"River – that's mad!" he gasped, pacing irritably along the cliff dislodging pebbles into the abyss. "Why didn't you tell me?"
"Because you would have tried to stop me," she replied, untangling her mud-laden hair.
The Doctor turned, strutting fiercely up to cradled her face in his hands, making sure she could see nothing but his frightened eyes. They were ancient and deep. He was trying to teach her something important but River didn't seem to be in the mood to learn.
"That's because it's dangerous... and crazy," the Doctor insisted.
"They only escaped when the Vesparian expedition touched down," River insisted. "Silence is the safest place for these creatures. They can't remember their evil plans long enough to execute them. It will evolve into a world of complete madness. Then the universe will be safe."
God, why did she have to be like this?
"That's your plan then," the Doctor slipped away from her. "Trap the Silence on their own world with a fractured Time vortex for a babysitter?"
River folded her arms and looked to her parents. "It's a good plan," she shrugged.
Amy tilted her head. "Hang on..." she started, eyeing her daughter suspiciously. "Is this why you studied archaeology?"
"No no..." the Doctor interrupted. "She studied archaeology to find me – didn't you River?" he was grinning again, straightening his bow tie and puffing out his chest.
River was... quiet.
"River?" the Doctor frowned.
"Well – it was partly to find you," she replied softly.
"But mostly to find them," Rory folded his arms like a cross parent. "That was very dangerous, River."
"Great, now I have three parents," she muttered, kicking some pebbles off the cliff.
The Doctor looked up to the fractured storm of Time above. There was something about it that curled around his soul, as though it were alive – a creature slumbering.
"Fine – fine..." he muttered, thrusting his hands into his pockets. "You win, River."
Rory checked his arms. "No more black marks, for the moment. I think we lost them back in the swamp."
"Everyone back in the Tardis," the Doctor waved his arms, ushering them all in – including the Vesparian. The Tardis trembled again. She didn't like this world or the turbulent time swirling around it.
The Doctor moved to the Tardis console, carefully calibrating several of its settings.
"What are you doing?" River asked, leaning against the console. He nudged her out of the way.
"We're going to take a closer look at this anomaly.
The Tardis creaked.
Amy watched as the domed ceiling of the control room warped under the pressure of the fractured time outside. The howl from the engines shook the whole room. Every now and then they stopped, wheezing desperately before churning back into life.
The Doctor unlocked the door, pushing it open.
Space was laid before them, glistening as though the void had been melted. To their right, the enormous planet hung like a jewel against the darkness. Its storms churned, oceans surged and landmasses cracked apart in an endless cycle neither alive nor dead. Silence, the small moon was obstructed by the Time distortion.
"Doctor – we can't stay here. The Tardis won't survive," River was still by the console, holding down some of the more fragile switches.
"I just want to look at it," the Doctor whispered, standing at the door – leaning toward the chaos.
"I'm not sure that's such a good idea," Amy added, standing behind him.
"I knew a man once, who looked into the heart of Time. A Timelord..."
'What happened to him?" Amy glanced at the storm for a moment, then looked away.
"It drove him mad – well – I think he was a bit mad anyway. He heard the sound of drums... An endless march of – nothing – of Time – of life and the universe to nowhere."
"I can't hear anything."
The Doctor reached for Amy's hand.
"No one can hear anything in space. Seeing – well – seeing is something else altogether."
The heavy lever that River was trying to hold down snapped up. The Tardis jolted then screeched as its wall twisted under the pressure.
"RIVER!" the Doctor turned, slamming the Tardis doors.
"I'm sorry! She doesn't like flying this close to the Time storm. The Tardis can't maintain a stable orbit – she's falling toward it."
"Well pull her up!" the Doctor shouted.
Amy and Rory took the Vesparian by the shoulder and sat the creature down.
"Trust me, mate," Rory said, strapping the creature into one of the chairs. "It's best to sit."
"It's no good!" River continued, as smoke poured out from the console. "The Time storm is a fixed point. As soon as we enter the field we become part of it. She won't survive the impact."
"Course she will – won't you, o'l girl?" the Doctor petted the Tardis affectionately. Several nuts and bolts flew free, bouncing around the room like bullets. The Doctor simply petted her again – ignoring It.
River and the Doctor were thrown to the ground as a violent shudder ripped through the ship. They'd lost control of the Tardis, its engines burning in a desperate attempt to break free.
"What happens at the centre of Time?" River asked, laying beside the Doctor on the floor.
"I don't know," he admitted. "The death of all things – or the birth of the universe. Perhaps a garden party," he added lightly, "like King George's in 1816."
"Or a restaurant..." Rory muttered quietly.
"Who would put a restaurant at the end of the universe..." the Doctor scorned, as though it were the most ridiculous thought ever.
The little blue box started to approach the first of the Time cracks. As she did, her fascade started to flicker between different points in its life. One minute, she was a brand new time machine with a fresh coat of pain and the next, she was wheezing and tired – scared and bruised.
Reality was crumbling and the Tardis falling straight into the heart of the storm.