There are moments in my life, far too many for my liking, when I am offered a chance to consider where I am, what I’m doing and the reasons behind both. This can occur at any time, usually during a quiet period like being inside a nice prison cell or while buried alive or thrown into an escape pod set to crash into a sun. And I genuinely hope I’m not the only person who does this, because I ask myself some seriously difficult questions during these moments and I would hate to think everyone else gets off with a lighter punishment than this self-inflicted mental torture.
Take my current predicament, for example. I’m stuck, head first, in a vent some sizes too small, with an army closing in. Said army is about to find two legs dangling from the ceiling, a pair of limbs which in many ways do not belong on this planet. And it is at precisely this moment my brain likes to ponder the how, what and why, with a strong inflection on that last one. What is simple. It’s a basic breaking-and-entering, smash-and-grab, make-off-with-a-phenomenal-transmitter. The Why is the tricky part. Perhaps Deep Thought’s suggestion is partly to blame. In truth I could have tried to steal any number of broadcast equipment, but me being me – an indefinite curse I’ve yet to shake – I just had to steal theirs.
Well, they were bound to come up eventually.
He says, having gone to them.
Repeating oneself is clearly not a social faux pas, here. The cry is muffled behind the inches of metal pressed up against both ears, but whatever sound makes its way past my hips confirms the angry salt and paper shakers are on the….well not march, exactly. On the way.
Something I’ve suspected all along: there’s only one way out of this vent and it’s downwards. What I didn’t know five minutes ago when I was standing a few feet above, scouting for an exit hatch, was both how much narrower the vent became and how much wider I’ve become. My Food-To-Running ratio must be faulty. Strike one up to poor planning. After all, why would the Daleks make humanoid-sized vents? Why would they make vents at all, come to that. These are all semi-important questions, though. Here’s come a better one.
“Is there an untapped Timelord ability for turning one’s skin into golden syrup?” I don’t know what made me ask it aloud. Somewhen, somewhere, FutureHH must have face-palmed. The only alternative is wriggling, because sure, if I’m going to meet a painful and very-Timelord-esque death, it might as well involve me flailing about like an idiot. Life is undignified, why should death be any better?
In any case, it has to be better than dying half-stuck in a vent due to a shot in the leg. I give it my best shot, throwing my body weight down as hard as I can, resulting in a distance travelled of less than a millimetre. Two, at best. Progress is progress, I suppose. I continue in that motion for several moments, behaving like a stuck pneumatic drill, my unseen legs no doubt doing their best impression of a can-can-dancer in the middle of an earthquake. There comes a final moment, between being stuck and not, when my brain casually asks just how far away the floor is. Being a hands-on kind of learner, I found out first hand. Fifteen feet. Luckily, I arrived on the scene feet first, sort of elegantly, just as the first bronze-coloured mobile turret rounded the corner.
I shall immediately dispel all hopes of a decent conversation, or a merciful death. Daleks are utterly incapable of both. The screaming one – not much of a qualifier with these things – reaches me, twitching throughout its eye-stalk, gun and toilet plunger – because let’s not prat about, that is what it is. I glance over its ‘shoulder’ straight down the circular corridor, all the way to the other end, and back, doing my best to look hurt.
“Only one of you? Bit of an underestimation. What if I’d been the Doctor?” No doubt I’d be blowing my own head off. No, wait, already tried that one.
“THE TARDIS HAS NOT BEEN DETECTED. YOU ARE AN INTRUDER. YOU WILL BE-“
“Severely spoken to?” To describe the voice of a Dalek as ‘grating’ is accurate, though equally cliché. Certainly it does grate and screech and set my teeth on edge. However there’s far more to it than that. A Dalek’s voice was chosen, it was designed, integrated and mass produced. The little alien monstrosity, the pure Dalek, sits in the heart of the gliding tank and speaks into a microphone. Davros, or one of his compatriots, decided just what kind of voice box to give these screeching death machines. I hope they lived long enough to regret it.
Daleks, much like my chattering self, are not one to be deterred. “YOU WILL BE EXTERMINATED!”
I spread my arms apart. “What, just like that? No demands on how I got in here? No scanning or biology tests? Not even a courtesy “you cannot hope to stop us”? I think I’m owed hints towards your master plan.”
“TO CONQUER THE UNIVERSE.”
Damn, could’ve put a tenner bet on that one.
HH, you there?
I bring the Q.U.A.R.K to my mouth. “Odyssey, my friend, I’m just having a wonderful chat with my new friend here. Dalek, would you like to say hello, you mindless, soulless clone?”
“TO WHOM ARE YOU SPEAKING? YOU WILL BE SCANNED.”
A toilet plunger is waved my way. I step back and speak to Odyssey. “Sorry, someone woke up on the wrong side of hell this morning. Sup?”
Just a heads up, I've almost got the cargo.
I frown at the Dalek. “But…I wanted to do it.” I hear the level of maturity in my voice and instantly regret it.
Don't be a child, HH. You gained entrance, in the entirely wrong section I might add, and your signal has not since moved. I decided to take matters into my own......domain.
“Were you always like this?”
Before Odyssey can retort, the glorified wheelie bin jerks backwards as if I’d kicked it. The lights on the dome flash like a distress beacon. “ALERT! ALERT! TIMELORD BIOLOGY DETECTED!”
“Odyssey, how quickly can you be ready to leave?”
Little bit busy. Twenty minutes, max. Gives you time to think on your always like this comment.
From both ends of the corridor, new Daleks glide into view, all of their lights flashing and all of them repeating the same thing, over and over again.
“TIMELORD DETECTED! TIMELORD DETECTED!”
Within moments, I find myself entirely surrounded by a circle of screaming tanks. Instinct counts twenty guns primed on me, at least four of on my hearts – two shots each. Now would be another excellent opportunity to pause, think, reflect on the Hows, Whys and Whatever, but the Daleks are notorious for filling silences and blocking all thought. It simply isn’t enough to have captured a Timelord, it appears imperative to repeat the fact several times a minute.
“YOU WILL FOLLOW.” One informs me, just to break the trend.
It would be truly beneath me to hold my hands up in surrender. Instead I offer them a rehearsed, almost patented, shrug.
“Sure. I can spare twenty minutes.”