THE SHADOW OF THE DALEKS
EPISODE THREE: Meetings of Like Minds
“Almost there,” muttered the Doctor as he twisted his arm around inside the TARDIS console, trying to reach the inconveniently placed motherboard. He felt the daughtercard in his hand brush against its socket. “There,” he said triumphantly, pushing the card home. The vortex algorithm generator was back in place. A little testing, and he could be sure it worked.
He slowly unwound himself from the cramped position he’d been sitting in to reach the underside of the console. The diagnostics would take a few minutes to run — just enough time to make a pot of tea. He flicked the switch that would start the test procedure and strolled across the room to the sitting area.
Thanks to the TARDIS, a steaming hot pot of water was already there, waiting for him to add the tea himself. The Doctor pondered a while over which tea to use. He found himself humming a jaunty little tune as he did so, and realized that he was in a spectacularily good mood. Grinning at himself, he picked a tea purely at random and filled a cheesecloth bag with it. As he did, he noticed that it was called Noel, a lovely blend of black tea and Christmassy spices from Mariage Frere in Paris. He smiled even broader at the memory and dropped the tea into the water. The scent of tea and cinnamon quickly filled the cool, pleasant air of the TARDIS.
As the Doctor bustled about preparing tea, he pondered the reason for his energetic mood. His recent battle with the Master had been anything but pleasant, and although it was too soon for him to be really missing Terri, he couldn’t help but admit that the TARDIS was a bit emptier without her. And Methos….
Yes, Methos. The Doctor chuckled a little to himself. Not even the snappishness with which the ancient human had spoken earlier could darken the Doctor’s mood. He understood Methos’ concerns about being stuck on a random tour of the Universe — Tegan had been bothered by much the same thing. Anyway, the Doctor had already promised himself he’d do his best to get Methos home. He’d gotten a lot better at piloting the TARDIS since his fifth regeneration, and as long as the damage from the Quickening was repaired, there shouldn’t be any problem.
Whistling softly to himself, the Doctor strode back to the console to finish testing his repairs.
There was a soft black haze around Methos’ consciousness. He groaned, for a moment thinking he was trapped inside his own head again, and that the Master was back. But the silence remained unbroken, save by the echoes of his groan. And he knew that he was alone inside his head. The serpentine presence of the Master was not responsible for his current state.
So what was? Groggily, he searched his memory for the answer.
Tranquilizer. He remembered the strange robot, firing a dart into his body that made him sleep. Pushing through the drug-induced fog, he became aware that he was lying on his back in a warm place. He sat up, shook his head to clear it, and opened his eyes.
He was sitting on a table in what looked very much like an operating theater. The table he was sitting on was padded, however, and quite comfortable. Presumably, the robot drone had brought him here after anesthetizing him. Perhaps it was a highly advanced probe similar to the Viking spacecraft that had landed on Mars back in the mid-70s, sent to investigate what little life there was on this empty world. Perhaps it considered him to be a native of Riga 3.
The anesthetic was wearing off very quickly thanks to his Immortal healing abilities, and he was able to hop down off the table with no trouble and begin investigating his surroundings. He had no doubt the Doctor would wait for him; the old Time Lord was almost as infuriatingly chivalrous as MacLeod. In the meantime, this situation bore investigating.
There were devices neatly placed on the shelves that seemed to Methos to have a medical look to them, but he couldn’t for the life of him work out what they were. Although he knew he wouldn’t be able to name half the devices in a modern 20th Century hospital, he could still blame that on lack of practice. These devices, however, were completely beyond him. As he prowled the operating theater, he half expected to find a tricorder, lying next to a Star Trek hypospray. There were a few things that looked familiar: a sink, articulated light fixtures, tweezers. He shook his head, grinning at the baffling array of technology. It would take him a few lifetimes — a few very happy lifetimes — to learn what it was all for. He was still grinning when he found the creature.
The smile fell from his face.
In a large steel basin sat an amorphous blob of green flesh. It resembled an octopus, but without the suckered tentacles and with far less color to the skin. As Methos stared at it with a morbid fascination, he could make out the faint outlines of organs beneath the skin. The main body of the creature (was it the head or the abdomen? Methos couldn’t say) was blotched with marks that looked like bruising, although Methos acknowledged that he knew almost nothing about this creature. It was intensely ugly, but the soft shape of a boneless face could be made out on one side of it. With the addition of a skeleton, some hair, and a lot more muscle, it could almost pass for a primate.
The door slid open and Methos turned. “Ugly little bugger, isn’t it?” There was a man standing in the doorway. He was wearing a pale green jumpsuit and there was a mask of some kind hanging around his neck. The man was smiling in a very disarming manner.
Methos smiled back, revealing nothing, least of all the alarming fact that this man seemed to speak English. “What is it?”
The man entered the room and the door slid shut behind him. He came to stop beside the creature. “It’s a Kaled mutant. The real creature inside of a Dalek. Be careful if you meet one; they tend to be very nasty out of their shells.”
Shells…. Methos chuckled. “Thinks the world is its oyster, eh?”
The humor was lost on the man. “This one’s dead. One of our subjects tried to run off with it.”
The man nodded. “Yes. We’re here on a research mission.”
Methos’ eyebrows came together. “Who exactly are ‘we’?”
“The Finders.” He chuckled. “I’m sorry, I haven’t properly introduced myself. My name is Martin. I’m the Fixer for this team. Fixer Martin.”
“I thought you looked like a doctor,” said Methos.
“Well, I do a bit of that as well, but mostly I just do veterinary work,” said Martin. “I repair the damage inadvertently done to the organic test subjects.”
Methos couldn’t help but smile. “But you call yourself ‘Fixer’? I hope you don’t normally ‘fix’ your test subjects.”
Martin appeared puzzled for a moment, then laughed. “To be honest, I hadn’t thought of it that way.” He smiled. “I’m part of a Finder team. Our employers favor fairly straightforward titles.”
“So I take it your team finds things, then?”
The Fixer shrugged. “We’re more of a research and development team, but I think they look on it more as finding things that are already known. Our communications specialist came up with the names. He said the customers would prefer ‘fixer’ to ‘doctor,’ for one thing. I can’t think why.”
It had been two hours since Methos had left for his walk, and still he hadn’t returned. The tea had gone cold, and finally the Doctor had gone out looking for him. “All right, Methos,” muttered the Doctor, “where have you gone?”
The wind whipped the words away from the Doctor’s mouth as he stood on a low rise not far from the TARDIS. He was reluctant to stray far; although he had an unerring sense of direction, there was no good way to track Methos. The waist-high grass had erased the errant Immortal’s path, closing up any trace that might show the way.
On a whim, the Doctor struck out towards a winding depression that he could see not too far off. It appeared to be a ravine, cut in the hard soil of Riga 3 by water, wind, or some other force. The only sounds he heard were the gentle whispering of the wind and the soft sounds made by his feet and body as he passed through the resiliant silver grasses.
After a time, the sound of water added itself to the otherwise empty air. The Doctor grinned; the ravine was a likely path for Methos to have taken, especially if it contained water. The water would make it more interesting, and as Methos had been keen to distract himself from the situation, this was a good bet.
The only question was which way the ancient Immortal went.
The Doctor reached the edge of the ravine. He peered over the edge. It wasn’t very steep; it would be very easy to drop down to the floor of the ravine and walk there. Then again, if he stayed on the top, he’d have an excellent vantage point for finding his friend. And for spotting any possible trouble.
Pausing only to mark the direction towards the TARDIS with a collection of small rocks from the riverbed, the Doctor set off towards the right. The wind still blew across the gray flatlands, and the Doctor kept walking. For a few minutes, it seemed the sun was about to break through the otherwise featureless skies, but then the clouds sealed over again.
The temperature was dropping, barely perceptably. It didn’t bother the Doctor especially, not with his Time Lord metabolism, but it did mean that night was not far off. Probably. Either that, or it was about to snow. The Doctor gazed up at the leaden clouds. They did seem heavy with the weight of a winter white-out, but there was no indication besides the temperature that they might drop their cargo on the plains of Riga 3.
After fifteen minutes walking along the banks of the ravine, the Doctor heard a sound. It was not the sound of the wind, nor the sound of his own feet, nor the deafening silence of a heavy snowfall.
Someone was singing.
“Methos?” called the Doctor. There was no answer.
The voice was still singing, and it definitely sounded human. Humanoid, anyway. He couldn’t quite make out the words, but it didn’t sound like the ancient Immortal. The Doctor reflected that he’d never heard Methos sing, but it didn’t seem in character for him to wander the surface of an alien planet, idly singing a nonsense tune.
“Who’s there?” called the Doctor, approaching the voice.
The singing stopped. The Doctor paused, scanning the surrounding flatlands and then the riverbed itself. He listened carefully, but heard nothing. A moment later, a figure appeared in the bottom of the ravine, running easily and soundlessly around a bend in the ravine’s walls.
The Doctor’s eyebrows shot up. It was a small boy, barely seven years of age. The boy was staring up at the Doctor. There was no fear in his eyes. He didn’t even seem surprised.
The Doctor climbed down the side of the ravine. The boy made no effort to escape or avoid him; it was as if the boy were accustomed to strangers on this world. The Doctor looked him over. He was wearing moccasins and furs to protect against the cold. The style of the garments seemed very familiar to the Doctor, very like Sioux garments, but he shrugged it off for the moment. It was more important that he find out about this boy. What was he doing on Riga 3? Why wasn’t the planet uninhabited? And what in Rassilon’s name was a small boy doing out on his own in such a forbidding climate?
The boy smiled. “Greetings, Shadow Walker.”
The Doctor’s eyes widened.
“I am Iktha,” he said. “Watcher of the Tolloc.” The boy smiled again, laughed childishly, and ran off down the ravine.
“Goodness,” said the Doctor, finally.
After a moment, Iktha came back. “Well, come on!” he said, beckoning for the Doctor to follow.
“All done,” said Fixer Martin.
“That was quick,” commented Methos. Martin had done a complete physical in under five minutes simply by waving a handheld device over the surface of his body. “Just like ‘Star Trek.'”
Martin put the device away. “I beg your pardon?” he asked.
“Nothing,” said Methos, amused. Anachronisms, he decided, were even more fun when time travel was involved. “Just an idle thought.”
Martin clucked his tongue. “Well, you’d better keep your idle thoughts safely locked away when Leader Kallan arrives.”
“Why is that?” Methos asked lightly.
Martin looked Methos in the eye. Methos could tell the man was trying to look cheerful, but he wasn’t fooled. Martin had some sort of respect for this mysterious Kallan that overrode any possibility of joviality. “He’ll want to question you. And I warn you, he takes these things very seriously,” said Martin.
“No sense of humor, eh?”
Martin shook his head. “It’s not that, it’s just…. Well, he is the project leader. He got the job because he gets results. Let’s just leave it at that, all right?” The Fixer’s pretense at humor had dropped completely.
Methos didn’t let it bother him. “Well, maybe you just need to….”
He broke off.
It was the last thing he had expected on this alien world. He straightened his back and looked to the door, every fiber of his being quivering with the sure and certain knowledge that there was another Immortal present. Automatically, he reached for his sword, forgetting that it, along with his coat, had been taken from him. He swore shortly in Sumerian.
“What’s wrong?” asked Martin, clearly worried.
Methos shook his head and feigned a relaxed smile. “Oh, nothing. I just remembered something, that’s all.”
The door slid open with a gentle electronic whirr. Automatically, Methos turned to lock eyes with the Immortal who stood there. The man was of slightly more than average height, but with a well-muscled frame. He had pale blond hair and eyes so gray the irises seemed invisible. After meeting Methos’ gaze, he entered the room and strode across to the examining table.
He put out his hand. “My name is Kallan.”
There was an uncomfortable silence.
After a moment, Methos took Kallan’s hand and shook it. “Adam Pierson,” he said, not wanting to reveal his identity and praying that his Adam Pierson persona hadn’t become public knowledge in the past two millenia. A frightening thought struck him — what had become of the Game in two thousand years? In the late 20th Century, so many Immortals were convinced that the Gathering had come. Methos had never been convinced, but what if it were true? What if it was all over? What if the Prize had been won?
What if he was now speaking to the One?
He swallowed, put on his best poker face, and looked Kallan in the eye.
The other Immortal inclined his head. “You are welcome here, Mister Pierson.” He smiled, and Methos did not know what to make of the smile.