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


Chapter 5
"Masks & Swords"
by David "Arclight" Kiel


---


The massive space station glimmered in the running lights of 1200 ships. They swarmed the length of the station, the greatest ever built. The activity made it seem almost a living thing. A great king of ages past with retainers, attendants and guards each intent on it's own duties. That sense of life belied the truth. Krios stood on the edge of destruction, eighty Earth warships matched a similar number of Draconian craft awaiting the word to begin a war that could end the Galactic Federation.


       A battle that would leave Krios a gutted wreck, one week after its commissioning.


       Two hundred kilometres distant from the behemoth a small grey-black craft waited and watched. A lone woman sat at the com watching display readings from the passive sensor array. She dared not use the active sensors lest she frighten away her quarry. An assassin, a terrorist armed with Dalek technology had slain the Draconian emperor at the height of the opening ceremonies, and disappeared without a trace.


       There were two ways off the station. Airlocks and transmat, both monitored by state of the art security protocol. Everyone entering or leaving the station was recorded and their bio-file stored in memory. For four days the small ship had recorded transmat activity around the station, comparing the results to the official record.


       Ronin brushed her long black hair back, pausing the display to stretch muscles tight with hours of tedium. Lan was searching the airlock entry scans. Ronin resumed the display as coordinates were matched to bio-recordings, a display that seemed endless. The worst part of the search was its inherent uncertainty. She wasn't even sure what it was she was looking for. Something unusual, a statistical anomaly...


       The display froze and Ronin leaned forward, a sudden gleam in her eyes. Her hands raced over the keyboard and the search parameters narrowed, the data was refined. Something unusual, a statistical anomaly. One hundred forty-six separate transmat vectors converging on the same point deep within the station's sub-systems. She ordered a crosscheck to the transmat bio-scans. She smiled, eyes sparkling with quiet triumph. The screen flashed three words: no matches found.


       Ronin rose from her chair and walked to the weapons hold, to where her swords and armour had waited patiently. "Computer, set transmat coordinates to match vector conversion point."


       >Coordinates matched and set<


       She reached for the thin woven but powerful armour and glanced back at the display. Finally, a chance to do something. Time was running short, if she couldn't find the assassin, Krios would burn.


* * *


Dean Alexias leaned back in his chair and watched. Alnor and Jane paced back and forth across the reception chamber. Motive visual displays refined and matrixed their motion patterns. A small green glow arose from belt mounted transmitters and slowly the two human reporters were obscured. Their forms faded into obscurity masked behind a shapeless green mist, the mist began to organize itself into small patterns, the patterns joined and the forms grew texture, the texture grew distinct and sharpened.


       Where two reporters had been pacing a moment before stood the Crown Prince of Draconia and his senior advisor Aryl. They were perfectly rendered, designed to match the position and stance of the humans they overlaid. Designed in fact a little too well.


       A visibly shocked heir to the Draconian Empire whistled and addressed his senior aide. "Damn, Alnor, you make one ugly advisor."


       Lan rubbed his temples as he watched the most powerful Draconian alive stare at her hands with the same rapt fascination one would give a poisonous Krallen discovered napping in your bed sheets. By the time high advisor Aryl began a close examination of his left foot Lan had had quite enough. "Oh for the love of..."


       "Relax, commander." Alexias interjected. "We have a few hours before the Draconian flagship is ready to depart. I'm sure they will both improve dramatically upon this first performance."


       "God I hope so." The commander of the grand but imperilled station did not seem convinced as he watched the heart of the Draconian high command point and giggle at each other in front of the floor length mirror.


* * *


Ronin crept through the darkened hold. She had materialized in storage hold j77-mx32b. It was a large area dedicated to obsolete construction materials — no doubt slated for removal on a timely calendar probably within the next decade or so. Netting covered stacks of trim and wallplates. A maze of narrow corridors wove through the abandoned materials.


       She heard the muffled sound of a voice, an unmistakable mechanically enhanced grating noise. Ronin moved swiftly, positioning herself within hearing range. A small corner of the storage area was lit dimly. She peered in and found a single Draconian standing in front of a Dalek.


       "Phase two is ready to begin."


       "The orders have not yet been given." The Dalek was cabled to a computer port and capable of only limited movement. Ronin risked a glance around for more; a single unprotected Dalek seemed unusual.


       "They cannot be allowed to board the flagship. The security there is too strong."


       "You will obey."


       "You don't understand..."


       "You will wait for instructions and you will obey."


       "I am the Draconian liaison to..."


       "You are a servant of the Daleks. Your function is to obey. You will obey or you will be exterminated."


       The Draconian stalked away in anger. Stopping ten meters short of the door. His hands clenching and unclenching as he stood glowering at the wall. "You don't appreciate the finer nuances of my plan. The prince's assassination on board the flagship will be much harder to pin on the humans."


       The Draconian turned to continue his argument, stopping in shock to watch Ronin pull the slightly curved blade of a katana from the lifeless Dalek shell.


       "Allow me to introduce myself." The woman moved smoothly with the grace of a trained killer. "I am Ronin. I kill Daleks."


       The Draconian backed slowly towards the exit eyes never straying from the human woman.


       "Normally, friend, I also kill those who aid the Daleks. Fortunately for you, the governments of both our nations desire to speak with you. I'd imagine there will be implements involved in those discussions."


       "The Draconian government will soon have a new direction: the extinction of your foul federation." In a blur his hand rose and fired a shot into the human's chest.


       Ronin looked down as the projectile clattered to the floor the momentum having been absorbed by her armour. "I told you, friend, I kill Daleks. I'm more familiar with that particular weapon than you'd imagine. Now turn around and march or I'll cut your leg off and drag you behind me."


       A blast of energy tore into her shoulder, driving Ronin to the floor. She vaguely heard the footfalls of the assassin as he fled through the door. Rolling onto her back she watched as three Dalek guards glided forward from a transmat pad. It had been hidden in the darkness to the left of the comp unit. Now it was blinking and active as another three Daleks began materializing.


       "Intruder alert! Intruder alert! The Human must be exterminated!"


* * *


Alexias crouched over the monitor, adding some final enhancements to the holomodel. He was very proud of them, he wasn't sure how long they'd fool the Draconians but they'd certainly fool everyone else.


       "Dean." He looked up at Jane; she had that worried expression. He loved that expression; it made him want to reach for her, to comfort her.


       "I'm sure you'll be okay, Jane. They have a lot of security here, they really want to catch this assassin..."


       "I'm not worried about that."


       "You aren't?"


       "No. I'm sort of excited. It's so amazing, and such a great story." She stopped short, noticing Dean's frown. "It's you, Dean. I'm worried about you."


       "Me. You're worried about me?"


       "Yes. I'm sorry. You know how much my career means to me, that scandal could have destroyed me."


       "I know." He looked into her eyes, they were so different here. "I just thought I meant as much. At least I hoped I did."


       "I'm sorry, I thought we could..."


       "I love you. You love your work." He handed the completed projector belts to Jane. "Here, go get your story."


* * *


Ronin limped down a dark alley between stacked materials. Her leg burned, her left arm hung useless, the wakizashi still embedded in the Dalek who shot her. Her armour conducted most of the energy away but Dalek weaponry was formidable; her shoulder was blistering from the disruptive energies. She stopped for a moment to activate the medpack. The cooling burst of adrenaline and anti-toxins flooded her system. Bio-injectors woven right into the form-fitting suit deadened pain receptors. The injuries were still there but for the moment she was ready to fight.


       She had taken shots to her arm and leg before rolling clear of the first three. She had taken two of the next three out, the vibrating molecular edge of her Katana cutting through Dalek armour with a high metallic scream. It would cut silently through normal metal, or through the triple vents just below the Daleks head. She had just plunged the wakazashi into the second when a shot from the third hammered into her hip. Rolling along the floor she retreated down the alley.


       She activated the recall circuit and waited for transmat. Nothing happened. She opened com links to station security and her ship computer. A sharp burst of static flooded the channels. She wasn't getting out of this easily. With a last gasp she pushed away from the pallet she'd been leaning on and sprinted back towards the transmat.


       She burst from the darkness into the midst of five Dalek units. Her sword screaming as it bit through Dalek armour, decapitating the first, impaling the second.


       "Unit under attack!" The second one screamed its protest dying as she ripped her sword free. The occupant of the battle-pod thrashed, its lifeblood spewing from the vents.


       As one Dalek turned to aim, she leapt behind another, laughing as it erupted in flames from the blast. She grabbed the fourth, carefully snipping one attachment at the base of its weapon mount. Using it as a shield from the last one she pushed it onto the transmat pad. She let go and backed away, keeping Dalek four between her and Dalek five. Suddenly back in control it turned and levelled it's disrupter at the human. Ronin dove for cover as it detonated, shattering the transmat in the blast.


       The stacks shielded her from most of the explosive force, her armour absorbed most of the rest. She pulled herself into a sitting position and reactivated the medpack. A second burst of adrenaline and she pulled herself to her feet. The Daleks would have no more reinforcements; they were going to be in a lot of trouble.


       >here at docking port alpha prime as the Prince of Draconia is preparing to disembark aboard the Royal Dracos, flagship of the imperial fleet...<


       Ronin turned and stared. Passed the shattered transmat where the last of its five guards was spinning helplessly, it's eyestalk and weaponry blown off in the explosion. One of the four remaining Daleks had replaced the one she had killed at the computer and linked to the station newsfeed. The Daleks paid her no attention gazing up at the vidscreen. She decided not to waste any more time wondering about this sudden new Dalek behaviour and strode forward to send them all to Dalek hell.


       The last pallet before the computer opened. What had been a neat stack of deck plating, unfolded outward, twin doors designed to resemble stacked deckplates swung open and out rolled two white Daleks flanking a single silver haired human. Her sword flashed, darting forward she impaled the first unit. Unable to fire through the human the second made the mistake of approaching. She cut it's weapon free with one slash, arced the sword around to cut the human in half and returned to drive it through the white armour and into the Dalek inside.


       "An impressive weapon, young lady."


       Ronin spun in shock, leaving the Katana buried in the dying Dalek. The human was still alive. The same sword that ripped through Dalek armour had not been able to mark the white and gold suit of this stranger. A thousand questions blurred into one bewildered response. "The hell?"


       "Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Galt. I am a Time Lord."


* * *


Dean Alexias sat behind a monitor board scrutinizing his work. Jane and Alnor stood in the reception line and moved slowly toward the primary airlock where the Royal Dracos awaited them. The holograms were perfect; every one of the onlookers and an untold galactic audience saw the Prince and his primary Advisor moving slowly through the crowd.


       Security personnel babbled around him. Each was searching a separate section of the crowd for anything. Forty-six more reporters had been detained in the last half-hour. Anything even remotely suspicious was checked and re-checked. Jane and Alnor approached the airlock, to Deans ever increasing relief. He knew the plan was to get the assassin to make an attempt. But with Jane playing the Prince of Draconia he really hoped the plan would fail.


       Something vaguely familiar caught his eye. He turned to a monitor showing the second viewing level. There was something, a handful of human reporters pointing various recording devices at the ceremonial procession. A man in black coveralls with a holo cam.


       Alexias reached the controls and zoomed the monitor. He came in tight on the black clad human reporter, panning down his body. He stopped at the mans left arm, where it merged slightly with the reporter he was standing next to. A slight blue tinge where the two arms momentarily co-existed.


       Deans scream was drowned out as a shot echoed across the audience chamber and the Prince of Draconia slumped to the floor. Space station Krios was silent for a single moment. Then came a frenetic explosion of activity. Dean sprinted for the exit, raced down the stairs and ran headlong into a throng of security personnel. The Draconian procession had reversed direction and flowed out of the audience chamber, carrying Dean with it.


* * *


"I must say I'm very impressed, miss. But, I'm afraid I cannot let you disrupt my plan any further."


       "Your plan."


       "Yes, and don't bother asking for details, I assure you it's quite beyond your simple comprehension."


       "I see a Time Lord lapdog to the Daleks, how's that for comprehension."


       "They are a tool, dear girl, a means to an end. Ah, right on schedule."


       Ronin turned to the screen in time to watch the Prince fall. She took a few abortive steps in the screens direction, having been told enough of the plan to realize that a very brave woman had just died. "What possible end could that be the means to!"


       "A very nice shot, I must say. Cut the transmission booster and evacuate this location."


       "We obey."


       "I do apologize but I cannot let you continue in this reality. You might make it too difficult for me to shape." The silver haired figure pulled a thin metal wand from his suit jacket. "But, you may rest assured that your death will, in a small way, help change the course of history."


       Ronin mumbled to herself backing away from the Time Lord and his strange but no doubt lethal device. Galt levelled the device and fired. Ronin vanished. "A minor road bump, but the plan remains intact." Galt straightened his suit and replaced the weapon. "Destroy all evidence of our presence here and report to your ship."


       "We obey."


       Galt turned to re-enter his stack of deckplates as Ronin reappeared, pulling her katana from the white Dalek. Galt drew his weapon once again, but the woman was too fast. She cut his hand off at the wrist. He screamed, falling back towards his door while clutching the remains of his arm.


       "Intruder!"


       "Exterminate!"


       Ronin dove for cover as the Daleks fired. She looked up to see the grey haired Time Lord flee into the deckplates. Retreating from the area, she contacted station security and reset the transmat recall. In an instant she was aboard her ship directing all active and passive sensors on the storage bay. The deckplate/device had dematerialised without any trace. She activated a transmat dispersal beam and flooded the bay. There would be evidence to back up her story.


       Falling into her chair, she wiped sweat-drenched hair from her eyes. When Galt had ordered the Dalek transmitter shut down the Daleks had obeyed instantly, and instantly removed a source of broad based communication interference. Dalek efficiency had saved her life. She had activated the transmat recall and returned to try to get the Time Lord.


       Now if she could only trace their transmission. She had a bad feeling that the other end of that broadcast was a large Dalek fleet.


* * *


Dean searched the throng of faces, mostly Draconian, for any sign of Jane. Why had he gone along with this suicidal plan? He loved her and now he had helped to kill her.


       He pushed his way past security officials, through throngs of Draconian troops checking and double-checking every face. The Prince was present issuing commands, not his prince, the real one. The presence of their leader had been the only thing preventing the Honour Guard from starting the war in this very room.


       And then he saw her.


       She was standing, looking very small and very frightened. All but ignored in a corner of the chamber. He pushed through, shouting her name over the crowd of voices.


       She turned just as he pressed through the last throng.


       "Oh, god. Dean." Her face was streaked with tears.


       "You're alive." He held her, needing to reassure him that she was real.


       "I... I... Oh god."


       "What, what is it?"


       "I mixed up the belts. I g-gave him the wrong one."


       "I don't understand."


       "Alnor's dead. Oh, Dean. It's all my fault."


* * *


Lan stared out at the sweep of stars. The plan had failed. Alexias had confirmed that the assassin was a holomodel, they still had no idea who it was. According to Ronin's report the assassin was Draconian but without proof even making the statement would be inflammatory. The prince had doubled his royal guard and was not likely to be receptive to future cooperation.


       A personal tour of a storage room full of wrecked Daleks had convinced the Draconians to give him a little more time. He only hoped that the station could trace that signal. The door opened and Ronin walked in.


       "Do we have a location."


       "Not yet."


       "I wish I knew what to do. I feel like the galaxy is unravelling around me. I am not going down in history as the man who started the war."


       "The prince is still alive. All things considered I'm betting that we get another shot."


       "You're sure it was the Time Lord."


       "Yes. And that's what worries me."


       "He's only one man. We will defeat him."


       "I'm not afraid of facing him. I'm afraid that whatever we do might be exactly what he wanted us to do."


       Lan turned back to the window. He looked out at the stars, somewhere out there his enemy waited. The stars had never looked so cold.


---
To be continued...



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