Authors notes: I've been pointed towards a wiki page that explains a whole deal about Azarath and it's culture. It looks like I wasn't that far off with most of it. However, I have noticed one glaring problem. Azar wasn't supposed to be a man, but a woman. Whoops. I was sure I read that he was a male character, but I'll have to consider what I'm going to do to fix this.
Learning more about Azarath has also presented some interesting things that I can actually use specifically in this arc of the story. So stay tuned. ;)
As always, edits might be made once I've listened to it with the FFNet reader a bit.
EDIT:02/January/2020: I've edited the second half so what I was trying to get across feels more subtle and less like a whack on the head.
The Monkey's of Azarath
Raven had to stop in the story telling process because Beast Boy was giving her a look.
"What is it?" Raven asked peevishly.
"Hedgy can't be real." Beast Boy rolled his eyes, "He sounds like a scarecrow."
Raven stared at him in the creepy way she does, her eyes narrowed a little. "You mean, a 'straw-man?'"
"Ye… yeah." Beast Boy had faulted in what he was about to say for a second. "I get this all the time being a vegetarian. I just don't want to eat meat, but some dudes think I want the meat industry to shut down and everyone lose their jobs."
Raven raised a sceptical eyebrow. "Don't you?"
"Well, yeah, but that's not the point." He crossed his arms over his chest and his ears drooped. "I'm not so much of a dick about it."
No, but every time he cooked it was always a tofu dish he was trying to feed to everyone. The others would placate this from Beast Boy, but Raven always ordered a pizza or something whenever she knew Beast Boy was cooking, and she'd eat it before dinner time, then say she was not hungry. She could take the pizza with her to the dinner table and eat it there. But, though she didn't like Beast Boy trying to shame her into adopting his inferior cuisine, she respected and understood his perspective. All the meat products they'd eat were once animals that Beast Boy could turn into, and that gave him some sense of kinship with the animal kingdom. All of them, from an ant to a tyrannosaurus.
He probably looked at Raven eating a hotdog, and to him she might as well be eating a raw, severed human arm. She refused to even try his tofu dishes, mostly because it was like a game, if she were to allow even a crumb of tofu to ever pass her lips, then she'd lose.
Beast Boy's occasional vegetarian activism was always irritating to her. If he could turn himself into plants Raven guessed he'd swear off tofu and vegetables and try to become a sun eater. Not the species that eats stars. She meant people who were convinced they could survive on nothing but sunlight and water, like a plant.
Some people were stupid.
"Why is this even bothering you?" Raven asked almost dismissively.
"I just think Hedgy is a doosh." Beast Boy got up "that's all, a doosh, and I…" Beast Boy dropped down onto the trunk and crossed his arms in a mood. Raven thought she knew what was bothering him, but she had neither the social skills nor the patience to explain it to him. Thankfully, Star Fire was here to explain it in her own words.
"I admit, Hedgy sounds like an unpleasant… person, and people like that will exist. But friend Beast Boy, you should not feel ashamed by Hedgy's behaviour. You are not like Hedgy." Star Fire explained gently. "I know of your tastes, and you offer us to share in the experience of your world, and we gladly accept."
You speak for yourself. Raven thought.
"But we do not feel like your beliefs are forced upon us. Please, don't feel ashamed. We sample your world out of respect for you and your perspective. But you never go so far as to expect us to adopt your tastes."
Beast boys defensive mood seemed to lift a little. Hedgy had clearly upset him, and Raven guessed it was because the guy was almost a walking parody of some of Beast Boy's core characteristics ramped up to eleven. Raven always thought of Beast Boy as someone who'd fight for animal rights. Not something Raven disapproved of, it was one quality she liked about him. But Hedgy was just a dick about it. Someone who lorded it over everyone because he thought he had the superior morals, and that gave him a pass to be an asshole to people who didn't fall in line. Oh, but it was okay, because he was the 'good guy', and a good guy would only be an asshole to bad guys. So when he's insulting or attacking someone you 'know' that person is a secret bad guy, and you should join in on the fight, or else they might think you are a secret 'bad guy' too.
Raven hated that way of thinking, and sadly she felt too many people were susceptible to it. How many super heroes today still thought Raven was dangerous? That she was on a knife edge between good and evil despite not knowing a thing about her character, her desires, her beliefs. They only knew of her heritage, and that was enough.
Raven felt like she should say something to Beast Boy, to make it clear she didn't think Beast Boy was as bad as Hedgy.
"Hedgy was an arsehole activist." Raven said at last, "Your activism is… tolerable."
"Oh gee, thanks." Beast Boy said sarcastically almost rolling his eyes. Raven almost smiled, thankfully Beast Boy was looking away, and she forced it back down before he noticed.
The unlikely trio, now agreeing upon a plan, were now walking along the dark corridors of this 'battle platform'. Ace had taken a bright flash light out of her bag to illuminate the gloomy tunnels.
They had decided their best bet was to stay to places where the power was clearly off. No power meant no Dalek detector devices that could pinpoint their location.
"If I'm right, the Daleks will be focused on getting the Battle Platforms drive units activated." Ace said, "That's always been their problem. They focus so much on trying to kill the most amount of people in the easiest way possible that they fail to notice a few rats like us nibbling at the cables."
"But," Hedgy spoke, "surely they don't want to kill everyone. Just people they're scared of."
"They're scared of everyone, anything that is not like them they're scared of." Ace replied.
"But why would they do that?" Hedgy asked, not convinced of Ace's arguments of the Daleks pure evil.
"Because they honestly believe they should die. How do you deal with pests in your house? Stuff Rats, cockroaches, bugs, ants."
"I'd call an exterminator." Hedgy said.
"Exactly, that's how the Daleks see any other life as. Pests in their house. Their house just happens to be a bit larger, and encompass everything."
"I only have your word for that." Hedgy argued back, though he argued more calmly and with less passion than he used to. Raven felt strangely proud that she'd shook his cage so much.
"Who's word do you go on that all humans are evil 'Daleks'?"
"Eye witness testimony."
"Anecdotes in other words." Ace said in a dismissive tone.
"There is government data and statistics." Hedgy added. Ace rolled her eyes.
"There is actual historical evidence the Daleks murdered innocent people." Ace argued back. "Just because they were there."
"Written by humans."
"And the Thals, and the Gallari, and the Time Lords, and the Temeraians," Ace listed " as well as every planet in the mutter spiral."
Hedgy looked like he was about to flare up again, but one glance at Raven made him back down. Though Raven couldn't see him past her raised hood she didn't like the way he was looking at her. Had she been less experienced with reading people she'd assume it was some kind of attraction, -coming from a thirty year old dweeb of a man attracted to a teen made it all levels of creepy,- but that wasn't it. He looked at her like she was an anomaly to be wary of. Like her existence upset his view of the world. Well, he'd said he didn't think humans could understand being hated like aliens did. If Raven had convinced him otherwise then maybe he was trying to make what he now knew gel with his own philosophy. -A philosophy which Raven admitted, she knew very little of.- and he was having difficulty fitting this new information in without someone to explain the anomaly away for him. In the same way the Monks of Azarath were supposed to purge evil from themselves, yet had somehow found a loophole which meant bullying someone Raven was somehow okay. Strangely, Raven was gaining some sense of pleasure knowing Hedgy's mind was squirming uncomfortably against its own turning wheels.
Ace too had calmed down a lot now that they had something to do. The fire which had ignited over the mere mention of the Doctor was simmering down.
Now that Raven thought about it, she did remember Ace from when she'd dived into the Doctors mind to find out how to fly the TARDIS all those months ago. Dorothy McShane. Ace. The rebellious, young, idealist whom, like the Doctor, always poked her nose into things which didn't concern her. Someone with a strong sense of justice and a drive to do the right thing. A great dislike for injustice, bigotry, and any kinds of mistreatment, unless they truly deserved it. Someone with bubbling anger and a very short fuse, -no change there then.- Raised in 1970's England, in a time before social media, before mobile phones. Which was lucky for her, depending on your point of view.
How did Raven even know all this? She knew she must've pulled other stuff from the Doctors head apart from the TARDIS instructions. That information probably laid dormant in her head until a synaptic spark allowed her to access it.
Raven looked over to Hedgy and then back to Ace. They were so similar, except their ultimate motivation. Yes, it was a judgement, but not an unfair one to Raven's mind.
"Does he still carry that stupid umbrella?" Ace asked. Was she talking to her?
"No." Raven said simply. Despite knowing all this about Ace she didn't know why the tomboy girl had left the Doctor to start with, whatever it was it had left a scar. Frankly, Raven didn't care. If she tries to hurt him, I swear, I'll crush her!
"Is he still short, wavy hair and hat?" Ace asked again, "Or did he become the Byron-esk, dishy one?"
"The dishy one?" Raven had never heard of this expression before, but she guessed its meaning. "He is now."
Ace didn't reply, at first.
"So you started out with the little troll then?" Ace said without humour.
"Yes." Though Raven had snuck aboard the TARDIS while the Doctor was in his previous body she'd only properly known the eighth Doctor. Though from what she remembered from the Land of Fiction, the seventh Doctor seemed nice enough. Much more like a wizard than his current persona was.
Ace turned and looked at her, her lips twisted, like she wanted to tell Raven something but for some reason was holding back.
"What?" Raven prompted, fixing her with her creepy, staring eyes.
"You'll want to keep an eye on him. The Doctor is known for picking his chess pieces," Ace said. "and travelling with them."
Raven continued to stare, daring her to go on. "What are you saying?"
"He's dedicated his life to poking his nose into unfinished business. Playing games he'd started in a previous incarnation. The companions he picks are usually people useful to him, or stray people he thinks need 'fixing."
Raven felt insulted by that last remark. "The Doctor didn't choose me." Raven insisted, "I stowed away onboard the TARDIS."
Ace laughed. "You really think that? Either you're more powerful than I thought to break through the TARDIS's defences, or you're as blind as a bat."
"I found a secret TARDIS key hidden on the shell." Raven said back rolling her eyes at this pathetic attempt at manipulation.
Ace laughed again. "You can only find that key if you know it's there at all. It's like a perception filter. You could be looking at it, and still miss it."
Raven's eyes stared at Ace, darkly, and intently. "Bullshit." She hissed, this was starting to piss her off.
"What was it? A psychic prompt? Maybe a little suggestion from a Time Lord's telepathic brain?"
"SHUT UP!" Raven's eye flashed red and power escaped, blasting the woman back and against the wall. "Don't test my patience, mortal!" Raven found herself saying. Her voice had a slight inhuman edge to it which faded back just as quickly. Her voice was now back to normal. "You will only get yourself hurt."
"I can see why you're such a spoilt princess, Sunshine." Ace said as she composed herself. Despite the display the woman was still as cool as a cucumber.
"You know nothing of me, don't pretend to." Raven said, her body relaxing again. The demon girl turned and marched on. Ace and Hedgy hurrying to catch her up. If she didn't need these two, well one of them, then she'd leave them here and just find a way back to the surface herself.
You won't abandon them?
I need them to get out of here.
That's not the reason.
SHUT IT! Mentally she sighed, I'm going soft.
Ace was full of it. Raven wasn't one of the Doctor 'chess pieces' she was his fr… his friend. Right? His intention wasn't to fashion her into a tool, or a weapon for him to fight in his battles. Okay, she had suspected that at first, but she'd come to learn that doing that just wasn't in his nature. It just wasn't him.
Or it isn't him now…
"Azarath, Metrion, Zinthos." young Raven chanted in the great hall of Azar, her own voice was drowned out however by countless voices also doing the same chant. "Azarath, Metrion, Zinthos." The point of this was apparently to offer some form of synergy with everyone as they purged the evil from their hearts.
They were to reach deep into their being, find whatever evils they had clogging their souls, focus and eject it. But not to just eject it into the room. That was a bad idea, apparently. Instead, they were to eject it beyond the veil, into limbo itself, like it was discarded into the trash so it didn't have to be dealt with anymore.
Raven, however, suspected the ritual was more symbolic than anything real, because no matter how hard she reached into herself, to find this evil side of her and pull it out, she just couldn't do it. It was like a stubborn weed that refused to be uprooted, it was stuck fast. It had gotten to the point where she doubted very much that the ritual really did nothing. That any feeling of uprooting evil from their souls was just a placebo.
It reminded her of a book she'd once read. One part of it was about a boy that was part of a strange religion. One of the rituals involved the ability to speak a mysterious, long dead language when going into a trance. The boy just wasn't able to do it. During a time when he was supposed to do it he'd stood there, in front of his community embarrassingly unable to reach deep within himself and speak the language. But then one of his betters had leant over him and whispered into his ear. "Just fake it, we all do."
Raven sighed as she released her breath and chanted the chimes again. The most interesting bit happened at the end of the book, when it turned out anyone who did enter that special state of mind in order to speak that 'mysterious language' were just spouting utter gibberish. It wasn't a language, it was just random sounds that just sounded like a language. The special people who were able to do this often, it turned out, where just able to force themselves to have a mental fit.
So sue her, but like the boy in the story a crack had formed in her faith in this religion of hers. They weren't purging evil from their bodies, it was a sham. Evident in the fact of how they treated Raven. Surely, bullying was evil, yet these people felt it justified.
She had pondered this for a very long time, and she'd come to the conclusion that good and evil were subjective to your point of view. The entire religion of Azarath was about fighting the deeper evils within ourselves. The children of Azarath had apparently decided that Raven, herself, was just evil enough to deserve punishment. So, to them, it was good that they teased and tried to humiliate her.
Or perhaps you could only uproot what you acknowledged to be evil. In that case, Raven could not purge any evil because she thought she did no evil. After all, she was apparently special, so special that Azar had stuck his neck out to train her abilities, so maybe she wasn't evil. Yet, she had such unclean thoughts, fantasies about revenge, of hurting people, of blood. Some part of her relished the idea of snuffing out a life, of bringing unnatural Lovecraftian horrors to life. She'd even had a dream where she'd sprouted black tentacles and dragged someone who was kicking and screaming under her cloak and doing awful things to them. It was a strange kind of pleasure she took from that fantasy. But though deep down she wanted to do it, consciously, she knew it was wrong, but some compulsion made her want to do it. She'd been good, right? She should be allowed this one sin, this one pleasure.
Raven pulled at that evil again, and it stubbornly remain rooted, like it was anchored into her.
This all must just be total bullshit.
Unless, of course, she was just evil. That would make logical sense going by everyone's behaviour. She was evil, she was wrong, and she needed to be purged.
Raven's teeth ground a little. Andra, her personal bully, had gleefully gossiped loud enough for Raven to hear that a mad monk called Juris had tried to cast Raven herself into limbo as a baby, and flushed away like waste down a toilet because he believed her to be utterly evil.
The mass chanted the chimes again, but Raven had given up on purging herself of evil. Instead she'd used her ability to project her consciousness outward from her physical body, and had decided to project herself back into her room to continue reading a book she'd had to interrupt her digestion of to come to the hall for this mass.
The synergised chanting made this so much easier as Raven fed on the excess focus to do what she wanted.
With a flick of her mind, the book opened and through the connection she began to read what was on the pages.
It wasn't a story book, but a book on psychology. Raven wanted to understand people, because on some level she thought maybe people treated her poorly because of how she presented herself. A superficial way of looking at things, but in the olden days they'd burn people as witches just for having a wart on their face, and most adults, in Raven's experience, where just children who'd hadn't grown up. They'd just gotten bigger.
This next psychological experiment in the book was interesting, and perhaps, very telling to the real nature of this ritual everyone else was doing.
The experiment went thusly. You have a room full of monkey's, in the middle of the room you put some step ladders leading up to a bunch of bananas hanging from the ceiling. You also had a hose that sprayed ice cold water on standby.
When one monkey started to climb the ladder and had gotten half way up to the bananas the hose was activated and the monkey was dosed in ice cold water, to start with. Then the hose would be turned on every other monkey so they too got the same unpleasant spray.
The punishment was horrifyingly unfair, and Raven wanted to shut the book. Raven didn't much care for monkeys, but she could feel empathy for them. She continued to read. She wanted to know what the point of such a nasty experiment was.
Eventually, the community of monkeys had gotten to the point where any who approached the ladder and looked like they were going to climb it were attacked by the other monkey's. They'd rip the monkey down and beat it to within an inch of its life. Understandable, they didn't want to be sprayed with cold water and they'd reasoned anyone who climbed the ladder would get them all sprayed as punishment. They'd learnt not to climb it, because it was deemed an act against the best wishes of the community.
But then came the most uncomfortable part of the experiment. They exchanged one monkey for a new one who didn't understand the rules of the community. So when it saw bananas within easy reach it tried to climb the ladders to get them. The other monkey's had subtly told him 'no', in their own way, but they weren't able to communicate precisely why not. Would the new monkey believe them if they could communicate?
Would he accept that magic water would rain down and spray them all if they dared climb the ladder? The new monkey kept trying to climb the ladder, the promise of free food within his grasp. The other monkey's set upon him, dragged him to the ground and beat him up.
The sickening thing was the monkey didn't know what it was doing, it had never seen the 'magically appearing cold water' before, and they never would again, because the hose had been removed from the experiment. There was no danger, they were free to get the bananas.
Now came the most disturbing part of the experiment.
Gradually, they replaced each of the original monkeys with a new one. Each time, a monkey tried to brave the ladder, only to get beaten up. Even the newer monkey's joined in the fray. They had no idea why, they just saw the other members of their little community doing it and they decided to join in. Eventually all the monkey's were replaced. There was no cold hose treatment, nor did any of them know about it, and yet the forbidden bananas were still forbidden, because each time a newer monkey tried to climb that ladder all the new monkeys in the band, who had no idea why they had been beaten themselves while trying to climb the ladder, set upon the newer monkey and beat them up too; and so the cycle continued.
The study showed some unsettling aspects of human behaviour that Raven had experienced all too well. Basically, people were like monkeys, which made people stupid.
In fact, that was something. They were supposed to purge evil from themselves. But what exactly was 'evil?' Was it just bad moral decisions, or was it something tangible? The religion of Azarath would have you believe that 'evil' was something that could be purged. But what if evil had meant something else in the distant past of the order? Something which all meaning had been lost on. Perhaps 'evil' had become such a broad term that people now didn't even know what it was anymore. They just knew they had to fight it, overcome it, and purge it from their bodies.
That was all assuming this ritual going on in the main hall was just bunk and no one knew how to purge their evil, so they pretended. But they were so used to doing it, with each generation diminishing its understanding of it to the point where it had no meaning at all, other than a communal thing like breakfast.
This made some sense, as Raven had asked over and over what exactly 'evil' was? And each time she just got a bullshit answer. "It is the darkness within us." One would say. Okay, define Darkness? "it is the evil within us." They'd reply. Which just made things confusing.
Raven couldn't understand why such a civilisation which was all about the self, learning, education and empathy, -apparently,- didn't have a good definition for one of its core concepts. 'Evil' was apparently something you had to experience yourself to understand. But from Raven's perspective, that meant it all came down to personal interpretation. Raven herself didn't like being teased, she'd consider that evil. She didn't like being judged based on her appearance, or any other arbitrary factor. She considered that to be evil, and yet the Monks of Azarath behaved that way towards her and others.
From Raven's point of view, the Monks were evil.
The Monkey's of Azarath were evil.
It was just fortunate that Raven didn't have a knee jerk, recoiling disgust of 'evil.' Or else she might be tempted to work towards destroying them herself.
You should, that is their code, and you are a Monk of Azarath. Said a voice in her head. And Raven thought back to it.
I may be a monk. But I am no monkey.
They had stopped for a while. They had been walking for ages and Raven only assumed Ace knew where she was going. She seemed to know the layout of this battle fortress, so Raven had to trust her.
They had no food, nor supplies. That's what Raven assumed, until Ace pulled out a canteen bottle and took a swig from it. The tomboy girl then offered the canteen to Raven. Gingerly, Raven took the canteen and drank down some water. She was supposed to hand it to Hedgy, but she instead handed it back to Ace, who then handed it to Hedgy, giving Raven a look.
This was followed by a chocolate stick thing. A 'Kit-kat' as the red wrapper named it as. It was a bar of chocolate divided into four smaller bars joined at their base which you could break off from each easily. Ace broke off two and handed one to Raven and Hedgy, while Ace had a third and stored the fourth in the wrapper which she replaced into her rucksack.
"So, does he still play the spoons?" Ace asked Raven, "Or did you bend them?" She added with humour.
"The Spoons?" Raven asked cluelessly.
"Count yourself lucky." Ace said, "I dread to think how many of his companions he's driven insane with that party trick."
"I am not the Doctor's companion." Raven said levelly. "I am not his anything. He is mine. He is my Time Lord."
"Possessive little kid, aren't you." Ace said, Raven felt herself go a little red as she realised how she'd made it sound.
"You misunderstand." Raven's eyes glowed, "He is my property, and I don't like people who break my stuff. Do you understand me?"
Ace made a mocking tone that Raven didn't understand the meaning of, but she got the gist that Ace didn't take her seriously. "I've already hurt the Doctor once, and it was enough for me." Raven's eyes darkened. "Oi, calm down, Carrie. I hurt him with words. Very, very harsh words."
"What did he do?" Raven asked in a guarded way as if bracing herself for a lie.
"You want to know?" Ace asked, she took Raven's staring as a 'yes.' "He sacrificed someone, sent them on a suicide mission, just so he could have an advantage. Just so he could win. All for this 'bigger picture' crap he was always on about."
Raven didn't say anything, but she did give her a look of disbelief. Ace shook her head, then got to her feet. "I'm going to see if there is any energy cells to juice this up." She held up the big flash light they'd been using. "I'll leave Hedgehog with you for a bit. Try to play nice for a change."
Ace vanished through the door in search of power cells.
Hedgy was mercifully quiet as he munched on his kit-kat bar. Raven held up her kit-kat stick, shrugged and decided she wasn't hungry. She forced it into Hedgy's hands to get rid of it.
"Aren't you hungry?" He asked.
"What do you care?" Raven snapped, another awkward silence followed.
"That boy." Hedgy asked, "The one who insulted you." What boy? "The one that tried to insult you at your temple."
Raven's eyes snapped to him. "How do you know about that?" She demanded.
"I don't know, I just do." Shit, she must've given him more than just her experiences. God, she was bad when it came to the brain. "But the boy. Why did you do it?"
"Do what?" Raven took her time asking that simple question.
"Why did you allow him to insult you? Why didn't you teach him a lesson? Make him pay for joining their gang?" Hedgy asked. Raven crossed her arms over her chest. She didn't owe Hedgy any explanation. "I'd have beaten him up, or told my followers to. But you told him to call you a more insulting name. I don't get it."
"I did it…." Raven barely remembered it, it had happened years ago. "Why do you think I did it?" Raven didn't even know herself.
"That's why I'm asking. You didn't hurt him."
"What would that have gotten me?" Raven asked him. I would've enjoyed it. Oh, how she would've enjoyed it.
"But aren't you teaching him to come back and insult you again? And to do it to other people too? That's not very responsible to everyone else." Raven didn't feel like explaining herself, so remained silent, but she was getting increasingly annoyed with him. "He would've stopped if you made it clear you could squash him like a bug if you wished."
"They were just words. Words cannot hurt me." Raven said.
"But the child, I…"
"You want to know why? Listen to me very carefully." Raven hissed levelly at him. "You go on and on about decency, morals, and 'what is right'. Let me tell you this. A lot of people don't care about 'good' or 'bad,' they don't care about 'morals' or 'decency' or 'what is right'.' What they care about are cheap social points. They don't care about 'being' good, they care about 'appearing' to be good." Raven put great emphasis on the words 'being' and 'appearing' so he didn't misunderstand, nor could he pretend to. "They don't stop, they don't think, they'll only care about if they 'look' like they're doing or saying the 'right', 'decent,' 'moral' thing."
"But... but even pretending, and just shutting up about degrading stuff is better than being a Dalek and shouting about it." Hedgy said. He didn't sound aggressive or pushy, so Raven dialled her frustration down to the appropriate level.
"And who decides what is 'degrading'? Who decides who needs to shut up?" Raven said. "You?"
"No of course not me!"
"Someone, someone wise, and intelligent." Hedgy said.
"And how do you know they are wise and intelligent, and not manipulative?" Raven asked.
"I guess I need to look at everyone around me and follow where they go." Hedgy said.
"You could think for yourself for a change." Raven argued back.
"I do think for myself. I just need people to check my thinking for me." Hedgy said.
"And do you always capitulate?" Raven asked rather bluntly and harshly. "Do you never disagree?"
"N... yeah I do." Raven's eyes narrowed. She could tell he was lying. "How am I supposed to know I'm actually helping then? How do I know I'm a good person?"
"If you expect other people to answer that question for you, then you don't deserve an answer." Hedgy didn't look like he was backing down. Despite being shook up earlier he was still ideologically stubborn.
"Wait, are you saying I don't care about being good, but in only looking good?" Hedgy asked as if the idea was preposterous.
"Do you ever disagree with your 'order'?" Raven asked. "Have you ever talked back and held your ground when you're told to shut up?"
"Yeah... sure I have." He was lying again.
"Don't lie to me." Raven said, "I've been lied to by more convincing people than you." Hedgy hesitated before responding.
"I have disagreed." Raven didn't buy that.
"You care about being liked." Raven said at last, "I don't, I grew up. That's the difference between us. That's why you'll never understand. You rely on other people to tell you you're a good person, because you don't know what one is."
Hedgy's nostrils flared up like a bull presented with a red cape. "You... you... This doesn't answer why you didn't hurt the child."
"No, it doesn't does it." Raven answered. She could sense the lack of an answer infuriated him, and Raven took great pleasure in that.
"You're just a witch, a heretic, a...!" Hedgy said too fast remembering the insults Raven was once called, then he corrected himself. "I mean a Dalek! An Evil Dalek! An Evil, species-ist, bigoted, Dalek!"
"No." Raven said, "You actually meant 'witch', you meant 'heretic.'"
"No, I mean it. You're a Dalek!"
Raven's eyes turned to focus on him. "I am all these things, just for poking back at you?"
"I protect aliens, and the unfortunate." Hedgy said, going into saviour mode. "You strike at me, you strike at their defence, meaning you strike at them, and that makes you an Evil Dalek." Now Raven understood it.
"So you use them as a shield, to protect yourself from criticism." Raven said, "No wonder you believe yourself to be morally perfect."
Hedgy clenched his fists and opened his mouth to speak, then he closed it again. It opened again when something else came into his mind, then he closed it again. He'd ran out of steam, he'd ran out of arguments.
"You're just a frickin' bigot!" He shouted.
"Sadly, I do believe, that you believe that." Raven shrugged it off.
Hedgy turned around and clamped his hands over his head. "I won't listen to your heresy... I mean you're hate speech!"
Finally he was quiet. Again his fingers played and fidgeted with the ghost of the comms device he did not possess.
Raven's eyes then turned back to the door Ace had disappeared through. During their long walk she had started to wonder if this really was Dorothy McShane. From what Raven remembered from the Doctor's brain, Ace and the Doctor were inseparable. They had a... a father and daughter relationship, a bond that ran so deep that it just didn't make sense how it could be severed so completely. The goth girl looked down at the bag that Ace carried around. Sensing Ace was nowhere near Raven moved over to the bag, opened it and began rummaging around inside. She didn't know what she expected to find, but she was going to find it.
There were deodorant cans within, all labelled as Nitro-nine or Nitro-ten. There was one that felt especially heavy with the initials A - A - A - 2, whatever that meant. In the rucksack she also found a rope ladder, climbing equipment, water bottle, dehydrated food, and other stuff, everything an adventurer needs. She then pulled out a folder made of some kind of plastic material. Opening it up Raven found within details about the planet, info on Daleks. That's as much as she could gather thanks to the photos and diagrams, the writing was in some weird, circular hieroglyphics that the TARDIS wasn't translating for some reason.
That's when she found it.
Tucked into the folder was a wallet. Within the wallet was a photo, and old photo. One that was old, folded and looked like it had been taken out and viewed so many times that it was wrinkled. It was a photo of Ace with another man. A shorter man with a stupid hat on, wavy hair, and an umbrella with a question mark as the handle. Ace wore one of those stupid red, Christmas hats with the white ball on it. They were in a Christmas setting in front of a fireplace. There was evidence of tinsel, streamers and lights.
Raven should put it back, but she didn't. Not right away. She just sat staring at it. It was having some kind of an affect on her, looking at Ace and the Doctor being so happy during Christmas. The Doctor, her Doctor, had tried to celebrate Christmas with her, and what did Raven do? She blew him off and wanted to be left alone. She rejected his attempts to give her new experiences because deep down they scared her. She was scared of making a mistake, looking foolish, of doing something wrong. She felt her eyes become wet as she stared at the photo. Ace and the Doctor seemed closer than Raven and her Doctor ever were. That made a million and one thoughts run through her head, but there was one thought in particular that she focused on. True, Raven and her Doctor weren't as close, but that wasn't the Doctor's fault.
Why were her eyes even misting up? What deep level was this affecting her? She only got one thought that crossed her mind, and the thought just made her depressed.
You want a real father figure, you have a good father figure. But you still make a terrible daughter.
Raven breathed in deeply and she felt her nose sniff. I'm not crying! She insisted as she packed the photo away and put it back in the bag and repacked it so Ace wouldn't be the wiser that Raven had been through her stuff. Once the bag was as she left it Raven retreated from it and made sure her wet eyes were hidden deep within her hood as she settled down and tried to push all these emotions aside.
"You are a Dalek..." Oh God, not now, why won't Hedgy shut up?
"Not in the mood right now!" Raven insisted levelly, calmly, but firmly.
"You are a Dalek, your heritage says as much." Hedgy leaned back a little when Raven's head snapped to him, her eyes glowing red.
"What do you know of my heritage?" Hedgy had trouble speaking, because he had trouble breathing since Raven had grabbed his throat with her powers again. "You don't know me, nor who I am, nor what I..." Raven stopped, considered, then sighed. What did he care? He couldn't be reasoned with, she could save planets from destruction and he'd sell her out for a pat on the head. When the long sigh ended Raven spoke again. "You better keep that to yourself, or I swear I'll do worse to you than you could possibly do to me." Hedgy had seen a glimpse inside Raven's dark, sick and twisted head. He knew full well what she was capable of.
"No, no." He gasped, "please don't. I don't... I don't think you're evil... I... I..." Raven sighed again and forced the escaping air across the back of her throat to sound like the growl of a monster about to pounce. She dropped her power and he gasped for breath.
"Ugh..." Raven sighed again, "don't patronise me." She allowed Hedgy to gather enough oxygen before she spoke again. "I mean it." Raven stared into his soul. "If you speak one word of what you know about me to anyone; and I will know that it was you. I will tear this planet apart to find you, and when I do..." She let the threat hang in the air.
"I... I... Prom... I Prom..." Hedgy still gasped for breath.
"Don't bother promising." Raven snorted. "Yours mean very little."
That's when Ace came back with her fully charged flash light. She noticed Hedgy gasping for breath on the floor. Ace laughed and said.
"Ate the kit-kat too fast, did ya?"
On the move again, and yet again, everyone was mercifully quiet. Ace had stopped trying to talk to Raven, which suited her fine, and Hedgy had stopped trying to show how a 'good, virtuous person,' he was.
It also meant this headache she was feeling coming on was more manageable. By that, she didn't mean Hedgy. It was just some headache that was at the edge of her perception. Like someone was banging on her head, wanting to be let in. Maybe they'd been subtly heading down and she was feeling the change in pressure around her. She took a deep breath and tried to push it aside.
Ace's flash light illuminated the corridor just in front of them. The corridor was so long and dark that shining a light straight down it told them nothing of what was up ahead. At least, until now. There was a half open bulkhead that was stuck raised up just enough that they could squeeze under. Raven's skinny frame went under no problem. Hedgy's slightly pudgy frame squeezed through, and Ace shimmied underneath, but to get her bag through she had to empty some of the contents and push them under.
As Ace packed the stuff away Raven was aware of the look on Hedgy's face. It was a mask of horror. He was frozen with fear.
Raven found out why when she turned around and found herself staring into the glowing, blue eye of a Dalek.
It just stared at her. It didn't shout, it didn't shriek, it didn't call 'Exterminate' nor did it attempt to kill anyone. It just looked at her. The lens inside the eye stalk twisted, and turned, like it was trying to figure out what Raven was.
Ace had frozen too, and was also confused by the Daleks odd behaviour.
Two more Daleks flanked it. Each looked at Hedgy and Ace as if examining them, yet couldn't quite see them.
A low pitched rumbling sounded from the floor as a deodorant can that had fallen from Ace's grasp, rolled past Ravens feet, between the Daleks, and it kept on moving, and moving. The Daleks' eye stalks followed it, they turned their bodies to keep it in view as it continued to roll.
"What's up with them?" Hedgy asked out-loud, and nearly got a blast of blue energy, as a lance of it nearly grazed his scalp.
The Daleks rolled, or hovered, back towards them as quick as a flash, their eye stalks looking every which way as if trying to pick up the intruders. But their eye stalks told them nothing, or at least nothing useful. They just acted like curious children, and like children they got bored, turned and began moving off.
Experimentally, Ace took something from her pocket. It looked like a bottle opener on a key ring. No keys on the ring though. She tossed it into the darkness. It tinkled to the floor. Where it landed five lances of blue light flashed out from the now five Daleks blasting the bottle opener to bits.
"They can't see us." Ace whispered, "But they can hear us."
"What's wrong with them?" Hedgy asked again in a whisper.
"They probably caught the full force of the gamma ray burst. It must've fried their brains. So they're now effectively wandering zombies, looking for the nearest thing to exterminate."
"Anything that makes a loud enough noise?" Hedgy asked.
"Anything louder than their humming tracks, so hush!" Ace insisted of them both.
At last, Ace was talking sense.
Despite the Daleks bases humming as they moved the three still tippy-toed across the room, trying to be as silent as possible. Raven's softer boots made gentle, sneaky movements easy, as did Hedgy's sneakers. But Ace's large boots were making subtle thudding sounds that were attracting the Daleks to them. The three stopped and waited for the Daleks to lose interest. It didn't take long. When they moved on again Ace shuffled her boots rather than walked, which kept her reasonably silent.
Ace kept the light up and shining forwards. She even tried to shine it at a Dalek eye stalk to ward one off. A bad idea, because the Dalek came to investigate the glare and nearly bumped into her, stopping only short of an inch from her boot. None of them knew how much danger Ace was in at that moment. Until one of the Daleks bumped into that rolling deodorant can Ace had dropped, and instantly it fired its gun in that direction. If the other Dalek moved forward and into Ace then she was dead. The Dalek would fire and point blank range. Luckily the Dalek against lost interest and moved away.
As they went further on the number of Daleks became larger, and it was becoming more of a challenge to squeeze between them. Raven had to admit, it was fun watching Hedgy and Ace be so tense around these things. They couldn't see under her cloak, but she wasn't walking, but noiselessly hovering above the ground just a little.
Hedgy froze, a Dalek had reversed into him. Eye stalk turning, it focused on Hedgy so intensely Raven thought the eye itself would incinerate him. I can only hope. The eye flared, as if scanning him, but not finding anything of interest it, again, moved on.
Hedgy was now miming with his hands and mouth. Raven could get the gist of what he was trying to say. "This is dangerous. Why do we have to come this way?" He was essentially asking. "Couldn't we go around, a different way."
It was a fair question, though an academic one when a loud screeching echoed through the room.
"THE ESCAPED PRISONERS ARE IN HERE!" Yelled a Dalek from under the door, the shouting caught all the other Daleks attention. They all rushed for the door. All of them. Countless blue disks had appeared in the darkness, all rushing towards the door, and all about to run over the three escapees.
To Be Continued…
Authors notes: With a title like 'the Monkey's of Azarath' you know I was about to go into something deep. 😉
EDIT:02/January/2020: Another change I made was to add in the bit where Raven finds that photo of Ace and the Seventh Doctor.
The five monkeys experiment was a legit experiment preformed in 1967. It's an experiment that informs a lot about the themes of this current arc and its simple to understand, so I wanted to include it.
Like the monkeys who didn't understand why they had to fight other monkey's going up the ladder, or why the Monks of Azarath have to fight evil. Hedgy has a similar problem fighting what he terms to be 'Daleks' yet admits he doesn't fully understand what one even is.
Originally, Raven went on a long rant to Hedgy about her treatment on Azarath. But I felt it was just a re-tread of the rant from two chapters ago. So Instead I've turned it into more of a moment between the two characters where Hedgy is reaching out a hand to understand her, but she is still suspicious of his exact intentions.
Oh, also Merry Christmas, and if you don't celebrate Christmas, have a good day regardless. :D