If I had known that I could stop time simply by talking … oh, the fun I might have had. Not a moment before, Amy and Romana had been frozen in time, their mouths hanging open, cut off in mid-speech. Not by me mind you, but by the incorporeal form of Rose Tyler who controlled all of time and space with a mere thought. But now, their silence is a result of my latest, and perhaps worst, idea. “I’m sorry, River,” my mother finally interjects, “did you just say ‘let the Daleks win’?”
“Yes,” I answer with a smirk. There’s no reason why saving the universe can’t be a little fun. Besides, I need to buy a little time to put things in motion.
“I don’t understand, River,” Romana says rubbing her forehead. “How will that help our situation?” I walk around to the next section of the TARDIS console and begin to toggle a few controls. Romana’s gaze follows me closely. “You’re re-engaging the tachyon tether to my battle TARDIS.”
“Yes.” I’m avoiding meeting her gaze. I don’t do that usually, but this time … I can’t help it.
“To send you back.”
“WHAT?” Romana and Amy cry in unison. The TARDIS hums briefly, noting a localized problem just beyond the rift in the universe that is preventing the tachyon pulse from connecting. Must have something to do with the armada of Daleks floating around trying to figure out what to do next. I make a few adjustments, and a second later she chirps a response, indicating the tether has been successfully established. Now the hard part.
“I need K-9 to disconnect from the TARDIS,” I ask as politely as possible.
“K-9, stay where you are,” Romana commands.
“Affirmative, mistress,” the robot dog replies.
“I need him to be ready to connect to your TARDIS the moment you arrive,” I reply as calmly as I can. Convincing someone to do something they already want to do is one thing. Convincing someone to jump into a burning building takes … finesse. “He will need every second possible to act once he is back on board.”
“And exactly what will he be doing once he is back on board?” Romana’s face is covered in defiance.
“Arranging to transmat you both to the nearest Time Lord vessel. There is one, true?”
“Of course. I had a small platoon of battle TARDIS lined up next to me when I was attacked. But why would I want to leave my own vessel?”
“Ten minutes until the end of the universe, mistress,” K-9 chimes. I can tell by the puzzled look on Romana’s face that she’s noticed the time differential since K-9’s last report, the result of Rose Tyler’s stabilization of the rift. But she has more important things on her mind.
“Because the Daleks might destroy it,” I answer.
“They already have, River,” Amy says. “That’s what caused the problem in the first place, remember?”
I really need to get Amy back on my side, at least long enough to get Romana and the dog off our TARDIS. I’m not sure I could trick her into agreeing with me in such a short time, so I take a more direct approach. “I need you to trust me, Amy. Just this once. I know what I’m doing.”
“But I don’t know you,” Romana answers, “nor do I know what you intend to do other than to send me back to my doom.”
“When you demonstrated the use of the Doctor’s limerick weapon, I searched for other weapons that he might still have on board. I didn’t find any, not that it surprised me. But I did find a way to stablize your battle TARDIS matrix long enough to repair the Eye of Harmony, as you suggested.”
“Yes. I found a subroutine the Doctor had devised to temporarily transfer the TARDIS matrix to another system. He developed it after the matrix was unwillingly uploaded out of this TARDIS and into a human being.”
“That’s right!” Amy says, pointing towards the console. “House. When he put the TARDIS inside that woman. Sexy.”
“Yes. Sexy.” I groan under my breath. Yet another woman from the Doctor’s past that I must compete with. I’d heard the story of the time the Doctor, Amy and Rory had left our galaxy and visited an artificial world where the TARDIS matrix merged into a human woman named Idris. They had barely managed to get the matrix back into the TARDIS before it dissipated forever. “In the event something like that happened again, he planned to transfer the matrix into an artificial being, like an android or …”
“A robot dog,” Romana says. “But why would he do this? And did he really call his TARDIS sexy?”
“Oh, yes,” Amy answers. “He wished really hard.”
The confused look on Romana’s face make Amy and I both giggle. “If I had to make a guess,” I offer in the most convincing tone I can muster, “I think he was attempting to find another way to communicate directly with his TARDIS.” Of all the women in his life, I know my toughest competition for the Doctor’s affections will always be the TARDIS. And I will always lose that battle. True, I am the Doctor’s wife, but I was not his first wife.
“Did he pet the TARDIS console when you were on board?” Amy asks.
Romana actually smiles. “Oh, god, yes. All the time, even when he didn’t think I was looking.” The three of us laugh.
“Nine minutes, thirty seconds, mistress,” K-9 says. I swear I can hear anxiousness in his tone. Surprising for a robot. Perhaps the Doctor’s plan might actually have worked.
“So, you’re suggesting that K-9 connect to my battle TARDIS, download its matrix and then stabilize the Eye of Harmony?”
“Yes,” I say, putting on a serious face. “It should counteract the Dalek weapon and stabilize your TARDIS. Once that happens, the rift should start to close.”
“But our battle TARDIS will still be inside the rift.”
I nod. “And inside the Time War. But you will, as you suggested, then have access to the Time Lords and we’re counting on you to reverse the damage done to the universe. Amy and I will wait here in case there is anything we can do to help.”
Romana thinks for a moment. “It could work, assuming the Daleks don’t catch on to what we’re doing before then.”
“That’s why I want K-9 ready to transport you off of your TARDIS. Hopefully your battle fleet can provide you cover long enough to repair the damage. If not, at least you’ll be safe.”
Romana nods. “It is risky, but it may be our best chance. However,” Romana says as she walks over to stand next to me, “it does not answer my original question. How does letting the Daleks win help us?”
“Your retreat, of course.”
“Yes. Once you’ve repaired the damage to your TARDIS and sealed the rift, you and your fleet must retreat and regroup with the Time Lords. You can’t risk the Daleks using their TARDIS killer on any more ships. The Daleks have won the battle and taken the time trenches, but you can always return later and take them back.” Romana looks at me, her face cold, frozen. I can only imagine the flurry of thoughts and calculations going through her brain. Her hearts must be beating like mad. But I stand my ground. This is the only way.
“Very well, River,” Romana answers coolly. “We will go with your plan.”
“Thank you, Romana,” I say, bowing slightly. I can’t help myself. I do tend to show respect to the condemned whenever I can. I step back to the console and grab the necessary lever. “I’m ready to transmat you both.”
“K-9, please disconnect from the TARDIS.”
“Affirmative, mistress.” The tiny interface pulls away from the console and back into his eye socket.
“Good luck,” I say, tightening my grip on the lever.
“To us all,” Romana answers, her face still stoic. She nods ever so slightly, and I pull back on the lever. A bright white light envelopes Romana and K-9, and with a flash they are gone.
All my life, there has been a phrase I have never forgotten. It comes from a distant memory when I was very, very young. I can hear a sweet voice whispering gently and lovingly into my ear. It has given me strength during the hardest days of my life. What I am about to do will be one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, or likely ever will do. The voice says, “What you are going to be, Melody, is very, very brave.”
With renewed resolve, I leap to the next section of the console and start to deploy the Bad Wolf weapon, as I like to call it. “She and K-9 are on board.”
“Good,” Amy says coming up beside me. “What do we do now?”
“I’m sorry,” I whisper as I make the final adjustments to the controls. “I’m truly very sorry.”
“Sorry? Sorry for what?”
I look at Amy, and I can’t hide my shame, my remorse. I can feel the tears forming in my eyes. “For this.” I pull the lever back hard.
The TARDIS lets out a loud thud, and the oscillator stops moving. Then it begins to glow a bright, hot white. “River,” Amy asks as she backs away from the console, “what have you done?” The room begins to hum loudly as the white light illuminates the entire room. “River!” The white blur extends up and out from the center of the console, flooding everything to the point where I can’t see Amy or anything else in the room. The light is warm to the touch but is harmless. The light has one purpose only, and it is intended for something far beyond the walls of the room, much less the people inside. It is destined for a more specific target.
“There was no other way, mother,” I whisper as the light is pulled directly towards the outer doors. Like air sucked out of an airlock into space, the light sweeps towards the doorway and vanishes through the crack between the doors. I blink a few times, and the console room comes back into focus, unaffected by the light flood.
“What does that mean, River?” Amy says, grabbing my arm. “What was that light?”
“It was a weapon. One of the last weapons the Doctor had on board.”
“A weapon? That you fired at the Daleks?”
“No,” I whisper. “I fired it at Romana’s TARDIS.”
I pull the scanner around to us, and the TARDIS has already switched to show the outside view. I watch helplessly as the beam of white light streaks away from us straight into the rift. “In a moment, the beam will connect with Romana’s TARDIS. When it does, it will reverse time to the moment the Daleks fired their weapon, restoring the TARDIS matrix to its original form, sealing the rift and restoring the universe to the way it was.”
“That’s a good thing, though. Isn’t it?”
I shake my head. “The weapon doesn’t just restore the original matrix. It’s shrinking it, condensing it. Destroying it. Safely, without the universe-ending explosion that came with it the first time. In moments, the matrix will continue to be collapsed until it is completely gone. At that point, Romana’s TARDIS will be disintegrated.”
“Look!” Amy cries pointing to the scanner. On the screen, I can see the rift in the universe has started to close. The little black floating shapes of the Daleks are flying away from the rift, no doubt back towards the battle inside the time trenches. After a few moments, the rift disappears, left only by a field of twinkling stars. The room goes silent, the gong of the cloister bell finally ceasing. I hope I never hear that dreadful sound again.
“It’s done,” I sigh. “It’s over.”
“You did it! Didn’t you?”
A quick peek at the scanner confirms it. “Yes. All the damage caused by the explosion has been reversed by my weapon. The rift is closed, and the time lock around the Time War no doubt restored too. Everything is back to the way it was before.”
“Then why aren’t you celebrating, River. You saved the universe!”
“Because, Amy, there was a price to pay. A terrible price.”
I shrug. “I’m hopeful that K-9 would be able to transmat her off of that TARDIS before its matrix completely collapsed in on itself. She might have survived. There’s no way to know for sure with the time lock back in place around the war. But if she couldn’t get off of the TARDIS in time …” My voice trails off. There’s no need to finish the sentence. Romana isn’t the first person I have killed, but for some reason this one hurts more than I thought it would. But there is the worse pain that comes with it.
“So you lied to her? About your plan?”
“I had to. She had to be inside the rift when it closed. If she stayed in our TARDIS and we closed the rift, we would have changed the past. Romana had to be in the battle with the Daleks inside the time trenches. If she escaped, the impact to the timeline would have been incalculable. There wasn’t time to explain it to her, to convince her that she had to return. So, I lied.”
I can see the disappointment on my mother’s face, and it kills me. There are only a handful of people in all of space and time I actually care about how they feel about me. No matter how hard I try, no matter how many lies I tell, my mother’s feelings towards me still count, always will. Somehow, it makes it easier to tell her the rest. “There’s more.”
“What, River? What more could there possibly be?”
“The weapon I used. It’s more than you think. It is a TARDIS killer.”
The shock on my mother’s face hits me to the core. “Like the Daleks tried to use on Romana?”
“No. The one they used was a test, a prototype, and it failed, almost destroying the universe in the process. The one I used is the final product, the one that really works. The Daleks will have watched me use it, saw how it safely destroyed a TARDIS. They will put all of their effort to analyze and recreate it. It will not take them long to figure out how to make one themselves.”
“So,” I can see the truth sinking into her eyes, “you gave the Daleks a weapon to use against the Time Lords.”
I nod. “And as a result, the Time War will continue on, as it already has. Thanks to me, thousands of people will likely die, now that the Daleks have a way to fight back against the Time Lords.” My mother doesn’t move, her gaze stuck to mine. “I’ve already been sentenced to 12,000 consecutive life sentences. I wonder how many more this will tack onto it?”
“River,” Amy whispers.
I let out a deep sigh. “Perhaps it’s time for me to get back to prison then, where I belong, don’t you think?” I quickly tap in the coordinates for Stormcage and pull back on the demilitarization lever. The TARDIS moans and begins the journey. “You know, all that time in my cell,” I continue softly, “before today anyway, it was a joke, a fluke, a way to trick the whole universe into thinking the Doctor was dead and gone. But now, for the first time, I feel like I truly belong there.”
“But River you saved us, saved the universe. If you hadn’t done what you did, everything would have been destroyed.”
“No one may ever learn it was me that gave the Daleks the weapon in the first place.” I look straight into my mother’s eyes. “Amy, the Doctor must never know what happened here. Never know that we met Romana or destroyed the Daleks or,” I pause, the words heavy in my mouth, “what I did. He can’t know. Ever.”
“I know, River. It would kill him to learn. I won’t tell him. I promise. I won’t tell anyone.”
With a gentle thud, the oscillator stops moving. “Here we are then. It’s too bad, really. I was looking forward to going to Karn with you.”
I walk down towards the door and grab my prison uniform off of the coat rack. As I slip it back on, my holographic clothes vanish. “It’s a place where women can go to explore who they are. Right now, the last person I want to be is River Song, the greatest ally to the Daleks in their war against the Time Lords. I think I’ll just go back to being Melody Pond, murderer of the Doctor and all the lives he wasn’t around to save.”
“Melody …” Her voice trails off. She doesn’t know what to say, any more than I do at this point.
“Until next time, then,” I say, forcing a smile onto my face. “You really should try walking around the TARDIS naked. It can be quite refreshing for the soul.” Amy raises a hand in a weak wave as I open the door.
The prison’s hallway lights are coming on for the morning bed checks. The guards will be here soon to confirm whether I am present or not. I shut the TARDIS door behind me. A moment later, I hear a thud and the whisper of her departure. And then I am alone, back in my cell where I belong.
I pull the blue diary out of my uniform pocket and slip it back under my pillow. No, I won’t be writing an entry about this night. I surely won’t be forgetting it for as long as I live. No one needs to know the story of what really happened, and hopefully no one ever will.