Once upon a time, Jericho Street Junior School held a gymnastics competition, and Trisha Delaney did not take part because she felt she was too fat. She knew she was too fat, her father had told her so. So she watched from the sidelines instead, envious.
Rose Tyler performed on the ropes- she climbed to the top, slipping only once or twice. But while she did that, Trisha Delaney looked away and saw Mickey Smith for the first time. She didn't know his name, back then. Didn't know the first thing about him; didn't know that the elderly lady sitting next to him would be dead in five years. Didn't know anything at all.
A girl called Shareen Costello sat next to Trisha on the gymnastics mat. She was not a nice girl. As she stood up for her own performance, she gave Trisha a mocking little wave, and a smirk. Trisha watched her dance around the darkened gym to music, and thought she was excellent, but she did not clap at the end.
Shareen won first place, a girl called Maria Sutton took second, and Rose Tyler took third. Rose looked bitterly disappointed for a second, but grinned as her mother rushed out to give her a hug. She held her medal up triumphantly, and looked right at Trisha. And smiled.
Trisha smiled back. And as the small crowd started to leave the hall, she looked for Rose, to say well done- but Rose had left through the back door with her mother, and Mickey Smith and his grandmother were following them.
Trisha was all alone in the crowd. She was nervous; she scrambled out of the door and into the fresh air. And then she almost crashed right into Mickey, who was now going the other way.
"Careful!" he said. Trisha almost wet herself with embarrassment, and turned to run. But then he said,
"Trisha, right? Trisha from the estate."
"Yeah," she squeaked.
"How come you didn't dance or anything?"
"I can't dance."
"Oh. Says who?"
"Me. And everyone."
Mickey Smith shrugged as if to say 'fair enough'. "See ya," he said, and walked off. Trisha stared after him; for some reason she had expected him to offer encouragement. Oh no, Trisha, you can do it! You can do anything you want, you're strong enough! But he hadn't. And she felt a spark of anger. How dare he write her off like that!
But she eventually forgot about it. For the next ten or so years.
People forget things all the time. They forget because they must. Probably.
2007. Trisha Delaney was twenty years old, and no longer listening to her father. And she was also not a child anymore.
Jackie Tyler was on the phone. "How you doing, Trisha?" she asked nervously. She sounded like she was about to deliver News.
Trisha found her voice.
"I'm fine, thanks, Jackie," she answered. "How are you?"
"I'm alright, love. Listen..." She trailed off, and Trisha held her breath: maybe Mickey was back. Had just turned up one day, was waiting in his flat, was going to see her. "...this is going to sound weird, but...I need help."
"Really?" Trisha asked. "With what?"
"There's this man," Jackie said, and all sorts of ideas flew through Trisha's mind. "He...he was looking for the Doctor. A while back. He came here, to me, I chucked him out when I found out what he was after." Trisha wondered where she was going with this. "Anyway...he had my phone number, and the other day he phoned. And he was in a right state." She sounded quite concerned.
"What d'ya mean?"
"He was crying- crying like mad- telling me to contact the Doctor. He kept saying she's dead," Jackie sounded uncomfortable. "Just she's dead, she's dead over and over again. Scared me at first...just in case he meant Rose." She trailed off. "But he weren't talking about Rose, he said. Someone else. I dunno what to do," she said. "So I thought I'd ask you. You're good with people, yeah?"
"Oh," Trisha said. "Thanks," she added. "Um. What's his name, this bloke?"
"Elton Pope," Jackie answered. "Weird name. I thought he was nice, you know..." There was a pause. "Dunno. Maybe I was too hard on him. But he sounds like he's going mental, Trish."
"I could go see him." Trisha suggested, without really thinking it through. "If you like. If you told me his address and stuff. I'm almost always here on weekends- I could go tomorrow-"
"Would you really, love? But be careful," she added. "Be really careful. He always seemed alright, Elton did," she said nervously, "but...you know..really, he could be anything."
That warning was ringing in Trisha's ears as she and Shareen drove to an address Jackie had given them. A normal area, full of normal houses.
"I'm coming in with you," Shareen said, as she pulled up.
"Yeah, course you are," Trisha answered, surprised.
They rang the doorbell, and Trisha waited, almost bouncing in anticipation. And she was perhaps a little nervous. A man investigating the Doctor? A man who Jackie had thrown out? A man going a bit mental?
But the person who opened the door was not murderous, sobbing, or terrifying. He was a thin blond man of about thirty or so, with bright, puzzled eyes. And a distinct sadness about his face.
Trisha spoke first. "Elton Pope?"
"Yeah," Elton Pope said, staring at them in surprise. "Who're you?"
"Trisha," Trisha said nervously but very politely, sticking her hand out. "Trisha Susanne Karen Delaney."
The blond shook her hand. "Elton Doesn'thaveamiddlename Pope," he said ruefully. "What is it you-"
"And I'm Shareen Costello," Shareen spoke up, "and I would like to warn you that I am trained in shotokan karate. A bit. So don't try anything."
Elton looked in bafflement from one woman to the other. "Um." he said. "I dunno what you want, but this isn't a good time. Isn't a good time at all." Trisha saw the sadness flicker in his eyes then.
"Jackie Tyler sent us," she said quickly. "Well, sort of. To talk to you, I suppose. Can we come in?"
Elton was still wary. "You're not going to-attack me?" He glanced at Shareen. "You're not..."
"We're not aliens," Shareen said softly. "We're definitely not."
Elton let them in. They sat down on a sofa, and Elton brought them biscuits- ginger biscuits. And tea, as well. Then they sat uncomfortably about. Trisha noticed a paving stone, placed reverently on a table.
"Um." Elton said.
"D'ya want us to go?" Trisha asked.
"Um. No. I don't know." He looked away from them. "Will you believe me? I want to know that first."
"Yeah, we will. We've seen alien spaceships and..." Trisha trailed off when she realised that technically, they hadn't seen much more than anybody else. Heard about, on the other hand...
Elton nodded, almost to himself. "Well..." he began, "there was this girl."
In five or so minutes, Elton spun a rather complex story about love and loss: all of his friends, including the girl he was in love with, had been killed by an alien. His mother had also died at the hands of something unearthly, and the Doctor had been there that time, trying to prevent it. And the Doctor had also saved the woman Elton loved-
"He saved her face," Elton finished, his voice breaking a bit. "She was a face. A face in a paving stone. Could talk to me. I couldn't show her to anyone and to her family she was dead. And now she really is dead," He blinked. "You don't want to hear how."
Trisha stood up. She went to the paving stone. She picked it up and examined it carefully, and then guiltily turned back to Elton.
"Um," she said. She exchanged a look with Shareen, and was surprised to see she was shaking her head. But she pressed nervously on. "Elton, don't take this the wrong way, but are you sure-"
"Yes," Elton said fiercely. "I'm not mad. You know Jackie, right? You know about the Doctor and what's going on? Then it should be obvious I'm not mad. You said you'd believe me!"
Trisha nodded, because that was all she could do.
"And," Elton said, looking at the ground, "could you put Ursula- put the paving stone down, please."
Trisha blushed and put it down carefully, and tried to carry on. "We- we just came to talk."
"Not sure how talking would do much good."
Shareen spoke up unexpectedly. "So what happened, Elton?"
The other two looked at her. There was a flat silence. And then Elton shifted off the sofa and stood up.
"Thanks for coming. Honestly. At least you tried," he said. "But you might as well go now."
Trisha and Shareen sat glumly in the car: Shareen lit herself a cigarette.
"That was interesting," she said thoughtfully. "I believed him, though. No weirder than what happened at Christmas."
"I think I ruined everything," Trisha said gloomily.
"By what? Thinking he was nuts? Well..." She blew smoke out of the window. "I think he probably is nuts, just not in the way we think. He did something to his paving stone girlfriend, and she's dead, and he won't talk about it. Maybe he killed her."
Trisha stared and almost choked on the smoke. "You think?"
"But he seemed so...not a murderer! And so devastated about her..."
"Well, he killed her and regrets it now, then. Or he's a really good actor."
Trisha glanced out of the window, at the place where Elton lived. It was quiet and sort of vaguely peaceful. "No..." she said. And then, "D'ya want to go back in, then?"
"I want to spy on him," Shareen answered with a grin.
So they spent the rest of the day spying on Elton Pope. This involved climbing a tree and leaning dangerously out in order to see through the windows.
"Can you see anything?" Shareen hissed.
"Only leaves and twigs," Trisha hissed back, wondering what would be written on her gravestone if she died through falling out of a tree. "And a room with a computer. And- look, there he is. Coming in."
"Has he seen us?"
"Don't think so..."
Trisha observed Elton sit down on his computer chair, and start up the computer.
"I feel like I'm invading his privacy," she said. "What if he starts- doing something?"
"Well, he's not doing much of anything now."
Elton was sitting still, occasionally clicking his computer mouse. He was flicking through different websites: Trisha could make out the words TORCHWOOD and Observatory and ACCESS DENIED. Then, after almost a minute, something familiar appeared onscreen- and Trisha gasped a little.
"Mickey's website! Look!"
Elton was indeed looking at Mickey's website- Trisha and Shareen could see it quite clearly. He was going back through the archives, staring at the screen. Looking at old photographs-it was almost like he was viewing her photo album. Trisha suddenly felt a crushing sense of loss. She held the branch tightly, and looked away. No, she reminded herself, he's gone. He's gone, he's not coming back, you should've gotten over it by now.
She had not quite gotten over it.
Something fell out of her pocket.
She nearly shrieked or swore out loud, but stopped herself just in time. She scrambled down the tree (scratching her arm in the process), landed awkwardly, and snatched the precious thing she'd lost from off the ground. It wasn't broken. Thank god.
She held it tightly. It was, after all, her last link to a time now gone.
"And what the bloody hell was that?" Shareen grumbled, landing beside her somewhat more elegantly.
Trisha opened her hand. Inside was a purple stone, a Christmas present- a parting gift. "The rock," she said. "The rock Mickey gave me for Christmas."
Shareen peered at it. "Oh." she said. She glanced back up at the tree, and shook her head. "Oh...let's just leave Elton Pope to his own devices. Let's go home."
They headed for the car. Trisha did not look back at the window; people were always warned about the dangers of looking back.
Jackie phoned Trisha back that night. "How is he?" she asked, and sounded more concerned than perhaps she was trying to be. "Did he talk to you?"
"Yeah. Um. His girlfriend, Ursula, she was killed, the Doctor sort of saved her, and then she died...you see?" That was an extremely condensed version of the story, but Trisha didn't want to go into too much detail. "He was a bit...distant, maybe? But he seemed alright." She didn't mention the discussion about whether he was a murderer or not.
"His girlfriend was killed? How?" Jackie said. And she added, "And if he had a girlfriend, what the hell was he doing trying to get off with me?"
"I don't think she was his girlfriend then, but...a whole bunch of people got killed, and she got killed too. And the Doctor managed to bring her back to life. And then she died again, for real this time." She shifted uncomfortably. "He didn't come back and save her again."
"Thanks, lovie," Jackie said finally, in a faintly resigned tone. "So he's mostly alright. That's a load off my mind." It wasn't, Trisha knew; there was a permanent weight on Jackie's mind. "I'll see you around."
"Bye, then. Bye."
Trisha put the phone down. She leaned against the wall, and then she went to the window and glanced out.
She went straightaway to find her mother. She found her doing the washing up, and staring out of the window. Like mother, like daughter.
Trisha's mother was called Karen. She had married too young. At least, that was what the neighbours said, and Trisha had heard it all as a kid.
"Mum," Trisha asked, "why is Dad's car outside?"
Her mother almost blushed. "Well...he likes to be around here, doesn't he? And I can't really say no, not to him."
"He hates it here!" Trisha said. "And he was here at Christmas-" she paused for thought then, but carried on regardless. "And Rob's birthday, and your birthday, and the start of Easter. Why doesn't he just stay?"
"Well," Karen said, scraping at a saucepan, "you know he likes to travel-"
"He can't do both! He's got to stay or got to go! You split up years ago! Why don't you ever tell him that?"
Karen put the saucepan back in the sink and looked at her daughter. "You sound like a child," she said, sounding rather weary. "Don't."
Trisha closed her mouth and turned away and then turned back again. "Um," she said. "Um. Alright. So where is he?"
"Went to the shops. Maybe he'll buy something for you."
Trisha doubted it, but she could say nothing.
For three days they were all together: Trisha and her brothers and her mother and father. Her father spoke politely to her, made no comments about her weight, and she tried her hardest to avoid him- it seemed the sensible thing to do. No shouting, no arguments, no bursting into tears- just avoiding all issues. The way she liked it. Or possibly the way she used to like it: it seemed she no longer enjoyed staying silent.
One night when she and Sam were staying up to watch TV, a horrible thought slammed into her brain for no reason whatsoever.
"Oh my god!" she whispered. "They're gonna get back together!"
Sam stared at her and gestured at the TV. "Wot, the ginger bloke and the girl with the big-"
"No! Mum and Dad! He's here all the time now, and she likes him being here! Christ."
Sam shrugged. "So?" he said, and went back to the TV. Trisha's mind raced. God, if only she could like her father! But she didn't, and secretly she had never wanted anyone to like him- not Sam, not Rob and not her mother.
How could anybody love someone who ran away?
The next day Trisha was distracted from her family worries by a worldwide invasion of ghosts.
They came while she was having breakfast- one minute she had a spoonful of cornflakes in her hand, and the next minute there was screaming. Frenzied, frantic screaming. She dropped the spoon and ran.
"What in the world is-"
She stopped dead. A ghost was in the room. Her mother was backing away from it, screaming.
Trisha screamed too, because almost anybody would have. In fact- almost everyone screamed. Everyone in Trisha's house, in the Powell Estate, in England - all over the world.
The entire family backed away into a corner. Sam was still screaming. The ghost advanced. It had no face, but it seemed to be looking at them.
Trisha decided to give it a try. "Go away," she moaned. "Get out of our house!"
It didn't. It came closer and closer and closer-
"GET OUT!" Trisha's mother shouted. "GET AWAY FROM US!"
It came closer, close enough to touch-
-and it faded and vanished.
It was several seconds before anybody moved. Rob moved first, standing up shakily.
"What was that?" he asked. "What the hell was that?"
"I don't know," Trisha whispered shakily, also getting to her feet. It was a ghost. Oh god, what if it was a ghost of Mickey? After all, you know now that anything could happen. What if it's him, coming through from the parallel earth, coming to get you?
She helped her mother to her feet.
"It's gone now," she said. "Whatever it is."
The world went swiftly into overdrive. Panicked people filled the TV screens, panicked world leaders addressed nations. Panicked people told others not to panic.
Trisha waited in the flat. And then the phone started ringing.
Trisha had spoken to Shareen mere minutes after the first ghost invasion, and what she'd heard had scared her: Shareen had been convinced that the two ghosts who had appeared in her house were in fact her dead grandparents. She was trying to reassure her family, and Trisha knew she probably wouldn't call back so soon.
She picked up the phone.
"Hello," she said.
"Is that Trisha?" came a male voice.
"I...you...I saw Ursula. Back again. Right there in my house," said Elton.
The ghosts were back the next day. Trisha and Shareen drove once more to Elton's house. They all sat in the living room and watched things walk through walls.
"That's Ursula," Elton whispered, pointing to one of them. "I can tell...it's the way she walked. Walks."
"And the other one?" Shareen asked, because there were two ghosts in the house.
Elton swallowed. "My mother."
Trisha watched them carefully.
"Why don't they have faces?" she said.
"And where'd they come from?" Shareen asked.
Elton shrugged, although the questions were rhetorical. "I don't know. But you think it's them, right? My mother and Ursula?"
"Yeah," Trisha said, helplessly. She wondered once again if her ghost had been Mickey. But surely that meant he was dead?
She and Shareen sat in the car. Again.
"Mickey went to a parallel world..." Trisha said, speaking slowly as the thoughts went round her mind.
"Yeah. I know," Shareen said, and there was a little sigh in her voice, as well. "What, d'ya think-"
"They don't look like ghosts, not normal ghosts- they look like they're coming from somewhere-"
"Well, where do ghosts come from?"
Both of them fell silent.
"I'm probably wrong," Trisha said glumly. "S'probably nothing to do with Mickey- if it was, he'd have come back for Jackie."
"And for you!"
"Nah. He said goodbye, remember? Said goodbye and gave me a rock."
Shareen stared out at Elton's house. "It's so unfair," she murmured. "The world's changed so much. We're almost getting used to this stuff."
The world got used to the ghosts surprisingly quick: there was much discussion about it on the television. Were they really ghosts of people? What were they?
And so on.
Trisha sat with her mother on the sofa and watched the television. They had it almost permanently on News 24 these days; nothing fictional could compare to what was actually going on.
"Trisha," her mother said, "I want to ask you something."
"Yeah?" Trisha answered warily.
"You know things I don't," Karen Delaney played nervously with her hair. "Because of that Smith boy...he got you into all this, didn't he?...and you're going around with Shareen shouting from rooftops and goin' on about this Bad Wolf thing. Sam tried to explain that to me, but he didn't do that good a job, and honestly I'm not sure I want to know." Trisha was suddenly aware of how old her mother looked. She'd never seemed that way before.
"Alright, now listen, Trisha," Karen said. "I'm not gonna tell you to, y'know, never see Mickey Smith again or anything like that..." Trisha felt another little pang of loss, and quickly tried to forget it. "I know you can look after yourself and that. I just want..."
"I want you to be careful. I just...I don't want to lose you, yeah?"
Something occurred to her then. Something about a woman she knew, who had surely said those words to her own daughter. "Mum...have you been talking to Jackie Tyler?"
"Met her down the shops," Karen said. She turned the volume on the TV down. "She's a great lady, is Jackie." She trailed off. "Trisha," she said after a pause.
"Rose Tyler isn't traveling, is she? She's mixed up in all this, the aliens and the ghosts and what happened in 2005 and all of that stuff. Her and someone called the Doctor."
Trisha nodded. "Yeah." And then she hurried on, "You've met him, Mum. Bloke who came to the door, told Sam to clean up the graffiti he'd done."
Karen paused in thought. She stared at the telly. "Oh," she said softly. "Nice bloke."
"Yeah," Trisha said.
That night she had a bad dream. Mickey was in it- he was a ghost, the only one with a face.
"All the men in your life are ghosts!" he said. "Your dad. Your brothers. Elton Pope. And me...and, of course, the biggest ghost of them all. You don't even know that one, and he doesn't know you. Don't you wish you'd never met me? Because then you wouldn't know anything. It's horrible, bein' one of the only ones that know."
"Know what?" Trisha whispered.
"Know how much danger your world is always in. Know the pain of loss- of knowing someone chose to be without you. Of knowing so many people choose to be without other people."
Things slowed down. Trisha's father wandered past, except he wasn't quite her father really. He didn't look any different, but she knew he was, and she backed away. She, in her dreamland still, considered the word parallel.
There was a flicker of fire somewhere in the distance- London burning. Trisha wished she could wake up. She stood on a dark road in her nightdress, and monsters and people moved like shadows in the night.
Mickey wandered towards her. There was something different about him too. Something a bit scary. She felt someone grab her hand, and breathed a sigh of relief- she thought it was her mother and she was alright- but it was nothing, and she was still alone.
The road was replaced, temporarily, by a big white wall. Mickey came through it and faced her.
"Are you dead?" Trisha asked him flatly.
"Only to you," Mickey said. "I'm sorry. S'just everything has it's time...and everything ends."
"Why do I have dreams about you? Why? It's always dreams- am I being used? Is this a leftover from Bad Wolf? Those words went everywhere, and they probably were in my head, too. Right, Mickey?"
"I don't know," Mickey said, and he was holding the purple rock all of a sudden. Trisha wondered how he had taken it from her.
"But you were there," he went on. "You got yourself involved. And you're one of so very few to know- to know about the Doctor. Because to know about the Doctor is to hang about with death. That's how come Maggie's a widow, and how come Elton lost his girlfriend, and you know that! It's to see death and destruction and lose people! And you're only on the outside, and you've lost me already! Almost."
He dropped the rock. It fell on the floor and broke in two- that was a pretty final message: This Non-Relationship Is Over.
Trisha opened her eyes. She didn't sit up and didn't scream. She lay there in the darkness, and it felt like there was a ghost in her room- a different kind of ghost, a more terrifying one. And then she made herself go back to sleep.
The purple rock, perched on top of her bedside table, gleamed in the darkness.
And- because so much in life gets forgotten, particularly dreams- she almost forgot all about it.
In the morning she received another phone call, and it was Shareen.
"Guess what," she said.
"Maggie phoned me today, regarding The Elton Situation. She found out about it from Jackie. She suggested she talk to him."
"Yeah! Yeah, alright. How come she wants to, though?"
"She saw her husband," Shareen said delicately. "He was a ghost in her room."
"Oh. Oh." She sighed and sank to the floor. "Shall we go with her?"
"Yeah. Might as well. And she'll probably bring Thomas- she's kinda protective of him these days. We can all have a proper, long, enlightening conversation."
The next day they sat in Elton's living room once more, but they didn't get ginger biscuits this time. Maggie sat next to Elton, and Thomas sat next to Trisha on the other sofa, and asked her questions.
"Why'd Mickey go?" was the first thing he asked, and it made her squirm.
"'Cos...he had to," she said helplessly.
"No he didn't. No-one has to do anything."
"He wanted to stay with his grandma," Trisha said, not looking at him. She had vague recollections of an unpleasant dream.
...someone chose to be without you...
"She died, you see," she said.
Thomas was silent and sulky. "He should have stayed with us."
Trisha nodded. A small nod. She then turned her attention to Maggie and Elton, on the other side of the room.
"Tell me," Maggie was saying. That was all she was saying- tell me. Elton was looking at her in a funny way.
"No," he said.
Trisha went through to the kitchen, where Shareen was making herself a cup of coffee. She was a firm believer in helping herself to other people's things. "Having fun?" she said.
"Nah, not really," she answered. "...and I had this weird dream last night."
"Ooh. Let's hear it."
"That's the problem. Can't remember much of it. But Mickey was in it."
Shareen raised her eyebrows. "And you can't remember?"
In answer, Trisha took her purple rock out of her pocket and turned it over in her hands. "No," she said. "But it was creepy. Like I was being told stuff. Warned."
"I know what you mean," Shareen said, and poured herself out some coffee. "You know, people are supposed to actually be able to predict the future in dreams? Scientists did some research. Half the major disasters of the world, people saw them coming the night before. Earthquakes and stuff. Probably even wars."
"Yep. Learned that in a science lesson years ago. One of the few times I was paying attention. D'ya want some coffee?"
Shareen took a sip of hers. "So. Yeah. Probably nothing, let's face it."
"What'd you dream about, then?" Trisha asked.
"Shagging Johnny Depp, possibly? Something like that."
Trisha snorted, despite herself. The conversation in the next room continued, and Elton's voice got quieter.
Trisha and Shareen stood in the doorway and watched, as unobtrusively as possible.
"I can leave," Maggie said, "but I want to help you. I seriously do. 'Cos after my husband died, someone who could help me just walked in through the door, and it did me the world of good."
"Who?" Elton asked in surprise.
"Someone called Mickey Smith," Maggie said, and Trisha's throat tightened. "I thought I should return the favour, you see. So I came to you."
Elton nodded, and a second later, what had gradually become known as the Ghost Shift started. A transparent creature stepped through the wall, and stood unmoving by the sofa. Maggie had been just about to speak, but she went quiet again. There was an uncomfortable second of silence, and then Elton said, "Um...Maggie, this is Ursula," and pointed to the ghost.
Maggie just nodded, and looked sad.
"Hello, Ursula," she said.
The ghost didn't look at her- of course, it had no eyes- and it walked through to the kitchen instead. Elton sighed.
"I...don't want to tell you what happened. Alright? Not now. Maybe some other time."
"Yeah," said Maggie.
The two of them looked at each other. It was strange. Thomas shifted about on the sofa.
"Can we go home?" he asked.
"In a minute," Maggie answered. She put her hand on Elton's shoulders. "Elton? Things are gonna be alright. I know. This happened to me and it was awful, but I was alright, in the end."
Trisha smiled. And then she felt thirsty, and she went through to the kitchen to get some of the coffee. She stepped through the door, picked up a coffee cup, glanced to the right-
...there was a robot in the room. A robot in place of a ghost, looking at her.
A monster with a face.
She dropped the coffee cup and it smashed on the floor, and she screamed and screamed and screamed. She dived for the kitchen door, and found Shareen. The creature lumbered out of the kitchen. Then everything started to blur a bit- Maggie and Elton stood up, Maggie instinctively grabbed Thomas and moved him behind her-
"EVERYBODY OUT!" Elton yelled.
They raced for the door, and Trisha made the mistake of looking back. The robot was advancing, and it had a gun. A gun in its wrist.
It didn't fire at them, though- something no-one paid much heed to. Trisha felt someone grab her hand- it was Shareen. And she ran and ran and ran and looked: the robots were everywhere. Walking in the streets. Herding people up, and shooting at things.
They made it to Shareen's car. Trisha had no idea how. They all climbed in, and Shareen took the wheel (she looked terrified) and they drove like mad. The robots turned, they ran forward to catch up...they stopped.
"They stopped!" Thomas screamed. "Why've they stopped?"
Other people were getting into cars, fleeing. Trisha flung herself around and looked out of the back window. Another car, a red one, was catching up to them. Trisha could see the faces of the people inside. Behind that car were the robots, and they were catching up.
The driver of the red car looked right at her- he was petrified, almost crying- there were kids in the back seat-
One of the robots raised its arm, and fired.
Trisha gasped; didn't scream; had no voice.
The red car exploded behind them. Trisha saw the world go white- and then she heard the noise. And the noise, when it came, was terrible. A roll of thunder. An oncoming storm.
Thomas screamed at the noise, Elton covered his eyes, Shareen swirved the car away from the falling fire, and Maggie pushed her hands over her mouth. Trisha stayed still, voiceless and senseless. Flaming bits of car fell to the ground- fireballs and a piece of windscreen. Trisha couldn't look away. The face of the dead man hovered in her mind, and then vanished, and she finally forced herself to turn back around.
She could smell smoke.
"Oh my god," Maggie said, her knuckles white from holding the back of Shareen's seat. "Oh my god."
They shot through the streets of London, breaking all the speed limits. And nothing fired at them-
-nothing at all.
They arrived at the Powell Estate and it was surrounded by robots. Now there was something Trisha had never thought she'd think.
Shareen had turned on the radio. It was buzzing on and off.
"-Torchwood- bzzt - stay inside - bzzzzzzz - Cybermen."
"Cybermen," Trisha repeated. She looked outside, and saw them. They saw her. They advanced.
And stopped. Again. They weren't coming any nearer.
No-one in the car moved a muscle.
"Shall we stay in here?" Maggie whispered, but Trisha wasn't listening: she was staring up at the block of flats.
"Our families are in there. Mine and Shareen's. We need to go and get them." Her voice was high and frightened and her mind kept flashing back to Bad Wolf Day. "What can we do?"
Elton stared out of the car window. "They just don't move," he said. "They're killing everything else in the area. They shot that car. Why aren't we dead?"
Trisha turned around to look out of the back window again- and she felt her purple rock shift in her pocket. She had a thought. A frankly unbelievable thought.
She had had a dream. Mickey had been there. He had said the word almost. Almost what? She wished she could remember. She took the stone out of her pocket. It wasn't glowing. It wasn't doing anything.
"They're just standing there," Elton said. "God, it's eerie. Shall we try getting out of the car?"
Trisha turned the rock over in her hands. It was time for a leap of faith. Exactly what she didn't want to do. But maybe there was a middle ground...she wound down the window.
"No!" Elton hissed. "What're you doing?"
"It's the rock," Trisha said. "This rock. It's the only thing I can think of- the only reason they're staying back."
She leaned out of the window as far as she could, holding the rock out in front of her. One of the Cybermen turned his head, and looked, and raised his arm. Trisha almost died right then. But then it sort of froze...froze and stopped, and took a few steps backward. Didn't kill them.
Everyone in the car was watching intently, barely breathing. Shareen spoke first.
"Mickey gave that rock to you," she whispered. "It's from another planet!"
"What?" Elton asked.
"Last Christmas," Trisha told him. "Before Mickey left. He gave me a present. This was it." She inched back into the car. "This...rock."
There was a dead silence in the car. This was not a good thing, because then they heard the screaming on the air.
"What're they d-doing to people?" Thomas asked, almost in tears.
"I'm going to go and see," Trisha said, absolutely terrified. "I mean...we can't stay here, can we? Can we? S'just...I really need to find my family, and Shareen does too."
"Hold on," Elton said, staring out of the window. "Who's this Mickey? That name keeps popping up. Is he the same Mickey who runs Who Is Doctor Who?"
"Ran Who Is Doctor Who," Trisha said.
"He was Rose Tyler's boyfriend," Maggie explained. "A friend of mine- a friend of all of us. But he left with the Doctor, you see, and we never saw him again."
"Jackie mentioned him," Elton said slowly.
"Yeah. He was her friend too." Maggie slapped the side of the car. "Now. Back to business. Here's what we'll do- we'll get out of this car, and all five of us will go into the flats, sticking together, and find the others. We'll be safe. Won't we, Trisha?" she said, and leveled her gaze at her.
"Yeah," Trisha said, terrified at the responsibility she'd suddenly shouldered. "Yeah. We will."
"What if they start shooting?" Thomas moaned, his face buried in Maggie's shoulder.
"They're not shooting," Elton said. "Whatever makes them stay back, it stops them shooting. Mostly. I...guess." he finished lamely.
Shareen reached around from the driver's seat and poked the rock in Trisha's hands. "Must be something they're allergic to. Maybe? Some sort of weapon against them?" She and Trisha looked at each other: they alone in the group knew that Mickey had gone to fight something.
"I'm happy not knowing, to be honest," Maggie said. "So long as it lets us live. Let's go?"
Trisha held the rock tightly in her hand, and put her other hand on the door handle. She was very, very scared-
-and she opened the door and stepped out of the car.
She held the rock right out in front of her, and the others stumbled out of the car as well, gathering around. A Cyberman looked at them.
"Weapon detected," it said, somehow sounding slightly anxious although it spoke in a robotic voice. "Weapon detected. Weapon detected."
Trisha and the others ran. Maggie kept hold of Thomas, and Trisha and Shareen ran in front, and Elton ran alone at the back. And then a shot was fired.
Elton screamed. It was weird hearing him scream...
"It's alright!" Shareen shrieked. "It came from round the corner!" Somebody was dead, but it wasn't them. They didn't pause for thought- not even for that thought- they kept running and they weren't shot at again. They got to one of the back doors, Trisha flung it open with the hand not holding the rock-
-and there was a Cyberman there.
Before anyone had a chance to do anything it flung itself backwards. One minute it was there and about to kill them, the next it was sliding down the corridor in almost comical fashion. It smashed into a wall, and remained where it was. Too surprised to speak, the five of them ran down the corridor anyway- went right past it, and it didn't hurt them.
"Weapon detected," it said, just like the others. As it tried to get up, Trisha and the others reached the door at the end of the corridor, and went through it, slammed and locked it. There was nothing on the other side. They did not consider that Cybermen could probably smash through doors, and it was an incredible stroke of luck that they didn't really have to. On the other side of the door, it stood up- but then it stood still and there was a faint robotic babble, as if it was recieving orders. Then it went. Marched away.
Shareen had gone to the only window. "Look!" she said. "They're all going."
The others crowded around and watched, apart from Thomas, who had slid to a sitting position on the floor.
"Where're they going?" Elton asked. "Is that it?"
Trisha stared at the ground beneath the window. Ants were crawling there. Oh, to be an ant. The creaking of metal echoed in her ears.
"Maybe they came to find something?" Shareen said. "And found it? So they can leave again?"
"But what?" Maggie asked.
"Or," Elton said slowly, "the Doctor's gone and done something..."
They were interrupted by a small sob. Thomas had started to cry.
"This is the fourth time!" he shouted, looking up at all the adults. "The fourth time."
The adults looked right back at him.
"Dad died in the first one," he whispered. "Then there was the one they said was a hoax but wasn't. And then there was Christmas, and now there's this and it's never gonna stop!"
Maggie knelt down to comfort him, but Trisha kept her attention on the window. Huge groups of Cybermen were marching down the streets, and there was smoke on the horizon. But there was nothing else. They were leaving, they were leaving...
...it wasn't over.
"What do we do now?" Elton asked.
"I need to find my family," Trisha said, her voice trembling. She could hear voices now- people venturing out of their front doors- and it gladdened her, because if those people were all fine... "I know they're probably all right, but I need to check. And they don't know where I am."
"Me and Trisha can go upstairs," Shareen said, staring transfixed out of the window. "You lot- d'ya want to come? In case they come back."
"In case they come back?" Thomas wailed.
"Yes," Maggie said, standing up and taking Thomas's hand. "Best we stick together, especially considering Trisha has..." She trailed off thoughtfully. "A weapon."
Trisha turned the rock over in her hands, again. Elton reached out a finger towards it.
"Where's it from?" he asked. "Which planet?"
"Raxicoricofallapatorios," Trisha answered.
"Where?" Thomas asked, startled out of fear for a second.
"I've heard that name!" Elton whispered. "The Doctor said it. I think. You don't forget a name like that..."
"It was a present from Mickey. Rose gave it to him."
"I've met Rose..." Elton said, trailing off. "She was nice."
"I know," Shareen spoke up. "She was nice when I knew her, as well."
Things went quiet. Trisha put the rock away.
"Alright," she said, "All of us, let's go."
People were in the corridors, on the balconies, leaning out of windows, and all of them were panicked or screaming or shouting.
Trisha, Shareen, Elton and the Finches made their way through the crowds. Maggie clutched Thomas' hand, and Elton tried to clutch his other hand but Thomas yanked it away. Trisha kept her fingers clinging to the rock.
"Shareen!" someone shrieked.
It was Maria Sutton, the girl Trisha remembered from school, tears streaking down her face. "Have you seen my mum?"
"What?" Shareen answered.
"My mum! She went shopping...the phones aren't working..." She swiped at her face with her sleeve. In the midst of all the chaos, Shareen pushed her way towards her.
"Go back inside, yeah?" she said. "There's too many people here. Me and Trisha, we're looking for our own lot- I promise, Maria, everything will be alright. I swear."
"They said-" Maria was crying again. "They b-blocked the doors- th-they were saying they were going t-t-to change people."
"They didn't change anyone, Maria. I know," Shareen said. Of course she didn't know, but no-one disagreed with her. "Maria. Look at me. It'll be fine."
Trisha was desperately scanning the crowd for her family. They weren't there. Probably they were hiding upstairs? She took a deep breath, calmed herself down (oh, it took effort), and waited for Shareen. Then she saw some familiar faces: Shareen's mother, father, and sister Shania were making their way down a fire escape.
"Hey!" Trisha shouted, hard as it was to be heard above the noise. "Hey!" She waved her arms around. "She's down here! Shareen's here!"
Shareen turned and looked, and gave a little gasp of relief. Shareen's mother came flying down the fire escape, dodged past some people, and flung her arms around her.
"Oh God you're alright I was so scared...you're alright, aren't you, Shareen? I was terrified..."
"Mum! Mum, I'm alright. I was worried about you."
Maria walked inside, desperately hitting numbers on a phone that wouldn't work. Trisha sought out Elton: he was staring out over the balcony.
"All these people in one place," he said worriedly, looking at her. "I don't like it...if you want to go find your family, Trisha, I'll keep the others together..."
"Alright," Trisha said. She couldn't wait much longer, after all. "Thanks." She hurried over to Shareen, and grabbed her arm.
"Sorry! Shareen, I need to go upstairs-"
"Oh yeah," Shareen's father and sister had joined her now. She was still fending her crying mother off. "Mum, we should go with Trisha now-"
"Right! Everyone!" Maggie called, taking charge. She located Elton and grabbed his hand. "Thomas! Trisha! We need to get out of here."
Trisha was only to happy to oblige. She scrambled for the staircase. Shareen glanced around.
"Where did Maria go?"
They went up the stairs, stepping aside for the people running down. Trisha's family was just one more floor up.
"These things-" Shania was saying frantically, "they were in the house- they had guns- d'ya think they're more aliens? Oh God, maybe terrorists or something? Playing off the alien thing? Oh god, no, it wasn't, they were the ghosts, weren't they? I didn't know, I wasn't there, I just came in the room and this THING-!"
"Shania, shut up!" Shareen groaned, getting right back into the swing of things. "They're called Cybermen- it was on the radio- and they've gone now and I swear things are gonna be alright, okay?"
Elton kept glancing out of windows, running slower than the rest of them.
"Hurry up, Elton!" Maggie yelled, and she grabbed his hand again. "What're you looking out there for?"
"A blue box," Elton answered.
Trisha flung open the door at the top of the stairs. People were there too, milling about anxiously, shouting, slamming doors. She was suddenly painfully reminded of the Christmas Invasion...had they learned anything since then? Had she?
She kept her fingers round the rock, and headed for the next flight of stairs. Someone tapped her on the shoulder, and she jumped around with a gasp.
"Miss Delaney!" said a familiar voice. "Have you come to help us?"
It was Howard Martin, Jackie's former boyfriend, whom she had met during the Christmas Invasion. Now that they were all on their second invasion she was relieved to hear his voice, but...
...have you come to help us?
Trisha stared up at Howard, and Howard stared down at her. "Um," she said. "Hiya. You...alright?"
"Whatever you did last Christmas, Trisha, swearin' on the Doctor's name- you might want to try it again."
Trisha suddenly felt the urge to cry; everyone else has to save everyone else was running through her head again. Her own Bad Wolf, but a question with no answer. She held out the rock.
"Mickey gave me this," she said, brushing her face with her sleeve. "For Christmas. It- it- the Cybermen didn't come near it. It's a weapon. It saved our lives!"
"Shhh!" Howard said. "Don't talk too loud or they'll all want one." Trisha's heart sank fast: she hadn't thought of that. Oh god, would she have to try and save everyone, if the Cybermen came back? Not even the Doctor could do that, could he? Oh God. Oh god oh god oh god.
"Howard, we gotta go upstairs, me and my friends. I've gotta find my family." The tears were starting to fall. "I guess if you want protection you gotta come with me. Oh God. How do I defend the whole estate, Howard? With just this little thing? What do I do?"
"You don't," Howard answered, and he gave a small smile, the smile of a man who knew about these things. "You don't, Trisha, love."
Trisha stared. Shareen was pulling at her arm.
"Sorry about the mild obnoxiousness of that statement," Howard added.
"Trisha!" Maggie screeched, sounding just like a parent. "Come on! Up the stairs!"
Trisha grabbed Howard's hand, purely out of instinct, and Shareen's as well, and hurried over. They tore up the stairs, down the corridor, to Trisha's front door. She rang the doorbell, and then scrambled in her pocket for her keys as well. She unlocked the door, burst in-
-nobody was there.
"Mum!" she screamed. "Sam! Rob!"
Shareen wrapped her arms around her. "Trish, it's alright- they must have gone out, to find you, yeah? Or maybe they went out before the Cybermen came, either way, they're safe, I'm sure-"
Trisha shakily walked towards the kitchen, Shareen still at her side. She was not checking for bodies. She wasn't. She wasn't.
And there were none.
"Howard?" she asked, fighting the urge to be sick, "You were downstairs...you didn't see them?"
Howard shook his head. "I was cowering behind the sofa for several minutes after the Cyberwhatits left. If they were down there, I'd have missed them. But they're alive, Trisha. They must be. I swear."
Trisha looked at all of them. For some reason, her gaze fell on Elton- he was looking out of the window again.
"Elton- they're not out there, are they?"
"No. I'm sorry, Trisha," He turned away from the window to face her. "Maybe they're on the top floor, looking for you? We could go now, go and see..."
Trisha nodded, and then she reached for the phone...she knew it was pointless but it was worth a try. She dialed her mum's mobile number. Nothing. She tried a few other numbers, including her father's, and every time nothing. She took a deep breath, to prevent herself being sick, and saw Shania walk out of the room.
"Where're you going?" Shareen asked.
"To see if they're out here- where is everyone? There's no-one on this floor now, has everyone gone downstairs?"
Maggie suddenly picked up the TV remote, and switched on the TV. Everyone else in the room- a total of eight people now- turned to look.
"Worldwide emergency status has been declared. We repeat: a great many Cybermen have now gathered in the center of London, at Canary Wharf- all citizens within a five-mile radius must leave immediately-"
Maggie switched channels.
"Utter, utter chaos here in London: a huge amount of people are trying to leave by river and are being told they cannot. Authorities beg for calm-the immediate threat seems to have lessened." Even the newsreader looked terrified. "We are receiving no news from America-"
"Downstairs," Trisha said, not knowing what to do. "We gotta go downstairs."
As they raced down the corridor they could hear somebody shouting: shouts of 'the TV says everyone needs to get outside!' Trisha suddenly had an awful, awful sinking feeling.
"It's not safe outside," Elton whispered. "It can't be safe outside, can't anyone see that? If anything attacks by air, it'll see us lined up for the fucking slaughter!"
"Language," Shareen said distractedly. "I've never heard you swear." She glanced down the corridor- there were a few people at the end. Two of them were running down the stairwell already, but there was one more- a young blonde girl. She was Alex Kelly, Rob's girlfriend and Shareen's least favourite person.
"Oi!" Shareen shouted at her. "Alex! Don't go outside, yeah?"
Alex turned to her. Tears were running down her face. "But the TV-"
"Listen to me instead!"
"We don't think it's over," Maggie called. "Everyone has to get back inside, it's safer!"
Out of the corner of her eye, Trisha saw Elton go to the window. She paid this small action very little attention.
"Alright," Alex said hopelessly. She rubbed her face, streaking black mascara all over it. "Where is everyone, by the way?" Her voice broke. "Trisha? I saw your family a few minutes ago..."
"Oh my god, you did?"
"I saw them out of the window, they ran outside. Your mum and your dad and your brothers. They were looking for you- so they're alright, yeah? Are the phones working?"
"No," Trisha answered. "Thank you, Alex."
Maggie, Thomas, Shania and Shareen's parents had joined Elton at the window.
"What the hell is-" someone said.
Alex went inside and closed the door, and Trisha turned to Shareen. But Shareen had shot over to the window, as well.
"Oh God, Trisha-" Her hand clasped her arm. "Look."
Trisha went to the window. Her heart beat painfully against her chest, and her stomach hurt. She moved next to Elton-
"Look," said Elton.
She looked through the glass, over the buildings, upwards. And in the sky, there was-
-something. A whole swarm of somethings. Little black dots against blue. And as she watched in horror, there were more and more and more, like bees or flies or birds-
"...w-what are they? Elton?"
Elton said nothing. He appeared to be trying not to scream.
"The monsters," he whispered. "More monsters."
Trisha watched transfixed. Thomas started to cry.
"More monsters? What do we do now?" he asked desperately, sounding much younger than he was.
In the distance there was a blast of green light, a small explosion, sudden smoke. The swarm, still growing, started to spread out.
"The people outside," Shareen's mother murmured. "Everyone's outside..."
Trisha took the rock from her pocket.
Oh god how do I defend the whole estate
Oh god what do I do
She closed her eyes. And opened them again.
"We have this," she whispered, holding up the rock. "Will it work on them?"
No-one said anything, although Shareen's parents and sister looked slightly confused. Trisha turned her attention back to the swarm. Was it getting closer?
Closer and closer and closer.
"Where do we go?" Shania whispered.
"We can't stay inside-" Elton said, "-we can't go outside- anyone know if there's a cellar?" He was doing very well, Trisha thought. Keeping his panic in check.
"No," Shareen moaned.
An explosion shook the air, and the room went white for a second. Thomas, Shania, and Maggie let out an identical scream. Trisha ducked.
Elton looked up first.
"I," he began, and then there was another explosion, much closer. Everyone else screamed this time, and for a second Trisha couldn't see Elton, and genuinely thought he was dead. Then he stood up. The window was broken.
Shareen rose to her feet and dragged herself to the nearest door.
"Alex!" she shrieked, pounding on it. "I changed my mind!"
They made their way downstairs as one large group. Trisha (and the rock) in front, Shareen right next to her, Maggie, Thomas and the Costellos behind them, Alex next, and Elton and Howard at the back. Trisha took a moment out to consider if the two men would ever find out that they had something in common: that something being Jackie Tyler. The thought almost amused her for about five seconds.
They reached the door. They staggered out into the light, into the back of the estate-
-there wasn't anyone there, not at the moment. Trisha could hear screaming on the wind...
Alex sobbed. Shania inched forward.
"They...them things...they're killing people, aren't they..."
"Yes," Elton said, shaking all over.
"They're gonna get here soon...are they like an army?"
"They must be."
"They just want to kill us, yeah?" Howard asked, and Trisha was astounded at how calm he sounded. "They're not interested in surrender?"
"No," Elton said. "Why is everybody asking me?"
"Because," Trisha said, "you're the only one who's met the Doctor."
Elton digested this. He shook his head and clenched his fists- he looked quite different for a moment. Then he looked up- they all did, because something, high in the sky, was coming closer.
He swallowed. And, to Trisha's horror, he looked right at her.
"Are we going to die here?"
And she said, shaking,
Then something blew up. Right in front of them, on the other side of the street. Trisha would discover later that it was in fact a phone box and half a fish and chip shop. She screamed into the sudden whiteness, and flung herself to the ground. Most of the others followed suit.
And then they looked up.
What they saw, sliding out of the smoke, was an alien. The most alien alien they'd seen so far- it had no face, no arms, no legs, nothing. It had a gun, a laser and an eyestalk -closer inspection revealed it also had a plunger- and it was coated in shining gold metal. It looked thoroughly and spectacularly out of place. Wrong. Oh so very wrong.
It landed on the grass.
Time stood still.
Shareen grabbed Trisha's arm. She was being pulled away again- she heard both Alex and Shania shriek horribly- all over London people were being killed-
oh no we're not dead yet please we're not we're not we're not- you can do anything you want you're strong enough!
Trisha held the rock, faced the monster, and- in what she realised at the time was an act of staggering stupidity- ran towards it.
Someone screamed her name.
The monster froze in position- in the position of pointing a gun at her. And then, like the Cyberman before it, it flew backwards. Backwards into a wall, on its side.
Shareen came racing towards her. Trisha had rarely seen her so frantic, and her knees almost buckled. The people behind them- even Elton- were going in all directions, racing for shelter. Above them, the sky was turning black.
The monster righted itself, and flew upwards.
"WE ARE THE DALEKS," it said, in a barking robotic voice. "YOU WILL BE EXTERMINATED."
In what was quite possibly her finest hour, Trisha thrust the rock at the sky.
Had she done this one second later they all would be dead, because a second Dalek was in the air and ready to fire at them. But on its shields and guns meeting the invisible and immensely clever force-field of the rock, they switched themselves off. As did the anti-gravity system. It fell from the sky.
It landed on top of the first Dalek. This may have been pure coincidence, or possibly it arose from the first Dalek hurrying forward in its zeal to destroy all humans, or possibly it was a sneaky trick the Universe decided to pull, to help out a terrified bunch of near-hopeless ape descendants. Either way-
Trisha jammed shut her eyes, saw the whiteness, heard the noise, felt the heat, and opened her eyes again. There appeared to be a tremendous amount of dust in the air all of a sudden.
She was not dead. Nor were the others.
"Oh my god," she said, her senses suddenly not taking in very much, "Oh my god."
But it wasn't over, of course. They were still in the sky, millions of them. London was under attack, and she knew she couldn't save London and certainly couldn't save the world. Her head spun. Shareen caught her before she fell.
"Anti-metal," she whispered.
The pair of them struggled to right themselves. Another Dalek came shooting towards them, and found itself turned off its path and sent crashing to the ground. Shareen held Trisha's hand and they ran back to the others, back to shelter, the world in flames around them.
"Anti-metal!" Shareen shrieked hysterically, as Trisha held the rock to the sky once more. "ANTI-METAL! THEM THINGS, THEY'RE MADE OF METAL!"
"Oh," Trisha said weakly.
"ANTI-METAL! I WILL NEVER REPEAT THIS EVER, BUT MICKEY SMITH WAS A FUCKING GENIUS!"
Trisha nodded, and curled her fingers tighter around the rock. She felt arms guiding her towards a wall, and she felt herself being crushed in a hug.
"Trish?" said Shareen, sounding sane again, "You saved our lives. Thank you."
Trisha felt her old self coming back. Not her old old self, just her old self. The one who had, along with several others, survived three alien invasions and one Bad Wolf already. She leaned against the wall.
"I...oh my god...there is just no way I did that." Her voice sounded alien in her ears.
"Well done," said Howard, making her jump. She hadn't noticed him. She looked around: Maggie and Thomas were there, Shareen's family was still standing off to the side, Elton was leaning against the estate's one garden shed, Alex was staring up at the sky. Trisha counted: ten people. Ten people she had to keep safe. What should she do first?
"Everyone get together in a group!" she called. Everybody did, even Alex. They huddled up next to the shed, and most of them kept their eyes on the sky. Elton shifted himself in front of Maggie and Thomas.
"They can still blow up the building," he said. "They can kill everything, just not us. What're we going to do?"
Trisha considered the situation best she could. Everyone in the building was still vulnerable, and she could absolutely not handle the thought of seeing the whole estate and everyone inside it go up in flames. And, of course, there was still the fact that her family was nowhere to be seen.
Shareen's mother, who had handled things rather well so far, slid to the ground and started crying. She had reached her breaking point, and Trisha wondered why she hadn't reached hers.
Shareen tried to comfort her mother. Trisha waited. It occurred to her for the first time that Jackie lived here too- obviously- and she hadn't seen Jackie yet. So she must be with the Doctor. With the Doctor and Rose and Mickey, finding a way to save them. Probably.
A Dalek came flying into view. The air went thick with screams-
-and then it swerved to the left as if caught by a blast of wind, and fell out of sight. For almost a second there was a glorious silence, and then the noise began again. Trisha spun her thoughts in her mind and went over the fact that she would not be able to leave this garden: if she did she condemned everyone to death. Unless she left the rock where it was. Then she condemned herself to death.
Alex Kelly gave another scream. Trisha looked up. A Dalek was hovering halfway up the building. It wasn't doing anything- it couldn't use its gun- but it began to speak. The angry robotic babble echoed out from all around.
"WE DEMAND YOUR SURRENDER. GIVE UP YOUR WEAPONS."
"We haven't got any weapons, you stupid flying dustbin!" bellowed a voice, and Trisha realised it was Howard. She thought that might not be such a good idea: the score did after all stand at Humans: 2, Daleks: something around one million and still counting. They weren't even close to being out of danger and oh god her family might be dead. She swallowed. And kept her eyes on the eyestalk: the nearest alternative to staring at it.
"THIS PLANET BELONGS TO US NOW." It stopped just short of saying RESISTANCE IS FUTILE. Trisha clenched her fists. She stood with the others- with Shareen and Maggie and Thomas and Howard- and then realised Elton wasn't there. She searched for him urgently-
-Elton had climbed onto the roof of the shed.
Trisha's heart leapt into her mouth.
"Elton!" Maggie screamed.
Elton stood up. He blinked. It was dark now: too much smoke and the sun behind a cloud.
"YOU ARE THEIR LEADER?" the Dalek questioned. Two other Daleks had flown up behind it. "SURRENDER YOUR WEAPONS."
"No," Elton said.
"WE DETECT AN ORGANIC TRANSMITTER. DESTROY IT."
"WE DEMAND YOUR SURRENDER!"
"Maybe we should?" Alex said in a quiet moan. No-one paid her any attention.
"No," Elton said once more. "And you know why?"
The Daleks said nothing.
"Because somebody is coming to destroy you." Elton said. "The daddy of them all," he went on, and Trisha felt a chill go down her spine. "He's going to kill every last one of you. The Doctor. You know him, don't you?"
The Dalek did nothing. It seemed like something had taken Elton's place, though. For a minute he reminded Trisha of a boy she used to know: one who had gone off to become a hero in a distant land.
And for one split second, everything was silent.
"THE DOCTOR IS DEAD," the Dalek said. "HE CAN DO NOTHING."
It took Elton maybe a second to fully comprehend that- and it had a profound effect on him. He shook his head, stepped backwards- he almost crumpled before Trisha's eyes. He wasn't even the only one- Maggie gave a little gasp and clutched Thomas to her, and Shareen's parents restarted their panicked whispering. It was as if they were a very small army being told their general was slain.
"Is that it then?" whispered Alex. "What will they do to us?"
Trisha was not listening: her mind was somewhere else. The image of the rock falling and breaking in two was turning round and round and round in her mind.
"Bad wolf," she whispered. Nothing happened, and nobody said "What?"
"YOUR WORLD HAS FALLEN TO US." the Dalek said. But Elton was straightening up again now.
"Right. Come and get us," he said.
It was then that Trisha looked past Elton, past the Dalek, to the road just beyond the Estate. Dust was visible in the air.
"Come and get us!" Elton screamed.
There was somone on the road. A woman. A plump woman with brown hair. It wasn't...oh god, no, it couldn't be, not now no...it was her mother, and as Trisha watched in horror, her father and brothers joined her there.
"No!" she screamed, but her voice was lost as Elton screamed his challenge once more. "NO!"
Her mother had seen her, and she started to run.
Time didn't slow down, not this time.
One of the Daleks jerked its eyestalk up and veered off towards the road. Trisha screamed then; it was the worst moment of her life.
The rock almost slid from her fingers.
Her father looked up and saw her. Saw her and saw what was coming-he dived to the ground, pulling Karen, Sam and Rob down with him. The Dalek swung overhead, and Trisha closed her eyes and covered her face and screamed-
-and it didn't fire. They didn't die.
All was silent for a second. Elton was still on the shed...and a horrified expression slowly spread over his face.
"Oh no," he said. "Oh no."
"LOWER THE FORCEFIELD AND SURRENDER," the first Dalek said, its eyestalk directly facing Trisha. "OR WE WILL KILL THEM ALL."
A long time ago, when Mickey Smith was still on Earth, Trisha had thought about something. She had stood out on a balcony and thought:
Who's going to turn up and say This is your choice, and it might not be easy but at least you know what the right and wrong options are? The Doctor did for Rose...I doubt anyone will for me.
It was now a year later: she had twice played a tiny tiny part in the saving of the world. Or the saving of people, at any rate. It was as the words OR WE WILL KILL THEM ALL echoed in her ears that she knew the answer to her question- there was rarely any such choice where you knew for certain what the right and wrong options were.
And as for the second thing? Somebody had.
Her family stood on the road, Elton stood on the shed, and Shareen stood next to her. Trisha swallowed, and looked up at Elton. He seemed petrified. And she was as well.
It was Thomas who said, in a choked voice, "What happens if we surrender?" But the Dalek didn't answer, if it even heard him. Hell, it wasn't like it had ears. It just swiveled its gun around, pointing first right at them and then at the people on the road.
"Trisha?" Elton whispered. But she wasn't listening; was barely even there. She was staring at the wall to the right of them: it was caked in crude graffiti and decaying posters, but written across one of the posters was two words. BAD WOLF in bright electric blue.
Her message. From who? Send a message and receive one in return. BAD WOLF could mean anything. Go back. Or stay.
(Oh no, Trisha, you can do it! You can do anything you want, you're strong enough!)
And it had...christ, she'd dreamt about this...was it in her head? Was she being told what to do, was she someone's puppet? But why would a puppeteer spare a thought for Trisha's helpless family? Was Bad Wolf's little legacy in Shareen's head too, was it in Sam's, would she ever even know what had happened? Had Rose Tyler reached through time and space to help her? Had Mickey?
(this non-relationship is over.)
Her thoughts were finished soon as they begun: she, unlike Rose, had no time. She thought about that stupid dream and then she looked down at the rock in her hands. There was no reason why it should cease to be what it was just because she broke it. A stone split in two was still stone.
(this non-relationship is over!)
And people were broken all the time, and...
"NOBODY IS COMING TO SAVE YOU," the Dalek said. It had only been two seconds since it'd spoken last.
"No," Trisha said, "they've given us a way to save ourselves."
She dropped it.
Trisha snatched one of the pieces from the ground, and threw it to her father. She missed completely, and so it was her mother who flung herself into its path and snatched it from the air. And then she held it, uncertain and still panicked.
"They can't shoot you now!" Trisha shrieked, and her throat hurt. "Or us."
The Dalek swiveled round once more and advanced on them. It wouldn't be able to get to them, but Trisha dived to pick the other piece from the floor- to lift it to the sky again and turn the anti-gravity off- but someone got there first. Alex Kelly had snatched the rock, and she flung her hand to the air. There was an awful, indescribable expression on her face.
"Go to hell," she said.
The Dalek fell to the ground and landed with a crunch. It seemed to happen in slow-motion: Trisha would always remember that moment as being long. The creature's silver gun rolled towards her feet. She stepped backwards.
Alex stared around giddily and remained where she was, swaying slightly. She almost fell forwards on her face, but Shareen darted forwards and caught her. The Dalek didn't move, its lights weren't even on.
Trisha looked up, and then somebody charged into her and almost knocked her over.
"Sweetheart!" her mother sobbed, hugging her around the neck. "Oh god, sweetheart, you're alright!"
Sam was crying too. Looking much younger than his fourteen years, he hugged her legs, terror still in his eyes. Trisha hugged back best she could: she wanted to faint. Alex quietly handed the rock back to her. She had gone white.
"Look!" Shania yelled.
They all whipped around. The broken Dalek on the ground was gone.
"It just sort of- flew away," Shania said, twisting her hands nervously about. She looked at them all.
Slowly, Shareen stared upward.
"The fuck?" she said.
One by one, they all looked up. Alex struggled to stand properly.
The Daleks, the remaining ones, were shooting from the sky and through the streets. They were whirring and fizzing and whipping their guns around, but they weren't in control. They were helpless- some force of nature had got a hold over them-
"Get down!" Shareen's mother screamed.
No-one had a word of argument. They hit the floor. Trisha caught a glimpse of the sky before she went down, and it was turning pitch black. The whole army was falling onto them, and she couldn't even hear herself breathe.
"What the fuck is going on?" someone screamed. It might have been Rob. Trisha looked up- her father was still standing. He was in a daze, staring at the nearest wall. Unthinkingly, Trisha jumped up again and forced him down with her. She did it just in time- as she and her father fell to the ground, a Dalek plummeted down to the place Roger had been standing. It would have taken his head off.
London was a vortex. Someone was holding her hands. Her mother? Shareen? One of her brothers?
Where were the others? Were they okay?
"Maggie?" she heard Elton shout. "Thank you!"
After that she heard nothing but the sound of a million monsters zooming past her- she felt it as they shot overhead. She was terrified that she or the others would be hit, and she held Shareen's hand (if indeed it was hers) as tight as she could.
She seemed to live out half a lifetime there on the ground. But slowly- very slowly- the noise lessened. And then it stopped.
Trisha didn't stand up. Her eyes were closed. When she opened them, the first thing she saw was her father, and he helped her up. He looked her in the eyes for a few seconds and then he was sick, and nobody batted an eyelid.
Gradually, everybody stood up, and they waited. The world was not silent, not even in Trisha's head- sirens echoed in from far away, and high-pitched human voices from the flats.
They were alive.
Deux ex machina. That was what it called. Or dea ex machina. God from the machine.
They walked. Trisha threw her piece of rock from one hand to the other. No-one was saying much. They entered the flat and climbed the stairs, climbed until they reached Howard's place. It was the nearest. Half the party stood ineffectually in the doorway.
"I want my mum," Alex said tonelessly. "I want my mum and I want Lloyd."
"Where did Lloyd go, honey?" Rob asked her, in a voice Trisha had never heard him use before.
"I dunno. Just out. Mum went to work." She was crying now, the tears falling down onto tangled locks of hair. "I don't know where they are! And the phones aren't working."
Nothing to do except wait, Trisha thought. The god from the machine didn't stick around to fix phone lines. She wanted to cry herself, but kept it in. Howard turned on the TV. Nothing. Then he tried the radio, and they got short static bursts with words between them.
"Torchwood," said the radio. "Torchwood Tower-"
And then it flickered off. They stood around in silence.
"We'd better...be getting back?" Shareen's mother finally spoke up. "If...if nothing more is coming..."
"I'd like to stay with Trisha if that's okay," Shareen said. She was staring into the middle distance, not looking at anybody. "Yeah?"
"We'll stay here then," Shania said. She too looked as though the truth of the situation was only just starting to dawn. She sat on the sofa, then got up and stared out of the window. Howard started to quietly take food from his cupboards and make a fruit salad.
Nobody could stomach any food, though. Roger was sick again, in Howard's bathroom this time. Maggie sat with Thomas. Alex cried, and Rob held her. It stayed like that for half a hour.
Elton sat down next to Trisha and Shareen.
"Torchwood," he whispered. "I read up about Torchwood."
Both girls figured there was something major coming. "Yeah?" Shareen whispered back. No-one was raising their voice. "What about it?"
"I know how it started," Elton said. "It's an interesting story."
"Let's hear it," Trisha said, shivering.
Elton leaned towards her. "Well, y'see...once upon a time, in Scotland...there was a bad wolf."
He glanced at Trisha. She bit her lip and did nothing.
"A bad wolf?" Shareen said. "Like...what? A werewolf?"
"Yeah. A werewolf. At least that's what the legends say. A werewolf at the Torchwood Estate. They also make mention of a visiting Doctor," Elton went on, "and he might have had some wild girl with him. They were banished from the Empire. Queen Vic didn't think too much of them...I guess. Even though I think they saved her from the werewolf. And she set up Torchwood to fight aliens, like them."
He finished there. Trisha tried to sort it all out, but Shareen did it quicker.
"Did Torchwood...what do they have to do with what happened today?" Her voice quivered. "I heard that name on the radio and stuff. Who are they? Do you know, Elton?"
"Sort of," Elton said. "If we heard about them on the radio today- they must have had something to do with it. People say- I honestly dunno about this one- people say Torchwood set up base in Canary Wharf. And that was where the Cybermen went, remember?"
Trisha choked, "So..."
"Did the Doctor do this?" someone said. Trisha looked up, and Thomas Finch, who was barely older than her little brother, was standing up with hatred in his eyes. "Did he do this? Did he g-get Torchwood started a-a-and they brought the monsters and he did it?" His fists were clenched and he was shaking. Maggie pulled at his t-shirt. She looked very tired.
"Come on, Thomas. Sit down."
"The bad wolf," Trisha breathed.
"The bad wolf started this. And it's written on the walls right across London!"
There was silence. Most people in the room looked confused, but slowly all eyes went to Elton.
"I dunno how much of that is true," he admitted. "It came from lots of different sources. Ursula and my mates, they told me some of that stuff...I dunno."
"Sounds plausible to me," Howard said.
"Lloyd's dead," Alex sobbed. There was no proof of that yet, but she clearly was not optimistic. "Oh god, they're all dead!"
Suddenly it wasn't quiet anymore- there was more noise in the room than Trisha could stand.
"He's not dead," Rob said fiercely. "I swear, Alex! They're all alright."
"But Bad Wolf was something to do with Rose," Shareen said. "Oh Christ, it's time travel again, isn't it? It's so fucked up."
"Time travel?" Shania asked.
Trisha left the room, went to the window, and stared out. People were started to gather outside the flats. There was a blonde boy walking forwards, but he wasn't close enough for Trisha to see him properly.
"He didn't do it on purpose," Elton murmured. "If that's even how it happened."
Alex sobbed, burying her face in Rob's shoulder.
"Well, very few people would do something like that on purpose," Howard said.
"Who's the Doctor?" Shareen's father said timidly.
"Can I explain later?" Shareen said.
"Alex!" Trisha yelled.
Alex shot to the window. "What? Is Lloyd out there? My mum?" She pushed her face to the glass, leaving her tears smeared across it. "Are they alright?"
"There's Lloyd," Trisha said. "Please tell me that's him."
Alex let out a little shriek. She raced to the door, flung it open, and tore down the corridor. Trisha ran after her, not knowing what to do, and Shareen and most of the others followed on. They ran down all the stairs, through the back door and outside into the cold air. Lloyd was sitting on a wall, staring at his mobile phone.
"Lloyd!" Alex shouted.
He looked up and saw her. He jumped to his feet instantly.
"Alex! Oh God, Alex!"
They crushed each other in a hug, both of them crying but Alex more. Trisha looked and saw Elton behind her, a sad smile on his face.
"What about Mum?" Alex asked, when her brother let her go. "Have you seen her?"
Lloyd shook his head.
Trisha started to cry then. She couldn't help it- the emotions she'd forced down were fighting their way through her. She took Alex's hand. She could do nothing else.
Alex and Lloyd slept at Howard's place, neither wanting to return to their dark and empty flat. Rob stayed with Alex there. Everyone else took refuge with the Delaneys, not wanting to venture out until morning at least. Roger had no objections to any of this, and Trisha was surprised but somewhat grateful.
It was precisely 11: 27 (the time was flickering red on the clock radio) when Trisha, cradling a cup of coffee and sitting next to Shareen, heard Maggie's voice from the dark of the living room.
"Elton? I have a question."
All the others, in their various positions around the flat, glanced up at this, possibly thinking another revelation was on its way.
"Yeah?" Elton said. He swallowed, as if he'd been expecting this all evening. "What question?"
"What happened to Ursula?"
It was a tremendously dramatic question- although diminished by the fact that the day's drama quota had been thoroughly fulfilled already- but to his credit, Elton didn't give a dramatic answer, I killed her or anything in that vein. He looked Maggie in the eye and said, "Are you sure you want to hear about it?"
"Yes," Maggie said, almost before he'd finished speaking.
Elton glanced around at his audience- everybody in the room- and swallowed again and said, "Well, you know what happened to her first." A few people in the room nodded. Trisha made a mental note to try and explain all this to the others once things had calmed down.
"And we were alright for a while, we honestly were," Elton said. "We were normal as things could get under the circumstances. She was still Ursula. But, you know...slowly over time, we started to argue about things. Maybe we'd have done that anyway. Maybe everyone does that." He glanced at the floor, and out of the corner of her eye Trisha saw her mother glance at the floor as well. "Yeah. Just little arguments, but they got worse and worse. She...she started telling me she felt like just my possession, or a...a s-s-sex toy, and I didn't know what to do!" He looked right at Maggie again. "I suppose that would have to have happened, wouldn't it?" He blinked furiously. "You can have magic wands and clever solutions but you can't change how people feel. And that was how she felt. Hell, if I was the one stuck in a bit of rock I'd probably have felt the same, but it wasn't me it happened to," He lifted his hand to his face to check for tears. "So we fought. A bit. Sometimes. And it got worse, and she'd start saying she wished all of us had just let her die, and...and one day I snapped back at her. I can't remember what I said..." But his eyes showed plainly that he could, and that what he had said had been nasty. "But it wasn't...good. I said if she felt like that, if she felt like rejecting her second chance why didn't she do it-" A short pause. "And she did."
Everyone was quiet. No-one demanded a better explanation, or even spoke their own opinion out loud. Elton was staring at Maggie intently: it was like they were the only ones in the room.
Maggie said simply, "Oh."
"How did she do it?" Thomas said. His eyes were wide. "I mean...how?"
Elton gave a sad little shrug. "I don't know. But I don't see why she wouldn't be able to, if she wanted. Technically half of her was already dead- the heart wasn't there. That was plain magic keeping her alive, and you can reject magic whenever you like."
There was an almost-silence this time. Trisha became aware of the noises outside: sirens and alarms. The day wasn't over, and it sure as hell wasn't going to be alright in the morning. She slurped her coffee.
"We all have our rocks," Elton said. Trisha thought that was directed at her, but she didn't know what it meant, and she figured he didn't know either.
"It wasn't your fault," Maggie said. She was blinking back tears herself. "You didn't know that would happen."
Maggie said nothing after that. She just looked at him, and Trisha purposely stared at the floor instead: this was a private moment. Then Maggie sighed, and took Elton's hand, and led him to the kitchen for some tea.
The next day on Earth the buses did not run, the telephones did not ring, the newspapers were not printed, and people were sobbing in the streets.
Trisha and Shareen sat on a burnt wall around the back of the estate. They couldn't talk about the hideous clean-up operation going on around them, so instead they talked about the man who had ensured they survived the destruction. Even if he probably hadn't know he was doing any ensuring.
"Last proper face-to-face conversation we ever had," Trisha said, "he said have a good life. Those exact words."
"Those exact words." Trisha repeated. She stared off down the street and didn't know whether to smile or burst into furious tears. "So..." She blinked. "So." And then she really did burst into tears. Shareen put her arm around her, and she cried and cried and cried.
"Sorry," she whispered.
Shareen shrugged. "Hey. Entire world in pieces, dead bodies everywhere, man you love transported to alternate, unreachable universe- who can blame ya?" And then she cried a little too, almost certainly thinking of her own family- she hadn't been able to reach her aunt or young cousin, and was scared for them. Trisha squeezed her hand and blinked her own tears away.
"He's not the man I love," she said. "Had to stop before someone got their heart broken." She sniffed loudly and rubbed her nose. "So right now I just want to be happy. And I want Maggie to be with Elton and be happy, and I want you to be happy and rich too 'cos you deserve it, and I want Jackie and Mickey and Rose to be happy wherever the hell they ended up." She sniffled. "Do you suppose there's even the slightest chance I might get what I want? Cos if so I'll carry on, and wish everyone back to life!" She put her head in her hands and sobbed, again. For about half a minute all she knew were tears, and then she looked up.
Shareen looked back at her. "Mickey and Jackie will be alright. They've got each other and I know they've got Rose," she said determinedly. "And Maggie probably will start seeing Elton once she's won Thomas over and they'll live together and be just fine. And you're gonna be fine too- you'll get older, get married and get stupidly rich. And have a big expensive house, and I'll come live in it and use your swimming pool and sauna." She grinned through her tears. "So there you go."
"Hey," Shareen said sadly. "Like my mum says sometimes- the earth will turn. Things will be alright again. Hell, Rose went off time-travelling...she must have seen the future. And I bet it's alright, Trish. It has to be alright."
The next week passed like it was the last week on Earth. Statements were made on television, flowers were laid on doorsteps, some of the dead were buried and the whole world watched the skies. Trisha too was afraid, afraid and very sad. Alex's mother was dead. So was Maria's mother. Shareen's aunt was dead and her cousin in hospital. Everywhere she turned there was another horror, and a man she'd never met now haunted her dreams.
Did he do this? Did he g-get Torchwood started a-a-and they brought the monsters and he did it?
She never saw his face.
She woke up crying almost every night, and so did both her brothers. Sam was still too young to be all that ashamed of crying. Rob was different: he'd smash at the walls and break things, tears streaking down his face.
Eight and a half days after what had happened happened, Trisha met her friends and family at the local park- the park with BAD WOLF scrawled across the walls, the park near which Rose's father had died. The park where the Powell Estate Memorial was being held. It had been Karen's idea.
Seats were laid out across the concrete, flowers and candles placed on the ground. Spare seats were at the back. It was quite cold.
"I have a speech," Shareen said. She was wearing all black. Trisha was in her own black dress; it was a little too big for her now.
"I thought you didn't like funerals," Trisha said sadly.
"I don't," Shareen answered. "Nobody does. But I don't want to stay quiet, not for this one."
Karen spoke first, welcoming everyone. She looked tired, but she was all dressed up in new clothes and seemed fiercely determined to see this through. Trisha applauded her wildly once she was done. And then Shareen stood up.
She looked at them all; at Trisha and Maggie and Thomas and Elton. She took a deep breath.
"The world's a strange place," Shareen said. "Right now it feels like it'll stay cold forever." She stared out past the audience, and Trisha knew she was looking at the Bad Wolf on the wall. "And people are strange as well. I mean, we survived. The worst thing to ever happen, and we're still here."
Trisha still kept the pieces of rock in her pocket even now. She took one out and held it.
"I feel so weird doing this," Shareen said. "Like I'm just saying stuff everyone already knows. We should fight," she said, strength in her voice now, "but not the normal way, not guns and bombs and fire. Not now. We can fight by gettin' on with things, by doing what we did before- go to the pub, go shopping with mates, watch telly, eat chips. And not hate." Thomas Finch shifted in his seat just a little: Shareen didn't see him but Trisha did. "Them things that came here were all hate. We're not like them. We're gonna remember what happened here- and we're gonna remember everyone, they're not just The Victims, they were parents and siblings and friends!- we're gonna remember it all. We've got our cold little world and it's defended. It can be defended by us now. We fight."
Mad applause. Trisha clapped wildly, although she was shivering in the cold. Alex Kelly clapped only a little; she was crying. Shareen took her seat again.
Trisha looked at the Bad Wolf on the wall. It would never end, she realised, not really. There would be more invasions, more death, more ends of the world. There would always be other people who walked the streets during alien invasions, who met unexpected people in unexpected places, who did their research and found the answers and tried just so damn hard.
She was thinking of Mickey as she thought about that, but she also thought of herself, and Shareen, and Elton, and Jackie. And even of Rose Tyler- she was surely one of them, at the end.
Later that day- the evening- Trisha climbed the stairs of the Powell Estate. She came to a door, and held her breath, and knocked.
The door opened. "Hello," came a sad voice. "Hey there, Trisha."
"Alex?" Trisha said. "I got something for you."
Alex leaned her head against the doorframe. Trisha reached into her pocket and took out one of the bits of rock. She took Alex's hand, and dropped it into her palm.
"Oh," said Alex. She held it up to the light and looked at it. "I, um...thanks."
"You're welcome," Trisha answered. Before there was an awkward silence, she said, "Is Lloyd in? How is he?"
"He's asleep," she said. She rubbed her eyes. "I should be, too. Thank you, Trisha," But she looked like she had something else to say, and she blurted it out. "When the monsters went away...flew away across the ground...I didn't do that, did I?"
It was a perfectly natural thing for her to think. "No," Trisha said. "That was someone else. But you were really brave, yeah? You honestly were."
Alex sniffed, and blew her nose on a ragged bit of tissue from her pocket. "I...oh god...I wasn't."
"All this stuff happening right under my nose, and I didn't know! All that stuff before...monsters and aliens!" Alex rubbed her eyes again. "Trisha, I don't know what to do anymore!" And she started to cry. Trisha rummaged in her pocket for a clean tissue.
"Here," she said.
Alex cried into her hands, although she was also still holding the rock. "We've been left all alone," she said. Trisha didn't know if she meant her and Lloyd, or the entire planet. "We're all alone..."
"You are not," Trisha said fiercely. She put her hands on Alex's shoulders. "Come with me. I've got a website to show you."
Alex saw the website, and Lloyd saw the website, and Shareen's family saw the website. It was passed slowly around everyone, half the estate and beyond, people telling each other this is what happened, now you know what you need to.
Rob saw it and he got up, walked away, and stared out of the window. Trisha's dad saw it, and he gave her a horrifed look. The following day he and Karen had an argument- they had been on the verge of one all week- and he left the flat and left the building and didn't look at her even once.
But he did speak to her, speak to her while staring at the wall, Thank you for saving my life. She'd almost forgotten about that.
And then he was gone. But the others were still there.
Trisha went to Mickey's flat.
Shareen, Maggie, Thomas and Elton went with her.
"This is sort of eerie," Elton said, "Like going through a dead man's room."
Trisha turned on the computer, and she was quite sure she wasn't wrong in doing so. She went through the files...there was an MSN conversation with someone called DeffreyVale1, rough copies of the website updates, some photographs of Rose and Jackie...and that was it.
"Why are we here?" Thomas asked.
"Information," said Shareen. "That's all."
And Trisha saw it then.
Past the computer, sitting on a pile of blank paper, was a disk. A small blue disk. She reached out to pick it up. She knew exactly what it was.
It could change the world. Although no more than it had already been changed.
"Oh," Maggie said, "that isn't..."
Trisha held it up.
"Oh my god," Maggie said.
Everyone in the room looked at it. Trisha looked around the room. The video camera she had given Mickey for Christmas was propped up next to the computer.
"The virus," she said. She flipped it over in her hands.
"The Doctor gave Mickey a virus," Maggie explained to Elton, "and he said Mickey should use it to wipe all mention of him off the Internet, to stop people finding him and getting into trouble."
Elton stared. He reached out for it. "Like...what I did?"
"Like what you did," Maggie said quietly.
"So you mean," Shareen spoke up, "that if we put that thing on the Internet now, no-one would ever hear about him again? No-one would..."
"No-one would be able to find him," Elton whispered. "If Mickey'd used that thing soon as he got it, I wouldn't have met Ursula. Wouldn't have met any of my mates."
"You mean..." Trisha began.
"And," Elton said, "we wouldn't have been tracked down and murdered by something looking for the Doctor." He seemed very far away.
"What should we do, Elton?" Shareen asked.
"You're asking me?"
"You saw it all," Maggie said. "You saw the woman you loved killed and brought back to life again, you nearly died yourself...it all happened to you. So I suppose...was it worth it, Elton? Is the Doctor worth the monsters?"
Elton's face paled.
Trisha looked at her reflection in the disk. Her own eyes, that had seen so much, stared back at her.
If he'd used the virus soon as he got it...
What would she have shown to Alex then? And going right back to the beginning, would she have even met Mickey on the dustbin that night, if he'd gone inside to use the virus? If not for that one chance meeting, she would not have a good life and a best friend. She would not have gone to college. She would not have written Bad Wolf on the walls across London.
She might not even be alive.
Or would she?
The puppeteer again. Her hand hovered over Mickey's disk drive. All it would take would be a click of the mouse. Just that one little thing, but the war would still have happened.
"Elton?" said Maggie.
"I don't know," Elton said. "You know the phrase 'Salvation and damnation are the same thing.'?"
"Yeah," Trisha said.
"Well, there you go. I don't know. Never will, perhaps."
Trisha clicked the mouse. She went into some different files, hoping for a message. A message from Mickey that said The virus is yours, and here's what you should do. But there was nothing; the decision was hers.
Mickey's last gift to her.
"Trish?" Shareen said. "You found it. You choose."
"You can use it," said Thomas.
"Or," Maggie said, "you can break it."
Trisha took the rock from her pocket. If she brought that down onto the disk, it would smash into a million pieces.
"What about Rose and Jackie and Mickey?" she said quietly. "If I knew what happened to them, if I knew they were alright, this would be easier."
But of course she didn't know. Didn't know for certain. And she most likely never would.
She'd seen both love and monsters. Never seen the Doctor, though. She knew what he was...but not who he was. That seemed like something she should keep in mind. Rose Tyler had loved him. Maybe even Mickey had.
Elton said, "He changes people,"
Trisha put the rock back into her pocket. Then she lifted the disk, and looked at it for a second. But she didn't break it, and she didn't put it in the disk drive either: she slid it into her pocket with the rock.
"I don't have the right," she said, "Not for something this important."
"Then who does?" Shareen asked.
"I don't know."
It went deathly quiet, apart from the footsteps of people in the flats upstairs. Shareen went to the kitchen to get herself some coffee.
"Don't do anything," she said. "Leave it how it is. Seems to be the best option."
"Yeah," Trisha answered. She felt strange. Like she held the Doctor's fate in her hands, although of course she didn't and nobody did. "Yeah," She took it out and looked at it again. Her choice, and she'd chosen not to make it. Again.
"So," Thomas spoke up quietly, "he's worth the monsters then? He's worth nearly dying for? He's worth this?" He flung his hand at the window: it opened out onto the ruins of their city.
"We don't know anything for certain," Elton said calmly. "We don't know the chain of events that led to this, and I suppose we never will." He sighed. "Like I said..."
"Did my dad die," Thomas said fiercely, "just so the Doctor could meet some nice blonde girl?"
They all fell silent at that, and Trisha didn't know what to say or where to look. So she looked out of the window, and saw the scaffolding around the buildings and neat piles of bricks on the ground. And the people walking about. They were starting to rebuild.
"Maybe they're one and the same thing," she said. "The Doctor is the monsters. And the other way around. Salvation and damnation, like you said, Elton. Both things in one."
Elton nodded, and so did Shareen, and Maggie and even Thomas. Trisha looked at them all, and she put the disk back in her pocket. She carefully shut down the computer, waited for Shareen to take her last sip of coffee, and stood up.
"Let's go," she said.
They left the room. Trisha left last, and stood in the doorway, and looked around. There was a picture on the wall just opposite her: Mickey on a beach with his arms around Jackie and Rose. She looked at it.
"Thank you," she said. "Have a good life."
She closed the door behind her, stood on the other side of the wall, took a deep breath, and walked off with the others.
Once upon a time, four people gathered round in a place called Bad Wolf Bay. Only one of them, however, had heard any sort of goodbye.
Rose cried. Mickey looked at her, and considered the exact same question his old friends from another universe had considered.
"Rose," he said, "It'll be alright."
She seemed to barely hear him. She didn't say a word. Mickey thought of cities falling, of people dying in front of him, of saving people's lives. Thought of love and monsters.
"It's not the end of the world," he said in a whisper. But only Jackie looked at him.
Rose slowly started to calm down. She rubbed her eyes. A long time seemed to pass.
"Rose," Jackie said, "You said the Doctor showed you a better way of living your life. Remember, love? Remember all that? How you don't just give up? Don't forget it now, sweetheart."
It seemed to work. Rose stared at the sea, and then at her parents, and she wiped her face.
"I guess," she said shakily. "He would want...you'd want...it'll be alright." She blew her nose loudly on a tissue Jackie gave her. "Let's go home." She looked at Mickey then. "Mickey?"
Mickey was staring out to sea, head bowed, lost in thought.
Was the Doctor worth the monsters? That wasn't the only question. Was winning back everything he'd ever lost worth a year of loss and anger? He thought the answer was yes. And for Jackie: was gaining back a husband worth almost losing her daughter? And as for Rose...
He looked at her.
"Let's go," she said, wiping her face.
Mickey would not have a chance to ask the girl whose life he'd changed, the girl who wasn't Rose, what she thought. If he had, she would have answered that nothing was worth the deaths of a million people. But for me alone? she would have said, I think knowing you in the first place was worth having to lose you.
Mickey turned away from the sea. Rose Tyler smiled at him. A sad smile.
"Let's go," she said. "Defendin' the Earth."
And she took his hand.