When the aleks ame
hapter One – Arrival
Joshua had just left the team of three droid harvesters, beginning to finally harvest the ripe wheat, when he received a call from his mother on his personal communicator. Reluctantly he switched it onto talk/listen, when he saw it was his mother calling him. She was always doing this, calling him up after every hour or so to check-up on his work. It was as if he was still a kid and couldn’t be trusted to finish a job – which he resented.
“Yes mother?” He said flatly into the communicator.
“Joshua, where are you?” His mother’s voice hurriedly asked him, coming from the speaker in his ear.
“The lower meadow, I’ve just started off the droid harvesters, as I said I was going to do – last time you called,” he replied.
“Go to Rankin Fields, now.”
“Why?” He really resented it when she just ordered him around with no explanation, the way she had when he was a little kid.
“Joshua, just get yourself there now!”
“Not until you tell me why.”
“You’re wasting time with this nonsense!”
“I’m not a kid, you can’t order me around. Tell me why you want me to go over there or I won’t go.”
“I’m still a mother and you’ll damn well do as I say.”
“Wrong answer. I’m turning off my communicator.”
“All right! All right!.. Monica Emms just called me and said an alien space ship landed in Rankin Fields. She said it was some type of shuttle ship. I can’t leave your father, it’s not safe, so I want you to go and see what is happening. Keep your vid’ communicator on and set it to transmit.”
He waited a moment before replying, giving her a moment of silence before he spoken. It was a little trick he had started doing in the last few weeks and he found that it annoyed her. Finally he replied, “Okay, I’ll do it.”
“Get going now or else there’ll be nothing to see there.”
“Yes mother, but if you keep nagging me I’ll switched off my communicator and vid’ communicator.”
“All right. All right, Joshua.”
“Bye,” he switched off his communicator and before she could complain anymore. He didn’t rushed to his land-skimmer; he didn’t feel any need to rush to her latest request. Of late she had become more and more demanding of him, more and different requests she would demand of him, at all different times of the day. Her demands on him had started with his father’s accident. Two years ago, when he was preparing to finally leave to study in Millennium City, his father had been crushed when one of the large droid transporters had crashed. The accident left him unable to walk, the right hand side of his body crushed and paralysed, his face heavily scarred. The worst was to follow. Suddenly his father’s religious beliefs were to the forefront. In the hospital his father had refused any biomechanical implants, saying they were against God’s will. Joshua had stood by and simply watched, first with shock and then with a growing sense of horror, as his father refused all offers of implants. His father said it was God’s will the accident happened and therefore God’s will that he be a cripple. Months later his crippled father came home, to spend his time simply sitting in the chair in the house’s garden room. His mother took over looking his father, full-time, and let the day-to-day running of the farm fell onto Joshua shoulders. Rapidly he saw his chance to study and become a lawyer slipping away. He hated running the farm, the mindless jobs of always having to reprogram the droid, his mother’s constant checking up on him and demands on him, and the growing isolation of his life. Occasionally he dreamed of being a lawyer, but only occasionally now.
His land-skimmer was an old model, a lot of its red paint it had chipped off, and he hardly ever drove it fast now. Today was the exception. To get to Rankin Fields he drove his land-skimmer along the riverbank, avoiding the town of Alleyn Vale. He avoided the town as much as he could, but then he had little enough spare time to visit it. When he visited Alleyn Vale, in the past, he had been greeted with looks of pity or blankly ignored. At first, after his father’s accident, people had tried to picks arguments with him about his father’s decision, and would become even angrier when he didn’t argue back, but that soon all evaporated. Now he knew what most people thought of him, “That poor Joshua…” So he avoided Alleyn Vale is much as possible.
It was not a great town anyway; it had started off as a mere collection of buildings, selling supplies to the area’s farms. Over the following generations a mismatched collection of buildings had grown-up into the town of Alleyn Vale. Though now sprawling and busy Alleyn Vale’s main business, and almost way of life, was still supplying materials and stores to the now large number of farms in the area. The whole place seemed to revolve around farming, certainly what little social life there was did. So, all in all, Joshua did not miss visiting the town.
Before he reached Rankin Fields, even as he travelled all along the gently curving riverbank, he could see the large crowdof people gathered there. It looked as if the whole town’s population had turned out. As he drew closer he began to see figures in the crowd, not just people from Alleyn Vale but also people from the surrounding farms. News had certainly spread fast.
He parked his land-skimmer at the edge of Rankin Fields and then, on foot, slowly made his way through the crowd. The crowd was milling around, people talking in small groups, walking in couples, or just standing and waiting. Joshua found it easy to walk to the front of the crowd; people simply ignored him as he went. He got right up to the front of the crowd, he stopped a few people short of it, but he had a full view from where he stood.
The crowd had gathered in a broad semicircle, around the spacecraft, which had landed on the grass there, but now appeared very inert. It was a type of spacecraft he never seen before, never seen anything approaching it. He guessed it was some kind of shuttlecraft but that was all he could guess about it. It was white-coloured, though a very clean white, no atmospheric dirt seemed to mark its whiteness, and was made up of hexangular pods. The craft’s main body was a long hexangular pod, which came to a sharp point at either end. Mounted high on each corner were four smaller hexangular pods, one a corner, and like the large pod these too came to a sharp point. These smaller pods were obviously the craft’s engines because under each pod was an exhaust funnel, coloured black; the only things about the craft that were not white. The exhaust funnels were now acting as the four legs of the craft, it rested on them and the base of the main pod. The grass around the exhaust funnels was scorched a deep black; obviously from the heat it took to land this craft. It must rely solely on the force from theses engines to fly – there was nothing aerodynamic about this craft. Behind him, he heard woman’s voice ask:
“How long ‘as it been sitting here?”
Another woman answered her, “No one saw it land but it was first seen at dawn.”
“And all it’s done is sat there?” The first woman asked.
“Yeah, and bloody boring. If nothing happens soon I’m off.”
Joshua then saw three people, two men and a woman, approached the craft. He didn’t recognise the woman but he did the men; they were Area Administrator Jeremy Smith and Pastor Howard, from his parent’s church. Two of the biggest busybodies in the area. They properly wanted all the glory of “first contact”, he told himself, and haven’t even told the regional authorities.
“Welcome to Alleyn Vale, on Karbala Minor,” Jeremy Smith called out to the craft in his scratchy voice. “We, who represent the local government, want to welcome you in peace. Come out, we can talk and you can enjoy the hospitality of our beautiful town.”
There was an ominous and long silence after Jeremy Smith had finished speaking. Quickly people, in the crowd, began to mutter and whispered to themselves.
“We welcome you in a name of our Lord God on high and wish you no harm,” Pastor Howard’s voice boomed out. Again this was greeted by the same silence from the craft; there was no sign of movement or even life from the craft. It simply sat there, a strong presence before them but no movement from it at all.
“I’m going home, this is bloody boring,” the woman behind Joshua said. Other voices around him expressed the same sentiments and people began to move away from the craft. Then there was a loud noise and finally movement from the craft, which seemed to silence the crowd as if they were one person.
The sharp point at the front of the main pod opened, with a strange but still very mechanical noise. The sharp point opened like a set of giant, white jaws; the top section moving up and away while the bottom section moved down and way. Like a giant snake’s mouth opening as if to swallow something before it. The front of the pod opened to reveal a black void behind it, no lights shined inside that craft.
For a moment there was a tense, pregnant silence. It felt as if every eye there was trained on that open spacecraft. Then he saw movement into the craft, movement somewhere inside the dark interior. While Joshua was telling himself that what he had seen was merely a trick of the light three machine creatures, in single file, emerged from the craft and stopped in a line in front of it.
Joshua took in an audible breath of air, the creatures looked so ridicules, almost comical. They were about a meter in height, squat, and looked all the world like mother’s antique salt and pepper pots. The top of them was domed, two lights on either side of it and at the front was an antenna on a stalk. Below the Dome was a section, stretching right around the machine creatures, which looked like a ventilation grill. Below that seemed to be the main section of the machine creatures, on a panel at the front were its main limbs or grappling devices, he wasn’t sure. One was an extendable armed with a vacuum sucker at the end. The other arm was short, merely a tube with a casing of metal cooling wires – it looked like his laser welder. The bottom half of the machine creatures slightly flared out, forming an irregular base, and was covered in vertical rows of semicircular, raised domes. They didn’t move so much as glide over the ground. Two of the machine creatures were coloured steel grey; their semicircular domes were black. The other one was coloured black with white semicircular domes.
Joshua couldn’t believe how comical they looked. They were so unlike any droids he’d never seen before, their designs seemed so silly. They looked neither humanoid nor practical. Jeremy Smith, Pastor Howard and the woman approached three machine creatures. Joshua sighed to himself, they had to be there pushing themselves to the fore – Smith and Pastor Howard. “Welcome to Karbala Minor. We’re a peaceful planet and I hope we can negotiate trade agreements,” Jeremy Smith said to them.
“We welcome you in the Name of the Lord God on High and wish you no harm,” Pastor Howard quickly added, repeating himself.
The black machine creature turned it antennae-eye onto them and said, the sound coming from somewhere inside of it, with a strange sharply metallic sound to it:
“This planet is now part of the Dalek Empire. Anyone who resists will be exterminated!”
A ripple of voices went through the crowd, some people actually moved forward while others began to shuffle way. Joshua stood still, he didn’t know what to do because the scene unfolding before him seemed so unreal, as if someone had staged it.
“Now look here,” Jeremy Smith replied. “We’re a free human colony. You can’t come here and take us over! We have rights.”
“Exterminate!” Screeched the black Dalek.
It happened so quickly but every second was engraved on his memory. The Three Daleks turned the few degrees towards the three people and each fired, from the short tube of a limp, energy bolts. The energy bolts struck Smith, Howard and the woman, for a brief moment the force of impact actually raising them into the air before throwing their limp and lifeless bodies to the ground.
Panic swept throw the crowd. People screamed and ran backwards, attempting to run away from the Daleks. As they pushed past him, their bodies colliding with Joshua’s, he could see the terror plainly on those people faces. Other people, not as many but still a sizeable proportion of the crowd, moved forward. He could see some of these people were brandishing guns, drawing them as if ready to fight.
Joshua simply stood there, rooted to the spot by disbelief. He couldn’t believe what he was seeing, the site before him was unreal, it was like something form a cheap and old horror vid’. His mouth felt dry, the skin on his face cold and clammy, his eyes unblinking, and his limbs unmoving. It all happened in a few moments, seconds only, but it had seemed like an age to him. It was a sight; Joshua told himself, that he would never forget.
People in the crowd began firing their guns at the three Daleks. A rain of bullets and projectiles struck the Daleks and every one of them simply bounded off the Daleks’ casing without a single scratch or break to them. The Daleks, in their turn, turned their gun limbs onto the crowd and began to fire their energy bolts, indiscriminately, into the crowd. Some of the bolts hit the ground, exploding on connect with the soil. Other energy bolts, the majority of bolts that he saw fired in those few seconds, struck people and killed them instantly.
Joshua, after only witnessing a few seconds of the massacre all round him, turned around and fled. A sudden and almost blinding terror gripped him as he ran away from those Daleks. He ran on almost automatic pilot, just pushing people out of his way, heading in the general direction of where he had left his land-skimmer. People seem to be pushing and running in a maelstrom of human bodies. Repeatedly, almost with every step he took, his body collided with another. Again and again he pushed people out of his path, physically pushing them out of his way with his body. Then he ran into a woman who didn’t move.
She was stood still, her mouth open but no sound coming out of it, her body twitching and shaking, her eyes fixed ahead of her on the massacre happening behind him, and a large urine stain spreading out over the front of her trousers. This woman, her whole being frozen by panic, shocked him and made him take a step backwards. Her panic was so real yet she seemed so doomed by it. Joshua felt a sharp taste of bile in his mouth.
He pushed around her and ran the handful of metres until he reached his land-skimmer. When he reached his land-skimmer he found a young couple already there. A girl, in a bodice dress, was leaning against the side of his land-skimmer, while a boy, wearing a three-quarter length jacket, was bent over the door and was obvious the attempting to force it open. He suddenly has gripped by a flash of anger.
Without a word he grabbed the girl’s arm and, in one violent movement, through her off his land-skimmer, bodily throwing her to the ground. Her cry of surprise caused a boy to look up. Before the boy could react further Joshua had grabbed him by the shoulder and wrenched him backwards. With an angry force Joshua threw the boy to the ground and actually dragged him over the grass for a short distance.
“Hey!” The boy shouted up at him.
The look of anger and hatred that Joshua shot down at him, in that moment Joshua could have smashed the boy’s head open the pure anger, made the boy scurry away without a word. Quickly Joshua unlocked his land-skimmer, jumped inside and started the engine. He wanted to drive out of there, as fast as possible but couldn’t. As soon as he began to move he found himself in a throng of people and other vehicles. He moved along at a nerve jangling slow pace, his land-skimmer actually bouncing off other vehicles and even physically pushing people out of his path. He positively crawled up the hillside, out of Rankin Fields, and with every slow meter covered his mind kept turning over and over the images of those Daleks massacring the crowd before them, images of those Daleks getting closer and closer to him. He felt so unsafe and afraid.
Then a gap appeared before him, two vehicles collided and a gap actually appeared, as fast as possible he floored the accelerator and pushed his land-skimmer through it. Even as he sped through the gap it began to close up, people pushing forward, and as his land-skimmer passed through there he felt the thumps of it hitting people, even heard a stream, but he didn’t look back.
Then he was through the gap and before him was open fields with only a few figures and vercals dotted on it, all hurrying away from Rankin Fields. Now he finally pushed his land-skimmer to its maximum, and sped away, bouncing over the ground.
Pushing his lands-skimmer as fast as it would go, the rev counter dancing on the high-mark all the while, it didn’t take him long to reach home. All through that journey, though, his nerves were tight with fear. With every twist of his journey, every bump for his land-skimmer, Joshua imagined the Daleks were there on his heals. Only when he finally pulled up in front of his home did he feel some relief from his fears, though the adrenalin was still pumping through his body and he felt full of a pounding energy.
He rushed into the house and straight into his mother. She was stood in the hallway, dressed in one of her plain trouser suits and her hair tied back by a colourful scarf – strangely she change clothes since breakfast. He went to push past her but she grabbed onto his arm, her thin fingers digging into her skin in a vice-like grip.
“You switched off your communicator,” she snapped at him. “I told you to keep it on and have your vid’ communicator on transmit. You ignored me. I was left here not knowing what was going on. How dare you…”
“SHUT UP!!” he shouted at her, interrupting her follow of accusations.
“How do you speak to me like that? I’m still your mother…”
“Shut up! Shut up!” He interrupted her again. “You’re moaning isn’t important to what I just seen and been through. Daleks, they call themselves, landed in Rankin Fields and starting to kill everyone around them. Three of them were killing everyone. They killed Jeremy Smith and Pastor Howard. They killed them.”
“Don’t you lie to me,” her hand let go of his arm and, before he could stop her, smacked him hard across his face. “I said don’t lie! The Daleks died centuries ago. They’ve been dead centuries. Don’t you lie!”
“Shut up you stupid old woman. I’m telling you the truth. They call themselves the Daleks and they killed everyone who came near them. That’s enough for me. I’m going to get a gun.”
“They’re your father’s guns and you don’t touch them and without his permission.”
His anger with her boiled over, he physically wanted to hurt her. “I said shut up! My father is a useless and gutless cripple and you’re a coward living in denial. I get out of my way!”
Her face seemed to crumble, turning ashen pale, her lower lip trembled and her eyes glaze over with the beginnings of tears. He pushed past her and stormed into his father’s long unused study. It did not take him long to force open the cupboard were his father’s guns were stored. Once the cupboard was open Joshua took all the guns out of it.
Story © 2004 Drew Payne.
Layout © 2004 Visagraph Films International.