The sound of her name ripped through the night, and she blinked in the white light, as though the voice had partially jolted her back to her senses. Slowly, she raised a shaking hand to cover her eyes from the brightness, and squinted, making out a dark, rectangular shape. A shape that was to her very unlikely, very familiar, and most definitely not a Dalek.
‘Rose!’ her name echoed out again.
And then everything crystallized. Rose could feel the freezing air and stinging rain whip round her face. She could see past the blinding light and make out the image of a battered white van. She could hear her own name being called out across the enclosure…
And it was Mickey’s voice.
‘Rose, stop standing there like a lemming and get over here!’
There was a grinding sound, and the van shifted in the wet soil. The headlights suddenly sucked off of Rose, and spilled over the rest of the gravel yard. The beam illuminated the crates that she had hid behind, and the squat building beyond… from where a Dalek was slowly emerging.
Pausing in the doorway, it twitched its eyestalk as it took in the scene before it. But before the Dalek could act, a violent torrent of mottled light hit it in the face. The creature inside bellowed out its pain as what looked like tendrils of electricity flickered all over its casing. Then the hollow blue glow of its eye died away, and all that was left was the pitted and lifeless shell.
Rose turned slowly to look at the van. Through the dusty front window she could see Jake, grim faced and clutching at the wheel. The seat next to him was empty, but the window was open and as Rose’s gaze traveled upwards she saw Mickey, kneeling on the roof of the van. He was gripping a heavy looking gun on his shoulder and, as she watched, he lowered it and shouted at her again.
‘You coming, or what!?’ he pulled on a lever to reload the gun. ‘How many more are there?’
Glancing behind her at the two lifeless Daleks, Rose shook her head and called back to him. ‘I think they’re all dead! I only saw three to start with!’
Mickey shaded his eyes from the rain. ‘Where’s the other one, then?!’
Rose’s reply was lost in the wind, but he saw her point to the building behind and nodded. She must have taken care of it earlier, and if there were only three then the building was probably a low security storage area rather than a high security camp; they shouldn’t have any more trouble. Then again… there could be twenty more on the way right now.
He pulled a face and slid down the side of the van. Pausing at the open window, he passed the heavy gun to Jake and leaned in.
‘See, I told you we’d find her,’ he said.
Jake rolled his eyes and handed Mickey a pair of wire cutters from the glove box. Mickey flashed him a grin, though both knew that he had been nearly hysterical with worry for Rose, and made his way over to the wire mesh of the fence.
From within the enclosure, Rose had moved towards the first Dalek, the one that had died in a ball of flame, the one she had killed. Heedless to Mickey’s shouts behind her, she stared down at it and tried to make herself feel… something. Before, it had been so easy to feel fear, or hate, or even sympathy towards them, but now she only felt a cold emptiness as she looked at the lifeless object.
Mickey appeared at her shoulder and followed her gaze.
‘Nice,’ he said bleakly. He pocketed the wire cutters, gave Rose a curious glance, and turned back to the fence, feigning nonchalance. ‘You coming then?’
Rose mentally shook herself and tore her gaze away from the creature. It was then that she realized she was still clutching the object in her breast pocket, and she quickly lowered her hand. She wasn’t sure if Mickey had noticed… he probably hadn’t, she tried to reassure herself.
Sighing, she shifted her grip on the black canvas bag and followed Mickey through the hole in the fence. It wasn’t long before the chocking sound of the van started up again as it turned around and headed away from the now deserted encampment.
Rose sat silently opposite Mickey in the back of the jolting van as it wound and picked its way over the makeshift road.
If you could even call it a road.
Which, in Rose’s opinion, you could not.
The path of flattened and beaten down soil was only created for the transportation of slaves, and only maintained because of the thousands of feet that trampled it down everyday. Rose hated the road, its whole singular purpose was so that the ‘Supreme Ones’ could watch over their little human pets.
It had been named ‘Long Road’ by Pete since it stretched all the way from Cardiff to Edinburgh. Jackie, on the other hand, had named it ‘A bloody stupid place to go snooping about at, especially since its swarming with bleedin Daleks, and I don’t care if you manage to save a few slaves, you’re still risking your own neck and I don’t know what I’d do if you never came home.’ But of course, Jackie’s version was a bit long to remember, let alone say.
Rose stared out at it. Four hundred and four miles of slave trodden earth, stretching on for what seemed like forever and littered every one in a while with a small detention centre where the slaves were kept for the night during traveling. It was disgraceful. But at least at this time of the night it would be rare to run into more than a couple of Daleks on patrol. And the weapons that Mickey and Jake had with them could easily take care of a few Daleks.
Still… they shouldn’t even be here.
The giant metal gun that Mickey had hauled up onto the roof of the van was designed from the remains of a Dalek. It had made sense when Pete had dragged the scrap metal and bits of fizzing wiring into the house; after all, only a Dalek would have the power to stop a Dalek.
So they had fashioned guns, and once they had the knowledge, weapons were built in all sizes. The small slender tube that Rose carried with her was her own design, and she was quite attached to it.
As the van continued its staggered path along Long Road, Mickey watched Rose’s blank and passive face. She was barely lit in the gloom of the van so he could make out only the outline of her features and dark eyes staring blankly past him… or through him.
‘You gonna thank us then?’
There was no response other than the purring of the van.
‘I mean, we came all this way…’ he ventured again.
Mickey sighed and lent forwards towards Rose, his arms on his knees. ‘You could have died you know,’ he said, accusingly.
Rose raised her eyes to meet his.
‘I knew what I was doing,’ she said.
‘I did,’ she retorted, almost savagely, her eyes picking him out in the gloom. ‘You didn't have to come running after me.’
Mickey blinked, surprised. ‘What you talking about?’ he said. Now it was Rose’s turn to sigh as she surveyed the figure in front of her.
‘What was the point of following me?’ she asked. ‘I didn’t ask you to, in fact that’s the reason why I didn’t tell anyone where I was going, so why did you?’
‘You’re joking right?’
Rose said nothing more. Flashing him a scowl, she shifted herself on the hard seat and stared out of the window of the van. Mickey followed her gaze, wondering what on earth she could actually hope to see in the darkness. Then he realized she wasn’t really interested at what lay beyond the window, she just didn’t want to talk to him.
He clenched his jaw and sighed inwardly. Of all the times for Rose to turn as stubborn as her mother! She’d always been a bit intractable, always been able to silence Mickey with just a look, but now it was becoming almost impossible to have a decent conversation with her. Ever since the Daleks had come she’d become more reclusive and less willing to be one of the ‘family’. Jackie thought it was because she was hiding something, but then Jackie was probably the most mistrustful person in the universe.
‘Rose,’ Mickey tried again, ‘you were joking? I mean, asking why we came after you…?’
Rose didn’t turn to face him but drew her knees into her chest and hugged them tightly. From that position she looked vulnerable and naive, an image that was completely shattered by the following tone of voice and stinging words.
‘For god’s sake Mickey, no I wasn’t joking. I didn’t want you coming after me; I didn’t want anyone coming after me. I knew what I was doing and I was fine doing it, happy now?’
Mickey opened and shut his mouth; it was funny to think how much she had changed yet hadn’t really changed at all... Well, he wasn’t having any of that! One thing that Rose Tyler always forgot was that he had changed as well.
‘Firstly,’ he retorted, counting off on his fingers, ‘no, I’m not happy. Secondly, I never said you didn’t know what you were doin’. It’s obvious you knew what you were doin’, otherwise you wouldn’t have been doin’ it! And thirdly, don’t be such an idiot!’ Rose looked sharply at him, like she had been stung. ‘There’s seven of us, Rose,’ he continued, ‘seven, against a whole world! Just us, that’s it, there’s no one else… of course we’re gonna come running after you! Your part of the family ain’t you? You might not act it, but you are!’
‘I didn’t ask you to come!’ Rose snapped at him
‘I’m not the one in the wrong here!’ Mickey shot back. ‘You’re the one that wandered off without telling us!’ His brow furrowed in anxiety and he lowered his voice, ‘you could have said something, Jackie’s been going spare…’
Rose stared at him. For a brief moment, she wondered when Mickey had learned to argue like that. The things he said made sense to her in an intellectual way, but it wasn’t going to change her mind. She had her own private reasons for going to the camp alone, and more than anything she hadn’t wanted the family to get involved. If they did, it would just mean more shouting, arguments, tears, and fall outs. Not something that would help matters.
‘You’re the idiot, Mickey,’ she said, her voice softening under his worried gaze. ‘I didn’t want anyone to come ‘cause I knew how dangerous it would be… I didn’t want anyone to get hurt.’
It didn’t matter now anyway. Every one back home clearly knew she’d gone ‘wandering off somewhere’ as Pete would put it. They’d all be up in arms, and Jackie would probably be shrieking the house down. But Rose was glad that it at least was Mickey who had come to find her, rather than anyone else.
‘What were you trying to do?’
She shifted. ‘There was something I wanted…’ she let her voice drift off, hoping, pointlessly, that no more questions would be asked.
Mickey looked at her. ‘And?’
‘And… it was in the encampment so–’
‘So you went off on your own and nearly got yourself killed trying to get it,’ Mickey finished for her. Rose shut her mouth and clenched her jaw, as though frustrated that he couldn’t understand her point of view. Afraid that she might suddenly loose her temper again, Mickey hurriedly changed the subject.
‘So it looks like you got what you wanted then,’ he indicated the black bag at her feet, ‘what is it?’
Rose stared at the bag for a confused moment, and then shrugged and kicked it over to him. As the van bumped and grinded its way along, Mickey picked up the bag and peered inside.
The bag was mostly filled by a heavy blanket (Rose obviously thought she would be away for a few days), and included the metal cylinder that was her weapon. But underneath, nestled between the folds of the cloth, was a small, battered book.
Furrowing his brow, Mickey opened the book and thumbed through the pages. They were full of unidentifiable marks and scribbles that arced their way over each page and seemed to follow no ascertainable pattern. Mickey flicked his way through the entire book to make sure he hadn’t missed anything, and then looked up at Rose again, confusion etched onto his face.
‘You know what it is?’
For a second time, she shrugged, ‘I’ve seen something like it before.’
Mickey opened his mouth to ask where, but he suddenly realized that Rose was subconsciously clutching at her coat again. While she was leaning forward and seemingly taking an interest in the book, her right hand was gripping the breast pocket with such force that her knuckles were turning white.
Taking a deep breath, Mickey shut the book and stuffed it back in the bag. ‘What were you really looking for?’ he asked, leaning back and surveying her.
Rose looked up at him and, for a second, seemed about to feign ignorance. But then she caught the serious look in his eyes and let her poker face drop, heaving a deep sigh.
‘You can’t tell anyone,’ she said.
‘That depends,’ said Mickey, ‘what it is?’
Rose shook her head and looked up at him, her eyes pleading. It was staggering how quickly her whole face could change from a harsh coldness, to something almost childlike.
‘Fine,’ Mickey said.
‘Promise,’ Rose demanded.
‘Alright! I promise,’ he said, and realized that he meant it.
Rose reached up and unzipped the pocket. But before she could produce the treasure nestled within, the van pulled to a halt and a hollering woman’s voice shot through the open window.
‘Rose Tyler! You get your sweet behind out here, right now!