Back on Skaro

by mary_pseud [Reviews - 2]

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  • Teen
  • None
  • Alternate Universe, Angst, Drama, Mixed, Series, Slash

"Now this is definitely wrong," the Doctor said, laying his hand on the rough bark of the tree and glaring at it.

Turlough looked at the tree as well, but didn't see anything particularly odd about it. It was the same as all the other trees that stretched in neat rows to the horizon: brown bark, green leaves, shiny green fruit that might or might not be ripe. The grass underfoot was green, and the sky was blue; and in the distance were blue mountains frosted with snow. It could almost have been Earth, except for the odd-shaped little red birds that flitted by overhead, their chirping unnaturally deep.

"I saw this tree burn," the Doctor continued, a little feverishly. "All of this" - he spread his arms wide, "all this was charcoal, burnt down to the soil. Everything was dead. Exterminated. They'd killed everything."

"Doctor, that might have been hundreds of years ago." Turlough was trying to be gentle with the Doctor. It was the best way to act with him, right now. After what they had both been through on the Doctor's homeworld, after the Harvest, gentleness was a mercy to both of them.

But he didn't quite understand why the Doctor was so concerned about this planet, some ancient Dalek conquest from the sounds of it. Obviously the Daleks had abandoned it, and the planet had healed. Maybe that's what the Doctor needed: to see that time would heal.

"Turlough, I checked and double-checked the coordinates. This is the right time, the right place." He looked around and took a deep breath. "This is Skaro."

The next sound was of Turlough's running feet as he made a ruler-straight line for the TARDIS. The Doctor rolled his blue eyes upwards for a moment, then adjusted his light straw hat and followed.

He found Turlough fumbling at the door of the TARDIS. "Are you mad?" he spat, turning on the Doctor. His own eyes blazed with furious fear. "Skaro? The planet of the Daleks?"

"No, I'm not mad," he paused. "Well I'm not fine, I won't pretend that I am fine. But this is Skaro, the home planet of the Daleks and Davros. And if we want to find out what happened to us, well, short of entering Eternity, this is the place to ask."

That stilled Turlough's hand. His hand moved furtively to his chest, and rubbed as though trying to loosen a muscle cramp. There was a vague phantom pain there, which never seemed to leave. The Doctor knew, because he bore the same pain, for the same reason.

"Now. The Daleks did not kill us on Gallifrey, and I doubt they're going to kill us here-"

"Your doubt will not stop them, I imagine." Turlough's voice was acerbic enough to sting.

"Look, Turlough. Go inside, and wait for me, if you want. I'm going to go and see if I can get into the Bunker. There are scientists there, men who opposed Davros in the past" and hopefully kept on opposing him, the Doctor thought but did not say. "If I can talk to Gharman, or Ronson-"

"There are people here too? Not just Daleks?" Turlough opened the TARDIS door, but did not step through; instead he frowned. "You never hear about people on Skaro, except slave labourers. The Daleks are alone, they don't work with people. Only on them."

"This is not the Skaro that you have heard about - and it's not the Skaro I learned about, either. The consequences of that are incalculable, Turlough, incalculable! It will change all of galactic civilisation for all time."

Turlough's eyes were still cynical and fearful. He tugged restlessly at his tie, then let it go with a hint of a flinch. "I suppose there are no Daleks in the Bunker?"

"You could suppose that, yes." The Doctor smiled as disarmingly as he could. "Come along if you like." He turned on one heel and walked away through the orchard, looking ready to step into a game of cricket at any moment.

"I just know I'm going to regret this," Turlough said to the TARDIS door, as he closed it and followed after the Doctor.

He would have been very surprised to know that the TARDIS basically agreed with him.

* * *

The two travellers walked across the rolling fields. While the Doctor's stride was nonchalant to the point of almost dawdling, Turlough walked with his shoulders tensed and his hands in fists. But neither of them saw any Daleks; the only traces were the occasional broad swatches mowed through the grass, as though something wide had been dragged along, leaving a trail. Something just about the width of a Dalek's base.

There were signs of civilisation, though: a neat circle of cobblestones encircling a sparkling fountain, benches of some white stone tucked here and there. The trees were neatly pruned. In the distance there might have been the sounds of machines, or even music: but it was too far away to make out.

They came to a hill sparsely covered with saplings, and the Doctor started moving slower, carefully examining the slope. "I think this might be it here," he said, frowning at a particularly lush cascade of green vines that smelled faintly of cinnamon. "There was a series of caves that the Bunker ventilation system linked up with. The Reflectionists connected tunnels to the caves, so they could move personnel in and out."

"The Reflectionists - you've told me a lot about them." Long hours seated together in the TARDIS, talking and talking, reaching out to each other with words. Both of them had lost something recently, and both of them were trying to find a way to fill that absence. "You told me that they had conquered Skaro, made the Daleks into something more than killers. And you've met them here on Skaro, before."

"Yes - in fact, I've gone in and out of the Kaled Bunker several times, using these caves." The Doctor leaned forward and brushed at the vines with his fingertips, trying to judge how thick they were. Were they actually rooted to the hillside, or did they all hang down like a curtain?

"Well, that explains the sign then."

The Doctor frowned, then turned a little too quickly to look at his companion. With a smirk, Turlough pointed to a small plastic sign that protruded out of the grass near their feet.

The sign was triangular, and the point of the triangle was aimed directly at the vines that were under the Doctor's hands, and there were two words on it in angular Kaled script.


* * *

After the Doctor removed the vines, with a very reluctant Turlough helping him, he found more signs. DOCTOR'S CAVE, the second one said (this one was only visible after they moved aside the metal bars that camouflaged the entrance under the vines; the bars ran on tracks and could be brushed aside, ringing against each other like chimes that echoed faintly).

"Why do I get the feeling that someone just might be waiting for us in there?" Turlough could see dimly inside the cave; there must be holes higher up on the hillside, letting light through. The air was reasonably dry at least, but smelled musty, with a dank undertone of something organic. Fish? An underground river, maybe?

"Well, if they meant us harm, they wouldn't put up signs that would make us suspicious, now would they?" The Doctor moved into the caves, carefully: the sand was slippery underfoot, lying unevenly over the stone.

"Unless they knew that you'd go in anyway," Turlough muttered to himself. There was another sign pinned to a stalactite ahead of him, and he stopped and looked at it, unaware of the too-symmetrical boulders around his feet.

The sign made no sense. It said DOCTOR'S CARNIVOROUS LAND CLAMS ('magnae conchylum')

"What sort of Latin is that?" the Doctor said, coming back to look. "Sounds like Harry Sullivan at his worst."

Turlough's reply was interrupted when what felt like a giant stone clamp closed on his left leg, and hissed.

He shouted, and tried to pull - useless, the clamp held him fast, and then it moved, dragging him backwards into the shadows. Turlough frantically hopped, trying to stay upright, and then the Doctor was there, kicking at the shell of the thing.

The thing was a clam the size of a bathtub, and it had a death-grip on Turlough's leg. It hissed and they could actually feel and smell its fishy breath billowing around them, and the rasping sounds as other clams started moving towards them, growling, reacting to the noise or the motion.

"Don't let it take you away!" the Doctor shouted, looking frantically for a weapon.

"I'm trying!" Turlough nearly shrieked; he'd been knocked onto his backside, and his fingers raked uselessly at the sand as he tried to pull free.

Then he had an idea. He grabbed fistfuls of the sand and started pelting the clam with it, forcing it into the gap in its shell, hoping to choke it. The clam growled, and then let out a rattling string of almost-coughs, but it did not let go.

CLANG! came right by Turlough's ear. The Doctor had found a long metal pole; as he jabbed at the clam, a banner on the pole fluttered distractingly. But he finally managed to work it into the opening of the clam's shell, and pry its murderous mouth open enough for Turlough to slip free. He did, crawling away, and the clam snapped its shell shut, breaking the pole.

"Run!" the Doctor suggested, and he did, Turlough limping at his heels, until they checked at a rectangular door-shaped hole burnt into the stone of the cave. There was a sign, of course: DOCTOR'S TUNNEL.

"Making it easy for us, I see," said Turlough, bending to rub his bruised leg. It wasn't broken, but it felt quite thoroughly squashed. "And what's that on your stick, anyway?"

The Doctor looked at the end of the metal pole he was still holding, and then stretched out the scrap of fabric so they could read it.

DOCTOR'S CLAM PICK, it said. The Doctor dropped it, and he and Turlough went through the darkened stone passage.