The Doctor’s Ergon fizzed with orange energy that exploded as flame from its wings. Light in the shape of people was shooting towards Omega– men and women and children, more besides. The Doctor had been things that hadn’t been close to human. Yaz tried not to look too close as she ran below.
“It’s you who stole so much of this potential!” the Doctor was shouting at Omega. “Everything you are, it’s because of me!”
“ONLY MY SUFFERING!” roared Omega. “MY INCARCERATION!”
He gasped and winced, and when he next spoke it was with his own voice once again. But the rage of his Ergon was still audible under his words.
“Regeneration is nothing to be proud of,” Omega said. “You didn’t invent it; it was only a gift. All that makes you special is your body. I’ve always been a creature of the mind.”
Impossible things were happening around him as he spoke. His Ergon was totally still, motionless– yet somehow it was everywhere as well. Its sharp feathers pierced the air for what seemed like miles. They cut it in odd angles, wrong dimensions. Their sizes were weird, their motion was strange. Time and space unbounded and going wrong.
There was no use running from this, Yaz realised. The only way out was with the Doctor, however unlikely that seemed.
“There is only one electron, Child,” Omega said from a million places. “Did you know that? It’s a bit like you. Zipping around through all of time and space. An easy thing to do, when you cannot die. I do not need a TARDIS to be everywhere.”
“So?” said the Doctor in more voices than only her own. “You’re still all that you‘ll ever be. I’ve had so many faces. So many minds.”
Yaz tried not to look at the Doctor as she walked up as close as she dared. She could feel the heat of the Ergon’s feathers as they flickered under regeneration energy, hear the sizzle of its flesh as it burned away and reformed. The Doctor held on the Ergon’s chest might not be her Doctor, not anymore. She didn’t think she could bear to see what her friend had become.
“Doctor!” she shouted. “It’s me! Yaz!”
The Ergon turned and stared at her, and from the air Yaz heard a harsh voice speak.
“Doctor,” it said. “Doctor Who? You have no idea what I really am. You know why I kept you close, Yaz? All of you. I thought I’d lost my family, long ago. But they were never really mine at all.”
The voice cracked.
“And neither were you,” it said.
Yaz flinched. She’d; known that the Doctor might hurt her. But not by that much, not ever. She’d become something rotten. Something wrong.
“You’re part of that race, Omega!” the Doctor was screaming. “They told me they loved me! That I was theirs!”
“Then you knew love, at least,” Omega. “There was something they did give something to you. But everything I had, they took away! I have only had loneliness, forever.”
“So you don’t know what I’ve lost!” shouted the Doctor.
“And you don’t know how I’ve suffered!” said Omega. “You had all of time and space! Everything! Everywhere! And you compare yourself to me trapped in an abyss where there’s nothing”–
And soon there would be nothing left of Omega’s world, Yaz saw. The ground was collapsing around them, dissolving. And Yaz was dissolving too, she could feel that now: all her protons and electrons coming apart inside. It’d happen to the Doctor too, though she might not notice. Even she was only atoms in the end.
Both voices in the air had distorted beyond recognition. Yaz could no longer tell who was screaming what.
“You don’t understand true loss!” one shouted.
“You’ve no idea of pain!” the other replied.
“You’re everything I feared you were!”
“You’re everything I hoped you weren’t.”
“The Time Lords were right to torture you.”
“They would have been nothing without me! I’m the one who they really betrayed.”
“It’s true. Without you there’d have been no Time Lords at all. And I’d be dead, not going on forever. I could finally rest”–
It would go on until the Doctor died, Yaz knew, until Omega’s world evaporated to nothing. And she’d die with her friend, when the time came. She’d be evaporating too.
She thought of the virus then, though it was stupidly. How it showed you how small you really were. Everyone was, every human: sometimes there was nothing that anyone could do. All you could do was pray, when all other options were gone. You could only wish that everything could be normal again.
When you were that desperate, a part of you might believe you could will things to change. If you wanted them enough; if you screwed your eyes up so tightly. But the world didn’t work in that way–
–but then Yaz wasn’t in the real world; not anymore.
So she tried, because she’d run out of anything else she could do. She called for whoever you asked for when the Doctor had broken down. Anyone who was left that could hear her now.
Nothing happened, of course. There was only the scream of the birds.
Yaz looked up at them, finally losing hope–
–while below it all, unseen by either Ergon, an old and angular Police Box faded into view.
The Doctor was up there already. But there were other Doctors out there, impossibly many. Perhaps one was always ready to answer the call.
The door opened a crack, and out it came…
...a cloth figure in yellowed rags, a question mark scratched on its bandaged form.
“What is this? What is this? What is this?” it hissed.
It’s not what I wanted, thought Yaz. It’s not what I wanted at all.