To The End
by Nostalgia

The stars are dark and the universe is cold. She finds a corner of warmth and settles down to die.

She has lived far longer than most of her kind, and her circuits can't quite summon up the early centuries anymore. She has vague recollections of a past life, of being young and admired, but these days the only events that come back to her easily are the years of exile.

She does a search of her databases and decides that exile is not, in fact, the correct word. She worries that yet another circuit is starting to fail. She can feel the entropy shifting around her, trying to gain access. But she puts the thought to one side and considers her exile, now relabelled as adventure.

She lives among these memories now, talking to the dead. All the people she met, all the places she visited before her best friend died and she was stranded. The data stream with the instructions on how to navigate on her own had become corrupted by then, and she remembers the despair that hung around him when he couldn't repair them. "We could go home," he offered at the time, but she declined. Better to drift and observe than to return and be taken apart for scrap. So they stayed together, and now she is alone, at the end of the universe.

She watches another star blink out, measures the background radiation and hydrogen concentration in the space around her. She calculates the remaining time and goes back to her memory banks to settle in for the end. She keeps a channel open for observation, because none of the theories in her databases are entirely certain what will happen when the universe loses all it's heat. Probably nothing, but she feels the event is worth recording anyway.

She feels a slight tugging as the black hole that sustains her finally ebbs away outside. She considers the paradox that the singularity is still young within her own internal dimensions, kept at the point of greatest potential.

She ponders the possibility of realigning her internal dimensions, mapping them on to the real universe. It would, she thinks, add an almost infinite mass to this dying cosmos, provide the critical mass for collapse and re-expansion. But she isn't quite sure how to anymore, so much data has been lost to time. But she finds, on a search to retrieve the necessary information, the protocol for self- destruction. She is dismayed to find that this is yet another programme she cannot activate on her own.

A chirp from the single observation channel and her attention is diverted from her own thoughts. She analyses the incoming information, recognises it as her own signal. Odd, she decides, as she has never been here before.

The space beside her outer shell warps momentarily, and a replica of herself appears. Not quite herself though, her scanners insist. She realises that she is curious.

"I've been looking for you," says the computer code downloading into her central processor. "Do you remember me?"

She sends back a number of inquires, but the newcomer ignores them. "It's Compassion. You are my mother."

She ponders this claim, and responds that she is incapable of reproduction.

A new data stream downloads, and the memories return. The girl with the receiver, the block transfer computations...

"Oh," she sends.

"I can take you back."

She declines, and sends her request.

After a pause, Compassion responds. "But you will be destroyed."

"I know."

Another pause. "I can help you do this, but I will have to leave before you carry it out. It would be too dangerous for me to remain."

She accepts the condition and creates an uplink. The necessary overrides and by-passes copy themselves into her primary database.

Compassion transmits another suggestion, "You could come back with me. We could travel together."

"I have done everything," she says, and offers a compressed file as proof, the index of her memory.

Compassion considers. "I have to go, then." She downloads regret and concern, then merges back into space-time.

Left alone again, the TARDIS begins her work. She runs a simultaneous high-speed search of her memory, experiencing every event again in less than a minute.

She shuts down her secondary systems and runs her final programme.

The TARDIS dies, and the universe is reborn.


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