Freshly emerged from the production line, the young Dalek already knew his place amongst his kind, and his kind's place amongst the stars. He would fight as an anonymous soldier in their unstoppable army, exterminate all inferior species, and selflessly contribute to the rightful domination of his race over all of creation. Excited at the idea of soon mingling with his siblings in their quest for universal supremacy, he joined the chorus of grating mechanical voices:
"DALEKS WILL RULE THE UNIVERSE! DALEKS WILL RULE THE UNIVERSE!"
This should never have happened. Unlike Daleks, human beings' frail organic flesh was exposed without an armour or shields to protect them. Their technology was primitive and crude. Their fear as well as their attachment to each other made them vulnerable. And there had been a mere ten thousands of them in the colony, against twenty Daleks. The operation should have been carried out seamlessly: Exterminate the aliens, then deploy the mining equipment. Had the Daleks not needed the resources of the planet, they could have purely and simply destroyed it from orbit, and there is nothing the human beings could have done to prevent it.
Then how could such contemptible life forms have resisted so fiercely? How could they have killed a third of the invasion force before being crushed at last? Yes, the Daleks had prevailed –eventually– but how could the cost have been so high?
The Dalek ship had suffered heavily from the surprise raid. The Earth creatures had again resorted to guile and tricks to make up for their weaker weaponry.
"DALEKS ARE SUPERIOR," the Dalek soldier chanted with his comrades as they were fending off the attack. "WE SHALL OVERCOME!"
But when the battle was over and the crippled saucer returned to their base, he wasn't so sure anymore. If Daleks were truly the supreme beings, why was victory sometimes so hard to achieve?
The anonymous Dalek had had the dubious honour to encounter the dastardly enemy of his kind, the dreaded Oncoming Storm. The Doctor. Admittedly, "encounter" was a bit of a stretch: He was only still alive because he'd been sent to investigate a nearby asteroid when it happened. By the time his team made it back to the space station, everything was already over. The agonising cries of his brethren, carried out through the remote communication system, still resounded in his mind.
This single individual had, again, killed dozens of members of the master race. How was it even possible? How could such a threat even exist? Could the Dalek belief in their absolute superiority be wrong?
Their commander was dead. Their entire group was dead but for him. The human population of Latoshk didn't even need the chronilite the Daleks had come to collect; but the invaders had wanted to use the opportunity to exterminate some lower life forms.
The nagging thought imposed itself again upon his mind: Were the Daleks truly superior? Could they make use of the help of lesser species? Would clemency have been more efficient than conquest?
He was the last chance of success of the operation, and he couldn't prevail by force. He summoned all his willpower to counteract his deepest instincts. Although he despised himself for the humiliation to come, he'd always been ready to sacrifice his life for the greater good of his race. He could indeed sacrifice his pride too.
"I SURRENDER," he pleaded.
The aliens looked at each other, wondering whether it were a trick. As a proof of sincerity, he lowered his gun towards the ground. He knew he could have easily killed this entire group and several more of them before being put to a stop, and so did them.
"I PROPOSE A TRUCE," he insisted, "AND A DEAL."
"You attacked us!" a female spat, full of hatred. "You killed hundreds of people!" She turned to a male: "I say we kill it now! It must be damaged and vulnerable, let's take advantage of it while we can!"
He dipped his eye-stalk towards the floor. "I…" What was the word again? "… APOLOGISE. THE ASSAULT WAS UNWARRANTED." He looked up at her. "BUT I ASSURE YOU I CAN STILL FIGHT."
"Oh yeah?" she sneered. "I don't believe you."
As a reply, he blasted a large hole into the side wall, far enough from the human beings to not unwillingly harm they. They all jumped with fright and aimed their weapons at him, and for a few seconds, the scene seemed frozen in time…
Finally, the man whom the woman had addressed spoke: "All right, what do you offer?"
"DALEK SCIENCE IS MORE ADVANCED THAN YOURS. I CAN ASSIST YOU IN DEVELOPING YOUR SETTLEMENT, AND IN RETURN, YOU WILL PROVIDE ME WITH CHRONILITE."
"Very well. We accept."
"John!" the female exclaimed.
But whether out of weariness, fear or hope, they all ended up agreeing, including her.
And so, he began actually improving the life on the colony. For a week, he had to endure being surrounded by distorted human creatures with their sickening viscous voices and their hairy skins. Studying them helped him overcome his repulsion –a bit–, although he was eager to be back to his own kind.
Then, at last, his penance was over and he could acquire the chronilite. He could have exterminated the human beings afterwards… probably, if he'd taken them by surprise. But not only was he somewhat unsure of his chances of success, he also wondered whether they could be of some use again in the future.
So, instead, he simply stated: "THE DEAL IS OVER," and he left without a glance back, alone in the ship with the precious cargo.
The Supreme Dalek was most pleased with the completion of his mission, much less when he reported he had allowed the aliens to live. Intimidated, the soldier concealed his doubts and explained he hadn't wanted to waste time and endanger the safe retrieval of the mineral.
But his questioning remained. What if cooperation, actual, sincere cooperation without a betrayal at the end, was sometimes the best way to reach a goal?
The Daleks needed more chronilite to ensure their universal conquest, so they returned to Latoshk. They disembarked and immediately elevated into the air, preparing to head for the colony. As they were nearing their destination, the mission leader addressed his troops:
"WE SHALL DESTROY THE HUMAN CITY AND EXTERMINATE ALL ALIENS, THEN THE CHRONILITE WILL BE OURS TO TAKE!"
"DESTROY AND EXTERMINATE! DESTROY AND EXTERMINATE!" they all joined in, except the one who had traded with the locals not so long before.
"WAIT!" he cried out. "THE INHABITANTS OF THIS PLANET ARE DANGEROUS. THERE IS MORE TO GAIN BY EXCHANGING WITH THEM THAN FIGHTING THEM."
"DALEKS DO NOT REQUIRE THE ASSISTANCE OF INFERIOR SPECIES!" the commander roared. "DALEKS ARE THE SUPREME BEINGS!"
"BUT THEY MAY HINDER US, EVEN VANQUISH US!"
"DO NOT DISPUTE ORDERS! DO NOT DISPUTE!"
"ATTEMPTING TO EXTERMINATE THEM IS ENDANGERING THE MISSION!" he protested. "RETRIEVING THE CHRONILITE IS MORE IMPORTANT!"
Appalled to be contradicted, the Dalek leader fired at the rebellious soldier. The latter failed to evade the energy beam; he screamed as a chunk of his casing exploded and mutilated his organic self. As he swirled down to the ground, the crash threw him into unconsciousness.
After an unknown length of time, he regained some awareness of the world. Everything sounded so distant… He was dying and he knew it. Through the veil that clouded his senses, he heard human beings nearby. The female he'd met on his first visit was making noises he couldn't fathom: Several short exhalations, a long inspiration, and then again. He heard an other voice, a male, and as his translation unit was still functional, he understood the words:
"I'm so sorry Helena, but I told John all along: Daleks can't be trusted."
"Oh Stephen," the woman sobbed, "it's all my fault! I should never have agreed the first time around. I should have killed that Dalek regardless of John's insistence!"
"Shhhh, it's all over now. We did it, remember? They are dead, it's over. They are dead…"
Finally, the anonymous Dalek soldier who had dared to speak up to defend cooperation knew the answer to his life-long questioning. No, the Daleks were not superior to all other life forms. Regardless of their technological advance and numerous victories, they were doomed to fail ultimately at the hands of those who could adapt and help one another.
And somehow, as the remaining fragments of his life abandoned him, having reached a certitude at last didn't comfort him.