The news from the Presidium was not good. The council had been in session all night now, arguing back and forth over what to do about the latest Thal incursion. This time, it was going to be war. I could feel it in my bones.
But not tonight.
I lit a cigarillo, drew in a deep lungful of its sweet black smoke, then exhaled.
“Those things will kill you, y’know.” said Iyan, smiling.
“Well,” I replied “it’s not as if I’m going to live forever.”
Iyan’s smile widened, and I marvelled at her delicate features.
“Oh Davros, ever the pessimist!” laughed Cal, joining our table at last (he was an hour late, as usual). He hovered over the table, a bottle of wine in hand, risking the wrath of the patron who rather favoured the idea of his customers drinking his own quite revolting home brews.
“Iyan, Davros, I want you to meet someone!” said Cal excitedly. “He was talking to the Presidium tonight, an orator from — from?”
“Gallifrey … isn’t that a country on the desert continent? Long way from home, friend.” I said. I really hadn’t heard of the place, to be honest.
“A very long way from home,” agreed the stranger. I rose, gesturing to the empty chairs. “Sit! Sit!” I said, anxious to impress Iyan with a gregariousness I did not feel.
Cal and his friend sat. I looked around, but there was still no sign of Vesh and Bannon. I was starving.
“Sorry, I didn’t catch your name?”
The stranger smiled, hesitantly I thought, and I got the impression he was trying to make a name up on the spot.
“Call me … Dok.”
“Surely that’s a girls name?” I said, teasingly. He seemed to smile slightly, but he was looking at me in the oddest manner, as if unsure whether to be amused or not.
“So,” I said, my mind torn between Iyan’s smile and the thought of eating “What was you arguing for? War or peace?”
“Oh, peace. A war between the Thals and Kaleds would be disasterous for everyone.”
“You mean, your people?”
“No, I mean everyone. There is a lot of concern about where such a war could lead.”
I waved over a waiter, I coud wait no longer. Iyan whispered in my ear, and I agreed, Dok’s clothing was … unusual. Other worldly. Non-conformist.
I unstoppered Cal’s wine. We drank a toast to peace.
The evening wore on.
To my irritation, Vesh and Bannon turned up very late, very drunk, and left very early with Iyan. I was left with Cal and Dok still talking (groan!) politics, race issues, individual rights … now they were talking what costituted ‘higher morality’.
“No, no, no! Empathy is a strength!” Dok was saying, who had drunk a great deal yet still appeared quite sober. “To be able to feel as another feels, to understand the experiences of another …” he was saying, but my attention was drifting, thinking of anything but war, or politics.
I was doodling on a napkin, when I noted a sudden quiet. Cal had fallen alseep (despite the beady stare of the patron), and Dok was … Dok was staring at my sketch. Something was definatly on his mind, but I couldn’t figure out what.
“Davros, you’re a young man, a scientist. Why would you choose the path of war? Do you hate the Thals that much?”
“Hate Thals? I don’t hate anyone. And you are wrong, I don’t want war. I want peace. Lasting peace.”
“And yet you work in the Experimental Weapons Group.”
I thought that odd. No one knew I worked in the EWG. Even Cal only vaguely knew I worked in the Science Corp of the military. Had I mentioned EWG, then forgotten about it? I looked at the patrons’ home brew. What was in this stuff?
“You are a rational man.” I replied. “A scientist too, you say. You believe … in evolution?”
“There are nine dominant powers on this little world of ours. Thals, Onnovs, Kells … they all want to secure for themselves the planets limited resources. Now they are all picking on us poor Kaleds. How many times since … oh, the Iron Age, have our lands been part of someone else’s empire?”
“And now it’s your turn?” said Dok quietly.
“Why not!” I said, a little too hotly. “We have the technological edge now. Why not use it? Survival of the fittest, pure and simple.”
Dok stirred his coffee. I could tell he was a dyed in the wool pacifist. I softened my approach.
“This war will be different. It will be over swiftly, minimum casualties. And after that – no more wars. Ever. A swift bloody nose to the Thals, and it would be all over.”
Dok looked at me keenly. “You’re a closet pacifist!” he marvelled. “But it wont work. The Kaleds ultimate weapon, an explosive tipped missile … but you know it wont be long before someone splits the atom, or develops a missile with a chemical warhead, or grows a lethal microbe…”
I shrug, and summon the bill.
“Lasting peace,” I say, signing the bill “will come. Even if the things you say come to pass, I’ll find a way to bring peace to Skaro.”
I stood, rather unsteadily, and tried to rouse Cal, but he was dead to the world. Dok helped me carry him to the door.
Standing outside, breathing in the cool night air, I suddenly noticed Dok was gone. Odd fellow. I sensed there was something he wanted to ask me, or tell me, but the moment was gone. I wondered if I would ever see him again.
Something was in my hand, a crumpled napkin. I looked at it, realising I had doodled a rough schematic of … well, something. A mobile survival vehicle? Well, it was an idea …
“One way or another,” I said to the universe at large “I’ll find a way to bring peace to Skaro.”
Story © 2003 Martin Owers/Visagraph Films International.