Chapter Thirty Two
Lasky's Nebula, 3847
"All right, then! Who gets to slice me up first?" the Doctor asked, restrained by Adam-lookalikes. "Who gets first pick at the main course? Adam, or the Daleks?"
"SILENCE!" shouted the Dalek Supreme. "SILENCE!"
"It was agreed that I would be first," said Adam. "To channel the symbiotic link and connect to your—"
"Oh, Adam, Adam, Adam," sighed the Doctor. "Of course you'd be first. Because you've been played. I said it before, and I'll say it again. 1800 years, and you're still making the same mistakes!"
"It's interesting," said Adam, "that you keep insisting I don't have the upper hand. That you keep fighting, even after you've already surrendered—"
"That Genetic Disintegrator you built," the Doctor said to the Dalek Supreme, "it wasn't the only one, was it? You didn't really care about the temporal team you sent to collect the Fountain of Kulkmattoll, but you did care about the Fountain itself. You wanted the blueprints. You wanted to see how it worked, so you could recreate it. Build a copy. One which would power the Genetic Disintegrator copy you built on this ship."
"ADAM WILL BEGIN DESTRUCTION OF THE DOCTOR!" the Dalek Supreme commanded.
"See how defensive they are?" the Doctor asked Adam. "You'd think they had something to hide."
"THE DOCTOR WILL CEASE TALKING!" shrieked the Dalek Supreme. "OR THE HUMANOID FEMALE WILL BE EXTERMINATED!"
Adam frowned, looking between the Dalek Supreme and the Doctor. "Genetic Disintegrator," he repeated, as his electronic mind began to work it all out.
The Dalek Supreme swiveled around to Adam. "YOU WILL BEGIN YOUR DISSECTION OF THE DOCTOR!" he shouted. "YOU WILL BEGIN!"
"They didn't care how far you went with me back in the Initiative, Adam," said the Doctor. "How much of an advantage you had. Because they never wanted to even out the sides! They wanted me here, overwhelmed by opposition and helpless to intervene, while they snatched up Elizabeth's brain. That was all! If you won, if I won, none of that mattered! Because the moment they were done with Elizabeth, they were planning to switch on the Genetic Disintegrator, and disintegrate every single life form nearby. Me. IPSA. And your entire army."
"If they had that sort of technology at hand," said Adam, "they'd have used it already."
"They couldn't, because Elizabeth arrived too early!" the Doctor told him. "The Genetic Disintegrator would have disintegrated her, as well — and they wanted her alive!"
"SILENCE!" shouted the Dalek Supreme. "SILENCE! OR THE HUMANOID FEMALE WILL BE EXTERMINATED!"
Adam pondered over everything that he'd just learned. "I'm beginning to believe," he said, at last, "that the Doctor might be right."
"Your alliance is built on nothing but an elaborate web of manipulation and deceit," said the Doctor. "You've been playing them, Adam, and they've been playing you. After all, the Daleks would never really allow you to get time travel. The moment you have that technology, you'd stab them in the back, and they know it. They're prepared." He turned to the Dalek Supreme. "Am I right, Dalek Supreme?"
The Dalek Supreme turned back to the Doctor, swiveling his eyestalk around to glare directly at the restrained Time Lord. For a moment, the only sound was the heavy thump of Dalek machinery, echoing through the cavernous space ship interior.
"CORRECT," the Dalek Supreme said, at last.
A sudden rumble echoed through the Dalek ship, and Adam's eyes scanned the surrounding area, his bio-mechanical mind analyzing the possibilities.
"INITIATING FULL GENETIC DISINTEGRATION!" shouted the Dalek Supreme.
"I thought you said they couldn't do that!" Ashley whispered at the Doctor.
"Yes, well, now they can," said the Doctor, grimacing as he glanced around himself. "My brain instead of Elizabeth's, see. Must have programmed the Genetic Disintegrator to eliminate all genetic structure except Dalek and Time Lord."
"THAT IS CORRECT!" the Dalek Supreme said. "FULL DISINTEGRATION IN 10 RELS!"
"Except it's not going to work," the Doctor continued, addressing the Dalek Supreme. "Because, see, what you weren't banking on is that maybe, just maybe, the Dalek brain isn't as superior as you think."
The rumble cut off, abruptly.
"ERROR!" shrieked a Dalek nearby. "SYSTEM FAILING!"
Adam took this all in with a mild sort of interest.
"The one thing that Adam's army has that yours does not, Dalek Supreme, is curiosity," said the Doctor. "Which means some other member of Adam's army has already spotted the Genetic Disintegrator, snooped around to try to work out what it was, and then sabotaged it."
Adam grinned. He spun around to face the Dalek Supreme. "Advantage, me. Which means that now, I think, it's time you died." He lunged forwards towards the Dalek.
"ACTIVATE FORCE SHIELDING!" shouted the Dalek Supreme.
Adam reached out to seize the Dalek, but was suddenly slammed away by a barrier that had just sprung up around the Dalek Supreme's white casing.
"But, on the other hand," the Doctor continued, "the Daleks are more technologically advanced than you are, Adam."
"You're loving this, aren't you?" Ashley asked.
The Doctor beamed. "Gotta love what you do!"
"EXTERMINATE!" shouted the Daleks nearby, firing upon Adam. But Adam just absorbed the energy, and got to his feet, looking refreshed and revitalized.
He strode over to the Dalek Supreme, once more. The Dalek Supreme edged back a little, this time.
"Interesting," said Adam, his eyes glinting as he analyzed the force shield. "A barrier made from isolating the exact resonance patterns of subatomic gluons, combined with a series of rapidly firing chronon particles across the surface." He grinned and turned to the other members of his army in the room. "You know what that means."
They dropped into position, their appendages morphing into guns and energy blasters and various other bits of machinery, and began to fire upon the Daleks.
Some of the Daleks began to shriek, before exploding, their eyestalks pierced by bullets.
The Daleks opened fire on Adam's army with a chorus of, "EXTERMINATE!" The energy blasts rattled through the Adam-lookalikes, and while they were being revitalized by its beams, a sudden fwumping sound reverberated across the ship.
The Doctor looked over at Ashley, and Ashley took the hint.
She used the distraction to knock the Adam-look-alike restraining her back, then flip the one restraining the Doctor over her shoulder, crashing into the first one, who'd gotten to his feet and had been lunging for her.
"Thank you!" said the Doctor, retrieving his sonic screwdriver from the monster that had just been knocked to the floor.
Ashley, in the meantime, retrieved her gun.
The Doctor glanced up at the ceiling, where an array of different devices had dropped down — atomic agitators, it looked like. Better get out of there before those devices turned on.
"Time to run, I think!" said the Doctor to Ashley.
They spun around and fled through the door.
"ALERT!" shouted the Dalek Supreme. "ALERT! THE DOCTOR IS ESCAPING!"
"Good thing you won't be alive to need him," said Adam, advancing once more on the Dalek Supreme.
The Doctor paused for a second, curious to see what Adam would do next, but Ashley grabbed him by his collar and dragged him out of the room and down the corridor.
"Less sight-seeing, more trying not to get killed!" Ashley told him, as he regained his footing.
They both stampeded through the Dalek ship full force, twisting around corridors and down the black passageways, trying to avoid the fighting forces in a way very reminiscent of the Doctor's previous escape.
Except this time, the Doctor had a goal in mind.
"Where are we going?" Ashley called to him. "Or are we just running for the heck of it?"
"Genetic Disintegrator!" the Doctor called back, zipping around a corner, and then checking a reading on his sonic.
"Why?" asked Ashley. "Are we going to disintegrate them?"
"Disintegrate them?" cried the Doctor. "Of course we're not going to disintegrate them! We're going to blow the machine up!"
"But we could use it to our advantage!" said Ashley. "We could re-program it, so it only killed—"
"No, we couldn't!" the Doctor told Ashley. "Trust me, you try that one again, and they'll be expecting it, this time. We're far better off destroying it."
He careened into a room, then stopped as he discovered two Daleks inside.
"ALERT!" they shrieked. "ALERT! IT IS THE DOCTOR!"
But they didn't have any time to go on, because Ashley barged in and shot the one on the right, flipping out of the way of the extermination beam of the other and blasting it while she was still in midair. She grinned at the Doctor, and stuck her gun back in its holster.
"Can I just say that I thoroughly disapprove," the Doctor told her, with a wink. Then he slammed the door shut with his sonic, and locked it. "Right, then! Genetic Disintegrator and Fountain Copy!" He paced around the two large machines, and whistled. "Oh, you beauties! Look at you!"
Ashley raised an eyebrow at him, and crossed her arms.
"Not that I'm approving of this sort of thing, either," the Doctor told her. He took out his sonic, took a reading, and checked. "As I thought. Adam's army must have programmed the Genetic Disintegrator to only disintegrate Dalek DNA. Exactly as you or I would have done in this situation."
"Then why didn't it?" asked Ashley.
The Doctor glanced over at Ashley, past his sonic. "Because I thought of it, first," he said, sounding a little affronted at the implication that he might not be a genius. "Calibration test. Told you." He jumped out from behind the machines, and began buzzing at the nearby control panel.
Ashley thought this over for a moment, then gave a small shrug. "And you really think the Daleks won't have anticipated you breaking the Genetic Disintegrator?"
"Of course they did anticipated my breaking it," said the Doctor. "Just not in the way I'm doing now." He took the sonic and buzzed it against the wires, once more.
Ashley spent a few minutes just watching him break the machine, in silence. Or... not silence, exactly, considering the chaos and commotion outside. But near silence.
"You're... really special to Bunfy, aren't you?" Ashley asked.
"Partially," said the Doctor, continuing to fiddle. "Well, no, not partially. Not even remotely, really. Just... someone who pops into her life from time to time."
Ashley frowned. "She was... so, so upset that you'd sacrifice yourself for her. Like the thought of you dying just... tore her apart." She stared off into the distance, thinking about it.
"Well, she does look up to me, a little," said the Doctor. "Same as you Slayers look up to her. She only acts towards me the way any of you would act towards her."
Ashley laughed at this. "Yeah, believe it or not, Doctor, we Slayers might be super inspired by Bunfy, but we aren't exactly fighting off impulses to give her serious make-out sessions."
"That's probably because you haven't tried snogging her, yet," the Doctor muttered, only half-listening as he adjusted a tricky bit of wiring.
Ashley cleared her throat. "The way Bunfy does with you, I mean," she clarified, in a pointed way.
The Doctor's fingers slipped, and an electric shock jolted through him. He shook out his hand. "We're not... She and I are complicated," he replied, trying once more to fiddle with the wiring. "It's... not exactly... like that." He gave a small smile. "Not yet."
Ashley's jaw dropped open. "Oh, my God! You mean... in her future, you two...?"
The smile fell off the Doctor's face, and he turned his full attention back to the machine.
Ashley leaned back against the computer controls, taking this all in. "Sorry, it's not that I don't think she likes you," she said. "It's just... well, I've seen the docu-dramas, I've read the epic poems, I've heard the songs, and even flipped through the novelizations of Bunfy Sompters' life. But before this encounter, I'd never even heard of you."
"Never heard of me? Of course you've heard of me!" said the Doctor, flipping a switch to the side, twice, and checking the output reading.
"Nope," said Ashley. "There's Zanda and Willnoe and Guywalls and Dawn. But not one mention of an alien Doctor with two hearts. Anywhere."
"You've read your Slayer Constitution, haven't you?" the Doctor asked. He stuck the sonic in between his teeth, and adjusted a few wires by hand. Then took the sonic back out. "I'm in there."
Ashley gave him a dubious stare. "What, really?"
"First amendment," the Doctor told her.
"The one that says we should always treat doctors with the greatest admiration and respect, and give them the liberty and protection they rightly deserve?"
"In the original document," the Doctor explained, "it's not 'doctors'. But 'the Doctor.'" He glanced over at her, and grinned. "Was quite good friends with your second president. And, come to think of it, your first…" He faltered, his grin dripping off his face, as he remembered the altered timeline. He fixed his eyes back on his work.
Ashley stared at him, for a long while. Examining his face. "It's funny," she said, carefully. "Before we found Bunfy's gravestone, in Somelydaya, we'd always thought that Bunfy Sompters had actually founded the Slayer Institution, herself. Personally."
"One person, making the right choice, can inspire generations upon generations to do the same," the Doctor told Ashley. "Even if she isn't alive to make things happen herself. Remember that."
"She died in 2001," said Ashley. "Just… 20 years old. And even that young, she was amazing enough to inspire all this."
"She is remarkable, isn't she?" the Doctor asked.
"Saved the world. A lot," said Ashley. "That's what the gravestone says." She paused, her eyes fixed on the ground. "How did she die? Do you know?"
"Saving the entire infinity of existence," said the Doctor. "Saving her sister."
"She told me she didn't have a sister," Ashley pointed out.
"Not yet," the Doctor replied.
For a while, there was silence between them. The Doctor continuing to work, Ashley trying to absorb all that had happened.
"Bunfy Sompters," she said, at last, in a soft voice. "She told us she was from 2000."
The Doctor didn't answer.
"Next year," Ashley continued, "she dies."
Yet again, the Doctor said nothing.
"I kept thinking I should… warn her," said Ashley. "Tell her something to make her appreciate—"
"Did you?" the Doctor interrupted, glancing up at her.
Ashley shook her head.
The Doctor turned back to his work, a look of mild relief on his face. "Good," he said. He soniced the device. "No one else should have to know when they're going to die."
The date he could never erase from his mind. The one he'd learned back in World War II, facing a homicidal Melody Pond. The one that he could still see, in his mind's eye.
The Doctor brushed the thought away, then popped one more circuit into place and leapt to his feet.
"How fast can you run?" the Doctor asked Ashley, running over and grabbing her by the wrist, practically dragging her off the computer banks.
"Slayer-fast," said Ashley. "Why?"
"Because we've got about two minutes before this contraption blows sky high," the Doctor told her, as they raced out the door. "And I don't want to be anywhere near it!"
"Two minutes?" Ashley yelled. "You're insane!"
"Have to destroy it before the Daleks work out a way to counteract what I've just done," said the Doctor, zipping around a corner. "Which would probably take them about two minutes to work out."
They darted and jumped and dodged as they continued to run through the ship, the Doctor sonicing a number of things along the way until the hiss of a pressurized sealing mechanism engaging spread through the air. About two seconds later, the blast from the exploding Fountain and Genetic Disintegrator shook the entire ship.
The Doctor toppled over, taking Ashley down with him. She dragged herself back up, again, helping the Doctor to his feet.
"You've got a death wish, or something," said Ashley. "Where to, now?"
"Teleporters, I'd say," said the Doctor. "Very nasty time technology on board this ship, and we should probably make sure Adam doesn't get to it." He grinned at her. "Come along!"