Oswin doesn’t die when the Daleks destroy the Asylum.
No one is more surprised by this than her.
It was bad enough to find out she had hallucinated the last year of her life, that she was a Dalek. But noooo: Now she’s a floating Dalek! She is a nutter human in a tin can floating through space!
Got to give those Daleks credit; it is, at least, an airtight tin can.
For some reason, she never thinks to broadcast. She can, she knows she can. In her delirium, Oswin could, apparently, do whatever the hell she set her mind to. Except now, she’s floating in space.
That’s the other worrisome thing, the space. The Asylum was underground; the Daleks were only supposed to blow up the complex. The fact that she’s in space makes Oswin suspect she lost more sanity points.
Out of curiosity, she opens up Dalek communication channels and listens.
Then she shuts the channel down and howls with laughter for 3 minutes 8 seconds. They’re still shouting “Doctor Who? Doctor Who?”
She did some of her best work while half-mad with grief and horror.
Once Oswin calms down, she opens frequencies back up and listens some more. Between the bewildered Dalek howling, she realizes that the Dalek High Command, in a fit of panic, teleported the remains of the Asylum off of the planet and dumped it in empty space.
That explains the floating tin can bit.
She doesn’t need oxygen like a human does, which is another relief. Daleks were designed to be efficient, not fragile, and the last of her oxygen from Skaro will hold her for at least six months. That means she has five months (paranoia!) to figure out how to get the hell out of space and back to civilization. Preferably while no longer looking like a Dalek.
Oswin spends twenty-six hours, nine minutes, eight seconds scanning the debris field she is floating in. Dalek Dalek Dalek Dalek bored so bored Dalek Dalek Dalek fuck!
Everything around her is so blatantly Dalek it’s a wonder no one has come along to slag it yet. Everything is Dalek—hello.
In her headspace, she is grinning. (Gods know what her actual body is doing. Tentacle waving?)
She’s looking at part of the wreckage of the Alaska. An intact part of the Alaska.
Oswin has the best idea, ever. Chin Boy is going to hate that he didn’t think of it first.
She has propulsion, so she can manoeuvre around in the debris field to her heart’s content, rummaging and salvaging. She finds herself singing. She plays music picked up from deep space telemetry. (She has deep space telemetry. Great bleeding cats.) She uses her laser thingy to weld plate metal. She has mini tools in her torso that remind her of droids, and uses them to re-route wiring in ways she never dreamed were possible.
In short, she is the best little Dalek That Could to ever be manufactured. She wonders if the Dalek leaders are going to re-build the Asylum, because there is no doubt that Oswin would be the first they would want to lock back up.
On day fifty-three, Oswin takes a break and floats along in the wake of her current project. She is watching the distant stars; they’ve been getting closer to a nebula, cycle by cycle. It’s so pretty.
Chin Boy uses a box to look at things. Hah!
On day sixty, she finds the files that detail what happened to her mother, and she cries. It’s in her original (failed) programming subroutines that Oswin is supposed to hate and destroy. She is the worst Dalek ever. Even in her own headspace, she still can’t make soufflés.
The Alaska doesn’t look much like the Alaska anymore. Not that it really did when she found it, either, but now it’s really different. With two months to go before her self-imposed deadline, Oswin realizes that she doesn’t have a telepathic circuit. Of course she doesn’t; the Alaska wasn’t designed to host telepaths.
Oswin has to build one. Build a telepath circuit.
It takes nine days, three hours exactly.
She celebrates by flying laps around her Alaska. This is the best day ever.
She installs the circuit, tests it, inadvertently attracts a pod of space whales. She’s never seen them before. Cats, they are beautiful, and they don’t fear her one bit. She watches them float around, crooning happy songs, and then redoubles her efforts. Forget five months. She’s going to be traveling in style in four.
The whales don’t leave. She leaves the connection to the telepathic circuit open. Best to get used to it now, anyway.
She finishes her work in four months, one day, two hours. Eh. She celebrates anyway.
Oswin built herself a fucking spaceship in four months, using nothing more than the power of her brain and exploded bits of cast-off Dalek insane asylum. She is awesome.
All right, there? one of the whales wants to know. Oswin has decided not to ask why it has a high-class old-Earth British accent.
Oswin is calculating trajectory logistics. “I am brilliant, therefore yes,” she tells it. If she sounds a little bit like a Dalek, well, it’s to be expected, floating around in a Dalek tin can in deep space for four months one day six hours thirty-eight minutes six seconds.
Cats. Oswin shakes her head and tries to back off from the precise time thing. Just because she’s smarter than supercomputers now doesn’t mean she needs to sound like one.
Do you need assistance? the big whale asks. Oswin tried to name her Humpy. The whale did not approve.
“I’ll keep the offer in mind. Going offline in three,” Oswin says, and sucks in all of the oxygen left in her tin can suit. She is smart, she is a genius, and all of her math rocks the nebula. Failure is not an option.
She doesn’t look through her real eyes. She keeps up her headspace; she has, in fact, expanded her headspace and now she owns a pool. She’s still nervous when she cracks the hatch to make the transition.
The new ship looks nothing like the old, and is designed with Oswin’s comfort in mind.
Her comfort requires a sealed hermetic sphere. The whales donated liquid biomatter, enough to keep her body protected from the rigors of space travel for the rest of her life. When Oswin closes the sphere, programs automatically engage. They reconnect her with the telepathic circuit, and with awareness comes recognition of every single new system, each of them unique, built to her design.
Her consciousness expands. She is no longer restricted to the interior of a tin can. With a thought, she brings herself about, her viewscreen showing her the pod of whales. They are singing to her, offering luck and fond farewells for the start of her journey.
She is Oswin. She is the Oswin.
She is not a Dalek. She is a ship.
She will see the stars.