Then the planet got a new moon and a new goddess in a ball of fire.
From the dissention new heroes rose to the cause.
They didn't follow a flag or a general. They followed a stranger with an agenda of his own, one that would see him consumed in the fires of his foe. Or so they thought.
But was the struggle, the devastation, worth the cost?
Dust settled. It had seemed like an age until the TARDIS was ready to force itself back into the corporeal world. The shattered street corner on Chicago43 had once been a perfectly normal residential block. Neat two story buildings in the modern style that would have looked equally at home in Cardiff or Vancouver. Today they seemed to have stepped right off the West Bank. The street was littered in rubble and none of the windows remained intact.
The Doctor found Max sat in the street outside. From the doors of the TARDIS his friend was perched on a pile of rubble opposite. As the Doctor got closer he could tell that Max’s hands were cut and he was filthy from the freshly moved debris.
He was staring at a girl, quite dead but apparently unmarked. She looked to have been in her early twenties, probably of Korean extration somewhere deep in her past. She wore beige coulouttes and a yellow t shirt.
‘Someone you knew?’ The time lord asked quietly as he drew level. Max shook his head.
‘I saw her hand on the edge of the building. Dug her out. It was too late’ his voice was dry – not just from the dust.
‘Theres been a lot of damamge..’
‘And its our fault isn’t it’ Max said ‘We killed her.’
“No Max, you know that’s not true..”
“Do I? If we’d stopped the HOST the first time instead of trying to hide it under some temporal carpet..”
“An old friend once told me IF is a powerful word. But we can’t change history, not one line. You know that.”
“Yeah. Yeah I know. But what comfort is it for her, Doctor?” he turned to stare at the cold face he’d unearthed. “You see this street? This was once Belleview, posh part of town. The Avatar and I arrived here. I never saw it looking posh, only this wasteland. At first it reminded me of the news back home, images of Iraq, or Gaza or Afgahnistan. Then I reaslied it was more like Egypt or Thailand, like a natural disaster, crushing innocence and piety with the same disdane as it crushed the powerful.”
The Doctor took his freind by the shoulder and sat next to him.
“And since when has a disaster stopped humanity?” he pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and started cleaning up the wounds on his friends hands. “Look at the girl, from her face alone it’s a fair bet that she has a dose of Korean in her ancestry somewhere. And yet here she is, billions of light years from earth, living a life of probably startling mundanity on a colony planet so far in your species future that the term Korea probably no longer has any meaning whatsoever. She survived the war we only glimpsed from behind the lines, she spread out, not just across the globe but into the stars. Her ancestors were once the poorest people on your world. But here she is, in summer clothes in the grounds of the poshest part of town.”
“Then we came, bringing death with us.”
“You’re not listening Max. Theres always death. Nothing lives forever, not even a timelord.”
“What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger – yeah I heard that once or twice.”
“Last time you were like this you wanted to go home.”
“Yeah, and when I did, I died for the first time.”
“Want to see what we saved today?” The Doctor asked, standing and brushing down his black velvet coat.
The street market was a mess. In the shadow of the first global bank, shelters and awnings crowded around the fountain. There was a mass of colonists sharing the sun for the first time in weeks. As the Doctor dragged his friend through the mass of jabbering people he found their progress slowed by a melee of voices all welcoming Max.
Max for his part was confused by the apparent adulation. People he didn’t recognise were shaking him by the hand. Thanking him in tearstained tones. He wished he knew for what.
Suddenly the crowd parted as a huge black figure stomped towards them. “err” the Doctor managed before he was swept aside.
“Max!” boomed the figure as his massive arms englufed his target.
“Tank?” Max mumbled into the big mans chest, almost drowned out by the rumble of laughter from his rebel friend.
“where you get to buddy? Come see the gang!” Max didn’t have much of a choice, the man known as Tank may have been a gentle giant but he was still a good four times stronger than Max. he looked back to see the Doctor jogging to catch up, his grin wide under that long nose of his.
On the steps of the old cathedral sat what remained of the those few men and women that had stood up to the Avatar. Max was surprised to see Blade. Though covered in bandages he seemed alive, which was more than Max remembered. He had a small child balanced on his knee and was recounting the fight that had injured him with the tone of one who had told the same story every day for a month.
The Doctor recognised the others from the few moments he had spent in their company. Still together though the threat had ended.
“Why does everyone seem to want to shake my hand?” Max hissed at the timelord.
“You’d best ask them.” he nodded smugly at the rebels.
“Come on man, why’d you think?” Tank rumbled with mirth. “Show him, Aeril”
The young girl who had weilded a boomerang scrabbled in the bag at her side and pulled out a box that bore a startling resembalance to a PSP console. The screen lit up and a rather shaky image of Max running towards the Avatar sprang into life. He had a look of determination, and loss on his face. The quality was too low to show the tears.
Max watched himself leap into the energy beam, saw himself fall backward with the blast then surge forward again, blank rage writ large over his face. He didn’t remember that. Noticed Ichi appear in the background just in time to watch him rise into the air, dragged along in the Avatar’s wake.
“Where did this come from?”
“One of the newsbots got it, was hiding in the rubble. It’s been all over the networks as soon as the power was back.”
Max had no answer. He just stood there.
“You’re a hero Max, makes a change to running from the locals doesn’t it?” the Doctor smiled, clapping him on the shoulder.
“You’re forgetting the girl. I’m no hero Doctor.”
“They think you are,” the time lord whispered solemnly “And that’s how you’ll be remembered here. You faced down the Avatar and you seemed to win, amazing how much faith you humans put into appearances isn’t it.”
“I was protecting Xan.” He said quietly.
“That’s what we all wanted.” Aeril told him “To protect our loved ones.” She nodded at the girl in Blade’s lap.
“I wasn’t brave, I was stupid.”
“Bravery isn’t about going in all guns blazing Max.” the Doctor conmforted, his broad hands holding his friend still, concern that he might snap evident on his face. “Brave is being scared but going anyway.”
“By the looks of you, you’re the bravest person in the world” Tank laughed “They’re gonna want a speech you know.” He nodded at the crowded marketplace.
“Then you better make one. Who’s in charge now?”
“Since the Avatar destroyed the council hall, theres no one. The nearest we had in the last month was you.”
“Oh great.” Max sighed. “Tank, the only speech I’m giving is an abdication. I just want to be with my family. You guys can take care of things.”
“At least stay for dinner.” Blade managed to rasp as he finished his tale and wandered over.
“Only if I can bring the others.”
“Did you mean that?” The Doctor asked once they were free of the market place.
“About dinner, well, I don’t think Blade will let us get out of it..”
“About being with your family. Do you want me to take you home?”
“That’s where we’re going, The TARDIS. Xan and Lily, even you and Ichigo. You’re my family.”
“Then we better bring something to the party” The timelord grinned
“What did you have in mind?”
“Something sweet, Ichi wont be content with canned peaches..”
Finally, after no one knew how long, Max Kowarth laughed again.