"I'm going out, be back in a bit." The Doctor adjusted his waistcoat. "Keep an eye on things, dear."
"Not this time," River called from the kitchen. "I'm coming with you. "
"I'll be perfectly safe. Tasha says it's a parlay."
"And you trust her?"
"That force field of hers is the only reason we weren't blown to bits ages ago." He slowly rose from the chair. "Besides, I'm taking the TARDIS."
"I'm coming." River took his hand. "Besides, you honestly think the old girl wouldn't let me stow away any time I wanted?"
The Church of the Papal Mainframe was much as it had been when they'd commissioned River for the Byzantium. True, she'd only seen one of the lower bishops, but the rows of young men and women in battle gear, the blue and steel pipes reaching to the ceiling, even the metallic quiet, was just as she remembered it.
River only saw the long, slender face from the corner of her eye, but memories rushed in like a physical blow. Dr. Redfern wiping away the red loop of a G, the spacesuit swallowing her whole, a mock TARDIS beneath the Florida streets. "Why are they here?"
"Tasha can explain it better than I can."
They followed one of the archbishops down the hall to the Papal Suite. The moment the doors were open, the Doctor rushed to a large candy box at one end of a long table. "Any pink ones?"
"E numbers. You're hyper enough as it is. "
"Those things—the ones you can't remember—what are they?" River
"Confessional priests. " Tasha Lim's expression was difficult to read underneath the strange makeup. "They are genetically engineered so parishioners forget everything they tell them. The Kovarian Chapter used them as enforcers."
"The Kovarian Chapter?" River's voice did not quiver.
"They broke away from us, travelled back along the timeline and tried to prevent you ever reaching Trenzalore. " Tasha's eyes remained fixed on the Doctor.
"So that's who blew up my Tardis. I thought I'd left the bath running. "
"They blew up your time capsule and created the very cracks in the universe through which the Time Lords are now calling. "
"The destiny trap. Can't change history if you're part of it." He bit into another sweet. "Or so I used to think. Time can be rewritten."
"I'm not interested in changing history, Doctor, and judging from her presence," Tasha glanced sideways at River. "I don't think you are either."
"Would've invited you to the wedding, but we were a bit busy at the time. Universe collapsing on itself, that sort of thing."
"I'm interested in changing the future, not the past. The Daleks send for reinforcements daily. They are massing for war. Three days ago, they attacked the Mainframe itself. "
"They attacked here? " The Doctor closed the box of sweets with a loud thud.
"How did you stop them? Did you get any information?"
"Stop them? It was slaughter. "
"Why didn't you call me? We could have helped."
"I tried. I died in this room, screaming your name."
" No." The worlds were barely audible, but River was already moving. Squareness gun in her back pocket.
" Oh. I died. It's funny the things that slip your mind." Tasha collapsed on the table, face down.
"No! No, no, no." He pleaded. "Tasha, no, please, not Tasha. No. Fight it. Tash, fight it!" Amy and Rory held it off, he's told River about the Asylum, if they could do it, Tasha can.
Too late. The eyestalk emerged from her forehead, just as full Daleks emerged through the back door. "Step away from the Dalek unit, Doctor."
"You shouldn't even know who I am. Clara wiped the hivemind, erased every last trace of me from your databanks."
"Information concerning the Doctor was harvested from the cadaver of Tasha Lem. "
"Bet she never told you how to break through the Trenzalore forcefield, though. She'd have died first. "
"Several times," the Dalek confirmed.
" Well, you'd better kill me, then. Go on. But before you do—" He activated the sonic, filling the room with one phrase.
"Doctor who? Doctor Who? Doctor Who?"
"I'm a tough old bird. I'll be ages dying."
"And it definitely won't be today—I left some stew on for dinner; we should get back before it boils over." River slowly backed away from Tasha.
The Daleks' eyestalks swiveled from River to the Doctor and back. "Ex-ter-min-ate. Ex-ter-min-ate."
Blue energy arced from Tasha's hands. "Stay away from the TARDIS, Doctor!"
"Or what? You'll shoot me? You'll do that anyway, what kind of logic is that?" The Doctor spread his hands.
"Or we will shoot your associate," one of the Daleks screeched.
"She's not just my associate, she's my wife. And she's not afraid of any of you. Does the name River Song mean anything to you?"
The Daleks conferred for a moment.
"She is the woman who killed the Doctor."
"But you are not dead."
"It's a long story and I don't exactly have the time—River, now!" The Doctor pointed his sonic at an air vent above the altar. White smoke, smelling heavily of fir and silver-leaf geraniums, filled the room.
River aimed at Tasha's eyestalk and fired. Sparks bounced off the metal, landing on her still-human cheeks.
The Mother Superior screamed, clawing at her face. "NO, NO!" In the corner, the blue box faded away.
"We are losing control."
Tasha inhaled sharply. "No. This ends." Her eyestalk extended to its full length, aiming at the full Daleks. "And so do you."