The grand finale! Sorry for the delay, I'm trying to resynchronize posting for another round of Storytelling Engines.
Corvus, Winter explains, was in her employ all along. She hadn’t imagined that the Doctor would have chosen him for this little enterprise, but since he had, it meant that she knew everything he was doing even as he did it. She didn’t have the criminal resources to steal the Key, but the Doctor did…and now that he’s brought it to her, she will use the Doomforge Fleet to make herself Empress of the Galaxy. The Doctor tries to convince her to stop, using every weapon in his arsenal of rhetoric to try to sway her from inserting the Key, but it’s of no use. In fact, one of his casual mentions gives her an idea on how to dispose of them creatively—she bundles Ace, the Doctor, and Amanda into an escape pod, now that they’re no longer of use to her. Although the fleet won’t shoot at its own escape pods while on stand-by mode, they can rest assured that her first test of the destructive capabilities of the Doomforge Fleet will be to order the flagship to reduce the pod to atoms. She launches the pod and proceeds to the deck to bring her goals to fruition.
Inside the pod, with only minimal engine power and no weapons, Ace angrily wonders why the Doctor could possibly have brought Corvus in on this to begin with. What help could he possibly have given them that they couldn’t have gotten from someone who wasn’t an utter slimebag? The Doctor sighs, in an ‘Isn’t it obvious?’ sort of way. “He was devious, treacherous, and certain to sell us out to Baroness Winter at the first opportunity. That’s exactly what I needed for this particular enterprise.” He rummages through his pockets and pulls out a cricket ball, smashing it against the hull of the escape pod to reveal the Key inside it.
At that moment, the Baroness places her Key into the control socket. The Key, which the Doctor created and switched with the one Amanda stole, transmits a self-destruct code to the entire Doomforge Fleet. From their escape pod, the Doctor, Ace, and Amanda watch as the entire fleet annihilates itself…and, not incidentally, the unfortunate Corvus and the Baroness.
The Doctor goes on to explain that he knew that the Baroness had uncovered the truth about the Key. He knew that unless he forced her hand, she’d be able to steal it herself in less than a year, and that with it in her possession, she would be an unstoppable force for chaos and destruction. By stealing it himself, and switching out the Key with a duplicate he’d made that ordered the fleet to self-destruct, he’d eliminated the threat of the Doomforge Fleet forever.
Amanda is almost awe-struck. “You mean you arranged all that—you knew how Corvus would react—you knew how the Baroness would think, you tricked her into putting us into the escape pod…all this was your plan?” The Doctor nods. “You’d have made an amazing criminal,” she says, half in admiration and half in disgust. “I think I already have,” the Doctor says, watching the last echoes of the destruction of the intelligent ships, and the deaths of the people he’d tricked into ending their own lives.
Ace, unaffected by it all, points out that they’re stuck in a small escape pod with very little chance of reaching civilization—not less the point that the civilization they’d reach has warrants out for their collective arrest. The Doctor smiles and pulls out a pocket watch; and right on time, Eileen O’Donnell, the only pilot in the galaxy capable of outmaneuvering the Doomforge drones, spots the pod and arrives to pick them up. This time, it seems, the Doctor really has thought of everything.