Chapter 91

The 'Humanity' of the Daleks.

Devastation. That was the one word you could use to describe the town they walked into. The silence was the thing to hit them first, not even the wildlife had stuck around for what had happened. A town that was still clean and for the most part tidy. Fires still burnt from an exploded fuel dump, the crackling of which was the only thing that could be distantly heard.

It was peaceful, but the peace was a shroud over an eerie sight.

Bodies were littered everywhere. Most were humanoid, at first. Raven glanced at Hedgy and she noted he only seemed shocked when the bodies of aliens came into view. Raven didn't like that about him. He saw dead aliens as worth more emotion than those of a humanoid shape. Raven could guess why Hedgy felt that way. To him, humans were collectively 'advantaged', and should not be individually valued. One dead human was like a dead fly to him. A dead alien he treated like the death of a member of an endangered species, and the less humanoid the alien looked, the more grief he felt. Raven's eyes narrowed and was reminded more of the Mistress.

Raven broke her eyes away from the idiot and looked back at the bodies, observing them with a cold stare of detached indifference. But inside she felt cold and sad. There was a void where life would be, for some reason this disturbed her more than usual. She'd seen death before, she'd sensed life slip away. So what had made these instances so different? There was something else missing from the corpses that she couldn't put her finger on.

A weird crib like stroller came into view. Two, blue adult aliens lay dead beside it, and within was a small blue, alien baby. It was still, and silent. It was like it was sleeping. This was the one, Raven knew it. This was the one that touched her mind as it screamed for help.

"Why?" Hedgy asked, utterly shocked. "Why would they do this? What threat were they to the Daleks?"

"The Daleks don't need an excuse. They hate all forms of life." Ace said.

"But…. Why… What sense does this make?" Hedgy asked.

"You think humans can't get on with aliens?" Ace asked.

"Well, yeah. Obviously."

"The Daleks think the same. They can't get on with other life because they see it as a threat to their existence." Ace explained yet again to him.

"But... this is what humans were supposed to do to aliens? All that talk about evil aliens exterminating others. It was just humans projecting their humanity onto alien peoples."

"What the heck do you think 'humanity' even means?" Ace asked.

"Humanity?" He looked like a deer in headlights, caught off guard, or amazed that anyone would have to answer that question. "Humanity means to treat peoples who are different from yourself as less than you, or as evil and try to destroy them."

Ace froze, astonished, Raven also stared at Hedgy like she might a monkey urinating in its own mouth after declaring itself to be clever. "That's not what humanity means." Ace finally said. "Humanity means to have compassionate, sympathetic, or generous behaviour. Humanity is the positives of the human spirit. It's what differs us from the animals on Earth. It's also what differs aliens from the animals on their own planet. Perhaps it's arrogant to call it all 'humanity' but that is what it means."

This was annoying, and it was giving Raven a headache just imagining a conversation where you had to stop during every other sentence because someone had a different definition for a word and would demand that you use their definition only. Raven had a low opinion of humanity itself, but she knew what the word meant.

Hedgy looked at Ace like she was simple. "I'm sorry. But you're wrong, that's not what it means. I was taught it at university." Raven had a smart-allac response to that statement, but Ace spoke first, spoiling the sting of what Raven was about to say.

"What was your degree in, anyway?" Ace asked.

"Alien, human relations." Hedgy said. Ace snorted. "What? 'Alien, human relations' is important!" Hedgy insisted.

"The subject is, yes. But if that's what they're teaching you 'humanity' means, then it makes the subject sound..." Ace rolled her hand for the word.

"Anti-human?" Hedgy asked, both Ace and Raven noted the acidity of that question.

"Well, yeah." Ace nodded. "You could say it like that."

"Only bigots say that!" Hedgy insisted.

"Oi! You're the one who said it." Ace fired back.

"QUIET!" Raven shouted fixing both of them with a glare. "This bickering is pointless."

"Sunshine is right. No matter what you call them, the Daleks are universally hazardous to everyone's health." Ace said. "And that is something all life, extra-terrestrial or otherwise, can agree on, even those with degree's in Alien, Human relations."

Hedgy shot Ace a dark look. Raven loved that Hedgy was put in his place. He caught her looking smug and quickly she wiped it from her face and she went expressionless again.

They walked on for a little longer before Hedgy spoke again.

"But… I'd have thought they'd take them as slaves!" Hedgy exclaimed.

"Not the Daleks' style." Ace said, "what would be the point of slaves if you have no use for them?"

Hedgy looked around at all the dead. "So... they're all just cockroaches to them?" Hedgy remembered.

"Yeah." Ace said.

As the two debated Raven just stared at the blue baby and tried to understand what she was feeling. She'd often fantasised…. No, she meant just 'imagined' what it would be like to be surrounded by the dead. She thought she'd feel sickly, be in utter horror, at least feel cold, but she just felt... numb. The reality of the situation hadn't struck her yet, but she could feel it was coming, and she got the feeling it would hit her like a train.

The Dalek had shot them all, but the bodies were laying down looking so calm, like they were sleeping. Raven knew from experience they all probably died in utter agony before oblivion took them. The gravity of it, it was just so difficult for it to register.

"By the look of it." Ace said examining the ground where the dirt had been disturbed. "It's just the one Dalek."

"Just one?" Hedgy exclaimed.

"One is all that's needed." Ace confirmed.

There was a child's playground, with swings and climbing frames. Dead children hung from them like garish decorations.

Raven now understood why this all felt so wrong. Not because everyone was dead, but even in a dead body you could sense the millions, upon billions of bacteria that populate a body as they made their usual ripples in the ether. Bacteria that would slowly digest the body and break it down to sustain their own microscopic lives. But the Dalek guns killed not only the host, but the bacteria too. It felt like a photo with all the colour drained out leaving only shades of black and white. That's how wrong it felt. It sounded cold, and heartless for her to be much more bothered by the death of germs than that of sentient beings. But it just rammed home how serious the Daleks were about their competition against life…

No, not competition. Their war against life, all life. Any life.

"They only sent one Dalek after us?" Hedgy asked. Ace nodded. "Where did it go?"

"Oh, it's probably still here." Ace said casually. That caught Raven's attention, she looked around warily reaching out to sense any inkling of something with a phobia for the unlike. Hedgy also became a little pale.

"Seriously?" Hedgy asked.

"A Dalek is never one to leave a job half done." Ace said.

"Half done?" Hedgy said, nervousness clear in his voice, "What's it doing, killing the trees? De-weeding the garden?"

"It's probably waiting for us." Ace said, "this is the only place for miles where we can find civilisation."

"Won't it have gone after the main city on Safe Harbour?" Hedgy asked.

"Nah." Ace shook her head. "This," Ace gestured around her "was just scratching an itch."

Raven's eyes narrowed as her mind ticked over. Something didn't feel right. If the Daleks were too busy trying to reset the drives of their battle platform, as Ace had said, why waste time sending Daleks after them when moving the planet will probably kill everyone anyway. The three of them weren't important. Doubtful a Dalek came here just to scratch an itch. So why did it follow them here specifically?

Unless it didn't follow them. It had just been going in the same direction. What for? It wouldn't have been able to get out unless Ace's nitro-nine hadn't blasted open the exhaust port.

Exhaust port? Raven's eyes widened a little.

A blocked exhaust causes the engines they vent from to die. Raven had found that out when the Doctor was testing out his beetle cars engine, and in frustration she'd clogged the exhaust to stop the fowl smelling gases escaping into the console room.

"Would it be necessary to clear the exhaust ports for the planets drive system to work?" Raven asked.

"The drive has several exhausts." Ace explained.

"Can it run on one?" Raven asked.

"I see what you're saying." Ace said, "but nah. Even if they could clear all exhaust ports it would take them days to prepare the drive."

The silence was replaced with a loud rattling coming from a pot and pan set on an open stove. The ground began trembling, it was subtle, but it could be felt. Raven could feel it in her stomach. A form of vibration that was almost sickening to feel. Both Hedgy and Ace felt it too by the look of it, though Hedgy appeared to be less affected by it.

It was a vibration Raven could feel happening deep beneath the surface of the planet. It didn't last very long and went just as quickly as it had started.

"Forget moving the planet." Raven asked, "What else could a planet drive do to kill all life on the planet?"

"Well, they could mess with the ionosphere, or shake the crust until it cracks. But that wouldn't cause enough damage to kill everyone. There is no molten core or mantel, so no volcanoes. I guess they could…" Ace trailed off as if there was something she hadn't considered. "If they crack open their fusion generator while at full pelt it could unleash a plasma blast that could ignite the entire oxygen atmosphere as easily as igniting petrol fumes."

Silence followed that realisation.

"Are you serious?" Hedgy asked.

"Yeah, big bang." Ace said, "and I know all about big bangs."

Raven tore her gaze away from the dead baby and began walking with purpose in her step towards the forest.

"Whoa, Sunshine, where are you off to?" Ace asked.

"Do you really need to ask?" Raven asked. She knew precisely what she was going to do. If, whatever the Daleks planned to do, they could only do if that exhaust port was open then Raven was going to force it shut, one way or another.

"Oi, wait for me, I'm not going to let you have all the fun." Ace said hurrying to catch up to the demon girl.

"What am I supposed to do?" Hedgy asked.

"Well, Hedgehog I've got a special mission for you." Ace said.

"Bait?" Raven suggested.

"No!" Ace shot her a look. "You're good with comms, find a way to get a message to the Safe Harbour capital and tell them about this outpost, and about the Daleks."

"What if the Dalek is still here?" Hedgy asked, "What if it tries to shoot me? What do I do?"

"Obvious," Raven said, "you die."

"Not helping." Ace said back to Raven. "We're more likely to encounter it than he is, anyway. Just find a comms unit, send a message and then hide as best you can."

"But what if the Dalek finds me first?" Hedgy asked. "Once you're done will you come back and..." Hedgy trailed off. Raven jumped at the opportunity.

"What, laugh?" Ace finally stepped in, her own feathers ruffled.

"Raven, shut it!" Ace insisted of her with such authority and command that Raven actually felt a little spooked.

"Azarath, Metrion, Zinthos!" little Raven called out and focused her power. Today was a day she'd been looking forward to. If there was one thing she was good at it was telekenetics. Taking hold of the physical world and bending it to her will. The soil, the ground, the roots in the soil, the boulders which made up the temple ground. They all bent to her will.

She had to duck however, as a stone sailed past her head at the command and will of another.

Instantly she was up again and planning her next move.

Not many monk participated in these types of games because you could get hurt. These were games of combat, where ones powers are manifested to physically attack and disable. Raven prided herself at being very good at this game. Evident when something unexpected happened to her current opponent. The monk didn't realise what was happening when the roots exploded out of the ground like grasping tentacles and wrapped themselves around the monks arms and legs and neck.

"Submit." Raven demanded.

"Sheesh, calm down. It's just a game."

"Submit!" Raven commanded. Yeah, she was taking this far too seriously, but who could blame her. This was something she knew she was good at.

She detected something, and stepped away at the last moment as a blast of energy fired from the monks chakra jewel, missing her by inches. She could feel the cold as the energy absorbed heat from the surroundings, and in that instant she lost her concentration on the roots and they released the monk.

Rocks came sailing at Raven. Left, right, above. Raven dodged every single one of them with only moments to spare, as she did this she waved her hands, and took control of the stone slabs and fired them directly back at the monk. He could catch them too, but instead he panicked and threw up a shield causing the stones to shatter into a million pieces. With the monk distracted Raven did something unexpected and made the ground around him jump upwards, knocking him off his feet.

The monk began to speak his chimes again, but Raven put a stop to that quite easily by muttering a spell which not only forced the monks jaw to snap shut, but also caused his lips to seal together.

The monk got up, scratching at his sealed lips in panic. It was a simple spell that would ware off shortly, but the prospect of not being able to speak again clearly upset him.

"Submit!" Raven commanded. "Kneel!" The monk looked confused. "I said, kneel!" Raven raised up her hand and took control of the monks body. She made his knees buckle so he fell to them. He muffled a response, and through the vocalisation of his nose Raven guessed he was saying. "I give up. I give up!"

Raven grinned evilly at him in triumph.

"The spell will wear off shortly." Raven said calmly. At this point the two combatants would shake hands and return to their respected places. But Raven refused to take the monks hand, for starters he didn't offer her it, and second, Raven wouldn't have shook it anyway. This monk was not her equal in power, nor her equal in combat. Sure, he'd thrown up a few surprises, but Raven had her boot on him the whole time, metaphorically speaking.

She released him from her power and he scurried away like a panicked animal. "You are weak." Little Raven said matter-of-factly, not caring about how she sounded.

She looked up at the auditorium. Through the glass at the figures who were watching. Azar, her tutor regarded her with curiosity. But there was no hint of pride in his eyes. Nothing indicating that Raven was his student, one he'd wish to boast about. This hurt her a little, but she was more disappointed by the reaction of the slender, dark haired woman next to Azar.

Raven's biological mother also watched her play this sport. But again, there was no pride on her pretty face. Just worry, concern. Was there a hint of fear? They were talking about her, and by the expressions on their faces it wasn't anything good. Forget her. Mother had never been proud of her anyway. The more powerful Raven got, the more distant she seemed to get. She couldn't understand why. A loving parent would feel pride in their daughters accomplishments. Not fear, not concern, not jealousy, for that is what Raven's mother felt and the young goth teen knew it. She was jealous of Raven's powers, her control of it all. It was the only thing that made sense of her mothers behaviour.

Mother had grown distant. Azar was starting to fear her, like the others did. The only thing that Raven felt close to where her powers. At times it was like they spoke to her. They knew her and she knew them. They both hated the same people, they both plotted their pay back very carefully, and they got what they wanted, eventually.

Technically, her powers were just a part of herself. But it just felt right to personify them, like an imaginary friend. It just made life more bearable to believe there was someone on her side, even if that person was just herself.

"Another!" Raven called out. She'd won the match, so had won the right to remain in the competition as she wished. The other monks, some of whom were twice her age, shrank away at her sight. Raven was tempted to drag one of the monks towards her and force him to fight her, but she refrained. Too many people would notice.

It took a while to find their way back to the exhaust port. Raven wouldn't admit it, but she was utterly useless at tracking, but thankfully Ace seemed to know how to retrace their steps. When Raven looked at the trail she just saw green, mud and twigs. To Ace, she could see a clear path ahead. If Ace hadn't piped up and said, "I learnt to do this from this old savage the Doctor used to knock about with," Raven would've suspected she had magic, tracking powers.

Raven reached out with her mind and tried to sense any indication of an alien genocide machine following them, but she couldn't sense anything. Being mostly artificial their life presence was very small, especially when they were surrounded by vegetation, and they moved so slowly it made them difficult to pinpoint, like they had camouflaged themselves in the ether too. But it was probably just coincidence. They clearly didn't believe in psychic powers.

Soon they found the clearing where the ground vanished and disappeared into the darkness of the Daleks' lair.

"Think you could squeeze this opening shut?" Ace asked.

Reaching out her hand Raven took the edges of the exhaust port and attempted to squeeze it shut like one might a cardboard tube, but whatever it was made of it refused to yield to her power. The best she could do is rip off a dozen panels, but she couldn't bring the walls to collapse in on themselves. They were just too flimsy.

"Oh well, we're gonna have to use this" Ace said, extracting a deodorant can from her rucksack. "This one packs a lot more wallep!" It was the deodorant can Raven found earlier while going through Ace's rucksack. Raven could sense the chemical energy stored in that one can, the sense of danger ringing in alarm within Raven's head. "I'll give it a long fuse so we have plenty of time to get away and...

Raven's danger sense came alive. On instinct Raven held out her hand and the deodorant can was wrenched out of Ace's hand and flew away into the undergrowth.

"Oi!" Ace complained just before a blue lance of light passed through the space the deodorant can had occupied just a moment ago. Ace snatched her hand back from the lance of light that vanished in a flash.

The shot came from the other side of the exhaust port. The Dalek had found them, and it was cunning. If that bolt had hit Ace's home made explosive then they both would've been taken out in an instant. They could very soon be taken out, the two women ducked for cover as more lances of light shot at them and only missed them by pico-meters.

It appeared from the trees. It was hovering on the air in a confident and arrogant way.

Raven was about to wipe that attitude off of it's face, -if it had a face,- she reached out and took the Dalek shell. It was surrounded by blackness and Raven squeezed hoping to crush it like a tin can. The Dalek's shape refused to change. She gripped harder, channelling the disgust and hatred she had for it and funnelling it into her powers as if to grant the spirits of the dead their revenge. But the Dalek must be made of some super tough material, because it resisted all attempts she made to crush it.

The Dalek spotted her standing tall and swivelled its gun to take aim, but Ace knocked her to the ground again.

"What's up? Is your hocus-pocus not working?" Ace asked.

"Somehow, crushing alien cyborgs never occurred to me when I was in training." Raven answered back.

"Yeah, bonded Poly-Carbide can be a tough material to crack at the best of times." Ace said.

The Dalek remained high and at a distance, probably thinking one of them was going to shoot at it, and it was probably aware of Raven's abelites. She could turn the jungle into one massive trap against it. Use vines to tie it up. But it was keeping its distance and was trying to scope them out.

Raven and Ace held still and waited. Some of the plants had darker and bluer hues than normal, which meant their own clothes helped to camouflage them rather than stand out like they usually would. But the Dalek's eye stalk scanned the jungle, it's gun arm twitching in anticipation. It was like a patient sniper waiting for its targets to make the one move that would give their location away.

To Be Continued...

Authors notes: The young Raven part is the start of Raven's first steps into teenage-hood. Hence why she's becoming a little more moody, aggressive and angry. And that change has Azar and her mother worried.

Modern Raven is also a little nasty in this episode. Though keep in mind Hedgy knows her deepest darkest secret, so she views him as a threat. It's not a very nice way to act, but that's a character flaw of Raven at the moment.