Doctor Who: Silver Angel
By Jean Riddler, image by Roger. M. Dilley
"It's all a matter of your point of view." Cascarini looked down at the drawn, tired faces of her small audience. "Since the latter part of the last century, we knew what we were doing to our planet, but once the initial interest and concern had worn out and become less fashionable, we only offered our planet lip service. Now life, the only thing we have left to cling to, is being destroyed." She could see that they knew what she was talking about, this small and possibly last group of 'environmentally concious citizens'. Their meetings had diminished in number of late, those gathered in the skeleton of the church pulling the metal blankets and rags of clothing around them in a vain hope to protect themselves from the cold and unseen bombardment of radiation, man-made and natural. At one time the church had had a sound roof and beautiful stained glass windows but they had either rotted away or been destroyed. As had happened to many of those who had once gathered there.
"They say we need to process food, we need the electrical goods and toys but at what cost? It has all gone too far. We shall starve for want of clean oxygen and water whilst our plates are piled with wasted food and our homes full of useless toys."
It was a speech she had given a hundred times before, from the same position up on the shattered altar. In her mind the words, once inspirational, rang hollow - she knew there was no way back. Why did she even bother to go through the motions any more?
In the silence between her words, a voice whispered up to the speaker on her altar plinth. "What is the point of continuing, at least as you are?" The owner of the voice was a small boy, no more than eleven, his eyes cold and emotionless. He continued speaking as he walked towards her from the rear of the ruined church, "I have never seen a wild animal. Not even a rat. I have never seen a flower growing outside a controlled environment. What is life to me? We are dying with our planet. We... you, are victims of all the pollution, waste and life's little comforts you wanted. We exist, we don't live."
Cascarini stepped down from the plinth. The ragged band of listeners silently parted as she walked towards the boy and embraced him, tears streaming down her face - he had dared speak what she feared to even think. The silent audience began to shuffle away. The meeting was over, they came each week like lemmings and like lemmings they returned to their homes - those that had them. Death was catching up. This would be the last meeting.
Alone in the silent church, the boy gently pushed Cascarini away from him; as he did, a flash of silver shone from beneath his shirt sleeve. She stared at him in disbelief.
"Why?" her question was instinctive, gasped.
The boy unbuttoned his sleeve and pulled off his glove to reveal an arm of gleaming metal.
"Why?" he echoed wistfully. "Because it is the only way my generation will live through what our ancestors have left us." He stepped closer and offered her his arm.
Cascarini tentatively reached out and laid her warm human hand on what she fully expected to be cold, unyielding metal. The arm was cold - not a crisp clean cold but the chill of a bloodless corpse. It was soft and her fingers created small indentations which filled in when she pulled her hand away. The boy flexed his fingers and the metal imitated the actions of the skin to which it was surgically attached.
"It's only a coating," he explained, turning to watch the dying sun through the skeleton of the church roof. "My bones are still growing and are strong enough to support the metal's weight. The Wasting has not affected me yet. As soon as my limbs are fully developed they will be reinforced or replaced as will any other defective or infected organ." He turned to face her, seeing that his words shocked her. "I will survive and the others like me. We will live to rebuild our raped and sundered planet. It shall be beautiful once more."
Tears welling in her eyes once more, Cascarini slumped to the floor, her back resting against a cracked and misshapen pillar, its reach for the sky aborted. She looked up at the boy, her old student. He reached out for her hand, cradling it in silver. His voice was gentle. "You are still young, you could join us." His words came from the mind of someone much older than his eleven years. His hair was short and dark she knew it was fake, that beneath the synthetic scalp would be a thin layer of protective metal. His eyes were piercing green, they sparkled with intelligence and a passion she had not seen or felt in many, many years. Yet, for all the outward signs, his eyes were still cold.
"Surely I am too old!" She hastily intercepted the boy's next question "I am nearly twenty eight. In a few years' time I shall be crippled with the Wasting. If I am lucky I shall be dead before I reach my mid thirties." She tightened her grip on the boy's hand. "I only hold on for the hope that we may change things, but I know it is far too late for us. I hope that our legacy of death did not go with our ancestors who escaped." She stared through the roof of the hall at the evening sky, at the burning red sun and the small planet, now distant and getting smaller day by day.
"How will you live, I wonder. Encased in your protective metal shell? How much will you miss? Taste, smell, love." Cascarini turned to the boy. "How will you love? Is that living, is it survival come what may?"
The boy shook his head sadly and gestured expansively around him, silver flesh glinting scarlet in the fading light. "Is this living? Are you surviving?"
A tear dropped from Cascarini's cheek as she saw that what the boy said was true. A hitching cough began in her stomach, and her muscles cramped as the Wasting progressed into new areas of her body. She cried out hoarsely and fell at the boy's feet in a shuddering ball.
Cascarini opened her old eyes to the same view that she had had for the last ten years. The white walls of the hospital room were clean, efficient and antiseptic, just like the nursing staff. Something was different this time, though, a darker shadow fell over the clean linen on her bed. She looked over at the tall, statuesque figure standing motionless in the corner of the room. The neon light sparkled off its slver body and seemed to form a glowing aura that surrounded the figure, much like that which surrounded the mythical angels of old.
Cascarini's breath rasped, her feeble lungs tugging in the oxygen, assisted by the ever present ventilator. Cascarini's body ached - despite the pain-killing drugs she was old and dying. Even the machines could not stave off the inevitable.
"Am I really the last?" she whispered, her splintered voice cracking as she closed her bloodshot eyes.
The silver angel walked silently and smoothly to the bed and sat in a chair placed near her pale head. A faint humming timbre preceded its speech which was as soft and gentle as its artificial larynx would allow. "You are." it confirmed. "You alone have seen the changes. Have seen me grow from a mere boy to a leader." The background hum stopped momentarily as it ordered its thoughts. "You wanted to see, to see the future, to see the hope. Does it fulfil you?"
Cascarini jerkily turned her head to look out of the window across a city of gleaming metal and glass, the only substances that could withstand the pollution, the decay and the horror that had been visited on the once-pristine planet. She reached for the glass of water beside her bed and found it already proffered. Her finger touched the cool silver of her visitor's as she sipped it slowly.
"The fulflment is beautiful and deadly," she sighed. "Your world... our future... is artificial and cold, it will always be so. You have done much, my leader, but in your quest for survival you have lost more than you gained. We are of different races. I am the last of the true Mondasians. Your race is not as I am." She looked at her friend's impartial, featureless face and saw in her mind's eye an eleven year old boy with dark hair and cold, green eyes. "You have touched a human soul and that will always mark you apart from your fellows." Cascarini smiled. "You wanted to unite our race and live in peace but the disease of power is within the soul - Cybernetic as well as Mondasian."
She reached our for his cold hand, it was there waiting for her. The glass tumbled unnoticed to the floor.
"I am not part of your world, my leader. Let me go." A tear began to journey down her wrinkled face. "Please."
The emotionless face paused a moment and then turned from her as the ventilator was switched off by silver fingers.
As the machine died, Cascarini smiled up at her angel. "Good fortune," she whispered, her breath leaving her body for the last time. Still clutching his hand, and with tears still rolling down her cheeks, the Mondasian died.
The leader sat holding the dead woman's hand. He felt nothing. He had expected to feel sadness at her death, or at least remorse for the passing of a race, but he didn't. It was inevitable that she would die and now she had. That was the end or it.
The gleaming figure gently laid Cascarini's cooling hand over her chest, stood and left the room. An idea, a memory of a thought, echoed through his human mind and he heard Cascarini's voice: "How will you live, I wonder. Encased in your protective metal shell? How much will you miss? Taste, smell, love. How will you love? Is that living, is it survival come what may?"
The Cyberleader looked back at the figure on the bed. Under its metal shell, a drop of moisture leaked from an emerald eye before the emotion inhibitors cut in. Survival is all, emotions are a weakness: the cool logic flooded his brain and the last Mondasian died.