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Doctor Who Whoniverse Internet Adventure #01 - "The Cold Darkness"


Chapter 4
"They Shoot Trojan Horses, Don't They?"
by John Seavey


---


Dean Alexias arrived at Krios at 0500 hours, precisely. Of course, the distinction of time was meaningless on a space station, and for precisely that reason, they synchronized the "day" with Earth's twenty-four hour clock. The Draconians were filing a complaint in the matter to the owner of the station, but it seemed unlikely that the complaint would proceed much further, since his body was currently dissolving into its component elements, although this would not be discovered for several more hours, and most definitely not by Dean.


       Jane Deveraux was there waiting for him. She gave him a kiss on the cheek, but turned away before he could return the sentiment. Apparently things hadn't changed after all, he mused as she led him through the busy hallways and down to an office. They made desultory conversation as they travelled — mostly about mutual friends one or the other of them hadn't seen since Jane left Earth. And him, of course.


       When they entered the office, Alnor was there waiting for them, along with Administrator Henricksen and two Draconians whom he did not recognize — one young and boisterous, the other stooped and withered. Alnor was silent, as was the older Draconian, but the other two were making up for the lack of conversation on their parts. "...and I say you have no evidence that such a conspiracy exists!" the Draconian shouted, his dorsal spines standing erect in anger.


       "Look at the flexographs!" Lan shouted back — not angrily, but in desperation. "You saw what will happen if you don't listen to me!"


       "Oh, yes... and I'm perfectly willing to believe that you were visited by a member of a race of unbelievably powerful, unseen aliens from the future who entrusted you with civilization as we know it?"


       Lan sighed. "Look... I know that the story is hard to believe. Hell, I didn't believe it for a while, and it happened to me. But the danger is real. The Daleks are capable of inventing incidents to drive a wedge into the Draconian/Human Alliance. They need to, damn it! The war is going badly for them... they need an edge. And if they can produce one through subterfuge, then they will do it... and if we believe them, both of our races will pay the price for our intolerance."


       "Sso you ssay," the Draconian hissed, deliberately drawing out his sibilants in a way that chilled Dean's blood, "but you have to admit, given that the murder occurred on your station, where you claimed that there was no Dalek activity, that this does seem to be an attempt to draw attention away from your own incompetence. The Draconian philosopher, Karat, once stated that the simplest solution is usually the correct one."


       "Actually, Milord," the other Draconian said, "the idea of a Dalek attempt to create dissention between our races is not far-fetched."


       "You speak out of turn, Aryl. Many advisors have lost their tongues for such an act."


       "Your father, may he be remembered forever, said as much on many occasions, Milord. However, I have kept my tongue through one saving grace... it has always spoken truth so far. If I may continue?"


       The first Draconian hissed, but extended his hand, palm upwards, something Dean took as an indication in the affirmative.


       "Thank you," Aryl said respectfully. "You were only a child when the Dalek wars began, but to myself and your father, may he be remembered forever, they are but one event in an eventful life. When they did commence, it was with a series of actions taken by the Daleks in order to prevent an alliance between the humans and the Draconians from even coming about — a covert war that, for security reasons, we kept hidden from both our races."


       "Even from me?" The Draconian Prince seemed furious.


       "As you may recall, Milord, you were never entirely attentive in your studies of such matters." Aryl's spines seemed to flutter in what Dean took for laughter in the Draconians. "The Daleks used various mind-control techniques to make both sides believe the other had attacked them. It was only through the intercession of an outside party that we uncovered the deception."


       "I see..." The Prince seemed to have calmed somewhat. "And you believe that such a thing may happen again?"


       "I do, Milord."


       "Very well," he responded, turning towards Lan, "I will agree to the plan, on Aryl's lifeblood. Let me know when the substitution is to be made, and what information you need of me." And with that, he swept out of the room, barely missing Dean and Jane.


       "What was that all about?" Dean asked.


       Alnor finally spoke up. "The 'on Aryl's lifeblood' thing? It's a traditional gesture for Draconians. They don't like advisors who give bad advice. So if the advice he gave turns out to be wrong, he'll have Aryl executed. I think a few corporations adopted it as a management technique for a while, but it flopped."


       "Why?" Dean asked, remembering why he'd enjoyed having Alnor around.


       "Too many CEOs got shot."


       "Cute," Dean replied, "but it wasn't what I was referring to. What's all this about Dalek agents, and plans, and conspiracies, and substitutions? What's going on?"


       "The end of the world as we know it," Lan responded. "Unless the three of us can stop it."


* * *


The assassin left Gamn's suite, perfectly confident in the fact that they would not be noticed — and if they were, it would not be remarked upon. Hiding in plain sight was one of the oldest tactics in existence, but it still worked. And it worked even better when one was in a position to destroy the evidence of one's presence altogether.


       Some would call it madness to work with the Daleks, the assassin thought as they crossed to the docking ring, and tapped in an access override to one of the airlocks. But this wasn't madness. It was patriotism. We don't need them to defeat the Daleks. We never have... and by turning to them for help, we deny the essential truth of our race. The Emperor should have seen that all along. Still, it was not too late to change the path we have travelled on. This act will whip the Draconians into a frenzy for Human blood. Careful management of the Daleks will weaken them in senseless battles against the Human race, and the Draconians will step in to eliminate both parties. And with the Emperor removed, true Draconians will once again rule the Empire.


       A pity about the Prince, the assassin thought as they concealed a small package in a storage compartment. He would have made a fine leader. But sacrifices must be made...


* * *


"OK, let me see if I get this straight," Dean said, pacing back and forth across the room. "You want me to design holographic disguises for you — disguises of the Draconian Prince and his advisor. Then you two," he pointed to Jane and Alnor, "plan to pose as them, and travel into Draconian space to act as Dalek bait?"


       "Exactly," Lan said. "The Daleks are behind the assassination of the Emperor, make no mistake about that. The Prince is one of the next logical targets. And if we can find evidence that this is the case, we can bring the conspiracy to light and prevent the Alliance from dissolving."


       "Uh-huh. And I'm the only one who thinks this is utterly insane?"


       Jane smiled. "All the truly great plans are insane. That way, they keep the enemy on their toes."


       "Riiight. This from a woman whose only 'enemies' are people who think she's faked news stories?"


       Jane's smile twisted into a frown. "Low blow, Dean. You know I didn't--"


       "Yes, I know. Didn't stop you from dumping me like a hot potato when the scandal broke, did it?"


       "I had to! They claimed you were making holographic models for me to put into news stories as real footage! My career was at stake!"


       "Oh, well, crushing my spirit must have been well worth that, right? I mean, it's not as though--"


       "I think," Alnor broke in smoothly, "that this digresses from the topic at hand ever so slightly. The question is, can you do what we're asking you to?"


       Dean sighed. "It depends on a lot of factors. How much scrutiny does this need to stand up to? How long does it need to last? How much detail are the Prince and his advisor going to let me get? What's going to be going on here while these two go get themselves killed?"


       "Well," said Lan, "to answer your questions in order, the disguises need to hold up to video scrutiny, at close range. We're going to be staging an elaborate departure, in order to draw the killer's attention to the party--"


       "In order to ensure our deaths," Alnor commented wryly.


       "Not if we can help it," Lan said. "As to how long it needs to last — realistically, it only needs to last until they board. There won't be any reporters on the ship, and we're going to re-route communications to the Prince's quarters to maintain the fiction of his being on board. However, it should be something that can last a long time, in case complications arise."


       "I see," Dean said. "Well, it shouldn't be too difficult, so long as they don't have to let anyone touch them... holographs that can be filmed aren't impossible, as we all know." Jane glared at Dean silently, but he continued. "It's going to require a lot of close-in modelling, though. Will the Prince allow that?"


       Lan shrugged. "We hope so... difficult to tell, though. There are a lot of cultural taboos that we don't know about, even after thirty years of relations with the Draconians. I'm hoping that he'll see that this is the only way."


       Dean nodded. "And the last one?"


       "About what's going on while they're gone? Thank you for reminding me."


       "About what?" Jane asked.


       "I have to go see a woman about a murder."


* * *


The communication was scrambled several times over, beamed off of signal re-routers, and piped through obscure wavelengths of transmission. Nonetheless, both parties continued to refer to events obliquely, or in codes. There was only one slip during the discussion, and neither side noticed. Unfortunately, the Imperial Internal Security Agents who monitored the conversation missed it as well, briefly losing the transmission as it shifted frequencies for exactly such a purpose. They managed to glean a great amount of information, but not quite enough.


       "Scalpel to Doctor; Scalpel to Doctor. The first incision was performed, and the first tumour has been removed — patient's progress is stable, as predicted." The agents had determined that 'Scalpel' was the code-name of an on-station element, but were unable to determine that element's function until after the Emperor's assassination. Now, of course, it was obvious. 'Doctor' was a reference to that element's backer on the home-world; the legendary 'Doctor' had been considered as a possible suspect, but dismissed due to lack of evidence and a basic modus operandi contradictory to that shown by the 'Doctor' so far.


       "Excellent," 'Doctor' said, his or her voice utterly obscured by various distortion programs. "And the disease?" The agents had already determined that 'the disease' referred to humans. One agent was removed from the surveillance program already for suggesting that the comparison might be a little too apt.


       "Showing signs of recession, but resisting all progress so far."


       "Unfortunate," 'Doctor' said, "but as predicted. You have prepared the injection, I presume?"


       "Indeed," 'Scalpel' said. "Within 72 hours, it should dissolve the remaining tissue quite nicely, clearing the way for healthy blood to flow." Here, the agents presumed, quite rightly, that the 'injection' referred to an attempt on the Prince's life, and sent instructions to activate one of their on-site covert counterintelligence agents. "Perfect," said 'Doctor'. "You will be richly rewarded for your act, you know." Here was where the agents lost the transmission, at exactly the worst point to do so.


       "No need for a reward, Baron Van," 'Scalpel' said, "not even one as rich as you can provide." The transmission was recaptured, but a little too late. "The health of the patient is all that matters to me."


* * *


The Captain transmatted back to his ship, his mind a haze of confusion in the aftermath of the assassination. To think that someone would be mad enough to smuggle in a weapon that could dissolve a man in an instant... he shuddered. He'd fought along the Draconians in the War, and despite the problems they had politically, they were damn good men to have on your side in a fight. And someone had simply wiped one out, like a smear on the wall.


       Something was familiar about that weapon, though, he thought. Something from his old days as a soldier. He thought he remembered it from somewhere, but wasn't sure quite where.


       As he entered the cockpit and began to methodically set the controls, it finally clicked. He'd seen it in a Dalek weapons lab — a focused plasma bomb. It was a weapon used by Dalek assassins, the subject of much Dalek pride for its lethality and untraceableness. It was a self-perpetuating semi-sentient nexus of lethal acids, kept at a state of near-invisible superheated plasma. It used the telepathic emanations of its controller to home in on its target and dissolve them.


       Of course, it also had a short range, he thought as he overrode the controls on the ship's reactor. Someone would have had to bring it on board the station in the first place. Which meant a Dalek agent would have had to have done it. The Daleks had all sorts of ways of planting agents, though. Negotiation, duplication...he'd heard there were even soldiers captured and released during the war, with suggestions implanted in their minds; brainwashed into acting as Dalek sleeper agents, they would carry out Dalek plans without even being aware that they had done so, then kill themselves when they were no longer necessary.


       He was still thinking this when the reactor overloaded, just as he'd commanded it to, and his ship disintegrated in a vast explosion.


* * *


Lan tapped on the entry pad of the chamber twice, in rapid succession. In response, the light turned green, and the door opened. Lan stepped in, still feeling very nervous.


       "Hello," he said as he entered, watching the woman in the room as she performed a series of katas with her swords, spinning them through a complicated and lethal dance inches from her face. The swords resembled a daisho, paired katana and wakizashi, although Lan knew that they were actually surrounded by atom-thin force-fields that enabled them to cut through steel... or a Dalek's armour. He also knew that she would have left the force-fields turned on, even for practice--she once told him it kept her from getting lazy.


       After a few moments, she easily sheathed the swords into the scabbards at her waist, tied on by a blood red sash that matched the skin-tight microweave armour she wore. She adjusted the sweatband that kept her thick, black hair out of her face, and looked over at him. "Lan," she said, with only a trace of her Japanese accent, "I am glad to see you again. I knew you would come."


       "As if I could stay away from you," he said. "After all, I do owe you my life."


       "That was a long time ago, Lan. We were both different people then. The Daleks have changed both of us, in our own ways."


       "For you, at least, it was a change for the better."


       "It is kind of you to believe that, at least. However, when I said I knew you would come, I was not referring to our friendship. I was referring to the recent troubles here on Krios."


       Lan sighed. "You do know me too well. I've been doing some investigating... my sources have told me that the assassination was the work of Dalek agents."


       The woman raised an eyebrow. "And your sources are?"


       Lan smirked. "Unimpeachable. It's Daleks, alright... and the murderer will probably strike again."


       "And you want me to stop them. Correct?"


       "You are a Dalek Killer, Ronin, are you not?"


       "It is what I have become."


       "It is what you were destined to be. You were... unsuited for the military disciplines."


       "I killed my commanding officer, you mean."


       "We both know why you did it. The man was an imbecile; he would have gotten all of you killed--"


       "It does not matter why I did it. The fact remains, I killed a man who had pledged his life to destroying the Daleks. I could not claim to be a part of civilization after that. I became Ronin, like the samurai of old. I can be nothing else now."


       Lan closed his eyes briefly, in silent sorrow. "I know." When they opened again, they were filled with an inner fire. "Then if you can be nothing but a Dalek Killer, be one now. Help me to find the person responsible for these acts."


       Ronin smiled cruelly, the fire in her eyes matching his own. "Very well," she said. "I shall find the slayer of aged and infirm men... and may the heavens help them then, for nothing else will."


---
To be continued...



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