Doctor Who: Royal Oak, Chapter Nine
By Hrolf Douglasson
“Yon… thing… canna move, Doctor,” whispered Tam as he hurried to the Time Lord’s side. “So if there’s another place we have tae gae tae… who’s in there doin’ all th’ work?”
“Probably more Slabs,” ruminated the Doctor, rubbing his chin. “But they’re not up to delicate work – or not without direction, at any rate.” He turned and looked back at the forlorn remnants of the Dalek. “Pitiful, isn’t it?” he murmured. “Just sitting there, unable to move, unable to stop us… unless…”
He suddenly ran back to the alien creature’s side. “You’re not planning on calling for help now, are you?” he asked accusingly. His head darted around like a cormorant looking for prey. Then he reached into the battered casing and dug around amid the slime and machinery. “I’ll just disconnect this…” he jerked something loose in the depths of the Dalek, bringing a squawk of protest from the creature. “And I think I’ll take that as well.” He withdrew his hand and looked almost happily at the slime and muck that covered it. “Now: that should’ve stopped you communicating with your little friends, shouldn’t it?” He turned back to Tam. “This ought to have disconnected the Slabs upstairs, too. I just hope none of your friends have suffered in the meantime.”
“They’ll be fine,” said Tam uncertainly. “Let’s get this finished, eh?”
The Doctor nodded approvingly. “Good man.” He jerked his head towards yet another doorway.
Tam had no idea what he had been expecting to find: vague thoughts of hospital-like surroundings seemed appropriate, with clean walls and lots of pipes and tubes and… stuff. Instead, he faced a partly-dismembered human corpse, just tossed on the floor without care, with a handful of grubby buckets and what looked like seed-trays clustered around it. They appeared to hold slices of flesh taken from the body – until Tam looked closer, and noticed that some of them appeared to have vestigial tentacles similar to those on the creature they had just left. Against one wall on a single ancient table were a handful of plastic containers with chemicals in them; lengths of plastic tube ran from some of these containers into some of the buckets holding what looked like more advanced specimens. A Slab stood motionless with a scalpel in its hand. The Doctor noted that last detail with satisfaction.
“Right then,” he said as he surveyed the scene. “We appear to have arrived at an early stage,” he went on, as much to himself as to Tam. “These are… well, they’re not really anything yet: just human DNA grafted onto Dalek – or maybe the other way round? Hard to tell; they’re very undeveloped. And they certainly don’t pose any threat to us… yet we have to dispose of them.”
“How’s that then, when you wouldna’ let me jus’ kill that other thing?”
“Even the Dalek eventually accepted it had no purpose,” answered the Doctor grimly. “It was developed enough to acknowledge its own free will; these things haven’t grown enough to even have much of a brain of their own yet. So the same rule doesn’t apply; besides, if these samples are left to grow and develop unhindered, they’ll just take up where their parent through there left off – and then it won’t just be the Orkney Islands that are in trouble. Do you want to have the death of your entire species on your hands, Tam?”
The farmer looked reluctantly into one of the buckets. “It moved!” he gasped as he jerked backwards suddenly. “It waved one of its… limbs…”
“That seals it, then,” replied the Doctor. “They have to be destroyed. Embryonic movement suggests embryonic brains after all; embryonic brains grow into big, real brains – and there’s not enough human tissue in there to let me even hope that those brains will be human. We’re looking at the next generation of Daleks, and these ones won’t be so crippled as the one in the other room.”
Tam reached into his boilersuit and pulled out a cheap lighter. “I reckon there’s enough chemical in here to start a fire,” he said uncertainly. “Don’t go tellin’ me these things would be immune to bein’ burned…”
The Doctor shook his head. “Fire is good,” he said curtly. “Fire is good.”