A/N: You knew it had to happen.
Disclaimer: Dalek Sec, Cult of Skaro, the Daleks, and Doctor Who – property of the BBC, Terry Nation and Russell T. Davies. The Knights Tempus – mine. You swipe, you die.
Warnings: HUGE spoilers for Daleks in Manhattan/Evolution of the Daleks, equally massive spoilers for AoG/Doomsday, and pretty massive ones for the classic series. Oh, and lots of Dalek angst and icky stuff.
Gambit: Part 1
I can feel it.
I can feel the tension in the air as they move about the laboratory.
I can feel the incredulity, the exasperation of Thay and Jast as they stare at me.
I know what it is that they believe.
The years spent within the Void, the Battle of Canary Wharf, and our desperate escape through time…
These recent events have somehow negatively altered my neural chemistry.
As the humans would so crudely put it; they believe I am insane.
Dalek Sec, the head of the Cult of Skaro and one of the last four Daleks in existence, has become insane.
My limbs twitch within my travel unit as I reflect on this thought.
The Cult was originally charged by the Emperor to think as the enemy thinks. To find new ways of exterminating the enemy.
To do that, to think as the enemy thinks, we had to adapt. We grew wiser, more cunning, and I would have thought, more accepting of new ideas, new philosophies.
The others certainly did not complain when I made the suggestion of names. No, they accepted that concept most readily.
Thay, Jast and Caan.
The Cult of Skaro.
It is for them and the future of our people that I do this.
We must adapt if we are to survive, otherwise all hope is lost for our race.
I merely have to convince them of that.
If I must sacrifice myself, then so be it.
If that would lead my brothers to term my actions insane or misguided, then so be it.
Caan did not initially react positively to the concept of directly working with the humans. But even he would not disobey a direct order. He became my second for that reason – I would prefer to keep him where I can be certain of his intent.
In a curious way, I believe he now actually enjoys his interactions with Diagoras. They are both intelligent and amoral, Diagoras intriguingly so.
He shows no fear towards Caan, a rarity in itself.
As I watch through a monitor, the Grecian-American human stands, dressed in an immaculate black pinstripe suit and highly polished brogues, next to a non-descript male, one of the many construction workers currently employed to complete the massive structure that is the Empire State Building.
Flanked by two Pig Slaves, Caan slowly moves out of the lift, his headpiece moving to stare at Diagoras while the other human points at his travel unit, his body shaking.
'I have been summoned. Explain. Explain!'
I silently muse that Diagoras must be prepared to submit an adequate explanation to Caan, lest he be punished for disturbing our groundwork for the Final Experiment.
Caan does not appreciate interruptions of any kind to his work.
Even if he believes that this project is sheer madness.
The human backs away as Caan and the Slaves advance. 'It can talk…how does it talk?!'
He then finally registers the presence of the Slaves. 'And what the hell are they?! You gotta be kiddin' me!!'
Diagoras gracefully moves into view, his face and manners almost nauseatingly smooth as he walks towards the draughtsman's table at the side of the room. 'I'm sorry my lord, but this man is refusing to complete the work.'
Caan studies the male before arriving at a suitable conclusion. 'Then we must replace him.'
The human continues to shake. 'Is anyone gonna tell me what the hell is happenin' here?!'
Caan merely stares at him. 'Use him. Take him for the Final Experiment.'
The human struggles in vain as the two Slaves forcibly restrain him and drag him into the lift. 'What's goin' on?! Let go of me!! Get off, let go…!!'
Neither Caan nor Diagoras bother to watch the trio leave. There are more important matters to consider at present.
'The Empire State Building must be completed in time.'
Diagoras stares into the blue eye-piece with some hesitation. 'It will be. Trust me. Labour is cheap…and that man can be replaced.'
Within this time period, I have no doubt of the truth of his words.
'The plan must not fail. We calculate the Gamma Strike has accelerated. We need more bodies immediately.'
Diagoras nods, his expression now concerned if somewhat confused. No matter.
The Empire State Building.
One of the greatest architectural achievements in human history. Famed for the sheer scale and height, the tallest building in New York and on Earth for several years, and reputed to be one of the most significant examples of Art Deco architecture even by the fifty-first century.
History records that the building construction contract was won by the firm Starrett Brothers and Eken. Diagoras worked within that agency before Caan and I made contact with him, convincing him with ease that it would be in his best interests to work for the Cult, to incorporate our designs into the existing layout.
I recalled at that time, an image of the structure from the Dalek historical archives. Functional and simple in design, yet possessing a curious visual appeal, the metal and glass on the exterior of the building being utilised to create curves and sweeping arches.
It was one of the few elements of human culture which I grew to appreciate, perhaps even admire.
But the era in which the building was constructed…
If the humans were this proficient, this talented at designing and building the tallest man-made structure on Earth at this point in history, how is it that they cannot even feed themselves, or care for each other?
Even now I cannot adjust to the depravation and poverty which permeates the atmosphere. This situation would be inconceivable on Skaro.
All Dalek are created as equals. The programming which delineates our specialisms is only inserted after the cloning process is complete and any hatchlings found to be flawed are destroyed. Most would die shortly after being ejected into the wastelands.
The beings which survived within the Lake of Mutations were the rare exceptions. During the Time War, they were captured and reprogrammed as Special Weapons Daleks, kamikaze troops fit for frontline battle.
Unpleasant, yes. But all would serve their purpose.
Here…the humans who have lost their homes, their way of life; they are neither exterminated nor reprogrammed. Instead they are forced to live a most wretched existence, scrabbling like vermin for scraps of food, fighting each other for shelter and warmth.
Even more distasteful to me is that their Emperor, President Hoover, knows of this situation, and does little to aid them, believing that 'voluntary cooperation' is the best means by which to alleviate the suffering of his people.
If the Emperor of the Daleks knew of a similar situation within the Empire, he would take immediate action to rectify the situation, not make vague gestures of goodwill.
For the Daleks are not known for 'voluntary cooperation'.
In some way, I believe we are helping the humans with our actions, providing them with work and some financial aid. In turn, they will provide us with the means to rebuild the Dalek Empire and the rebirth of our people.
We are not human, and yet we give with ease that which President Hoover cannot and will not offer.
Who then, is considered to be more 'human'?
Some would call the idea sickening.
But I prefer to think of it as a mutually beneficial arrangement.
If we are to understand the humans, we must think like the humans.
This is, and always will be, our prime directive.
I watch the monitor as Caan emerges from the lift.
Diagoras left the building a number of hours previously in order to recruit new workers, seemingly for work.
The Final Experiment requires living beings. And as the humans have proved almost constantly in this era, the homeless, the refugees, the dispossessed…they will all come to us.
A small team of humans are currently wandering through the sewer systems below the building. The Pig Slaves will find them soon enough.
At present however, we must continue to clarify the importance of the work in which the humans are engaged.
Caan glides forward to pass Diagoras. The human gives no immediate indication that he has registered the appearance of the scientist.
'The conductor must be complete for our plan to succeed.'
He looks suitably agitated as he hurries to walk beside Caan.
'Unemployment is such an incentive. It'll get done, don't worry.'
Caan keeps his eyestalk facing forwards as he moves to stare over the cityscape before him. 'Daleks have no concept of worry.'
The servos within my own headpiece whirr. A mechanical sigh. Caan does have a tendency to take statements far too literally.
Diagoras halts and stands beside him, scrutinizing his travel unit with something akin to envy. 'Yeah? Well…lucky you.'
Caan slowly moves his headpiece to pan over the view of New York, and behind it, the golden-yellow disc of Sol as it sets over the horizon. A most impressive sight.
'This day is ending. Humankind is weak – you shelter from the dark.'
Diagoras also studies the view, his eyes clouded by thought.
'And yet, you have built all this.'
Is that admiration I hear within his tone?
'That's progress. You gotta move with the times, or you get left behind.'
Caan moves his gaze back to the patch of vegetation in front of the building. Central Park. A small portion of natural life amidst the grey steel of the city.
His vocal unit is softer, reflective.
'My planet is gone, destroyed in a great war. Yet versions of this city stand throughout history. The human race always continues.'
I do not miss the sardonic edge to his voice.
Nor do I miss the longing in his tone.
I too hold the innate, unspoken, illogical desire to return to the planet upon which I was hatched.
To stand once more at the foot of the steel tower of the Citadel.
To see the red clouds above, swollen with acid rain as they move across the super-continent of Darran. (1)
To feel the wind, choked with radioactive fallout, as it surrounds my travel unit, providing me with power and life.
The name of my planet simply translated as 'home' in the ancient Kaled language. Ironic, now that the Kaleds are extinct, that their home, their skaro, lived on for so many millennia after the conflict against the Thals.
And now the once noble planet of Skaro is nothing more than a lifeless husk orbiting a long-dead sun.
This was all the fault of the Time Lords.
The actions of the Ka-Faraq Gatri had brought us to this.
That was what I had thought at the time.
But now…I feel we had earned that reprisal. We had deserved it in some crude way.
Not through the actions of the Doctor, but by our own means. Our need for genetic purity, the uncompromising devotion to Dalek supremacy…
We are the last four Daleks in existence. If we are meant to be the greatest race in the universe, how is it that we cannot survive where other species flourish?
Diagoras frowns as he processes the knowledge which Caan denies himself to think.
'We've had wars. I've been a soldier myself…and I swore then I'd survive, no matter what.'
I have, since our arrival on Earth, studied the history of the period known as the First World War, and I do not doubt the sincerity behind his words.
Neither does Caan. He now studies the male with a scientific curiosity.
'You have rare ambition.'
He sighs. 'I wanna run this city. Whatever it takes. By any means necessary.'
'You think like a Dalek.'
'I'll take that as a compliment.'
Jast and Thay gather behind me as his words filter through the audio receivers.
I activate my communications device. 'This human is our best option. Bring him to me.'
On the monitor, Caan keeps his eyestalk focussed on Diagoras as he receives his orders. 'Your loyalty will be rewarded. Come with me.'
The human smirks as he accompanies Caan to the elevator.
He displays the emotion known as arrogance.
I am curious as to what the experience of feeling arrogance will be like.
I sense Thay and Jast behind me, watching the figures of Diagoras and Caan on the monitor before me. 'Prepare the laboratory. The Final Experiment will begin.'
Thay and Jast move purposefully to their respective workstations as I continue to watch.
I am not naïve. I am fully aware that I will begin to feel human emotions within minutes of the completion of the evolutionary process, and the strength of these emotions may overwhelm me.
But I am strong. I am a Dalek. I will survive.
In what shape or form however, I can only speculate.
The elevator doors slide open, Caan and Diagoras both moving out of the tiny compartment and into the laboratory. Caan glides forward with no discernable hesitation. Diagoras stays close to Caan, his expression curious and yet cautious as he pulls a pair of black leather gloves over his hands.
The Pig Slaves move to watch him, their tiny minds attracted to the movements of the unexpected visitor. Diagoras keeps moving, not daring to meet their gaze.
He knows only too well what the Slaves were in their previous lives.
And then he halts before me, staring at me with no small amount of apprehension. Until he is more aware of my strengths and abilities, he appears to favour compliance as the best course of action.
Caan moves to stand behind Diagoras.
'I bring you the human.'
Diagoras is understandably cautious as he speaks.
'I take it…you're in charge?'
'Correct. I am Dalek Sec, leader of the Cult of Skaro.'
Thay and Jast move away from their respective workstations to flank me in a show of both unity and intimidation.
'Then, my lord Sec, I am honoured to meet you. Ever since you first made contact with me, transmitting your thoughts into the corners of my mind, tempting me with such images, such ideas…oh sir, I'd always dreamed that the day…'
Do all humans talk as much as him? I am growing tired of his prattling tongue.
He looks abashed, but it does not stop his chatter for long.
'I-I just wanted to let you know how grateful I am…'
Can these humans not follow a simple request for silence?
'I said, cease!'
Finally, he stops talking.
'Slaves, secure the human.'
He glances around in panic as the Slaves close in on his position.
'But you don't need to do that! I'm on your side! I worked with you; I'm your partner…!'
His words turn rapidly into snarling litany as the Slaves forcibly restrain him, grasping his flailing limbs and creasing his suit.
No matter. As long as he is present, somewhat restrained, and all goes according to plan, then all will be well.
My organic body jolts in pain as Jast injects yet another syringe of hormone solution directly into my circulatory systems.
I was aware that humans need a vast mixture of hormones and nutrients within their bodies in order to grow healthy and strong, but this…
Melatonin, serotonin, thyroxine, dopamine, gastrin, growth hormones, oxytocin, testosterone – I have had so many chemicals injected into my body over the past hour that I feel somewhat nauseous. But they will be necessary to complete the process.
If my body contains enough human hormones and can mimic the chemical conditions within the human body, the fusion between Dalek and human physiology will be easier. The process can be measured more accurately and safely, and I will be less likely to perish during the fusion.
I cannot deny that the thought of death is unsettling. But perhaps the hormones are to blame for my current frame of mind. If nothing else, I consider this to be practice for adapting to human emotions, illogical and insane as they are.
Jast turns away and moves towards his workstation as a timing mechanism sounds.
'The chromatin solution is ready.'
I move forward into the dim light of the laboratory as Diagoras continues his vain struggles against the brute strength of the Pig Slaves.
'Then our preparations are complete.'
Diagoras stops struggling for a moment.
'What are you doing? Preparations for what?'
I move forward, in mimicry of a great hunting beast about to leap upon its prey. 'This is the Final Experiment.'
He stares around him in growing horror, the Slaves scuffing their feet against the ground, snorting gently as they study his every movement.
'Whaddya mean? D'you mean…like these pig-men things? You're not gonna turn me into one of those?! Oh God, please don't!!'
I ignore his outburst. 'The Pig Slaves are primitive. The Final Experiment is greater by far.'
I move back into the shadows of the battle computer. Diagoras looks baffled. Fortunately he does not notice Thay and Jast closing their ranks beside him. 'But how does that involve me?'
I turn and stare at him. 'We need your flesh. Bring him to me!'
Instead of heeding my orders, my brethren move to stand before me, blocking the path of the Slaves.
I stare at them for barely a rel. Why do they not obey me?
Thay is the first to speak. 'Halt. This action contradicts the Dalek imperative!'
If I had either the time or the ability, I would strangle Thay for his impudence. And I am growing weary of this argument.
Jast is quick to add his own input. 'Daleks are supreme, humans are weak!'
Ah. The old rhetoric, programmed into our neural systems for thousands of years, and designed by the Emperor Davros himself. Under most circumstances, I too would cite the programming as religious scripture, as the humans would cite the Bible or the Koran.
The circumstances are very different. Not one member of our race foresaw this chain of events. And we must adapt as quickly as possible if we are to survive.
I study each of them in turn, keeping my impatience in check.
'But there are millions of humans and only four of us. If we are supreme, why are we not victorious?'
Thay and Jast share a look as Diagoras cringes before me. They have no answer to that question.
'The Cult of Skaro was created by the Emperor for this very purpose; to imagine new ways of survival!'
Caan and Jast choose to stay silent. Thay however is starting to shake, his programming warring with his loyalty, both as a soldier, and as my brother.
'But we must remain pure!'
I turn slightly and study my brother.
The youngest of the Cult of Skaro.
The greatest Dalek warrior in the Empire.
My excitable, brash, ever-loyal younger brother.
Thay was the last to question my plan when it was first proposed, and the first to offer his help in order to bring the plan to fruition. He willingly gave several strips of dalekanium from the base of his travel unit to be placed on the mast of the Empire State Building.
I had watched with a strange sense of fear and disgust throughout the entire operation as the metal was removed. We could not disconnect his body from the travel unit, and deactivating the unit would also disconnect his life support systems.
Even the strongest human anaesthetics of the time could not sedate him entirely, and so he had screamed in agony until his vocal unit had fused. Even then his cries still permeated the lab as the weakened vocal cords within his body were used for the first time in millennia.
I remember silently thanking the old Kaled gods for their mercy when Thay finally fell into unconsciousness. At least he did not have to suffer as fresh steel plates were grafted onto his travel unit.
Therefore I am unsurprised at the…compassion present in my voice as I speak.
'No, Dalek Thay, our purity has brought us to extinction. We must adapt to survive. You have all made sacrifices, and now I will sacrifice myself for the greater cause. For the future of Dalek-kind. Now bring me the human!'
Diagoras wails in terror as his body is pitched forwards. 'But I don't understand!! Whaddya mean?! Get offa me!!'
I prepare to disengage the locks on my travel unit.
'Behold the true Dalek form.'
Diagoras watches in horror as my travel unit hisses before sliding apart to reveal my organic body, so unlike his. My body is a healthy shade of green, instead of the varying shades of beige and brown that makes the humans so recognizable. My limbs twitch at the sensation of air against my flesh for the first time in so many thousands of years.
'Now…join with me!'
Diagoras stops staring at me and resumes his fight against the Pig Slaves. 'No!! Get off me!! I did everything you asked of me!! NO!!'
My limbs rise and fall, much like those of the Terran octopus, as they envelop his body and pull it into my travel casing. My mouth opens for the first time in years as I pull him towards me and swallow him headfirst, engulfing him within my body.
The last sound I hear is that of the locks on my travel unit re-engaging, covering both of us in darkness as the absorption process begins…
And then I scream.
I can…feel…so many sensations. So many…emotions…
He is afraid. Who…would not be…?
I tighten my limbs around his body and pull him closer to me in an action I suddenly recognise as an embrace.
This is a human ritual. One that is foreign to me…and yet brings me something approaching comfort.
A tiny eye of calm amidst the hurricane of my evolution.
Does it comfort him, I wonder, to know that I am in as much pain as he? That if there was another way, I would have gladly taken it?
Another searing bolt of pain lances through my body as my brain begins to swell…
They…not leave me…?
Can…feel them…watch me…
Caan…he…not worried…but anxious…concerned…for Cult…
Thay…he…terrified…never…see me…like this…hates…to see…brother…hurting…
My limbs spasm and tighten. In the darkness and pain, I can see then shrink…twitching as they form into a strange pair of limbs, smaller appendages curling at the end of a larger limb…
I have hands. Fingers. Palms…
I can touch. Feel. Hold…
A new spasm of agony takes hold…steam and smoke billows from my travel unit as I curl my body tightly into a fetal position.
Thay is the first to speak, his voice acting like a beacon of sanity to me.
'Stop the process! Dalek Sec is failing!'
The fear in his voice both scares me and comforts me. But even my concern for my brother is not enough to make me stop the evolution.
'No…!! The…experiment must continue…!! Administer the solution!!'
I attempt not to retch after I speak.
'We must evolve!! Evolve!! Evolve…!!'
Those words cost me a great amount of energy.
Jast advances, a syringe in his grasp and concern in his optic lens.
I barely feel the needle as it enters my body. It is but another lash of pain to my already agonized flesh.
This, fortunately, is the last injection I will need in order to complete the process.
Now…I can only rely on the strength of my body and the ministrations of Jast as he watches over me.
I can just about hear Caan and Thay returning to the lab. Footsteps echo on the concrete - human footsteps.
More participants for the Final Experiment.
I close my eye in pain as my spine cracks, the bones shifting under the muscles as I try to move into a more comfortable position within my travel unit.
I hear Caan speak as he moves to stand with Thay and Jast.
Jast does not move from my side. 'Dalek Sec is entering the final stage of evolution.'
I can hear the distaste in his tone at the word, 'evolution.'
Caan does not pay any attention to the tone of his comrade. 'Scan him. Prepare for birth.'
Do all beings experience the pain I have felt when they are born? Surely not.
A final, horrific burst of pain…and suddenly peace.
I can hear someone speaking…a human female.
'Daleks! I demand to be told. What is this Final Experiment? Report!'
Impressive. She can mimic the inflections of a Dalek speech pattern perfectly. This does not go unnoticed by the other members of the Cult. I can hear Jast move as he turns to face the human. 'You will bear witness.'
'This is the dawn of a new age.'
The human sounds…terrified. 'What does that mean?'
Jast sounds triumphant as he turns back to study my travel unit. 'We are the only four Daleks in existence. So the species must evolve. A life outside the shell. The children of Skaro must walk again!'
And then I feel it.
My travel unit powers down. The life support system quietly fails as it is disconnected from my body, along with my battle computer and weaponry.
My eye-stalk, weapon-stalk and manipulator stalk lower and fall to rest forever.
Thay, Jast and Caan stand before me, waiting in anticipation.
And I do not wish to cause my brethren any more concern.
My travel unit hisses once again as the locks disengage, shedding the first rays of light on my new form.
I grasp the sides of my travel unit with both hands as I slowly pull myself out of the tiny space, my body forced to crouch in a most undignified fashion.
I note with relief that I am wearing Diagoras' suit and shoes. Nudity is a particularly sensitive taboo on this planet, and I do not wish to flout it so early in my new life.
Blinking slowly, I stagger out of my travel unit and straighten my body into an upright position.
So many new sensations.
I draw a deep breath of air into my lungs as I tilt my head back, stretching the cramped muscles in my neck.
My fingers splay as I spread my hands out by my sides, nerve endings tingling as the skin stretches over my knuckles and palms.
I cannot see my face, but I can feel some of my features.
A single eye. A mouth. A fringe of stunted appendages at the sides of my skull, covering my ears and twitching as I move my head.
And my voice?
I speak the first words that enter my mind as Thay, Jast and Caan back away from me in horror.
'I...am...a human...Dalek...I...am your future!'
(1) I can't remember where I found this out, but the continent of Darran was mentioned in a few of the novels. Otherwise, pretty much all of the info about Skaro comes from Wikipedia and the classic series.