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


Chapter 6
"As Far As We Know"
by Paul Andinach


---


The room where they met was undetectable to any surveillance equipment known to Human or Draconian science; shielded against all known electromagnetic waves.


       It was not supposed to be there. The companies that had laboriously constructed Krios had not built it. And - it was larger than it possibly could have been...


       "I see you are awake," said the man behind the desk. His voice was smooth, gentle — calculatedly soothing.


       This time, Lan went straight for his blaster without wasting time staring. It wasn't there, of course.


       "Come now," said Galt with a slight smile. "Do you really think I'd let you shoot me before I had a chance to apologise?"


       "Apologise? You lie to me, you deal with the Daleks, you cause three deaths--"


       "Only three? Then you do not count the captain of the ship that your salvage teams are still gathering pieces of?"


       "No. Why should I?"


       "It was he who brought the assassin's weapon to this system."


* * *


Once again the signal was scrambled, bounced, piped, encoded. Once again, Imperial Internal Security agents listened with interest.


       "And how is the patient?" asked 'Doctor'.


       "Complications have set in," replied 'Scalpel'.


       "Indeed? The operation appeared successful."


       "A mistake was made," admitted 'Scalpel'. "The excised tissue was diseased, but no real danger to the patient. The tumour was unaffected."


       The surveillance agents exchanged glances. If they'd interpreted the code correctly, a Human had been killed in mistake for the Prince. The explanation for that must be interesting.


       After a pause, 'Doctor' spoke again. "Steps must be taken to ensure that this setback does not do the patient permanent harm. Listen carefully..."


* * *


"He can't have smuggled the weapon aboard. Nobody from that ship came near Krios without being searched, scanned, and sterilized."


       "He did not smuggle it aboard."


       "You said--"


       "That he brought the weapon into the system. A Dalek focused plasma bomb is independently mobile, and can be remotely controlled. Once it was within contact range of its operator, it left the ship and found its own way into the station."


       "Undetected."


       "If a space station's sensors tripped an alarm for every small gas cloud that passed, the security personnel would never get any sleep."


       "And this is what you dealt with the Daleks for? A weapon that could get past the security precautions?"


       "That and the courier, yes. The captain's life was actually prolonged by these circumstances. Had I not gone back to arrange for an agent, he would be just another soldier who died in the Dalek War."


       "And the Emperor?" asked Lan, sourly. "I doubt his life was in any way prolonged by assassination."


       Galt shrugged. "A difference of hours, Administrator. Days, perhaps, but no more. There are elements in the Draconian government who did not see eye- to-eye with the late Emperor on certain issues. Their reaction to the speech he planned to make here would have plunged the Draconian Empire into bloody civil war — with disastrous results for the future of the galaxy."


* * *


"Deputy Jou, the Draconian cruiser 'Lita' is requesting permission to dock."


       "Can't you tell them to get lost?"


       "It's a Draconian noble's personal transport, Deputy Administrator."


       "Are they aware that no ships will be allowed to leave the station until this mess is sorted out?"


       "They have been informed. The reply indicated willingness to accept our hospitality for as long as necessary, and promised compliance with any security measures necessary."


       "They are aware of the decontamination procedures, right?"


       "I do not believe the subject was specifically mentioned, Deputy Administrator, but they did say *any* security procedures..."


       Jou smiled, for the first time in days. "Docking permission granted."


* * *


"What could the Emperor have said to get his people that upset?"


       "It does not matter now. The moment is past." Galt smiled slightly. "And I feel that knowing would not really make you happy."


       "Well, all right." Lan paused, then another thought struck him. "But why did the assassin go after Gamn O'ke as well? He was just a businessman." "Not just a businessman, Administrator. He was the head of one of Earth's largest and most successful security companies. He had many contacts who kept him notified of the latest advances in security-decreasing technology. Bugs, lockpicks... weapons. He would have recognised the Dalek weapon for what it was." "So you told the assassin to get rid of him?"


       "Actually, no. It was the assassin's own idea. You see, Gamn O'ke learned of the focused plasma bomb from one of his contacts, a minor Draconian nobleman. This same nobleman happens to be in the Imperial party currently aboard the station."


       "The assassin."


       "Yes."


* * *


Aryl, high advisor to the late Emperor of the Draconian Empire, paced down a corridor and worried. The Prince still refused to be convinced that accepting the Humans' help was the safer course of action.


       "My lord?"


       He looked up. He was being approached by another of the Draconians who had come to the station with the Emperor, one of the gaggle of minor nobility who always seemed to accompany the Emperor everywhere.


       "Yes?"


       "May I speak with you a moment, somewhere private? It is a matter of some urgency."


* * *


"Something I still don't get," said Lan. "Why go to these ridiculous lengths? Why run the risk of involving the Daleks? You could have just popped in, shot the Emperor, and popped out again."


       "And started a war more devastating than the one I sought to prevent. Humans and Draconians would have blamed each other, and there would be no evidence to prove either side wrong. Besides - as you said yourself, Administrator, when we first met - Time Lords never become involved in the affairs of other races."


       "You seem pretty involved to me."


       "Really? Where is the evidence? These events can, and will, be explained without needing to look for my involvement. A political fanatic gets another, lower ranking, political fanatic to deal with a common enemy. They procure the aid of the Daleks, who hope to profit from the ensuing dissention and confusion. Such an alliance was unwise, perhaps, but I'm sure they had their reasons."


       "Ah," said Lan, "but how to explain the hand a friend of mine found in a hold full of dead Daleks, which is even now carefully stored in medbay?" Galt's face stiffened, and Lan realized that the Time Lord had been keeping his forearms hidden below desk level the entire time since the conversation began.


       After a moment Galt relaxed. "Easy enough. I will take it with me when I leave, and there will be nothing left to require explanation." "Leave?"


       "Of course. My task is completed. War has been averted. The consequences of Alnor's death will proceed unhindered. I--"


       "Hang on. You say that as if Alnor's death was part of the plan all along."


       Galt chuckled. "Surely you didn't think that it was by accident that the disguises were swapped? Be sure not to tell his colleague and her friend, though; their part of the future requires that they react normally... but enough of this. Time to say goodbye, Administrator."


       "Nice of you to hang around and help us clean up the mess you made," said Lan sarcastically. "You will not require my assistance. A Draconian assassin is not so much, after all."


       "There's still the matter of the Dalek fleet you left wandering around out there somewhere. You're just going to leave it there?"


       "Goodbye, Administrator."


* * *


Suddenly, Lan was back in his office.


       The entry chime was ringing. Lan opened the door, to find Aryl standing there with another Draconian he didn't recognise.


       "We have come to offer a pooling of resources," said Aryl. "As a token of our sincerity, I give you the knowledge that we believe our beloved Emperor was assassinated by a Draconian."


       Without a word, Lan ushered them into his office and shut the door.


       "You seem less surprised than one might expect," observed the second Draconian when they were seated.


       "To be frank," said Lan, "we had already come to the same conclusion, but we felt it would be undiplomatic to suggest the idea first."


       "Very wise," commented Aryl. "Now, to business. Whenever the Emperor travels, Internal Security agents travel as part of his retinue. He does not know which of his retinue they are. I do not know. Only they know, unless it becomes necessary to break their cover. A few minutes ago, Administrator, this noble approached me and identified himself as one of these agents."


       Lan nodded. "Why make yourself known now, when the Emperor's death does not seem to have been sufficient?"


       "We can deal with such situations better if we remain unknown," said the unnamed Draconian. "That assumption occasionally leads to situations where we miss improvisations like the Prince's recent voyage - as minor nobles, we were of course not informed of the substitution - but for now, we remain anonymous. You will not meet my colleagues. I only made myself known in order to deliver a message."


       "And this message is?"


       "Internal Security agents have monitored a number of conversations between the assassin and his backer, disguised by medical terminology. The assassin is 'Scalpel', his backer is 'Doctor', and the Prince is a 'tumour' that endangers their cause... The 'Doctor' has become concerned with his tool's lack of progress in removing the tumour, and has decided that he will come and supervise the next operation in person."


---
To be continued...



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