Return to Gallifrey, Chapter 19

Martha took in a sharp breath of absolute horror at what surrounded her. “What…what happened?” she breathed, afraid of the answer.

“War,” the Doctor answered his eyes misty. “Simple as that. Come on. I…I want to see if anyone else is still–”

He swallowed the last word, turning away.

They roamed the Heart, looking for any sign of life whatsoever, but the chaos surrounding them seemed determined to tell them otherwise. Glass from broken shop windows littered what was left of the streets, which were pitted with massive craters, some of which were several meters wide. Martha shuddered to think what could be left inside, forgotten. Severed limbs? Bodies, even? She pushed these thoughts out of her mind with a grimace. Even the orange-gold glow that the rest of the planet had bathed in was gone, replaced by an eerie sort of gray haze.

But indeed there was life, for even amidst the catastrophe around them, there were still a pitiful few people up and walking. Some of them looked like Martha felt—lost, afraid, horrified. Others were simply in shock, moving in a zombielike trance. Yet still others were sobbing, wailing to the heavens above them in grief.

“Oh no…please, no…it’s over, it’s all over…” one woman kept repeating, wringing her hands and looking very ill.

“My boy!” screamed another, wailing at the top of her lungs. “Exterminated, right in front of me! How could they?”

“We should go,” murmured the Doctor. Martha agreed, close to tears herself.

After a few moments of silence, the Doctor spoke. “It’s only about a mile to the citadel, now,” he said, “Let’s go.”

The following mile was much the same, only, Martha noticed, it was looking less and less chaotic as they went on.

“The Daleks,” the Doctor explained, “are moving very progressively. No, they don’t just blow it all up at once. A little bit…a little every day.”

A mile later, they were faced by the most massive stairwell Martha had ever seen. Well over a thousand steps, it led up to an even more massive, magnificent structure that was enclosed in what appeared to be an enormous glass dome.

“Now that,” said the Doctor with a touch of pride, “is the Citadel. And now we climb. Oh, there’s going to be quite a bit of climbing, I’m afraid. Well, no time to waste now. Allons-y!”

As an aside, he muttered to himself, “I just hope someone’s still up there…”

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