Colateral Damage, Part One

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Colateral Damage, Part One

Post by Dave Webb on Sat Nov 29, 2008 11:45 am

I've been saying this shouldn't be done, or can't be done, and then I decided there were some tactical problems I wanted to play with, and things I wanted to do with the story...so here it is: the Time War as seen from three points of view, none of them involved, and it starts at a point which might as well be the beginning.

Observations


The sleep capsules hissed, popped and opened. It would be a few minutes before the three occupants stirred, so the ship's computer waited for signs of movement and carried out a few thousand other tasks in the meantime.

Dhiren Koduri had travelled like this before. He likened it to waking up after a legendary week in Paris he'd once enjoyed, where he'd stepped off the transport and woken up a week later with no money, two wives and a hangover that lasted four entire days. His mouth was dry, his eyes gummed shut and he had a pressing need to change position; his spine felt rigid and locked, his knees ached and so did his teeth. There were unhappy human noises being made nearby, so he wasn't alone and that was nice to know. Misery loves company. He sat up, very slowly, hanging onto the padded edges of the capsule and rubbed his eyes with exaggerated care. Blinking, he looked around.

In the tube on the other side of the rather cramped space there was a man. Dhiren knew they'd met before, but the sleep capsules tended to play games with short term memory. The man was pale, and apart from his sculpted dark eyebrows completely hairless. He had a blandness of feature as well, something which Dhiren put down to a current fad for "template" beauty. Something like 11% of Earth's population was virtually identical, copies of what seventeen image consultancies and media studios considered to be the ideal "handsome man".

At the head of the room, a woman was climbing unsteadily out of her capsule. She was small, muscular, white haired and extremely unsteady. Dhiren stepped from his own capsule to help her but she brushed his hand aside and leaned back against the equipment blinking and licking her lips. Her eyes, once he could see them, were vivid green.

"I'm Dhiren" he said, the first thing he could think to say. She looked up and nodded.
"Roseli" she said, and coughed. The other man seemed to be having a better time of things. He was standing in the middle of the room taking in his surroundings and smiled at them.
"I am called Tom" he said "but my full name is much longer. I am required by convention and law to tell you on first introduction that I am offically designated Post-Human."
Dhiren and Roseli nodded. There was little stigma to the designation but some people could be disconcerted by meeting a Post Human when they didn't expect it.

"Welcome back to consciousness" said a voice from the cieling. "I am the ship's computer. You may refer to me as 'ship'. Robes, purified water and hygiene products are available for your comfort in the next room. When you are ready, please step through and a short orientation briefing will begin." All three looked at each other.
"I don't remember either of you" said Roseli quietly, and Dhiren thought he heard a trace of accent "and I notice it's a little chilly, so if you'll excuse me I am going to get a robe and stop being naked."
Dhiren looked down at himself. Ah.

The next room was circular and, oddly, had little cubicles built into the walls where they could dress in relative private. A table, surrounded by a continual circle of seats, occupied the center. Above that hung a projector, which was already showing a series of familar and calming images. The ship talked to them as they cleaned, drank, dressed and drank some more.
"We are now on final approach to our destination. The ship has turned and our ETA to dock is seventeen hours. You have been awakened now for basic briefing and orientation, and so that you might get to know one another before the start of your tour. During this time, two meals will be served and there will be a one hour presentation on the safety procedures to be observed while aboard. Are there any questions?"
The computer's voice was as bland as Tom's features, and there were no questions for it, so it fell silent and allowed the crew to talk amongst themselves.

They had questions for each other.
"A year is a long time" said Roseli. She was very quick to smile, and now she was properly conscious very easy to talk to. "Why take the job?"
Tom sat forward.
"My life partner is also a Post Human. I was configured as female when we were last together and our relationship went through a patch of difficulty. It was suggested that I experience a different point of view, so I became male and decided to place myself as far away from my partner as possible in order to gain some individual experience. This seemed an ideal circumstance."
She turned to Dhiren. He shrugged.
"I'm from a Heritage Colony - New Mumabi - where I worked as an archivist, transcribing the early colony records from old to new media. After that project was over, there really wasn't much else for me there. So why not?"
"Heritage Colony?" said Tom.
"Pre Expansion" said Dhiren "someone thought it would be a really good idea to find a colony for each one of the major cultural and heritage groups. The project was short lived, but it meant that nine of Earth's nations, and not the ones you'd expect, got their own planets to play on. India, Iraq, the Aleutians, England, Wales, Belgium, Kenya and Vietnam, if I remember correctly." He smiled.
"Sorry, I tend to be a history bore when it comes to my areas of expertise." He turned to Roseli.
"What about you?"
She smiled.
"I'm an old hand at this," she said happily "three tours with the Deep Survey corp, two with United Transport running slow freighters and a five year stint with Infrastructure Terra maintaining the Phoenix project's various sites and bunkers. I specialise in doing out of the way things in out of the way places." she paused, smiling to herself "I just like being in space." she finished.
Tom smiled, which was odd to watch since it appeared to start happening before he was ready and took him by surprise.
"I'm still not used to this musculature" he explained "it's only my second face in thirty years and the last one was a lot simpler."

They had rooms. Actually, the term was generous for the space granted them - a shelf with a bed on it and a very narrow closet that contained several changes of generic clothes - shorts, a vest, a coverall, socks and boots. They were all grey and more or less featureless. Roseli's had two stripes at the cuff. She looked at them and shrugged.
"No idea" she said.

The computer called them to the central area, where the table contained food.
"The food comprises three proteins and two carbohydrates plus one source of sugars and fats. For your convenience, they are colour coded. The proteins are red, blue and orange. The carbohydrates are yellow and white. The sugars and fats are pink." It clicked. "Caffienated beverages are available at the dispenser on the left.
They ate. After a while, they stopped.
"Pink is not my colour" said Tom unhappily.
The computer said "Bong! There now follows a short safety presentation. You may ingore this or terminate it early if you have seen it before, but if you have not and the vessel suffers an emergency your chances of survival may be impared through not having viewed this presentation in it's entirety."
"Pass the red," said Dhiren, as he settled back to watch "I don't want to be survival impaired."

Tom eventually went to look at the engines and find the escape pods. He seemed much more at ease and his facial expressions were smoother. Roseli had disappeared, leaving Dhiren on his own. He went forward. The living and sleeping area was connected to the rest of the ship by a corridor, running along the center of the ship. It was no more than a twenty meters long and ended in a pressure door which opened when he pulled on it. Beyond was a tiny control space - the cockpit, he supposed - with one seat and a view. Roseli was curled in the seat, staring out at space and the hard point of light in the center of the viewport. As Dhiren watched it seemed to grow larger.
"Journey's end" said Roseli. Dhiren nodded.
"Our little home away from home" he agreed "tucked away in the middle of nowhere. Peace and quiet."
"Hopefully for me" said Roseli, looking up at him "but you'll be busy. Bound to be. An archivist and researcher way out here, I bet they've never had one and they've been waiting for someone to sort out the library."
"That would be nice" admitted Dhiren. "The year would just fly past."
"What do you think about Tom?"
The question took Dhiren by surprise.
"I don't know. He's the first Post-Human I've ever met. Why?"
She chewed on her lip for a moment.
"I thought I would be uneasy around him. You know, gender and appearance are optional...not physically human but has the same basic genetic structure and most of the same drives...I thought it would weird me out."
"Weird you out?"
"Yes, Mr. Librarian, weird me out. But it doesn't. Even that generic face is pretty pleasant to look at. I wonder what Tom was before?"
"Ask him" said Dhiren, thoughtfully.

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Re: Colateral Damage, Part One

Post by Dave Webb on Sat Nov 29, 2008 11:46 am

Tom sat on a convertor casing and swung his feet back and forth.
"I prefer Dhiren's face," he said after a while "it appears more friendly. It is a combination of the dark eyes and dark hair, and also the individual eccentricities of his genetics and life experience. He is interesting to look at."
Roseli blinked.
"You find him attractive?"
"In strictly aesthetic terms. I might ask him if I can wear a replica of his general appearance when we part company" said Tom, as if he were considering nothing more than borrowing a shirt. He frowned.
"You find this strange?"
"A little". Tom nodded.
"We define humanity in so many different ways, Roseli. For some people, humanity is still the flesh and blood, the biology. For others it is a set of values and ways of behaving. For those like me, it has become both a starting point and a core. I am as human as you, and yet for me the biology is optional. We are not really so very different. I simply have more choices."

A heavy clunk, which shook everything and made the lights flicker, broke several hours of silence.
"Docking complete" said the computer.
It took the three of them only a few minutes to gather themselves and make their way to the airlock. With a series of heavy clunks, the door moved aside revealing three men also clad in grey overalls. They looked significantly shabbier and were unshaven. One had the same stripes around the bottom of his sleeve as Roseli.
"Hello" he said "I'm Captain Cameron Hunter. Welcome to the Torchwood Array."

Captain Hunter led the way, walking them down an interminable corridor. The grating floor rattled under their boots. Hunter spoke constantly, reeling off statistics.
"The array is about a mile end to end and side to side. The live areas are a modified Sanctuary Base, although not a standard one. There are five levels and your quarters are on level three, along with everything else you'll use day to day. Everything else is dedicated to the purpose of the Array."
He turned and grinned over his shoulder at them.
"It's a lot to take in, but that's the nature of the game. The Array is the property of the Torchwood Archive and collects intelligence. Most of the systems are automated but the array requires a crew of three; an archivist to collect and sort data, an engineer to carry out routine maintenance and a commanding officer to make decisions. That would be you, Roseli. Torchwood tradition says that if you're in charge of an out of the way facility engaged in apparently pointless monitoring you get the rank of captain. So, Captain Roseli, any questions?"
"Hundreds," said Roseli and smiled back.
"Most of them the computer can answer. We have two. The main system, which we call Core, is largely silent and runs ninety percent of the array. There is a second system, a crew interactive unit that does the other ten percent. It's a Yan-2 Major Domo system, it's voice responsive and quite useful."
"Does it have anything to do with the archiving systems?" asked Dhiren.
"Yep, it does the front end."
They reached a door.
"This" said Hunter cheerfully "is where you'll spend the next year. Beyond this door is the reception area, and you'll be free to select your own living space, and so forth. Get set and I'll do some orientation before I leave."

The living spaces were more or less identical, arrayed around a central common area, and spacious. A bed, a bathroom, a desk with a work terminal, a chair and some shelves and storage units all in the same bland beige colour. The lighting in each was subdued. There didn't seem to be anything to tell them apart. There were six in total. They picked more or less at random. Outside each door, a nameplate changed to show their names.
"It's going to take a while to turn this place into home" said Dhiren.
"Probably about a year" agreed Roseli.

There was more corridor.
"Do you save money by having very little lighting?" said Dhiren as they clanked along.
Hunter barked a laugh.
"You can turn the lights up, if you like. It takes less than one percent of the reactor's power to light this place up like a...well, like a brightly lit cultural symbol of your choice! We just preferred to work in a sort of twilight. You'll see why just through here. This is traditionally referred to as The Hub."
The door opened on a room full of monitors and readouts, the large space bathed in the glow from the equipment. There were four workstations in the center and other control surfaces spread around the walls and ceiling.
"But you can call it The Bridge if you like."
"How about Ops?" said Roseli.
"Or CIC?" added Tom.
Hunter shrugged.
"Whatever. What you call it doesn't affect its function, which is pretty simple. It collects the data from a little under half a million monitor units scattered through the totality of human interest space. Some of the units roam, others are stationary and passive systems. And then there are the Top Ten."
Roseli made a "go on" gesture. Dhiren was already pacing around the room, looking at things and staring at readouts.
Hunter walked over to a bank of equipment.
"The Top Ten are sites that have a permanent watching presence; they use some technology that I've never seen anywhere else to give realtime feeds no matter what the distance involved is. It's rather interesting, but I don't pretend to understand how it works. Our Top Ten are places like a spot in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, a couple of dead worlds and three that we really like to keep an eye on; Mars, Goth and Telos."
"Telos?" said Tom.
"Yup" answered Hunter, tapping a specific screen.
"Why?" said Dhiren.
"No idea!" grinned Hunter "but if anything ever happens, we're supposed to tell someone. There's a red communications unit over here, and if it pages you, you answer it. If you see activity in the Top Ten, you make a call using it. Pretty simple?"
"It seems that way" said Tom.
"Deceptive, isn't it?" said Hunter. "Tom, you're the engineer, so you come with me and I'll show you the engineering spaces. You two, make yourselves comfortable."


Last edited by Dave Webb on Sat Nov 29, 2008 1:09 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Re: Colateral Damage, Part One

Post by Dave Webb on Sat Nov 29, 2008 11:46 am

By the time Tom returned, Dhiren had called up a schematic of the Array and an external view or two, a set of floorplans and a series of technical specifications.
"This place is huge" he said "and the data gathering, management and archival systems are...gorgeous."
Roseli smiled to herself.
"Shall I leave you two alone?" she asked. Dhiren seemed to think about it.
"No, I don't mind if you watch" he said "but I would rather devote my attention in one place for the moment. Can we work up to a threesome in a couple of hours, when I know my way around?"
Roseli blushed and stifled a laugh.
"OK" she said.

Tom studied Captain Hunter.
"You are English?" he asked.
"Nope" said Hunter "the accent is an affectation."
Hunter was stocky, muscular, with a broad, square face and bright blue eyes. Unshaven, he had the look of a sportsman coming down off a three day party.
"In the last year, has anything of note taken place?"
"Not a thing" said Hunter. "There are events which the Array records but which are of no real significance, and we also have access to every major entertainment network from just about everywhere, so there's been a lot of catching up on the classics and some sports based gambling, although we generally already have the results." He shrugged. "Lightspeed is a pain in the rear."
"And my duties?"
Hunter patted a control panel.
"Maintenance. Most of the systems will tell you when they need something, others have a rota of checks and calibrations. You're essentially a caretaker, so if you have a hobby you'll get plenty of time to indulge, If you don't have a hobby, I suggest you get one."
Tom nodded. Hunter watched his expression carefully.
"This isn't really what you had in mind, was it?" he said. Tom looked mournful.
"I had hoped to be busier" he said. Hunter smiled.
"Careful what you wish for" he said.

All three of them watched their ship depart, having found a small observation room. After a few minutes, Dhiren sighed and looked around.
"Alone at last" he said, and walked out. Roseli and Tom stood facing the strip of clear material as the ship became a point of light amidst many others. Tom looked down at her.
"There is not much to be done. Do you have a command for me?"
Roseli chewed her lip.
"Major Domo?" she called. She was answered by a soft "bing".
"Tell me: is there any alcohol aboard this station?"
There was another click.
"No, Captain" said the Major Domo "there is no alcohol on the station."
Roseli looked up at Tom.
"First order of business, then, is for you to follow the tradition of spacefaring engineers throughout time."
Tom brightened, turned to leave and stopped.
"And that is?"
Roseli patted him on the back.
"Build a still, make some alcohol."
Roseli and Dhiren jogged. At the same time each day the station corridors rang with the sounds of booted feet on gratings and the laboured conversation of two people trying to run away from boredom.
"Do you have any idea what Tom is doing?" asked Dhiren.
Roseli shook her head.
"Last saw him two days ago, when he said he was going to track down a minor fault in the audio reproduction system. Apparently his hearing is very good and there's a sound imbalance in the storage bay on level 2. What have you been doing?"
Dhiren shrugged.
"Not much" he said "archiving, reading, monitoring. Did you know we've got the last Daal Inf't migration recorded? A thousand ships, each one made out of planes of force and beams of light, moving on the stellar wind from one star to another."
"I don't even know who the Daal Inf't are" admitted Roseli quietly.
"Me either" said Dhiren, and laughed "but it's beautiful."
They turned a corner.
"What about you?"
Roseli sped up a little, overtaking him.
"Captain stuff. Examining scenarios, reading protocols. Did you know we have one each for the top ten? The Goth Protocol is interesting all by itself."
"Yeah?"
"Yeah. It's all real panic level stuff and I have no idea why."
They ran on. Dhiren made a surprised noise.
"Really? You don't know the story?"
"No"
"Then let's have dinner later and I'll tell you. If you can find Tom, bring him."
Roseli clapped her hands excitedly.
"Deal!" she said, and accelerated again "Catch you later!"

They ate, and Dhiren talked.
Goth was a world like several others, a planet where one small part of the population had become synonymus with the whole. In one city, one tiny place, the very best and brightest of the population had come to learn engineering and smithing, design and construction. They had brought prosperity, then excellence, then fame and riches. Slowly they had become infamous. They designed weapons and sold them to anyone and everyone who could pay.

The weapons were superb. The people became known as The Deathsmiths.

"There was a sword" said Tom abruptly "in a museum on Prox. It could cut like a plasma torch."
"Not so hard these days" said Roseli.
"The sword was made of wood" said Tom. Roseli nodded.
"OK" she said "back to the story".

Anyone can improve a weapon, modify one. The Deathsmiths designed them, sometimes to do things that no one else would have, or could have, thought of. You could go to Goth and meet with them armed only with a requirement and they would translate that into a device that you could hold and kill with. As their fame grew, their skills grew too until you could come to them with a situation, an environment or simply the name of a race and they would build you a weapon uniquely featured to deal with the situation, environment or race. And one day, as always happens, hubris got the better of them. The Deathsmiths designed a weapon against which there was no defense. Then they built it. Having built it, they eventually lost control of it, and it killed them. All of them.

"They had some warning, and in order to stop it getting off world they destroyed every ship on the planet."
Dhiren stopped talking and ate ravenously.
"It's a morality tale" said Tom "but one that actually took place. The Deathsmiths are a fascinating study."
Roseli shrugged.
"Has anyone been there since?" she asked.
"We've got a realtime feed linked to it, we could find out."

Goth was Monitor 6.
Dhiren couldn't help himself. He giggled.
"I took a look at the operational parameters of these things the other day."
He tapped at a control and a smaller readout appeared, scrolling rapidly through statisitcs and capabilities.
"This is an extremely cute piece of technology" said Tom "and by that, I mean I think I would probably settle down with it and raise children." Roseli nudged him.
"You're shameless" she said.
The monitor satellite, situated miles above the surface of the world, was tiny; a human could hold it with one hand. The pictures it sent back were created by the Array based on a stream of information from a barrage of sensors both active and passive and interpreted by an assortment of computers. The result was impressively clear, but thanks to the nature of the planet what it looked like was
"A biiig ball of dust" said Roseli.
"We can see clearer" said Dhiren. Tom sat back.
"The reason for the dust is there is no topsoil. The reason there is no topsoil is that there is no plant life. The reason for that is the weapon killed every living thing on the planet."
"Sobering thought"
"And cool, in a 'behold, I am become death' way" said Dhiren and changed a parameter. They were suddenly looking through the clouds at a surface coated in dust and rock. Devoid of anything softer than stone, the world had a jagged, angry look.
"And that's odd," said Tom "because wind action should smooth things."
Dhiren shrugged.
"Alien worlds, alien weather, alien rocks." he said. The planet rolled beneath the cameras
"Spaceship" said Roseli, and pointed. Dhiren focussed in on it and they made out a skeletal sphere surrounded by what appeared to be debris from an explosion, although the explosion had been some time ago. Decades, by the look of it. There was a click.
"Sontaran scout ship" said the Major Domo. "Crew size, two. Preliminary data suggests that the vessel was scuttled."
"Blown up by the crew" said Dhiren.
"To prevent it being used by the weapon" agreed Tom.

There were four other ships. They too had been scuttled. There didn't seem to be anything else on the surface. They turned the monitor off and walked away, quietly, thoughtfully.

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Re: Colateral Damage, Part One

Post by Dave Webb on Sat Nov 29, 2008 11:47 am

Tom disappeared for a week, trying to find a squeak in the atmosphere system. Dhiren cataloged over a hundred hours of audio, recording the output of a world on the very edge of human space. Roseli explored, listened, talked and jogged. Slowly, they became aware that their situation was boring. Fortunately, the still started to produce and Tom presented himself at dinner one evening with two bottles of very raw and very harsh alcohol which they turned into a variant of Martinis. The Major Domo disapproved; they could tell by the slightly sniffy tone it took when they asked about olives. After a few nights, they had turned it into a cocktail hour and a nightly tradition. There still weren't any olives and the Major Domo still didn't approve, but this didn't seem to matter. They sipped, and talked.

Tom had taken apart an EVA pod, and was in the process of rebuilding it. Dhiren found him one afternoon, stripped to the waist and with an engine, in parts, spread out over the maintenance bay. Tom was staring at several parts in apparent bemusement, looked up as Dhiren walked over and smiled his odd, convulsive smile.
"I was told that this is a manly exercise" said Tom. Dhiren shrugged.
"I really wouldn't know" he said "I'm an academic when I'm working and a rake and a wastrel when I'm not."
Tom looked hard at the components and fitted them together, then looked back at Dhiren.
"Are you not religious, then, Dhiren? Coming from a Heritage Colony, I thought you might have been a Hindu, or a Buddhist. Those generally preclude being a rake and a wastrel."
Dhiren laughed.
"We'll save it for cocktail hour" he said. He walked between the components, pausing to stare at them. "What's this?" he asked.
"Fuel injection system for a thruster. It goes with this..." He pointed to another cluster of metal and plastic. Tom padded over, and Dhiren saw that he was barefoot too.
"How close are you to this EVA pod?" he asked, with a grin.
"We have a room" said Tom, gesturing around him. He paused in his work.
"Are you asking me a question without asking me a question?" he said. Dhiren dropped to his haunches and looked thoughtful.
"Yes. I think I'm asking about being a Post Human and what that means."
"Mostly it means being human," said Tom "and the rest, we will save for cocktail hour."
Dhiren laughed, and sat down.
"Want a hand?" he asked. Tom shook his head. Dhiren nodded, stood up, walked away.

Roseli walked into the hub and sat down. Neither of the others would be awake for a couple of hours, she had time to do a little research and a little exploration.
"Half a million monitors all pointed at the stars" she whispered, as a list of monitors rolled down the screen in front of her. One caught her attention. She tapped the screen.
"Major Domo! What is monitor 242 aimed at?"
There was a click.
"Monitor 242 is currently holding station at a point eighteen thousand miles from the surface of Bingo Fuel, watching the Kinnock Fracture."
There was an archive entry on the Fracture, which turned out to be a gap in space exactly three microns wide and a mile long, leading directly into something else, or somewhere else and although nothing had ever gone into it to find out where it led, something had once squeezed it's way out and, according to the Torchwood Archive, made a nuissance of itself.
"What does that mean?" asked Roseli.
"It ate a survey vessel, but we don't think it did so deliberately" answered the Major Domo with a slightly wry tone.
"How do you accidentally eat a survey vessel? Never mind, I'll take your word for it. Look, do we have monitors pointed anywhere active?"
"No," said the Major Domo "would you like some coffee?"
And then the alarms went off. All of them, at once, and a very large screen slid out of the cieling, bordered with flashing red.
"I think this might count as active" said the Major Domo, as Dhiren - wearing a t-shirt and shorts, skidded into the Hub and threw himself at the control systems.
"Goth" said Dhiren "it's Goth."

The screen showed them a starship. Saucer shaped, huge, and moving into the system slowly but deliberately. As they watched, the Hub was busy.
"What sort of ship is that?" barked Roseli, and the Hub began to sort through a series of outlines and profiles.
"Not a good one" said Dhiren "we have two probable matches: one is Ketalian, which would be nice because they're herbivores, philosophers and pacifists, and the other is about the worst possible outcome."
"Stop it and tell me" snapped Roseli.
"Dalek" said Dhiren, and Roseli reached for the big red communicator.
They watched the ship go into a geostationary orbit, by which time Tom had joined them and was pacing around the Hub looking worried. The Dalek ship seemed to be doing nothing, although the Monitor indicated that it was sweeping the surface with a complex array of sensors. Dhiren began chewing fingernails and Roseli sat at the communicator and waited.
"The Torchwood Archive has put me on hold" she said "while they try to find an expert. They seem to be at a bit of a loss." She jerked her head sharply toward the communicator, nodded, frowned, and turned back to them.
"They say to observe."
Tom stopped his pacing.
"Shouldn't we do something? Go to battlestations or something?"
Dhiren and Roseli looked at each other.
"I think we are at battlestations" she said "I don't think there's an awful lot else we can do."
"Well" said Dhiren "perhaps if I..." and he moved over to the screen that was focussed on the Dalek ship, made some adjustments, changed some parameters. Now they could see a representation of the electomagnetic activity on board - the Dalek ship was suddenly blanketed with information and graphics denoting sensors, weapons, probable computer activity, communications, all coloured to denote a level of activity. The communications went from yellow to white, and then tapered off to orange. The ship itself opened several bays and small objects began to stream out.
"What are those?" asked Tom. Dhiren narrowed the focus again, and they could make out the nature of the objects.
"Daleks" said Roseli "it's a full assault."
"There must be hundreds" whispered Dhiren.

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Re: Colateral Damage, Part One

Post by Dave Webb on Sat Nov 29, 2008 11:47 am

The Daleks fell, casings growing hot as they entered the atmosphere, going from grey to red. Some, a handful, exploded in the upper atmosphere. The rest carried on as if nothing unusual were happening. As they reached the lower atmosphere, they began to slow their descent - a glow appeared under the base of each creature and they began to re-orient themselves and organise. A few of them seemed unable to do so and plummeted, cratering on the surface like meteors. The majority settled on the surface and remained still for several minutes, the monitor once again showing a spike in the amount of communications activity. Then, in a purposeful ballet, the Daleks regrouped into two distinct sections. One, the much larger of the two groups, formed a perimeter around the smaller group and the whole formation began to move purposefully across the landscape. The monitor tracked them to what appeared to be a ruined cityscape.
"Deathsmith Central" said Dhiren.
Roseli nodded.
The Daleks stopped and the perimeter broke up into a series of smaller formations which spread out. The screen gave each one a designation and started to map their activity too. The formation designated "Delta" suddenly spiked in communications activity and stopped. Dhiren focussed on them and what he saw made him sit bolt upright.
One of the Daleks had turned on the others and was firing wildly, almost at random. Roseli moved a chair to sit beside Dhiren and studied the controls.
"Can we get any sort of sound out of this thing?"
"We might be able to" said Dhiren "but I'm not sure how"
Tom stepped beside him, stared at the panel for a moment and made some adjustments. For a moment it seemed that he must have made a mistake because the noise they heard was a terrible screeching sound, and then they made out the sound of weaponfire.
"It's screaming" said Roseli. They looked at each other.
"What could make a Dalek scream?" asked Tom. Dhiren turned down the volume. He'd seen something.
"Look at them" he said "look carefully."
The rest of formation Delta could now be split into two distinct factions - those that still seemed to be in control of themselves and those who were now looking around the landscape and firing at each other, at nothing, into the air. Tom stepped away and accessed the archive. As he did so, the Daleks that seemed to be calm began executing those who had lost control. While they butchered their own kind, the formations marked as Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Epsilon and Zeta closed on them and spread out while Eta, Theta and Iota surrounded the secondary formation that the computer had labelled Lambda. The Daleks weren't speaking to one another, but the communications activity showed that there was plenty of information being exchanged, Abruptly, the Daleks in the first five formations split into groups of four and stood back to back. These formations fanned out, watching the cardinal points as they moved, putting distance between them and every other group of Daleks. Then they began to change position, each four-Dalek group now with it's own designation.
"Major Domo, turn the unit labels off please" said Dhiren, as the labels began to obscure all other details. They vanished.
"Shame" said the Major Domo reproachfully "I had the Phoenecian alphabet all ready to go".
Abruptly, a label appeared.
"Omega?" asked Dhiren.
"New contact" said the Major Domo "not a Dalek, so I thought it was worth bringing to your attention."
"It's the Weapon" said Tom.

The Daleks had noticed it too. At some speed, the nearest groups formed a circle around the single figure. Almost immediately, one of them began to back away and then move in random spirals over the landscape. Other Daleks intercepted and executed it, while the circle continued to close. Another detonated, a third just stopped. Then a third of the circle began to jerk and wave, clearly in distress. They could just make out what looked like foam pouring from the casings of each creature. The remaining Daleks fired, and the Weapon was thrown into the air. Then it stood up. The Daleks fired again, and once more the weapon stood. The Daleks formed a line and began to volley - twenty of them in the first volley alone.
"Those weapons are interesting" said Tom, watching a readout. "Cellular disruption and displacement on that level would turn a human into mush."
The Deathsmith's Weapon, on the other hand, seemed determined not to stay down. It stood, and now was surrounded by Daleks, who formed a ring around it and instead of firing in volleys were keeping up a continual barrage by firing individually, each synchronised with it's neighbours.
"Like a gatling gun" said Roseli.
Dhiren pointed "I think I know what they're up to" he said and a new view appeared in the midst of the main display. The smaller initial group, the one the Hub had called Lambda, had broken off from the main group entirely and was moving at speed towards the city.
"What do you think they are?" asked Tom. Dhiren chewed his upper lip for a moment.
"I think they're Combat Archeologists" he said "I don't think they're interested in the Weapon itself, I think they're here looking for something else."
"That's not good" muttered Roseli.
The Daleks continued to pin the Weapon in place. Occasionally, one of them would lose control or simply stop working, and it would be gunned down by Daleks behind it, or dragged from the formation and replaced. The ground under the Weapon was starting to heat up.
"I never thought I would see myself rooting for Daleks" said Roseli "what are they up against?"
Dhiren shrugged.
"The last communication from Goth was a bit difficult to interpret, but most scholars believe the Weapon deploys a combination of chemical, biological and psychic assaults. There was a theory that it could generate software viruses too, because the Deathsmiths wouldn't have overlooked automated soldiers or defenses. If that's the case, then those Daleks are under continual assault. We just can't see it."
Several of the Daleks chose that moment to shatter, and several others disolved, but there were still hundreds waiting to take their place.
Roseli looked at the ship, still in orbit and apparently quite impassive.
"Why don't they use the ship's weapons?" She brushed Tom's answer aside. "Sorry, just thinking out loud. Daleks probably don't do small, so anything they fire in that area has a chance to destroy the Daleks in combat and if the Weapon walks away they've left their combat archeologists wide open."
The ground underneath the Weapon was glowing red and starting to bubble. The Weapon itself was lit with continual Dalek firepower but shrouded in steam and smoke.
"How long do you think they can keep this up?" asked Tom.
As if in answer to his question, Daleks in the inner circle began to fail en masse. Like toppling dominoes, cases cracked and split, the mutants inside were exposed and died. The Daleks in the next layer backed off and paused. The Weapon stepped forward and was shot. It was thrown backwards, and as it picked itself up only to be shot and thrown again. The process was repeated over and over.
"They aren't giving it time to think or plan" said Roseli "and as soon as it works out how to act despite them, they change tactics."
"A genius for war" said Dhiren and then there was a moment when it looked like the Daleks might have it caged. And then several Daleks simply stopped responding and others followed them. The pattern repeated itself across the battlefield.
"Jut like all the other races that came here before them" said Tom.
Dhiren had been watching a series of readouts.
"I think they have what they wanted" he said. One series of numbers was increasing at a frightening rate. "Data transfer" said Dhiren. As they watched, the main ship launched several shuttles. They flew as if they were being chased, as if they were in combat, and they were heading to the same point.
"And some samples" added Dhiren. The shuttles touched down meter meters apart and were met by a stream of Daleks emerging from the city. Most of them were carrying objects and moving fast towards the shuttles. Their guard units diverted to face the Weapon, as did those who had been carrying things once their burdens were stowed. The shuttles lauched rapidly, one after the other, leaving all of the Daleks on the surface. Roseli sat back and whistled.
"Smash and grab" she said "with an army. They just took what they wanted and left...so, that leaves so many on the surface."
The Dalek ship fired a missile.
"It's a nuke" said Dhiren "multiple warhead. Nice big yield." He sat back.
"Then it's a very good thing we're so far away" said Tom as they watched the detonations. Then the screen went blank.
"EMP" said Roseli.
"It'll reset in a few seconds" said Dhiren "it's shielded, but the link has been affected."

The devil is always in the details. As the Daleks' nuke went off and swept away all sign of Daleks on the surface, and blacked out the Torchwood monitor, several things changed. On the surface, the ruins of Goth collapsed and burned. The weapon rose in the midst of the fireball and simply walked away. And a tiny moonlet, an irregular chunk of rock no bigger than a car, began to fade and vanished.

Night and day had ceased to have meaning on the Torchwood Array; they'd been awake since the incident on Goth and they'd lost track. The Realtime link had returned quickly enough for them to see the Dalek ship depart, and another had been established with the Torchwood Institute. An image of the head of institute, Elena Gor, stood in the center of the Hub.
"The ramifications of this event are huge. Excellent work getting so much recorded and analysed so quickly" she said. "All the major powers have been alerted, although I have to say I could have hoped for a better response. The Draconians are at least interested in mobilising but just about everyone else is looking to their own borders and their own security. They're all hoping the Daleks are going to turn elsewhere and attack someone else."
"Wishful thinking or cowardice?" asked Roseli.
"Just fear" answered Gor "no one ever got an inventory from Goth, so no one knows what was taken."
Dhiren looked at the floor for a few moments and then looked worried.
"Elena, does the Archive keep records on Daleks?"
"Some, yes, they aren't easy to gather data on."
"Thank you. With you in a minute." And he turned to a screen, working rapidly.
Gor frowned at him and then turned back to Roseli.
"With this situation we have decided to pull you three off the Array and step up the crew compliment. We should have a full team there in two weeks. You'll be debriefed and, if you're willing, redeployed to other Torchwood facilities."
"Umm" said Dhiren.
"What?"
"According to the information we have, the Daleks have made a number of design changes to their casings through their history, but they haven't actually changed their weapons or defenses in all that time. They've reportedly never met anything they couldn't combat or kill. But now, it seems they feel the need to go shopping. Why?"
Gor stared at him.
"What do you think, Mr. Koduri?"
Dhiren chewed his lip.
"I think it can't have been easy for them to admit they weren't perfect. From what we know, that's what the Daleks think of themselves. Admitting imperfection means they have tried something and failed, repeatedly. But according to our records, they've not tried anything in this galaxy for quite some time. At least, not that we are aware of."
"I see what you're saying, but...would you care to speculate?"
Dhiren shook his head.
"Not far. I think this means they met something they can't beat and they're arming in order to meet it head on."
"But that doesn't account for any of the galactic powers" said Gor "so perhaps they've found something else. This could be good for us."
"That" said Dhiren "depends where they decide to fight the battles."

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Re: Colateral Damage, Part One

Post by Jennyjenkins on Sat Nov 29, 2008 12:38 pm

*wild applause*

*want's more story*

Dalek Dalek Dalek Dalek Dalek
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Re: Colateral Damage, Part One

Post by Lucy McGough on Mon Dec 15, 2008 7:37 am

This is amazing.
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Re: Colateral Damage, Part One

Post by konstantin on Mon Dec 15, 2008 1:05 pm

fantastic!


*drools*



wow...



.
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Re: Colateral Damage, Part One

Post by Dave Webb on Fri Dec 19, 2008 4:34 pm

Thank you all.

Currently in the planning stages:

Collateral Damage - Shrapnel
Collateral Damage - Distant Guns
Collateral Damage - (title undecided)
...and possibly one more...

- all featuring characters from this story.

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Re: Colateral Damage, Part One

Post by konstantin on Fri Dec 19, 2008 5:01 pm

Dave Webb wrote:Thank you all.

Currently in the planning stages:

Collateral Damage - Shrapnel
Collateral Damage - Distant Guns
Collateral Damage - (title undecided)
...and possibly one more...

- all featuring characters from this story.

lookin forward to reading them!



.
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Re: Colateral Damage, Part One

Post by Zoltar on Fri Dec 19, 2008 5:27 pm

konstantin wrote:
Dave Webb wrote:Thank you all.

Currently in the planning stages:

Collateral Damage - Shrapnel
Collateral Damage - Distant Guns
Collateral Damage - (title undecided)
...and possibly one more...

- all featuring characters from this story.

lookin forward to reading them!



.
What he said. Very Happy

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Re: Colateral Damage, Part One

Post by Dave Webb on Fri Dec 19, 2008 6:51 pm

...this probably means I have to go back to writing them.

Which is what sundays are for, after all.

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Re: Colateral Damage, Part One

Post by Lucy McGough on Sun Dec 21, 2008 1:58 pm

Dave Webb wrote:Thank you all.

Currently in the planning stages:

Collateral Damage - Shrapnel
Collateral Damage - Distant Guns
Collateral Damage - (title undecided)
...and possibly one more...

- all featuring characters from this story.
I'm Lucy McGough, and I thoroughly approve of this message Very Happy:D:D
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Re: Colateral Damage, Part One

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