The Doctor had come back to where Allie had died; what now felt like a century ago. To the police box where they’d found her, and had found a policeman die.
There was little light from the nearby windows as she walked down the narrow street. In the sky there was only a snatch of moon. The box loomed dark in front of her, a blackness against the black.
Nobody was around it, and that was strange. You’d expect there to be an investigation; for this all to be cordoned off. But she could still feel radiation streaming across the alleyway. It’d poison any human, if they’d try and stay round here for long. Not that the police could ever have known that, of course.
Perhaps it had been the Division, then, she wondered? Doing something to the paperwork in the background. Some Time Lord magic, so that people would stay away. So they’d survive.
The Doctor decided to believe that was true, for now, at least. If they were doing that, it meant they still thought there was a chance. They really believed that there was still hope for this world.
And yet the box in front of her was the picture of hopelessness, in its way. Slammed shut, lights off. A padlock on its doors. It looked for all the world like it was abandoned, though her instruments had told her that couldn’t be true.
She took the CULLIS in one hand, holding it tight. Using the other, she slowly began to knock.
For a moment, there was nothing. Perhaps the instruments had been wrong, although they couldn’t have been. But so much that couldn’t be true had happened, hadn’t it? Maybe this was just the next thing on the list—
But she hadn’t finished that thought before the door cracked open, the chain on the padlock snapping clean off from the force. A copper limb emerged that had never been part of a copper. Wrenching the door open with force, to reveal the face brooding behind. The badge of the St John’s Ambulance, somehow looking right at her. Unsettling, really. She wouldn’t have thought a logo could look so suspicious.
The Doctor sighed, palms open as she talked to the COP.
“Look,” she said. “I was told that the COPs weren’t alive. I didn’t know I was able to kill you. It’s something that I’d never do.”
The COP shook its head.
“Dyiduit,”’ it said.
“What?” said the Doctor.
“Did do it,” said the COP, as hard as wood.
The Doctor paused. For a second she felt the justifications welling up inside her, then shoved them down.
“You’re right,” she said. “I did. But I’m not here to seek absolution. I’m here because”—
“Because this actually is a police box. Not just something that looks like one. And the COPs do have a jurisdiction, don’t they? So really you’re a policeman, too.”
“Tennius,” said the COP.
“Might be,” said the Doctor. “But look here on this sign.”
She rapped on the white plaque screwed onto the side of the door.
“It says you’ll offer assistance,” she said. “Respond to all calls. And I’ve got a call; it’s pretty urgent. I’d say it goes right to the top.”
She held up the CULLIS so the COP would be able to see it. And maybe it wouldn’t trust her, that was true. Chance was it’d think she’d killed the Porter and decide to kill her as well. Totally possible. But trying was all she had left.
The COP was silent for a while, as if it was considering something. And then it was lumbering forward and the Doctor was scrambling to get away, snatching out her screwdriver, preparing for the attack—
—but the COP had stopped once it had come out of its box. It stood in front of her, tall and proud, looking down. A splintering, scratching sound was coming from somewhere, growing steadily louder as she watched.
With a snap, two copper limbs burst out of its shoulders. Gleaming and long, like the bones of a wing. Slowly, they both began to flap. Impossibly, the COP rose up into the air.
“Getton,” it said. “Uppabov.”
The Doctor looked up into the night sky, and hesitated. She’d started this life falling out of a sky just like that. She couldn’t say she was eager to do it again.
“This wasn’t really what I meant, about going right to the top,” she said.
The COP was kneeling down in front of her, not answering. Bowed down, waiting for her choice. Not that there was ever a choice, of course, when it was something like this. She knew she’d faced greater fears for far lesser cause.
The COP knelt down and she hauled herself up on its back, hard and cold as wood. Travelling through the darkness upon something that looked like a police box. She could think of it like that, and pretend this was going to be easy.
She held on tight as it rose, as the streets started to fall away. Getting more and more distant as they got higher, until they were squiggles of yellowing light. Before long the city was spilling over the horizon, stretching further than even she was able to see. Even up in the sky. But the bombs that would fall here would go further than that, of course. They’d swallow everything she saw up in flames.
She’d seen so many weapons that could do that, and much worse. But a part of her still felt it was strange, to know they existed here. In this time; threatening this city. Before she’d first even arrived. It was far too human a feeling, but it didn’t leave her. Instead it hung still and giant, like the moon.
“And further still at an unearthly height,” she whispered to herself, “one luminary clock against the sky, proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right”—
She trailed off.
“Don’t mind me,” she said to the COP down beneath her.
She could see it in the darkness now, a light that wasn’t coming from a star. A hot air balloon emerging in the distance, lit by a faint blue flame. It hung red and sombre in the sky, like a dying sun. And it reminded her of something else that her instruments had said.
It was October 26th, 1962, and that meant the sun had set here for the last time. On St. Paul’s, upon Big Ben, on all these people. Because this would be the last night there was a London.
Tomorrow was the day the suns would rise.