hear from you, supreme ruler, afraid we’re doing our own sort of ruling today. Ours isn’t the only planet I president for, y’know,” she said, “and on the other ones they’ve usually got some manners–“

“I don’t doubt it. If I’m honest, I’ve never much cared for that kind of thing. All that politics on alien planets. I find it extremely boring.”

“I should’ve known you wouldn’t help,” said the Doctor. “It’s what happened last time, isn’t it? It’s what our people do. You sat and you watched and you just did nothing, ‘till the day the Daleks came for you!”

“Strong words,” said the Regent, “from a woman who ran away.”

“And that’s not a mistake that I’m willing to make again!”

“But there isn’t going to be an again. It’s the threats of our future we need to focus on; it’s no use obsessing over the past. We won, Doctor.”

“And there were those of us who thought it might not matter in the end,” said the Doctor. “Who thought winning one war… that it might not be enough.”

“You’re talking about you and your friend? Who drove themselves mad thinking all of this was inevitable?”

“The Monk’s not my friend.”

“That’s not how she’d have it.”

“Regent,” said the Doctor, trying one last time. “The Fell Siren is ringing. Everything we’ve fought against; everything we are. It all means nothing if we’re not going to hold the line.”

“Our strategy against the Daleks has always been one of containment. Fairy tales for metal monsters aren’t going to go changing that.”

“And what will?”

“Evidence, Doctor. Evidence, proper thinking, and a plan. Maybe then the High Council will move.”

The Doctor looked up through the bulk of the city to where a giant billboard stood. It was flooded with bright and artificial light, picking out the word “Exterminate!” in its jolly font.

“We’re Time Lords,” she said, “but no one cares what a Lord thinks anymore. And now I’m not sure there’s a whole lot of time that’s left.”

“Well, you’ve used up all of yours with me” said the Regent in his bored old way. “I have real work to do, that’s not just listening to paranoid ramblings. There’s a lot of administration to do when your Head of State gets bored and runs away. A lot of convincing other species we’re still dignified.”

He glared at her.

“Best wishes, Lord President. And goodbye.”

The circle of chalk fizzed and dissolved, washing away like water had run down a blackboard.

The Doctor swore to herself, kicking a wall while pretending it was a face. The bad plan had failed, as she was almost certain it would. That only left the worse plan, which was terrible even if it succeeded. But it didn’t matter, when the Daleks were involved. A very bad plan would always be better than doing absolutely nothing at all.

The president of several worlds sighed to herself, very aware she had no power left now at all.

Back to index


Chapter 13: Chapter 12

Chris was looking at a tattered sign, which read PLEASE DO NOT FEED THE STATUES.

“I don’t know how to do that anyway,” she said. The big polystyrene bear in front of her growled, as if hungry for plastic prey.

“It’s shocking, really,” said her mum, who was reading a nearby sign. “It says here that they’ve had loads of animal statues in all the Edinburghs, but they’ve almost never had any of famous women. It’s a tradition now, this says! No wonder they can’t remember JK Rowling, but they’re all over that stupid dog!”

“People love that dog,” agreed Chris, looking over to a column where a small, black terrier made of lead growled and yapped. A huge crowd stood gasping and stroking its solid fur, as all around it other statues looked lost and alone.

A woman who wasn’t a statue tapped them both on the shoulder, looking even more lost and alone than the saddest of the artificial animals.

“Doctor!” said Lorna. “Just who I wanted to see. You’ll never believe what it says on this sign–“

“I don’t care about a sign,” said the Doctor, sounding utterly defeated.

“But this is about feminism!

“Oh!” said the Doctor. “That’s really important. It’s just that I might be about to die.”

“You’re always about to die,” said Chris. “It’s part of your job.”

The Doctor sighed. “This time it feels more dangerous. More inevitable. Like the other times I had the training wheels on, and I’ve just ridden my bicycle into a blender.”

“I’ve been thinking,” said Chris. “And I still think it’s silly. Voting for the Daleks, listening to them. Even when I thought they were going to kill me, I still thought they looked a bit stupid.”

“It doesn’t matter that they’re silly,” said the Doctor. “Because winning’s what they do. You have a better argument than them, and they win; you have a bigger army than them, and they win. They get under the rules, subvert them. Like reality changes just by their being there.”

“Don’t you think…” said Lorna.

“All the time,” said the Doctor.

“It’s just, well. They sound a bit like you.”

Sunset was streaming through the windows of the statue museum, but night had fallen on the Doctor’s face.

“It’s not everyone,” she said, “who would notice a thing like that.”

“I know. Don’t patronise me.”

“I’m… I’m their opposite, I suppose. The way we work, the way we win. It’s the same. It’s only our goal, that’s really different. That’s the thing about opposites, isn’t it? Always so very alike.” She looked over to Lorna. “Don’t say it.”

“Say what?”

“That I would make a good Dalek. People tend to say that, at around this point in the conversation.”

“Oh. I was going to say that it probably helps in a way, doesn’t it? If you’re not marching down the High Street covered in skulls, but you’re odd-shaped and yellow and”–

“They look silly on purpose,” she said, finally realising.

The Doctor stared at her. “What?”

“You wouldn’t see it, would you? You’ve seen them kill, and more than that. But it’s a good idea, right? To look extremely silly. So people laugh at you, mock you. Never take you very seriously. ‘Till they don’t think much bad could could of giving you a little bit of power.” She shrugged. “If it’s all just a joke, after all.”

“It isn’t a joke,” said the Doctor.

“Maybe by the time it isn’t it’s too late.”

The Doctor was very quiet for a while.

“Me dying,” she said, “is the good option. I didn’t say it was the likely one.”

“What is?” said Chris. “What can the Daleks do to you that’s worse than dying would be?”

“They could do nothing at all. Then I’ll have no plans left, and that means that then they’ll win.”

Lorna stared at her. “And you’d really go to your death, just to stop that happening?”

The Doctor looked at her with distant unbelief, like she’d been asked something as obvious as whether cats were really real.

“Always,” she said softly. “But it’s not enough, not anymore. The universe, all of it. It’s been safe for too long now.”

“There were alien skulls!” said Chris, “they were going to burn us to death!

“Oh, of course it wasn’t actually safe! Never has been, never will be. But some things… they have to be felt, before they can be stopped,” she said, “so you know that safety isn’t all there is. I said to be afraid, because when you’re not afraid you might not start until it’s all too late. When all the monsters in your cupboard are eating you, because you didn’t think it mattered if you closed the door. You wouldn’t think it did, would you?” She sighed. “If you’d never seen what they could do?”

“We were having a nice time here,” said Lorna pointedly, “doing stuff at the statue museum.”

“I know,” said the Doctor. “But I wanted to see you both, before I died. If things do end up going to plan.

“We don’t want you to die,” said Chris.

“No,” said the Doctor. “Because that’s awful. It’s just, well. The Daleks are even worse.”

She gave Chris an enormous hug and squeezed her tight, then gave her mother an even tighter one that almost broke her ribs.

“Steady on,” croaked Lorna with the little air left in her lungs, “we don’t all have enough hearts for this sort of thing.”

“I’m not great at endings,” said the Doctor, “but I hope I never see you both again. If I don’t come back, and it’s safe? If people see my dead body, see what they can really do? The TARDIS will take you back, and home. And you can forget as much of this as is wise.”

She gave them an awkward wave, then walked off to her possible death.

“There’s an awful lot of drama in that woman’s life,” said Lorna.

Chris watched sadly as the Doctor disappeared through the crowds, not sure whether to hope she’d ever see her again. Her mum didn’t believe it, not really: she didn’t think there was any chance that the Doctor was really about to die. But then that meant the whole city was in real danger now, and Chris had experienced that in a way that her mother had not.

“We should follow her,” she said. “So if she fails, when she does. We should see if there’s anyone we can save.”

Her mother looked at her. “It isn’t safe, Christina. Nobody’s safe here anymore.”

“But it’s my birthday, and you’ve not even got me a present yet. This is what I want. I want to help save this world.”

“Cheaper than a games console,” said her mother, masking what she was really thinking. That it might be best to be close to the Doctor, when they had to run. That she wouldn’t want to be without her when the killing started, even somewhere as safe as the TARDIS.

“Okay, love,” she said. “We’ll give you your birthday treat.”

They walked out of the museum together, as the last of the sun lit the predators red like raw fire.

Back to index


Chapter 14: Chapter 13

Everything was tense as the Doctor walked to the stage near the Scott Monument, past the felt that rustled in the bins and the stumps of old trees the Mayor had cut down. She’d expected it to be difficult, getting through the security surrounding Jessica. But the red Daleks parted and the guards all waved her through, as if all along they’d been expecting her to come. Only the fat man that blocked the way backstage proved any problem at all: he refused to budge no matter the reason she made up for why she was there. But after nineteen lies had failed she thought to try telling the truth, and after that he let her through without a word.

She was scared as she walked into the dressing room, and not just of her possible death. She had often feared that the Daleks would mow her down with their weapons, or crush her spirit through their hatred. But she never imagined she’d find herself in a situation where she’d be about to lose an argument with one.

Without the hologram of a woman’s head above it, the yellow Dalek spun round to see its foe.

“DOC-TOR,” it said. “I HAVE NOT PUT ON MY FACE.”

The hologram of Jessica’s head flicked on above her again, smiling like she was in on a secret joke.

“You’ve not come to congratulate me, I assume?” the Dalek said. “It’s a bit ahead of schedule, but then you are a genius. You’re able to see when the wind’s blowing a certain way.”

The Doctor saw her opening, there, a tiny crack in an enormous and bolted door.

“But there’s always a chance,” she said. “Isn’t there? That it all falls apart, even here. That you lose, or you’re killed; that you’re beaten. Pride comes before a fall, even when you think you’re a lion. And strength that you have now; you don’t know it’ll last forever.”

“And my friend on the door,” said Jessica, “said you’re offering something that will.”

Desolation flashed across the Doctor’s face for the briefest moment, before it was replaced by an enormous smile.

“Tempting, isn’t it?” she said. “To think that the next time the Daleks have a brilliant plan, there’ll be nobody there to stop you. And that it’d be you who’d caused that– not Jessica, the real you, all squirming away in that shell. You’re not much for individuals, I know that, but there’s a part of you that wants it all the same. To be the greatest Dalek who ever lived. To be the creature that finally kills the Doctor.”

Jessica gave a look with an emotion she didn’t have, the thin smile of someone whose compassion was veering into pity.

“I’m not just a Dalek, Doctor,” she said. “I’m an Eternal Dalek. And we’re different from the others, but it’s because we’re not because we’re better in any way. We’re worse. Inferior. We’re willing to debase ourselves, in a way no Dalek was before. Even if I kill you, I’ll still have talked like this. And nothing any of us does could make up for something like that.”

“It’s never debasement,” said the Doctor, “to wear a false human face.”

“Yes, that’s what our enemies think. And it’s suited us very well, over the years. We’ve always known how you thought we were pathetic, CREATURES OF HATE AND ANGER, WHO HAVE THIS INHU-MAN VOICE!

She laughed in a high and shrill way, which jangled horribly against the voice she had just used.

“It’s easy for people to see why the Daleks are very stupid. Why we’re so obviously inferior. Because you couldn’t see why that was wrong unless you were something much more than a person, someone as great as a Dalek. Even you see some of it. Names, and gender. Why those things are repulsive. But you’ve never once considered that it might all actually be true; that we are the superior beings. And that as an inferior being? You would ever really understand why.”

“Because it’s an absolute impossibility,” said the Doctor. “It’s against everything I know is true about the universe.”

“And that must be hard for you,” said Jessica, “as it’s the way that things really are. But perhaps I can make the world feel a little better. I have a proposal of my own, you see. You’ve been so good, coming here and offering up your life. It’s only right that I should return the favour.”

“You want me to kill you?” said the Doctor, temporarily blindsided.

“To kill Jessica,” said the woman’s head in front of her. “This hologram; it’s synced right into to my life support. A hard enough blow to it and I’ll die, just like if you hit a real head. Not that you’d ever do that, of course.”

She nodded over to her dressing table.

“There’s some hammers and crowbars over there. Amazing, the work that goes into tartung up this yellow shell. A good hard whack on the noggin, and you’ll never be hearing from me again.”

The Doctor stared at her in fury and in horror, frozen like an ancient warrior in the path of a tank.

“Oh, go on!” laughed Jessica. “You know you want to! I’m a Dalek! This isn’t really me; it’s just a silly impression! I’VE ALWAYS BEEN JUST LIKE THE OTHERS!

Her head fizzed away.

“YOU CANNOT AD-MIT IT,” the Eternal Dalek roared, “YOU CAN ONLY KILL WHAT IS DIFF-ER-ENT! HARSH! AND FACELESS! A THING! THAT IS NOTHING! LIKE YOU!”

Jessica fizzed into being again.

“There’s no shame in it,” she said, now with undisguised pity. “Every creature thinks that it’s better, from everything quite unlike them. All that makes us Daleks different is how in our case, we’re actually right.

“I’m not going to kill you,” said the Doctor through a taste in her throat. “Not here, and not now.”

“No, I didn’t think you would. It’s a bad idea, isn’t it? To kill someone so openly when you need a whole city’s support. At a time as tense as this. If people were to think that’s who you really were, they might never listen to you again. I must have thought you were stupid, really, to think you’d have fallen for it at all.”

The Doctor stared right into the false eyes of her foe, and tried to disguise the dryness in her mouth. She tried to reason with it one last time, unable to keep the desperation from her voice.

“I’m a very long way from being stupid,” she said. “In the legends of the Daleks I’m the thing that you fear most. The Thing That Rises; The Oncoming Storm; you hate names so much that you have so very many for me. And now I’m offering myself up to you, like a gift. Are you really going to turn all that away?”

Jessica smiled sadly. “You were powerful once”, she said. “But everything changes, and everything fades with time. We’re looking to the enemies of our future now, Doctor, not the ones of our past. New threats, and new foes. New things to tear down and exterminate. I’m sorry,” she said, “but it’s like us Daleks say. Live and let live.”

“That is not what Daleks”–

“Nonsense,” grinned Jessica. “I’m a Dalek. And I. Just. Said. It.”

The Doctor knew better than to plead with her.

“You’ll never win,” she muttered under her breath.

“Well, we’ll soon see if that’s right or not. They’re about to announce the results. And after that, it’s a whole new age. New policies, and new ideas. I might even be able to reconsider your kind offer.”

She smiled, warmly and without malice.

“Exterminate,” she said softly. “Exterminate.”

The Doctor didn’t answer that; couldn’t. She just turned and walked away as fast as she could, and she hadn’t gone far before the walk had turned into a run.

Not long after she’d gone, Jessica slid forward to the stage where she’d hear the results.

Back to index


Chapter 15: Chapter 14

In the darkness outside the Doctor pushed through people who waving homemade banners, desperate to leave Edinburgh Four before the results were announced. She could see some people in the crowd choosing their candidates in their minds, and wished she was still amoral enough to be able to look inside. She internally groaned as she saw Chris and her mother near the back, who had both totally ignored her advice about running away.

“You’re not dead!” said Chris, spotting her.

“And you’re not safe,” said the Doctor. She glared at her mother. “You’ve stopped believing I can die, haven’t you? You shouldn’t go doing that. Things like this start to happen, once you stop thinking death can be real.”

“I thought we’d be safer nearer you,” said Lorna sheepishly. “And nothing’s happened yet. They’ve still not announced who wins.”

“I’ve worried for a long time,” said the Doctor, “that I know exactly who wins, in the end.”

Before she could continue a loudspeakered voice filled the air, and it turned out the Doctor’s prediction had been wrong. She’d known almost as soon as landing on the city that Jessica was going to win. But she hadn’t expected it to be by so much, by more than a landslide. She’d prided herself on knowing to be very, very scared of what was happening. Now, she realised that she’d never been frightened enough.

“A decisive victory for Jessica,” the man with the loudspeaker was saying, who becomes the first Dalek Mayor of Edinburgh Four!”

With her senses that were far beyond a human’s, the Doctor heard the gentle crack of stone as sleeping things started to stir. She tried to yell again that the three of them should run, but her throat had gone dry; like everything she had ever hated and feared was rolling towards a microphone to give a speech–

“Thank you!” said Jessica to the cheering crowd, “Thank you!”

She laughed, and grinned, and smiled as cameras flashed. Everything seemed normal for the scene of a landslide victory…

...then the hologram of Jessica’s face suddenly sputtered out.

“WE HAVE RUN A CAM-PAIGN BASED EN-TIRELY ON HON-ESTY,” she said in a voice that sounded nothing like it was from Edinburgh. The joyous sounds from the crowd died down a little, and one or two of them began to look concerned.

“Everything we said WAS true,” said the hologram as it flickered on and off again, “and nothing we claimed was A LIE. But every politician has her SECRETS, even me. And I’ve been counting ON some help from a few of my friends.”

The stirring sounds became loud enough that everyone could hear them, crumbling rock and the noise of tinkling glass. Chris looked at the horror on people’s faces as they heard the shuddering windows and walls, and began to realise that this time maybe nobody could be saved.

“Yellow and RED are all VERY well,” the sputtering hologram was saying, “but perhaps it’s TIME we showed OUR TRUE colours.” Sensing their cue, Daleks began to erupt out of posters and trinkets and toys, smashing out of roofs and straight through buildings. There were furry ones and shiny ones and a few that looked slightly like whisks, and they were almost every colour a killing machine shouldn’t be. And as they hovered high above the city, not a single one looked remotely silly at all.

“We’re all used to PEOPLE not following through on their POL-ICIES,” said Jessica as the crowd began to scream, “but things WILL be different with the DA-LEKS! And I’m delighted to say we intend to keep our most important promise of all…”

The hologram grinned for a final time before fizzling off for good, and the thousands of Daleks filling the air above the city shouted together as one–

“EXTERMINATE!” they yelled, over and over again. Their lasers started to cannon into the city as the first of the residents began to die, and from somewhere the smell of burning began to fill the air.

“We have to go,” said the Doctor. “We have to go now.”

Lorna wasn’t listening, looking worriedly down at her child. She was staring up past the monument, with eyes trying very hard not to fill up with tears.

It had only been a minute or so since the Daleks had won, and the sky was already filled with smoke and the glow of their weapons. Nonetheless, Chris could see thin lines beginning to assemble in the air, the first threads of what would become…

“What is it going to become?” she asked. “The thing they’re assembling. What’s it supposed to do?”

“Something bad,” said the Doctor, “literally unimaginably bad. They can think of bads we never could; it’s one of the ways they’re superior.”

“Then we have to stop it,” said Chris. “You’ve beaten them lots of times before, you said. You can stop them now.”

“But the Fell Siren–“ the Doctor stopped herself before she could reveal the truth, then stopped again as something new occurred to her.

“It isn’t safe,” she said, “not at all. But I can, yes, and maybe it doesn’t matter that it’s risky. Seeing how I was just prepared to die.”

Chris spoke again, her voice small.

“But you don’t have to,” she said. “I want to do it, this time. I want to be the one who saves you.”

Against a background sprawling with fire and Daleks, the Doctor somehow looked even more horrified than before.

Back to index


Chapter 16: Chapter 15

Through his narrow window high above the street, the man called Ambus watched as the Daleks rose. They hovered over the cobbles as rain ran over their casings, which looked strangely beautiful against the warm electric lights. Slowly and with elegance they moved to a litter strewn alley, towards the communal bins where the felt creatures moved and multiplied.

“Nice, at last,” Ambus said to his tiny dog, “that they’re doing something about the mess.”

As he watched the Daleks shouted something quite loud and harsh, which he was far too high up to have had any hope of hearing. Lasers smashed out of their little guns, and he gave a satisfied sigh as the felt erupted to flame.

“That’s cleaned it up!” he said. “People who get things done! We should’ve listened to them a long time ago, shouldn’t we?”

He knelt down to give his dog a rub for the fact she’d certainly agree with him, but before he could an enormous sound burst through the whole of his flat. He spun round, confused and alarmed, before a red Dalek smashed into the room covered with flakes of what had once been his door.

“What are you doing?!” cried Ambus, horrified. “You’re not the sort to go barging into a citizen’s home! You should be out celebrating, talking about how you’ll be putting the world to rights! Not breaking and entering like some common thug!

“WE ARE PUTTING THINGS IN ORDER. YOU HAVE OUTLIVED YOUR FUNCTION.”

“That’s very ageist,” said Ambus, who was beginning to regret his vote, “and I’ve only just retired.”

“AGE IS IR-RELEVANT. WORK STATUS DOES NOT MATTER. WE ARE THE SUPERIOR BEINGS.”

“Steady on, man,” said Ambus. “You’re not supposed to say it out loud!”

“I AM NOT A MAN. I AM A DA-LEK! YOU ARE NOT LIKE US; YOU WILL BE EXTERMINATED!”

Ambus’s eyes widened in horror, and for the first time he understood the trouble that he was in.

“I trusted you!” he cried. “This isn’t what I wanted!”

“YOU WERE RIGHT TO TRUST US. WE HAVE NOT LIED. WE WILL ELIMINATE THE HA-TED; WE WILL EXTERMINATE THE UNDESIRABLE. ALL LIFE IS HA-TED; ALL LIFE IS UNDESIRABLE; YOU WILL BE EXTERMINATED!”

“You really mean,” said Ambus quietly, “that you even thought that of me”–

A bright light slammed out of the Dalek’s gun and hit the little dog with force. She was dead even before she even hit the wall, and Ambus felt tears swelling up in his cheeks despite himself.

”What the hell did you do that for?” he screamed. “She was a good dog; she did nothing wrong”–

“THERE ARE NO GOOD DOGS. THERE ARE NO GOOD MEN! ALL LIFE IS INFERIOR; IT WILL BE EXTERMINATED! EXTERMINATE! EXTERMINATE!”

Another light shone out of the Dalek’s gun, and the dog’s owner joined it upon the floor.

For a moment, everything was calm in the airy room.

Through the building, the sound of extermination clattered like falling rain.

Back to index


Chapter 17: Chapter 16

“You can’t save people in that way, Chrissy!” her mother was saying, “it isn’t safe. What is it?” she added to the Doctor. “The thing that isn’t safe?”

“We can fire on the ship with the Scott Monument. The historical society; it’ll have made sure it’s kept a working laser. The controls’re pretty straightforward; functional stuff from Edinburgh Three. It’s just...” She gazed up at the spire in front of them. “They’re also up there.”

Lorna looked at her. “Is there time?”

“To blow up the loomship? Definitely! To get out afterwards?” She shook her head. “The control sequence takes a while to initiate, and we have to get back to the TARDIS now. One of us, we can take down whatever they’re building. But we won’t be around afterwards, to tell the tale.”

“Then I’ll go,” said Chris. “You saved my life, and you listened to me. And then I listened to you, and now I can save you as well.”

“Chris… you’re ten years old.”

“I’m eleven now. You gave me that tin!”

“Let’s all forget about the tin. It’s still not enough, to risk your life like that. You have to be, well,” she sighed, “however much older than eleven I am.”

“You’re not her mother, Doctor,” said Lorna quietly. “And you’re not the one that should be risking their life for her.”

“Her mother’s not responsible,” said the Doctor. “I should’ve been able to stop all this.”

“And could you have?” asked Lorna.

The Doctor looked defeated. “Maybe not. Maybe I could never‘ve saved this city. But if you’re totally certain it’s you who’s going up there? Then I might be able to save you.”

She looked up at the great blackened spire of the monument, picked out like a shadow against the flames. Above it, the shape of something unimaginable was close to coming right into being.

“Thing about the TARDIS,” said the Doctor. “People’re all about the time; forget about the space. If my ship’s down there and the monument’s up here, and if I jack the accelerator to beyond the mandated level“–

“You want to crash into me,” said Lorna. “That’s your plan.”

“Oh, no, I want you to run away. This is the backup plan.”

“And there isn’t a better one?”

The Doctor looked down from the top of the many-tiered city, at the endless amount of heritage that was melting and boiling away. The integrity of the central structure was failing, she could tell. It wouldn’t be long before the whole thing blew apart.

“The only plan now is getting away,” said the Doctor. “Lorna, you know… I’ve looked death in the face so many times.”

“And so have I. But it wasn’t my death I was frightened of. If this is what it takes to save her, you are not about to try and stop me. And if you try, well. It won’t be the Daleks that’ll scare you after that.”

The Doctor gulped. “Sorry. It’s been a long time, since I’ve had to take care of a child.”

“And if it’s a short time, ‘till you have to do it again?”

The Doctor looked down at Chris, who was sobbing to herself.

“Then I’ll find a new way to be the Doctor,” she said.

“Is there time to hug her?” asked Lorna.

“Yes,” said the Doctor. “Yes, there always is.”

Lorna knelt down to her crying child and took her into her arms.

“Chrissy,” she said. “Chrissy, Chrissy, Chrissy. Come here, my little bear.”

“Don’t go,” said Chris softly.

“Well, it’s not fair if it’s just you and the Doctor, eh? Who get to go around saving people. And I trust her, really. To keep you safe.”

“I don’t want you to die,” said Chris.

Lorna laughed. “I don’t want to go doing that, either! I’ll fight the Daleks, Christina.”

She kissed her daughter on the forehead.

“And I love you.”

“I love you too, Mum,” said Chris as the Doctor awkwardly fiddled with a chisel.

“Access tool,” said the Doctor, throwing the chisel to Lorna. “Give the laser a whack, it’ll think you’re qualified to fire a giant weapon. Which nobody is, not really. But maybe we’ll make an exception when you’re firing it onto them.”

The two women exchanged a look for a second, in silent respect.

“Keep her safe!” shouted Lorna as she ran up the first stairs of the monument.

Normally, the Doctor would have said something then, or taken a moment to breathe. But the air was full of flames and screams, and there was a child beside her she might soon have full responsibility for. So instead she just clenched onto Chris’s hand as her friend began climbing the spire, and made sure she could never let go as the two of them began to run away.

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Chapter 18: Chapter 17

The steps were steep and seemed like they’d never end, existing to get as many as you could in the narrowest space you might manage. Lorna’s whole body ached as Daleks kept trying to obliterate it, firing at the Scott Monument for the chance they could fire on her.

“YOU ARE AN ENEMY OF THE DALEKS,” shouted the nearest of them, “YOU WILL BE EXTERMINATED!” Its laser smashed through a thin glass window, just missing Lorna on the stairs.

“I like these ones more,” said Lorna as she caught her breath. “None of that politics rubbish. Just happy to say what they mean.”

“EXTERMINATE!” came a cry as if to illustrate. “EXTERMINATE!” Another laser slammed into the monument, destroying a historically important gargoyle. But even though there were endless steps squeezed into the tall spire, it didn’t take so long to reach the top, and Lorna hadn’t been fired on many more times before reaching the cramped space at its tip.

As she’d scaled it the monument had become incredibly narrow and claustrophobic, so she’d had to breathe in tight to keep on climbing at all. She’d wondered as she’d pulled herself on through how you’d get laser controls in at all, but it was a lot less technological than she’d expected. There were just five slots in the wall encased in stiff, thick plastic, with a small blue plaque beside them commemorating their role in fighting the Negavores.

A huge sound rumbled through the space as another blast hit the monument, and Lorna pulled out her chisel with a sigh.

“This is going to be a bit violent,” she muttered. “Never seems violent, when she gets to do it.”

She hit the plastic screen with the chisel repeatedly, until it cracked, then smashed and came away. Panicking, she thrust the chisel into the nearest slot, until the tool’s handle bleeped quietly and glowed.

From the tiny window beside her, Lorna saw a small blast of light scream out of a corner spire, causing an airborne Dalek to explode. It was beautiful, in its way, but the sight made a hundred others spin round to the place where she stood.

Lorna sighed, and rammed the chisel into another hole.

Before she thought it had even gone in, everything turned into the light–

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Chapter 19: Chapter 18

–and from a street some way down from the top of the city Chris heard an enormous sound. She spun round, and for one second saw it all: the spire pulsing with an enormous beam of light; the stitched ship the Daleks exploding in a colour that flames shouldn’t be. Just for a moment everything felt silent and still, and she gazed up in awe at the fire held high in the air.

“She’s done it!” she cried as reality happened again. “My mum’s just saved the world!”

“Great!” cried the Doctor as she flung open the doors of her TARDIS. “Hold onto that, as we go into this next bit. And actually hold onto something, too. “It’s going to get windy. We can’t have you blowing away.”

“You’ll save Mum,” said Chris.

“I don’t want to say I will,” said the Doctor, looking anywhere but her companion’s eyes.

“I know. But you will.”

“Well, that’s the faith of a child,” said the Doctor, gritting her teeth. She tore the post-it note labelled DO NOT SMASH off a glass panel, then slammed her screwdriver through it in a very inelegant way. She jimmied it round as unseen buttons clicked, and with her free hand she twiddled unusual dials.

“Destroying a major cultural landmark,” she said as the wind began to whine. “Wish I could say it’s been a while.”

She pulled and pushed at something like a bicycle pump at one side of the console, and looked through the open doors to a street now engulfed in flames. The wind in the console room heightened to a howl, and leaves flew in from the forest around and above. Chris was hugging a concrete arch near where the room touched the forest, as tight as if it was the woman they now had to save.

“Right,” said the Doctor as her TARDIS began to tilt upwards. “Not a great catchphrase, for this sort of thing. Didn’t think it through.”

She flicked a switch that hadn’t been there before, and her ship began to accelerate to a speed that sound wished it could match.

“OH HELLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL!!!!!” she screamed as the TARDIS sped straight through the sky.

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Chapter 20: Chapter 19

Standing still as she could so the Daleks couldn’t detect her, Lorna looked down to the burning city below. A hazy part of her thought that it almost looked beautiful, then a different part shouted about how awful that was when people were dying right now. Then a different part to that said that one of the dying people would be her, and somehow that seemed more acceptable than it should.

“She’ll keep her safe,” Lorna said to herself. “There’s no need to worry about that.”

For a second, everything seemed silent and perfectly still.

–then suddenly everything was tumbling and movement and sound–

And she heard her daughter crying in relief, at the edge of a large wood nearby.

“Ow!” she said from her face that was flat on a rug. “That was sore! That was really sore!”

”Typical,” muttered a voice from somewhere above the ground, “go around saving their lives, and they say that they’ve got a bit sore”–

“You’re safe!” her daughter cried with joy. “You’re not going to die!” She felt Christina hugging her belly from behind, and tried to ignore that it put her in immense pain.

At some point, she thought, it might be an idea to move. Perhaps in a few minutes, or an hour, or five years. But she slowly realised that although she herself wasn’t moving, the ship she was in still appeared to be.

“You saved me,” she said, edging her way to her feet. “You don’t have to keep on going.”

The Doctor’s jaw was clenched as the TARDIS kept accelerating, far away from the wreck of the burning city. On her scanner a tiny speck appeared, which was fat and yellow and which might still technically be a mayor.

“You know me quite well, by now,” said the Doctor. “And so you know my rules. Kindness, compassion. That I never kill, and that there’s always another way.”

The TARDIS screamed faster and faster, impossibly gathering speed.

“You know me enough,” she said, “that you know I would never break them.”

She narrowed her eyes.

“And after all this, you’ll now know me a little bit more.”

In front of the TARDIS something yellow screeched, before a police box harder than diamonds struck like a meteor hitting an egg. Metal and gloop burst outwards as the Dalek was shattered apart, and it was some time before the Doctor felt calm enough to slow her spaceship down.

“I hate getting Dalek on the TARDIS,” she said to herself, “that stuff doesn’t scrub off. And there’s monument all over the floor!” she added. “I’m going to have to do chores.

“You killed her,” said Chris flatly.

“Yes,” said the Doctor, “I killed it. And it killed the safest place in reality.”

The three of them looked at the scanner to the burning mass that they had flown from, which was no longer recognisable as a city. Some of its residents had gotten away, and many of its people had not. But the place the three of them had visited as a treat had now smouldered away forever.

“Well,” said Lorna, “now we know what happened to Edinburgh Four.”

The Doctor turned sadly to Chris.

“I know an awful lot about time and space,” she said, “so I’m speaking with authority when I say that this really was the worst birthday ever.”

“It wasn’t your fault,” said Chris. “Mostly.”

“That doesn’t matter,” said the Doctor, a birthday should still be fun. “But at least,” she said as she checked her watch, “there’s some time left for something you’ll like. A trip, to somewhere even better than this.”

“I don’t know how much I like those anymore,” said Chris.

“No,” said the Doctor. “But this one’s different from the rest. Steel yourself for the exciting world,” she said as she flicked a switch, “of Edinburgh One.”

“You mean?”

“Edinburgh,” said the Doctor. “We’re going up your hill.”

Despite everything that had happened, Chris gave her a very small smile.

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Chapter 21: Chapter 20

The evening sun was setting over Edinburgh One, so the rocks and the buildings of the city all seemed to glow sombre and red. Runners came down by the hill near the centre of the capital, along the high ridge that linked it to the lump of the Parliament beyond. Unlike most cities of the 21st century, Edinburgh still kept the ruins of its police boxes, and so no one had noticed that a new sort of ruin had appeared. By the broken blue thing at the base of Chris’s favourite hill, two women were sitting who looked even more broken themselves.

Lorna watched her daughter run across the grass, where a long time ago they’d both spent a fantastic day. Christina had been six around then, and she’d remembered worrying about the boyfriend and the bills even as she’d been dragged up the rocks. Those seemed like very small things to her now, with the light setting over the world.

“When we were here,” she said to the Doctor, “for our holiday. It was an evening like this, and I remember thinking how the whole city looked like something out of Hell. The turrets and the cobbles, and all of it glowing red. But it still felt safe,” she said, “and it still does, somehow. Even after seeing its future burn.”

“Nowhere’s safe now,” said the Doctor far too bluntly. “The Fell Siren is ringing. Give things a minute and everywhere’ll be Hell, and Hell will mean something different to whatever it did before.”

“You’re a laugh a minute, Doctor. Do I ever tell you that?”

The Doctor gave her a sad smile. “Well, I don’t have a laugh for this. But perhaps I do have a something. It’s got a lot of history, this city. And it’s given humanity so much of its future. But the beauty runs deeper than that. So many people in such a tiny space, so many stories in all of them. A small city and all its people smaller, but it’s no less enormous for all that. There’s so much, isn’t there, that’s bigger on the inside?”

She turned to her exhausted and bruised companion.

“I don’t know if I can stop the thing that’s coming. But if I can’t, it’s still best to worry here, in a place that makes you feel you have to try. ‘Cause if nowhere’s ever safe, you need to be somewhere like here. In this city, or this planet. In a world.”

“The way you’re talking, it sounds like you’ve given up,” said Lorna, “just because you couldn’t beat them now. But you beat them once before, remember? Your siren rang, and you fought the Daleks down. There’s no need to be defeatist, just because it’s happening again.”

The Doctor laughed the laugh she’d refused to give, a strange and high cackle that had no mirth within it at all.

“Well. That’s good, at least. I thought you might have the measure of me. But I’ve still got it, then. Still able to tell a good lie.”

She smiled sadly.

“It’s never happened before,” she said.

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