At the rate I'm going, I may just novelize the episode and be done with it—I can't seem to leave it alone!

Consider the Irony

"At last, we march to war! At last, we march to war!"

The battle-chant of Cobb's army carried down the tunnels to our prison cell. I stared through the bars, thinking furiously and coming up blank. Getting the door open would be easy; escaping without causing any more bloodshed would take some doing. I turned to Donna. "They're getting ready to move out," I said. "We have to get past that guard."

"I can deal with him," said the young soldier Cobb had imprisoned with us. She stood and stepped toward the bars, but I stopped her.

"No, no, no, no, you're not going anywhere," I said firmly. "You belong here, with them." I meant it, too. All she knew how to do was fight and kill. Her very existence went against everything I believed in; just looking at her angered me. Her presence was a dissonance, a shrieking parody that set my entire being on edge.

No, I was definitely not taking her with me. I'd get her out of this cell, find a way for her to prove herself to General Cobb, and then I'd leave her with her people.

But Donna had other ideas. "She belongs with us!" she protested. "With you! She's your daughter!"

I groaned inwardly, deeply regretting my use of the word. Technically, biologically, she was, but that was where it ended. "She's a soldier, she came out of that machine!" I insisted.

"Oh, yes, I know that bit," my companion veritably spat. The tone of her voice stung a little—I wasn't used to being spoken to like that, not by anyone. But then she changed the subject so fast my head spun. "Listen, have you got that stethoscope? Give it to me. Come on!"

I stared at her for a minute before my brain caught up and figured out what she meant to do. But I'd learned long ago that sometimes, you just can't say no to Donna Noble.

Wordlessly, reluctantly, I handed it over and watched as Donna placed the diaphragm on the left side of the soldier's chest, then the right. Then she turned to me. "Come here," she said. "Listen. And then tell me where she belongs."

I knew what I would hear, but until I did, I could ignore the knowledge. It remained abstract, a fact you read in a book but has no personal meaning. The soldier would remain nothing but a soldier, whom I would leave behind and soon forget.

What would I do, though, when abstract knowledge became real?

Once again, Donna held the diaphragm over the place where a human heart would be. And there it was—one-two, one-two, one-two, one-two.

And then the other side—three-four, three-four, three-four, three-four.

Even though I knew it was coming, it still hit me like a physical blow. More painful even than I'd expected. Jenny stared at me, frightened and confused, as I backed away from her until I hit the wall, letting the stethoscope dangle limply from my nerveless fingers. "Two hearts," I said, my voice catching in my throat.

"Exactly." Donna was smug.

Jenny was baffled. "What's going on?"

For the moment, neither of us answered her. Instead, Donna asked, albeit clumsily, the one question I didn't want to hear. "Does that mean she's a… what do you call a female Time Lord?"

"What's a Time Lord?" Jenny demanded. She looked less like a soldier now and more like a scared teenage girl.

I couldn't ignore her any longer, but I was even more determined now to push her away. "It's who I am," I said, the roughness of my voice surprising me. My eyes burned, and I refused to look at her. "It's where I'm from."

"And I'm from you."

"You're an echo, that's all," I snapped. I tried to glare at her, but I couldn't quite muster the anger I wanted to feel. "A Time Lord is so much more. A sum of knowledge, a code, a shared history, a shared suffering."

As always happened when I spoke, however obliquely, of Gallifrey, a fresh wave of guilt and sorrow washed over me, extinguishing whatever smoldering coals of anger remained. "Only it's gone now, all of it," I said, half to myself. I took a deep breath and fought back the tears that threatened to fall. "Gone forever."

Jenny took a step closer. "What happened?"

The sadness in those dark brown eyes—she has my eyes—more than anything else, was what made me answer. "There was a war," I began. Here it comes. The last discussion I wanted to have at all, let alone with her.

Jenny—the soldier, she's just a soldier—nodded her understanding. "Like this one."

Her naïveté was so painful I could only laugh. "Bigger, much bigger," I said, taking a shaky breath. My throat was so choked with grief that my voice came out as barely more than a whisper.

"And you fought?" Jenny asked. "And killed?"

Poor, innocent Jenny. She didn't know the half of it. I had destroyed entire worlds. Committed genocide. Sacrificed innocent lives for what I deemed to be the greater good. Always I found some way to justify it, but always my excuses rang hollow in my mind, haunting not only my nightmares but my every waking moment.

It suddenly hit me that, for all she moved and spoke and thought like a young adult, she'd been born less than an hour ago. And so I condensed the darkness of past centuries into a single, barely audible word. "Yes."

"Then how are we different?"

And there it was.

Rarely, very rarely, in this incarnation did I find myself speechless. And yet for Jenny, I had no clever response. No jokes, no sarcasm, no riddles, no revelations.

Because there was no answer.

Except for the fact that she hadn't killed anyone yet. And didn't that just stand my whole argument right on its head?

She had called me a soldier, because I was strategizing—"like a proper general," she'd said. She'd called my sonic screwdriver a weapon, because I was using it to fight back. Perhaps I'd been so insulted because… well, because it was true, every word.

I'd been a soldier, in centuries past. I'd fought in the Last Great Time War. And I didn't like what I'd become.

There, right there, that's the heart of it all. That's why I'd tried so hard to distance myself from Jenny. I didn't hate her because she was a soldier… I just didn't want to see her turn into me. I'd taken one look into her eager, innocent face and immediately wanted to protect that innocence. She deserved a better life than one of fighting and killing and war, locked in an eternal senseless struggle. She deserved so much more than to die in these dark, dirty tunnels.

So I would take her away from this place. I would give her the life she did deserve, traveling Space and Time and witnessing all the wonders the Universe had to offer.

After all, she was my daughter.