Out of the frying pan!
THE SHADOW OF THE DALEKS
EPISODE NINE: The Place of Light
It was still deep of night, and Methos was really starting to feel like he could use a nap. Come to think of it, he could use some dinner too. He hadn’t eaten since . . . .
It was on Earth he’d last eaten, at the Mall of America. The sheer normality of eating in a restaurant overrun by tourists and shopaholics staggered him for a moment. He’d been everywhere, or so he’d thought. He’d been the ultimate world traveller, having seen famous Babylonian temples still under contruction and then seen bits of them thousands of years later in the British Museum. He was used to the possibility of eating lunch on one continent and then going to sleep on another.
But this strange prairie was billions of miles and thousands of years away from where he had eaten his previous meal.
They had escaped from the Daleks, and were travelling to some sort of rendezvous point where the Tolloc expected Nala to join them. According to Akain, the other Tolloc left back at the village would somehow just “know” to join them. Since the Tolloc were telepathic, this made sense, but Methos didn’t really want to think about them having ESP. He’d never heard of another Immortal with psychic powers, and it puzzled him.
Then again, there was Cassandra.
He pushed that thought firmly away. Whatever bound these Immortals together was totally different from anything he’d seen before. They weren’t individually precognizant, they couldn’t control your will, they didn’t put nasty images in your mind. They just . . . shared thoughts. It was almost as if they shared a mind as well.
Almost as if . . . .
A disturbing suspicion began to rise in Methos’ mind, but he didn’t linger on the thought for fear it might be right. They’d probably be finding out soon anyway. They were almost up to their destination, whatever that was. He just hoped Nala made it out, for her own sake.
Savrek and the Black Dalek stood over Nala’s body on the examining table in the lab. She had not escaped; Gray Dalek No. 3 had caught up with her and shot her dead with its disruptor. Since Tosk was otherwise occupied, Savrek had been given the unpleasant task of dragging the dead Tolloc back to the lab so they could perform an autopsy. She had been the last of their test specimens, so her body would likely be a useful resource in reclaiming the past six years of work.
“BEGIN,” ordered the Black Dalek.
Savrek sighed. He wasn’t the team’s Fixer, so this wasn’t his strong suit. But he’d had enough anatomy lessons during the training that he’d be able to at least open the woman up correctly. He lifted the laser scalpal hesitantly.
“BEGIN,” repeated the Black Dalek.
“All right,” he said, and started the scalpal charging.
Suddenly, the dead Tolloc inhaled sharply. Her eyes flew open.
Startled, Savrek jumped away. “It’s not possible!” he said. The Black Dalek slid around to bring its gun to bear on Nala as she sat up in defiance of everything Savrek knew about physiology.
Nala smiled. “The endless circle,” she said, simply. The smile dropped away for a moment. “Why are you frightened? Do you not understand the endless circle? Have you never died?”
Savrek shook his head mutely.
“I hear the Call,” said Nala. “I must go.”
“NEGATIVE,” said the Black Dalek. “YOU WILL REMAIN. YOU WILL OBEY ONLY THE DALEKS! WE ARE THE SUPREME RACE! YOU WILL OBEY OR YOU WILL BE EXTERMINATED! YOU WILL OBEY! YOU WILL OBEY! YOU WILL OBEY!”
Savrek was startled to realize that the Dalek was just as alarmed as he was. Nala was dead; Savrek had confirmed that with a hand-scanner. But now she was very much alive, and apparently completely unharmed by her experience with the business end of a disruptor. Those usually made a terrible mess of a person’s insides.
“FINDER SAVREK, YOU WILL LEAD THE TOLLOC SPECIMEN TO THE CRUISER.”
“I obey,” said Savrek, bowing.
“TOLLOC SPECIMEN NALA, YOU WILL FOLLOW SAVREK. IF YOU ATTEMPT TO ESCAPE, YOU WILL BE EXTERMINATED AND CARRIED INTO THE CRUISER. OBEY THE DALEKS! OBEY! OBEY!”
She wasn’t smiling any longer. She closed her eyes briefly, bowed her head, and then slid down off the table. “I will follow Savrek,” she said.
Savrek smirked, satisfied that the Daleks trusted him with this. The fact that the Black Dalek was also covering him with its disruptor never occured to him as he lead Nala and the Dalek through the complex towards the Dalek cruiser.
The chill night air was beginning to fade as the first glimmerings of dawn shone on the horizon. The Doctor could now see without the light globes, and soon the humans would be able to see as well. He looked out over the group. They had stopped in a sort of wide spot in a ravine, very likely the same ravine where the Doctor had first seen the boy Iktha (boy! from what Methos had said, the boy could be centuries old) and apparently a place of some significance. In the night they had passed all sorts of strange objects and now he could make out some shapes. They were glimmering shards of metal and some sort of glassy substance. One was particularily large, a huge gleaming obelisk that loomed over all the rest. They were all jutting up out of the sand deposited by an oxbow curve in the stream that had carved the ravine, and a low cliff rose impressively above the far side of the water.
They were, to the Doctor’s experienced eye, very obviously the wreckage of an ancient sub-light spacecraft. It had probably been here for thousands of years, judging by the way the soil and sediment had grown up around the fragments. It was probably one of the first- or second-generation Earth colony ships, an ancient sleeper ship. It was odd, he reflected, that there were no large plants around the bits, but perhaps the area was simply too damp from the stream. But as the light grew, the Doctor realized that he couldn’t see any plants at all in the fine, silty ground of the ravine. It had to be fertile from all the silt of the creek, and yet nothing was growing here. It seemed very odd to the Doctor. Then again, perhaps the natives just spent a lot of time weeding the place.
The Tolloc still had their lamps lit. The reflected light glittered eerily on the shiny surfaces of the fragments. The light also illuminated the faces of the non-Tolloc standing not far from the Doctor, all obviously too uncomfortable to stand with the Tolloc themselves. Methos looked very much on edge, and the Doctor really felt he should make it up to the ancient Immortal later. This little side-trip had been quite unplanned and was probably very uncomfortable for Methos.
It probably wasn’t very comfortable for the Finders either. Vorna was sitting on the ground and scowling at everybody who had the misfortune to meet her gaze. Martin had gone to sleep next to her, which was probably the wisest thing he could do in the circumstance. Their leader, the mysterious Immortal Kallan, was lounging against one of the shining shards jutting out of the ground. He seemed lost in thought, perhaps contemplating how he was going to acheive his revenge against the Daleks given the unexpected twists that had been occurring of late.
The Doctor shook his head. When were people going to learn that vengeance never solves anything?
A shout broke his train of thought. He looked up and saw a dozen more of the unique, smokeless lanterns of the Tolloc on the edge of the low earthen cliff across the stream. As his eyes adjusted to the contrast, he saw the remainder of the Tolloc people standing up there. Akain had been right. They had known to meet them here.
The new group of Tolloc worked their way around and out of sight before reemerging at the base of the ravine. They forded the small stream effortlessly and the Doctor stood to go meet them. Kallan and Methos, he noticed, did likewise, although the two Finders stayed put, apparently having had quite enough of the situation.
Akain joined them. “Hail!” cried the Tolloc hunter, calling out to the newcomers.
“Hail!” The cry was returned by the long-bearded redhead elder that the Doctor had met back at the village yesterday.
They met up with the second group of Tolloc. The redhead inclined his head towards the Doctor. “Shadow Walker, Lord of Time, our own Time is near.” He smiled inscrutably at the Doctor, who blinked at the realization that the Tolloc knew exactly what he was. Shadow Walker wasn’t just an expression. It was a liberal translation of the old word “gallifreya.” They who walk in shadow. The Doctor blinked again, momentarily lost for words.
Iktha stepped forward out of the second group of Tolloc. “Nala has been captured. When she comes, the Strangers will come with her.”
In the control room of the Dalek cruiser, Communicator Tosk bowed. “I obey. The Supreme Dalek has been notified of the situation. There are no new orders. Subspace comm link to the main battlefleet remains open for further status reports.” Tosk hesitated briefly. There was more, news that had come directly from Dalek High Command, and it was not good.
“CONTINUE,” said the Black Dalek.
“Leader Kallan’s identity has been confirmed, but . . . it doesn’t make sense.”
Tosk took a deep breath, then spoke. “A man named Kallan was involved in the attack on the planet Tarnac in Dalek territory.”
The Black Dalek actually seemed speechless, a rare condition for its species.
“Yes, he was at Tarnac,” said Tosk. “He led the Watchers right to it nearly a thousand years ago.”
“ILLOGICAL,” said the Dalek, which Tosk had rather expected. “KALLAN IS HUMAN. MAXIMUM HUMAN LIFE EXPECTANCY DOES NOT EXCEED 150 YEARS.”
“I know,” said Tosk. “But I dug up some old Space Corps Auxilliary records. A man with identical biometrics and answering to the same name recieved training from them in Earth Standard Year 3484. He can’t possibly be human.”
The Black Dalek was silent for a moment. “PROBABILITY SUGGESTS KALLAN IS A TIME LORD.”
Tosk’s brows knit together. He’d never heard of a Time Lord before. “What are Time Lords?”
“THEY ARE HUMANOID LIFE FORMS LIVING THOUSANDS OF YEARS. THEY ARE ENEMIES OF THE DALEK RACE. SEARCH THE AREA FOR TEMPORAL DISTURBANCES.”
Tosk’s eyes widened. That meant that the Dalek expected him to find some sort of a time machine. As far as he knew, only the Daleks had access to such technology. Apparently he was wrong.
“I obey,” he said, and turned to leave. To his great surprise, however, he saw Finder Savrek coming the other way. He was about to ask why he wasn’t busy with the autopsy on the Tolloc female when he realized the Tolloc was standing right behind Savrek, alive and apparently unhurt. A gray Dalek stood behind, covering both her and Savrek. Tosk’s eyes narrowed. There was perhaps more to the conspiracy than he’d realized.
He turned to face the Black Dalek once more. Its attention was not on him. “FINDER SAVREK,” it screeched.
Savrek immediately went down on one knee before it. Tosk rolled his eyes at the youth’s blatant fawning. The fool didn’t realize that the Daleks cared nothing for flattery. All they cared about was obedience.
“EXPLAIN CONTINUED SURVIVAL OF TOLLOC FEMALE,” commanded the Black Dalek.
Savrek looked up. “I regret I cannot. I could swear she was dead when we took her into the examination room. But then she just got up again. She was exterminated. I know she was. But she doesn’t have a mark to show for it.” He shrugged. “We knew they were capable of rapid healing, but nothing on this scale.”
The Black Dalek considered. “TOLLOC RAPID HEALING WAS NOT REPORTED. EXPLAIN.”
Savrek’s brows furrowed. “The project wasn’t finished.”
“CONFIRM: YOU KNEW OF THIS FINDING.”
“Yes,” Savrek said, confidently.
“CONFIRM: YOU WITHHELD THIS INFORMATION FROM DALEK COMMAND.”
“No!” Savrek shouted, jumping back to his feet. A second gray Dalek slid into the cruiser’s command deck. “I mean, well, yes, I suppose I didn’t report it, but it wasn’t to hide anything. I just didn’t think it was important.”
“THEN YOU HAVE FAILED THE DALEKS.” Savrek’s eyes widened in terror as he realized what this meant. Tosk briefly pitied the man. He obviously had the mistaken impression that the Daleks were compassionate, or that they cared about intentions. Savrek turned to him. His eyes pleaded for help, but Tosk was impassive. “EXTERMINATE!” commanded the Black Dalek. The newly arrived gray Dalek fired. A brilliant flash threw Tosk’s vision temporarily into reverse. Savrek screamed, his body twisting in agony. When the flash subsided, the simpering wretch of a Finder had collapsed into a heap on the floor, motionless and clearly dead.
The Black Dalek turned its eyestalk on Tosk. “YOU WILL SEARCH FOR TEMPORAL DISTURBANCES,” it ordered. “WHEN YOUR SEARCH IS COMPLETE, YOU WILL RETURN HERE.”
Tosk looked up. “I obey,” he said, and hastened out of the room. There was now no time to waste.