FR0ZEN ASSETS – Nikki White
"But where are we, Doctor" the dark-haired girl in the colourful blouse and the short, plain skirt demanded yet again. She stood glaring, arms akimbo, at the sturdily-built, curly-haired man whose attire was even more of an assault on the eyes than her own. For his part, he was bent over the control console, studying read-outs and dials. He scarcely seemed to have heard her, despite the abrasive edge to her tone which threatened to turn into an all-too familiar whine.
"Hmm? What was that, Peri?" he asked vaguely.
"I said" she replied through gritted teeth, mentally adding 'for the fifth time', "where ... "
"Amazing!" he interrupted. "Now why would we land here? I didn’t set...no, but after that surge in the time vortex-- Well, I suppose I'm right after all. Must be - I'm always right. And this is Spirodon."
"When you've finished congratulating yourself- what's Spirodon?"
"Oh, somewhere I haven't visited since I used to be tall, thin and distinguishedly silver-haired. Well, stop babbling. Let's go and have a look and see what's brought us here. Oh, youl’d better be careful of the spore plants in that outfit. Nasty things, if they get on your skin. They'll turn you into fungus in days, if not treated."
Beyond the TARDIS, the jungle stretched densely in all directions. The air was warm and heavy with the miasma of rotting vegetation. Peri struggled to keep up with the Doctor as he plunged ahead, nimbly dodging venom spat by the spore plants. She didn’t like the place. There was something oppressive about it and it was not just the jungle. It felt stagnant, like something left too long and better not disturbed
"Doctor," she complained, after an hour or so, "Do we have to go on? There's nothing here, just jungle and those awful plants. My feet hurt, my shoes are damp, my skirt's torn, I'm hot and sticky and..."
"No sense of adventure, Peri, that's your problem. Now that other girl I had when I was here last, what's her name?- She was ... "
"Look out, Doctor!" Peri yelped, cannoning into him. They both went down all of a heap. When they looked up and attempted to untangle themselves from the creepers around their legs, they found themselves facing a circle of spears, all pointed at them. That was all - just spears, suspended in mid-air. "Kill them," a voice rasped just as Peri began to believe it was some optical illusion. The spears were raised menacingly.
Suddenly, a burst of machine-gun fire echoed through the jungle and the spears dropped to the ground or else disappeared into the foliage. Peri covered her ears and screamed. It was all too weird.
When she opened them again, strong hands were helping her up and she found herself looking up into a pair of green eyes flecked with gold, set in a lightly tanned, strong-boned face. The owner was a young man even taller than the Doctor in camouflage with a field cap with some insignia she could not quite decipher in the gloom pulled down over his wavy dark gold hair. The Doctor was being similarly assisted by two more of these tall blond men in camouflage - there being rather more of the Doctor than of her. Whoever they were, they were a handsome lot. One had white-blond hair and charcoal-grey eyes; another had mid-blond hair and piercing blue eyes and all were well muscled and athletic.
"Thank you, young man, I'm quite capable of managing now," the Doctor announced, brushing some of the jungle floor off his multi-coloured coat.
"You are unharmed?" the one who had helped Peri asked, shouldering his weapon. He appeared to be the leader.
"Yes, thanks to you."
"The Spirodons are hostile to strangers. They are invisible which makes them a nuisance," the leader informed them. Peri noticed he had a slight accent which seemed vaguely familiar, though she could not place it. "And you are?"
"The Doctor and this is Perpugilliam Brown."
Peri put out her hand, "Just Peri. Pleased to meet you. Our ship is back there. I think we're lost."
The Doctor shot her a glare.
"You'd better come with us to our camp," the leader said. "It is dangerous to remain here." The others formed a line fore and aft of them and then the party set off, the agile young soldiers dodging the spore plants with the ease of long practice. They were well trained, that way for sure, gliding through the jungle like ghosts, following some invisible trail. "If the natives are invisible ,who are these?" Peri whispered.
"Unless I miss my guess, they're Thals, originally from the planet Skaro."
"Skaro - isn't that where the Daleks come from?"
"Hmm - I wonder what they're doing here again."
The trees thinned out and soon they were in the open, a plain dotted with huge stones and small pools of bubbling ice. Peri shivered in the sudden change of temperature. "Uggh, what a planet!"
The leader flashed a dazzling white grin at her. "Too right. Our Commander calls it 'the nastiest piece of space garbage in the sector'. There are only two worse planets, he says - Kembal and Desperus. Our camp is just beyond, in those boulders. This we call the Plain of Stones." He paused, then added "You are English?"
Startled that an alien should be so attempt to be so precise rather than saying 'You are an Earthwoman or Terran or something,' she laughed nervously. "American actually."
That fixed him - he looked quite blank.
"Well, well, well, Keller, what have you and your toys soldiers dragged in today?" The speaker, who had appeared from within the stones, was the tallest woman Peri had ever seen. Her long black hair blew in the wind and she was clad in a close-fitting black uniform of some sort with knee boots and a heavy white utility belt from which depended an assortment of tools and an efficient looking gun. She stood with one hand on her hips, the other hanging by her side, looking at them through narrowed green eyes, set in a tanned face.
"Found them back in the jungle, surrounded by Spirodons."
"This is your Commander?" Peri hissed at the leader. The Doctor raised an eyebrow. She didn’t look like a Thal. In fact, she didn't much look like any race he’d met so far.
"No," was the curt reply. Addressing the woman, the leader, Keller, continued, "I assumed that the girl was an Ensovaari child travelling with a medical escort."
The woman threw back her head and laughed. "It's a good thing we stopped your government from going to war with itsneighbours. You'd have all been dead by now if your eyesight is that bad!"
"I quickly realised my error," Keller said stiffly, "but decided to bring them here anyway."
"By all means," the woman swept them a mocking bow as they passed into the stone circle. Within were neat rows of tents and a wooden hut. "That woman is an aggravation," Keller muttered. "Her ship landed here a while ago in need of repairs which she is taking her own sweet time about. In the meantime, she has appointed herself a sort of unofficial Imperial supervisor. And also too, she is attempting to advise or interfere with our Commander. He does not listen."
Peri and the Doctor exchanged quizzical looks as they were led to the wooden building. "You seem to have been here quite some time," the Doctor observed.
"We were assigned here three months ago. Ground patrol against enemy invasion," was the curt reply.
"Take your pick," the young officer said, ushering them inside. "Sontarans, Rutans, Mark 2 Cybermen or Ctherin - in ascending order of nastiness."
The Doctor pursed his lips, wondering just what he'd landed in. It sounded like a full-scale war involving the universe’s chief nasties. Hands in pockets he surveyed the sparsely furnished room he and Peri found themselves in. Mess hall, obviously. Peri seated herself at one of the wooden trestle tables and began brushing the jungle off her clothes and shoes.
"Sounds, like you guys kinda know how to make enemies," she said.
"We do," the officer agreed, amused as if at some private joke, rather than annoyed at the remark. "But these are not our enemies. They are enemies of the Ensovaari Empire. And if you need to ask that I need to see your papers." He held out his hand, his voice cracking like a whip.
"They're back in the ship," the Doctor improvised. "However, I can assure you ,my dear young sir, that I am not an 'enemy of the Ensovaari Empire'. Any enemy of the Sontarans, Rutans or Cybermen is a friend of mine." He beamed.
The young officer seemed unimpressed by the fatuous remark. The Doctor pulled himself up to his full height and removed his hands from his pockets, "I am a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey."
"Oh, la-di-dah - a Time Lord," a mocking voice echoed. That woman again. Both men turned, irritation written on both their faces.
"Captain Fornadar, these are my prisoners--"
"Prisoners - fiddlesticks, Major Keller! They're no threat to security. Do they look like Cybermen or Sontarans? True, they could be transformed Rutans or Rimworld pirates, but ... " She walked over to the pair and stared at them, head on one side. "Who are you, girl?"
"Peri - Perpugilliam Brown. I'm from Earth."
"If true, you have a strange accent," Keller remarked.
"Yours isn't so hot, either, buster!" Peri was sick of jibes about her accent or her English from the Doctor, let alone any passing alien, even if they were as gorgeous as Major Keller.
"She could be a Rutan who has imperfectly shape-shifted and this flaw is..."
"I'm not a Rutan or anything else. I'm a citizen of the United States of America!"
"You see," Keller exclaimed triumphantly. "There is no such place as she speaks of."
"Now just a damn minute!" Peri turned on the hapless Keller, jabbing him on the breast-bone with a forefinger as she spoke. His men shifted restlessly, hands hovering near bolstered weapons. "If you think I'm going to sit still ...
"Which Earth?" Captain abn-Fornadar interposed, seeing a possible solution.
"Uhh -er - Earth Earth. Third planet from Sol---"
"Can't be from Heliya - that's right on the rim and they don't have interstellar flight unless you count a funny little satellite thing called Voyager a patrol picked up a while ago. May be from wherever the Enterprise came from. Or may be your lovely Commander? Either way ,there's any number of explanations. Kindly don't interrupt me again." Turning back to Peri, she said with a conspiratorial wink, "Men! Give them a uniform and a bit of braid and they think they've got all the answers. So you and your-- nurse? doctor? -- were just passing through?"
"Actually," the Doctor said, "It seemed more as if we were pulled here."
"Odd, there're no tractor beams here. Nothing hi-tech at all. Not even this little lot." She looked back at Keller. "Well, what are you staring at? Haven't you got a patrol to go on? If not, you can cook us dinner. I'm starved.''
Instead of bridling as Peri expected, Keller grinned and said, "What would you like - curried K-rations or boiled tank? We can fricassee an engine for you if you like." To Peri he winked and said, "We're men of iron, you see."
"No, I think some roasted pterodactyl will do - that's what we call a horrible screechy bird here that looks prehistoric."
Obviously, this was a longstanding battle. Captain abn-Fornadar seemed disposed to talk to Peri, putting an arm around her and leading her out into the sunshine. The Doctor followed. "Now we've got rid of the silly men, we can have an uninterrupted conversation," she said.
"The Doctor's not silly," Peri found herself protesting.
The Captain smiled indulgently. "Of course not, he is acting in loco parentis so he must have some sense. Now if we sit here we will get the best of the sun and be able to see anyone approaching."
"Can’t have the men getting out of hand, eh, Captain?" said the Doctor sitting down, unabashed in front of them. The Ensovaari didn't seem all that put out or surprised by his presence, which rather nettled him as he had hoped to prick her insouciant air.
Conversation was rather desultory as the Captain tried to talk to Peri. The Doctor could have told her that conversation, as opposed to nagging, didn't seem to be her strong point. Her forte was asking a lot of silly and obvious questions, usually at the wrong time. But he kept quiet just to see how she would get on. Sometimes he wondered if she was the same girl who'd shown both quick wit and courage in facing down the Master on Sarn. What had caused the change? The only thing that had happened to her was travelling with him. Oh, and his regeneration. But that couldn't be it, surely? Accompanying him on his adventures shouldn't have had such a deleterious effect on the personality or the IQ. Travel was supposed to broaden the mind, not reduce it. And surely the change in his appearance and personality was only for the better. He was a shining beacon, a fount of wisdom and reassurance in darkness and chaos. Still, it didn't seem to have rubbed off on Peri, who was floundering.
"I don't understand" she whined. "If you aren't the Thals' commander, and the Cybermen and things aren't their own enemies- what's going on?"
"Intergalactic war, my pet," Captain abn-Fornadar said casually, stretching. "Have you been down a Black Hole for the past decade?"
"Something like that," Peri said, ruefully.
I see, thought the Doctor ,travelling with me is like being in a black hole, is it? We'll see about that, my girl when we get back to the Tardis. Ungrateful Earthling, here he was willing to give her the benefit of his greater wisdom and experience ...
The Captain was attempting to ask Peri about the places she'd been but not getting very far because the human kept going on about the situation on Spirdon, which the Ensovaari obviously took for granted. There were ways of asking questions, the Doctor mused. He decided on a frontal attack. At most he’d only be ignored. "The last time I was on Spirodon," he began, "the Spirodons were not so hostile. There was a Thal expeditionary force here then, too." Better not to mention some of the other things, no need to alarm anyone.
"That?! That must have been a helluva time ago. Don't hear much of Thals these days. They stick close to their own planets. No heads for technology that lot. They've pretty well gone the way of the Giant Roc of Eliassa XII or the Tasmanian Devil of Heliya. People claim to see them but ... "
"Then what…" the Doctor glanced at the blond soldiers patrolling the perimeter of the encampment.
"Wait a minute," the Captain interrupted. "You're talking about millennia ago when the Thals began their Great Migration, before the Conquest. That's impossible," she snapped.
"Not if you're a Time Lord."
"You said that before. What's that mean? I've heard of Dark Lords - even served with one once. But not Time Lords."
The universe was large, it was possible there were races unfamiliar with Time Lords or Gallifrey, he supposed. Remembering a description he'd given an earlier companion in an earlier incarnation, he replied, "We're sort of temporal ticket inspectors, if you like." Peri strangled. He ignored her. "We make sure people aren't using time travel illicitly or irresponsibly. Time travel can be a very dangerous thing, you know, especially in the wrong hands."
Captain abn-Fornadar looked at him with real interest for the first time. Obviously deciding he was a better bet, conversationally, she gave him her full attention. "Well do my people know it," she said gravely.
"Your people have time travel?"
"We had - but we abandoned it centuries ago. It's a blind alley. All the races we've encountered with sufficient technology to develop time travel have given it up sooner or later. You can get awfully unstuck, shoot yourself in the foot. Happened to one of our subject races quite spectacularly. They were lucky not to unravel their own timeline completely and cancel themselves out."
The Doctor nodded. A cold gust of wind blew from nowhere. "So what of your people? What do they do?" she asked.
"They don’t – anymore. In the distant past, our greatest leader, a man called Rassilon, harnessed energies of a captured black hole to enable our people to travel in time, in specially designed capsules. We visited many places and times until one day, we realised we were doing more harm than good, interfering to right wrongs, helping struggling peoples. So we became content to watch, to monitor the time lines from the safety of the Temporal Control Room, not interfering except where necessary."
"You don't approve?"
"I'm one of the free agents they use when they don't wish to soil their hands. Hypocrites!"
"So that is how you came here - in a time capsule? Which is still in the jungle? Funny, I've never heard of Gallifrey or its citizens. But then I was never very good at history. We Ensovaari have had two goes at time travel. The first attempt left our planet in a mess. Couldn't have been a bigger cake if a man had stuck his finger in it - someone like your Rassilon, for example. Someone in her wisdom thought it would be nice to be able to monitor the past, running a comparison with the planet Heliya, that other Earth I mentioned earlier.
"In those days, Heliya was just an interesting case of civilisation evolving. It wasn't a parallel Earth, it was the only Earth. I'm not a temporal engineer so I can't tell you exactly what went wrong, but in attempting to run the two lines together, involving block transfer computations, there was an almighty feedback, a complete cock-up. Result: we ended up on Ensovaar with a replica of the human civilisations of the time. Even the land formations changed. Then began the splinter effect where various time lines hived off and co-existed, creating a curious ghosting effect. You can imagine the chaos as whole sections of the original populace were wiped out to make room for these new 'intrusions'.
"What we ended up with was roughly two time periods ancient and early modern. Rome and Greece were ancient; everything else Sixteenth Century.
"Then along came Sidonis Mondevollor, of accursed memory, and decided wouldn't it be good if we could tidy everything up and accelerate them all to one point. She came up with some sort of time crystal, had some backing of assorted innocent parties who thought the idea had merit. Only thing she kept it secret from the authorities. Something to do with a quarrel with the Science Academy. She thought she'd confront them with a fait accompli. The result was a real muck-up - a 'pilser' as the lovely Commander T. would say.
"Instead of righting everything by bringing them all forward in time to the same point, she just created more splinters. Sixteenth Century England acquired two layers - the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries, for example; Ancient Rome now has a double layer - late Republic and early Empire. France moved into the Nineteenth Century and Germany - oh, Germany sort of did all right, at least it got moved into the Twentieth Century. Close but no cigar - she was a generation or two off and left the poor thing in one of its most useless periods of history. China and Japan moved completely into the Eighteenth Century.
"And this at around the outbreak of the Ctherin Wars. You can imagine how the ship hit the sand. Mondevollor decamped in a hurry, leaving a lot of people dropped well in it, if I may be permitted another Travisism. One was the family of a close friend of mine. Mud sticks, as they say, though they had not been directly involved in the fiasco. High Command was so tied up with the war - and this should show how desperate they were they sent two parties of men to chase her."
A crunch and scrape sounded on the gravel behind them. The Doctor, withdrawing his mind from the ghastly image the Captain had painted, turned towards the source, noting that Peri, obviously bored with the conversation, had wandered off to look at the activity in the encampment. His eyes encountered a pair of shiny black jackboots encasing long legs covered with a sort of black ribbed material. Continuing to gaze up at the towering figure ,he saw this black uniform covered the man snugly, terminating in a high collar. A silver insignia winked on his breast, just below his right shoulder. He stood, legs braced slightly apart, hands clasped behind his back, staring down at the Gallifreyan with his one good eye. The other was covered by a black eyepatch. A slight breeze ruffled his thick, rather long dark brown hair.
"What have we here, then, Joseph in his Coat of Many Colours?" he asked, his Cockney accent coming almost as a shock. Rather than diminishing his menace with its familiar, almost homely associations (Dodo and Ben, for example),it only added to it.
"Commander Travis," Captain abn-Fornadar said, rising politely to her feet. "We've some visitors, a Time Lord from Gallifrey, and an Earth girl."
The dark man nodded, "Space Commander Travis," he said crisply.
The pieces were beginning to fall into place. "And those are your troops?" the Doctor asked, pointing to the blond soldiers. "Not Thals?"
"Who? No they're mine all right, for what it's worth, which isn't much. Can't decide if they're a bunch of crimmos or a bunch of mutoids!"
He subsided into a cross-legged position. The Doctor was somewhat puzzled by this disparaging remark. He said, "They acted with commendable efficiency in getting us out of a very tight spot and bringing us here unharmed."
"The Doctor and Peri - that's the girl over there - had a close encounter of the worst kind with some Spirodons," the Ensovaari explained.
"Oh, they're efficient, all right, "Travis conceded. "But that's not the point, is it?"
The Doctor wondered what the point was. "Are you also an Ensovaari?"
The other man barked a brief laugh. "Not a bit of it. I'm Terran - same as the girl . "
Captain abn-Fornadar shrugged. "Another Earth parallel in another galaxy on the far side of this one."
"So where's this Gallifrey, then?" Travis wanted to know.
"It's in the constellation of Kasterborus."
"That means naff-all to me. What are the coordinates from galactic centre?"
The Doctor was spared a reply by Peri's reappearance. "You know, it's really odd Doctor," she said. "Some of that equipment is, well, not what I'd expect on a distant planet some time in the future."
Introductions were briefly made again. "Who’s in the future?" Travis wanted to know. Peri looked at him with interest.
"The Doctor and I were talking about time travel and its problems," Captain abn-Fornadar noted.
"Federation hasn't that technology," Travis said curtly. "Can't see a lot of use for it myself. Go back in time to alter something you don't like, you could end up shooting your great-grandfather. You’d end up not being born and then where would you be? Same goes for political units like empires. As for the future - I'd prefer not to know, after the various naff things that've happened to me in recent years."
"A shrewd observation and precisely the sort of things we were talking about," the Doctor remarked. "The Captain was telling us about her planet, Ensovaar's disastrous time travel experiments."
"If anyone talks to us Ensovaari of time travel, I just point out how would you like a planet that was all at sixes and sevens. You end up with something like that." The Ensovaari directed the Doctor's gaze to the small group of people - all men - around an armoured vehicle obviously, to judge from its design, one of the ones, Peri had observed. It looked mid-20th century at the latest. The men were more of the blond soldiers in camouflage.
"20th Century German troops discussing how to modify a half-track for jungle combat on a planet a hundred light years from their homeworld," the Ensovaari said. "You want temporal anomalies, you've got one."
"You might notice the camouflage on the half-track - and the tanks over there - doesn't match the scenery. That's because Spirodon doesn't look like central Europe. They haven't had time to change the paint yet," Travis added.
"What?" The Doctor had a ghastly suspicion forming in his mind.
"Yeah, you're right. Tell 'em, Pernadis."
The Ensovaari explained. "Months ago , the German government - this edition being a classic example of why men would never be given the vote let alone any political power - decided that it was going to attack its neighbour-- er---"
"Poland," Travis supplied.
"Poland. No reason given ,except some balderdash, unofficially about 'living space' and officially, about alleged incursions by Polish troops across the border. That was the final straw as far as Ensovaari Space Corps High Command, the Imperial War Council and the Grand Divan were concerned. I mean, in the middle of total war with the Ctherin, one bunch of idiots on the home planet wants to start its own war within the Empire. Europe! Someone should blow the place up! Very nearly did, too, as that was a suggestion. Solve the time problem and the German problem in one hit. One well placed nuke."
"No such luck," Travis commented. He liked tidy solutions. "They sent a letter instead which basically said, 'Dear Adolf, Pull your finger out or it's one flash and you're ash." The Doctor looked appalled. "You don't have time in war to be polite or subtle" Travis explained.
"But that's not ... " the Doctor started to protest.
"Basically, "Pernadis said, resuming the story, "the Imperial Envoy dropped a very heavy brick from a very great height on the German, government and military high command which left them reeling. And we weren't even really warmed up." She chuckled. "She said - under orders direct from Bramandin, that's our capital 'If you people want a war, we'll give you a war, more war than you can stomach. You can make yourselves useful - for a change - garrisoning low-tec planets out on the rim."'
The Doctor managed to look even more aghast. "You're telling me those people I took for Thals are World War II German soldiers?"
"It’s a crock, innit?-" Travis said. "See what I mean about crimmos and mutoids? Not to mention being technological primitives. They come from an era where they still think the internal combustion engine is a pretty radical idea.''
"If you're from another Earth, obviously well-advanced technologically, how come you're in charge of these people?" Peri asked.
"Because, darlin', I got the experience but no army and they got the army and no experience. That's the top and the bottom of it. Elaborating: I was in Berlin at the time because an acquaintance I’d hardly call him a friend – got posted there, being as his wife had just been appointed Imperial Envoy. She's Pernadis's sister,by the way, and my adopted brother’s a friend of Avon’s, her husband. Confused? Good. Avon had just produced a girl child and there was a big celebration - he scored a regalia of the finest emeralds in the Empire - when All Hell Broke Loose.
"Next I knew I was on the carpet before Grand Admiral Semiramis zidna-al-Mallashandrah of the Space Corps - she was one of the bricks dropped on the Reich - which was why she was in Berlin. I met her in the Ensovaari Embassy, where I think she'd just had Hitler and half a dozen generals for breakfast and was picking her teeth with their bones. I hoped I wasn't going to be a chaser. She's tall and wiry with lots of blue-black hair, a brown face and piercing grey eyes. 'Ah, Travis,' she says without preamble. She has a deep husky voice. "Just the man for the job." Even that's a compliment from an Ensovaari . They think a man' s only got one use - and it isn't lifting heavy weights. I kept my mouth shut, not wishing to ruin the moment. "I've read your dossier." This could be a worry - my military record's good but some get a bit squeamish about my direct methods as evidenced by the Oros and Zircaster affairs. "It seems to me that a man of your obvious ability and experience could be better used' - I'd just come back from a parallel universe where I'd worked as a stack attendant in a library so I could see she had a point.
"'You have been trained for command, yet you have no men. I have an army of men who need a commander experienced in the field. You know the fracas with the German government. They've kindly allowed their military to serve as bodies on planets, relieving our troops for more important tasks. With the right leader, it should work.'
"She looks up again and says, 'Here's a list of the divisions who'll be serving under you. Quite a mixed bag of fruit and I daresay we'll find some lemons among them. Still, they're expendable. All of them. Even those with pretensions of racial superiority - which seems to be most of them."
"'Tour of duty in deep space'll knock that sort of thing out of them,' I remarked. ‘Ideology's always the first to go on a hard-living planet. That's why Federation's always doing retraining therapy on the Space Service.'
"'Precisely. And that's why you've got the job - because you can kick arse.' You can tell she's navy. So that's how I ended up in command of tens of thousands of blond wallies - well, not all of them are blond but you know what I mean. They're scattered on about 50 planets across the sector. This lot here are crack troops, elite, which is why I have them with me. Major Keller is my aide-de-camp. Still, it's like flying a Concorde when you need a Pursuit Ship."
"It keeps them off the streets and from picking a blue with the countries of Eastern Europe, anyway," Pernadis added. "All that misdirected energy is being used properly at last."
"Well, that's fine for you maybe, but I've got to wet-nurse them..."
"They respect you. You're even harder than they think they are."
"They'd better. Like I said, they're efficient, well-trained, well-disciplined and obedient. But that's not the point. My place is in deep space, not dirtside."
"You mean," Peris exclaimed, eyes wide as she finally grasped what had been said through the by-play. "The Ensovaari stopped World War II cold? Before it even began? Because it wasn't convenient? Then took the German troops and sent them in to fight their own enemies? Wow! When you people screw up time, you really screw up time!"
"You certainly get A plus for style," the Doctor mused "but Z minus for observance of the Laws of Time. No wonder we were drawn here, Peri."
"Not really," said Pernadis airily. "You forget - Germany, as well as all the rest are artificial constructs on our planet. We didn't have Hitler and his chums until some years ago. Their future could be anything. And you have to admit, it does solve part of the temporal problem, even if only for a short time."
The Doctor looked dubious. "It's one way of looking at it, I suppose."
"What's the problem," Travis remarked laconically, rising. "Seems like a satisfactory solution to me, making use of all your resources. Just because it queers some war fought over a millennium ago - that's not my problem. My job's to keep them alive long enough to do some good in this war." He paused and added wryly, "Mind, any more 'events' like Bandraginus VII or Callufrax II and there won't be any blond wallies left. No Germans, no problem." He dusted off his hands and started to walk away.
"Bandraginus VII? What happened there?"
"Ctherin attack. Detonated the atmosphere. Like I told the German military commander, at least it was quick. The troops there wouldn't have known what hit them before it was all over. Most they'd have seen was the sky turn to flame before the planet and some of Germany's finest became cosmic dust."
"That's horrible," Peri shuddered..
"Space wars are seldom pretty, darlin' . As for Callufrax II, detachment of Cybermen Mark 2 tried to take the base. Now blond wallies might be many things, but cowards they're not. They never know when they're beaten. They just kept coming - machine-guns against energy weapons; human flesh against plastisteel. Well, results are obvious. Cybermen: 5000 - Third Reich: Nil. I got there too late to stop the slaughter but I taught them a new tactic: Never bite off more than you can chew. Well, night all."
Indeed dusk was falling. Remembering her manners, Pernadis looked at Peri and the Doctor. "You'll need quarters. Your male companion can bivouac with the other men." She indicated the tents. "There's room in my tent for you, if you wish."
She guided Peri to a large tent set apart from the others, while Travis wordlessly indicated the Doctor should follow him. Peri glanced back anxiously. She was not happy being separated from the Doctor. Pernadis's hospitality, which included a meal and wine, only partly reassured her. Almost as an afterthought, just as they were to retire, the Ensovaari woman turned to Peri and asked, "Would you like a man for the night?" as though she were offering her an after-dinner mint.
Peri, for once in her life ,was rendered speechless. Pernadis went on, "You can have one of the Germans. They're quite interesting if rather formal at first. Nice strong bodies.''
Peri shook her head vigorously, cheeks burning crimson.
"I hope you don't fancy Commander Travis. You'll have to ask him direct. Command ranks aren't on offer like the lesser orders.
"No, no," Peri stammered, feeling gauche and rather foolish.
"Suit yourself. I'm for bed. I'm tired."
Not that Peri got much sleep anyway. Some hours later, she was wakened by a loud whining and a series of explosions as the darkness was lit up to almost daylight intensity. Terrified, she sat up clutching her bedclothes to her. She saw Pernadis move quickly to the tent flap and peer out. "Random strike. They're always doing it," she complained. "Nuisance value, really." Still peering out, she put a pair of field glasses to her eyes. "Can't see any damage beyond a column of smoke in the jungle yonder. Keller'll have a patrol on it first light. Too dangerous to go abroad at night unless absolutely necessary." She lowered the glasses, dropped the flap and turned back to a frightened Peri.
"Does this happen often?" the latter asked.
"Of course, nearly every second day or so. Quite random.''
"This is a war zone, girl. What d'you expect? Now go back to sleep."
"You said it was dangerous at night - why?"
"Listen." Pernadis held up her hand.
Peri held her breath and concentrated. A flapping of huge wings could be heard, followed by a bloodcurdling screech repeated a couple of times. "'Pterodactyls', you probably didn't hear them before because of the bombardment."
As the cries died down, Peri was aware of a growling and gnashing. It sounded quite close. "What's that?"
"Only the night predators. They won't come too close to the camp. The fires keep them away. If by chance the boys have to go beyond the camp, they always take their flame-throwers. Doesn't do the ecology much good but it's either that or a beastie gets schnitzel for dinner. Now that the tumult and shouting has died, let's get some sleep."
Pernadis may have slept but Peri certainly didn't. Once attuned, ,her hearing picked up every rustle, growl and squeak from outside. By dawn, she felt exhausted and was sure she looked ghastly. She followed Pernadis out into the mess hall. Travis was just finishing briefing his men, who dispersed to their various patrols. He joined them, attacking a wedge of bread as they ate their breakfast.
"Another bloody Rutan attack last night," he said. "Wish they'd let me have some real weaponry, not mickey-mouse stuff like howitzers and panzers. Soon give the Rutans a hiding if we'd only some laseron destroyers. Of course, neutron blasters'd be better but cows might fly backwards and upside down," he added in a disgusted tone. "Even some branches of the German military 'back home' got uncooperative. Intense rivalry between the Luftwaffe boss - what's his name, Lord of the Heavenly Hosts, Kotaro calls him - isn't talking to General Whatsis of the Army and so it goes. All I wanted was to get Krupps to make me an all-terrain to my specifications we can use on Spirodon. Junk the fossil-fuel burners, or infernal combustion engines, for a start.
"Still, Keller's good with engines. He's jury-rigged what we do have so they'll do more than they should. And Weidenhofer's come up with another modified weapon. Should introduce him to Dayna Mellanby - they could compare bombs. He's amazing - these Germans are monkey-clever. No wonder your lot won't let them play with real weapons. Give him a rubber-band, a bent safety pin and a string and he'll construct an Exocet missile. A couple of bottle tops and he'll give you a proximity mine. If I can get him some tubing, I'm sure he'll come up with Imipak.
"Then there's Langerveldt who listens to my grizzles, sketches what I'm saying and comes back with a modification to an existing vehicle with a bit borrowed here and a bit borrowed there which is a fair approximation of what I had in mind. Still, I wish I could give the Rutans a bit of a smack."
"Cheer up, your turn will come."
"Fat chance. I ask myself what it is I did to deserve this. Is this a punishment? I wonder if Avon had a hand in it, wittering in the ear of his missus how good a soldier I am so she'll tell the Admiral, just to get rid of me."
"I thought you and he had reached an understanding, a non-aggression treaty."
"Look, he's a neurotic alpha-grade. The Avons are so interbred, he's his own cousin five times over."
"Sounds confusing," said Peri, trying to jam her way into the conversation.
"Who knows what Avon thinks. He shoots his friends and lovers. Unfortunately, he also shoots his enemies, too. Maybe he thought his wife, your sister, was a bit too nice to me, or looked at me the wrong way."
"What?! A beautiful, intelligent, witty man like Avon? He has no need for such insecurity."
"No, but I wouldn't put it past him. He was never any good at interpersonal relationships. Even he admits that. And ever since that business with Nobutora and your sister, he's been quite paranoid."
"So you think my brother-in-law is a bit potty?"
"Nothing surer. All alpha-grades are. Should do well in Germany where they all seem a sandwich short of a picnic."
"Good morning, good morning!" came the Doctor's nauseatingly cheerful voice. Peri groaned. Where she felt like death warmed over, he looked well rested.
"Is it?" Travis snarled. Peri mentally applauded. "Not that he likes Germany. Got no computers, you see. Tried to talk Security into going on-line - just so he could hack into their records later. Actually, I think it was meant as a first step to getting the banking system automated. Not that he needs the money. Just to keep his hand in. More I think about it, more I think he really is a crimmo a criminal with a very high IQ," he explained for Peri’s benefit. "Security wasn't interested - I think he lost their Chief between 'downloading' and 'gigabyte'. Computer-wallies can't talk English, can they? And this in a culture that's just invented the adding machine!"
"Who's this lunatic trying to introduce higher technology to the wrong time period?" the Doctor demanded. After their experience with the Minyans,the Time Lords were very sensitive about such things.
"Man from my time and place - Avon. If you want to arrest him and stuff him down the Eye of Rassilon," obviously Travis must have had a further chat with the Doctor, "help yourself."
Just then the door banged open to admit one of the Germans at the double. Virtually screeching to a halt in front of Travis, he snapped off a salute and rather breathlessly began his report. "Commander, I have just returned from Patrol Delta in Sector 14. The Rutan attack opened up a great fissure. When the ice-lava subsided ... "
"Good old Spirdon - still has its 'ice-canos’" the Doctor remarked smugly.
"We sent down two expert Alpinists to investigate something that looked metallic. This proved to be a girder or some such support."
"An earlier civilisation?" Travis queried.
The young man nodded. "Perhaps, Commander. For below that we found a cache of massive shells - like those used on the Bismarck. Thousands of them. It must be an ammunition dump. A guard was posted and I was sent here to receive your instructions and to collect any equipment you might want."
"Right," said Travis, rising to his feet. "Show me." He followed the young soldier outside. Pernadis wasted no time in sprinting after them with the Doctor and Peri determined not to be left behind.
At the site, the scene was exactly as the German had described. Travis peered into the fissure. "Hmmm," was all he said.
Filled with misgivings ,the Doctor also peered into the fissure. "We can cut one out, sir," another soldier suggested.
"I wouldn't, if I were you," the Doctor interrupted. All eyes were on him. "It could be dangerous. Who knows how long they've been there. They could be very unstable. The slightest jar could set them off."
Peri looked at him puzzled. He shook his head slightly to silence the question he saw springing to her lips.
"It might be better simply to cover them up again," the Doctor suggested.
"We might have to unless we can find a way to extricate them. We don't even know what they are. They could be some alien artefact anything." Travis observed. He walked away from the fissure.
Pernadis dropped flat on her stomach and peered over the edge. Detaching something from her belt, she let it out into the hole. "They aren't shells," she said. "No trace of explosives. In fact this metal reads -Mother of us all ,they're ... " She sprang to her feet. "Back, all of you, I say. This is now a matter for the Ensovaari High Command and by the powers invested in me as an officer of the Space Corps, I am ordering no further action be taken. A guard will be posted to keep anyone or anything from approaching the area and to monitor any disturbances. This is now a Red Zone. The rest will return to camp with me. You, guard, will notify me of any change at the fissure."
With that, she turned and moved rapidly back to the camp. Once there, she told Travis she was going to her ship to contact Space Corps Command for further instructions.
"What is it, Doctor? What did she see in the fissure?" Peri demanded.
The Doctor didn't answer immediately, but stood awhile ,hands on the lapels of his garish jacket, apparently far away in thought. Then he replied softly, "Unfinished business, Peri, unfinished business."
Travis stood alone in a clearing, flanked by his aide, Major Keller,and another officer, Captain Jaeger. He was waiting for a space vessel. Pernadis had suggested rather forcefully that the senior ranking officer on the base be on hand to greet these people who were so intimately concerned with what the Ensovaari had found in the fissure. Travis was still not clear what that was as she hadn't bothered to tell him. He had the feeling she thought he already knew. He'd straighten that out later. The first thing was to do the military honours bit with the ship from-- Skaro? Yes, that was the planet's name.
Presently, a whistling sound rising in pitch disturbed the usual noises of the jungle. Above the treetops he could see a saucer-shaped vessel coming in to land. He and the two Germans braced themselves against the updraft. The ship settled some distance away, whining as the main drives were powered down. Next a hatch opened and a ramp appeared. Then emerged a piece of machinery which rolled off the ramp and came towards the waiting Travis.
"Impressive-looking security robot," Travis muttered to Keller, who stood saucer-eyed. "Nearly as tall as I am and all that black with the gold disks and flashing lights, it's obviously meant to intimidate. And that looks like a weapon on the left ... Gawd, they must be a paranoid race ... There's more, all these little blue and silver things," he noted as more of the security robots filed out behind the black and gold one.
"Lots of these little things," he repeated, watching them all line up opposite him. He looked expectantly back at the spaceship. "Wonder when they'll show their faces. Surely these robots here'll have relayed that we're not hostile," he remarked as the silence stretched on and on. Even the 'little things' were still. Ignoring them as of no further interest, Travis began pacing. "Wish they'd get a move on, I want my dinner.''
"You are Space Commander Travis?" a harsh metallic voice queried. Startled, he spun to face the black and gold robot, for it was from that the sound had come. The two German officers looked ready to bolt but discipline prevailed.
"Oh, cute," he said, recovering from his own startlement. "So you want to play dog-in-a-blanket, hide in your spaceship and talk through your robot. All right, we'll play it your way. Yes, I’m Space Commander Travis."
"Why are you here?"
Travis was now feeling thoroughly peeved. Obviously there was some mix-up somewhere. "I'm waiting - with incredible patience - for the Daleks to arrive. Which they don't seem to be in a hurry to do." He glared at the spaceship.
There was a pained silence. Then the black and gold robot said "We are the Daleks."
Pausing to wipe the egg off his face, Travis snapped, "Well, why didn't you say so in the first place, instead of standing there like a bunch of lemons."
A Black Dalek spoke, after pausing long enough to emphasise the edge to its words, "It was assumed that a native of the planet which was subjugated by the Daleks in Earth year 2264 would know what a Dalek looks like."
"That was millennia ago! How would I know? I wasn't there," Travis retorted angrily. But his anger was not directed at the Daleks but at the retraining therapists whose meddlings had robbed him of this most basic memory. Every child knew about the Dalek invasion, had seen pictures of ruined cities and those infamous pepperpot shapes gliding through the rubble, in school history books. It was as much a part of every citizen's mental furniture as, say, the deeds of Charlemagne or Barbarossa were to Keller and Jaeger, or the Mongol Invasion to Kotaro and Kongo. How could he forget - be made forget! Fear gripped him. What else was gone? He recalled his words to Servalan on the Clone Masters' planet, shortly after that last lot of retraining therapy. "I wonder-- is there anything of value left to me?"
None of this showed. His customary arrogant mask was once more firmly in place. "Yes and we defeated you, though you outnumbered and outgunned us. But you didn’t come here to discuss ancient history."
"Agreed," the black and gold Dalek said. "You will lead us to the ice fissure now. Move! Move!"
Travis turned sharply and began to march from the clearing, his two aides falling into step behind him. A person, he decided, could get really jaffed off with Daleks, especially sarcastic ones.
Travis returned with the two Germans alone to the camp, having left the Daleks at the fissure with Pernadis. He noticed the men seemed to be all on patrol elsewhere while the Doctor and Peri were deep in conversation by the mess hall. He started towards them. The Doctor seemed to know what was going on, to judge from his reaction at the fissure and he was determined to have a word in the Gallifreyan's shell-like. He was interrupted by a young private. "Sir, there's someone in Captain abn-Fornadar's tent who wants to see you. She's been sent by Ensovaari High Command about the things in the fissure."
Sighing, he made his way to Pernadis's tent, pushed open the flap and went inside. Within, a woman sat at the, desk, studying a small viewer. "Come in, come in," she said, absently, not looking up. All he could see of her was a mane of wavy black hair falling over her shoulders. She glanced up and arched shapely winged eyebrows at him. She had large dark eyes set in a classically sculpted face covered with a flawless complexion the colour of old ivory. "Oh," she said, startled. "What a dear little mouse. But I was looking for Commander Travis."
"I am he."
"He. Ah. I thought-- Travis, it sounds like an Ensovaari name, a woman's name like Aravis, Peravis or Darvis, so I naturally assumed-- Do forgive me." Travis noticed she had a low musical voice with a slight but attractive accent he'd not encountered in an Ensovaari before. He also noticed that she wore the silver pips of a full commander in the Space Corps on the high collar of her black uniform. He didn’t outrank her as he did Pernadis. He hoped she realised that now, that he was her equal and not a 'dear little mouse’.
He shrugged. "Think nothing of it. I just failed to recognise a Dalek half an hour ago. Any Dalek."
"I bet they didn't let you get away with that," she said with a knowing grin.
"They didn't. Sarcastic buggers. They're nearly as arrogant as I am."
"More so, I'm sure. Your reputation precedes you."
"Though not my sex."
"Don't underestimate me, Commander."
"And don't underestimate Daleks, either, Commander Travis. Forgive me, I haven't given you a name. I am Lasaraleen Calavar. Now, what can you tell me about the diiscovery?"
Travis briefed her on the discovery and how it occurred.
"Hmm,we have a problem ,as I'm sure you realise," she said, rising and walking out of the tent with Travis in tow. "You must realise now that what's been buried here are not weapons but..."
"Why yes," Lasaraleen turned to the gaudily dressed male who had interrupted. She blinked, wishing she had her sunglasses. "You seem well-informed. Who are you?"
The Doctor introduced himself and Peri. "Why didn't you tell me this earlier?" Travis demanded.
"You didn't ask. I assumed you knew what you were dealing with."
Travis glared at him.
"Well, never mind that now," Lasaraleen interposed. "My companion is at the site now, assessing the situation." She cocked her head. "Yes, I’m getting his report now." She appeared to be listening to what only could be a telepathic contact. A frown appeared on her face. "Gentlemen, it seems we've unearthed what appears to be a lost army of Daleks. Who knows how long they've been there or why or how many. My Companion says the Daleks will contact Skaro Central to try to find records of such an army."
The Doctor was about to tell her what he knew from his first visit but something stopped him. He wasn't sure that this was necessarily the same army of Daleks. He didn't know where he was in time. The Daleks could have left an invasion force earlier or later than that time. All he knew was that on one Earth it was 1939 and on another sometime in the far future. The Dalek army he knew about had been entombed in ice in the 26th century which would fit one set of dates but not the other. The important thing was that they knew they were dealing with Daleks and so could take precautions.
"My Companion approaches," Lasaraleen announced with a smile and turned, "Well met, Arralek."
The Doctor followed her gaze, ready with a greeting and a handshake, only to have the smile freeze on his lips. This lovely young woman's 'Companion' was nothing more and nothing less than a Black Dalek! The contrast could not have been greater than between the black menacing form of the machine creature, relieved by only by silver discs, gun, eyestick and arm; and the lithe, full-bosomed figure of the Space Corps officer which her black uniform did little to disguise. She was in the process of introducing first Travis, then Peri and then finally the Doctor.
The Time Lord felt the eyestick bore into him as it inspected him. He waited for the inevitable - and familiar - "You are the Doctor. You are an enemy of the Daleks" and wondered how he could have blithely walked into such a situation. Peri pressed fearfully against him, obviously remembering her experiences on Necros.
"Doc-tor. Fe-male Brown," it repeated. Then to the Doctor's astonishment, it rolled past them and paid no more attention to them.
Relief turned to pique. "Don't you recognise me?" he asked.
"Recognise you? Why should I recognise you? Daleks have little contact with human males."
"Human?!" the Doctor's indignation got the better of his good judgment. "I'm a Time Lord'"
"Noted - is that all you can say?! I'm the Doctor!" He didn't know what the Dalek's game was but he was determined to get to the bottom of it before its plot came to fruition.
"You are the Doctor. You are a Time Lord." The Dalek moved off, obviously bored by the discussion. The Doctor was stunned.
Peri was staring at him. "What was that all about?"
"It didn't recognise me. It didn't even seem to know me at all. I just about gave it my autograph ...
"I thought so - but the oddest thing is I had the feeling it genuinely had never heard of me. Most peculiar."
The next few days saw a flurry of activity. The Daleks wanted to start excavating and messages flew back and forth between Spirodon and Skaro. "It is agreed," the Dalek Supreme announced to Commander Calavar as she sat in the tent she'd pitched at the site. "You will assist us in freeing the Daleks buried here."
This was news to Lasaraleen. "No, it's not," she said. "Dalek management style seldom involves consultation," she added conversationally to Travis who was sitting with her.
"Kongo had a supervisor like that at the Metropolis Public Library, his boss's boss to be precise. Never consulted him, never listened to him, but moved his staff around without doing him the courtesy of telling him. Big mistake. Especially with a master ninja. Kongo had just prepared a singularly virulent poison to put in her tea when those so-called Sirians turned up. So he just whispered in the right ears that she was one of those scientist conspirators and the next thing she's on a one way trip to a mothership. We never did recover all of them. So as far as I know, she's feeding some happy little lizards for a year. Lord knows ,there was enough of her."
"Daleks aren't librarians, usually," Lasaraleen pointed out dryly. She'd had little dealing with men - human men at least - and certainly not those who were serving field officers like herself. The same rank ,too. Travis had surprised her by being very no-nonsense, efficient and military. He had further surprised her with his rather colourful collection of anecdotes in their off-duty hours when the three spacers, joined by the time-travellers, occasionally would sit swapping yarns.
"Neither was this woman. Oh, she had a bit of paper that said she was a librarian but she knew naff-all about anything much, least of all Asia. Gawd knows who she screwed - revolting thought - to get into that position. The bint couldn't communicate. Had no idea how to handle staff - Kongo totally intimidated her so she tried to get rid of him, despite his value to the library. Only he got in first and permanently. All she knew was how to meddle and antagonise staff. Tried to poke her nose into the stacks, started wittering away in my direction, so I accidentally-on purpose ran a book trolley over her foot. Would have crushed her in the compactus, except it was an electronic one. I’d've preferred to use the manual one in the basement where you turn the handle yourself and can feel the satisfying crunch of bones. Murderous places, libraries. You can do someone an awful mischief if you know how."
"So I believer. My elder sister ,Zardeenah's the Imperial Librarian. She reports directly to the Empress herself. No meddling with her..."
"You will provide the labour to excavate the Daleks," the Dalek Supreme interrupted, its tone indicating it was nettled at being ignored in favour of a discussion of libraries. This, of course, had been deliberate on the part of the two commanders.
"I have not agreed to anything yet," Lasaraleen snapped. "You are not in command here. I am. Or has Skaro seceded from the Empire in the past few hours."
"You are required…" the Dalek was trying to find the right formula. "You are requested …"
"That's better. I'll consider it."
She went back to her meal. The Dalek waited. "What are you going to do?" asked Pernadis who had entered during this interchange.
"I've already notified HQ of the situation. They leave it up to me. Truth is, we could do with more Daleks for the war."
"But we don't know how long they've been there. They could be dead or damaged. They could even belong to before the Conquest in which case ...
"They will have to be processed. I have the equipment with me. Just in case, they said."
"Well, I hope they supplied a manual. No one's used one of those contraptions in aeons! Must have dug it out of a museum."
After leaving the Dalek to cool its baseplates for two hours, Lasaraleen graciously gave her permission for all under her command to assist. This meant Pernadis and Lasaraleen's Dalek, Arralek. It also included Travis and his men. Travis was not impressed.
In short order, he detailed half his troops to relocate at the Dalek base. Work began in earnest, clearing the site. Soon a stone facade with doors was revealed. The Germans, stripped to the waist, wielded pickaxes and shovels, set to work to clear the corridors beyond under the watchful eyesticks of the Daleks. A second detachment were working at the fissure to free the Daleks found near the surface.
"Work is progressing too slowly," the Dalek Supreme would complain regularly. "Tell your men to work faster."
And Travis would glare insolently at it before slowly walking away to give the German soldiers the necessary orders. "You're idle,idle. Put your backs into it. This isn't a holiday camp."
The Germans obeyed and pressed on even harder. Many collapsed with exhaustion. Finally, Keller, screwing his courage to the sticking point, approached Travis, carefully timing his move until after the Commander had eaten. He saluted and said, "Sir, the men are exhausted. We can do no more. We were proud that we, of all the races on Earth, were chosen to serve the Empire in this war. But what are these-- these motorised dustbins?"
Travis glared up at the grimy, sweat and dirt covered officer and held his gaze a long time. Hardly the immaculate major of a few weeks ago. Privately he agreed. "RHIP,Major. The Dalek Supreme outranks me. Commander Calavar outranks me - and it."
"But I thought you and she were the same rank."
"Only nominally. Ensovaari always outrank others. Always remember that."
"So we can do nothing. I don't mind dying, sir, but I had hoped it would be in battle." He saluted again and moved off, shoulders slumped.
Travis went to find the Dalek Supreme. "My men can't take much more of this. If you want to get the best out of them, they have to rest. The human frame has its limitations."
"Human are weak and inefficient."
"Perhaps. But unfortunately all you've got is the cream of the German armed forces, not mutoids"
"You have more men. We will use them."
"I need them for patrols."
"Do not dispute with the Daleks. You will give us all your men."
The large black and gold Dalek rolled close to Travis. "You will obey. You will obey!"
"You flatter yourself," the Space Commander sneered. "You've got no rank on me."
"If you give us all your men, half can work while half patrol or rest," another metallic voice suggested. Surprised, Travis turned to see a Black Dalek enter the partly cleared corridor. The suggestion made sense.
"Very well," he conceded giving a mocking half-bow to the Dalek Supreme.
Thus the camp on the Plain of Stones was broken up and relocated in the old Dalek base. Several corridors had been cleared and also what had obviously been some sort of control room. Even as the rest of the troops set up camp in the adjoining corridors, silver Dalek technicians were jury-rigging a power supply to the ancient controls, aided by hurricane lamps perched on the consoles or held aloft by the Germans. A silver Dalek approached Travis. "You have not given us all your men. The Dalek Supreme has ordered..."
Travis was incensed by the impertinence of this mechanical pipsqueak. The fingers of his left hand flexed. "What are you talking about? You've got all the troops. Do you want a list of regiments, ranks and names?"
"You have not surrendered the colourful one and the girl. They will work for us, too."
"Colourful one? - Oh, the Doctor from Gallifrey and the Brown bint. Gordon Bennett! Do you want everything?" Never one to suffer interference, Travis was furious at this intrusion even though he had no jurisdiction over the Time Lord and his companion. So furious was he, he picked up the cheese and sausage sandwich he had been eating, and shoved it with full force into the Dalek's eyestick. "There! You may as well have that, too, you greedy sod! You've taken everything else!"
Fuming he turned on his heel and stalked off, leaving the silver Dalek bleating, "Assist, assist! Vision is impaired!"
"Well ,naturally," Travis explained later to a highly amused Pernadis, "I had to front the Dalek Supreme about it. But, as I told it and Commander Calavar who was also there, there are some things you can't help doing. She told me to keep food out of the work area and sent me away. Don't think the Dalek Supreme was too happy."
However, the Dalek Supreme was not yet done with making requests. It approached Lasaraleen. "The work is still progressing too slowly. I have consulted with Skaro Central. The Emperor has requested that the one known as Fuma Kotaro Kaneyoshi be brought here. This human has special skills. I have also observed these when I was in charge of a project involving humans."
"Fumakotaro Can o' washing - who in space is that?"
"Japanese male, aged approximately 42 Earth years, two metres in height, last known to be serving with Ensovaari forces."
Sighing, Lasaraleen made the necessary enquiries on her computer and found Kotaro was back on her home planet in Berlin. What a happy little hunting ground that was proving to be. "Was there anyone else you would like?" she asked sweetly. "Adolf Hitler? Queen Victoria? Catherine the Great? The Ch’ien-lung Emperor?" Even she was becoming irritated with this particular Dalek Supreme.
It obviously had a barrow to push and she resolved to ask Arralek to find out what it was.
Kotaro arrived a few days later, teleported down with a dozen Fuma ninja, near the Dalek base. Upon seeing the Dalek Supreme, Kotaro bowed politely from the waist while his ninja went down on one knee heads bowed. "Ah, shibaraku desu ne," he said. "Ogenki desu ka?"
Travis, who had arrived to greet his adopted brother, groaned. Kotaro was always terribly polite and sociable to Daleks. It confused them, which was why he did it. Since the Dalek had translators in-built, the conversation continued in Japanese. Kotaro was briefed on what was required of him. He merely grunted non-committally.
The ninja were soon down the corridors, using their lithe little bodies to wriggle into the blocked lower levels, taking blasting equipment through. Then the Germans followed when a space had been cleared 'for clumsy big European bodies' as the ninja unflatteringly described them.
"You know," muttered one corporal as he dragged his bruised, weary body into the hole, "you know why I joined the regiment? So I wouldn't have to go down the mines like my father and brothers. And what happens? Here I am on some hell-hole in the sky - down a mine!"
"It's like that," Travis told him. "Life's tough - and then you die."
Finally the Dalek Supreme seemed satisfied with the progress and things settled down to something like a routine. Equipped with flame-throwers to keep the jungle at bay, and covered in Ensovaari-issue 'survival suits’, the German troops made regular sweeps of the jungle. From time to time, an alien craft would be spotted. If it came in low enough, the big guns were manned to give it a 'hot' reception. Sometimes they were lucky and brought one down. Mostly, though the enemy craft simply strafed the area randomly and left. Any ship that did come down was pulverised. They were well aware of the Ensovaari standing order: no Rutans to be taken alive. Their shape-shifting mimicry was too dangerous.
Those not on patrols worked in the Dalek base clearing corridors of ice and rubble, shoring up weak areas with struts of loose metal. The Daleks managed with the help of the ninja, to locate refrigeration units on the lowest level and set about trying to repair them so they blew warm air. This had to be done from the control room on the upper level as the passage cleared would only permit a small human to pass.
Relations between the various groups could best be described as far from cordial. Tolerance, at best. The ninja considered the Germans barbarians and popinjays. The Daleks considered everyone bar themselves and the Ensovaari to be inferior. The Germans, on the other hand were quite ecumenical - everyone was inferior, no exceptions.
Travis observed that Lasaraleen tended to keep to herself. She and her Dalek could be seen strolling along the perimeter at dusk, or watching from a distance when the Japanese played their musical instruments and danced, often joined by some of the Germans (those, Travis surmised, who remembered they were supposed to be allied with Japan. The resulting 'Concerto for piano-accordion and samisen' as he dubbed it, he could have done without, however.)
Pernadis liked to chat so usually sought out Travis and Kotaro. She flirted outrageously with the German officers, teasing them and paying them extravagant compliments. But it was all a joke to her. She called them 'tampopo' ,meaning 'one-o'-clocks’, that is, 'airheads'.
The Doctor and Peri also associated with the humans. The Doctor had great misgivings about the whole thing and was not at all comforted by Pernadis's bland assurances that all was well.
Travis found himself intrigued by the Daleks. He noticed that those from Skaro tended to stay together, working smoothly as a unit. He admired their discipline and the ingenious way they juryrigged things. Less admirable was their arrogance which seemed to increase with rank. Being arrogant himself, he found it intolerable in others. Arralek was both of them and apart. It seemed to be held in awe because of the telepathic bond it had with an Ensovaari Corps officer. Those two were no less of a team, the way they worked so smoothly together.
He’d also noticed another Black Dalek, the only other beside Arralek. This was one who had suggested the compromise. This one had been with the Skaro party (and had been the sarcastic one) and could be identified by a slight dent in one of its plates. This Dalek also seemed to be apart from the others, but almost as if shunned. Travis found that odd. It was nothing overt, just a feeling he got, just as he got an impression that the Black Dalek was aware of this, and aware of what caused it. 'The sadder-but-wiser Dalek', he mentally dubbed it, since in many ways it lacked the insouciance of the others.
One evening, Travis sat at his desk in the control room. The hurricane lamps on the consoles had been joined by Japanese paper lanterns, making an odd contrast with all the Dalek technology. In the background an argument had started up, a familiar one.
"Inferior beings will not dispute with the Daleks."
"Inferior?! We are the Master Race, destined to... "
... Destined to lose World War II ,Travis thought snidely. Jaeger as usual.
"You are Thals. Thals will obey the Daleks," another interjected.
"Don't you swear at me, you tin-plated monstrosity!"
A short burst of a Dalek raygun, low setting ,and a sharp cry as one of the 'Master Race' hit the deck, unconscious.
"The Daleks are the supreme beings of the Universe. You are not the master race. We are."
Travis gave a wry grin as he went back to work What a load of cobblers, all this chuff about supreme beings and master races. Still, if push came to shove, his money was on the Daleks. He didn't care what kind of a 'superman' the Germans claimed to be, they were nothing against a couple of hundred pounds of Dalekenium plating and heavy duty energy weaponry. A cybernetic tank with an IQ of a genius. Avon in polycarbide armour.
"Why not open the door then?" another soldier asked.
Travis looked up and saw several of his ‘blond wallies' clustered around a door and being obstructed by two Daleks. He decided to poke his nose into the matter.
"Danger. It was used for the development of a bacterium to destroy all life on Spirodon. The bacterium could still be active."
"What?!!" Travis bellowed.
Startled, the Daleks swung around, "We have only just received this information from Skaro Central."
Travis put his hands on his hips and glared hard at the Dalek who'd spoken, fixing it with his one piercing grey eye. His mouth went into a thin line. The Doctor came in, looking for something to eat, in time to hear this interchange. He stopped, aghast.
"Really, "Travis said in a hard, disbelieving voice. "Is this a need-to-know-and-you-don't-need-to-know situation? Well, I'm no mushroom to be kept in the dark and fed bullshit." He took a step toward the Dalek, a towering, menacing figure in black.
"We have only just been informed," the Dalek repeated.
"What sort of records do you people keep? This was a major base - all these-levels, the equipment. More recently you've deigned to tell us there's an army of 10,000 Daleks here. What did you do - note all the relevant data down on bus tickets, then put them through the wash?"
"Much was lost in the Dalek-Ensovaari War. Archives sustained a direct hit in the final bombardment." The Dalek sounded almost defensive, unused to having Dalek methods mocked.
"All that technology and you don't have backup systems?" Travis sneered. "Or was your backup a roll of bog-paper?" Suddenly, his hand shot out and grabbed the Dalek's eyestick. "Tell the truth or I'll rip this right off!"
"The backups were lost or corrupted "the Dalek protested.
"What the hell do you think you're playing at? This is a dangerous situation and you can only give us incomplete or corrupt data. You had better get your act together or I shall withdraw my troops! You will give me all the data you do have. Now!" Travis barked at about 98 decibels.
"Very well. This base was established before the Dalek-Ensovaari War, during the period of expansion. The original intention was to conduct light-ray experiments, using the Spirodon invisibility as a model."
"Invisible Daleks? Go on."
"This was a forward base for the invasion of the Heliya sector. Germ warfare was also experimented with."
"Is that all?"
"That is all."
Travis glared down the Dalek's eyepiece for a moment, before releasing it with a shove. Deliberately turning his back on it, he nearly ran into the Doctor who had been standing behind him. "Do you always talk to Daleks like that, or do you merely have a death-wish?'. the Time Lord enquired.
Travis growled. "What do you know about it?"
"Oh, a very great deal. You see, I was here when the Dalek army was frozen."
"Yes, really. I told you I travel in time. Getting back to the Daleks. I was the one who froze them."
"To stop their invasion plans.',
"Noble of you. So was the Dalek telling the whole truth?"
"Yes. Now you realise the danger.''
"There is no danger. We have determined the bacterium has gone. This base was abandoned millennia ago." The speaker was a Black Dalek. It had come from the door and had a device attached to its arm.
"No danger from the bacterium perhaps," the Doctor said, facing it with a hard look. In his experience, nothing was more deadly than a cooperative Dalek.
He set off in search of the Ensovaari Commander as she seemed to be in charge of this three-ring circus. Lasaraleen was outside, sitting on an upturned crate with a pad of paper on her lap, sketching in the bright moonlight. The Doctor hurried towards her, then slowed when he saw she was not alone. That Black Dalek was with her. A strange choice of comrades. They were discussing some past adventure involving stolen documents, a desert world, a misdirected Ice Warrior and an inebriated customs official who insisted the Dalek was an astromech droid and wanted to put a tax on it. Out of the corner of his eye the Doctor noticed the other Black Dalek had emerged and was also watching, half-hidden in shadow. Not watching him but the other two - almost --- longingly, it seemed to the Doctor. Curious.
He moved closer to address the woman, but was beaten to it by the arrival of the Dalek Supreme and that tall hawklike Japanese who had actually been sent for by name by the Dalek Emperor. "The lower levels have been penetrated We are ready to begin freeing the first Dalek units," it announced. "However, the operation is delicate. These aerial bombardments must stop."
Lasaraleen heaved a sigh. "Why don't you write a stiff note to the Rutans? It's no use complaining to me!"
"That will not be necessary. All that is required of you is that you provide protection from space."
"Impossible. There are only two fighters, one inoperable," Arralek pointed out haughtily.
"You will summon assistance from the Fleet."
"What's wrong with Skaro?" Lasaraleen asked.
"Too far. We need protection immediately."
She sighed. "You are like the hunter's husband in the old tale who asked for more than mortal could provide. Have a care you don't end the same way," she added in a low voice. "Very well. Now these Daleks had better be worth the trouble - or the Corps will want to know why. Lead on, let's see for ourselves."
Kotaro led the way, holding aloft a collapsible paper lantern with a Japanese character painted on it. The Doctor tagged along, feeling rather as he did in an earlier incarnation when he had been sent to stop the creation of the Daleks but found events had had a way of happening leaving him a spectator and not an actor.
The lamplight cast huge flickering shadows on the corridor walls as they moved, a ghastly procession of giant humanoids and a giant Dalek. Following a tortuous route of what the Doctor recognised vaguely as an old airduct ,they clambered over and around partially cleared tunnels. At last they reached a level area.
Distantly and eerily echoing came the sound of singing. Kotaro glided ahead lantern held high around a bend. There in the half light of a dozen pine torches of the type ninja use, a group of Germans, sweat and grime streaking their half-naked bodies, toiled under the direction of equally sweaty Fuma. The latter wore headbands to keep sweat and hair out of their eyes. They were singing or chanting Japanese work songs to help maintain the rhythm of the labour. The Germans would respond with marching songs. A hole in a wall of rock and ice had been cleared and they were struggling with ropes and pick-axes. The air was rather warm and close. Finally a great shout went up and an ice encased Dalek was dragged through the hole.
"Mother of us all!" Lasaraleen exclaimed. Putting her communicator ring to her lips, she said, "Pernadis, that equipment I showed you. We'll be needing it. Could you bring it down. Quick as you can."
"It is imperative the freeing of the Dalek army is not delayed. We need a fleet," the Dalek Supreme announced.
The Dalek Supreme rolled over to inspect the frozen Dalek.
"Daleks!" Lasaraleen muttered in disgust. "In many ways, quite admirable but oh so neurotic and hard to live with at times. Though that Supreme is even more of a pain than most higher level ones. What in space is its problem, Arralek?"
"That unit was responsible for an experiment which yielded less than satisfactory results, then persisted with it in the face of all logic."
"Oh yes," Kotaro interrupted. "I recognise. Is Oh-so-clever Honourable Dalek which decide to play wits against me, master ninja. Want to put human factor in Daleks. Chose Captain Kirk of Enterprise. Result not edifying. Loss of face, I think. Try to restore on this mission."
"Correct," Arralek agreed. "That is my estimation also."
"All right, that explains why the black and gold Dalek's got a rod up it's a.., is so Jack-the-Lad," a familiar flat nasal voice interrupted. Travis strode into view and inspected the half-frozen Dalek while Pernadis half-carried, half-dragged a Dalek-shaped frame and a box into the area.
"Very impressive," the Space Commander sneered. "How long did it take you to dig it out? Days. How many are in there? 10,000. Correction: 9,999. The universe will have come to an end before we get them all dug, defrosted and mobile..."
"Not to mention processed," Pernadis pointed at her contraption. "Can't have feral Daleks running loose in the cosmos."
"Look on it as continuity of employment," Lasaraleen told him, smiling sweetly as she helped set up the machine Travis snorted.
"I hope you don't intend thawing them all out, Madam," the Doctor said.
"Oh? And why not?" Lasaraleen rose to her feet from making a last connection.
A sergeant and a Fuma pushed the half groggy Dalek towards, the machine. Pernadis manual in one hand, indicated how it was to be placed in the frame.
"Why? 10,000 Daleks were frozen here for a very good reason..."
"You are very strange, Doctor. Perhaps you should confine yourself to medicine..."
"I am not a doctor of medicine..."
"And leave matters like this to the Space Corps. If you are concerned about possible brain damage caused by incorrect thawing procedures, rest assured no harm will come to the Daleks. We have plenty of experts here," she gestured at the various Daleks around the chamber. "They are quite safe."
The Doctor sputtered. "It's not the Daleks' well-being I'm concerned about, but ours. You don't seem to realise how dangerous they are. You're playing with fire..."
"Ice I would have thought," Lasaraleen said with an ironic smile. "Arralek, can you monitor for ice eruptions?"
"Daleks are nobody's servants, they..."
"What are you blathering about?" Lasaraleen's patience was wearing thin. She thought she'd been extremely forbearing given her people's usual lack of regard for the male sex. When they had been discussing a mutual friend, Ayesha’s younger sister, the poetess Zuleika zidna-al Souvanapurna and her infatuation with a human of the same race as Travis's troops to whom she wrote the most exquisite and erotic poetry, Pernadis had accused her, "Naturally, you of the deserts, could hardly be expected to understand her putting him on pedestal like that. Unlike we Chandragari, you lot treat men like old socks." Perhaps not old socks but more like cats. They certainly had the perversity, persistence and low cunning of cats, she'd noticed. They came when not wanted and didn't come when called. A bit like Daleks in that respect. She tried but found it difficult to inter-act with a civilian non-Ensovaari male. She had no parameters to work with.
Swallowing her temper, she softened her voice. "You know very well they have been loyal servants of the Empire for a millennium. They bear the titles Guardians of the Western Marches and Scimitar of the Empress with pride."
The Doctor was nonplussed. His attention was distracted by the hum of machinery and a sudden bright pale blue beam that shot from the frame and the box to bathe the Dalek's head for a few seconds. Lasaraleen walked toward it and said, "State prime directive."
"To survive, to serve the Ensovaari, and to defend the Empire."
She turned back to the Doctor. "You see? Just because they are pre-Conquest, they can still be conditioned and will serve us against the Ctherin."
"You people keep talking about the Conquest. What exactly..."
"You really don't know? You must indeed come from a far place. In the reign of Jadis XII, we encountered the Daleks as our empires expanded into the same space. Disputes over planets led to open hostilities. It took us three centuries but we drove the Daleks back and back, stripping them of their empire until our ships hung in the skies over Skaro. We breached their defence shield and the Queen herself teleported in to the ruins of their main city, for we'd been pounding it for a week or so. Her speech to the Dalek Emperor is legend. She gave him until her favourite husband had finished combing the long black hair for which he was famous, to surrender otherwise she would order her ship to obliterate the planet and every Dalek on it. 'For you have caused us much bother. It has taken three and a half centuries which would have been better spent elsewhere and otherwise to crush prideful automata with men's voices.'
"The Dalek Emperor was, in its own words, forced to do the unthinkable and its people to endure the unendurable and surrender."
"Rather like another emperor on another planet in another time," the Doctor muttered.
"All the remaining Daleks were forced to pass beneath the Yoke." She pointed to the machine. "That is the Yoke. And since then that conditioning has been a part of them - inerradicable, a limiter to their vanity, ambition and overweening pride."
The Doctor was impressed but even more puzzled. He decided to let the matter of thawing out the Daleks drop for a moment.
Another Dalek had been freed and was being manoeuvred into position. "You and I had better do this in shifts," Lasaraleen told Pernadis who nodded.
"I'll help, too," Travis suggested. "Otherwise we'll miss the war."
Lasaraleen arched an eyebrow, then reminded herself he wasn't as useless and unreliable as most men. "Very well."
"I also," Kotaro said. "May be of 18th century but am familiar with computer and suchlike."
Lasaraleen nodded, resignedly. "Take the thawed and processed Daleks up to the surface. You'd better start constructing a ramp," she ordered the Germans.
"A battlecruiser will arrive from Skaro to transport the army to the battlezone," the Dalek Supreme announced.
"Well, I'm glad to hear it, lad," Pernadis said draping an arm around the black and gold creature. "You are rather good at issuing orders and being a general pain in the afterburners but not too forthcoming yourself."
"Desist." The Dalek Supreme moved away.
"Which zone?" Lasaraleen asked as they once more ascended to the upper levels.
"Don't suppose there's any chance of the lifts being fixed," Pernadis muttered to the two men.
"Sector 12A and 17B."
Lasaraleen frowned. "That sounds a bit out of the action - wait, that's the Movellan war zone. Now listen here, my beauty, the idea was that these Daleks were for our war, not yours."
"The army is necessary if we are to defeat the Movellans. You may have 1000."
"8000 - you can have 2000."
The Doctor cocked an eyebrow. "The conditioning obviously leaves freedom of will. "
"Mutiny in the ranks?" Travis asked.
"Hardly. we'll sort this out later." Lasaraleen sat at her communication unit, perched on a console, and proceeded to contact Space Corps HQ to request aerial protection. "You'll get your battlecruiser..."
"...battlecruiser. After all, we can't afford to have anything go wrong ,either, at this point. The ship will arrive in the next few days."
The Dalek had to be satisfied with that and withdrew to continue to supervise the thawing out operation. Uttering a deep sigh, Lasaraleen covered her face with her hands. "I'm going to have a headache. Daleks --- who needs them?"
"On Tatooine, there're these smelly little rat people that collect old robots and repair and sell them, trundling around the desert in what looks like a World War One tank. Maybe we could sell these Daleks to them for scrap. Serve both parties right," Travis suggested, rubbing the back of his neck.
"Don't tempt me. I've served with Daleks most of my career and I know them better than most, but there are times...."
"Never could understand why anyone would want to get tied up to a cranky Dalek myself," Pernadis commented.
This had puzzled Travis and his men, too. The Germans simply could not understand why a woman as attractive as Lasaraleen Calavar would associate with a machine rather than one of them. The contrast between the harsh, cold Dalek personality and the subtly sensual aura of the Space Corps officer was --- confusing. The relationship between the two was beyond their comprehension.
Travis could understand why she might prefer a machine-creature to humans. He had himself, though a Dalek was far more intelligent and deadly than a mutoid. He supposed that Daleks were probably more reliable and more efficient than humans, though they could be every bit as demanding and irritable. He got on quite well with them himself once he'd let them know he wasn't to be pushed around. It was rather like dealing with some admirals.
What puzzled him was her being in a telepathic bond with a Dalek. He was sure he wouldn't want to be in telepathic contact with anyone. The idea gave him the creeps, having someone else inside your head. And being partly inside someone else’s head. He had enough trouble inside his own head without going borrowing trouble, especially after the retraining therapists had got to him. Fancy completely expunging his knowledge of the Dalek invasion in their clumsiness.
"Still," Pernadis resumed, "Cybermen are worse. Zuleika's sister, Ayesha, was bonded to one. She swears by them, especially in preference to Daleks. To me they're about as interesting as a stone. At least a Dalek chucks a wobbly every now and then to let you know it's alive."
The next day work on the fissure was intensified to try and reach the rest of the Dalek army frozen below. It was realised that the initial blast and subsequent ice eruption would have scattered the Daleks quite widely. Travis still had misgivings about the whole operation. "I'll tell you this for nothing, Doctor. If that's the way it was when you were here last, we'll be here until Doomsday. They'd be well wedged in ice and all over the shop."
"So you've said," the Time Lord replied as they stood at the worksite. Anything further he had to add was drowned by a series of blasts and they didn't come from the Dalek workforce.
"Down!" Travis yelled, his war-trained reflexes bringing them both prone in the dirt and ice. "Bloody Rutans!" he muttered, glaring up at the sky. "Wish I had a flotilla - or even one Starburst Class pursuit ship! I'd soon settle that shower."
The Daleks obviously had similar ideas for a group detached themselves and hastened toward their saucer. Shortly afterwards it rose swiftly into the air and began to chase the Rutan ship, firing on it. Then another Rutan ship appeared, pursued by two Sontaran ships.
Travis and the Doctor had a ringside seat both could have done without to a spectacular battle as more ships joined in. "Previous raid must have been a softening up exercise. Now it's best out of ten to see who gets the planet to use as a base," the Space Commander commented. "They seem to be Sontarans and Rutans. Some choice that isn't."
The Doctor agreed.
Then a deafening explosion lifted them both into the air and dumped them on top of each other some distance away. They lay unconscious in a tangle of arms and and legs until Pernadis and Lasaraleen found them. "What happened?" the Ensovaari commander asked the dazed men.
"Direct hit on the fissure, I think," Travis mumbled, trying to make himself heard above the ringing of his ears.
Blaster drawn, Pernadis hurried over the rise and down. The place was a shambles. About six Daleks were knocked over and another couple had been blown to bits, fragments of their casings were scattered over a wide area. Closer to the fissure, which was now a gaping wide chasm, were the mangled, bloody remains of some German troops. Seeing nothing was to be done for anyone at the worksite, she peered down the hole. The ice had been blasted away along with a Dalek which had been near the surface.
Detaching a grappling hook and rope from her utility belt, she secured one end with the grapnel and began to descend. The blast had loosened some rocks and brought them down near another Dalek which had been partly freed from the ice. Another, completely dislodged from the ice, lay on its side. Another fall of rocks mixed with ice blocked further access to the base beyond. Pernadis climbed back out and made her report via communicator to Lasaraleen.
Lasaraleen and the two men were on their feet and about to move when a breathless, camouflaged soldier appeared. "Comander, Sir, they're attacking the base - Sontarans. A few of us were out on patrol, including your husband, Commander Calavar."
"...my husband? But I don't have ... Oh, you must mean Arralek. Diverting idea." Yet another manifestation of the human confusion about her relationship to the Black Dalek. Unknown to her, the Germans had nicknamed her 'Frau Dalek’.
"We are gathering forces to mount an attack," the trooper concluded.
"Who? Keller? How many men? Daleks?" Travis wanted to know.
"It is imperative the Sontarans not be allowed into the base and find the dormant Daleks. Minaradis knows what they'd do or what would happen. If necessary we will blow up the base...." Lasaraleen said.
"But Peri’s there, as well as some of your men, Commander Travis."
Travis shrugged. "This is war. They know the risks. We're all expendable. What have you got?"
"Some dalekenium bombs here," Lasaraleen replied.
"I've got a couple of strontian grenades," Travis added. "And my men have some crude types of grenades. Kotaro could lay them. He'd worm close to anything."
While Lasaraleen and Travis discussed various contingency plans, interrupted by the Doctor, Pernadis began to make her way back. A faint sound startled her and she spun around, her previously bolstered blaster flew into her hand.
A curious red glow shimmered and faded into the form of several groups of 20 people. The group nearest her was made up of swarthy dark-haired men and women in glittering black and silver uniforms, as were most of the others. One group, however, consisted of powerful beings in plate mail whose chief distinguishing feature was a bony ridge running from the top of the head over the forehead to the nose tip. All sported thick bifurcate eyebrows. Pernadis recognised the majority. "Klingons!" She put up her weapon. "The battlecruiser we were promised?"
"Yes, and not a moment too soon, it seems," commented sardonically a man who was obviously the leader by the gold sash he wore. He stepped forward and saluted her in the Klingon fashion. "Survive and succeed, Captain ... ?"
"Abn-Fornadar," she supplied.
"Commander Kor. Lead us to the battle!"
Oh-ho, the notorious Kor Kahamakarakavir, she thought, giving him the once-over before doing as instructed. He was smaller than she'd expected, certainly shorter than the others of his race. However, he more than made up for his lack of stature by his considerable presence. He was a handsome devil with his piercing black almond eyes, copper skin and blue-black curling hair.
"Welcome, Commander," she remarked as he signalled his troops and they moved in orderly fashion, weapons ready. "It's gone rather quiet up there. I assume that was your doing?"
He bowed slightly in acknowledgment. "And now to the ground battle," he said.
Pernadis turned and led the way back to where she'd left Lasaraleen and the two men. "By the way," she said casually. "Who're the Knot-heads?"
"They're from Klinzhai,-a world of our Empire, one of the first to be colonised. They've taken on our ways most thoroughly. They are more Klingon than the Klingons. They've even kept up some of our more obsolete superstitions like the Black Fleet and still maintain some of our more obscure rituals while taking quite literally and bringing to a very high and complex form the concept of the Game. They are fine warriors, and loyal - even if their customs are a little--bizarre. Because one of my ancestors was one of the first party to make contact with them, our name is especially revered and it is a tradition for some of them to serve with my family."
The little party of Lasaraleen, the Doctor and Travis had been joined by Kotaro, his Fuma, about thirty German-troops and a tank, the two Black Daleks and the Dalek Supreme plus a few silver Daleks. The German patrol leader had located a crashed Rutan ship - what little remained - and the inanimate blobs within and nearby which were all that remained of the crew. Not having Keller's command of English, he fell back on the lingua franca the troops had developed, a horrid mixture of English, German and Japanese. "Space ship - pechanko," he reported. He had secured some energy weapons however which were welcome additions to the group's arsenal.
"I think we should proceed with all dispatch. Kotaro’s people report the base nearly surrounded," Lasaraleen suggested.
"Whatever we do isn't going to be subtle," Travis put in, unlimbering a clutch of strontian grenades. "This'll take the ginger out of a fair few of them. At least it's potato-heads round there. They're easier to kill."
"Shuriken down the probic vent usually most efficacious in these cases," Kotaro noted.
"What a war - potatoes or plates of Spanish omelette," Travis muttered and began deploying his troops. "Maximum firepower. We hit hard and we hit fast."
"What if any surrender, Sir?"
"They won't. But shoot them anyway."
"But what about the Geneva Convention?"
Travis favoured the hapless trooper with a withering glare. "Sontar is not a signatory to the Geneva Convention," he said sarcastically. "Besides, it could be a trick. And remember - aim for the hole in the back of the neck."
"Are you sure he's from the Federation?" Kor asked Pernadis, intrigued. Travis sounded more like the Klingon Imperial Propaganda machine's image of a monstrous Federation officer and not the rather soft, weak creatures they usually were in reality. He was what Koloth would have called a 'Denebian slime-devil'. For a Federate, he was singularly bloodthirsty and predatory.
This impression was born out in the ensuing skirmish on their way to the base. Travis fought hard and he fought mean. He gave no quarter nor expected any and his troops fought likewise. Kor's respect and admiration for the one-eyed Federate grew. His cunning, ferocity and bravery were worthy of a Klingon! While his troops seemed to fight for the joy of fighting. Also how very Klingon!
Travis was similarly impressed with the Klingons and their commander. They were efficient and very deadly.
Presently they broke through the jungle and saw the base surrounded by Sontarans. Many had been killed and the rest were concentrating their fire on a lone silver Dalek which was still inflicting severe damage despite the damage it had received. It was battered and dented, scorch marks seared its panels and greenish ichor seeped from beneath it. But it held its position and would not let any Sontaran pass.
"Kai the Dalek," Kor murmured in awe.
"Eh?" Travis said, thinking he had been addressed. "What about it? Well, let's not let it down, shall we?" He marshalled his troops, sending the tank in ahead. Travis had never believed in subtlety.
The battle was short but savage. The angry snarl of Klingon distruptors and field weaponry mingled with the whine of Travis's laseron, the buzz of Dalek rayguns, the warbling of Ensovaari lasers and the chatter of machine-gun fire. Travis lobbed strontian grenades to discourage opposition and the tank's gun roared.
When the guns fell silent and the smoke cleared, the only Sontarans were dead Sontarans. The gallant silver Dalek, too, was still, eyestick, arm and weapon drooping. Lasaraleen crossed swiftly to it. "It's dying," she said.
Suddenly she was joined by a trio of huge Klinzhai warriors. They surrounded the Dalek and the leader gripped the Dalek's dome and turned its eyestick toward him. Then all at once, all three flung back their heads and set up an incredible howling. Everyone Ensovaari, other Daleks, the Doctor, Travis, the ninja and the Germans was stunned. "What in the name of the Goddess..."Lasaraleen began but fell silent as it seemed to be a sort of ceremony. Daleks, not being as sensitive to nuances of atmosphere and behaviour, had other ideas. "Desist! Desist!" the Dalek Supreme ordered.
"Ogrons must not touch Dalek units," one of the Black Daleks added.
"Ogrons will return to their station," the other Black Dalek decreed. "They will cease their noise or they will be exterminated."
"They seek to honour your dead," Kor cut in. "They are warning the dead that the spirit of a Dalek warrior of Skaro has come among them. According to their beliefs and those of many Klingons, that Dalek has now joined the Black Fleet and will spend eternity in glorious warfare."
"Well then, tell them it's the thought that counts and all that," Travis put in, "but when I come from, it's considered rude to scream in a person's face when a person is trying to die."
"Can't just say Nam' Amida Butsu or Nammyo Renge-kyo??" Kotaro asked, stuffing his fingers in his ears, "That's all. No need anything else." But he brought is hands up in prayer.
Within the base, all were unharmed, apart from some minor bruises. The Klingons elected to set up camp just outside while some returned to the ship which remained in orbit around the planet, ready to detect and deal with any more interlopers.
Meantime, in the shadows of the cavern created by the explosion, the prone Dalek Pernadis had seen began to stir. Now the frost had gone, the warm air from the hole above slowly thawed out its circuits and its brain. Slowly awareness returned and with it movement. It managed to use its antigravs to raise itself upright and noticed the rubble and the broken Dalek. So, the base had been breached by forces hostile to the Daleks. It seemed to be alone. Caution was indicated. Using its antigravs, it rose through the hole where it saw ruined Daleks and broken Thal bodies. How much time had passed? Was this the same Thal force or a later one? It moved on.
Presently it came to the base. Daleks were there but also humanoids and Ogrons, obviously a slave force. But as it got closer it realised a horrifying thing. The Daleks were not the masters, they were the servants. They took orders or consulted with the humanoids. (At least they weren't taking orders from the Ogrons! That would have been too humiliating and the silver Dalek would have self-destructed on the spot.) Again, caution was indicated. Instead of identifying itself as being freed from the ice, it joined the group of silver Daleks standing near the entrance.
The Germans and Travis, not to be outdone by Klingon ceremony, insisted on holding a full military funeral for the dead Dalek, complete with a bugle playing the Last Post, the band playing both Once I had a Comrade and Flowers of the Forest and rifles being fired over the Dalek as it was lowered into a deep grave. Afterward, the the Fuma placed a wooden grave marker in the mound of earth over the grave. On it was painted in Japanese characters "The grave of a Dalek of Skaro."
Once again it was business as usual. Lasaraleen and the Dalek Supreme resumed their regular debates over the use of the Dalek army, while Travis's troops continued their regular patrols when not slaving away digging and chipping out ice-bound Daleks. Kotaro’s Fuma ninja also helped defrost Daleks as well as continuing their patrols. The Klingons, naturally, did not trust any human to carry out a decent patrol so ran their own. It amused the impudent Fuma to join those patrols disguised as Klingons.
Racial or rather species disharmony continued to be a feature of life on Spirodon, especially now there were three groups each claiming superiority: the German troops, the Daleks and now the Klingons. Of the commanders, Lasaraleen quietly banged her head against a wall while Travis decided it was more profitable to bang other people's heads. Lasaraleen as an Ensovaari officer was above such squabbles; Travis considered himself neutral. "I command the blond wallies and I've got a certain fellow feeling for the Daleks. After all, we both have one eye; we both have a weapon built into the left arm; we both have uncertain tempers; we both don't suffer fools gladly and our solutions tend to be direct and rather violent," he explained. "Haven't sussed the Klingons out entirely but they seem to be soldiers after my own heart - direct, efficient and none too squeamish about shedding blood where necessary. Can't see a great deal of difference between any of them really. They all love a good fight. Battle for the sake of battle."
"That's why they're in the war zone, pet," Pernadis told him. Travis winced. Still Pernadis tended to address any male as 'pet' or 'love', even Daleks. "They are nasty enough to look after themselves."
"Still, I could do without this 'Earther scum', 'Hairy barbarians', 'inferior beings', 'non-Aryan sub-humans', ’motorised dustbins' rubbish. It doesn't progress us very far,"
"Among Vulcans is kotoba 'infinite diversity in infinite combinations'," Kotaro said. "Some merit to it. Difference is to be acknowledged but not to obstruct communication."
"Infinite diversity in infinite combinations," Travis repeated. "Sounds like a Chinese banquet."
"Discussing Vulcan philosophy, are we?"
They turned and saw Commander Kor approaching them. He must have just beamed down. "I knew a Vulcan once," he continued. "Two in fact, father and son. I put the son through the mindsifter, so our acquaintance was necessarily brief. But I lived many months with the father."
"Boring people, Vulcans," Travis commented shortly, folding his arms. "Make wonderful mutoids - they're part computer already and have the physical strength."
"Oh, you've met some?" Kor asked, intrigued, sitting beside them at their campfire. He held out a flask of some interesting-looking liquid, his guest offering according to Klingon custom.
Travis nodded. "Ensovaari Embassy, Berlin. The Ambassador's favourite consort gave a dinner party - a deadly little dinner party as it turned out. Guests included a certain Ambassador Sarek of Vulcan and his son, Spock, the First aboard USS Enterprise. Conversation took a turn for the worse midway through the pudding - quantum mechanics and hyperphysics, if I recall. I lost the plot about 15 minutes in but Kotaro here was well away. So there was Sarek, Spock, Avon and Kotaro all nattering away in Incomprehensible, leaving the rest of the guests - me, Kongo and a German secret police chief - Avon seems to have a ghastly attraction for blonds in Security - playing janken and flicking peas at each other, down the other end of the table. Rivetting."
"My deepest sympathy, Commander. Yet they have honour. Sarek of Vulcan was the one I spoke of..."
"Small universe, innit?" Travis held out his mug for the proffered drink.
"...And he repaid a life-debt by saving my life on a planet nearly as disgusting as this. In fact, the main reason I beamed down was that I recognised someone from those days here."
"Kanpai!" Kotaro saluted Kor with his sake cup full of fiery Klingon liquor before downing it in one gulp. The others also raised their mugs.
"Where is Commander Calavar?" Kor asked.
"Out with Arralek, patrolling the perimeter, probably," Pernadis replied.
"She seems rather sad, remote," Kor mused.
"She's old nobility, a grand tarkheena. They're not as hail-fellow-well-met as we lesser tarka," Pernadis pointed out cheerfully. "She's also of the desert. They tend to stand on ceremony, but not as much as those of the capital, thanks be to the Powers. Meaning," she added, realising some clarification was needed, "they don't associate so freely and casually with the male of the species. Desert men are kept strictly secluded. West Coasters tend to have more freedom, which is why your Avon doesn't always wear a veil in public. It's not that she doesn't approve of you or like you. She just doesn't feel comfortable interacting socially with you."
"And the Black Dalek, the other one --- ah, there--" Kor sprang to his feet. "Menalek, you old widow-maker! What are you doing here in this Chaos-begotten hole?"
The Black Dalek which was emerging from the shadows of one of the corridors with a group of Germans stopped at Kor's voice, then glided across to the little group sitting on the floor of the old control room around a small fire.
"Kor Kahamakarakavir," it said. "I saw you in the recent battle. You have your command again. That is good."
For a Dalek, the greeting was positively effusive. Both Travis and Pernadis were amazed. "Menalek and I shared a bonding similar to that between Commander Calavar and Arralek for a short while," Kor explained. "And--much more." He did not elaborate.
"That's Menalek!" Pernadis hissed. "No wonder none of the other Daleks want to get too close, tend to treat it with a certain awed circumspection."
"I'd noticed that," Travis remarked, "Wondered about it myself. Considered everything from attitude problems to having the wrong political connections to halitosis."
She shook her head and said darkly, "That Dalek has blood on it - Ensovaari blood."
"But I thought the prime directive was to defend the Ensovaari?"
Pernadis nodded. "And so it is. Of course, the killing was justified. The chain of logic offered by Menalek at the enquiry ran something like this: my function is to defend the Ensovaari Empire; the woman Sidonis Mondevollor was a threat to the Empire; therefore I helped destroy her.
"Which was fair enough but it's been a bit of a worry since that Menalek was able to break through its conditioning enough to kill an Ensovaari, even one had put herself beyond the pale. The other Daleks feel it reflects on them and disassociate from it. We find it disturbing. So it was commended for its action in removing a threat. It's been in a sort of limbo since, I guess, to judge from the way it's been treated here."
Travis nodded sympathetically. He was all too familiar with hypocrisy in high places. You do your job efficiently, get the result They want - then get suspended or court-martialled because it suits Them. You're a political embarrassment, you're over-zealous in carrying out your duties - when that's the reason you were chosen for the mission in the first place. He looked at Menalek, still in conversation with Kor and decided he had even more in common with Daleks well, one anyway - than he had thought.
Having concluded a highly dramatic and colourful account of the role of the Klingons in repelling the Ctherin invasion of Galaxy 7, Kor turned from Menalek and sat down, gesturing it to join the circle. Also joining them were some of the Germans who began cooking a meal over the fire. Kotaro had shown them how to boil rice in their helmets and now they were quite expert at dishing it up with tinned meat and biscuits.
Travis wondered what to say to the tainted Dalek since he was next to it with Kor on the other side. A comparison of weapons systems? No, probably classified. Still he felt he would like to make contact with it in some way given his sense of fellow feeling. Recalling an earlier throwaway remark made by Kor, he asked, ."Are all planets in this sector as naff as this one?"
"This is the worst planet in this sector but it is not the worst planet the Daleks have visited," Menalek replied, swivelling its eyestick to face the tall, one-eyed human. "The planet most inimical to the Daleks is Exxilon."
"There is an energy drain caused by the city of the Exxilons which renders our ray weapons useless, hampers the guidance systems of our craft. The natives are a very low life form concerned only with worshipping the city. They attempted to sacrifice a Dalek patrol which approached too close..."
"...Guaranteed virgin sacrifice," Pernadis muttered impudently. Kor strangled on his drink.
"The planet's only merit was as a source of parrinium which was believed to be a possible cure for the Movellan plague."
"Field damp, eh? Heard of that - Ctherin sometimes use stasis fields which have the same effect, isn't that so, Captain abn-Fornadar?"
"The naffest planet I was on - well, several really. For revolting and uncooperative flora and fauna, you can't go past Kembal or Desperus. For a planet where something useless happens, there's always Amersat. Had a nuclear war there eons ago and it looked it. Wiped each other out except for two women with rather peculiar powers. One was a real looker and the other an old biddy who took a fancy to me. Wanted to test us, Blake and me, and something about the death of a friend. Load of cobblers. I nearly fixed Blake twice but they kept interfering. And they lumbered me with a mutoid which ran low on blood serum and impaired its function. I ask you! Another useless place was Aristo where the sea was acid and the subterranean places were full of some large reptile. Still, it took the ginger of Madam Supreme Commander for a while. I enjoyed that. Didn't get what we came for, though. The Blake lot got there first."
"The most offensive planet I was sent to," Kor put in, "also was infested with do-gooding super-beings. The planet itself was well enough - a typical Class M planet with a small, non-technological population. Or so we and the Federates thought. Actually, it was not unlike your situation, Commander, in that two enemies were poised to do battle for the survival of one. The difference was that your ladies wanted you to fight. Ours was stopped by these Chaos-begotten balls of light. In both cases, we were dealing with interfering aliens taking a moral high ground. What right have they to interfere? The upshot was that a peace treaty was signed and we all went home." He spat in disgust.
"Life's a bugger," Travis sympathised.
"Non-corporeal beings are very difficult to deal with," Menalek agreed. "Not that the Daleks have encountered any. The Daleks were on Kembal. There was a base there before, the Conquest."
"Perhaps we should compile a guide - Bog-holes of the Galaxy," Travis suggested. "Naff Races I Have Met. That sort of thing."
"Speaking of races, Menalek, do tell your people that they aren't Ogrons, they are Klinzhai. In other words, they are our subjects, not your slaves," Kor said.
Upon Menalek's querying this, he launched into a lengthy explanation which boiled down to a history of the Klingons' conquest of space and their empire. He told it in the florid style of a Klingon storyteller which had his audience spellbound.
"Sonic disruptors, eh?" Travis commented when he'd finished. "You people carry sonics mainly and only a few banks of photon torpedoes. You really are into planetary reduction. Sonics only work in an atmosphere," he told the blank-looking Germans who had listened in fascination.
"The Dalek method is to bombard a planet with bacteria to reduce any resistance, then to land in force, set up labour camps, remove valuable minerals as required under the supervision of a garrison and a planetary governor."
"That's similar to the Federation. We use suppressants in the food and water to keep the populace quiet on some large, important planets. Otherwise a garrison keeps them in line. If rebel activity gets too much of a nuisance, we move in a few pursuit ships or a destroyer to give them a bit of a smack. A couple of aerial bombardments with neutron blasters usually settles them down nicely, plus the usual show trials of the leaders, followed by executions - all viscast."
Definitely not the Federation he knew, Kor noted. Sounded an interesting place to visit.
A brief comparison of differing weapons followed in which Travis demonstrated his laseron for Kor had been fascinated by it ever since he’d seen it in action a few days ago against the Sontarans.
This in turn led to a further boasting of their respective empires’ conquests, in which Pernadis also joined, having had enough from the men and deciding to redress the balance. Common ground at last, thought Travis. Finally there was a little lull. The up piped Major Keller who, together with his men, had hitherto remained silent. "When we were going to invade Poland..."
"Poland?" Travis said derisively. "What's Poland?"
"Precisely. A country. One speck of one small miserable continent on one planet."
"But a stepping stone to the conquest of the Soviet Union."
"Ah - like Korea in plan to conquer China. Always said Hitler reincarnation of Toyotomi Hideyoshi," Kotaro muttered.
"Soviet Union - a larger speck on two continents. Listen, Sunbeam, we're talking about planetary reduction here, not fiddling small bits of planets. We're talking about the conquest of whole star systems, even of galaxies. Go away back to your sandpit and play there with your pop-guns. We're dealing with engines of destruction you people couldn't even dream about. Just one Dalek ship could slice up your planet like a melon. Just one Dalek could take out the entire Wehrmacht, the Luftwaffe and the Kriegsmarine."
A sudden noise outside interrupted him. Menalek moved with startling speed outside, followed closely by the Germans and Travis. What they'd heard was one weapon they knew very well: the motor of a Tiger tank turning over. Peering around the doorway, they saw the machine lumbering towards the base.
"What the..." Travis began. "Who's the idiot in that? I'll have his stripes!"
The tank gathered speed. "He'll be busted so low, he'll be saluting civilians!" Travis muttered activating the firing mechanism on his laseron.
"Halt! Do not move!" Menalek commanded the tank, or rather its crew.
The tank's gun came up and before anyone could move, it fired virtually point blank at the Dalek. The noise was deafening. Travis and his troops hit the dirt and waited for the vibrations to stop before raising their heads. When the smoke cleared, the Germans expected to see a smoking heap of scrap metal where Menalek had stood. Instead, the Dalek was intact though blown back a few metres by the force of the blast. Travis could see his Teutonic troops were impressed with Dalek armour. Not a scratch could be seen on Menalek's casing.
They had scarcely time to be suitably impressed before the Dalek, almost casually, swung its gunstick around and blasted the tank, vaporising it in seconds. The jaws of the German troops dropped and the colour drained from their faces. Awestruck did not even cover their reaction.
Travis found himself alone racing outside to see if anything could be discovered. He was joined by Kotaro and they covered the nearby jungle. When they returned, they had their answer. "Rutans," Travis said. "Seems some of the crew of that downed ship Sergeant Weidenhofer reported weren't as dead as we thought. A man's missing - Tank Corps. We must be doubly watchful that all of us are what we seem."
"Rutans cannot possess Daleks. Daleks will assume patrol duty," Menalek stated.
"Yes, sir. At once, sir," Major Keller said, snapping off a smart salute before marching his men well inside.
"You will inspect carefully all incoming patrols, including Klingons, to ensure no Rutans are among them."
"'Yes, sir, no, sir, running all the way, sir'," Travis mimicked to Pernadis. "That little demonstration certainly knocked the wind out of the sails of the Master Race."
"Even so - I'd better do a low-level mind-scan with everyone coming in, just to make sure," Pernadis said.
"For the thousandth time, Dalek Supreme, those troops - if they're ever thawed out and if they come out minds intact - are not to go to the Movellan War. The Empire has invested enough time and personnel to want the lion's share." Lasaraleen was exasperated. "Now I know you have a barrow to push."
"Daleks do not push barrows."
"Don't be obtuse. You know what I mean. You have to redeem yourself after that experiment that went awry. Therefore you want to take as much as possible. But it won't do. You will have to compromise."
"We need all the units for our war against the Movellans."
"So you keep saying. I've had enough. This discussion is pointless." With that she strode out of the small room the Dalek Supreme had set aside as its headquarters.
When she had gone a, silver Dalek moved from the shadows. "Why do you let a mere humanoid speak to you like that?" it said. "You are correct. The war against the Movellans is paramount. It means survival of the Dalek race. All units must be committed to it. Nothing should be allowed obstruct this."
"The Ensovaari oppose..."
"They need not be involved. Transport ships could be summoned from Skaro and the units put aboard as they are freed."
"The Ensovaari would question this."
"Not if they were not here."
"The operation is slow and costly - to them. Perhaps they could be persuaded to abandon it."
Meantime aboard a space station far away in another sector, similar doubts were being expressed but for different reasons. A meeting of the War Council of the Ensovaari - or at least a part of it since both the Empress and the Grand Admiral were absent – was in progress. Present, however, was the Second in Command of the Male Auxiliaries, Selyan, an ambitious Artechian. Selyan had manoeuvred his way to the top not so much by any conspicuous talent, military or administrative for he had none beyond an ability to pick the eyes out of a subject area so as to seem knowledgeable, an expert on it and thus impress the unwary or the superficial-minded. Rather, he had gained his position by taking on the more mundane tasks of running the Male Auxiliaries and freeing his Chief for more esoteric matters.
Selyan moved into the vacuum those pursuits had created. His actual power was now very real and he enjoyed it. But he was ever conscious that he owed it all to making himself indispensable to his Chief and not through any real ability of his own. So he sought to shore up his inadequacies by appointing to senior positions mediocrities like himself and keeping at a distance or even demoting those with real talent or knowledge who might prove a threat in the future.
Kirk and Kor had found themselves reporting directly to Selyan, instead of the real Chief. The Klothos was sent out to the Rim where it was still able to distinguish itself in battle but far from Selyan. Kirk had dismissed Selyan as 'all show and no go', an all-too-accurate remark for which Selyan never forgave him. The Enterprise was condemned to an increasingly ineffectual role in the 7th Galaxy on precisely the sort of missions which went most against the true philosophy of both its captain and Star Fleet.
Meantime, Selyan continued to direct matters to suit himself rather than the organisation he ran in all but name, cleverly managing the flow of information upwards to his Chief and outward to the War Council so that the complaints and widespread dissatisfactions with his appointees and himself did not reach the right ears.
"This Spirodon affair," Aholibah Al-Nara began, now that other more important items on the agenda had been dealt with. "What's in it for us? We've got officers and equipment tied up in it but little to show for it."
"Don't know why they didn't reseal the Daleks so the enemy couldn't get to them and leave the matter until after the war. Probably don't work anyway, not after all this time," Mehitabel zidna-al Mandovalor-Korvalis opined.
"On the other hand, what if they do?" Selyan pointed out.
"Well, we can use them," Mehitabel said as if that ended the matter.
"We can - or Commander Travis?" Selyan asked. He had begun to view Travis as a thorn in his side and a potential threat to himself. Travis had been given command of an army by Admiral Semiramis zidna-al Mallashandrah and reported directly to her. Unlike Kirk or Kor he was not part of the Male Auxiliaries (Travis was heard to have remarked, in his scornful way, "Male Auxiliaries? What do they do? Make the tea?"). Selyan had no control over him and regarded this as a slight and encouraged his Chief to think so too.
"Oh really, what can he do, he's only a man," Aholibah said dismissively. Selyan glared at her, repressing the comment that he ,too, was 'only a man'. He and Aholibah were old adversaries.
"I'm more concerned about Calavar. After all, it was she who took it upon herself to allow the Daleks to excavate their army. Moreover, she has the Yoke. What's to stop her from conditioning an army of Daleks, all loyal to her only?" Aholibah went on.
"The Commander's loyalty has never been in question," Mehitabel objected.
"True. But it has been centuries since the machine was used. This could be an unintentional result through incorrect operation of it. And also remember her family's connections with the Mondevollor woman..."
"But they are so slight, and mainly at the beginning of Mondevollor's career, when she needed financial aid. The Calavars gave her money for her early research - which was not connected with the temporal experiments - and used their influence to get her a research position at the university..."
"There was talk of Mondevollor's marrying one of the Calavar sons, don't forget."
"Nonetheless, she overstepped her authority in permitting this 'excavation' to go ahead," Aholibah went on, relishing the chance to dent the shiny image of the charismatic Calavars. It galled her that Zardeenah Calavar had been appointed to the position of Imperial Librarian, despite her comparative youth, while the meteoric career in the Space Corps of Lasaraleen was also a source of irritation. Just because she herself came from a small, solid, provincial tarkheena-ship didn't mean she should be overlooked when it came to the handing out the plum positions. It was a long-standing grievance, for Zardeenah had been appointed to her position by the current Empress's predecessor, but in that time Aholibah had never realised that there was a difference between being a competent plodder and someone of real talent and ability.
"And now we have this complaint from the Dalek Supreme on Spirodon of excessive interference by Ensovaari officers and agents," Selyan put in ."That would be Travis."
"It doesn't matter. Something has to be done about this whole operation. I say we don't need it and it should be shut down. That will end the squabbling. Calavar should be recalled and reprimanded," Aholibah said.
"And Travis placed directly under my command," Selyan added, finding it amusing to be in agreement with Aholibah. They were not so different after all.
Objections were raised by Mehitabel and a number of other commanders loyal to the Grand Admiral. Aholibah found herself being shouted down. "Very well. Let us say that Calavar's loyalty is not in question. But she needs to be taught a lesson. Her arrogance engendered by her success in battle needs curbing, her wings need clipping. She should be sent somewhere to cool her heels where she can do something to make amends for the Calavar involvement with Mondevollor. Somewhere not too important, not too interesting where she'll have little opportunity for her usual heroics. Somewhere where she can reflect on the responsibilities of command."
"And Travis?" Selyan asked.
"The fact of the matter is that the Dalek Supreme virtually tells us to get lost, that this is a Dalek affair pre-Conquest, etc., etc.," Mehitabel said, looking up from studying the communication they had just received from Spirodon. "If they don't want Ensovaari supervision, they ought not get any Ensovaari assistance, either - neither the Corps nor our subjects. The operation ought to be suspended and our people pulled out. To whatever destination," she added with a glare at Aholibah.
"Travis, then, should also be taught a lesson," Selyan put in. "He, too, is arrogant and impertinent. The last thing he needs is an army - of any sort. Perhaps he should be sent to the same uninteresting destination as Calavar. And with them, to teach them a lesson in obedience should go Fuma Kotaro and his ninja. Servicing moisture vaporators on a rimworld, perhaps?" Kotaro seemed to be making a career out of going off on his own without regard to his commander. First service aboard the Enterprise, then returning to Japan, then his visit to Germany and now this.
"The Male Auxiliaries have no jurisdiction over Travis," Mehitabel pointed out. "The Admiral will decide his next assignment."
"But the Admiral is not here. I take it we are in agreement the operation should be discontinued and that the people there should be deployed elsewhere?" he said.
There was a general shrugging. "If the Daleks want to continue on with their silly operation and tie themselves up for possibly years, that's their look-out," one woman said, speaking for many. "As long as they maintain the same level of commitment to the war, who cares what they do about the Movellans. Serves them right for fighting on two fronts."
"Doctor, do you think this nest of Daleks is the reason we came to Spirodon? Unfinished business from your last visit?" Peri leaned against the console of the Tardis as the Doctor made some minor adjustments.
"I'm not so sure, Peri. I thought so at first but the longer we stayed, the more I noticed things that - if I may borrow your phrase - 'don't add up'. The Ensovaari; the Daleks' complete ignorance of me in particular and Time Lords in general; two Earths, one in the mid-20th century and the other in something like the 40th. I'm not even sure we're even in our universe at all."
"You mean, we're in some alternate ... "
"It would seem so. But why? I can't help thinking that the Daleks have something to do with it, even if they have 'mellowed' somewhat. In fact," he began pacing, head bent, chin on hand, "I think maybe what it is hasn't happened yet. I've got here too soon,"
"You mean - when that army is fully mobilised?"
"If it ever is. Well, there's nothing else here for us now. Commander Calavar and her pet Dalek, Commander Travis, Captain abn-Fornadar, Fuma Kotaro and his men, together with the Klingons and that other Black Dalek - the ronin, masterless samurai, Kotaro called it - are on their way to an Ensovaari base to be briefed on their next mission. The German soldiers have been dispatched to another planet in the sector. Only the Daleks remain. It's been a very strange interlude."
He pressed the dematerialisation controls and the Tardis faded from view.
All was silent in the jungle for a while. Then a high-pitched screaming split the air as a small craft, apparently out of control, hurtled downwards, its outer hull glowing with the friction. Just in time its pilot managed to slow it for a moderately rough landing, gouging great furrows in the landscape. The still smoking vessel, which looked like an escape pod from a larger ship, sat motionless against a mound of earth thrown up by its arrival. Then a hatch popped open and from it emerged a strange withered creature, half man, half machine, its lower half encased in what looked like nothing so much as part of a Dalek. It slid slowly down the ramp.
"So--Spirodon," it said in a harsh voice with a strange electronic buzz. "My destiny awaits me."
(Originally published in Multiverse #23 (July 1991) - #24 (July 1992) as part of a series of stories set in my own universe which features characters from Blake’s 7, Star Trek, The Samurai and others as well as original characters).