Long yellow grasses met their boots as the Doctor and Leela stepped through the doors of his TARDIS. The trip had been mercifully short, and magnificently accurate; spanning only a couple of short minutes. The Doctor sincerely hoped that the rest of this trip would be so short. He hated to leave his wife and newborn in the hospital only hours after the little one had come into the world, but he agreed with Braxiatel and Romana – this had to be done, and sooner rather than later.
Rose hadn’t been happy with it. She started crying. She made him promise that he would be safe – and then she had him take a long and hard look at the both of them - his exhausted, yet beautiful wife, and his tiny little newborn son sucking hungrily at her breast – and made him promise that this would be the image that would bring him home to them.
Rassilon, it almost made him say to hell with the Daleks and just stay with the two of them. All he could do was to kiss his wife with all the passion he could muster, and then drop a kiss to his son’s fluffy little head, and then he was off.
Leela showed up at his home nearly two hours before suns-up, and they took off almost immediately.
Bless that woman. Some called her a savage, a bullheaded woman with a complete lack of filter between her brain and her mouth, one who would slice first, ask questions later. He called her a friend – and she was a surprisingly compassionate one at that.
When his boots pressed into the grass, and he made his way into the orange sunlight in the centre of a lavender sky, Leela stopped him with a hand on his arm.
“If you wish to wait in the TARDIS,” she offered in a firm, but friendly tone. “Then I understand. You have a family to return to…”
“As do you, Leela,” he answered her with a smile and a pat on her hand. “Which means that the both of us have to be careful.”
Leela released his arm and gave him a nod. “I have your back, as you have mine,” she vowed. “And we return home to our families.”
The Doctor smirked. “May as well just leave now.”
Leela winced just slightly and nodded. “Daleks,” she breathed out with loathing. “And a lot of them, I hear.” She touched at a holder on the hip of her tight, black, trousers. “Yet they send in only two of us.”
“After an entire battlefleet were defeated,” he muttered darkly. “Rassilon help us all if the Daleks actually do make it to Gallifrey. We are sorely underprepared for them.”
“I’ve been asked to assist in training,” Leela advised him in a voice that asked for his approval. “When we return.”
“I think that’s a good idea,” he agreed with a firm nod of his head. “Not only do you already have previous experience, but after today, we should gain a greater insight into just what we’re looking at, and what will be the best methods of defending ourselves.” He thrust his hands into his pockets as he walked forward through the tall orange-barked trees that loomed high above them. “Trying to go one-on-one with them won’t work.”
“It has done in the past,” Leela offered with a sniff. “In fact, between us both, it was a highly successful method the last time we faced them.”
They broke through the treeline to arrive at a fenced border of what appeared to be a paddock. The Doctor abruptly turned left to follow the fence. “That was when we faced only a small number of them,” he corrected her. “My understanding is that we’re facing roughly two thousand of them this time – with the potential of larger battle fleets in the future. One-by-one is not an option.” He cleared his throat and winced at the smell of animal manure in the air. “Bullshit,” he mused darkly. “How very appropriate.”
Leela chuckled in response and looked over the orange wooden fence beside them. Within the yellow grasses of the paddock were several stone-statues of what looked to be cattle. Each one was down on its belly, it’s front legs curled underneath the thick rolls at its chest. The back legs were both curled to the side, giving the impression that the animal lay on it’s hip.
It seemed a very odd piece of artwork to have created, and a waste of perfectly good farm space. She was of the mind to mention it but was startled into a surprised yelp when the ear of one of the statues flicked away a buzzing insect.
The Doctor immediately stopped, his mind filled with concern. “Leela?”
She blinked with surprise and pointed toward the statue, that was now perfectly still. “That just moved.”
The Doctor followed the point of her finger with his eyes. He saw the beast and nodded. “Of course it did, Leela. What did you expect it to do?”
“I really don’t know,” she admitted quietly. “They looked like statues to me.”
His brows furrowed and he looked across the paddock with a somewhat perplexed expression. “What on Gallifrey would be the purpose of putting statues out in the middle of perfectly good farming land?” He looked to her and shook his head. “You Humans,” he mused. “There are times I wonder how I understand you at all. Statues of Phlegmarian statues indeed. It would be as pointless as statues of cattle on your home planet.” His eyes flashed. “By that I mean the planet on which your people came from.”
“No, I understood your point,’ she sighed heavily. “But you have to see mine as well. They look like they’re made of metal.”
“They’re actually an aggregate of Phlarian and Ferroi,” he corrected her. “Living rock, I suppose you could say. They have a brain and moving parts much like you and I, but no working circulatory system or blood flow.” He started them moving again. “Askolians use them only to plough their fields. They’re really not that good for anything else.”
“Not for eating?”
He let out a laugh. “Mouth full of dirt, really.”
Leela nodded and walked up beside the Doctor, switching attention between watching him, and looking at the landscape around them. “Askola,” she breathed out curiously. “For what reason do you think the Dalaks are setting themselves up here?”
The Doctor kept his eyes straight ahead of them. “Peaceful planet,’ he answered. “No armies, and therefore no chance of them defending themselves.”
“Which means no one will notice,” Leela deduced. “And so they can build their troops quietly.”
“Taking stock from the peoples here, as well,” the Doctor added gravely. “If what we’ve learned from Rose is anything to go by.”
She looked worried. “And what’s that?”
He let out a breath. “Rose mentioned a run-in with the Emperor of the Daleks, and how during that period he was building his army using human DNA.” His lips pursed a moment. “Makes sense that the Daleks were tinkering with that kind of genetic modification of non-Kaled species. Skaro is not exactly a fertile planet capable of rapid reproduction of new specimens. Test -tube reproduction is limited at best…”
“Yet, they do seem to be able to reproduce efficiently enough,” Leela offered with a shrug and a look of disgust.
“Efficiently perhaps,” The Doctor agreed, “but not necessarily at a speed conducive to building an army big enough to take on the universe.” He blew out a breath. “At least I hope not.”
They came to a junction, a corner of the paddock, that ended on a small hill overlooking an encampment in the gully below. It wasn’t steep, nor very high, and therefore wouldn’t be dangerous to traverse downward, but it did give them both a decent view. The Doctor stood in a lean against a tree trunk, his legs crossed at the ankles. Leela dropped into a high crouch at his side, her hand pressed against the tree trunk to keep her steady.
“Looks fairly quiet,’ she offered gently. Her head shifted as she took detail in her mind of everything down below. “But I know that can be deceiving.”
“Askolians are known for being busy,” the Doctor offered. “They believe that leisure leads to stagnancy, which is the pathway toward demise.” He blinked and gestured below with a jut of his chin. “Which means what you’re seeing down there is not simply quiet, it means …”
“It means either they are prisoners, or they are all dead,” Leela said with a gasp. Her grasp on her holster tightened. “And Daleks don’t take prisoners.”
“In this particular case,” the Doctor offered quickly before Leela tore off down the hill to take no prisoners of her own. “I believe they had no choice but to take visitors.” He lowered himself into a crouch at her side and pointed toward a trio of capsules at the edge of the small town. “Romana had ordered those units sent here from Gallifrey at the same time as the Battle capsules.”
“What are they?” she half whispered.
“Genesis Arks,” he answered on a quiet voice. “Emergency evacuation units. They were designed for use in the event that a natural disaster or war-time event required a fast evacuation of civilians.” He let his eyes scan along the outskirts of the town below, his eyes on the lookout for Daleks. “Despite the small stature of it, each capsule can hold millions of people.”
“A bit like the TARDIS,” Leela offered. “Bigger on the inside.”
He smiled and gave her a nod, still looking down the embankment. “Bigger than my TARDIS,” he admitted. “Much, much bigger.” His eyes pinched at the sight of a small troop of Daleks, riding in perfect formation, three by four, down along a main road toward the town. “We need to find a way to get to those Ark’s and set their transportation protocols to send them to Ferrouim.” He tapped his fingertip against his chin. “Which may be an easier task than what to do about the Daleks.”
“These Arks,” Leela interrupted curiously, her eyes locked on the path of the Dalek troop. “Can they also be used as Prisoner ships?”
He didn’t look at her, but a smile spread across his face at her suggestion. “Why my dear Leela, that is a very good suggestion.”
“Well of course it is,” she sang back in a breathy voice with a sassy glint in her eye to match. “I came up with it, didn’t I?”
“The tricky thing is,” he said with a tilt in his head. “Is just how we are going to convince an entire battlefleet of Daleks to go inside the thing.”
Her mouth fell open into an “ahhh” expression. “Well that one I’ll leave to you, Doctor,” she offered. “I came up with one part of the plan, you can do the rest.”
“First things first, though,” he gruffed at the same time he drew himself to a stand. “We need to get into one of the Dalek ships and find out just what bit of nefarious no-goodery they’re planning.” He flicked his hand to her I a request for her to follow. “We can lock up as many as they’ve got down here. But it won’t do us much good if we don’t know why they’re here in the first place.”
Leela caught up beside him as he walked briskly down the hill. “To Exterminate things,” she offered him. “They don’t do much else than that.”
“True,” he sang out.
The than gasped as he pulled her quickly behind a tree and held her firmly against his chest. He pressed his finger to his lips to demand silence, which she agreed to with a nod. On the road beside them, with the familiar metallic whine of Dalek wheels, a smaller troop rolled by. Leela remained protectively within the Doctor’s arms, but pulled her head back enough that she was able to see what he couldn’t. She made the count in her mind, and then looked up at him and mouthed the number. He gave her a nod of thanks and held his head against the tree as the danger passed. When he was confident that they were clear, he took Leela’s hand and rand them both in the opposite direction to the Daleks.
“Where are we going?” she hissed quietly. “The Daleks are heading the other way!”
“They’re patrol troops,” he answered quickly, his voice still held low. “Moving away from the ships. We want to find the ships…”
“I’d actually like to kill a few Daleks first if you wouldn’t mind.” She smirked. “Make them talk?”
“How do you expect them to talk if they’re dead,” he retorted with a huff. “Did you bring a Ouija Board with you?”
She didn’t let go of his hands, nor try to pull him to a stop, but she did certainly give him a good and sharp glare of annoyance. “I’ll settle with killing you if you’d prefer.”
“Ahh, because there’s no way that regeneration energy will alert them to our presence at all, is there?” He pulled harder on her hand as he put on a little more speed. “You’ll get your chance, Leela. Just have some patience.”
“A virtue, as you say, I was not born with.”
“But a good one to strive to achieve,” the Doctor muttered as he threw his back up against another tree and held onto his breath. This time there were only four Daleks, but they rolled swiftly along the dirt road. He clutched at Leela’s hand tightly, preventing her from advancing on the robots is the urge took her. His voice fell to a whisper as he pulled her toward him and spoke in her ear.
“We’re getting close,” he warned. “Stay close to me and don’t wander off.”
“I like how you say that and actually expect me to listen,” she whispered sharply in reply. “I don’t need your protection, Doctor. I can handle myself well enough.”
“I’ve no doubt on that,” he answered flatly as he peered across the space between their tree and the entrance to a Dalek ship. Knowing there’d be cameras at the entrance which would pick them up quickly, he removed his Sonic Screwdriver from his pocket and twisted the head to change a setting on it. “Cameras,” he advised her before she could ask. “While I am quite photogenic in this incarnation, I’d much prefer that my face did not end up on the Skaro Society pages.”
Her brow pinched in confusion. “I don’t understand…”
“Rose would,” he said with a sigh. “She’d laugh about it, too. Probably ask me for my autograph.” He moved out from behind the trunk of the tree and held his sonic at the tip of his fingers at the end of a fully extended arm. “I don’t really want either of us caught on camera, Leela, so…” He pressed the button and let the sonic screwdriver fire an invisible bean of energy toward the camera. It took a moment, but after a few seconds, the camera box gave a small spark. The Doctor hoped that was a sign that the camera was now inactive.
“Come on,” he called to her as his hand found hers again and he ran them both to the door. “It won’t take them long to come and investigate.”
He looked left and then right but didn’t stop as he ran across the small country road toward the Dalek ship. He barely looked up the ramp that would take him into the ship itself, such was his hurry. When he got to the entrance, he finally did stop, and that was only to press himself up against the metal hull of the ship to peer inside.
“We’re clear,” he muttered quietly, tugging on her hand to have her follow him.
Leela quickly shook off his hand and wiped it on her shirt as she took up position at his side. “I really don’t need my hand held,” she remarked. “I’d much rather have it free, just in case.”
“Habit,’ he admitted with a sigh. “My apology.”
“None needed.” She ran her hand along the smooth walls of the ship, coloured orange by the lighting from the roof. She listened to the deep hum of life support power and found herself starting to hum along with it. “Do you know where you’re going?” she queried after a moment.
“I believe so,” he responded in a voice not quite so confident. “This ship does have a very similar design to the one that landed on Gallifrey a couple of months ago…”
“One did what?” she chipped out with shock, halting their walk immediately. “Did you say the Daleks made it to Gallifrey?”
He winced. He’d forgotten that the knowledge of Dalek arrival had been extremely limited in who it was shared with – he would have thought that Andred would have shared that information with Leela. He’d certainly share it with Rose over a slice of Magnolia pie.
“It was an empty ship,” he lied with a smile. “So no need to announce it across the planet.”
“Empty?” she queried with surprise. “That is very strange.”
“It is,” he agreed. He then let out a breath. “So that said, we were able to investigate and analyse the warcraft.”
“Then I would expect you’d have a plan to defeat it,” she challenged him. “Afterall, isn’t that the purpose of commandeering enemy craft?”
He sighed. “You would think so.”
His arm suddenly snapped out to stop her forward movement. He hissed for quiet and they both held their breaths as a pair of Daleks rolled along the corridor. The Daleks stopped their forward roll, and turned slowly around. The Doctor immediately grabbed Leela’s wrist and dragged her backward. Behind him was a door, and he quickly opened it to push her inside. He apologised as he followed her inside, fully expecting to be in very cramped quarters with her in a janitor closet or something.
He was surprised, however, to find that the both of them had entered a more expansive room. Empty except for a golden metal box in the middle of the room. While he knew he should be watching the door, waiting for the best opportunity to let them both out, the Doctor couldn’t quite help but be drawn toward the box.
“Doctor,” Leela hissed out with impatience as he left her side to investigate. “This is not the time for you to get distracted.”
He held up a hand. “Just a minute, Leela.”
“I don’t really think we have that long.”
His approach to the box was slow, deliberate, and very wary. Markings along one side were in the delicate swirling script of his people, and the warning it offered was dire. He circled it once, and then circled back in the opposite direction. As he read the circular-formed text on all sides, his dread grew.
“It can’t be,” he muttered with fear. “I thought this was locked away safely in Omega’s Arsenal.”
Leela was far less careful and approached the box without hesitation or care. She quickly dropped into a crouch at its side and reached out a hand to touch it.
He grabbed her arm tightly enough that she winced. “Don’t touch it,” he growled in warning. “Whatever you do, don’t touch it.”
She jerked her arm free of his grasp and made a point of rubbing it. “What is it?” she asked, knowing better than to get sassy on him when he was in this kind of mood – suddenly dark and stormy.
“It was originally called the Eye of Discord,” he answered on a low and angry voice. “The final, and most dangerous, creation of the Ancients.”
“A weapon?” she asked softly.
He nodded in reply. “Capable of destroying entire galaxies inside a single moment,” His brows lifted and but his eyes remained low. “Which is what brought about its alternate name: The moment.”
She gasped and looked at the small and indistinct box. “But it looks so harmless.”
“So does an Atom Bomb before it goes nuclear,” he muttered. He walked around the box again. “The Ancients made a mistake when they created this,” he lectured gently. “The made it too intricate, with an interface so sophisticated and advanced that it became sentient – a living entity with a conscience.” He blew out a breath. “It became judgmental, reading the intentions of its host, and passing judgment and imposing punishment on anyone who dared use it.”
Leela looked a the box and then back to the Doctor. “Fables,” she declared, ignoring the look of annoyance from her companion. “My people, back in the colony, they would tell stories like this. Stories to scare the children and force them to behave. Tales of triumph to make us warriors, and of defeat to make sure we won.”
She reached out a hand to touch it again, but the Doctor quickly snatched her wrist tightly in his hand. “I said don’t touch it.”
“And what will happen if I do, Doctor?” she asked hotly.
“It will read your mind’s greatest desire,” he warned her. “And it will punish you for having such desires.”
“And what is my desire, Doctor?” she asked him with a curl in her lip.
“The same as mine is right now,” he answered coolly. “To defeat every Dalek on this planet and return to the ones we love.”
“And you think that’s worth punishment?”
He nodded, his eyes tight on hers, not shifting. “Yeah,” he huffed. “It is. Oh, not in our minds, of course. To us it means victory for the greater good.”
“Because it is,” she snarled into his face. “Because the creatures out there…” She pointed to the doorway. “They kill without remorse and without reason. They’ll exterminate entire species just because they don’t think they’re up to their standards – that they are a lower life form than they are.”
He snorted. “And your people,” he asked. “You’d kill entire insect species with the very same belief.”
She pulled her arm from his grasp and shook it. “That’s different.”
“How?” he asked. “To the Daleks, that’s what we are, what your people are, and what every other species across the universe is: Insects.” He flicked his eyes to the weapon. “And that’s how this thing will judge you.”
She stood back, holding at her wrist and digesting his words.
“It will do what you want it to do, Leela,” he continued. His eyes shifted from the weapon to her. “It won’t hesitate to do it. Inside a moment, just a short insignificant point in time. A blink. A breath. It will erase the Daleks, turn them into dust.” He looked at her. “But at what cost?”
Leela took a step back, holding her wrist in her hand up against her chest, fear now written in her shoulders. “And the Daleks have it?” She blinked and looked back to him. “How have they not simply destroyed the entire universe with it?”
“You need a soul and the ability to truly feel loss in order to wield this weapon,” he answered. “Of which the Daleks have none.” He huffed. “Which makes me really sorry to say this, Leela, but this place…” He looked around, opening his arms to display the area around him. “Is probably the safest place in the universe to be.”
“Unless the Daleks can figure out how to use it – or ally with a species who can.”
He nodded. “True, which is why we need to find a way to get this back to Gallifrey, into the Omega Arsenal, and away from any war mongering species – soulless or not.”
“But if we can’t touch it,” she queried, “how do you think we’re going to move it?”
“That,’ he admitted with a scratch of his head. “That’s the dilemma.”
There was a hiss at the door, a sound that had both Leela and the Doctor jump back with fright. Leela maintained her balance, however, the Doctor was not quite so fortunate. He toppled backward, falling onto his back and involuntarily flailing his arms to try and find purchase. His hand swatted at the box, slapping his full palm on the golden surface.
His eyes widened as it whirred, clicked. Each of the intricate circles lit up brightly. “Oh, Rassilon no.”
“Tsk tsk, Doctor,” a soft and amused voice chided gently from above.
“No,” he growled out as he covered his ears as though blocking out his mind. “Get out of my head, I don’t want anything from you.”
“Not yet,” the voice sang softly. “But you will. And when you do…”
A chorus of children’s voices sang joyously throughout the room. They sang a song from long ago, a song from the early ages of Earth, a song sung by children holding hands and dancing in a circle. The words spun around him.
Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf……?