Some worlds make history; the ones pulsing with life and curiosity, with movement and exploration. Others become frozen into myth and legend when apathy or the inevitable heat death of civilizations kills them.
There are other worlds — twisted by belief or ideology, perhaps paralyzed by wars or natural disasters — who whirl about their suns, balanced between life and death without even knowing it.
Falling back into reality after the Time War, a lone Dalek commander found itself in the dark places, tasked by its own DNA with the geas of survival. It followed the misbegotten homing instinct of all its kind and turned its attention to Earth.
It discovered, when it investigated, the waning days of the First Great and Bountiful Empire. And it was repulsed by all that human potential. Humanity’s yearning for diversity, for contact beyond itself, was just more proof that this species comprised the miscegenetic demons of Dalek nightmare.
But Daleks need nightmares; never more so than one survivor, determined to create more.
When the generation ship An-Fang, filled with a new world’s worth of hopeful pioneers, moved into the extra-system wastes beyond Sol’s outliers, the commander was waiting. It returned to the dark places with a vast and useful vacuum-proof hulk, emptied of all but a few score stunned and traumatized children.
Its intention was simple. Some would be sheep, some goats; some rendered into Dalek purity, the rest remaindered as human slaves. The long journey to universal Dalek domination would require both.
In the light of Sol, humanity throve, and the An-fang’s silence was simply due to the tyranny of interstellar distance, as far as Earth was concerned. Other generation ships headed out; luckier ships who passed by the dark places and found new worlds. Human seeds scattered across the stars, and grew up among others growing there already. Human and non-human met, mingled, fought, killed, died, discovered, loved and begat in love, enriching each other, and living, always living.
In the dark places, aboard what remained of the An-fang, the Dalek commander loathed such immense wrongness. Destroying humanity must be its first mission, en route to victory.
But the Dalek commander was afraid.
It alone retained Dalek memory . It alone knew the curse of Dalek history, alone bore the knowledge that Daleks had been defeated, repeatedly, by humanity.
Daleks failed. They always failed. No complete victory, just repeated stumbling at the portal of Earth, a miserable, unconquerable country.The commander could not comprehend that enormity, that history of reiterated disaster.
The failure almost always reeked of Gallifrey. The commander hated the memory of Gallifrey, and feared the prodigal Gallifreyan, the destroyer of Daleks who protected humanity. It shivered in fear and rage out there in the dark places, wondering if the Gallifreyan had survived.
The commander slaughtered children to relieve its anxieties, took their flesh and built itself subordinates. It ordered its new Dalek servants — the start of the new Dalek universe — to obey, to replicate, to command slaves and to build ships until it returned. Then it retreated into itself and fell silent for a century. Perhaps it dreamed.
For a century, its servants waited, commanding the human slaves who were still their distant relatives. Human children grew up hating and fearing their masters, calling them devils and monsters. But they were fed and maintained by those monsters, and even a kicked dog looks to its master for life.
There came a generation of An-Fang humans in whom hate had turned to awe, fear to worship. The Daleks learned those words, and a few more.
When the Dalek commander awoke, it was still stymied. But it was received by servants and slaves alike as holy. Perhaps it had dreamed of something like this. It accepted their worship, and wove itself a fearful orthodoxy in reply. It accepted the name of God. It taught its creatures the gospel of negation. The journey to universal dominance became a crusade toward heaven.
The First Empire fell in the worldwide burning that took both the court and the Arctic Dancers, but humanity — humanish and otherwise — continued. Eventually, the discovery of faster than light travel, Space High and Space Low, led to African Albion, the Second Great and Bountiful Empire. Presiding over a growing net of worlds, African Albion was the greatest centralized democracy of humanity’s history, and the Commonwealth of System Parliaments of which it was the shining jewel steered humans toward more and more contact with Otherkind. The Second Empire fell, after the Grand Committee to Join Otherkind was betrayed by anti-democratic xenophobes. Then came the Tribunals, and the old commonwealth became the vast and horrific Commonwealth of Humanity.
In the dark places, God saw the retreat of humanity to isolation, and was inspired.
God called its servants and its slaves to it, to preach the newest gospel.
Earth is protected as long as it is sheltered by Otherkind, it told its creatures; humanity is strong, so long as it is tied to Otherkind. So we shall strip humans of shelter, cut their ties and leave them all alone in the universe. Humanity will become weak again, weak as infants, weak as stragglers cut from their herds and brought down by hyenas.
We will come out of the dark places, it decreed. The slaves of God will return to humanity. They will sow the seeds of weakness and fear. Slowly, slowly, patiently, they will nourish rot at the heart of humankind , and they will reap despair. And when humans are weakest, when they are the most isolated and self destructive, the Holy Dalek Empire will rise. It will erase humanity, then turn its holy sights on Otherkind, Then it will reign supreme and alone in a blessedly sterile earthly heaven. And surely, it did not say, there will be no Gallifreyan interloper to dispute the word of God.
God’s creatures prepared. While Beijing rebuilt, and brought The Third Great and Bountiful Empire to bear as the New Middle Kingdom, they prepared. When the Middle Kingdom fell, as all empires do, they moved.
The lost children of An-Fang returned to Sol. The Fourth Great and Bountiful Empire welcomed them, took them to its breast. They tried to kill it, and very nearly did.
Some empires make history; the ones pulsing with life and curiosity, with movement and exploration. Others become frozen into myth and legend when apathy or the inevitable heat death of civilizations kills them.
There are other empires — twisted by belief or ideology, perhaps paralyzed by wars or natural disasters or fear-mongering saboteurs — who whirl about their countless suns, balanced between life and death without even knowing it.
And sometimes, they are rescued from the brink, by travellers, and wolves, and blind oracles who remember old alliances.
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