Time Lords weren’t as special as they liked to think. Yes, when history changed, they’d always feel it– but every creature in the universe could sense when something went really wrong.
The battle had stopped, and everyone’s anger had gone. The Romans were human again, but barely noticed. Their minds were taken up by something even worse. They knew without knowing that their city had just been destroyed.
“We won,” said Arabo, like saying it might make it feel true. “We shouldn’t have managed it. But we did.”
He stared hazily at the soldiers of Rome and Carthage, who looked back with the same stunned expression. They’d been following a script and the theatre had just burned down, and no one really knew what should happen next.
There was one man who didn’t look dazed, Arabo noticed. Scipio was completely human once again, but something of the monster was still sweeping over his sneer.
Perhaps there was still a little of the Dalek in him, or perhaps he was only a man. Everything he’d wanted to be had fallen away. He had hoped to prove a young man could be as worthy as any, but the old men of Rome had all burned. Youth was the only thing any Roman now had left.
“Soldiers!” he bellowed in a way that made every side jump. “Don’t just stand around gawping! Everything we feared was true! Carthage always was a danger to our city; it needed to be destroyed. And we waited too long to do it, so our homes lie wreathed in flames!
He was glistening red with anger, and then his voice went wrong.
”ALL THIS VICTORY SHOWS,” he shouted in a loud, half-mechanical voice, IS THE NEED! FOR ROME! TO HAVE VENGEANCE!” FOR THIS CITY! TO BURN! LIKE OURS!”
He didn’t sound very human, the Romans thought. Those that had almost become Daleks were shuddering at his words. They had let themselves be conquered by something they’d never feared. They hadn’t even noticed that it was happening.
Arabo noticed that in their faces. They didn’t look like soldiers anymore.
“Stand down,” he said quietly to the Romans.
“They’ll do do such thing!” spluttered Scipio, his voice shocked into normality again. “They’ll end your life here and now!”
“My general will not wish to show vengeance,” said Arabo wearily. “You saw how strong we are, what we can do. We will show mercy, for as long as we are not tested.”
“Tested?!” said Scipio. “You’ll be obliterated! These men are in the service of the greatest republic in the world!”
Arabo looked down at the Romans, and finally let himself smile.
“Yes,” he said. “Yes, they are.”
He turned to face the defeated army.
“Arrest this man,” he said to the defeated army. “Show that you have loyalty to Carthage.”
“No!” yelled Scipio. “You are MY men!” he said in a voice that was going Dalek, “YOU WILL FOLLOW MY ORDERS!”
The iron discipline of Rome couldn’t disguise that its soldiers were unconvinced.
We SHALL SURVIVE through the GREATEST ADVERSITY!” Scipio roared. “Our PEOPLE’S STRENGTH WILL NOT BE QUELLED BY FLAME! WE WILL! BURN THIS CITY! WE WILL! CONQUER THIS WORLD! WE WILL KILL ITS PEOPLE WHERE THEY STAND, AND WE WILL”–
—his voice erupted to a roar—
“EXTERMINATE!” he shouted. “EXTERMINATE!”
“Arrest this man,” said Arabo quietly again.
No one stood in the way as Scipio was led to the cells.
The sun was fully up now, and the new day had begun. The two armies sized each other awkwardly, neither knowing what they should do.
“Is the war over, then?” said one of the slower Roman soldiers.
Arabo caught his eye, despite himself.
“It’s over,” he said.
A grin broke over his face as he said it, and then he was laughing with joy and disbelief. The sky was bright blue and the air was biting, and he knew that everyone in both armies was thinking the same thing as him. This should never have happened; it wasn’t supposed to. But it had happened, and everything was new once again.
You could change history. Miracles sometimes happened, after all.