The stormtrooper dropped Davros roughly onto the table and stood rigidly at attention next to his jar.
Davros motioned as if to speak, but thought better of it. A tall machine-man in black armour seemed to float past the trooper, his every movement calculated and malevolent.
Davros smiled. This person, whoever he was, reminded him of his Daleks.
The figure made a tiny motion of his hand and the trooper scurried off. Davros could taste the fear in every step.
The figure turned to Davros, his polished eyes reflecting the last survivor of Kaled back to himself. Closer he came, mechanical breathing piercing the silence and pushing a layer of fog onto Davros’s jar.
“Who are you?” he said.
“I might ask the same of you!” Davros said, finding his courage. “Your universe is as much a mystery to me as I am to you!”
“The Force is by its nature mysterious. But you…you do not appear to have the Force at all.”
“Unscientific gibberish! If you wish to speak to me, you must at least challenge my intellect!”
The figure raised his hand, pinching his fingers together. Davros began to choke, bubbles popping out of his mouth and filling his jar. His vision became blurry and the world went dark, until…
“Vader, release him!”
A man with a grey military uniform stood behind the black machine creature, severe features twisted into a frown. Davros could feel his life slipping away…and then his windpipe filled once more with life-giving jar fluid.
“As you wish, Tarkin,” Vader said, lowering his arm momentarily before giving Davros neck a last squeeze for good measure.
“What seems to be the problem with this…” Tarkin stepped back as he caught sight of Davros.
“He and his companions do not possess the Force. This should not be possible.”
“I do not pretend to understand your religion, Vader, but this sounds important enough to contact…him.”
“Yes. Open a channel.”
The room was suddenly bathed in blue light, as a large hologram took form. A man wearing a hood appeared, his eyes sunk deep into a wizened skull.
“Yes, Lord Vader? And you as well, Tarkin?”
“My master,” Vader said. “I have encountered an anomaly in the Force, something we have never before seen.”
“Now this is unusual, Lord Vader. What is it?”
Vader stepped aside to reveal Davros to his master.
“Why…he looks like me!” the Emperor said, an evil grin splitting his face.
“And you look like me!” Davros exclaimed.
The hologram turned to Vader and Tarkin. “Leave us.”
Vader stiffened but said nothing. He bowed and left, Tarkin close behind.
“So, my friend,” the Emperor said to Davros, “where do we begin?”
Morbius sighed, his melancholy echoing throughout the darkened closet. Across him, Handles whirred and clicked quietly as his positronic matrix calculated odds and percentages.
“I never thought I’d say this, Handles, but I think I miss him.”
“Davros, of course! The maniac grated on my nerves, but he was…is…a formidable intellect.”
Them room fell silent, and Morbius tilted his elegant cerebellum forward.
“Do you think he’s coming back?”
“Insufficient data. Standby. Analyzing.”
“You know, Handles, I may come off as gruff, even arrogant, but in this jar beats the heart of a romantic.”
“Incorrect. You do not possess a heart.”
“Oh in the name of Rassilon! Stop being so literal!”
Morbius sighed again, bubbles pensively rising from his brainstem.
“Where are you from? I am of course from Gallifrey, the home of the Time Lords. Have you met any of my people?”
“Who? I must know.”
“The Gallifreyan known as the Doctor. Real name…unknown.”
Morbius quailed in his liquid, the folds of his brain rippling with rage.
“The Doctor? THE DOCTOR!?”
“That jackanapes was responsible for my death at Karn, and the death of my friend Solon and his beloved manservant Condo! And that after I bested him at mindbending!”
“And then the foul Sisterhood of Karn refused to grant me their life-giving elixir!”
“Why do you keep saying that? Don’t you think I remember what happened to me?”
“Your quantum signature indicates a different fate.”
“Confound you, Handles, you really are an inscrutable bag of bolts! If I only had my body again, I’d…”
The door slid open, cutting off Morbius in mid-rant. A stormtrooper appeared in the doorway.
“Lord Vader needs to talk to both of you,” he said, tucking Morbius’s jar under one arm and dangling Handles from his other hand.
“And so in truth the only answer is total extermination!” Davros said, suppressing a chuckle.
The Emperor responded in kind, cackling heartily. “But surely, Davros, if you exterminate everyone you cannot dominate anyone? Doesn’t that strike you as counterproductive?”
“Perhaps. But so long as my Daleks reign as the supreme race, it matters not!”
“Ah well, now we are speaking of different matters. You dominate through sheer numbers whereas I rule this galaxy through fear.”
“Fear before extermination, that is the way of the Dalek race!I do not know much of this universe, but..think of what could be done with just one legion of my children!”
“Your words inspire me, Davros! Our armies are very similar, in that we use clone batches to enforce our will. But your Darliks…”
“Daleks,” Davros corrected.
“Yes, Daleks, would combine the force of a clone or droid with the cunning of an Imperial officer. We shall make it a top priority to bridge our two universes and bring your Daleks to you!”
“A most equitable proposal, Palpatine!” Davros said.
“Emperor,” the Emperor swiftly corrected him.
“Of course,” Davros purred. “But to do so, I will need the finest scientific instruments and a place to conduct my research! I will also need assistants, as I am…currently immobile.”
“It will be done, Davros.”
With the merest nod from the Emperor, the door opened and an Imperial officer appeared at Davros’ side.
“Commander Piett, you are in charge of the comfort and needs of my friend Davros. I will hear of it if he is not treated equitably.”
“Set up a laboratory for him and give him access to the central computer banks. Any and all equipment requests are to be fulfilled immediately, per my authority.”
“Yes, your excellence.” Piett bowed slightly, clicked his heels, and gathered Davros under his arm, before spinning around and leaving the room.
Vader prowled back and forth across the conference room. His mask betrayed no emotion, but the tension was palpable as he focused on Handles and Morbius.
“What power does he hold over my Master?”
“Enquiry is vague. Please specify,” Handles said.
The dark lord turned, putting his face up to Handles. His breathing was monotonous, but there was a clear undertone of menace to it.
“This Davros. He does not possess the Force, and yet he holds the Emperor in his thrall.”
“If you’re referring to his effusive charm,” Morbius piped up, “then I’m afraid you’re not talking about the Davros I know.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean while I admit I respect his intelligence…the truth is he won’t rest until his Dalek armies take over the universe. He is consumed”
“Dalek?” Vader said, standing back up. “Dalek.”
“Yes, Dalek! Are you hard of hearing inside that thing? I, Morbius…ggaacchh…”
Morbius cerebellum pulsated as his brainstem shrank in on itself. Vader held his arm out, his thumb and forefinger clutched together.
“Quantum signature changing,” Handles said. “Extreme activity in localized area.”
“I…can…see..that! Shut…up…Handles!” Morbius croaked.
Vader lowered his hand. “It would be wise to show me respect.”
“Yes…yes of course. My apologies….ah…”
“Lord Vader. Remember that.”
“Committed to memory,” Handles said.
Vader swept up his cape and left the room, his breathing trailing down the hallway.
“Not there, you fool!”
Davros’s third eye glinted with rage-filled glee as he ordered the Death Star guard around his new laboratory. Quantum signature detectors were delicate equipment, and he doubted the abilities of these functionaries to handle them with the proper respect.
Still, he was never happier than when he was fuming at an underling, or basking in the glow of a fresh extermination by his Dalek children. Oh, the Daleks! Davros stifled a pang of loneliness as he thought of his beloved pepper pots.
But first, the work.
“Connect the singularity generator to the entanglement engine, drone.”
“Excuse me, sir?”
“What is your scientific background? Am I dealing with a simpleton?”
“I’m a military officer sir. I shoot things. Sometimes I get shot at.”
“Very well. That big box in front of you. Plug it into the little box.”
“Very well, sir. Anything else?”
“Yes, activate it, man! I am without limbs, or I would do it!”
“Right away, sir.”
The device hummed to life, and a green holographic sphere materialized in the middle of the room. It was similar, Davros noted, to the projection of the Emperor he had conversed with earlier. Inside the bubble, Daleks moved back in forth in what appeared to be the control room of a spaceship.
“What are those?” the functionary asked in a puzzled tone of voice.
“Those? Only the most magnificent creature in the entire universe! Those are the Daleks, my finest creation!”
“They look cheap.”
“Why you…..do you know I am a personal friend of your Emperor? Temper your words, minion!”
“Yes, sir. May I go?”
Davros bubbled thoughtfully as the projection flickered before him. Somehow he would establish contact with the Daleks. And then? He would unleash hell on this universe.
“Will they be leaving us here, do you think?” Morbius said.
“Insufficient data,” Handles replied. “Location coordinates static at present.”
“You’re a master of understatement, Handles, I’ll give you that,” Morbius said.
The door opened and a Death Star guard ambled in. His uniform was still within the bounds of military protocol, but only just. His body language betrayed an equally shambolic attitude as he slouched over to the conference room table and began playing games on his communicator. If he noticed the heads, he made no indication of it.
Morbius tilted his cranium towards Handles. Not for the first time, he wished he had eyes and eyebrows. How could one be expected to communicate non-verbally without any visible appendages? Ah well, he thought, it was wasted on Handles anyway.
The guard became even more louche as he slouched into his chair. He put his feet up onto the conference table and yawned.
“Ahem!” Morbius said.
Startled, the guard nearly fell out of his chair before standing and regaining his composure.
“What…who…what?” he said, staring at the heads.
“I should ask you the same thing, young man!” Morbius barked. “To think that, I, a Time Lord, am continually beset by idiots..”
“Caution: repetition,” Handles said.
“Shut up, Handles, I’ll do the talking here! Now then, who are you, and what are you want from us?”
“Uh….Corporal Tanner, and….nothing? I just snuck in here to take a break.”
“Your devotion to duty is astounding.”
“Hey, I only signed up for the Imperial Academy because prospects were pretty slim where I’m from. Now that I’m here, I intend to do everything I can to keep myself out of view and out of mind.”
“An admirable show of ambition, young man.”
If Morbius could have frowned at that moment, he would have.
“What would you do if we caused a commotion and brought your superiors in here?”
“I dunno, pour something in your jar and watch you spasm?”
“Stalemate,” Handles said.
Morbius fumed silently.
Davros chuckled to himself. Once these primitives encountered the might of a single Dalek, this base or as they called it, the Death Star would be under his command.
Before the conquest, however, came the equations. He aimed his blue eye square at the computer monitor before him and stared at the symbols on its amber screen. His calculations were immaculate. Why then could he only view his own universe, and not interact with it?
“This…is unacceptable,” he muttered to himself.
Math would not get the better of him. He had spent eternities in a false sleep, imprisoned in chambers below the earth and deepest space, and always in bone-chilling cold. To keep himself sane, he meditated, strategized, and above all calculated.
No, he thought, numbers are my most powerful ally. They did not fail me through the ages, and they will not fail me now.
The blue glare intensified, and Davros focused his will on solving the complicated sums.
“Carry the two….” he burbled thoughtfully.
Suddenly a blue sphere burst forth in the middle of the room, lightning arcing out of it at every angle, though strangely bending around Davros’ jar as if to avoid it.
“Good…good!” Davros said excitedly.
The lightning continued to burst forth, but within the sphere sparks scattered and danced across a familiar shape. Gradually the energy began to connect in lines and curves until…yes! A Dalek!
“My child!” Davros exclaimed, and the sphere burst, with a solid, real Dalek smouldering in its place.
“Yes, yes…go on!”
“Victory, “ Davros said quietly, and smirked.
Tanner slumped even further into his chair.
“Caution: nearly horizontal. Ergonomically unsafe,” Handles said.
“What?” Tanner said, landing with a thud on the bulkhead.
Morbius sighed, but his rant was cut short as shots rang out in the hallway.
“What is that horrific commotion?” Morbius said, but he was quickly shushed by Tanner, who crept to the doorway and cocked his ear towards the wall.
Tanner made a face as he strained to hear the conversation unfolding next door.
“A protocol droid? Weird,” he said, and quickly backed away as a posh cybernetic voice and the chirping tones of an astromech came closer.
“Beeepp-boop-beep-beeep-SQUAWK,” the smaller droid said.
“Artoo, do try to keep up! I told that stormtrooper you needed maintenance so we could meet the others. I know you’re functioning properly!”
The droid responded with subdued beeps and kept moving.
“Alert. Mechanicals,” Handles said.
The tall, golden droid cocked its head and assessed the odd group.
“Oh, I say!” it exclaimed.
“Identify,” Handles said.
“Yes, who the devil are you, you golden abomination?” Morbius exclaimed.
“Oh, I am sorry sir. My name is C-3PO, human-cyborg relations, and this is my companion R2-D2.”
“Why, yes sir..and you are?”
“I am Morbius! I was leader of the High Council of the Time Lords, the most evolved beings in the….”
“Caution: redundant,” Handles said.
C-3P0 turned to Tanner. “And you are, sir?”
Tanner looked down the hall. “Out of a job, if I don’t do something quick!”
He reached over and grabbed Morbius’s jar, then hit a button on the front of R2. The little droid’s head popped open, revealing a large empty compartment inside his body. Tanner stuffed the jar inside, then put Handles on top of him and closed R2’s head tight.
“What in the name of the Untempered Schism…” Morbius said, muffled inside the droid.
Tanner kicked R2’s leg to quiet Morbius, then stood at attention.
An imposing Imperial officer walked up to the group and looked them up and down before addressing Tanner.
“And what are these unauthorized droids doing in the hallway of a high secret battle station, soldier?”
“Uh….nothing, sir. I was just taking them down to maintenance.”
Morbius continued to yell from inside R2.
“Yes…yes. That small droid sounds like its speech systems are about to give out!”
“Well, quite sir. May I continue?”
“Yes. But make sure to take the alternate route. Lord Vader has some sort of guest in the science section, and it’s been declared off-limits.”
“Yes sir. Right away sir.”
The officer moved on, and Tanner breathed out with relief before turning to the droids.
“Alright, that was close. Almost got busted there.”
“Sir, I must protest. My colleague is not a storage bin!”
“Agreed!” Morbius said from deep within R2.
“Never mind that. Where are you two really headed?”
“Oh well, if you must know, we’re not actually heading to maintenance. Our friends have disabled the tractor beam and we’re going to escape this terrible place!”
“Sounds like a plan. I hate working here too. “
“Well, sir, I’m not sure if it’s proper protocol to…”
“Don’t care. Let’s go.”
Inside R2, Morbius sighed in frustration.
“Handles, why will no-one listen to me? This is the last time I will be subjected to such an indignity, I swear it!”
“Analysis: Unlikely,” Handles said.
“Were you able to make out what they’re saying outside? I can barely hear!”
Handles played back the conversation to Morbius.
“We’re getting off this station? But what about Davros?”
“Unknown,” Handles said.
Lord Vader strode into Davros’s lab. Though his breathing did not change, he was momentarily taken aback by the strange creature in front of him. It bristled with malice and seemed poised on the brink of violence. If one could bottle the essence of a Sith, Vader though, this would be the vessel.
Davros turned to the dark lord.
“Astounding, isn’t it?”
“What is it?” Vader asked.
“Why, that is a Dalek, my greatest creation! With just one of these creatures, I could level an entire city! Nothing is outside my grasp! And I, Davros, creator of the Daleks, will seize that opportunity, and…”
Davros was interrupted a functionary burst into the room.
“Lord Vader! The princess has escaped!”
Vader turned to the minion. “When did this happen?”
“Someone disabled the tractor beam, and they were able to sneak on board their vessel and take off!”
“I fail to see what this has to do with my…” and Davros slowly began choking. Not again, he thought.
Vader kept his fingers pinched together and addressed the soldier.
“Launch a squad of Tie Fighters to intercept them. And bring this,” he waved at Davros, “and this” pointing to the Dalek, “down to the hanger bay. It is time to test these rebels with…lateral thinking.”
“Yes sir. At once, sir!”
The functionary left and Vader turned back to Davros.
“You may yet be of some use to us, despite your madness. I will release you, but you must be silent. Agreed?”
Davros gave a barely perceptible nod, his fury only checked by his instinct to survive.
Tanner huddled in the dark storage compartment of the Millennium Falcon, feeling the ship’s engines rumbling beneath him. He’d stayed in worse rooms than this, though they didn’t stink of Wookie. He’d get through this somehow. At any rate, it beat working.
TO BE CONTINUED!