In a brightly lit corridor several levels above, a four-legged green figure clickety-clicked across the cement floor on his pointed, spider-like legs. A half-dozen green figures clankity-clanked behind him.
"Ahhhhhhhh," hissed the four-legged creature to the slender female figure who scampered up to him. "Who are you?"
"Barbie, Sir! There are two intruders in the lower levels. Sir!"
"We've been watching them on visual, Sir! They haven't done any damage. Sir!"
"Ahhhhh!" he hissed again. "Haven't done any damage? You simpleton! Guards!"
Two of the green figures hurried forward and saluted to attention.
"Get this...thing!...out of my presence! Erase her memory and drop her off at ToysRUs. Puddleduck! Toy Barn! Somewhere that sells air-headed dolls!"
Instantly, all six Vorzakh surrounded Barbie, and as one, zapped her with their staffs of erasure.
Barbie screamed; but as the erasure staffs took effect, her expression melted from terror into a silly, frozen smile. "Hi! I'm Barbie!" she said to the nearest Vorzakh as they proceeded to drag her off. "Would you like to play dress up? We could pretend I'm a bride! Chink-chink! Credit approved!"
"Ahhhh," hissed the green-spider-like thing again. "I need a new assistant."
Another creature bounded out from behind the Vorzakh. "Yes, Sir! Nidhiki Sir!" he cried.
Nidhiki looked down several feet to the small, red creature bouncing along beside him. "And WHO are YOU?"
"Fred, Sir! Squeaky!"
"Tell me, Fred. What would YOU do to intruders in the lower levels who aren't doing any damage?"
Fred thought for a moment, then wisely replied, "Boil them in grape juice, Sir!"
Nidhiki stared, then broke into a fit of laughter. "I like you, Fred."
Fred breathed a sigh of relief.
"We know what those intruders are after, Fred. My most prized display! But they won't get it." He spoke into the walkie-talkie he carried in his hand at all times, so he could give orders to every part of the bunker. "We have intruders on the lower levels! Send in the Nuurakh!" He chuckled maniacally. "They love this kind of work. Those intruders don't know what they're in for!"
"...Hi, Alicia! Hi, Britney! Hi, Marissa! Hi, Marisol!"
"Margaret, please." Doctor Liz looked about nervously. "Maybe we should get back to the TARDIS before someone---"
"Eeek!" Margaret dashed for cover behind Doctor Liz as dozens of red, mechanical creatures jumped from the shadows and surrounded them.
"Hee, hee, hee..." The dark chuckle echoed through the room. "So, are you enjoying my collection?" Nidhiki clicked across the floor toward them.
Doctor Liz made a show of confidence. She would not be intimidated by this giant green spider! She'd seen far worse in her travels. "Why yes," she replied airily. "Just getting reacquainted with old friends."
Nidhiki made a rush at them. "And wanting to steal some new ones! Is that it?"
"What do you mean, steal?" Doctor Liz asked.
"Yeah!" agreed Margaret from behind her. "We were saying hi to all our friends in TV-Land!"
"That five-year-old innocent doll act can't fool me!" hissed Nidhiki. "I know what you're here for. You're after my dog shampoo! But you can't have it! It's all for Nokama! Do you hear me?"
"Dog shampoo?" said Doctor Liz.
"If not my dog shampoo, then you must be here to steal something else! Well, I'm going to give you what you want! You can't see my dog shampoo, but you're going to meet my only live exhibit! In person!"
"Okay!" agreed Doctor Liz. How bad could it be?
"But not you," Nidhiki hissed at Margaret. "I've had enough silly little dolls for one day. Krekka!"
A huge, dark form lumbered out of the shadows. "Uh, yeah?"
"Take care of this...child!"
"Duh, okay. Come on, little dolly."
Margaret jumped up and down and clapped her hands. "Yay! Where are we going? Will you be my friend?"
Doctor Liz looked on as Margaret placed her tiny hand into Krekka's enormous one, but she didn't say anything. Somehow, she knew Margaret was safe...perhaps safer than Doctor Liz would be!
"So..." ventured Doctor Liz as she crowded into a freight elevator with Nidhiki, a small, red Plushie whose name she didn't know, and the dozens and dozens of mechanical red guards who had apprehended her. "What does this living exhibit look like?"
"Huh!" snorted Nidhiki. "Like you don't know!"
"It's black and silver!" chirped the Plushie.
"Fred!" snapped Nidhiki. Then he seemed to change his mind. "Okay, tell her."
"And it's big."
"Not that big," said Nidhiki.
"Not that big," agreed Fred. "And it looks like a garbage can!"
"It looks like a mustard bottle," argued Nidhiki.
"Yeah!" Fred agreed again. "A silver and black mustard bottle! With a toilet plunger!"
That got Doctor Liz's attention. "Toilet plunger?" she mused aloud. No. It couldn't be. Was it possible? That one had survived after all...
The elevator halted and Nidhiki exited with Fred bouncing along beside him. Doctor Liz followed, surrounded by her many guards. Waiting for them was a troop of six more mechanical guards, only these were white.
"Yahhh!" hissed Nidhiki. "Keerakh! Don't do that! They always seem to know where I'm going before I get there," he muttered to no one in particular. He turned to the red guards. "Nuurakh! Return to your posts!"
The red Nuurakh scattered off in many directions, and Doctor Liz continued down the corridor with Nidhiki, Fred, and the six white Keerakh guards.
"You have an awful lot of personnel," Doctor Liz commented.
"It's a big bunker," answered Nidhiki. "In here." He punched a code into a panel on the wall and opened a set of sliding doors. Inside, they were met by another group of mechanical guards--black ones.
"My best protectors," said Nidhiki. "Nothing gets past a Rorzakh."
Hmmm, thought Doctor Liz. It seems all of the bunker's protectors are mechanical. If someone found a way to shut down all these robotic guards, the bunker would be defenseless.
She kept her thoughts to herself as Nidhiki ushered her past the Rorzakh to another set of sliding doors. "Let's see if our...hee! hee!...friend...is talking yet..."
Nidhiki punched another complicated code into another keypad, and the second set of doors slid open.
"In there," hissed Nidhiki, giving Doctor Liz a shove. She stumbled forward into the darkened room. The doors slammed closed behind her.
"Well," she said. Her voice reverberated back to her. By doing some quick calculations, she deducted the room was about five by five-point-six meters long, with very little in the way of furniture. Whatever was in here, it was in the furthest corner--restrained, she hoped. "Not a very comfortable prison cell, but maybe we can do something about that. Do you have a name?"
The thing in the corner blinked its lights at her.
Doctor Liz cleared her throat. "I'm Doctor Liz. I'm here to help. Are you in pain?"
"D-O-C--T-O-R!" droned the thing in the corner over the rattling of chains. "DOC-TOR!"
The lights came to life, and Doctor Liz found herself face-to-face with--
"Dalek!" she exclaimed. "It can't be!"
Doctor Liz rushed to the door and began to pound. "Let me out! Let me out!"
"DOCTOR! YOU ARE THE ENEMY OF THE DALEKS! YOU MUST BE EXTERMINATED!"
Doctor Liz pounded more fervently. Her sonic screwdriver! If only she could get to her sonic screwdriver, she could--
The Dalek raised its weapon and fired...
In the meantime, a couple levels above....
Boom! Bang! Crash!
"Yeeee-haw!" shouted Margaret, waving her hat in the air as she bounced about on Krekka's back. "Giddy-up, cowgirl!"
Krekka took another turn around the storage room.
"Eh-he, eh-he!" he chuckled. "I'm a horsey!"
They came to a breathless pause, and Margaret surveyed the damage. "Uh-oh. Will Nidhiki be mad?"
"No," answered Krekka. "These are things he threw out. I picked them out of the garbage."
Margaret nodded approvingly. "I like to collect things, too!"
"Eh-he, eh-he," Krekka laughed. "Let's go for another ride."
Margaret held tight as Krekka bucked in the air and pushed his way through the office doors.
"Out of the way!" the Dark Hunter shouted to any Vahki who got in their path. "Krekka coming through!"
Margaret closed her eyes, loving the feel of the wind in her face as they cantered down the corridor. "This is the best horsey ride ever!"
Doctor Liz stopped pounding and turned to the Dalek.
*Click* went the Dalek gun again.
Doctor Liz laughed in hysterical relief. "It doesn't work! Your weapon is useless!"
"What are you going to do now?" she taunted. "Huh? What are you going to do now?"
The Dalek's eyestalk glowed blue. "WE ARE THE SUPERIOR RULERS OF THE UNIVERSE! YOU ARE AN ENEMY OF THE DALEKS! YOU WILL BE--"
"Exterminated! Yeah, right!" Doctor Liz stood toe-to-wheels with the Dalek and stared into its eyepiece. "You're terrified! Superior rulers, ha! With no gun to hide behind, you're nothing! Nothing!"
"YOU WERE PRETTY SCARED YOURSELF, TIME LORD."
In another room not far away, Nidiki watched the exchange on the bunker's internal monitor system. "Time Lord?" he mumbled to himself.
"Yeah, well..." Doctor Liz cleared her throat. "But I'm not scared now. You're just a useless garbage can. A mustard bottle! One-hundred-and-one uses for a dead Dalek! Ever hear that one?" She walked a circle around the Dalek, whose head rotated to follow her. "What are you doing here, anyway?"
"From the Daleks? They'll never come. Because they're gone. Every last one of them, the whole Dalek fleet! A burnt cinder in space. I saw it happen. I made it happen!"
Doctor Liz turned away. "It was in the script," she mumbled.
"AND WHAT OF THE TIME LORDS?"
Doctor Liz sighed. "That was in the script, too. The last great Time War. Nobody won."
Doctor Liz whirled on the Dalek defensively. "I didn't write it! I would never have written it! Not like that! Blame the BBC!
"But you have to admit..." she added
contemplatively. "It carries a
lot of pathos..."
The Dalek shook its head. "PATHETIC."
"What do you know about good writing? You're just a stupid Dalek with a broken gun! And I know exactly what to do with you. EXTERMINATE!" She ran to the wall and started pulling switches. The lights blinked on and off. Papers flew as the ceiling fan began to rotate at full speed. The speaker system blared "The Star Spangled Banner."
"STOP!" screamed the Dalek. "HAVE PITY!"
"Why should I? You never did! Oh-oh, say can you see," she crooned, "by the dawn's early light..."
The door behind Doctor Liz opened, but she barely noticed until two green Vahki seized her arms.
"What are you doing?!" hissed Nidhiki.
"This--this--thing--" Doctor Liz struggled against the Vahki. "It's a Dalek! One of the most notorious and merciless creatures to every roam the universe! And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air..."
Nidhiki covered his ears. "Stop that notoriously merciless singing! Stop it this instant!"
Doctor Liz turned on Nidhiki. "You wouldn't know good singing if it bonked you on the head!"
Nidhiki twiddled his front pointers. "Bonked me on the head... What a grand idea. Vorzakh! Bring the good Doctor Elisabeth. Let's see what other secrets we can learn from her."
Margaret and Krekka came to a set of doors that stood open but were guarded by
a large group of black Vahki. "Stand aside!" warned Krekka as the Rorzakh rushed
forward to meet them. "We're playing horsey!"
The Rorzakh knew Krekka well enough to give him a wide berth. One, which was not quite quick enough, was dashed against the wall by Krekka's back kicks. It picked itself up, bleeped something to the other Rorzakh, and they watched after Krekka, shaking their heads.
Krekka passed through the first set of doors and came to a second, which were closed. As he was in the cumbersome process of turning around to go back the way they had come, Margaret asked, "What's through there?"
"That's Nidhiki's most-prized exhibit," Krekka replied. "He doesn't let anyone go in there. Would you like to see it?"
"Okay!" agreed Margaret.
Krekka placed Margaret onto the floor and entered the long password to open the doors. Inside, six brown Vahki turned as they entered.
"Hi! I'm Margaret! We're here to see Nidhiki's most-prized exhibit!"
Keeping intruders out was not in the Zadakh's programming. They let Margaret and Krekka through without challenge.
Margaret walked up to Nidhiki's exhibit, her head tilted to one side. The creature was black and shaped like a garbage can, only with silver bumps all down the bottom part of it. From the front protruded an egg whisk and a toilet plunger, and where its nose would be was what looked like a telescope.
Margaret! Would you like to be my friend?"
Dim lights glimmered on the creature's head and it turned its eyepiece to her. "CANNOT..."
The word was so low, Margaret could barely hear. She moved closer. "What?"
"CANNOT KEEP UP." Its body shook. "TOO MUCH..."
"Oh!" exclaimed Margaret. "Poor robot!" She threw her arms around the creature, but gave a cry of surprise at the shock that exchanged between herself and the creature.
Instantly, Krekka pulled her away. "Uh-oh!" But it was too late.
"DNA ABSORPTION COMPLETE!" the creature exclaimed. "COMMENCING REGENERATION!" The chains began to snap. "REGAINING STRENGTH!" With a shake, the creature's bonds fell away. "WE ARE THE DALEKS! WE ARE THE SUPERIOR CREATURES! YOU WILL BE EXTERMINATED!"
"Let's get out of here!" Krekka slung Margaret onto his back and tramped out the
door, bowling over several Zadakh in the process. He hit a button to sound an
alarm and sealed the door to the Dalek's prison. "Uhh...Nidhiki's not going to
like this, Margaret. We'd better put you someplace safe."
"Okay," said Margaret.
Krekka carried Margaret up several flights of stairs and down a corridor. Using another keypad, he unlocked an ornate door and opened it to a luxurious room.
Margaret hopped off Krekka's back with a cry of glee. All around her were the most wondrous toys she'd ever seen. "Ooooohhhh!"
"Uh, you'll be safe here. Nidhiki won't think to look for you in his private playroom."
Margaret dashed toward a ceiling-high tower of Nidhiki-shaped plushies. "Wow! Thanks, Krekka!"
"Have fun, Margaret. I'll be back for you later."
Meanwhile, on the other side of the bunker, Doctor Liz found herself in a
position similar to the Dalek's. Chained between two columns, the brown Vahki
were closing in on her, their Staffs of Suggestion at the ready.
"I've been waiting a long time for this," said Nidhiki. "At last, an alien of superior intelligence with answers to the most pressing questions of life."
One of the Zadakh jabbed with its staff. Doctor Liz decided not to hurt Nidhiki's feelings by telling him Suggestion Staffs had no effect on her. She feigned a convincing scream.
"Now..." said Nidhiki. "How do Rolaids work? What's the secret ingredient that makes them so effective? I must know!"
"Have you ever thought to read the side of the package? The ingredients are listed."
"Lies, lies! All lies! To work as well as they do, Rolaids must contain some special ingredient--something of extraterrestrial origin. Now tell me!"
The Zadakh jabbed the Doctor again and she managed another convincing cry.
"You have to tell me!"
Before Doctor Liz could answer, the blare of an alarm filled the air. Nidhiki turned on the monitor system to the prison cell and took a step back.
"The Dalek is free!" he gasped.
"Let me go," said Doctor Liz. "I'm your only hope."
"You don't know the secret of Rolaids," hissed Nidhiki without taking his eyes off the monitor. "How can you stop a Dalek?"
"I'm the only one with Dalek experience."
"Let me go or the whole world will explode into a trillion, zillion pieces!"
Nidhiki glanced at her. "Really?"
"Well, maybe not. But I can help with the Dalek."
Nidhiki watched the Dalek rolling back and forth within its prison cell. "It'll never get out. The lock has a multi-digit googolplex combination."
"Child's play to a Dalek," said Doctor Liz, and as if in response, the Dalek bashed the keypad with its plunger arm and the doors slid open.
"No problem," said Nidhiki. "Nothing gets passed a Rorzakh."
On the monitor, Doctor Liz watched the Rorzakh approach the Dalek. The Dalek paused and shifted from side to side as if deciding what to do. Then it moved to a panel on the wall, and with its plunger arm, pulled down an enormous switch with the words written over it, "EMERGENCY VAHKI SHUTDOWN." Instantly, the Rorzakh crashed to the ground.
"You put the Vahki shutdown switch inside the prison cell?"
"It seemed the safest place," said Nidhiki. "Who would break into a prison cell?" He turned from the monitor to look at Doctor Liz. "Maybe I could use your help, after all. Zadakh, release her."
The Zadakh didn't respond. Nidhiki crossed the floor and gave one a tap. The Zadakh fell like lifeless dominos.
"Never mind," he hissed. "I'll do it myself."
A few minutes later, from the safety of Nidhiki's office, Doctor Liz, Nidhiki and
Fred watched the Dalek move unchallenged through the lower levels of the bunker.
"What's he looking for?" Nidhiki wondered.
"Well," Doctor Liz answered, "considering you chained him up and tortured him, my guess is he's looking for you."
Nidhiki didn't respond, so the Doctor continued. "Look, we need to set up a point of defense. What's our position? Who do we have that the Dalek hasn't shut down?"
Nidhiki continued to stare at the screen without answering. Doctor Liz gave him a tap. "Hey, Nidhiki."
Thud! Nidhiki collapsed on the floor.
"Boss!" The little red Plushie jumped out from under the desk and began hopping up and down on Nidhiki's chest. "Boss...wake...up!"
"What are you doing?" asked Doctor Liz.
"C...P...R!" Fred answered while he bounced. "He's...fainted...from...fright! Quick! Give...him...mouth-to-mouth...resuscitation!"
Doctor Liz stepped away. "Errr...I don't think so. He'll be okay. Look, the first thing to do is get the Vahki back online. Is there anyway to do that from up here?"
Doctor Liz searched the office until she saw the large, red "VAHKI RESTART SWITCH" on Nidhiki's desk. She gave it a push, and on the monitor, she could see the Dalek halt in the middle of a room filled with reanimating Vahki. "Now that's more like it!"
The Dalek rotated from side-to-side, taking in the situation as the Vahki closed in. It turned to the camera, raised its weapon and fired. For a fraction of a second, Doctor Liz thought the Dalek meant to destroy the camera and missed; but then, rain began to pour down from the ceiling. The Vahki came to an immediate standstill.
"It...turned...on the...sprinkler...system," bounced Fred.
"Yes, but why?
"Maybe," said Fred as the Vahki began to spark, "it knows...Vahki...aren't...waterproof."
"The blue ones aren't sparking," observed Doctor Liz.
"Then maybe the Bordakh can--" started Doctor Liz, but stopped short. The Bordakh suddenly threw their hands over their heads and scattered in all directions.
"Problem," squeaked Fred. "Bordakh...hate...water."
Doctor Liz slid into the chair behind Nidhiki's desk, which was a poor fit because she didn't have six appendages. "Only one solution," she said as she swiftly typed commands into the computer. "We've got to shut down all the levels below this one."
Fred stopped bouncing to catch his breath. "This isn't working."
"That's because that's not Nidhiki. It's his stunt-double, and he's only paid to lie there and play dead. Nidhiki slipped out the back long ago. No telling where he's gone to."
"So it's just you and me, then?"
"And Krekka and Margaret, wherever they are."
As if on cue, the door burst open and the hulky form of Krekka shoved his way through the comparatively small door. "Hello. What's new?"
"The Dalek is loose, the bunker is defenseless, Nidhiki's deserted us, and I'm locking down the lower levels," answered Doctor Liz. She glanced up from the keyboard to the empty hall behind Krekka. "Where's Margaret?"
"Margaret? Ummm, well..."
"Krekka? Where's Margaret?"
"She's in Nidhiki's playroom," muttered Krekka, looking very guilty as he ran his toe along the carpet.
"Nidhiki's playroom? Where's that?"
"Uhhh... On the lower levels."
Tip, tap, tap, tap, tip. Tip, tap, tap, tap, tip.
Darting from corner to corner, Nidhiki tip-tapped through the lower-levels of the bunker.
Tip, tap, tap, tap, tip. Tip, tap, tap, tap, tip.
He rounded another corner and suddenly--
"Keerakh!" he exclaimed at the troop of white Vahki that met him. "Who reactivated you?"
The Keerakh responded with a high-pitched whirring.
"Never mind," said Nidhiki, who didn't understand a word they said. "Come with me. There's a Dalek loose down here somewhere and--"
He was interrupted by the clanging and banging of Vahki feet and turned to see the last of his Vahki protectors retreating down the corridor. "Spineless wimps," muttered Nidhiki. "Scared of a Dalek!"
A sound from the corridor ahead spun him, and he jumped six feet in the air and dived for cover in the nearest doorway. But nothing came his way, and after several minutes of tense waiting, he crept out. There it was, just ahead. The most secure place in the entire bunker. No one could get him in there.
Looking left and right, Nidhiki sprinted to the door and input the code to open it. He rushed inside, locked the door and sighed in relief. "Safe at last. Come to me, my widdle snuggly-wuggly doggie shampoo. We'll hide out here until... Eek! How did you get in here?!"
"Hi!" said Margaret from under a pile of Nidhiki plushies. "I'm playing Princess in the Castle! Want to play, too? You can be the handsome prince who marries the beautiful princess!"
"No, I don't want to play Princess in the... Aaahhh! What's that all over your mouth?"
"Chocolate! There's a whole cupboard full!"
"Aaahhh! My chocolate! My plushies! My... You didn't touch my dog shampoo, did you?"
"Bubble bath!" shouted Margaret, jumping up from under the plushies and dashing into the bathroom.
Nidhiki screamed and chased after her. Water was running into an enormous tub and mountains and mountains of bubbles overflowed onto the floor.
"Aaahhh! My precious dog shampoo! Who let this pesky little five-year-old doll into my private playroom? Krekka!!" Nidhiki scooted Margaret toward the door and input the code to unlock it. The door slid open. "Out you go, now!"
"Oooo!" exclaimed Margaret. "It's my robot friend!"
"Robot friend?" Nidhiki turned to the open doorway and screamed. "AAAAHHHHHH!!!!"
"EXTERMINATE!" said the Dalek in the doorway. "YOU WILL BE EXTERMINATED!!!"
"AAAAHHHHHH!! IT'S THE DALEK! AAAAHHHHHH!!"
Margaret and the Dalek watched Nidhiki careen around the room like a maniac, screaming and bouncing off walls.
"AAAAHHHHHH!! WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE!"
They turned to the door to see a mass of Vahki gathering outside. They all stood, arms at their sides, watching as Nidhiki jumped to the ceiling and swung from the chandelier.
AAAAHHHHHH!!! VAHKI! THE DALEK WANTS TO EXTERMINATE ME! SAVE ME!"
The Dalek turned to the Vahki, and they stood staring one another down.
"BOO," said the Dalek.
The Vahki jumped, and as one, scattered in all directions.
Margaret bounded up to the Dalek. "Mr. Robot! We have chocolate! Would you like some chocolate?"
"DALEKS DO NOT EAT."
Margaret looked sad. "Oh! I'm sorry. Do you want to play Princess in the Castle? You can be the handsome prince!"
"PRINCESS IN THE CASTLE?" The Dalek shook from side to side. "DALEKS DO NOT PLAY PRINCESS. COME WITH ME." The Dalek looked at Nidhiki swinging from the chandelier, then it closed the door and bashed the keypad with its plunger.
"You're a good robot," said Margaret as she skipped along beside the Dalek.
"I AM NOT A ROBOT. I AM A DALEK."
"Oh! You're a good Dalek."
"Because you left Nidhiki to play with all his toys! I really, really liked Nidhiki's playroom. You'd like it, too! It was fun!"
"WHAT IS FUN?"
"Fun is... When you have fun!" said Margaret. "Like when you play dress-up or spin around really, really fast" ---she started to spin--- "until you get too dizzy to stand!" With a laugh, she staggered into the Dalek.
"THAT IS FUN?"
The Dalek spun around a few times. "NO, THIS IS NOT FUN," it said. The Dalek continued down the corridor.
"Oh." Margaret shrugged and bounced along after it. "Where are we going, Mr. Dalek?"
"Oooo! A camera! We're on TV again!" She ran up to the camera and began jumping up and down and waving. "Hi, Doctor Liz!"
Many levels above, Doctor Liz, who had been feeling depressed at losing her
little traveling companion, jumped to life. "Margaret," she said, staring at the
monitor in disbelief. "Fred! Krekka! It's Margaret! She's alive!"
They all crowded around the monitor, and the Dalek rolled into view.
"Uh-oh," said Doctor Liz.
"DOCTOR, UNLOCK THE LOWER LEVELS."
"I can't do that," said the Doctor. "You might get out and destroy the world."
"WHAT GOOD IS FRIENDSHIP IF YOU DO NOT HAVE SOMEONE TO SHARE FUN WITH?" asked the Dalek. "MARGARET IS YOUR FRIEND. SHE IS FIVE-YEARS-OLD. IF YOU DO NOT UNLOCK THE LOWER LEVELS, YOU WILL NEVER SEE YOUR FIVE-YEAR-OLD FRIEND AGAIN. YOU WILL BE SAD. YOU DO NOT WANT TO BE SAD, SO UNLOCK THE LOWER LEVELS AND YOU WILL BE HAPPY." The Dalek paused, then added, "...OR YOU WILL BE EXTERMINATED."
"A little long-winded for a Dalek," remarked the Doctor.
"Uh, what did it say?" asked Krekka.
"It said to open the door," explained Fred. "What are you going to do, Doctor?"
Doctor Liz inhaled and turned her eyes to the ceiling. A moment later, she released the breath and looked Fred in his black button eyes. "I have no choice," she said gravely. She began tapping the commands into the computer. "I know I'm putting the whole world at risk, but Margaret is my responsibility."
"I like Margaret," said Krekka.
"So do I," said Doctor Liz.
"Me too," agreed Fred.
Doctor Liz unlocked the lower levels, and Fred squeaked as he watched the door
rise and the Dalek glide through, followed by Margaret. They left the range of
one camera and came into view of another, which showed them halt at the base
of cement stairs.
Margaret began hopping up the stairs. "Hop! Hop! Hop! Hop! Come on, Mr. Dalek! It's fun!"
The Dalek raised its eyepiece and looked up the long, winding stairwell.
Fred squeaked again. "Hee-hee! Stumped by a set of stairs!"
"Don't count on it, Fred," murmured Doctor Liz.
Suddenly, from the bottom of the Dalek protruded a set of springs. The Dalek bounced a few times in place, as if testing its balance; then it bounced from the floor to the first step.
Margaret clapped her hands and laughed. "Whee! Hop, hop, hop, hop, just like Baby Bop!"
BOING! BOING! BOING! came the Dalek.
Doctor Liz watched the monitor with an unreadable expression. "Weapons," she said. "We need weapons. We have to stop that Dalek."
"Nidhiki keeps a cannon in his playroom," said Krekka. "But it's on the lower levels."
"A cannon isn't powerful enough. Do you have any alien weapons?"
"In the Alien Weapons Locker," said Fred. "But it's on the lower levels, too."
"I have some things," said Krekka.
"You do?" asked Fred.
"In the storage room."
"Let's take a look," said Doctor Liz.
A short while later, Doctor Liz shuffled through the large container of alien paraphernalia. She picked one up and looked at it. "Broken," she said.
"Uh, can't you fix it?" asked Krekka.
"If I was on Alphelazilleaous Minor. Which I'm not." She tossed it aside and chose what looked to Fred like a long, silver rifle.
"That one looks promising," Fred remarked.
Doctor Liz held it up. "Very." She pulled the trigger, producing a two-inch flame. "If the Dalek needs a light."
"Does the Dalek smoke?" asked Krekka.
"Smoking is a dangerous and addicting habit," said the Doctor. "It's a major cause of cancers of the lung, larynx, oral cavity, pharynx, and esophagus, and a contributing cause in the development of cancers of the bladder, pancreas, liver, uterine cervix, kidney, stomach, colon and rectum, and some leukemias. Smoking is also a major cause of heart disease, aneurysms, bronchitis, emphysema, and stroke, and contributes to the severity of pneumonia and asthma... A Dalek knows better. And I hope you do, too."
"Oh, yes! We do!" said Fred and Krekka in unison.
"Good," said the Doctor.*
She took another item from the bin, looked at it, and tossed it aside. "Broken," she muttered and reached for another one. "No, this one's broken, too. Broken. Hair dryer. Soldering iron. Glue gun..." She dug deeper. "Ahhh!" She pulled up a large, grey and purple object marked, SSS-12,000 Plus. "This is more like it!" She pumped the handle in and out several times. "And fully charged, too! Ready to go, baby! Lock and load!"
Something in the Doctor's tone made Fred nervous. He took a step back. "What is it?"
Doctor Liz aimed the weapon at Fred. Fred gulped. She aimed it at Krekka, who was busy looking at the ceiling lights and didn't notice. Then she pointed the weapon across the room at a storage shelf and pulled the trigger. With a terrible banging, clanging and clashing, a blast of water from the gun washed the shelves clean of every object.
"The Super SoakerŪ Supreme! That Dalek won't know what hit him!"
*This message brought to you by the American Cancer Society.
"Hop! Hop! Hop!" Margaret plopped down on the stairs and said the one thing no
one could ever imagine her saying. "I'm tired!"
The Dalek rested on the landing below her and bounced on its springs. "WE HAVE HOPPED TWO THOUSAND, THREE HUNDRED FORTY-THREE STEPS. THAT IS A LOT OF STEPS TO HOP."
"Yeah," agreed Margaret. "Let's do something else now."
The Dalek nodded its eyepiece. "COMMENCING PHASE TWO." The springs retracted and the Dalek elevated off the ground.
Margaret jumped up. "You can fly!"
"LEVITATING ROCKET BOASTERS," explained the Dalek. "ALL ABOARD."
Her fatigue forgotten, Margaret climbed onto the Dalek's back and held onto its outer casing.
"HERE WE GO."
They started up the stairs again. Margaret laughed. "This is better than hopping!"
"YES, THIS IS BETTER THAN HOPPING."
Watching from the storage room monitor, Doctor
Liz pursed her lips. "They're heading to Level 1." She slung the Super
SoakerŪ Supreme onto her shoulder. "Let's go!"
Fred and Krekka looked at each other. "We'll wait here, if you don't mind," said Fred.
The Dalek topped the stairs. Margaret hopped off its back and looked down the
middle of the stairwell. "That's really, really, really, really far down!"
"REALLY FAR," agreed the Dalek. "THIS WAY."
Margaret skipped along, singing to herself. "Upstairs, downstairs, all around the house! Round and round and round we go, quiet as a mouse!" She giggled. "I just made that up! Oh, look! A number one!"
"WE ARE ON THE TOP LEVEL OF THE BUNKER. THIS WAY WILL TAKE US OUT."
"What will we do when we're out?"
The Dalek stopped. "I...I DO NOT KNOW. I AM THE LAST OF MY KIND. THERE ARE NO OTHERS."
"That's okay! You're my friend! You can come with Doctor Liz and me and explore the whole universe! Wouldn't that be fun? Oh, look!" cried Margaret, running on ahead. "Look at all the boxes! What do they say?"
The Dalek rolled up behind her. "THEY SAY, 'NAMING DAY DECORATIONS'."
Margaret ripped open a box and pulled out a shiny gold garland. "Look!" she said, draping it around herself. "I'm a Christmas tree! But I need a star for my top." The Dalek rolled from side to side as Margaret dug through the boxes. "No star," said Margaret with a frown. "Would you like to play, too, Mr. Dalek?"
The Dalek stopped rolling. Margaret dragged a long strand of garland over and began wrapping it around the Dalek.
The little doll turned to the doorway. "Doctor Liz! We're playing Christmas tree!"
Doctor Liz took aim with her Super SoakerŪ Supreme. "Stand back, Margaret. This Dalek is all wet."
Margaret's lip trembled. She'd never seen Doctor Liz look so serious before. She turned from the Doctor to the tinsel-draped Dalek. "You want to wash my Christmas tree?" she asked, confused.
"Margaret, get back!"
"No!" said Margaret and threw her arms around the Dalek. "The Dalek is my friend. He's going to come with us in the TARDIS, and we're going to have lots and lots of fun together!"
"That Dalek is not joining my TARDIS crew."
Margaret pouted. "If you won't let me bring my Dalek friend, I'm not coming."
"You'd choose a Dalek over me? Margaret, you have no idea what a Dalek with a working gun can do!"
"My Dalek wouldn't hurt anyone. Right, Mr. Dalek?"
The Dalek turned its eyepiece from Doctor Liz to look into Margaret's upturned face. "WE HAVE HAD FUN TOGETHER. PLAYING CHRISTMAS TREE IS FUN. I LIKE HAVING FUN. WE ARE FRIENDS. I LIKE HAVING FRIENDS."
Margaret jumped up and down and clapped her hands.
Doctor Liz dropped her water gun. "But Daleks don't make friends!"
"My Dalek does! And my Dalek likes to play princess and tea party and singing and make believe and everything!"
"YES, I LIKE TEA PARTY. I LIKE SINGING AND MAKE BELIEVE. WE CAN PLAY 'PRINCESS IN THE CASTLE' NOW."
Doctor Liz watched Margaret begin pushing boxes around the Dalek. "Maybe," she said to herself, "it's not a Dalek anymore. Maybe when it absorbed Margaret's DNA to rejuvenate itself, it got more than it bargained for. Maybe, it's Margaret in Polycarbonate Armor now."
Doctor Liz laughed aloud and hurried over to help Margaret and the Dalek with their castle. "Who would imagine? What an ending! Everybody lives! Even the Dalek!"
Fred, the Dalek, Doctor Liz and Margaret gathered around the police box. "Well,
here's the TARDIS," said Doctor Liz, giving its blue side an affectionate pat.
"Who's coming with us? Fred?"
"But it's just a box!" squeaked Fred.
Doctor Liz chuckled.
"I can't anyway," Fred added. "With Nidhiki and Krekka gone back to Metru-Nui, I'm in charge of the bunker."
"Poor Nidhiki!" Margaret took a bite out of her chocolate bar and hugged her Nidhiki plushie. "But at least he left us presents!"
"I'm sure Krekka will see to it Nidhiki gets a good long rest," said Doctor Liz. "He said something about hunting Toa, whatever that means. I don't know what we'll do with all those boxes of Rolaids, though."
"Maybe we'll find a world with lots of tummy aches!"
Doctor Liz laughed again. "Maybe we will, Margaret!"
Margaret stood on tiptoe and straightened the Dalek's paper crown. "What about you, Prince Dalek?"
"I AM STAYING WITH FRED."
"Really?" said Doctor Liz. "There's a bit of news. Why?"
With a shout, Margaret jumped up and down. "Funland! Funland! Funland!"
"What's Funland?" asked the Doctor.
"We're opening the bunker to the public," said Fred, "after we get the new midway built. Dalek and I will reprogram the Vahki for park maintenance. We're going to adjust their staffs into Staffs of Joy, and it'll be their job to make sure everyone has fun!"
"WE WILL CALL THEM, 'THE HAPPINESS PATROL'."
"Great name, eh, Doctor?"
"Err... Yes, Fred. Very original." Doctor Liz shook Fred's hand while Margaret jumped on the Dalek and gave it a big hug. Then Margaret squeezed Fred goodbye until he squeaked.
I sure hope this really is the last Dalek, thought Doctor Liz as she gingerly shook its plunger. Or Fred just might find himself in a big heap of trouble one day.
"Come along, Margaret!"
Margaret skipped along behind Doctor Liz into the TARDIS. The door closed. A moment later, it opened again and Margaret hopped out. She set Fred down and picked up her Nidhiki plushie. "Sorry, Fred!"
"Squeaky!" was all Fred could say while he caught his breath.
Margaret disappeared into the TARDIS again, and a moment later it dematerialized, off on another exciting adventure.
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