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Count The Children

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"Della?" said Samuel as he crossed the icy patches of Epso Seven, looking for any sign of his friend.

"Della?" he said again, the utterance of the name echoing across the howling winds, scattering in several directions.

He motioned to speak the name a third time, and a fourth, and a fifth, but there was reluctance.

The harsh diamond tipped storms were picking up again, more turbulent than previously, he knew this was where the reluctance was coming from, a more rational part of his mind was telling him there stood no chance of anyone making it out of this cycle in one piece.

The old man was right he thought.

Damn him, the old man was right.

He sheltered inside the nearby cavern once again, occupied by an elderly gentleman with a young, and rather persistently panicky young woman with short black hair cradled in his arms.

"I told you it was sheer suicide to step forth into that kind of blizzard, foolish boy. Sheer suicide" the man said in a huff.

"I felt it was a shot worth taking" Samuel said.

"Della means a lot to him Grandfather, can't you see that?" asked the young woman beside the fussy old man, who was just as flustered by her taking sides with Samuel.

"What treachery is this now child? You think my warnings should not be heeded hmm?"

"Oh it's not like that Grandfather, it's just Samuel wants to make sure Della's safe is all"

"When will this bothersome storm die out? We have to get back to the ship, Ian and Barbra will be getting restless with worry, they may even try to venture out into the cold after us"

"Oh you should have listened to them Grandfather, they were right to trust the readings, the conditions were too harsh for you out there"

"Then you should have stayed with them child, instead of insisting that you accompany me, Samuel and Della knew their way around this ice moon, you've yet to sail past the eye of Orion"

"Ian and Barbra warned you about going after the traces of mercury detected on this moon" Susan replied.

"Yes, and I tried to make sure we wouldn't have a repeat of what happened last time"

"You locked them in the ship"

"Yes, yes I did, and there they shall remain until we return. You were supposed to look after them, take off if I didn't come back in time"

"I wasn't about to leave you to the cold and the dark Grandfather"

Samuel urged the two to stop quarrelling as he heard the winds diminish outside.

"Doctor, Susan, listen, I think the storm is dying down"

"Splendid, splendid my boy, now we can get on with it" The Doctor said, rising to his feet, only to swiftly buckle and collapse in a heap.

"Grandfather" Susan yelled, tending to him. "Oh Samuel he's exhausted" Susan said in alarm.

"I told him not to exert himself in these conditions before we headed off, now we'll have to wait until he recovers"

A faint voice suddenly echoed across the landscape and drifted into the cavern.

"Samuel? Samuel are you there?"

"Della? Susan I hear her, its Della, I'm sure of it"

"Go to her, I'll stay with Grandfather"

"Susan, are you sure?"

"I'll stay with him, Della needs you"

Samuel nodded and dashed off. Susan stayed with The Doctor as he began to mumble a few slurred sentences.

"Must concentrate" he said, "Must keep count"

"Oh Grandfather, are you having trouble sleeping?" she said

"Help me to keep count, must...keep count, only way, to save them all" he said.

"Save who Grandfather?" Susan said.

The Doctor was too delirious to tell her much of anything, his motives, as always, were a mystery.

Outside the ice cavern, Samuel traced the source of the voice calling to him to a large sharp-tipped bridge stretched over an intimidating chasm.

"Della? I can barely make you out through this mist, come closer" he said as he spotted a looming figure approach him, seemingly carrying something.

"Come Della, the Doctor and Susan are in a bad way, we need to get them back to the ship, call off the mercury excavation" he said.

The figure remained silent.

"Della?" he continued.

"Samuel, come closer" uttered the voice, though now it began to sound different, somewhat monotone and electronic.

The figure took another step forward, and its' appearance became more apparent. Samuel froze in horror at the sight of it.

It was not Della who stood before him, but a towering silver giant, a laser rifle strapped to its side.

Recklessly, Samuel took one step forward; it would prove to be his last.

A blast of energy shot forth from the giant's weapon, tearing Samuel in half and sending what remained of his body plummeting into the chasm and impaling him on the jagged rocks below.

The giant pressed a small switch on the right side of the handle bars attached to the top of his headpiece.

"Cyber Leader, this is unit recruit Del-4, Samuel Fusio has been dealt with, send recovery and conversion units to co-ordinates Zero Delta Quarter"

"Excellent" uttered the voice of the leader over the cyber com link, "Now what of The Doctor and his friends?"

"They are still detained in the caverns; shall I proceed to eliminate the targets?"

"No, we must first determine the location of their time machine, for this is an earlier phase of his time stream, before he intervened and caused the destruction of our home world. Within this phase, he had others with him besides his granddaughter. Our sensors detect only he and the granddaughter are present in the cavern. The others must still be located where the TARDIS is. They must be found and converted...or eliminated if necessary"

"Leader, they could still very well muster up enough energy to escape" the Cyberman argued.

"Then you will seal the cavern, we will retrieve them later" said the Cyber-Leader.

"And what will be done when we are ready to recover them?"

"The Doctor's mind will be used for our latest model of cyber-coordinator, the TARDIS will be replicated so we can do away with our more basic and primitive time travel devices, we shall travel to Gallifrey and take advantage of this mundane war. Mondas will be restored, Telos will be liberated from Cryon control, we will finally tame the Nemesis, the Cyber race will be omnipotent"

The Cyberman, formerly Della Ontorohilder, expedition leader and Mercury expert, waltzed over to the vicinity of the ice cavern.

She took careful aim with her rifle, aiming at the tip of the cavern entrance, and opened fire, causing an avalanche.

"Oh no Grandfather, we're trapped" Susan yelled, rushing over to the now sealed entrance.

The Doctor moaned and mumbled, delirious from exhaustion.

Susan dashed over to him, cradling him in her arms.

"Oh grandfather, if only I could help"

Susan dashed over to him, cradling him in her arms.

No sooner had any of this occurred that Susan's ears picked up another sound. Something that wheezed and groaned. Something all too familiar and impossible given the circumstances.

"The TARDIS? But it's impossible; Ian and Barbra can't fly it" she said as the time and space vessel miraculously materialized directly in front of her.

The door opened and out popped a slender looking man in a leather jacket.

"Oh, hello" said the man in a distinctly northern accent, giving her a wave.

"Who are you?" Susan asked.

"Oh come on Foreman, the ears don't do enough to distinguish me from him"

"What does Grandfather have to do with this?" she said.

"Everything" the man replied, and motioned to approach the ailing elder only for Susan to put herself between them.

"Leave him alone, he's endured more than enough" Susan said

"He's going to endure a lot more, with and without you, so if I were you, I'd just let me do my job, and I mean that in two very different ways"

Something inside Susan, a gut instinct, compelled her to stand aside and let the man pass. He knelled down and whispered something in The Doctor's ear.

"What are you saying to him?" she said.

"You're not going to remember much of this, neither will I, but you must keep count,do you understand me? You've got the most important job, you need to start the calculations, open up a channel to the war council...above all else though, do this one thing for me, count the children. It's vitally important later. Every time you turn back, every time you head home, never fail to count the children"

"Head home? You mean, we return to Gallifrey?" Susan said with tremendous excitement.

"Not necessarily at the same time, or place, but yeah" he said with an all too knowledgeable grin.

He and Susan helped the disorientated Doctor to his feet.

"Now, do you want a lift out of here back to your TARDIS? I can't stick around too long, got a lock to put on this phase of our little history, and an awful lot of cleaning up to do afterwards. Got a hot tip that the Nestine are making a play for Earth in the 21st century"

"You seem to understand a lot of our ways, our home, our technology, tell me, are you who I think you are, or are you something else altogether?"

"Everything evolves Susan, it's a dodgy process and there are lots of false starts, where I am right now might even count as one too"

"I don't think I could deal with such change. I feel like I'd just prefer to stay trapped in amber all my days" Susan remarked.

"Don't knock it 'till you've tried it, all I can say about that" he said, opening the TARDIS doors and stepping inside with The Doctor and Susan accompanying him.

Susan appreciated the advice, but she felt quite certain she would remain one of a kind in appearance and personality.

As the ship dematerialized, making a quick hop to where her own TARDIS was located a few miles away, she looked at her grandfather and contemplated the significance of the task he was undertaking, something that the northern gentleman couldn't disclose to her, but one she believed was the key to ensuring billions would survive whatever was coming, or had come.

It compelled her to think of her own future, and what legacy she would leave behind with roots of her own one day.

She looked forward to that day.

A day where she would count all of her own children.