I’ve had years to think about what I might say to Rose Tyler once I finally met her. Occasionally, I would be kind. Typically, I would be cross. The Doctor wears his pain and guilt for the girl on his sleeve, and the very mention of her name will put him into a trance of regret. Oh yes, I’ve had many things I wanted to say to that woman, to teach her the lessons she so richly deserved, to show her the pain that she caused in the man I love. But now, as I stare at her face on the scanner, the epitome of the “other woman” in my life, all I can think to say is, You have to save us!
I cannot, Rose, the Bad Wolf, answers telepathically. Romana and Amy continue to argue about what to do next on the other side of the console.
Why can’t you?
Everything must come to dust. All things, everything dies.
I can see that even omnipotent human beings occasionally need a slap across the face. Just like some Time Lords. “We don’t have time for this!” I blurt out at the scanner, forgetting our telepathic link.
“Time for what?” Amy asks, not quite understanding how my outburst fit into the context of her argument with Romana.
Before I can speak, Rose the Goddess answers. I am time.
Then the room around me stops. Amy and Romana’s mouths hang open, suspended in the process of speaking. The lights on the console that had been blinking are frozen lit or dark. The oscillator in the center of the console is no longer breathing up or down, and the cloister bell has ceased to chime around me. On the screen, Rose’s eyes are a bright, white light.
I let out a loud exhale, one I’d really been holding it in for the last five minutes. “There, that’s better,” I say out loud, happy to revert to my form of communication rather than hers. “Now, you said you are here to help me, so help me!”
Rose’s bright eyes return to normal, and she stares out at me from the screen. “I … I am here to help you, Melody Pond.” She clearly looks confused, as if she’s having an argument with herself inside her mind. “To show you what you can do, but only you can choose to do it.”
Now she’s starting to talk like a Time Lord. Oh, I hate her. “Fine, fine. Just tell me what to do.”
“I will show you,” she answers as her image fades from the scanner. The screen flashes through a series of symbols and windows, and I can tell that Rose is accessing the deep memory core of the TARDIS matrix. It would take a thousand lifetimes to sort through and read everything that has been stored inside that matrix. She seems to be able to skim through it with ease. A few moments later, the images freeze on a set of schematics and configuration changes.
“My god,” I gasp as I read through them. Rose’s image returns to the corner of the screen. “Did you create this?”
“No,” she answers dispassionately. “You will.”
“These records were obtained by the Doctor of War, saved inside the TARDIS matrix in spite of his efforts to delete them, saved for this moment, this time, to be used by you, River Song. In using them, you create them, just as I have created myself.”
She’s talking about a paradox, one of the most annoying and yet important aspects of time travel. When people travel through the time vortex, they alter the past, present and future, often creating events that might not have happened without their own intervention. It is the burden of a time traveler, to take care that events are not altered so severely as to impact potential outcomes in the future. The Time Lords were once the guardians of the time vortex, tasked to oversee all time travelers and ensure nothing was altered that shouldn’t be. For generations they have been gone, and rampant use of the vortex by Time Agents and people like me occurred without supervision. But having been trained so well in the delicate intricacies of time travel, I know how to do it properly. Well, most of the time. I have no doubt the Time Lords would have banished me from the vortex long, long ago.
Oh, I understand the need and dangers of paradoxes all too well. I myself am the product of a paradox. My mother Amy gave birth to me, lost me to the Silence, who then took me back in time so that I would grow up alongside her. She knew me as Mels, and thus named her daughter, Melody, after me. Paradoxes make other minds swoon. For time travelers, they are simply the natural order of things. But never once in my life did I ever think I would be part of such a destructive and yet necessary paradox as this.
“I understand,” I whisper, taking one last glance at the instructions provided. I can see the Doctor’s handiwork inside the text. There are warnings baked into the words that only someone who really knew him might recognize. The Doctor is telling me the device that Rose has shown me should never be used, even as he is teaching me how to build it. “There is no other way?” The dispassionate face of Rose Tyler is all the answer I need. The weight of the truth falls right on my heart, and it aches.
Rose raises her hand again, and her eyes blaze white. “I have stabilized the rift, for a time. You must act now.”
I start to enter the configurations as outlined on the screen. “I know, I know.”
“There is one other thing.”
“What?” I ask, not looking up from my work.
“The other Time Lord. She must return. She does not belong.”
I halt my typing. “You want me to send her back? Into the rift? Into the war? She will die.”
“Her role is not complete. There is still work ahead for her. She must return, or all will fall.”
I look across the console to Romana’s frozen face. I can see the fire in her belly, the strength in her eyes. What a force for good she could be in my time. She and the Doctor could rebuild the Time Lords, restore order to the time vortex, put a stop to the Dalek forces that always seem to return from complete destruction no matter how many times the Doctor defeats them. She could change the universe. “Perhaps that’s why she needs to go back,” I think out loud. I don’t know what role Romana played in the Time War, but if Rose is right, she played a vital role in the war to come, even after what I’m about to do. I am sure Romana will be one of the first things the Doctor and I will talk about next, assuming there is a next time.
Rose’s face remains unchanged on the scanner. “Thank you,” I whisper to her, in spite of myself. I know what I have to do, and I know the cost. It’s that or the end of everything. Seems to be my lot in life. I wonder if I will ever truly get what I want.
“I am … sorry … Melody Pond,” Rose says softly, her eyes returning to normal. The Goddess of Time looks genuinely apologetic.
“Perhaps, for today,” I answer clearly, “I should just be River Song and leave it at that.”
Rose nods. “Goodbye, River Song.” Her image slowly vanishes from the scanner screen, restoring a full view of the weapon’s schematics.
In the center of the console, the oscillator begins to move up and down again. The incessant gong of the cloister bell returns.
“… talking about, River?” Romana asks.
“I know what we have to do,” I answer cooly, completing the instructions and sending them to the TARDIS to implement. She chirps in reply.
“Okay,” my mother says slowly, “what do we have to do?”
“We have to let the Daleks win.”