A Cyberman head in a museum case looked harmless, like it couldn't hurt a flea. "Oh, look at you," he'd said, and it was almost affectionate, wasn't it? Round eyes blank and sightless like Little Orphan Annie, a parody of a robot, as terrifying as an old rag doll. 'Course, Cybermen had nearly destroyed this entire planet hundreds of times, but it looked so cute there in its display case. The stuff of nightmares reduced to an exhibit.

He could not say the same for the Dalek. Even when he thought it was crippled, a powerless, corroded shell, the sight of the ghastly thing made him sick. It should have looked just as ridiculous as the Cyberman head: an upside down rubbish bin with a stuck in plunger. But he didn't see the outward silliness -- he saw death. Gallifrey, Skaros. Susan. Romana and the Master. Billions of lifeforms caught in the crossfire, boiling away in the vacuum of space.

It was only later, when the Dalek had revealed itself to be anything but harmless, the Doctor was reminded that Cybermen, too, meant death.

"I want Adric, too."
"The boy stays here."

He couldn't understand why nobody else was really worried at first. Van Statten, sure -- he was a megalomaniac and a lunatic, and the doctor understood him just fine. But why did his people listen to him? Even Rose thought her new soldier friends would save her, and the soldiers cheerfully insisted they knew what they were doing while Van Statten raved and ordered that they bring him back the Dalek alive. Humans, and human soldiers especially: so convinced that their magical understanding of violence made them invulnerable. As infuriating as they were, he still felt every death, though, roiling in the mass of his failures that would take a Time Lord's lifetime to count. While the Dalek sucked the power out of the American West and read the entire Internet -- did it take a few nanoseconds to ponder the Internet porn, the Doctor wondered -- Van Statten and his guards still saw only the foolish rubbish bin and plunger, only the dollar signs it could bring them. And so the Doctor watched them die.

Daleks had always been killers, but now with all the technological advances they'd made during the Time War, they were much more efficient than they'd once been. They'd developed the force-field during the later stages of the War, and perfected it while they were slaughtering and being slaughtered. These deaths were his, then. These idiotic guardsmen, playing at violence, massacred because of the Doctor's War.

On the other hand, Daleks were Daleks, and idiot soldiers would be idiots in any world. They'd probably have died anyway.

"I'm not going without him!"
"The boy will stay here."

Van Statten wanted the Dalek alive, and was willing to sacrifice his own people -- and Rose -- to make that happen. But the Doctor would never let her die. When somebody joined him on his travels, he kept them alive. That's what he did, he kept them alive. He didn't let his friends and companions die.

Only to save the Earth. And then only if the companion volunteered to go.

Always the bloody Daleks. The Daleks and the Cybermen, killing everyone he loved, leaving him spinning alone in the emptiness. Like a storybook, wasn't it? The Doctor against his Ancient Enemies, saving the universe in the nick of time and usually saving the girl. Usually.

Adric looks resolute and turns away. "Take Tegan with you." He looks away grimly, as if he were a man instead of a boy. "I'll find my own way." Adric swallows, steels himself. "Please?"
"The boy's right. There's a chance. Leave now."
Adric, still averting his gaze, pleads, "Please, Doctor."
The Doctor is about to protest, about to insist that this is nonsense, a nightmare, he would never leave behind the boy, when the Cyberman speaks up before the Doctor can argue: "There is no chance."

He doesn't judge himself by human standards, no, nothing so petty, but even so he knows he isn't a very good person. He's a genocide; he knows that. He killed all the Daleks (all but one), and he'll never know how many innocents died in the last cataclysm. But he's always protected his companions. He's always found a way to save the girl and the universe, too.

"I'm sorry," he says, but he's sure she'll make it through the bunker doors before they seal. He's worried, of course, but not overly so. He always saves the girl. Well, usually, anyway. So he's not really worried about Rose. His adrenaline is pumping, and he's furious at Van Statten, and he's a bit terrified of the Dalek for all he knows he's going to stop it in the nick of time in save the earth from destruction, just like he always does. Just like he usually does.

If he concentrates on being worried about Rose and saving the girl in the nick of time, he might not think about the last time he saw a Dalek. He might not think about Gallifrey, about billions of lives snuffed out as if they never were, across the most dimensions. So even though he knows he'll save the girl, he worries about her. Safer, isn't it?

Adric pushes his resolution to the sticking point and snaps, "Just leave!"
The doctor, appalled, realizes he can do nothing. He lowers his head and raises it again. When he opens his eyes, he is resigned. He puts out his hand to Adric. "Good luck, Adric."
Adric looks at the Doctor's outstretched hand for moment as if confused, then takes hold of it. "Goodbye, doctor." He smiles incredibly sweetly.
"Good luck to you all," the Doctor says, and flees the ship. He does not look at Adric again, not even when the boy mouths meaningless reassurances at poor, foolish Tegan.

This is wrong. Rose doesn't make it through the doors. How can she not make it through the doors? She's trapped in the bunker with a lonely Dalek that's spouting angst-ridden pain like a poetic thirteen-year-old that needs to be put down. The Doctor screams blame at Van Statten, at the pretty Londoner boy, but it's his own fault, isn't it? He took her from her stupid little boyfriend, her stupid little mother, her stupid little life, and all because he couldn't bear the emptiness anymore. But it was his own damned fault he was lonely. His people's War, not Rose's. Everything else he'd done wrong, at least he had kept the War away from Earth. Idiotic to play favorites with planets after all he'd seen, but there it was. And until now, at least he kept Earth safe. At least he had kept Rose safe.

But this is one of those times that turns always into usually, and it doesn't look like he's going to be allowed to win one for a while. Why should he, now? After all, planets once pulsing with life were now bare rock and gas because of him. What right does he possibly have to win the life of one stupid little Earth girl?

When he sees she's still alive, his resolve cracks. Not even to save this planet can he let another friend die for him. He's loved these bloody monkeys for eons. He's nursed them, protected them, loved them, traveled with them. He's worked side by side with UNIT, and he's joked with Leonardo DaVinci; he's watched this planet be born and he's watched it explode. But not even for planet Earth can he let another person he cares about die when he can stop it. Last time he was willing to sacrifice everything and everyone to save a planet, he nearly destroyed all of space-time. Save Rose and lose the Earth, or save the Earth and lose the girl? There wasn't really a question, was there?

So he opened the bunker doors.

Forever and again the freighter explodes, wiping out the dinosaurs, the Cybermen's hopes, and a vast mathematical arrogance. "I CAN crack this code," Adric had said, as he rushed back onto the freighter to die for nothing.

Rose Tyler, the stupid ape, thinks she can love a Dalek to decency, like this is some hideously sentimental film. Pity the homicidal monster and let's all pass out daisies; the next thing you know it'll have a change of heart and toss Davros into a bottomless pit, right? Utter crap. He'd been that naive once, too, passing up the chance to wipe out all the Daleks in one fell swoop. He could have exterminated the murderous little buggers, but no, he'd been the Doctor, perfect, pure of heart, and leaking hubris just like a human, like a soldier boy convinced he was in control of the situation. Instead he'd let them live, and survive to watch their vileness destroy everything that mattered. Everything but Earth, but Rose.

And now Rose felt sorry for one? Felt pity? Didn't the girl understand it was a trick, that it would kill her as soon as it had a chance?

"We must get Adric off the freighter!"
"The console's damaged!"
"We must save Adric! There's so little time!"
"I must save Adric!"

It's a miracle, it is. His ignorant, arrogant, naive little companion is alive, and the Dalek is dead. Van Statten is neutralized. The Daleks are gone for good, and Rose is safe -- from them, and from him. They can travel, and laugh, and see the world, and the Doctor won't be left holding a shattered star with nothing else left to remember.

Ha. Not that there'd be a star left over. If Rose Tyler had ever once won a prize for her mathmatical skills, he'd eat his hat. Didn't he have an old Panama lying around here somewhere? He shut the door behind Rose and her new boy toy, and prepared to take them off to see the stars. Rose was alive, and the Daleks were gone. A new day, a new friend, and a bit of home to remind him. Dawn is breaking, and all that rot. He laughed at something Rose said and took off for the future.

Forever and again the freighter explodes. Adric's star for mathematics lies on the TARDIS's floor in shattered pieces. The Cyberman killed with that star lies like a broken doll, a child's toy, a parody of a 20th-century robot. Just right to stick into a museum case; no more dangerous than an upside down rubbish bin with a plunger stuck in it.