We’re nearly done . . . just one more chapter after this….but first it’s time to find out what Kallan’s really got in mind.
THE SHADOW OF THE DALEKS
EPISODE TEN: Into the Fire
Dawn broke across the silver prairie, spreading rapidly from hillock to hillock. The Place of Light was still in the shadow of the ravine walls, but as Methos gazed up at the westward wall, he could see sunlight brilliantly illuminating the silver grasses that waved at the rim. An excited shout broke out among the Tolloc. He frowned, puzzled. “What’s so exciting?” he asked of no one in particular.
It was Vorna who answered. “Sunlight,” she replied. There was a grudging wonder in her voice. “It’s almost never sunny here.”
“Why is that?” asked Methos, curious despite the extremity of the situation.
“We’re not sure,” she replied. “Most prairies get a lot of sunlight, but not on this world. You may have noticed that there is little green in the vegetation. Most plants in the galaxy rely on chlorophyl, but these don’t. It’s something else, adapted to survive in this climate.”
“What is it?”
Vorna shrugged. “It wasn’t our mission to find out.” His amazement must have been obvious because she smiled apologetically. “When you’re working for the Daleks, it doesn’t pay to get distracted.”
The Tolloc were anything but distracted. Methos watched them congregate near the largest piece of wreckage. The child Iktha was directing them to form into two concentric circles. As the sunlight slowly spilled deeper into the ravine, Methos realized that these circles would be neatly bisected by the shadow of the largest fragment of the ancient colony ship. He grinned.
“What’s so amusing?” asked Vorna.
“Look at them. A stone-age culture delivered to this world by futuristic technology that is now totally obsolete, performing rituals in the shadow of a menhir made from a crashed spaceship.” Vorna stared at him blankly. “What, don’t you even know what a menhir is?”
“No,” she replied.
“The things they’re not teaching people these days,” said Methos, shaking his head. “It’s an obelisk. Stone-age Britons used them.”
“What are Britons?” she asked.
Methos sighed. Two thousand years, and the Britons had been forgotten. She probably didn’t even know where the British Isles were. It wasn’t comforting to realize that she might not even know where the Earth was.
Methos jumped. The voice belonged to Kallan. The presence of so many immortals had masked Kallan’s approach. The knowledge brought no comfort. “You startled me,” he said reproachfully.
“Being around the Tolloc does take some getting used to,” said the other Immortal. “I heard you talking about Earth. I’m afraid the others don’t know much about it.”
“Why not?” asked Methos. “They’re human, aren’t they?”
Kallan nodded. “Yes, but they’ve never been anywhere near Earth. They come from Dalek-controlled worlds. The Galactic Federation has allowed humanity to spread quite widely across the cosmos, but with the advance of Dalek forces, more and more worlds have become isolated.”
Vorna glared. “You really are an Auxie, aren’t you?”
Kallan laughed and shook his head. “I trained with a Dalek-killer squad, but I never served with them. I only needed training to accompany the strike force that attempted to retake Tarnac.” He looked at Methos. “You’ve heard of Tarnac, I’m sure.”
Methos shook his head. “Should I have?”
“You haven’t heard of Tarnac? The Watcher colony?” Methos blinked, astonished. So this was why the Daleks had heard of the Watchers. “I thought you were older than that,” he said. “Never mind. You must know of the Watchers, at least.” Methos nodded. “They founded a colony called Tarnac to house all of their records. Trusted Immortals were allowed to travel there with information.”
“Immortals such as yourself, I presume?”
Kallan bowed immodestly. “I was there when the Daleks first took it. They didn’t understand why the colonists put up such a fight, and finally used orbital bombardment to end it. I awoke in the ruins of Tarnac and was able to repair a spacecraft sufficiently to flee. It was . . . uncomfortable.” His eyes unfocused for a few seconds as memory overtook him. He shook his head to clear it. “I brought a few records with me; as much as I could salvage. I made it back into Federation space and made contact with the Watchers. We assembled a strike team, received training from the Space Corps Auxilliaries . . . ” Vorna snorted derisively. Kallan glared at her for the interruption. “The training was effective. We penetrated Dalek space and retook Tarnac.” He shrugged. “Admittedly, the Daleks hadn’t left much of a force there; Tarnac was a beautiful world, but not one with much mineral wealth. I think they only took it because they could. We set up a base, set up ground defenses, and began digging out the Chronicles. But we only had three months before the Daleks returned in larger numbers. We destroyed all of the Chronicles on Tarnac, and the Daleks retaliated with nuclear bombardment, rendering the world uninhabitable.” He turned abruptly. “It took me fifteen years to get off Tarnac again.” He lapsed into silence.
Vorna was shaking her head. “You seriously believe that, don’t you?”
Kallan did not answer her. Instead, he spoke to Methos in a forced conversational tone. “It was on Tarnac that I found out about the Tolloc. Oh, I didn’t know what they were called. But a Watcher delivered a fragmentary Chronicle while I was there. I didn’t even know whose. All I knew is that it involved an Immortal who assembled a colony ship during the sleeper ship era. He had mortal technical crew, pre-Immortal colonists . . . and himself.”
This piqued Methos’ attention. “You mean he’s here, among the Tolloc?”
Kallan shook his head. “No. Whether he planned it that way or not, he was beheaded when the ship crash-landed. The Tolloc awakened from their First Deaths and experienced a shared Quickening. I’m not sure why it went to all of them instead of just the nearest.” He gazed out at the assembling Tolloc. “That’s why they call this the Place of Light. They don’t know what happened, of course. They were unconscious, and so much time has passed that I don’t think they even really have any memory of their mortal lives.”
Methos glanced over at Vorna. She was staring daggers at Kallan. “And how, pray, did you come to this unbelievable conclusion?” she said, her temper barely in check. ” I’ve been studying the Tolloc a lot harder than you, *Leader* Kallan, and there was never any suggestion of what you claim.”
“You weren’t asking the right questions,” he replied. “Don’t blame yourself. If you didn’t know about Immortals or the ancient colony ship, you couldn’t have guessed. I came here several years before I first approached the Daleks and learned all I wanted to about the Tolloc.”
Vorna stared. “Then what in the Universe were you expecting to get out of our six years of research on this god-forsaken rock?”
“I knew all I wanted to know about the Tolloc; while you were studying them for six years, I was studying the Kaled mutants.”
“That’s treason,” she said.
Kallan raised an eyebrow. “What, after all that, you’re still loyal to your Dalek masters? They don’t care about you, you know. Your only value is as a work unit.”
“I know that perfectly well, Kallan.” She sighed. “The Daleks are superior. A sensible person doesn’t resist them, but finds ways to satisfy them.”
Methos shivered unaccountably. He’d used much the same argument once to justify allegiance to Kronos. It occurred to him that there was something very Dalek about Kronos. He’d relished domination and destruction, taken slaves only as long as they remained useful, killed them on a whim, and firmly believed that this was his right as an Immortal, a superior being.
But the Daleks were no Horsemen, and there were a lot more than just four of them. Billions or even trillions, if the Finders’ story of a vast interstellar empire could be believed. Like Kronos, they would destroy purely because they could. But unlike Kronos, they had the technology and coordination to do so on an unfathomable scale.
He shook his head to drive off the phantom sound of hoofbeats. “So,” he asked Kallan, “what exactly were you planning?”
Tosk strode quickly through the deserted complex. His stride was crisp and efficient, belying the concern he felt. The Black Dalek had been right. There was a time machine on Riga III. He skipped the lift and instead leapt up the stairs to the rooftop landing pad three at a time. When he arrived at the ship, he went directly to the ramp. He had a grim feeling that his masters would not be pleased with what he found, but it would be no surprise to them, and at least he had the coordinates.
“REPORT,” commanded the Black Dalek the moment Tosk entered the command deck.
He bowed briefly to the Dalek. “Time traces were detected consistent with the landing of a time craft sometime yesterday. Furthermore, the vessel has not departed and I have a firm lock on its position.” He crossed to the main navigational display and brought up a map of the region. He briskly entered coordinates on the keypad. Two points lit up, a little over twenty clicks from the base. “This is the place the Tolloc call the Place of Light. I believe they will be gathering there. And just past it is the location of the time vessel.”
The Black Dalek paused to consult its onboard computers. While waiting, Tosk scanned the room for the Tolloc female. He quickly found her, sitting quietly in a sinister chair that Tosk recognized as a Battle Computer. It was a very new innovation, but the Daleks had not yet managed to make it work. The creativity and unpredictability of the human mind could be slaved into the system, but to date, all subjects had burned out too quickly to have been of much use. It was a sort of parallel to the Finders mission of exploiting organic brains for data storage. It occurred to Tosk for the first time that perhaps the strange healing abilities of the Tolloc might bridge the gap. Obviously the thought had occurred to the Daleks as well. He had his doubts that it would work; the Tolloc lacked the necessary brutality to be useful for strategy. Experiments with human children had shown better promise; the device merely needed to be refined so they would live long enough to be of use.
The Black Dalek completed its consultation. “WE WILL PROCEED TO THE PLACE OF LIGHT AND EXTERMINATE ANY RESISTANCE. SURVIVING TOLLOC WILL BE CAPTURED FOR STUDY. IF THE ESCAPED PRISONERS ARE NOT CAPTURED, WE WILL PROCEED TO THE TIME VESSEL. COMMUNICATOR TOSK WILL PREPARE THE BATTLE COMPUTER.” It turned its eyestalk to point at one of the gray Daleks. “PREPARE THE SHIP FOR FLIGHT.”
“I OBEY,” said the gray Dalek. It glided soundlessly to the flight control panel and began flight preparations. Tosk took his place alongside the Tolloc woman. As the ramp slowly lifted up and sealed shut, he became aware that the Tolloc was staring at him. He turned to look her in the eye.
“What is happening?” she asked him.
Tosk looked around, but the Daleks did not seem to care if he spoke to the prisoner. “We’re going to fly,” he said. It probably sounded impossible to her.
But she simply nodded. “Yes,” she said. “Tolloc flew once before, when our people were born.” Her eyebrows furrowed. “It is a hidden memory. I alone of the Tolloc can see it. But I can only see one hidden memory at a time, until the fire comes to unlock it for all.”
Tosk nodded dispassionately. He’d heard this before. It was all part of the Tolloc’s curious mythology. Vorna had speculated that they’d developed their strange cosmology to cope with their shared memories, but Tosk didn’t really care. Their primitive superstitions were unimportant. All that mattered was whether or not they could be of use.
The ship began to vibrate as the engines came on line and began to build thrust. Then Tosk became aware of a gentle tug as the ship accelerated upwards, lifting off the pad. He glanced at the Tolloc again. She was unafraid, her eyes glittering. “Soon,” she said. “Soon.”
Tosk frowned, puzzled. “Soon? What is soon?”
“Time,” she replied unhelpfully, as if that explained everything. When Tosk still seemed puzzled, she elaborated. “The Tolloc Time, the end of Now, when the Tolloc must decide.”
“Decide what?” asked Tosk, but Nala fell silent, an expectant look in her eyes. The gentle tug of the ship’s acceleration changed and Tosk knew it had set off towards the coordinates of the time vessel. For the first time, he felt disquieted not by the Daleks nor by the machinations of the Finders but of the Tolloc themselves. He had the uncomfortable feeling that the Daleks weren’t really in charge this time. It wasn’t pleasant.
The Doctor was pacing restlessly in tight circles when Methos found him. He paused and looked up to see an uncharacteristic look of worry on the ancient Immortal’s face. “Yes?” he asked, more irritably than he’d intended. There was something very odd about the Place of Light. He could feel it.
“We need to talk,” said Methos.
“There’s something not right here,” the Doctor replied. He stared at the two concentric circles of Tolloc. They were sitting in silence, apparently meditating. It seemed obvious to the Doctor that they were preparing to exploit some natural property of the location, but what exactly that was remained a mystery. “And I don’t think the Daleks will sit idly by while we contemplate our navels.”
“Well, I haven’t been contemplating my navel,” said Methos testily. “I’ve been talking to Kallan.”
The Doctor had returned to his thoughts and did not acknowledge Methos. “I’ve been thinking about the Tolloc and this place. There’s something strange here, and it’s more than just the statistical improbability of a planet full of Immortals.” He began his pacing again. “How did these people come here? Why did not a single one remember their mortal lives? And what’s so special about this place? What had this ship been carrying?”
“That’s what I came to tell you,” said Methos. The Doctor stopped his pacing again. “The Tolloc were colonists. They came here in a sleeper ship two thousand years ago.”
The Doctor nodded. “This ship, I presume,” he said, pointing at the fragments.
Methos rolled his eyes. “Oh yes, and you of course instantly knew what it was.”
“Of course,” replied the Doctor. “Did they know they were Immortal at the time?”
Methos shook his head. He filled the Doctor in on Kallan’s story. The Doctor shivered unconsciously at the tale of Tarnac’s destruction. The Dalek capacity for mindless devastation continued to amaze him. “Interesting,” he said when Methos had finished. “A mystery Immortal gives his life that these people might live on without ever having to face the Game.” His voice had unconsciously softened. He couldn’t decide whether it was a magnificent gift or a terrible tragedy. But there was still a missing piece of the puzzle. “What about Kallan? He had a plan to strike back at the Daleks, and I’m sure that either the Tolloc or this place had something to do with it.”
“It’s both, actually,” said Methos. Something in his voice made the Doctor look up sharply. The ancient Immortal was looking off into the distance, his stance too casual to be natural.
A piece clicked in the Doctor’s mind and he began thinking out loud. “You said that when the Tolloc arrived, they shared a group Quickening.” Methos nodded. “I gather that’s not an ordinary occurrence.”
Methos shook his head. “No. It normally goes to the nearest Immortal.”
“Are there ever any exceptions?”
Methos looked away again. “Only when several Immortals are killed at the same time.” He shook his head. “The timing must be precise for it to work, and that can’t explain what happened with the Tolloc. There would have to have been at least one Immortal killed for every Tolloc, and they would all have had to die before the first Quickening started.” Methos turned another suspiciously casual look on the Doctor. “It’s not likely. I’d even say impossible, given what Kallan said about the flight manifest. Only four people are unaccounted for, and of those, three were almost definitely mortals.”
The Doctor nodded. “That leaves only one possibility,” he said. “There’s something about this place, or the wreckage of the ship.” He tapped his chin thoughtfully. “Kallan didn’t tell you anything more than that?”
“No, there’s more,” Methos said. “Doctor, we have to get out of here. Rescue the Finders if you must, but I do not want to be here when Kallan puts his plan in motion.”
“Oh no,” said the Doctor. “He isn’t planning what I think he’s planning, is he?”
“He wants to lure the Daleks to this place and then trigger a Quickening,” said Methos. He glanced about him hastily, as if unsure whether Kallan might be listening. Were the dozens of Tolloc interfering with his senses? “I don’t want to be here when he does.”
The Doctor gasped in realization. “He plans to kill you?”
Methos stared at the Doctor as if he were an idiot. Maybe it was justified, the Doctor would later reflect, because what Methos said next took him completely by surprise. “No,” said Methos. “He wants me to kill him.”
Onboard the Dalek cruiser, Nala sat in silence. Beside her, Tosk had picked up a bundle of wires and was fiddling with them. She dismissed it as unimportant. Tosk was the stupidest of the Finders, in her opinion, He always asked meaningless questions. But that didn’t matter. The Finders were always doing strange things, and she did not think it worth trying to understand them.
What mattered was the Call. The rest of the Tolloc were waiting for her. She was not distressed. She knew the strange ship with the strange metal creatures would take her to her people. It would all be over soon. That did not worry her, although it was clearly worrying Tosk. The silly Finder was fumbling the wires nervously, his eyes flicking occasionally from Nala to the Daleks to the illuminated display panels and back to the wires in his lap again.
She closed her eyes, shutting out the distractions around her. She perceived bright tendrils of light reaching out to the other Tolloc. The connections beckoned to her. Most of all, she perceived Iktha, waiting patiently for her arrival. If she looked forward in the fourth dimension, she saw uncertainty. It was a strange thing after the changeless eternity of her people, but it was not unfamiliar. She had seen it looming ahead of them many times. This was what Iktha had prophesied. It was very near now, looming eerily large in her perception.
There was a subtle shift and Nala realized that the cruiser was slowing. But they had not yet reached the Place of Light. She could not feel her people. She opened her eyes. The Black Dalek had glided over in front of her. “IS THE DEVICE READY?” it demanded. Its voice grated unpleasantly. Nala had never feared anything, nor disliked any creature personally, but there was something about the Dalek that revulsed her.
Tosk stood. “It’s ready,” he replied. Nala saw that he was holding the bundle of wires in his hands. It was attached to a sort of crown similar to the ones that she had worn so many times in Fixer Martin’s lab as they’d performed countless meaningless tests. Before she could object, Tosk slipped it onto Nala’s head. She reached up to touch it, but the Dalek moved forward.
“DO NOT DISTURB IT!” it shrieked. Nala dropped her hands into her lap.
“Are you sure she can serve?” asked Tosk. “The Tolloc are pacifists.”
“IT IS UNIMPORTANT,” replied the Dalek. “SHE WILL PREDICT BEHAVIOR OF ESCAPEES. TACTICS ARE NOT REQUIRED.”
Tosk shrugged. He leaned forward and looked Nala in the eye. “Don’t worry,” he told her. “Obey the Daleks.”
“Why?” she asked, but Tosk didn’t answer. Instead, he activated a sequence of buttons on a touchpad. Suddenly images, perceptions, statistics, and raw information began flowing across her brain. She felt her mind widen in response as if reaching out for other Tolloc, but the relentless flow of information pressed in on her. Her conscious mind retreated into itself, curling up into a defensive ball and cutting itself off from the outside world. The last thing she was aware of was a Dalek voice repeating the word “obey” over and over and over and over . . . .
“Kallan, this is madness!” shouted the Doctor. He stormed across the sand to where the Immortal Finder sat watching the Tolloc.
“I have my reasons,” he said. “Don’t try to understand it. I’ll threaten you if necessary to make your friend do it.”
“Won’t work,” said Methos. “I haven’t felt guilt since the eleventh century.”
That got Kallan’s attention. “Just how old are you?” he asked. “Who are you, really?”
“It doesn’t matter,” said the Doctor. “What does matter is that Adam and I are not of this time.”
“Impossible,” scoffed Kallan. “Only the Daleks can time-travel.”
The Doctor shook his head. “Just listen to me, Kallan. Adam comes from the Twentieth Century. That’s two thousand years of time differential. Even if this weren’t Holy Ground, I could not allow him to take your head.”
“I don’t believe it counts as Holy Ground,” said Kallan. “And what you claim is absurd. I don’t think . . . .”
“Doctor,” said Methos. “I think you should look at this.”
The Doctor turned to follow where Methos was pointing. The Tolloc had stopped meditating. They had all risen to their feet and were staring into space in complete silence. Vorna had noticed and was jogging towards them. As the Doctor watched, she waved her hand in front of an elderly female Tolloc’s face and got no response. The Doctor trotted over to her side. “What do you make of this?” he asked her.
She shook her head. “I don’t know. They seem to be completely unresponsive.” For demonstration, she poked the elderly female Tolloc in the bicep, but still got no reaction. “It’s as if they’re no longer aware of their surroundings, focused instead on somewhere else.”
The Doctor nodded. “On what, do you suppose?”
Vorna got no chance to answer. A wind blew through the broad ravine and then the roar of engines presaged the arrival of the Dalek cruiser. It crested the edge of the ravine and let out a harsh whine as it decelerated. If Vorna said anything at this point, it was lost in the roar of the engines. The ship came to a halt, hovering directly above the ravine. Luminous white ports opened in its underbelly and four Daleks — three gray, one black — were gently lowered down on platforms. Four more Daleks appeared on the rim of the ravine, easily covering the high ground. The Daleks shrieked in unison as they scanned the area.
“STAY WHERE YOU ARE! DO NOT MOVE! YOU ARE PRISONERS OF THE DALEKS! STAY WHERE YOU ARE! DO NOT MOVE! DO NOT MOVE!”