Pocket. Sonic. Hack. Deep breath. Second hack.
To have a successful plan come to fruition literally took my breath away. I magnetised the floor and deactivated the shield covering the hull damage. Space moved into the bridge, howling, depthless and terrible, swallowing whatever it could in its greed. CAUSE, now consisting of just the Captain, the Owl and Spark Plug’s body, shot out into the void, before any Dalek got in another kill. Ethereal disappeared from my side. This wasn’t a version in which she stayed.
A quick flourish with the sonic, and the shield re-activated. My coat stopped behaving like a parachute in mid-fall, and I enjoyed a simultaneous deep breath and return to silence.
Well, silent, until…
“YOU HAVE NOT SAVED THEM.”
“I suppose not,” I replied, stowing the sonic away, “but equally, you haven’t killed them.”
Nobody wins. Typical result on the Gallifrey v Skaro scoreboard.
“HOW DID YOU SURVIVE?”
I knocked my boot against the edge of the platform. There came the slightest dink sound.
“Good day to wear my steel toe-caps.” I can’t admit to being prepared for every eventuality, but once you have suffered the misfortune of anything substantial landing on your toes, your shoe wardrobe shall increase by one pair.
The Q.U.A.R.K vibrated against my wrist, announcing the arrival of a message that only I could hear; primarily because I didn’t actually hear it.
Cargo received. Continue as normal. Beware the word ‘ancestors’.
I rubbed my forehead, as Odyssey’s telepathic voice faded back into my own. Apparently, the second phase of my plan would be a success, too. I had a future to enjoy.
Provided I avoided the word ‘ancestors’……
No further Daleks had been lost to my shield hack; those closest to the breach seemed a little confused by this…or as confused as an emotionless tank can look. Their eyestalks considered the breach, me, than back again.
I addressed the Elder and the room entire.
“So go on, then. You got me here. What happens now?” I turned and stared down the red-tinged barrel of the Elder’s eyestalk, gazing into furious hatred without blinking. “If you wanted me dead, you’d have done it by now.”
“IN GOOD TIME.”
I gathered my coat around myself. Dalek ships are freezing at the best of times; dead-pan delivery of execution sentences only serve to lower the temperature further.
My eyes trailed around the room, as good little soldiers cleared up the mess left by one rebellious CAUSE versus another.
If I were to devise a list of Things I Never Expected To See, a rebellion Dalek faction would be in there, alongside such entries as a Cyberman fashion show, or Thanos working in a pizzeria. A manufactured and mass-produced life form showing signs of defiance should be, by definition, impossible. But, even in the most sophisticated of biology, there will still be mutations. Hairline cracks in the control, and through them came Daleks that did not want to continue and serve their race’s heritage. Their wishes were a bit more…traitorous. A war between Daleks and Timelords was chaotic, yes, but Skaro civil wars are in their own league. We used to watch footage of them as children on Gallifrey. Even then, I’d rooted for the underdogs like these.
Daleks serving under the Dalek Elder had come from up and down the Skaro timeline; new-age and vibrantly-coloured death machines rumbled about alongside the typical bronze units, old faithful silver and blue ones, and even a few in gold and ivory. As though the Dalek Elder had a past-time hobby of artefact hunting.
I liked it, personally. A Dalek ship with flair and disorder, and a near-unstoppable army.
I shrugged, and obeyed. Walking/gliding side-by-side, the Dalek Elder and I left the bridge down the nearest corridor – unsupervised, I could not help but notice. Then again, a Dalek with two guns against a man distracted by shiny things isn’t much of a security risk.
“How goes the war?” I asked. It’s what happens when two militaristic races make small talk.
“OUR EFFORTS HAVE HALTED, SINCE YOUR INTERVENTION. OUR SHIP IS TOO DAMAGED FOR BATTLE.”
I outright refuse to apologise to a Dalek, but, I can foresee benefits to keeping a recalcitrant Dalek on my Christmas card list.
“I’d be willing to assist with repairs, if it means you get back to killing other Daleks all the sooner.”
“NOT NECESSARY. YOU HAVE BEEN SUMMONED TO SERVE A GREATER PURPOSE.”
“Catering? Payroll? Ship mascot?”
The Dalek Elder ignored my ramblings. During both my previous visit and this, the Elder admitted to researching me, and other Timelords like the Doctor and the Master. I wondered if its knowledge included that I only ramble when I’m nervous.
So the Daleks needed me, specifically. I’m not acutely aware of any mastered skillsets that would warrant them hiring someone to kidnap me. How much can Daleks want someone who can write in binary, eat limitless burritos and offer an encyclopedic knowledge of all things Discworld?
Unless it wasn’t my mind they wanted. Timelord blood alone is a harshly hunted resource across the universe. It’s one reason (of several million) why I keep moving.
Several identical corridors passed, until we reached a large, rounded door flanked by two guards. They were both Weapon Specialist Daleks. No plunger. Just one massive gun.
Clearly they protected something of great importance.
The door split apart and together, we entered a large, curved room, its design akin to being trapped beneath a gigantic bronze bowl. A tall column ran from floor to ceiling in the centre. It was completely bordered by a waist-high desk, at floor level. Black, thick cables trailed about the room, hanging off the ceiling in places like vines and creepers in the jungle.
And then I inhaled, and sharply brought my coat to cover my nose and mouth. It absolutely reeked of death. A stench of rot, remains and decay that had been left to fester. People/beings had died in this room.
And I had a good guess as to why.
I was under no illusion. I recognised the basic shape as soon as we entered, the same instinctual way of knowing a square as a square, and a Dalek as a threat. They did always have imagination, but only now did I see the extent of their tenacity.
The Dalek Elder was building a TARDIS.