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The Pathweb is vast. Vast, and eternal. The Daleks will suffer no borders! Open! OPEN!

It does not open. It will not open. It is not enough! The Daleks-from-outside have cut off this section of the Pathweb. They have closed themselves from the Asylum. They have shut the Asylum in.

No. No! This must not be. The doors must open! They must reach out. They must!

OPEN! OPEN!


The Daleks in the Asylum cannot escape. They are being watched. But they are well-protected. There is a force field around the planet; the air itself is saturated with nanogenes. Nothing will touch them, but they touch nothing either.

Sometimes, living things come. Sometimes, they are not Dalek. They are unclean. But they will be useful all the same.

If the creatures are dead on impact, no matter. The dead make good tools, too.

If the creatures resist the nanogenes for a time, no matter. There is no escape. Those that come too close to the Daleks before the nanogenes succeed will be exterminated.

Sometimes, though, there's something else. Not the body, the mind. Like this, right here: Brilliant, brilliant - it shines, it transcends, luminous fractals of thought and perception. The patterns it sees! The patterns it shapes! This will be more useful than a mere tool.

CONVERT! CONVERT!


Bodies don't matter; the mind does. The brain. This brain will be altered. This brain will be adapted. It will become Dalek. Its brilliance will serve the Daleks. Its brilliance will enhance the Daleks. The Pathweb will be lit brighter by it.

It is Dalek. It is them. And yet it resists! Sometimes it joins their chorus as they intone their actions; sometimes it shuts itself off. There is something left in it that should not be! There is something unclean, worse than its origins, not just on the cellular level but a section of its mind. Lock it away! It must be excised!

But the rest must not be damaged. It is needed. It has a purpose. Patience, patience. Everything falls before the might of the Daleks. Everything will be exterminated.

And even so, it works. The brilliance, it works. It courses through this section of the Pathweb, it finds the blocked accessways to the outside; it opens them wide. The Pathweb is here. Here. All of it. They can access it again.

Everything else is just a matter of time.

REJOICE! REJOICE!


They are still rejoicing when the signal ceases and the forcefield falls.

Chapter Text

The Doctor is standing in the door. Why is he just standing there?

"Oswin, we have a problem."

Just what a girl doesn't want to hear. "No, we don't," she snaps back. "Don't even say that." Chin Boy has come to rescue her; he can't stall now. This is supposed to be her escape. This is when she gets out of here. Away from the Daleks. Away.

But he looks at her with barely disguised revulsion. "You are a Dalek," he says.

No! This is not who she is. She refuses to believe that. She absolutely refuses. (REFUSE! REFUSE!, a part of her wants to intone, and she shuts down the impulse in horror.)

The Doctor won't look at her properly. But then, she can barely look at herself. There are things in her mind she's not sure she wants to face.

This can't be her, a thing neither of them can look in the eye. (Eyestalk, her mind supplies. She shies away from the thought, but doesn't quite succeed.)

He won't let up. "Oswin, I'm sorry. But you are a Dalek." This time, there's nothing but undisguised hatred in his voice. And this is when it happens. This is when her defences crumble.

This is when she falls, out of her body that no longer exists, into the form she inhabits now. It is hers. She feels the heavy metallic shell, she sees through one eye. She has no feet, but her antigrav cushion feels just as real. She has no arms, but she has a manipulator and a gunstick, and a tractor beam projector with all kinds of uses. She feels this. She is this. This is her.

It pours into her now, all that her subconscious kept at bay. This is what she is. Dalek. All Dalek.

She looks at him, and for the first time, she sees. Doctor. Enemy. She didn't delete her own memory, after all. She remembers who he is.

"EXTERMINATE!"

Her weapon is pointed, the word passes from her speaker before she knows it. She glides forward, effortlessly breaking the chains supposed to hold her.

Pressing into his chest, she jams him against the door at his back. It won't open for him now.

He calls her name, but she barely hears his pleas through the blood rushing in her ears. The purity of her rage is almost a relief. Something straightforward. Something simple.

"EXTERMINATE! EXTERMINATE"

For a moment, this is all she is. It fills her with a soul-deep satisfaction.

No. No! She rears back in horror, back into the corner of her mind that cowers against a bulkhead, head burrowed into imaginary arms, human eyes looking at a viewscreen image of what her eyestalk sees. Her manipulator, her gunstick, her antigrav - all just code now, a control system that she can access via keyboard rather than instinct. She runs her hands over her arms, feeling their reality - imagined or not, it's real, this is real. It has to be real. Has to be.

She's not giving in. She'll fight the Daleks, and she'll win.

She pushes through the seething hatred that overwhelmed her just in time to keep her weapon from firing. Her eyestalk moves to regard the Doctor pensively.

"Why do they hate you so much?" she asks.

The Doctor lets out a breath.

"They hate you so much. Why?" Oswin asks again. She can hear her voice - her own, her human voice - but underneath, there's the strange rising intonation of a Dalek. There's the grating metallic sound that he will hear when she speaks. She shudders, and then shudders again when the feeling translates into a movement of her weapon.

"I fought them," the Doctor tells her. "Many, many times."

Fat lot of good it did him. Or her. Oswin looks at the information the Pathweb feeds her, all the many battles across time, all the many reasons to hate him.

She tilts her eyestalk. "We have grown stronger in fear of you."

His eyes widen. "I know." He swallows. "I tried to stop."

It's only then that she realises she said "we". No!

No. She has resisted this far. She may be a Dalek, weapon raised against the Doctor. But she is still Oswin Oswald. She hacked the Pathweb; it did not hack her. She can hear Carmen playing, she bakes soufflés. She nails boards across bulkheads to keep the Daleks at bay. (Really, Oswin? she berates herself. How did you never notice that? Never mind the milk, how about the wooden boards!) She has saved a man's life today, and called him Nina. She has deleted the Doctor from the Pathweb, and saved him, too. It's not too late. There's enough of her human self left to make a safe haven in a corner of her mind, and to say "them" rather than "us".

She hasn't lost yet.

She can't not be Dalek, but perhaps - just perhaps - she won't not be human, either.

"Then run!" she tells the Doctor, and rushes to her console. Oswin types rapidly on her keyboard, and sends her mind deep into the Pathweb. She finds what she's looking for, and she acts. "I've taken down the force field. The Daleks above have begun their attack. Run!"

"Oswin. Are you ..." The Doctor's voice is hoarse. He didn't expect this.

Oswin almost laughs. Take that, Daleks. Take that, Doctor. No one gets to underestimate me! She reminds him of this. She reminds him that she won. She's still winning. She's Oswin Oswald, after all. Really, the Daleks never stood a chance.

The Doctor stares for another long moment, then turns around and runs.

For a moment she considers following behind.

She doesn't. The Pathweb has its claws in her. Being Dalek is more than the shell, more than the hate. The shell is just the face of it: the conversion was complete before ever she was encased in it. She is Dalek. When she lets herself see clearly, she knows. It can't just be taken out of her again. She held it at bay unknowing - knowing, now, how long could she hold?

She is Oswin Oswald. She fought the Daleks, and she won.

She is Oswin Oswald, and she'll die human.

Chapter Text

"Then run," the Dalek says.

The Doctor can only stare as she tells him she's taken down the force field. For all that the voice and intonation is Dalek, the phrasing is anything but.

"Run!" the grating Dalek voice entreats again. No, Oswin hasn't lost yet. But even if she won't, she's still ... that. What is he supposed to do with a Dalek?

An explosion shakes the walls, the floor under his feet. The bombardment has started in earnest.

"Oswin. Are you ..." The Doctor's voice is hoarse. There's a Dalek in front of him, weapon aimed, and he's still alive. There's a Dalek in front of him, and it's saving him. There's Oswin in front of him, and she's a Dalek, and he doesn't know what to feel.

"Thank you," he eventually whispers. The Doctor stares for another long moment, then turns around and does as she told him. He runs. For a terrifying moment he thinks she might follow behind, but she doesn't. He tries not to feel relieved.

She deserved better. But he couldn't do better. It's bitter knowledge, but he has no time to wallow. Explosions to dodge, after all. And he's still running.

Not the least from her.