"Doctor!" Russell shouted as the Doctor sped past him and back into the TARDIS, "Are those Daleks? THE Daleks?"
He followed the Doctor into the white control room, which for once seemed not to stand out on whatever planet they landed on.
"I can’t imagine a creature in the universe wicked enough to impersonate them," the Doctor said flatly, fiddling with the TARDIS controls at a dizzying speed, "get your wife, Mr. Garamond. We’re leaving."
"What? But all those people…"
"There will be no discussion!" the Doctor hissed, mashing a button with his palm. On a viewscreen, more and more of the thick fog started to roll in, comforting the citizens of Panacea.
"You can make that stuff? Why?"
The Doctor rounded on him, eyes still hot with tears.
"GET YOUR WIFE!" he bellowed. Russell had never seen him so distraught. He backpedaled out of the TARDIS and pulled Colleen away from the Panaceaens, now either sleeping peacefully or sleeping forevermore. The fog was making her eyes burns so much that she could barely keep them open, but she still protested.
"Russell, what’s going on? Those people…"
"I don’t know what’s going on, honey, but I’m not losing you here!"
He pulled his wife into the ship and shut the door. He guided her nearly blind form over near the console and sat her down. The Earth doctor then bolted into the TARDIS interior, looking for something to relieve the burning in both their eyes. He came back with small glasses and some water and began flushing his wife’s eyes, completely oblivious to anything else that might be going on. When they were both able to see again. Russell finally looked back to the Doctor and found him still weeping, quietly. Russell immediately chided himself for ignoring the Doctor in what was obviously a time of need. Colleen, as always, seemed to sense his feelings and laid a gentle hand on his.
"I’m all right, dear," she said, her green eyes reddened and inflamed, but still seeming to smile, "Go check on him."
Russell approached the Doctor carefully, no knowing what to expect.
"I’m all right, Mr. Garamond," he swiped at his cheeks with a camelhair sleeve, "I’m all…"
He was beset by a new round of coughing.
"Persistent thing, isn’t it?" the Time Lord tried to force a smile, but his eyes were lying.
"Doctor, what’s wrong?" Russell said seriously, evenly. He circled around the console to come a little closer, "you told me once that it was Daleks your people fought in the Time War, but you told me that both of the races were burned out of time and space. How can this be happening?"
The Doctor took a shuddering breath and looked upward at the viewscreens. Panacea was beginning to look like it had when they had arrived.
"I suppose, Mr. Garamond," he said in a husky sort of sob, "That they won."
Russell stood there, thunderstruck. From all that he had heard, from the stories and the books and all the forms of media he’d seen all the way across the galaxies… the word Dalek inspired terror in a million different languages, and for the Doctor to say what he had just said…
"They killed me, you know."
Russell glanced over to see the Doctor still looking up that faraway look back in his eyes.
"My last life. They killed me. Shot me twice. I’ve never felt pain like that again, and I’ve never forgotten it."
"But how could they still exist?" Russell prodded, "You made it sound as if they didn’t even exist anymore!"
The Doctor gave one short, bitter laugh.
"I’m not God, Mr. Garamond. I can’t just wipe something from existence. Matter cannot be created or destroyed, and if I were to remove that much matter, an entire war’s worth, from space and time… do you remember the Reapers, Mr. Garamond?"
Russell was suddenly reminded of a Victorian where the people drove Ferraris, and a man dying too soon, causing those terrible creatures to descend and to sterilize the wound to time.
"I don’t want to, but I do."
"The Reapers would have torn reality itself apart trying to staunch the bloodflow from such a temporal wound. Nature abhors a vacuum. There are no more creatures of pure nature than the Reapers. And yet… the War had to end… and those responsible had to be punished."
His hand seemed to move on its own, and with it the TARDIS took off and Russell felt flight beneath his feet. He glanced at a flatscreen on the console and noticed that they were locked on course to follow the Dalek vessel, far into the blackness of space.
"Doctor," Russell’s eyes grew wide, "What are you doing?"
The Doctor turned to him, his eyes no longer sad or worried, but instead powerful, and dangerous.
"One way or another, Mr. Garamond, the Time War ends tonight."
As quickly as the madness had seemed to come across his face, Russell saw it washed away, replaced by a troubled expression, like someone worrying that he had left the gas on. There was fear, yes, but it seemed more like the look of someone who had just realized something. The Doctor pushed three buttons and flew out of the console room. Russell gave pursuit into the twisting corridors of the TARDIS, reminded of the first time he’d ever met the strange man, and chased him through a crowded hospital. The man still had dizzying speed for being shorter, Russell thought as he huffed and puffed to keep up. Eventually, he went to a haggard dogtrot as the Doctor seemed indefatigable, darting in and out of hallway after hallway, left, right and center.
"You’re not going to out-walk me this time, Portly!" Russell said, his breath coming in gasps. Finally, he turned a corner and the Doctor was not there, but the slightest movement to his right led him to throw open the door to that study he had found the Doctor in the day before. Thankfully, the record player had been silenced. He saw the Doctor’s back and broad shoulders over by the chairs they had sat in.
"Go away, Mr. Garamond," the Doctor regarded him like a pesky horsefly.
"There’s not really anywhere I can go," Russell said with a chuckle, "You’ve got me so turned around in this place that I have no idea where I am. I couldn’t find my way back to the console if I tried."
He put his hands in his pockets and stepped closer.
"Would you rather I went out there, with the Daleks?"
"You’ve abandoned your wife."
"She understands. And she knows about Daleks, Doctor. She’d probably want to go first, knowing her."
"Fascinating girl, isn’t she?"
"I don’t like talking to your back, Doctor," Russell circled around, "You steer us into certain death and then run off, and…"
He saw that the Doctor was once again holding the little world in a bottle.
"That’s Gallifrey, isn’t it?" Russell asked after a long silence. The Doctor nodded, but only barely.
"That’s what that whole Paradox Bomb was, wasn’t it? Allowing you to remove your own past from time and space without wiping yourself out in the process…"
Another almost imperceptible nod.
"That’s how you won the Time War? You locked it away? What is that thing, anyway?"
"It’s called a TimeTrap, Mr. Garamond," the Doctor’s voice was clear, but quiet, "Inside this bottle, the Time War rages and roars, over and over again. Always looping: the life, the death, the violence, the pointlessness… over and over again, grinding themselves into the dirt merely to do it again tomorrow. The massive amount of energy produced from a truly endless war is enough to keep the Reapers away, to keep them from noticing that a planet is missing from the sky and that two races are all but extinct."
"BECAUSE THEY NEEDED TO BE PUNISHED!" the Doctor hissed, fighting back a cough, "the idiots thought they could win a war over time itself! They had grown decadent and indolent, they thought themselves gods. They were far too comfortable…"
He let out a frighteningly sinister chuckle.
"So…I took care of that!"
Russell just looked at the Doctor then, too frightened to speak. He always knew that the alien had power, but he had always seemed so reluctant to use it. What else was hidden in this ship, he thought, what other dark secrets were hidden beneath that porkpie hat? Russell realized now that he had made a mistake, that he had assumed the Doctor to be like him, to be human, to be humane… but now more than ever he was aware that the Doctor was certainly nothing like the human half he often claimed to have.
"And now what?" he asked with dry lips, "Did the Daleks escape that bottle…thing?"
"Impossible," the Doctor mused, staring at the world under glass, "The amount of energy needed to do such a thing would have been noticeable by a hundred different peoples on a thousand worlds. The highest levels of universal consciousness would have convulsed, the universe itself would have shaken. No…"
He placed the bottle back on the shelf and sighed.
"This could be some sort of reserve force, kept beyond my reach, where I couldn’t find them."
He fumbled in the pocket of his gray trousers for a moment and produced a battered, birchwood pipe, which he began to chew agitatedly in deep concentration.
"Your reach?" Russell said, steeling his courage, "You know, for someone who claims not to be a god…"
"I’d be a very bad God," the Doctor scowled, remembering saying something along those lines before, "I burn the toast, for one. I complain. I’m picky. I tend to judge people. I’m paranoid, hateful, and pessimistic. I am, as you noted, slightly obsessive-compulsive. Does that sound like a god to you?"
Russell couldn’t answer. Somehow, he actually felt ashamed.
"There are times I have to laugh so I don’t cry, Mr. Garamond," the Doctor said, chewing on the pipestem and pacing back and forth, "When I put that world in the TimeTrap, I removed it. It no longer exists. I removed my family, my home, my friends. My people had become decadent and slothful, yes… but there was still good to be had. Romana, Leela, Dorothea… all friends of mine that I had to lock away. I had to remove everything that created me and take the entirety of Time Lord knowledge into my own mind to prevent the vile conclusion to a war that would have ended existence itself. I scrambled my thoughts, I killed my past… but I had no choice. I had no choice…"
His voice trailed off as he stared down at the floor, the unlit pipe hanging precariously from his mouth. The Doctor coughed again, and the pipe fell to the floor and cracked, just on the border of a Persian rug and hard, unforgiving stone tiles. The Doctor just stood there, staring at the broken pipe. He couldn’t bring himself to pick it up.
"Please don’t hate me, Mr. Garamond," he said quietly, but with a voice that carried well. Russell bent down and picked up the broken pipe, turning it over in his long, thin fingers before giving it into the Doctor’s short ones.
"I wouldn’t even know how to start, Doctor."
The Doctor gave a strange noise then, like a laugh was caught halfway in his throat and was blocked by a sob. He put the pipe in his pocket and gave a small smile.
"Tell me, Mr. Garamond… are all gods this sad, this lonely?"
Russell didn’t get a chance to respond as Colleen’s trembling voice came over an intercom.
"Doctor… Russell…please… get here…"
In a flash, they were both barrelling down the hallways of the TARDIS. Neither one wanted to think of what danger Colleen may have been in. Russell felt his heart breaking: if anything were to happen to her… how could he have left her alone like that? The two of them made it to the console room in record time to find Colleen backed up against the console, eyes thrown wide in terror as the viewscreen projected into the TARDIS showed the glowing eyestalk of a Dalek, larger than life, bearing down on her and screaming in that unmistakable voice.
"WHERE IS THE DOC-TOR? BRING US THE DOC-TOR!"
Colleen couldn’t cry, she was too scared. The Doctor strode between Colleen and the colossal projection, standing eye-to-eyestalk with the enemy. Russell rushed in to take Colleen to the other side of the console room, marveling as he did so that the Doctor seemed to have lost any of the fear or melancholy that he had seen in him of late. He stood glaring at the nearly ten-foot-tall projection, shoulders square, two-tone spectator shoes planted firmly on the floor.
"Terrorizing women, eh? That’s pathetic even at your level. Well, what do you want? I killed your emperor, destroyed your race, banished you to the madness beyond space and time… and I looked damn good doing it!"
The bombast faded a bit, but his voice seemed to grow stronger, more intense as the volume dropped.
"Return the disinfectant fog to Panacea. You have no use for it. You have no right to it. Return it, or be destroyed."
There were a few moments before the Dalek chose to respond.
"WE WILL NOT RE-TURN THE FOG. WE HAVE PLANS FOR IT. DO NOT OPPOSE US, DOC-TOR."
"Oh!" the Doctor began to revel in the verbal combat, "Getting awfully confident, aren’t you? How many are there? Six, seven hundred? Thousands? Millions? HOW MANY MORE OF YOU DO I HAVE TO KILL!" he was bellowing now, so much so that Colleen covered her ears and shrunk into the folds of Russell’s arms.
"NOW YOU SPEAK LIKE US," the Dalek shouted back, "APPROPRIATE FOR THE MAN WHO DESTROYED HIS OWN RACE."
"Every Time Lord on Gallifrey willingly accepts the punishment for ending the Time War, Dalek! I was authorized by the President herself to pull the trigger. All of Gallifrey stands here, with me, against you!"
There was another silence, where all that could be heard was the constant heartbeat rhythm of the Dalek machinery.
"ARE YOU CER-TAIN?"
The Doctor was, for the first time in the conversation, noticeably taken aback.
"HOW DO YOU KNOW THAT THEY DO NOT RE-SENT YOU FOR IT, DOC-TOR? HOW DO YOU KNOW THAT SOME WOULD RATHER DESTROY EXISTENCE THAN SUFFER THE HORRORS OF WAR? HOW DO YOU KNOW THAT SOME OF THEM WILL NOT FORGIVE YOU, DOC-TOR?"
The Doctor regained his composure and stared into the projection. His face displayed a sort of horrified fury: still shocked and aghast at what was taking place, but using the weaker emotions to feed the stronger and build a fire in the pit of his stomach. He launched his first flaming volley with short, clipped words that seemed to be barely escaping without exploding.
"No Dalek would talk like that. Who are you."
It was then that the Dalek began to laugh. It was a horrible sound to hear, but no more horrible than the laugh that began to overtake the Dalek voice, until it replaced it immediately. The ten foot Dalek was suddenly plucked up and put away, shown to be the size of a child’s toy, controlled from a distance and filmed to appear more than life sized. The voice continued laughing now, a rich, deep voice, and the projection juddered suddenly as the controller took the camera up to see his face, to show the Doctor who was behind all this… but the Doctor didn’t need to see the face to know who was behind it. He knew by the laughter.
"Doctor!" Russell shouted as the Doctor sped past him and back into the TARDIS, "Are those Daleks? THE Daleks?"