It’s still technically Friday, right? 😉
THE SHADOW OF THE DALEKS
EPISODE FIVE: Shadow Walker
Methos was still in shock. He had never expected to meet an Immortal on this distant world, but to learn that the entire indigenous population of Riga 3 was also Immortal…well, it was more than just a surprise. The Tolloc woman Nala was staring at Methos, smiling in a way that was starting to make the ancient Immortal a little nervous. There was a lot that Kallan wasn’t telling, Methos was sure.
To cover his amazement, Methos pulled himself upright and looked around the room more carefully. There was a pallet on the floor, which apparently Nala used as a bed. Against one wall was a row of transparent cages, made of a substance similar to plexiglass. Inside most of the cages were hideous, invertebrate creatures similar to the one he’d seen dead in the laboratory.
“More Kaled mutants,” explained Kallan, noticing Methos’ interest. “The Daleks donated them so that we could link them telepathically to the Tolloc. So far, it hasn’t worked.”
Methos did not respond. His mind was moving too quickly as he tried to absorb everything he had been told. In the past 24 hours, he had left Earth, travelled forward in Time over twenty-four centuries, seen his first alien planet, and learned that there were Immortals nearly two thousand years old who had never lifted a sword in their lives. And now he was looking at a genuine intelligent extraterrestrial.
The creature in the cage nearest him moved, emitting a squelching noise that was quite sickening. Methos suddenly realized that the creature had lots of tubes running to and from its body. It was on life support of some kind. As he cast his gaze across the other cages, he realized that they were all on life support. How fearsome could these things be? They were small, unable to stand under their own power, and seemed to be dependent on technology. Finally he shrugged and turned to examine Nala herself.
The woman was standing in front of her pallet, smiling a strange smile that communicated absolutely nothing. It was almost as if she were laughing at Methos, but didn’t want to embarass him.
Still, he reminded himself, one musn’t judge cultural reactions based on one’s own culture. This could be a display of great honor for all he knew.
Which wasn’t much. When it came to the Tolloc, Methos knew virtually nothing, and it worried him a great deal. How had Kallan known to come to Riga 3? What did he really want out of the Tolloc? And how did a colony ship, sent apparently by a major Earth organization, come to be filled with three dozen pre-Immortals?
The sun was going down. Because of the clouds, the only way the Doctor could tell was by the slow dimming of light that came in from outside the low hut where the Tolloc had taken him. He was alone, waiting while Iktha ran to fetch the villiage elders. The Doctor reflected that Iktha was a very strange lad. He seemed to be a person of great importance in the village, despite his youth. Then again, during the ceremony when he had given the Doctor the bone knife, he had not seemed like a child.
In that moment, Iktha had reminded the Doctor of the ancient hermit near his childhood home in the mountains of South Gallifrey.
Light flickered at the open door of the hut and three important-looking Tolloc, two male and one female, entered, led by Iktha. Each carried a lantern, carved of bone and yet not seeming to burn from the curiously smokeless flame within. The light glittered in their eyes, but these Tolloc were not smiling like the others before. Iktha, too, had become very serious.
The Doctor realized that the elders were actually quite young, not one of them over thirty-five. Perhaps life expectancy was very short in this harsh climate. One of them, a tall man with brilliant red hair and a spectacularily long beard, bowed deeply in front of the Doctor, then knelt on a reed mat on the packed earth floor of the hut. He gestured for the Doctor to do the same.
Once the Doctor had knelt, the others all knelt as well. Smiling, the Doctor decided to break the ice. “Hello!” he said brightly. “I am the Doctor, and I was wondering if you could help me.”
The redhead with the enormous beard waved a hand peremptorially. “We know what you are. Iktha has told us.”
“Yes,” said the Doctor, “I’m very curious about that.”
“It was foretold,” explained a raven-haired woman who sat to the redhead’s left. “Iktha saw the coming of the Shadow Walker. He saw it in the Place of Light.”
“The Place of Light?” asked the Doctor, his concern for Methos temporarily overridden by curiosity.
“Our holy place,” said Iktha. “The place of our beginning, and the place of ending.” He smiled, almost shyly. It struck the Doctor as quite uncharacteristic for Iktha, or, indeed, any of these strangely happy people. “When we met, I was returning from the Place of Light.”
The wind picked up outside, whistling past the doorway, and then died back down. None of the Tolloc said a thing. The Doctor looked into their faces, but saw no answers. He looked at the patch of dimming sky out the doorway, but there was no answer there either.
“I’m looking for a friend,” said the Doctor.
A blond haired man with no beard at all spoke up. “You came with another?”
“Yes,” replied the Time Lord. “I’m quite worried about him. Although I imagine he’s wondering what’s become of me now.”
The blond man nodded. “We will help you. But we must know first who you are.”
“I thought you said you knew!”
“No,” said the redhead, shaking his head so hard the beard twitched down to its ends. “We know *what* you are, but not *who* you are. And it is the self which we must know.” He tipped his head to one side. “You are like the Strangers, closed to us.”
“Wait a minute, what strangers?” asked the Doctor.
But the man did not seem to have heard him. “We cannot read you as we read each other, and so we must ask to find out who you are.”
The Doctor considered this. “You’re telepathic?”
Iktha spoke but did not answer. “The prophecy says that a Shadow Walker will come out of a safe place, a place out of Time.” The TARDIS, realized the Doctor. “And that when the Shadow Walker comes, the Tolloc time will end.”
The dark-haired woman spoke again. “The prophecy also says he will come with another. ‘An old man with a young face, standing beside the other.’ Would this be your friend?”
Surprised, the Doctor nodded. “Yes. Yes, that would be him. A very…perceptive description of him.” He frowned. The cold was finally beginning to reach through his coat and he shivered. “Look, I’m getting rather worried about him. Can you possibly help me to find Methos?”
The long bearded redhead nodded. “Yes. You may travel with the hunters as they go to the Strangers’ castle tonight. They will help you search for your friend.” His eyes had gone soft with compassion. “They always find us, and so we know they will find your friend.”
“You travel at night?” asked the Doctor, astonished. With the thick cloud cover, it would be nearly impossible to see.
“The light is shortening as winter comes across the land. The hunters would have left sooner, but they wanted to see you first, Shadow Walker.” He shrugged expressively, the first bit of body language the Doctor had seen him express that had said anything other than complete wisdom. “It will not be full dark until you arrive, and we will send light with you.” His eyes glittered in the shadows. “We do not fear the dark, Shadow Walker.”
Deep in the Finder complex, Communicator Tosk sat in the midst of his favorite technological toys. The glow of the main console illuminated his face from the side, but he was not paying it any attention. It was the secondary communication console that interested him now. Barely an hour ago, Finder Savrek had brought some very disturbing news that Leader Kallan was not following procedure. Kallan had brought an intruder into the complex and refused to allow Tosk to question the prisoner. Indeed, the intruder was no longer a prisoner. Once Kallan had met the man, he had pronounced him an honored guest and given him the run of the facilites.
Worse still, he had allowed the man to carry a weapon.
Tosk smiled grimly. The Daleks would not be happy. Granted, they rarely were happy about anything. But this would finish Kallan for sure. From the very first day Kallan had met with the Dalek high command, Tosk had known the strange human to be a risk. Although the idea of using a telepathic community as a sort of gestalt data store was a novel and potentially brilliant idea, a quick background check had revealed Kallan’s complete lack of training in the fields of psionics, xenoneurology, and psychocomputation.
No problem, Kallan had said.
Desperate for a solution to the Movellan stalemate, and eager for the chance to finally have a computer that the Movellans, with their robotic brains, could never hope to access, the Daleks had granted Kallan’s request to send a crack Finder team. Under Kallan’s direction, they had collected a small group of some of the best researchers in their fields. A xenobiolgist, Fixer Martin. A sociopsychologist specializing in gestalt cultures, Finder Vorna. A computer expert and virtual reality interface designer, Finder Savrek. All three came from Kylak 5, a world firmly under Dalek control.
But what about Kallan?
Even then, Tosk had expressed his mistrust of the strange human. There was no record of Kallan’s birth, no educational background, no employment history, no medical background…. Not even a tax record. Not in the Galactic Federation, anyway. Kallan claimed to have been an orphan raised by Draconians, but even the Draconian Empire had no record of him. And to make the suspicions even worse, the last planet on which he had been seen was Pixa 2, a planet under the protection of the Space Corps Auxilliaries, a military organization who spent most of their time killing Daleks.
If Kallan came from anywhere, reasoned Tosk, it was from the Galactic Federation. And if he were an Auxie working undercover, attempting to undermine the Dalek cause from within…. Well, there was a reason Tosk had petitioned to be the Dalek liason for the team. Ever suspicious, the Daleks had quickly approved the request. Tosk was their eyes and ears on Riga 3. He’d spent the last six years watching Kallan, breeding suspicions with no evidence.
But now it looked as if all the suspicions were true.
A human lands on Riga 3, dozens of light years from even the most remote and untravelled shipping lanes. He claims it is by accident. But when Kallan meets this human, he immediately recognizes him as an ally. Why? Tosk smiled grimly. It could only be that this Adam Pierson was another Auxie spy. A Dalek Killer meeting his contact on Riga 3. And that contact could only be Kallan.
Cracking his knuckles, Tosk set to work at the communications console. A connection had already been initiated with the Federation records datastore on Ganymede, back in the Sol system. Since his past searches on Kallan had proven fruitless, perhaps it was time to check on the mysterious newcomer.
“Let’s find out who you really are, Mister Pierson.”
The cold wind wasn’t bothering the Doctor anymore as he followed the soft glowing light carried by the hunting party as they walked across the grassland. A Tolloc hunter named Akain had given him a shawl made from the skin of a strange, soft-furred creature that Akain had called a “snoweater.” Apparently, the snoweaters comprised most of the Tolloc diet during the winter months. With the birds of summer gone away and the plants falling into hibernation for the long prairie winter, the Tolloc had very little to eat until the snoweaters returned. Therefore, they were petitioning the Strangers for food.
The Strangers had fed them the previous autumn as well, from their abundant supply of synthesized consumables. But this time, the Tolloc were travelling with two other purposes in mind. One: to ask the Strangers about the Doctor’s friend, Methos. Two: to request the return of Nala, a Tolloc woman who had apparently been abducted by the Strangers and who now had to return for some ceremony.
“Akain,” called the Doctor. The tall, slender Tolloc fell back to walk alongside the Time Lord.
“Yes, Shadow Walker?”
“Who is Nala?”
Akain nodded sagely. “Nala, Librarian of the Tolloc. It is Nala who keeps our records, our stories, our knowledge. Even the Elders cannot gain access to our wisdom without her.”
“Librarian?” ask the Doctor, surprised. “I hadn’t thought you Tolloc to be bookish types.”
“Bookish?” asked Akain. In the glow of the light he carried, the Doctor could see Akain draw his brows together quizically.
“Yes. You know, a book. Codex. Scroll. The written word.”
Akain shook his head. “I know nothing of these things. Perhaps the Strangers know of what you speak.”
The Doctor tried again. “If she’s your librarian, how is your history recorded? What do you write it on?”
The hunter smiled. “It is remembered.”
“By whom?” asked the Doctor. “By all of you?”
“No,” said Akain, shaking his head decisively. “By the Tolloc. The Tolloc mind remembers. It remembers all that we have forgotten.” The hunter paused, peering deeply and inscrutably into the Doctor’s eyes. “If a book is that which keeps records, then Nala is the one who opens that book.”
The Doctor’s eyes widened and he smiled, delighted. He understood. “A group mind! You, you…you’re telepathic, right?” He did not wait for Akain to respond. “You share memories, thoughts, dreams…. Yes! No wonder a group of strangers might come to this world. They’re probably researchers! Anthropologists, studying a remarkable evolutionary adaptation allowing the preservation of culture without the written word! Amazing….”
Throughout the Doctor’s excited outburst, Akain only smiled.
The speedwell depths of Nala’s eyes gave Methos no answer. There was a glitter in those eyes, but he could not read it. He could tell she was laughing inside, but there was something else, something hidden from him and his five thousand years of experience in reading faces. For a moment, he almost imagined he could feel a tickle in the back of his mind, almost as if she were trying to talk to him, using the telepathic abilities Kallan had spoken of. But it was gone very quickly, and was in case too faint to be anything but wishful thinking.
“Who are you?” he asked Nala.
She laughed out loud. “You already know,” she replied.
“Yes, I know your name is Nala,” said Methos, “but that’s not what I meant.”
“I know,” she said, her unquenchable smile still sitting lightly on her lips.
Kallan put a hand on Methos’ shoulder. “You’ll get nothing more out of her than I did,” he said.
“Well, it’s worth a try,” said Methos, but he rose anyway. “Why are you so interested in her particularily?”
The younger Immortal smiled. “Because she is the Librarian. She’s the key to making our biological data storage device.”
Methos frowned. “But I thought that was only the Dalek plan. What are you really after, Kallan?”
“Surely,” said Kallan, “you’ve noticed the curious calm that pervades the landscape of this world.”
Methos nodded. “Yes. Like Siberia before the Soviets took over.”
Kallan frowned. “Soviets?”
“Probably before your time,” he muttered.
“Just how old….”
Methos interrupted. “But what difference does it make about the land? Why are the Tolloc so important?”
“They share the same mind, Adam.” Kallan smiled. “There’s an enormous power there, just waiting to be tapped. And I don’t mean just their individual Quickenings,” he said quickly. “I’ve managed to establish that their greatest power is communal. They have this extraordinary gestalt mind. The Daleks want to enslave that mind, use it to store their battle plans.” Kallan laughed softly. “Such a waste….”
The younger Immortal trailed off, clearly lost in his own thoughts.
“And you?” Methos prompted gently. “What do you want with the Tolloc?”
Kallan’s eyes glittered. “You’ll find out the details later. She’s still the key, and must be kept alive at all costs.”
Methos chuckled. “Well, that shouldn’t be difficult, anyway. I doubt she’ll be receiving any challenges anytime soon.” He looked down at Nala, who was staring back up at him with the same unnerving smile, clearly very amused by something he couldn’t perceive. The smile grew as he watched her, but still she said nothing.
The laboratory doors opened. A woman in her mid-forties entered the room, glancing cautiously at Methos while approaching Kallan.
“Leader Kallan, I have news for you,” she said.
Kallan smiled at Methos. “Adam, allow me to introduce Finder Vorna. She’s our sociopsychologist. Much of her work has been in gestalt cultures.” He turned to Vorna, who was scowling. “Vorna, please welcome Adam Pierson to our facility.”
For several seconds, Vorna did not reply. Then, finally, she extended a hand to Methos. “Greetings, Mister Pierson. I hope that whatever difficulties may have brought you here will speedily resolve themselves.”
The formality of the reply did not surprise Methos; she seemed to distrust him, which made perfect sense considering the remoteness of their location. It was probably a billion-to-one chance of the TARDIS choosing this world to land on, so naturally she would suspect him. Perhaps Kallan’s ready acceptance of Methos was making the employees suspicious.
But Vorna didn’t seem to be paying Methos any more attention. She had turned to face Kallan, in a surprisingly final way — Methos wasn’t used to getting such a definitive cold shoulder. “Leader Kallan,” she said, smoothly and precisely, “the Tolloc hunting party is almost here.”
“Hunting party?” interjected Methos, but he was ignored.
“They have sent more hunters than they typically do,” she continued, unfazed. “I believe caution is indicated.”
“Any idea why they came in force?” asked Kallan.
“I think they want Nala back.” Vorna sighed, and for a moment Methos realized that she was rather attractive. “She’s run twice this week, after all. I can only guess at what they might need her for.”
All three turned to face the Librarian. She smiled pleasantly at them, seemingly oblivious to it all.
A monitor was shining in the darkness, reflected in Tosk’s glittering dark eyes. The Federation database had found a match, but in a most unexpected location.
Adam Pierson was known to the Watchers.
Tosk’s eyes widened as he read the record before him. Adam Pierson was known to the shadowy historical society, but the information was alarmingly vague. Little was known about the Watchers in general, save that they had earned the dubious honor of being labelled an enemy of the Dalek race. Several hundred years ago, a Watcher colony had been completely eradicated by the Daleks. Although the Watchers claimed to be neutral observers only, they had allied themselves with a particularily nasty group of Dalek Killers and attempted to reclaim the planet. Their strike force was destroyed, of course, but not before rendering the planet completely unusuable to the Daleks.
In retaliation, the Daleks had tried to target the secret society, but every time they located a Watcher colony or even a Watcher starship, the Watchers themselves would be long gone, and all their data with them. In the end, the Dalek-Movellan Wars took the Dalek interest away from humans in general, and particularily from hard-to-find human historical societies.
For centuries, the Watchers had given up, or seemed to have given up, on ever reclaiming the colony. The Daleks had lost interest in it; with no life to enslave, there was little left of use to them. It wasn’t as if the planet had any real mineral wealth or other tactical advantage as a staging ground. But for some reason the Federation now had a file on them, and this file included Adam Pierson.
“You’re finished, Kallan,” whispered the Communicator. Smiling with a grim joy, he initiated a connection to Dalek High Command. “And as for your friend, Mister Pierson….”
Tosk laughed. He couldn’t be sure what the Daleks would do with the two spies, but it would be a pleasure finding out.