Episode 5: The Ruins of Skaro

The bizarre, skeletal ship ducked and swerved through the meteor collision, where most vessels would have been pulverized, a testament to the skills of her pilot. Inside, a woman in her late fifties or early sixties worked the controls deftly, wrestling with the stiff flight wheel as a spider-like robot shuffled around in the background.

“That was close, Mistress,” it droned.

“Yes, yes it was. I told you not to worry. I’ve been trained, haven’t I? It’s funny. One would think after all these years I’d be more on the rusty side, but it seems, as they say on Earth, I haven’t lost a trick.”

“Yes, Mistress. Were I alive, I fear I might have a feeling of nausea right now,” the staccato voice responded as the strange robot clambered into the seat next to her, and an appendage with a suction-cup-like attachment slid from its housing to attach to the sensor panel.

“Leave it to me to program a cheeky robot,” she muttered. “Just scan the area. Anything?”

A series of beeps and whistles emitted from the thing. “Yes, Mistress. Readings at Spatial Coordinates XJ-327 by LB-218, six parsecs from here. TARDIS detected.”

The woman punched in the coordinates to the nav computer and gasped. “Are you certain of those coordinates?’

“I am always certain, Mistress.”

“But...that’s Skaro!”


She threw a few switches over her head and looked grim. “Well, out of the frying pan, so they say. I suppose we’re headed for Skaro, then, aren’t we? You’d best start rigging up whatever defenses you can on this bucket. We might need them.”

* * *

The TARDIS, en route to Woodstock in 1969, finds itself mysteriously detoured…to the dead remains of the planet Skaro. The skies are shot through with streaks of sickly green radiation, and a cold wind blows over the desert-like world. What’s worse, the TARDIS seems dead, its heart not beating and not the faintest sign of power. In fact, the control panel seems burned completely out. Just as all hope seems lost, however, the heart beats once, slowly, and the vessel shudders, as though in agony. Last but not least, upon checking the readings, the Artist discovers that he somehow set the coordinates to land here, and then programmed the ship to override the central controls and vent all artron energy. Gradually, he comes to realize that while the Crown of Thorns was torturing him, it must have also been programming him to guide his ship here for some unknown reason. The only thing that is certain is that without repairs and a source of power, the TARDIS will die, permanently. When the Cast asks the Artist what happened, he refuses to elaborate, simply promising them that he knows what the problem is, and if they can fix it, it won't happen again, but that they need artron energy to revive the ship.

The Cast argues about what their next step should be. Chuck posits a theory that since energy is neither created nor destroyed, but constantly changes form, that with the high technology he's seen since starting this journey, it may be possible to construct an energy conversion unit that will change the radiation that litters this world into artron energy. In the end, they decide, their only chance is to make for the ruins of the Dalek City outside the Petrified Jungle where the TARDIS has currently landed. If there’s any equipment left, the Artist may, with the help of Chuck and James, be able to rig up repairs and establish a refueling. The Artist goes into his storage room and emerges with oxygen breathers without the enormous tank attached. They consist of a tube that hooks over the ears and enters the nose, providing air purification and sending anti-radiation medicine through the nasal membranes into the bloodstream. The tube hooks to a small canister that hangs from the hip of the wearer and will protect the Cast from the ambient radiation left in the air. He also presents the Cast with food bars that appear featureless, almost like plain cookies, but when the Cast eats them, they taste full meals, from Roast Beef to Turkey, or anything else they can imagine.

As the Cast exits the ship, they note it’s taken the form of a blasted-out Dalek shell. The entire petrified jungle is littered with the things. The Artist and Emilie detect psychic “residue” in the area. Don catches just a flicker of movement in the distance amongst some wreckage, but no one else sees it, and closer investigation reveals only dead Daleks and war machines. The Cast sets off and in a few hours emerges from the jungle into a rocky desert. Off in the distance, the spires of the city are faintly visible. It’s about a day’s walk.

Travel to the city goes uneventfully…mostly. The paranoia of being on the Dalek homeworld begins to weigh heavily on the Cast, and “Did you see what I just saw?” becomes common. Finally, the strain is too much for Chuck, who screams, breaks and runs towards the City. A well-placed rock throw by Davan trips him up without harm, and the Artist gives him a mild sedative.

Things only get worse when they arrive at the city, a blasted-out ruin with almost nothing left. The charred husks of Dalek shells and their mutant occupants lie all around, a testament to the destruction of the Time War. Don spends some time studying the mutant bodies while Davan snaps pictures with his PDA. Most of the industrial facilities on Skaro are devoted to warfare. Fortunately, this means they produced spacefaring technology, and at any one of them the Cast figures they should be able to scavenge what they need, given a few days’ labor.

As they scavenge, they hear the familiar telltale "Vroot, vroot" noise of the TARDIS, though it sounds weak and sickly. The Artist, Emilie, and Chuck run outside, and find the ship, which has disguised itself as a piece of random wreckage. The Artist pats it and tells it to stay put, that he won't be long, then goes back inside.

A few hours pass, and then, while salvaging equipment, the Artist uncovers what appears to be a working control panel. When he goes to investigate, he finds his gaze drawn inexorably upward, where scrawled upon the wall in luminous paint is the following greeting:

I told you we would meet again.
Welcome to my—and your—nightmare, “Artist.”
It’s time for you, as the humans say, to pay your dues.

The Artist then looks down to discover he’s standing on a pressure pad which has begun to flash beneath his foot. At this point, the entire place begins to shudder as pieces of junk fall away to reveal fully functional machine works, and an automated factory at full production capability. What’s worse, Dalek shells roll off the line and immediately begin attacking the cast! As the Artist turns to flee, he spots a mini-disc labeled with his name and the word “Listen” on it. He grabs the disk as the Cast dives for cover in a hailstorm of energy bolts. Davan manages to suss out that this is some sort of automated defense system, and these aren't living Daleks, but robotic shells, drones that fire at anything that moves which isn't another drone. He calls out "Motion detectors!" to the Cast, and demonstrates by throwing a piece of junk in the air, which a drone disintegrates.

The Artist dashes back to the control panel and, using his sonic screwdriver, deactivates it, shutting down the factory. The existing drones are still there, but no new ones are rolling off the lines. The Cast throws random bits of junk in the air and makes a dash for the exit, but Emilie is winged by an energy bolt, which evaporates part of her shoulder. The group makes it back to the TARDIS and gets Emilie into the Zero Room to heal.

Examining the parts they've gathered, the Artist estimates that they can begin construction, but in several hours they'll need to make at least one more foray into the factory to acquire the rest of the equipment. He also estimates that they have about two days' work ahead of them. When Emilie emerges from the Zero Room four hours later, healed up, the Artist pulls the mini disc from his pocket and says, "This was left for me inside. I wanted to wait till everyone was here to play it."

He puts it into the console, and a female voice tinged with malice says the following:

“Hello, Love. I assume I need no introduction; if by now you haven’t noticed me following you through time and space, well, you’re far more daft than I thought. And just to put your doubts to rest, yes, my dear, it’s true. You’re not as all alone in the universe as you thought. Every destroyed civilization has refugees, after all, doesn’t it?

“But back to business. Oh, isn’t this little game of ours fun? I do hope you’ve enjoyed the ever-so-small challenges I’ve set in your path. I know I have. And now it’s time for one more. Somewhere on this putrid, dead rock I’ve linked a series of reactor cores directly into the planet core, which, in case you haven’t been attending class, means the planet will explode after they build to critical mass. Now that you’ve activated the machinery, I give it perhaps two days before what’s left of Skaro goes up in a nuclear fire the likes of which, well, could turn it into a new star, couldn’t it? You could, of course, run through the city shutting down reactors one by one, but that would take just a tick longer than you’ve got, wouldn’t it? Or, you could try and find the central link to the chain. Shutting that one down just might stop the others. Or it may not. Or, you could simply fix your TARDIS and run. Run for your life like the coward you’ve always been.

“Have fun, darling. Best of luck, and I’ll see you soon! Until then, Love! Tra!”

James says that while he's never one for turning tail and fleeing a fight, that in this case running sounds like a damn good idea to him. Chuck readily agrees, being eager to live to see his family again. The Cast asks the Artist who she is, but he doesn't recognize the voice, though the handwriting on the wall and the disc carries with it a very vague sort of familiarity that he can't pinpoint. In any case, he says to the Cast, he agrees that running would be the best option. While a new star erupting could have disastrous consequences for the quadrant, affecting gravitational pull for light years in all directions, he figures that between the Daleks and the Time War, there's likely no life to be destroyed nearby anyway.

Thus agreed, the Cast spends several more hours finishing work with the materials they have, and Davan, using his radar communications skills, manages to modify the Artist's handheld sensors to detect the drones. Armed with three of these and knowledge where every drone in the immediate area is, the Cast splits into three teams and moves back into the factory to scavenge more material.

Things get curiouser and curiouser. Emilie and Don run afoul of a drone, and dive for cover when it opens fire on them. Then, they hear a metallic thud and a muffled explosion. Looking out from their cover, they spot what appears to be a cloaked woman disappearing around a corner. Emilie thinks that she looks a lot like the mysterious Cygni who helped them on Ixion...only human and not Cygni.

Davan hears the explosion and calls Emilie's cell phone to make sure they're alive. As they talk, there is the roar of an engine, and a sleek black spacecraft arrives, which the Artist notes is constructed of Dalek and Cyberman technology. A strange spider-like machine emerges, which also appears to have been cobbled together from both Cyberman and Dalek technology. The Artist and James put their hands up, but when James appears to make a wrong move, the machine swings its energy weapon towards him, and fires. James dives for cover, before realizing the thing wasn't shooting at him, but at a drone that was coming up from behind! The thing blasts several more drones, before turning and skittering towards the TARDIS. The Artist chases after it. Davan and Chuck come running up, but upon seeing what's going on opt to remain in hiding. Don and Emilie also join the party, moving with James and the Artist.

The machine begins to scratch at the door of the TARDIS, while the Artist demands to know what it's about. Finally, it swivels its Dalek-like eyestalk towards him and says in a high-pitched, monotone voice, "Please open the doors."

"Why? I don't even know what you are?"

"Because there are enemies out here, and it is safer in there."

Still in hiding, Davan and Chuck see an attractive woman in her 60's swing down the ramp of the spacecraft.

She shoots a look directly at their hiding place, gives a small smile, then heads after the Artist and company. "Spot!" she yells, "Down!"

"Yes, Mistress," the robot says.

The Artist turns, sees the woman, and recognizes her as a Time Lord. Ecstatic, he runs to her and gives her a hug. She stiffens for a moment, then returns the embrace, and says, "Yes, well, good to see you as well, but wouldn't it be safer to do this in your TARDIS?"

"Yes," he says, "Quite right."

He opens the door to let everyone in, and everyone dashes in...except Davan, who runs for the spacecraft, thinking that it must have weapons he can use against the drones. To his dismay, the controls are alien and while he thinks he might get it off the ground, flying it with any proficiency is highly unlikely. Worse, the only defensive system he can find may be a force field or may be a self-destruct. An energy blast fires up the ramp of the ship, and praying, he pushes the button, activating the ship's energy shields. He goes to look down the ramp, and is shot down by a drone that had already mounted when he activated the shields.

Meanwhile, inside the ship, the woman introduces herself as "Susan," and the strange, spider-like robot as Spotalfriperaxtoriundar, or “Spot,” as she calls it. It’s a “pet” of sorts that she devised from the same salvaged technology used to build her ship. She explains that she had been working on Earth as a computer analyst for U.N.I.T. when strange portals opened to disgorge horrible silver humanoids seeking to "delete" or "upgrade" any humans they could find. Though there were only a few of these "Cybermen" they fought hard and well, killing many of Susan's adopted people before the invasion simply...ended. Knowing that the Daleks were not supposed to invade Earth in 2006, Susan built a spacecraft to go back to Gallifrey and find out what was going on. She was devastated to discover that Gallifrey didn't exist anymore, and all the Time Lords were dead.

After listening to the Artist's disc, Susan remarks, "You have almost as bad a penchant for making enemies as my grandfather." When the Artist inquires who that might be, Susan says, "He calls himself the Doctor. And I do hope he's still alive."

When the Cast notices that Davan has not joined them, Susan sends Spot out to find him. Spot returns, reporting that a drone is on the ramp of her ship, and the shields are active. Susan, the Artist, and Chuck take their sonic screwdrivers out to deactivate the shields while Spot prepares to take out the drone. The mission successful, they are relieved to discover that Davan is still alive, and they move him to the Zero Room for recovery.

Susan agrees to help the Cast, offering to siphon her vessel's store of energy and help convert it to artron energy to power the TARDIS, just for the chance to have the joy of traveling in a TARDIS again, which she describes as a “sports car compared to my rusty old compact job.” Unfortunately, this still requires some time and effort, and the Cast will be exposed to drone fire while they work, as both ships need to be opened to connect the two power centers together. What's more, they barely have enough time to complete the project before the entire planet goes up.

Susan’s “pet”, Spot, will be of some use protecting the Cast from the Dalek drones, and Susan herself can provide two energy weapons resembling a cross between Thompson sub-machineguns and Dalek energy weapons. Unfortunately, to work these weapons need to be hardwired into the power center of her vessel and so are far from portable. Don and James take the guns, Don firing from the cockpit of Susan's ship, and James taking up position beneath the ramp.

As the Cast nears completion of repairs, the drones descend upon their vessel en masse, and a desperate fight for survival begins, while Susan, the Artist, Davan, Emilie and Chuck try to work repairs as quickly as possible. As Susan, Davan, and the Artist near completion of work on the spacecraft, the Artist runs for the TARDIS, to get things started on that end. As he moves, he sees Emilie bashing a drone in the eye stalk with a club, trying to stay clear of its energy weapon. He rushes forward, jams his Sonic Screwdriver into the thing, and detonates it, burning out his tool in the process, then calls Emilie to help him at the TARDIS control panel.

As work completes on the spacecraft, Susan turns to make for the TARDIS as well. Just as she reaches the bottom of the ramp, however, she sees Spot get blasted by a drone, turning it into a smoking ruin. She screams her pet's name and runs to it on reflex, only to be shot herself. With a scream, Susan Foreman falls to the ground, a charred mess that somehow, miraculously, is still alive and dragging herself back towards the TARDIS. The Artist hears her scream and turns to run to help her, terrified that his only companion since the Time War may be dead; she lays motionless on the ground at first, but then her arm inches forward, and she continues to drag herself towards the TARDIS. Emilie hears Susan's voice in her head, saying, "Help me...gods, help me!"

Outside, Davan hits the bottom of the ramp in time to see Susan fall, and rushes to her aid while Don and James lay down cover fire. He is amazed that, though she appears little more than a charred husk, the woman appears to be barely alive...and conscious. He picks her up and makes for the ship; Don and James follow. James stops briefly to look over spot, and decides if it were a motorcycle, it'd be going to a scrap yard. He leaves it and makes for the TARDIS.

Inside, the energy transfer completes, and the Artist disconnects the cables, throwing them out and slamming the doors. The TARDIS roars to life, its heart beating again. Davan makes to carry Susan to the Zero Room, but she, too, exerts a sudden burst of life and fights not to be taken there. The Artist pleads with Davan to lay her down and step away.

Susan looks to the Artist and says, “They don't know what's happening, do they?”

The Artist shakes his head.

Susan gently squeezes Davan's shoulder and says, “It’s all right. I’ll be all right. You’ll see. But...Ungh! you should take a step away, now.” With a serene smile, she says, “Trust me. I’m perhaps long overdue for this.”

Skeptical, Davan puts her on the floor and steps back. There’s a blinding flash of light, as if just for an instant the Cast had all looked directly at the sun. It quickly becomes evident that the light, which at first seemed to surround Susan, is actually emanating from every pore of her body. She convulses once, violently, her back bent high in the air, her arms out to the sides, then collapses again and lays still as the light subsides. When she is revealed again, it’s not Susan laying before them, but a much younger, beautiful woman with strawberry blonde hair and a serene, yet fiery and passionate glint in her gray eyes.

She gropes for the control panel, and pulls herself haltingly to her feet, saying, “Well, that...oh! New voice. New hands. I’m so young!” She gives the Cast a wink and a smirk. “That was a sight to behold, I’ll wager.”

She then turns to the Artist, who hands her a cup of tea. “So, how do I look? I’ll need new clothes; do you have a wardrobe? And more importantly...where to, next?”

The Artist grins and says, "First, let's get off this rock into temporal orbit." He throws a few switches and dials, and the ship shudders. "There," he says, and turns to the Cast. "So...Woodstock, was it?"

"Yes, absolutely," Don says. "I could use a joint about three feet long right now!"

"Wait," Davan says, "What just happened, here?"

"A little trick," Susan says, "that we Time Lords have to sort of cheat death. I'm still Susan. Sort of. I have all my memories, that is, but I'm not even sure what sort of person I am...yet. All part of the fun, isn't it?"

Davan turns to the Artist. "Do we have to go to Woodstock? There's a lot of dirty hippies there, and as I understand it, they don't like us military boys much in 69."

"Don't worry," Susan says with a wink. "I'll keep you company. Oh!" she continues with a mischievous grin, "I think I'm starting to find out what kind of person I am."

Chuck steps forward. "Do you mind dropping me at home before you go? I'd love to see Woodstock, but I'd like even more to spend some time with my wife."

"Absolutely," says the Artist. "So a quick swing by Pittsburgh, 07, then off to Woodstock we go!"

He throws a switch, and the TARDIS shudders, spinning off through time.

Memorable Quotes

Don: What happened?
Artist: Don't worry about it!
Don: What happened?
Davan: "FIX IT!"

The Artist: "You ever play Metal Gear Solid? It will be just like that, only without the guns."

Davan (re: Time Lords): "Maybe they just went off somewhere and left you alone?"

Davan (re: meal bars): "Is this like that psychic paper you have?"
The Artist: "Sure, why not."

Don: "Something is moving over there!"
The Artist: "I don't care!"
Don: "I do!"

Don: "Alright, let's go, but if anything happens just remember that I told you so."

Emilie (to Davan): "Is it that time of the month?"
The Artist: "Maybe his Unwelcome Child is paying him a visit?"

Don: "What did you do?"
The Artist: "Nothing! Why is it always me?!"
Don: "Because it usually is!"

James: "Good, I'll go get the duct tape."

Davan: "Please tell me you're not dead."
Emilie: "Would I be answering my phone if I were dead?"
Davan: "Please tell me Don's not dead."

James: "What is that?"
The Artist: "A space ship."
James: "Who owns it?"
The Artist: "Not a clue. Not a Dalek. Let's find out."

Susan: "My ship uses an energy similar to artron. It should be easy enough to build a converter and siphon my fuel into here."
The Artist: "You'd let us do that?"
Susan: "Are you joking? For the chance to travel in a TARDIS again? This is a sports car compared to my old rust bucket compact!"
The Artist (to James): "See? I told you I have nice things!"

Davan: "I see him [Chuck in the Zero Room] and wish I was dead."

Davan (on being handed a sonic screwdriver): "What's it do?"
The Artist: "Helps you help me build this."
Davan: "And what is this?"
The Artist: "Jumper cables."

Davan (after seeing Susan regenerate): "Ah yeah, look at that, good idea, yeah."

The Artist: "So.... Woodstock?"
Don: "Yeah, 'cause I could use a joint about three feet long about now."

Davan: "We need a place with a lot of alcohol."
The Artist and James: "Woodstock."
Davan: "A place with less dirty hippies please?"

Davan: "Maybe this Queen of Time is some woman you spurned and then you regenerated and the memory got fuzzy."
The Artist: "I've never regenerated."
Don: "Maybe it's time."

Davan: "You sure there's not a place we can drink that has fewer dirty hippies?"
The Artist: "What's your problem?"
Davan (shows U.S. Navy tattoo): "As I understand it, they don't take too well to guys like me in the 60's. Vietnam and all that."
Susan (Gives him a wink): "Don't worry; I'll keep you company and take good care of you." (Realizing what she just said) "Oh, it seems I'm that sort of person!"

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