Chhlll'kti was dead.
Klk'hit, Lord Commander of the Thillani Time Fleet, stared at the holofilm readout that his cheif medical officer had just sent up to the control bridge. The tiny image of the chief medic, rendered greenish by the holo, floated in the air just over Klk'hit's data disc.
"...All life signs terminated at exactly fourteen twenty three Universal standard time. Agent appears to have ingested his suicide pill, suggesting that he was compromised and ended his life rather than surrender information, as is proper. End of medical report."
Klk'hit shut down the holo. Chhll'kti had been one of his best, a soldier blooded a dozen times over. Like Klk'hit, he'd survived the destruction of the first Time Fleet at the hands of the Travelling Man. Klk'hit had trusted him; it was why he'd assigned him to the infiltration mission.
And now he was dead, and the Travelling Man was poking his nose into things. And if there was one thing that you learned after you'd once run up against the Travelling Man, it was that if you were wise, you didn't go up against the Travelling Man.
The Doctor. His name was written across the stars, across all of Time itself. It was rumored that he was the only being in all of creation that the dreaded Daleks truly feared. Trying to fight him was an exercise in frustration; he was, to use a native expression, as slippery as an eel and far too clever for his own good. Just when you thought you had him, he'd smile and then suddenly you'd realize that you'd played right into his hands. The next thing you knew, your world would be falling apart around you and your ships burning in the sky and there wouldn't be a thing you could do to stop it, and then, to make it worse, he'd have the incredible gall to apologize for it all.
"Raise shields to maximum." He ordered. He didn't know if it would actually do any good; the Time Lords had always guarded their technology jealously, and no one except the Doctor himself really knew what that blue box of his was capable of. "Raise crew to battle alert."
His orders were carried out immediately and without question. His crew had served under him for many years. Some...not many, but some...had served with him on the Vanquisher, one of the first Time Ships. The Vanquisher had been one of the ships destroyed by the Doctor and his companions; Klk'hit and less than forty of his crew had been fortunate enough to reach the escape pods in time.
Klk'hit looked at the viewscreen. It wasn't a true window; the control bridge was buried deep in the heart of the ship, below layer upon layer of shielding and hull metal . The view on the screen was simply an image transmitted down to the holofilm wall. On the screen, the roiling plasma fire of the star Sol churned. Arcing loops of stellar fire the size of planets arced away from the surface, only to break apart and fall back into the blazing body of the star.
It reminded him of home. Stars were as individual as the planets and life forms that orbited them. Klk'hit had been to a hundred star systems since being recruited to the military as a hatchling, after an aptitude scan had showed that he had promise as a tactician. In nearly all, the star was too red, or too white, or too old, or too small, or too large. Sol, however, was nearly of a size, color, and age with Tlk'it, the star that his native planet of the same name orbited.
He hadn't seen Tlk'it in ten standard years. He had a mate there, a beautiful mate who'd just laid a clutch of eggs when he'd been deployed. She sent holos; he had four daughters and five sons. Their pictures covered every available surface in his private quarters. They'd just taken the aptitude tests. Two of his sons had been assigned to military service.
He should be proud of that. He would have been proud of that, once. Before the war against the humans, and before he'd met the Travelling Man. And now he looked at holos of the planet Earth, and knew that he would be expected to burn it to bedrock. It looked so serene, a world of blue water and white clouds, so similar to Tlk'it. He looked at it, and thought in his heart of hearts that the people who lived there had as much right to live and spread as any race did. He thought this, and thought of what he must do, and he toyed for a moment with the idea of turning his ships around and taking them home and telling the Empress that if she wanted someone to commit genocide, she could go do it herself.
The Travelling Man could have killed every last Thillani on the Time Ships. He could have done it at any time; that had become painfully obvious later. But he hadn't. He'd pleaded and warned and cajoled and begged them to give it up, to turn around. He'd spun a tale of a war fought for the sake of war, and the terrible costs, and the death of two races, and the terrible pointlessness of it all.
They'd ignored him. And the Time Ships had burned. But even then, the Doctor had given them time. He'd given them time. He'd warned them, and some of them had been able to escape. And as his escape pod had been spinning through hyperspace, homing in on Tlk'it, Klk'hit had thought. Thought of how the army he served was wrong, and how they'd brought this on themselves. The Doctor had only been the instrument of the wrath of the gods; the Thillani had sought to set themselves above the gods themselves, and the gods had sent the Travelling Man to punish them.
Such thoughts must always stay private, though. Because he had a mate and nine children, and if he died with honor in the service of the Empire they would never want for anything so long as they lived. But if one word that could be construed as treason was ever heard from him, they would be forced to watch as he was stoned to death and his remains burned in the fires of the High Temple, to send him to the gods for judgment.
He would die before that happened. He would burn a thousand worlds before he would make his children watch such a thing.
He looked at the fire of the yellow star named Sol. I'm sorry. He thought. I'm sorry. For the humans, if we win. And I'm sorry for us, whether or not we win. If the Travelling Man comes, I will fight him with everything I have. I will fight to fulfill my mission until my last breath, and if I die I will die with honor, and my mate and children will never want, and will remember me as a man to be proud of.
I'm sorry for the Travelling Man, if he has to kill all of us.
I hope he does.