On my left is a small force of Daleks bursting forth from a rip in the universe that is slowly destroying anything and everything ever created. On my right is my husband’s former Time Lord companion, possibly girlfriend, and her robot dog. I actually have to stop and think about which side is the least frustrating to deal with right now.
“Affirmative, mistress,” the metallic voice answers, undeterred by the fact he’d just announced his own doom.
“Where are the weapons systems?” Romana mumbles.
“Weapon systems?” I laugh. “Have you forgotten who owns this thing?”
“Far from it,” Romana answers cooly, continuing to explore the console. “The Doctor may have once been a pacifist, but in his latest incarnation he is …” She pauses, searching for just the right word. “Well, he’s clever and ruthless and always has something up his sleeve.”
“That may have been, but our Doctor isn’t your warrior and hasn’t been for a long time. I’m sure that he’s removed any …”
“Ah, here it is!” Romana interrupts, flips a few switches and then pushes a lever up as far as it will go. I know a lot about the TARDIS, far more than most ever learn. In fact, I am one of the few people alive who know how to fly her. Even still, I have no idea what that lever does, and I’m sure as hell not going to let her know that. “Amy, quickly. Recite a limerick.”
“A limerick. Any limerick will do.”
“Uhhh,” my mother stammers, fighting to recall anything. The TARDIS shakes violently, and sparks fly from the console.
“We’re taking fire from the other Daleks,” Romana yells above the din. “Quickly! We need something before they fire their TARDIS-killer!”
“Catriona,” I recite as I stroll around to Romana’s side of the console, “a pretty young lass, had a truly magnificent ass.” Romana nods with a smile towards the old gramophone speaker sticking out from the center of the console. I lean into it as I finish the poem I’d learned as a child. (Apparently Amy had forgotten she was the one who taught it to me. As I said earlier, it’s a long story.) “Not rounded and pink as you possibly think. It was grey, had long ears, and ate grass.”
The TARDIS hums and moans all around me, and the oscillator in the center of the console begins to glow a bright red. Amy yells, “What’s it doing?”
“Like I told you,” Romana answers, “the Doctor created a weapon out of words, a limerick to be precise. The cadence and rhythm are compiled by the TARDIS matrix and then transmitted from its outer shell like a shockwave. It should impact with the Daleks and …” She pulls the scanner around so Amy and I can see what is happening. On the display we watch a shimmering red wave pulse away from the TARDIS towards the rift. A moment later it collides with the approaching Daleks. The red pulsating energy envelops each teapot-shaped monstrosity, and my mouth drops as the energy is absorbed into the Daleks’ outer armor. A moment later, each Dalek attacker explodes in a flash of red light.
“Incredible,” I whisper. That man, that amazing man. Leave it to him to turn a joke into a weapon. I had no idea that he had kept it all these years. Most likely, he’d just forgotten about it.
“Warning, mistress,” K-9 reports. “More Daleks are approaching the outer horizon of the rift but maintaining relative distance.”
“We must have frightened them by destroying their scouts so easily,” Romana says with a smile. “But they won’t stay away for long.”
I grab the scanner and pull it back to the other side of the console. There’s something I need to check, and I don’t want the others to see it quite yet. Something I need to be sure of.
“But what about the rift?” Amy asks. “How do we close it?”
“A fair question,” I snark, typing in my request to the TARDIS on the typewriter. “This TARDIS has always been better at ripping the universe apart rather than knitting it back together. That was the Doctor’s job.” The TARDIS chirps, accepting my request.
“The rift was caused by an imbalance of the Eye of Harmony and my battle TARDIS’ matrix. We will have to repair both in order to seal it. However, I’m not certain that will reverse all the damage done to the universe already.”
“Wha? You’re saying that we could fix the crack but half the universe would still be gone?” Amy asks with the normal attitude and venom she usually spouts whenever a Time Lord presents a plan. “Sounds like a terrible idea, if you ask me.”
“What would you have me do, Amy,” Romana demands, her frustration growing as much on her face as in her voice, “let the whole universe die? One thing that the Time Lords have learned so far in this war is that sacrificing hundreds to save millions is often the best and only option available. There will always be a loss of life, but we try to mitigate it to the best of our abilities.”
I could feel Amy doing the math in her head from across the room. The tension was thick enough to stop a bullet in flight. “Perhaps if we reversed the polarity,” I suggest. It was intended to be a joke, a throwback to the Doctor of long ago when he had more levity and humor towards the universe. Amy and Romana look at me as if I had suggested we throw a party for the end of all creation. “It was just a thought,” I say with a smirk.
The TARDIS scanner chirps again. She has completed my request for information and displays the results on the scanner. My heart sinks when only two words appear on the screen. Needlesstosay, they were not the words I was hoping to see.
Romana snaps her fingers. “I’ve got it. If we merge the matrix of this TARDIS with the matrix of my battle TARDIS, it should be able to stabilize long enough to repair the damage to the Eye of Harmony.”
“Merge matrices,” I scoff. “Are you serious? We’d destroy this TARDIS in the process!”
“Yes, we would. But, we would stabilize my TARDIS and very likely help to seal the rift in the universe. Then, once we are back inside the time trenches and the Time War, we should be able to contact the Time Lords and perhaps figure out a way to undo the damage that was done.”
“Wait, wait, wait,” Amy interrupts with shaking hands. “You want us to destroy the TARDIS?”
“What choice do we have?” Romana answers. “We sacrifice this TARDIS to save the universe. It’s our only option.”
“The Doctor would kill us if he found out we destroyed his TARDIS!”
“The universe ending will kill us just as easily,” I suggest under my breath. I hate to admit it, but Romana’s idea may be the only one available. I’m clever, no question, always have been. I’ve gotten myself into and out of more tight fixes than I can count. In almost every case, I’ve had the escape plan figured out well in advance, taken every option into account before I jump in. Well, almost every case. Sometimes it’s more fun to just jump in and see what happens. Those are the times when the Doctor is usually there to save me. It was clear that today I would not figure out my escape plan in time, and the Doctor certainly wasn’t going to save me. I look around the TARDIS’ main console room, saddened to think that she may be destroyed in just a few moments. “We have to try.”
“No, River,” Amy offers. “There must be another way. There has to be.”
The scanner is chirping again, but I ignore it. I can see from the corner of my eye it’s only displaying the same two words as before. “There isn’t, Amy. At least I can’t think of one.”
“K-9,” Romana asks, “what are the chances our plan will work?”
“I am attempting to calculate, mistress. The variables involved are quite complex.” The robot dog is still connected to the TARDIS console, no doubt using the near limitless potential of her matrix to complete his calculations. If it is taking this long to compute our success, that can’t be a good sign. “Bad wolf,” K-9 says.
“What did you say?” the three of us ask at the same time, but my head spins towards the scanner. The words BAD WOLF are still displayed on the screen, just as they had been since I’d asked the TARDIS if there were any other weapons on board. I have no idea what BAD WOLF means, but I’ve heard stories from hundreds of worlds that all mention a bad wolf. Some consider it a sign of a bad person. Other cultures consider it a warning of some kind. The human race used the phrase in a children’s folk tale. For some reason, the TARDIS considers it to be the answer to what we can use to save the universe.
When I look at the scanner now, the words BAD WOLF fade to black, and then a woman’s face begins to appear on the screen. She is a young woman, human, with curly blonde hair. I would know her face anywhere. She is at the top of my list of the Doctor’s companions that I will always try to avoid meeting. The Doctor held such strong feelings of guilt for what happened to her, he rarely mentions her name without wincing in pain. I respect him enough not to deliberately hurt him by asking about her. Of all the female companions who have traveled with the Doctor, no woman (including the three women on board the TARDIS right now) impacted the Doctor more than the woman whose face now fills the scanner screen.
Rose stares out of the scanner directly at me, and then her eyes glow a bright yellow. Hello, River.
Telepathy. I hear her inside my mind. Amy and Romana are continuing to talk to K-9, oblivious to the conversation I’m having with the ghost from the Doctor’s past. Rose? I think.
No, not Rose. I am the bad wolf. I am the words scattered in time and space, arriving here, at this time, to aid you, Melody Pond. Her voice is soft and yet cold, distant. An ethereal goddess looking down on us mere mortals. I am here to help you save the universe. Her face softens slightly. But in doing so, you, River Song, will kill millions.