A steady, almost rhythmic heartbeat…
“Time scanners register temporal movement. The TARDIS has left the Earth once more.”
A single white pupil dilated. “Lock onto its movements! The Taranium core must be recovered!”
As the drone glided to rest beside a control bank, the leader remained where it sat, dome rotating, it’s eyestalk observing all that went on around it. Inside the shell, a green mass bubbled to itself, a scrawny claw pushing aside the voice synthesiser. Used to clutching at levers and at straws, the Dalek mutant sat still, external lungs fibrillating. It could go to sleep now if it wanted to. The journey would take time, and none of its inferiors would notice the lack of mobile activity from their commander. It debated and decided, and began to feel consciousness slipping away…
Even Daleks snore, sometimes.
However, now was not going to be the time. The Dalek was cruelly yanked from the yawning jaws of slumber by the face of the Earth creature, gazing into its mechanical eye, strange furry ocular ridges rising. The arrogant one. Rage filled the Dalek, and it reached forth immediately for the trigger. Stopped. Considered. Not yet. The urge was so strong, but it knew that it could not do it yet. Instead, it contented, if that is the correct word, itself with precipitating the ejection of small beads of liquid from the forehead of the creature, an action which required no more than a single grating word.
Mavic Chen stepped back involuntarily, a hand raised in a defensive gesture. He mentally chastised himself for this show of weakness, and straightened his back, attempting to look as imposing as he could. He knew the Daleks could be tamed with superior force. He knew.
“I see that you’ve finally managed to locate the Doctor’s time machine?”
“It has been located and is being followed now.”
“Initiative! Well done!” Chen smiled, and ran a clawed finger down his left cheek. “This unit has obviously earned its stripes — or spots, perhaps.” He laughed at his own joke.
The Dalek stared, and said nothing. Chen followed suit for a few seconds, before his nerves began to chafe against his confidence. He raised an eyebrow, and looked away, pretending to gaze around the control room of the Dalek ship. A thought occurred to him, and he amused himself with the thought of vocalising it.
“I hear that you have met this Doctor before.”
“The Daleks have encountered him many times.”
“Why is it that he always seems to get the upper hand?” Chen turned back, battling to radiate a neutral countenance. No reply. “Hmm?”
“DO NOT BE INSOLENT! YOU, CHEN, ARE NOT FREE OF MISTAKES YOURSELF!"
“Then you admit that the Daleks have made mistakes?”
Without warning, the Dalek sped forth and spun sharply, catching him with its arm. Chen reeled, and fell to the floor, the breath knocked from his body. Coughing and spluttering, he gazed up in shock at the Dalek that now towered above him, eye staring and gun trained.
“REMEMBER WHERE YOUR ALLEGIANCES LIE, CHEN. YOU ARE A SERRRRVANT. NOTHING MORE.”
The Dalek rolled away.
The Doctor stepped out from the TARDIS, and surveyed his surroundings. Facing him was a small stone wall and an open picket gate, with a path passing through it and curving to a point that he could not yet see. He smelt the air, and breathed in deeply, emitting a happy laugh. “Ah yes, yes yes…”
“Is it safe to come out?” a voice called from somewhere within the blue box.
“I should say so, my boy, for the moment.”
He was joined first by a young man wearing a plain coloured shirt and a thick cord coat, who looked about with barely suppressed scepticism at practically everything, and then by a young, attractive woman dressed in the manner of a guard or soldier. To the Doctor’s relief, this image was no longer complemented by the presence of a gun. Sara closed the door as she stepped through it and onto the grass. Eyes swivelled suspiciously, her training as an SSS agent not having been forgotten despite recent trips through time and space. The Doctor watched her, and sighed.
“My dear, do stop being so apprehensive! Dear me, you’ll be finding menace in your own shadow next…”
Sara went to respond but was silenced by the Doctor turning his back on her almost immediately. She tried to suppress her irritation, and merely seethed at him, much to Steven’s amusement, who smiled at her, tongue in cheek. He ventured to speak to the strange old man.
“What were you laughing at just now?”
“You were laughing, just now. When we were inside.”
“Oh, I was just taking in the air.” The Doctor gestured at nothing at all. “So clean and refreshing! Not like your London!”
“My London? Doctor, I’ve got nothing to do-”
“Good gracious, I’m glad to be away from there!”
“Any longer and I would likely have been absolutely contaminated, poisoned or something, hm hm…”
“Doctor, do you listen to a word we say?”
“Yes, yes… Hmm?” The Doctor looked up at him, face devoid of expression. He looked momentarily confused as if he’d completely forgotten what on Earth he was doing there. “Is that door closed?”
Sara crossed her arms. “Yes, Doctor.”
A smile. “Good, good! Come along, come along!” The flame inside him burning once more, the Doctor began to walk away, poking at the ground with his cane, looking all the world like some sort of Edwardian nature rambler. Sara made to follow when he suddenly halted, almost causing her to collide into the back of him. “But we should leave here as quickly as possible, after all we’ll probably have those Daleks on our tails soon enough...”
“Then surely,” Steven deliberated, “It would be better if we just left in the TARDIS straight away?” He heard only a mumbled reply in return. “Well?”
“Oh what is he talking about now?” the Doctor spluttered, throwing his hands in the air. “No sense of, of… Whatever it is, we’re here now, aren’t you interested in where we are?”
“Yes,” Sara hissed, “But so are the Daleks.”
“And in that case we shall leave before they arrive! Dear me, you don’t think I’d stay here if I ever doubted for one moment our safety, do you? Not to mention the safety of innocent lives, if there are any, and that cottage over yonder suggests that there is, so let’s stop all this fuss…” Still rambling to himself, the Doctor pottered away, leaving them to play catch up. And they had only been walking for scant seconds before Steven tripped up over a big sparkly thing.
“Argh!” he cried as he crashed to the floor, getting grass stains on his coat to add to the mud and singed edges. He rolled over onto his back and sat up, cradling his bruised knee, drawing in breath through gritted teeth. He felt a hand on his shoulder.
“My boy, you really should be careful, y’know. Have you hurt yourself?”
Steven felt around the bone, and winced slightly. “Not badly.”
“Then for heaven’s sake get up!” Despite his words, the Doctor’s tone was gentle and caring. Probably. Steven rolled his eyes and used his good leg to lever himself up off the floor. As he did so, his eyes alighted on the obstruction that had caused his fall.
It was an oval-shaped object, golden, if slightly crinkled, no more than a foot long. Sara knelt down beside it, and ran her fingers over its surface. “Doctor, what is it?”
The Doctor took out his monocle and squinted. “Yes, yes… Unless I’m very much mistaken it looks rather like an egg to me.”
“Mmm. Hand it to me, would you?”
Sara shrugged her shoulders, and cupped her hands around the object. As she lifted it from the ground, her tone took on faint curiosity. “Doctor, it hardly weighs anything at all, look.” She effortlessly held it up for him, and, having pocketed the monocle, the Doctor held the egg aloft, examining it silently in what Sara and Steven suspected was probably excruciating detail. Nobody spoke. The Doctor tossed the egg from hand to hand, brow creased. And then: realisation! To their surprise, the Doctor chuckled and began to tear the egg down the middle.
“Doctor, is that… foil?”
“Yes!” His voice full of amusement, the Doctor’s laugh built up inside him, that time when his companions often doubted his sanity. Then he pressed down hard on the egg with his thumb, broke the brown surface, and put a section of it inside his mouth, chewing it with delight. “Chocolate! Hm-hm!”
His companions stared at him with bewilderment. “Chocolate?”
“Yes, yes, most certainly so! Would you like a bit?” The Doctor proffered a piece of the chocolate eggshell to Steven, who declined.
“Doctor, that’s not healthy. I mean it’s been lying around in a field for goodness knows how long-”
“Oh rubbish, rubbish!” The Doctor popped another piece into his mouth, and beamed. “You know I haven’t eaten anything like this in a long time, I’d almost forgotten how good it tasted…” As he giggled, Sara put her hands on her hips.
“Now that you’ve satiated your appetite, do you think we might get back to the TARDIS?”
The Doctor stopped eating, and looked genuinely crestfallen. “Now?” He sighed with agitation, and put on his “disapproving frog” expression. After a while he surrendered. “Oh, fine, fine, if that’s what you two want. I can’t stand yapping in my ears…” He began to walk off when Steven coughed in a bid to get his attention. Having seized it, Steven pointed at the remains of the chocolate egg that the Doctor was still holding.
“Shouldn’t you leave that here?”
“What?” The Doctor looked down at the, now melting, chocolate pieces. “Oh yes, I suppose so…”
Steven rolled his eyes. “Forever the innocent. Chocolate wouldn’t melt in your mouth, would it?”
Sara giggled at the Doctor’s returning bluster as he began to kneel, when suddenly a voice called out to them:
They froze, the Doctor still bent double with the broken chocolate eggshell held before him. He looked up quizzically, eyes wide, looking for all the world like a frightened rabbit. And then a frightened rabbit jumped over the wall in front of them.
“Who are you?” said the rabbit.
The Doctor and his friends stared at the animal, which to their surprise was standing on its hind legs, one hand on its hip and the other clutching the strap of a bag it carried over its shoulder. At full height, it was approximately three foot tall. When nobody answered, the rabbit spoke again.
“Well? Who are you? And why are you eating my chocolate?”
The Doctor placed the egg fragments on the ground and stood up, looking to Steven and Sara for assistance. When none was forthcoming, he turned back to the rabbit, looking rather embarrassed. “Er, ah… I’m, er, terribly sorry, I… We are travellers, we did not know that this egg belonged to you.”
The rabbit snorted. “Well of course it does! I’m the Easter Bunny.”
The Doctor stared, his rhythmic rubbing of his left lapel having stopped. “Whom, sir?”
“The Easter Bunny. You know. Easter? Celebration of ongoing nature and new-borns? Surely you’ve heard of it?”
“Well yes, I, ah, have heard of it, yes!…”
The rabbit took out a cigarette and began to smoke it. “Well I’m the Easter Bunny, see? I hide the chocolate eggs for the children so they can find them after school. It’s a nice job, I enjoy it.”
Nobody knew what to say, though they all yearned to break the uncomfortable silence. Eventually it was the Doctor who did so, chuckling his way through a “Well, it’s nice to meet you, sir!”
“Thank you,” replied the Easter Bunny, “But you still haven’t explained why you’ve eaten my chocolate egg.”
“I mean it’s not for you, is it? It’s for the children.”
“If you wanted a chocolate egg you could have asked. I mean it takes time to hide these for the children to find in the Easter egg hunt. Time.”
“Really, show some consideration, for Christ’s sake.”
“If you would-”
“Whoops, that was blasphemous and uncalled for, I apologise. I should know better in this job, really, eh? Ha ha ha! I mean, seriously, bloody ‘ell, ha ha ha!” His ears bobbed up and down as he laughed, and he held his chest, kicking his feet up into the air.
“But yes, why’d you eat the egg?”
By now, Sara had notice that the Doctor was going a rather dangerous shade of purple. She took it upon herself to prevent a major diplomatic faux pas.
“The Doctor didn’t know it belonged to anybody.”
Steven, seeing what she was doing, decided to make his own contribution. “That’s right, it was my fault really. You see, I didn’t see it and tripped up, and then we examined it. We just found it a bit strange that it was just lying around, that’s all.”
The bunny rubbed his chin, and cocked his head, making quiet murmuring noises. Sara noticed that his left ear was bent in half, rubbing the right, and his left leg was rapidly scratching at his stomach. She’d heard of these creatures but had never seen one before, animal wildlife having been all but wiped out by the time she was born. Apart from mice.
Eventually the Easter Bunny held his arms behind his back, and rolled back and forth on his feet. “All right. After due consideration, I believe you didn’t mean anything by this unauthorised consumption of confectionery. Just so long as you don’t do it again.” He glanced at his watch — yes, he was wearing a watch. He suddenly sprung into the air, ears alarmingly straight. “I’m late! I’m late!” He began running around in circles, panicking. The time travellers exchanged puzzled looks, and the Doctor coughed.
“I say, what exactly are you late for?”
The rabbit stopped, and began panting. “I’m… I’m sorry… The children… They’ll be coming out of school in about half an hour, and I still have twenty eggs to hide! I’ve got to get a move on!”
As the Doctor began muttering his agreement, he felt Steven gripping his arm. “And we’ve got to get a move on ourselves, Doctor. Remember the Daleks?”
“Yes of course, you’re quite right, my boy.” The Doctor held out a hand to the Easter Bunny, who regarded it strangely before placing his paw within it. “It’s been very nice meeting you sir, but we really must be going. We’ve got something rather nasty chasing us and we wouldn’t want to involve you and the schoolchildren in our problems.”
“Ah. I see.” The bunny looked over his shoulder. “You travel in that big box over there?”
“Yes yes, the TARDIS, yes. Though it’s far more than just a box!” The Doctor gave a small chuckle.
“Ah. Looks a bit boring doesn’t it? I don’t like grey.”
As one, the three of them turned. The Doctor grasped his companion’s arms, and hissed a word that made their blood run cold: “Daleks!”
Sure enough, blocking their view of the TARDIS was a large, grey featureless cube — a Dalek time machine. Taking immediate action, the Doctor motioned for them all to follow him — “Quick, we’ve got to hide!” — and dashed as fast as he could towards the picket gate, opening it and urging his companions through it. “Now, quickly, lie down, behind the wall.” This they did, and they waited. After a little while, Steven looked about him, and hissed at the others.
“Where’s the bunny?”
Sara furrowed her brow. “I thought he followed us.”
“He must still be out there!”
And then they heard the metallic tones of a Dalek.
“WHO ARE YOU?”
The question received a reply. “I’m a bunny.”
“Yes. The Easter Bunny actually. Want some chocolate?”
Sara, despite the Doctor’s attempting to hold her back, peeked over the wall. The Dalek was stood in the entrance of the time machine, and the Easter Bunny stood a few feet away, still holding his Easter egg satchel.
“Yes, chocolate. In egg form.”
Time seemed to stop, and Sara found herself silently urging the rabbit to run, to get away. As if sensing her thoughts, the bunny leapt to the side just as the Dalek fired a deadly ray of light at him, which singed his tail. The bunny run around in circles, hollering arms in the hair.
“He’s burnt my tail, he’s burnt my tail, this dreadful fellow’s burnt my tail!”
The Dalek swivelled, and fired again. This time the beam shot over the bunny’s head, between his ears. He cried out in alarm, and flung his bag away from him. “Bag in the air, bag in the air, it’s scattered my Easter eggs everywhere! I’m off!” Before the Dalek could fire again, he ran and jumped over the wall, out of Sara’s vision. She caught a glimpse of a humanoid figure following the Dalek out of the ship, before ducking down again. She and her friends listened to the conversation between the Dalek and Guardian of the Solar System Mavic Chen.
“I see that the Daleks are still letting their bloodlust overcome their intelligence!”
“WHAT DO YOU MEAN?”
“Would it not have been wiser to capture that creature and interrogate him? Hmm? He may have seen the Doctor and his companions, or, furthermore, may know where they are.”
“THEY MAY STILL BE INSIDE THEIR SHIP.”
“That is of course likely, but now we don’t know for sure, do we? However, I, a mere advisor, would not presume to question the intellect of the Daleks; it scarcely merits the effort. I shall be inside the time machine if you require me.”
Some clanging vibrations, feet against metal, signified Chen’s retreat, leaving, they imagined, the one Dalek on guard. Sara remained lying low, and turned her head to face the Doctor. “What do we do now?” she whispered. The Doctor merely looked at her, his face grim. Steven crawled closer to them.
“Listen, I’m going to make a run for it, distract them.”
“No!” the Doctor barked as quietly as he could, “I won’t allow it.”
“But at least then you two would have a chance of getting to the TARDIS.”
“That’s a very noble gesture, but I shan’t allow you to risk your life.”
“That’s final!” The Doctor closed his eyes, trying to think. “There’s got to be a solution… there must be a solution!”
They heard the sound of a Dalek voice, though it was clear that it was not unaccompanied.
“Scan for signs of movement!”
“Dalek scout party shall soon disembark! THE DOCTOR AND HIS FRIENDS SHALL BE FOUND!”
Sara looked desperately to the Doctor. “Doctor, they’ll find us! We’ve got to move!”
“And let them pick us up on their scanners? No my dear, we must stay where we are. I must admit that we do seem to be in a bit of a situation.”
“More than a situation, Doctor,” Steven argued, “There’s only a stone wall between us and them! We’ve got a matter of minutes before they spread out and find us lying here; look I’m going whether you want me to or not, I’m not having your deaths on my conscience.”
“Oh don’t be an idiot! And how about us having your death on our consciences, hmm? Because that is what will happen if you carry out this foolhardy and stupid endeavour!”
“Hello again, Doctor.”
The smooth, over-confident tones were unmistakable. The three of them looked up into the eyes of Mavic Chen, leaning over the wall above them, smiling.
“I didn’t expect to catch you so easily! However, be grateful that I did.”
“Grateful?” Steven exclaimed.
Chen affected mock surprise. “Why of course. Would you prefer to be discovered by me or by the Daleks?”
“Is there any difference?”
“Why of course! The Daleks wish to kill you and reclaim the Taranium core, whilst I, being, at heart, a man of peace, wish only to fulfil the latter objective.” He smiled, malevolently, and then held out his hand, his expression abruptly changing to a cold, calculating sneer. “Give me the core, Doctor, and I shall spare you your lives.”
The Doctor raised himself onto his elbows, and stared into the eyes of his enemy, as if attempting to burrow into them. “Never! If the Daleks recapture the core then nothing in this Universe shall be safe! And I’m not going to have that on my conscience either!”
Chen remained emotionless, raising himself to his full height. “Then I am left with but one choice of action.” He opened his mouth to call out to the Daleks and to end their lives. Sara felt tears pricking at her eyes, and she screwed them shut.
Chen was suddenly silenced by what sounded like a loud gulp. When Sara opened her eyes, she was amazed to find their foe flailing wildly, a large chocolate egg lodged in his mouth. Forgetting herself and the predicament, she laughed.
“Well bless my soul,” the Doctor murmured, “Look! Over there, young lady!”
Sara followed the Doctor’s pointing finger and spotted the Easter Bunny standing on a nearby hillock, an egg in one hand and a large slingshot in the other. He was laughing.
Chen bit hard and tore the chocolate from his mouth, enraged. “You shall PAY for this, you wretched vermin! DALEKS! KILL THAT BU-” Sara winced as Chen received a propelled Easter egg to the groin, causing him to double up with pain and let out a choked sob. Ignoring his own instructions, the Doctor was up on his knees, looking over the wall.
“The Daleks are leaving the time machine!” He shot an excited glance at his companions. “This might be our only chance!”
“But what about the Easter Bunny?”
The Doctor gazed over Sara’s shoulder and smiled. “I don’t think that we need worry about our little furry friend.”
The Easter Bunny was not alone. He gave a series of sharp whistles, and bunnies leapt up from behind every hill, rock and tree, all brandishing slingshots and Easter eggs, chittering with much ado. As the Daleks fanned out, having not spotted the lying forms of their quarry, the armed rabbits quickly organised themselves into several lines, the Easter Bunny at the front. He raised his slingshot, an action copied by his soldiers.
“THE CREATURES SHALL BE EXTERM-”
Hundreds of Easter eggs shot through the air like bullets and thudded into the Dalek shells, the impact denting and mauling them, even knocking one to the ground, its limbs twitching feebly, its voice crying out for assistance. The Daleks began to fire back, but their opponents were too quick and darted out of the way of the lasers. The Doctor and his friends continued to watch the battle with great interest, witnessing the defeat of the Dalek taskforce.
“Bunny bunny bunny bunny bunny!” the armies chanted, as they picked off another Dalek, and another. As the firepower became more concentrated, they began to duck down behind the hills, out of the way of the laser blasts. However, the Dalek causalities were already high, and only two remained, firing wildly, screaming their grating battle cries. Eventually, the Easter Bunny popped his head out from behind a tree, and raised an egg to his mouth. Using his teeth, he yanked a pin from it, and hurled it as hard as he could at the Daleks.
However, before they could do so, the egg exploded, covering them in a thick coat of gloopy chocolatey goodness. Finding themselves stuck, the Daleks were left to the mercies of the bunny army, who bounded over to them and began bouncing up and down on them. The Doctor leapt to his feet, yanking Sara and Steven up with him.
“Come on, come on! Now’s our chance! Quickly, before some more Daleks emerge!”
They pushed open the gate and ran as fast as they could to the TARDIS, the Doctor fumbling with the key. Eventually he forced it into the lock and turned it, and stood back, allowing his companions to get inside. Before he followed their lead, he waved to the Easter bunny. “Thank you, sir, a thousand thank yous!” A laugh of triumph, and he too entered the ship. After a few seconds, the TARDIS dematerialised, and the rabbits began to hop over to the Dalek time machine, waving their slingshots and whooping with glee. Before they could reach it, the machine also disappeared, so they simply continued their victory bounce.
Inside the Dalek time machine, Mavic Chen was wiping his mouth clean, fuming with anger at the Dalek commander.
“Those primitive, long-toothed monsters made a complete mockery of your Daleks! Those stupid, metallic incompetents! And to think that I said that you had a genius for war! You can’t even defeat a bunch of… RABBITS!”
There was no reply.
“Well? What do you have to say for yourself and your miserable performance?”
The Dalek didn’t reply. After a time, Chen heard the quiet sound of light snoring.