Wavelength

In the Timelord archives, something I find myself sporadically returning to like a semi-enjoyed novel, Daleks have been widely documented. A lot of it is full of unhelpful information that you can pick up within minutes of meeting them: armed, dangerous and trying to kill you. But, if you survive long enough and can withstand the tedious, lacklustre writing style of Gallifrey historians, there are deeper levels of fact and theory which I am rather enjoying. For example:

“…during the genetic modification process, all emotions are extracted with the exception of hatred, which in turn is intensified towards a point of insanity.”

Two conclusions I have drawn from this. I have little to no evidence on which to base them, but that didn’t stop a great number of the Archivists themselves.

  1. Somewhere on Skaro, in the breeding grounds and/or the processing workshops, there must be silos or industrial sized storage towers, full of the discarded emotions. They can’t be killed, after all. They can be suppressed, repressed, processed and reduced but they cannot be completely destroyed. Which also means that in the heart (if there is one) of every Dalek is a smidge, a scrap, a percent of a percent of a percent of happiness/love/compassion. Personally I’ve no desire to see that return. Ever see a Dalek try and hug somebody?
  2. The Daleks can only hate. By extended logic they hate everything. And I wonder if anyone hates them more than they do?

That’s why I keep on living, I suppose. I like to hold mirrors up to creation and ask what they see, mostly because it means I don’t have to do it to myself. And what I saw from the Daleks was fear.

My twenty-plus escort of wheelie bins led me to a cavernous chamber, circular and domed as always, containing several storeys, zero stairs, a raised dais in the centre of the room and about a billion Daleks. Okay, that might be an exaggeration, but the word “overkill” came to mind.

As we approached, the dais lowered silently into the floor, bringing into view what could only be a Dalek of higher power and status, not least of all because it stood on a raised platform. Its entire casing was black, apart from the slats in the middle section and the spheres on the lower one, which were platinum. In lieu of a toilet plunger, this one came armed with two guns. The glowing pupil contained in the eyestalk, a type I’d neither seen nor read about, was red. This burning glare was turned on me. I swore the back of my skull tickled.

I strolled closer to the dais and Ultra-Dalek, thousands of robotic eyes and guns trained on me as I went. None of it was necessary. I am a daft man but not a stupid one. I wouldn’t even consider thinking about the possibility of trying anything. To me, it just proved their fear I mentioned earlier. They are the destroyers of the Timelords, on balance their bigger concern is being on the receiving end of vengeance. For safety’s sake, I refrain from admitting that revenge isn’t really my style and that I possess as much threat as a declawed, old Labrador.

The Ultra-Dalek’s lights flashed and it spoke to me. Even its voice was more imposing and less irritating. There was a hint of robotics, the grating syllables, but not as strongly, almost as if it was exhibiting a fraction more humanity. “YOU ARE IN THE PRESENCE OF THE DALEK ELDER.”

I nodded slowly. “Ah,” I said. Now him I had read about. While the Daleks are a maniacally military race, they are still not without their share of rebels, deserters and – essentially – traitors. The finest warrior race in existence, even one literally manufactured for war everlasting, cannot hope to totally overcome the possibility of dissension. The Dalek Elder is undeniably the maddest, meanest and most popular of the Dalek betrayers, capable of leading the gigantic resistance around me. The Timelords were keen on getting him as a ‘kind of’ ally. Skaro meanwhile wanted someone as dangerous as him under their jurisdiction. I can relate.

I also wish I’d known it was his ship I’d chosen. All Dalek ships come equipped with some extreme broadcasting equipment, capable of hacking the airwaves of an entire planet. Not all Dalek ships however come equipped with a frenzied War God and at this precise moment, it was two for the price of one.

“And you are in the presence of the Timelord known as HH.” I swept into a bow and underwhelming silence. I straightened up and added: “Formerly known as the Guardian.”

My first statement merited little reaction; the second reverberated out through the crowd like a shockwave. Dome lamps flashed up and down the crowds. Even without a face, the Elder looked impressed. “THE GALLIFREY RENEGADE?”

Ooh, I might keep that one. “You’ve heard of me, then?” Suddenly I reach a rather pleasing decision that I’m not about to be obliterated. It’s a nice frame of mind, one I wish could be bottled.

“WE HAVE RECORDS ALL OF GALLIFREYAN EXTREMISTS.”

“That can’t be easy.” A rogue Timelord rarely keeps still for an extended period of time. We’re rubbish at queues and musical statues.

“A COMPETENT REBELLION MUST REMAIN AWARE OF OTHER FACTIONS.”

I started to tick names off my fingers. “The Doctor. The Master. Me. We’re not exactly activists, we just left Gallifrey to live our own lives.” I’m not aware any of us ever used the phrase let’s take the fight to them.

“A COMPETENT REBELLION MUST ALSO KNOW THE MOTIVES OF OTHER FACTIONS. WHY DID YOU REALLY LEAVE YOUR HOME AND ABANDON YOUR CIVILISATION?” If Daleks had the ability to lean, I got the impression the Elder wanted to do so.

I shrugged back at him, another motion beyond the Elder. “I disagreed with them.” Which is a bit like saying the Sioux Warriors disagreed with General Custer, or the Stormcloaks disagreed with the Imperials. While I love the planet of Gallifrey, since reading their archives I can honestly admit to despising its occupants. There’s a load more in there than just Dalek trivia and nice days out. “Deep, dark secrets” would be a horrific understatement.

“THEN YOU UNDERSTAND. REBELS ARE FORGED BY NOTHING MORE THAN A DISAGREEMENT.”

I snorted and glanced around the room, looking upon a great number of death machines who pride themselves on their intelligence. It would be fun to tear that illusion down. “It’s pretty easy to be a rebel these days, we haven’t got much opposition. Not sure if you heard, but the Timelords are pretty much gone. Many believe you lot went the same way, actually. Wiped out in the Time War.”

“NO.”

The monosyllable echoed around the room several times, reverberating outwards from where I stood, staring back. It occurred to me that perhaps the Elder didn’t fight in the Time War. It wasn’t their fight, after all. “Okay no, I know you lot weren’t wiped out, case in point, but the Timelords were.”

“NO.”

This one felt louder, perhaps that was just the way it hit me. In a reversed reality, this would be the point where a Dalek asks “what is the meaning of this negative”. I however am in many ways not a Dalek and have spent several lifetimes developing a more casual way of speaking.

I have also spent even more time than that being interrupted.

HH? Your twenty minutes is up.

“What? No!” Even now I can’t discern whether I was addressing the Dalek Elder or Odyssey. I didn’t really have a lot of time to think.

Deep breath, now.

I saw the explosion before I heard it. The wall off to my right disappeared in a plume of flames and screeches of rendering metal. The heat and noise lasted only a few seconds before being completely superseded by a howling wind roaring through the newly formed, jagged hole. All atmosphere within the ship was hauled outside, bringing with it the Dalek Elder and myself, plus a few of his followers. The remainders were left behind, plugging up the hole.

I drifted bodily through the void, flailing, suffocating, drowning without the water. Pressure started to build inside my head. My hearing shut down. A harsh cold slammed into my body like a solid wall from the moment I left the ship. And I was left there, my body shutting down at an accelerated rate, staring into infinite oblivion as it came to meet me. Then I looked down. Odyssey swung up from beneath me, flying in reverse and rear hatch open, catching and swallowing me like a shark jumping to catch a seal. I rolled from the back door and didn’t stop until I crashed into the centre console. My hearing popped back into working order, just in time for me to hear the door close and engines engage, as well as my own desperate gasps for air. I realise I do take gravity for granted, sometimes.

“Nice escape plan,” I said from the floor.

You have some pointers?

“Well, aside from my near-miss with death, I’d say you’re improving.” Let’s not forget Odyssey is a war-born fighting ship. Escape plans can come in all shapes and sizes.

Near miss with...? You know, your developed physiology allows you to survive in space for up to ten minutes.

“Does it? Wish I’d known that a few moments ago. Did we win?”

There’s a very large transmitter waiting for you in the workshop. Phase One it seems was a success. How were things from your side?

I got to my feet, destination already set for the workshop and my last exchange with the Elder Dalek still bouncing around my head. “Not good, Odyssey. Not good at all.”

Still. One thing at a time and all that. On to Phase Two.

HH

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