The Doctor, working quietly and tensely at the Cruciform engine room, pulled a lever, flicked a switch and pressed a big red button. "Don't worry, I only need thirty seconds at best," he called back, his voice calm and controlled.
Vared turned back to the corridor, hoping he could indeed deliver that much time.
Only twelve of his men had survived, and they were being steadily whittled down by persistent Dalek attacks. Vared blasted three more Daleks in as many shots, but there were hundreds left to take their place. The swarmed like some unholy metal insects through the hole in the doorway they'd blasted.
"Doctor," he called, blasting another Dalek, "has it occurred to you how we're going to get out of here through all these Daleks?"
The Doctor didn't reply. He just kept working.
"Doctor!" called Vared again.
"Don't worry General," the Doctor called back. "I have a plan."
He didn't, of course. As per usual, he was just winging it. But this was more important then him or Vared, or any ONE person. The Cruciform in Dalek hands was almost too horrible to contemplate.
He flicked another switch, and then braced himself. This could hurt.
He pulled the final lever.
And held it down.
The energy built up, warming the lever up somewhat, but he held on. He had to…
Vared heard a terrible scream from inside the room. Had the Daleks found another way in? Was that the Doctor's death scream? He prayed not. He pulled back, and ducked inside, bracing himself for the worst.
And it was worse then that.
The Doctor was holding down a lever, energy wracking his body. Whenever he moved, there was a temporal echo that moved in a different direction. The Temporal engines were dying, knackering the mechanics of the vessel, destroying everything - and taking the Doctor with them.
Vared stared, horror struck, for just a moment longer, unable to help, and then the Doctor was suddenly thrown backwards, ramming into the wall.
Before he could even begin to move to help him, another scream came from behind him, and he was amazed to see the Doctor, collapsing to the ground, smouldering slightly.
Vared looked in amazement as two Doctor's lay on the floor. The one closest to the lever was pale, his skin mottled, still as death, the other was already stirring, rubbing his head and getting to his feet.
As Vared moved to help the more injured one, a wheezing groaning sound filled the air, and the Doctor's TARDIS materialised.
"Well don't just stand there, help me up!" said the stirring Doctor.
Vared hesitated between the two Doctors, then grabbed the stirring one's hand and pulled him to his feet, still wearing his astonished expression.
"What's the matter?" asked the Doctor, before looking down at his doppelganger.
"Ah," he said, almost dumbstruck. "That's not right."
He turned to Vared, who was wearing the same expression the Doctor had now adopted.
"I set the engines to overload," he said. "The Cruciform will explode in minutes, and the TARDIS is right there. I suggest we leave."
Vared nodded, snapping himself out of his reverie at last.
"Capitol Guard! Orderly withdrawal!" he called.
Six Guardsmen pulled back through the door, laying down suppressing fire to hold the Daleks back. Two of them helped the unconscious Doctor into the TARDIS, and the Doctor and Vared entered. The TARDIS dematerialised just as the Daleks entered.
"Where are they?" called one of the enraged Daleks.
"They have escaped!" yelled another.
"Activate the Cruciform!" a third screeched. "We will exterminate Arcadia once and for all!"
And so screaming, they didn't notice the time engines starting to warp...
From space it looked something like this. The Cruciform, a giant cross in space, with energy crackling at one end, started buckling, and warping, then it exploded.
It lit the skies of Arcadia - then burned them away. The Dalek fleet was eradicated, the defending time lord ships - what was left of them - burned out of the sky. Arcadia itself was scorched...
The Doctor stared at the destruction he had caused.
"It all seems such a waste now, doesn't it?" he said softly. "So pointless."
Vared put his hand on the Doctor's shoulder, saying nothing. The Doctor sighed, then turned to his double, who was lying on a sofa.
He was quite still.
"Is he alive?" asked Vared. "Is he going to regenerate?"
The Doctor smiled at him, and held a finger up to shush him.
"Watch," he said. "And wait."
And they did. As they watched, the Doctor on the sofa started glowing, a soft light at first, gradually building up, covering his features, whiting out his face and hands...
Then the light receded, slowly, revealing a new man. Pointed nose, black hair streaked with silver, sallow complexion, sideburns...
He opened his eyes, and they were an electric blue. He stared up at the other Doctor.
"Oh pants," he said. "This is getting ridiculous."
He sat up, looked around, and stared at the Eighth Doctor for a full minute.
"You're not supposed to be here," he said at last. "You're gone."
"Evidently not," the Eighth smiled.
"What's the last thing you remember?" asked Vared gently.
The Ninth Doctor (for he was) looked thoughtful for a moment, which was quite difficult considering his position, and then he answered.
"I was pulling a lever... back on the Cruciform," he said. "Trying to make it explode, I can't remember…"
He clicked his fingers, and sat up a bit.
"The Cruciform!" he yelled. "Did we sort out the Cruciform, Vared old chap?"
Vared looked taken aback at being addressed as "old chap", but the Eighth Doctor answered.
"It's gone, blown to bits."
"And Arcadia?" the Ninth Doctor asked.
"Gone as well," the Eighth said sadly.
The Ninth Doctor looked utterly horrified for just a moment, then shrugged and stood up.
"Oh well," he said, sighing. "Life goes on, and all that. There is a war on, you know. I need some new clothes..."
And with that, he walked off to find the TARDIS wardrobe.
Vared looked at the Eighth Doctor in shock.
"'Life goes on?'" he repeated, appalled.
The Eighth Doctor smiled grimly, and then looked in the direction his future/alternate self went.
"As I said after my Fourth regeneration, that's the trouble with regeneration," he said. "You never know how it's going to turn out. Or," he added, as if it was an afterthought, "who you're going to be saddled with."
The Doctor looked at Vared, then sighed and sat down on the chair his future/alternate.
"As visions of the future go, it's quite horrible..."
The Dalek Emperor sat in the temporal escape pod, surrounded by his personal guard. In a matter of hours, Dalek ships would pick up his distress signal, and he would be put back in his main casing...
He vowed vengeance for the Daleks. The Doctor would pay, as would the whole Time Lord race.
The fleet would attack Gallifrey, and it would burn...