Captured by the Daleks, how are they going to get out of this one?
THE SHADOW OF THE DALEKS
EPISODE EIGHT: Revelations
Methos was seriously annoyed. This was the third time he’d been imprisoned because of the Doctor. Fourth, if you counted the time he’d been locked inside of his own head by the Master. He shivered, remembering that serpentine presence. It was not pleasant.
He’d always been a survivor. His self-preservation instinct was so strong that he’d managed to dodge the Game for nearly two hundred years. But then that curiously magnetic fool MacLeod had walked into his life. Well, perhaps “walked into” was too strong a phrase. Methos had, after all, been keeping an eye on MacLeod for a few years, via Joe Dawson’ fastidious Watcher reports. He still wasn’t quite sure why he’d allowed MacLeod to find him.
No, that wasn’t true. He was sure. He’d wanted to meet the man so many believed to be the One. He’d steeled himself for disappointment, reminding himself that greatness is generally smaller in person than in legend, but he’d been surprised. MacLeod had been even larger in person. He’d understood immediately why Joe Dawson, one of the best Watchers ever, had felt compelled to reveal himself to MacLeod. The millenia of cynicism had caught up with Methos, and he had been overwhelmed.
And so, Methos had found himself attached to the impetuous Scot, following him headlong into dangers that he’d have happily run from not five years before. But this was different. The first time he’d met the Doctor, Methos had been shot, imprisoned, and very nearly beheaded. A few years later, weary from the turmoils MacLeod had dragged him into, Methos had gone to Minnesota to visit Terri Johnson, and wound up in even worse danger, becoming possessed by an insane Time Lord.
And now he was trapped in a laboratory with dozens of completely oblivious Immortals, the Doctor, two researchers, and another Immortal who was probably psychotic, knowing his luck. And outside the door were two alien creatures who clearly would have no qualms about killing him.
Alien creatures. Methos shivered again. He had never seriously thought about aliens. He’d expected they wouldn’t bother him too much, but obviously he’d been naive. These creatures didn’t even have the decency to be organic. Not the sort of thing he’d expected out of his first contact with an extraterrestrial.
–Ah, but they’re not your first aliens, said a little voice in the back of Methos’ mind. He turned to look at the Doctor, sitting placidly at one side of the room. The Time Lord had produced a bit of yarn from his bottomless pockets and was teaching one of the Tolloc hunters how to play cat’s cradle.
Methos smirked. It took two to play at that game.
That was when he realized the Doctor was looking straight at him.
“There,” said Savrek. “That’s the last of them.”
He stood back to admire his handiwork. It had been disappointingly simple to install the Kaled support cages into what passed for a medilab on board the Dalek cruiser. He had really hoped to be more useful to them. Still, he’d given the Daleks information about Martin and Vorna’s little plans. They’d be reassigned, probably lose a few ranks . . . but he’d be going up. He was young, and this was his time.
“Let’s go,” said Communicator Tosk. The older man seemed unimpressed by the ease of the task. Then again, he’d worked more closely with the Daleks than anybody else Savrek knew. He was probably used to this.
Savrek followed the Tosk down the ramp of the cruiser and onto the roof of their facility. The black Dalek was waiting for them. “COMMUNICATOR TOSK, YOU WILL PREPARE A SUBSPACE COMM LINK TO THE MAIN BATTLEFLEET.”
“I obey,” said Tosk, bowing sharply. “The task will require some time.”
“THAT IS ACCOUNTED FOR. RETURN TO THE COMMUNICATIONS STATION IN THIS FACILITY AND BEGIN YOUR WORK.”
Tosk bowed again, then left.
The black Dalek faced Savrek now. He puffed out his chest and drew himself to his full height, the better to demonstrate his importance to them. If they seemed unimpressed, Savrek did not notice. “What do you wish me to do?” he asked.
“YOU WILL COME WITH ME.”
The black Dalek turned and glided back into the facility. Marginally puzzled but nevertheless pleased, Savrek followed.
“Are you really an Auxie spy?”
Methos looked up. It was Vorna. She was grinning the grin of the desperate. He supposed she had the right to it — after all, these Daleks appeared to be her real bosses, and they didn’t seem at all pleased with events. He shook his head and shrugged apologetically. “I’m afraid not.” She snorted. Methos grinned harmlessly. “Honestly, I don’t even know what an Auxie is.”
“Well, I suppose you could be telling the truth,” she said. “But what about him?” She jerked a thumb in the Doctor’s direction. “And why’s Kallan been treating you like his bosom buddy?”
Methos shrugged as amusingly as possible. “Must be my natural charm.”
Vorna sighed. “I’m too tired to play games, Pierson. Martin over there was just a few years from retirement. Me, I was just looking forward to getting off this godforsaken prairie planet.” She grinned that horrible grin again. “Guess I’m just lucky, eh?”
Methos narrowed he eyes, but did not respond.
“I hope the Daleks exterminate you first,” she said finally, and walked back to Fixer Martin’s side. Martin looked up at her, but she just shook her head. The look of despair on Martin’s face was almost too much. Methos knew it was somehow his fault, but it just wasn’t right. He still had no idea what was going on, so how could he be expected to do the right thing?
Frustrated, he decided to get some answers from the Doctor.
The Time Lord was grinning happily as his two Tolloc friends successfully shared a game of cat’s cradle. Sometimes, Methos reflected, the Doctor could be a real idiot. He was probably trying to convince Kallan that he was harmless, but it still struck Methos as a little ridiculous.
He stood and walked over to the Doctor, stopping only inches away so that he was looking down his full height at the Time Lord.
“So, Doctor, is there anything you’d like to tell me?”
The Doctor looked up at Methos. “Where would you like me to start?”
“Daleks,” said Methos.
“Ah,” replied the Doctor. “Well, I’ve met them before, but they don’t seem to remember. It’s probably just as well.” The Doctor frowned briefly, a troubled look on his face. “I can’t think what they’d want with Riga 3. As far as I can tell, it hasn’t any particular mineral value, and it’s far too remote to have any tactical significance in their war with the Movellans.”
“Yes, Kallan mentioned the Movellans.”
The Doctor nodded. “If he’s working for the Daleks, I’m not surprised. The Dalek-Movellan war should be nearing its peak soon. They’re in a stalemate, you see. Two equally logical armies equally set on conquering the universe, and equally unable to tolerate any competition. Every move the one makes the other counters. Neither advances, and neither retreats.”
“Sounds as if they were made for each other,” quipped Methos.
The Doctor grinned. “You might say that.” The grin dropped. “They’re cold, ruthless, and totally unafraid.”
Unexpectedly, Kallan spoke up. “I’m not so sure of that, Doctor.”
The Time Lord fixed Kallan with his eyes. Methos watched, slightly amused. He’d been fixed by that gaze before. “What do you mean, Kallan? How much experience of Daleks did you have before you agreed to enslave yourself to them? Did you have the slightest notion what you were getting into?”
Kallan looked shocked, and for the moment was at a loss for words.
The Doctor didn’t let that bother him. “Your team has been here some time,” he said, gesturing to include Vorna and Martin. “You’ve been studying the Tolloc, feeding them through the winter and providing them with medical assistance no doubt.” Methos raised an eyebrow at that, knowing that the Tolloc couldn’t possibly have needed medical assistance of any kind. They were Immortal, after all. Obviously they hadn’t let the Doctor in on that bit of information. Then again, did they even understand?
“Please,” said Kallan, clearly annoyed. “Get to the point.”
“You’re not studying the mineral wealth of Riga 3, and you’re not preparing this world for Dalek colonization. So what in Rassilon’s name are you planning for the Tolloc?”
Kallan did not answer, but allowed a slow smile to spread across his face. “Walls have ears, my friend.” He met Methos’ eye for a moment, but said no more.
Surprisingly, it was Martin who gave the Doctor his answer. “The Tolloc are a gestalt society. It was hoped that we could modify a Kaled to join their gestalt.”
The Doctor looked horrified. “A Kaled? In with the Tolloc? It would drive them mad!”
Martin shrugged. The old Fixer looked very tired. “Nala is their Librarian. She stores all the memories of their race. We were hoping to use that as sort of a data storage system.”
“What?!” shouted the Doctor. “An entire race reduced to a disk drive for the most homicidal race in the Universe? Do you have any idea at all what you’d be subjecting them to?”
“Easy, Doctor,” said Kallan. “There’s no sense getting all excited about it now. It wouldn’t have worked anyway.”
Vorna sputtered furiously. “You mean to say we’ve spent the last six years for nothing?”
Kallan nodded apologetically. “Yes. I’m sorry, Vorna, but the deception was neccesary.”
“Deception!” she shouted. “For what? We’re all going to die, do you realize that? The Daleks will exterminate us for sure!”
Kallan shrugged, but said nothing.
Methos watched the unfolding revelations of deceit with interest. He’d known, of course, that Kallan had his own plans for the Tolloc, but he couldn’t help pitying Vorna and Martin. They were obviously going to take the fall, and it was hardly their fault. They were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
And talking about being in the wrong place . . . .
“Doctor?” said Methos. “Do you have any idea how we might get out of here? Ideally with all appendages intact.”
The Doctor pulled his eyes away from the furious Vorna. “Well, the Daleks did lock us up in a laboratory.” He grinned mischeivously. “I’m sure I can think of something.”
“No good,” said Martin, quite unexpectedly. “It’s my lab, remember. I keep all the dangerous stuff locked up. By now, Tosk will have removed my authorization to unlock the cabinets. And don’t think about breaking into them; you won’t be able to do that without alerting the guards.” He sighed deeply.
Vorna looked thoughtful suddenly. “Wait a minute . . . . Nala escaped from here a number of times, even after we’d added the bolts on the doors. How did she keep getting out of here?”
All eyes turned to the Librarian of the Tolloc, who smiled placidly back at them.
The one thing that made Nala different from everbody else in the room, the Doctor reflected, was her size. She was quite slight, and in fact reminded him a lot of Sarah Jane Smith, only without the aggressive instincts of an investigative journalist. Even so, he was quite surprised to watch as she slipped effortlessly through a small ventilation grating near the floor, letting herself out into the main corridor. By his estimation, this put Nala around the corner from their Dalek guards and thus safely out of sight.
The Doctor pressed his ear to the door. Within seconds, he heard the Dalek guards screeching for Nala to halt. The ruse worked, and the Daleks left, pursuing the fleet-footed Nala away from the laboratory.
The Doctor pulled out his sonic screwdriver and had the door open in seconds. He chuckled inwardly; electronic devices were often laughably to trip with a good sonic screwdriver.
“Good work,” said Kallan. He was obviously impressed, but doing an excellent job of hiding it. He lead the group out through the door into the deserted corridor. “Nala will be leading the Daleks towards the main entrance. We’ll go for one of the emergency exits.”
The Doctor’s eyes widened. “You can’t mean we’re going to leave Nala to the Daleks! I thought you wanted to save her, not guarantee her death!”
Kallan shook his head vehemently. “Trust me, Doctor. She’ll be all right.”
Vorna laughed shortly. “She’ll be all right if she likes being dead. The Daleks won’t trade her life for yours, Kallan.”
Kallan nodded. “I know, Vorna, believe me.” There was an earnestness in his voice that seemed to startle the woman, as if it weren’t quite in character for her leader. She frowned supiciously, but accepted this, apparently at face value.
So the Doctor spoke up. “No, Kallan, she won’t be all right. I know the Daleks better than any of you. They’ll be itching to exerminate something by now, and she’ll suit the purpose perfectly.” He paused, and a horrible thought occured to him. “Wait . . . . Is there some other reason they won’t kill her? Are they the natural resource of this planet which you came to exploit?” He paused one last time for dramatic emphasis. “Are they to become Daleks, Kallan?”
The man’s face paled dramatically, and he took a step back, genuinely horrified. “No, by the great protector, no . . . .”
Methos touched the Doctor’s shoulder. The Doctor turned to come face to face with the ancient Immortal, who leaned in to whisper in his ear. “She’ll be all right, Doctor, even if the Daleks kill her. I know.”
The Doctor stared at Methos for a few seconds. Then he understood. “She’s Immortal . . . .”
Methos nodded soberly.
It didn’t make sense; as far as he could tell, Immortals were all Homo sapiens. That meant Nala wasn’t native to Riga 3 after all. But there wasn’t time to explore that. “So the Daleks’ disruptors can’t kill her, at least not permanently.” He breathed a sigh of relief. “Good.”
“Look,” said Vorna, who hadn’t heard a word of the exchange and looked annoyed because of it, “we’ve got to go. I don’t know how long Nala can distract our tinpot friends, but we’ve got to make the best of it.”
“Fine,” Methos said, a touch abruptly. “You lead the way, then.”
And off they went.
The Black Dalek’s voice echoed through Grey Dalek No. 4’s habitation chamber inside its dalek casing. It squelched briefly, then switched in the transmitter.
“TOLLOC FEMALE ‘NALA’ WAS OBSERVED IN CORRIDOR, NOT IN LABORATORY,” No. 4 dilligently reported. “WE ARE PURSUING.”
“NEGATIVE. NUMBER THREE WILL CONTINUE PURSUIT. YOU WILL RETURN AND VERIFY ALL REMAINING PRISONERS STILL SECURE.”
Something vaguely like concern went through No. 4’s twisted, conditioned mind. The female’s escape could have been a ruse to draw the guards away from the entrance, illogical though such behavior seemed. It understood the problem, totally unconcerned that it might be punished and interested only in total obedience to its leader. It executed a smooth about-turn. “I OBEY,” it said, and glided swiftly back to the laboratory.
The door to the laboratory was closed. The Dalek extended its manipulator arm in front of the door’s sensor.
The door refused to open.
Dalek No 4. considered this briefly, then repeated the process. The door still did not open. Its primary onboard computer suggested transmitting an override code. No. 4 did so, but still the door would not open.
It hailed the Black Dalek on its internal radio.
“LISTENING,” replied the commander.
“DOOR MECHANISM NON-FUNCTIONAL. REQUEST PERMISSION TO BLAST DOOR OPEN.”
“PROCEED,” replied the Black Dalek, which then severed the connection.
No. 4 slid a little ways away from the door, then brought its disruptor into position, pointed directly at the door sensor. It fired. It aimed at the door’s magnetic locking mechanism and fired again. It aimed a third time, this time directly between the doors.
The doors shot rapidly apart, fusing with the doorframe as its magnetic brakes set permanently in the open position. No. 4 glided into the room and turned its eyestalk around to inspect the entire room.
The prisoners were gone.
By the time Vorna and the others reached the emergency exit, the klaxons had sounded. Presumably, their ruse had expired and the Daleks had realized that they were gone. But the building had no real lock-down procedure. It wasn’t meant as a fortress, or as a prison. They were able to flee into the darkness of night.
They didn’t stop running until the Tolloc had led them past a very low hill that none of them would have seen otherwise. Vorna was relieved that the Tolloc were carrying their strange lamps and had relit them — otherwise, she would surely be lost in the silver grassland, as blind as if she had no eyes. Besides their lamps, the only light came from the Finder complex, and it was now far too dangerous to dally there.
She caught up with the mysterious John Smith, who seemed comfortable and completely at ease despite the mad dash out of the complex. Perhaps he was an athlete. Or perhaps he just had a lot of experience running down corridors. It would certainly match Tosk’s claim that the man was a spy for the Space Corps Auxilliary.
But weren’t spies supposed to look inconspicous? Smith and Pierson were about as incongruous as possible while still being humanoid. Smith, for instance, was wearing a coat made of the most peculiar material. In the bright light of the lab, it had actually looked fuzzy.
It no longer mattered, however. The Daleks wouldn’t thank her for turning over the spies. They’d kill her anyway. The important thing was that Smith and Pierson had arrived on Riga 3 independently. And that meant they had a spaceship.
“Doctor Smith?” she asked.
He turned to face her and smiled brilliantly. “Oh please, just call me ‘Doctor.’ Everybody else does.”
Vorna nodded back impatiently. “Fine. Doctor. I need to know the capabilities of your spacecraft.” He looked startled — or was he just amused? Vorna couldn’t tell. “The Daleks will kill us all as soon as they get the chance. We have got to get off thie planet, and fast. Before they bring in reinforcements.”
Smith shrugged. “Oh, it can get us all off this planet, I guarantee that. And it would easily outrun that cruiser. But if they call for reinforcements, it might not matter anyway. They do have the right technology to track us down.”
Suddenly Vorna realized that Pierson was standing next to her, intently listening to the conversation. The concentration in his eyes unnerved her, and she returned her focus to Smith. “So let’s go. I’ll make sure you’re paid for your efforts. Somehow . . . .”
“No,” he replied, shaking his head vehemently. “We can’t leave the Tolloc here to be enslaved by the Daleks. Especially if they’re all like Nala.”
“They are,” said Pierson, quite unexpectedly.
“Like Nala?” asked Vorna, confused. “What, you think they all carry the race memory of their tribe? I’ve been studying them for six years, and I can tell you professionally that you’re wrong.”
Pierson actually laughed. “Well, Kallan’s known more about them than you since the first day he met one. Trust me on this, Vorna. It’s not their ESP that worries me.”
One of the Tolloc hunters intruded at this point. Vorna had the brief and bizarre thought that they weren’t on the run, but were all at some kind of costume party and the hunter was just another party goer joining their conversation. She almost laughed, but it wasn’t funny.
“We must keep moving,” said the Tolloc. “Nala will find her own way.” His eyes twinkled strangely in the unflickering lamplight. “It is known.”
By whom? Vorna wanted to ask. How far can you communicate? There were so many things she could’ve learned if the Tolloc had been this cooperative years ago . . . but it hardly mattered anymore.
Now Vorna did laugh. “You people . . . how can you be so optimistic? We kidnap your people, we do embarassing procedures on you, we even insult your culture. And now you know that we were just trying to turn you into our own private data store. How can you still think Nala will survive? They’ll kill her!”
The hunter cocked his head to one side. “I do not understand. Martin spoke also of this killing, but I do not understand.”
Pierson supressed a laugh. “Yeah, right,” he said under his breath.
Smith glared at him, then answered the Tolloc’s questions. “Akain, killing is what happens when you take down a snoweater in the winter with one of your bone knives.” He gestured to the fur that Akain wore. “You killed the animal that wore that skin, and it did not heal or move again.”
Akain’s brows knit in confusion. “You say, then, that the Daleks wish to do that to Nala.”
Vorna nodded. “Yes,” she said, relieved. Finally, the man understood.
“The Daleks will kill her.” A smile broke across his face. “And then she will return! But if the Daleks think she is like a snoweater, they will not expect it. She will escape.” Odd reasoning, but it bolstered a suspicion Vorna had long held that the Tolloc believed in transmigration of soul.
Akain stared curiously at Vorna. “What?” she asked.
“I wonder,” he said, “how it can be that you look like Tolloc but do not understand the endless circle. Nothing ends, nothing begins. It is not with us as it is with the snoweaters, who live but briefly. We are always.” He frowned, a curious expression on a Tolloc. He was concentrating hard. “Is it not so with you? Do you also die and not return?”
“They do not return,” said Pierson. “They are not like us.”
Vorna’s eyes widened as a pit opened in her stomach. “Us? What do you mean to say?”
Pierson had a strange, unreadable look on his face. “They’re not native to this planet, or at least I don’t think so. They’re human, and they are Immortal.”
Vorna snorted derisively. “Oh, and how would you know?”
“Because I’m like them,” he replied, rather more sharply than Vorna thought was neccesary under the circumstances. “I am also Immortal. We don’t die from something as simple a gunshot wound, at least not permanently.”
Vorna stared at him, incredulous. “You must think I’m an idiot to believe that nonsense.”
“It’s not nonsense,” said a cold, implacable and terribly familiar voice. Vorna turned. Leader Kallan had also joined the conversation. “Pierson’s telling the truth.” Kallan advanced on the group and continued speaking. “I’m Immortal myself. I was born in 3328 in Ganymede City, in the very solar system where the human race itself was born. I was raised by an attache to the ambassador to Draconia. I’ve been alive ever since, living among mortal humans and humanoids who haven’t an inkling of what I am.” He closed in on Vorna. “In 3450, I was on the colony world Tarnac when it was struck by a Dalek taskforce.” He was only a foot away from Vorna now, deeply entrenched in her personal space, but she found herself unable to back away, rooted to the ground by the intensity of his gaze. “I was the only survivor. I’ve waited nearly a thousand years for the chance to strike back, and I’m not going to let it pass by now.”