Chapter 6

Death of a Chief Embalmer

The seemingly endless labyrinth of corridors stretched on and on. Peri was convinced that Jobel was purposely leading her astray so he could be alone with her. She shuddered at the thought. But her fears faded as the rhythmic sounds of music came pulsing down the corridor. Eventually Peri came to a circular glass door that accessed a large white room.

Peri could see the DJ inside, seated at his console and moving to the vibrant sounds of Rock 'n' Roll coming through his headphones.

‘Well, thank you for showing me the way,’ she smiled, with great relief.

Jobel leaned closer to her. ‘Those rose-red ruby lips were made for kissing,’ he said as he puckered his own.

‘But not by you,’ she retorted.

‘Oh, I love women who play hard to get!’

‘Then you'll love me to death.’ She pulled back as Jobel advanced again, but she found herself forced up against the glass door. She was helpless as Jobel's hands went on remote control and caressed her body. He closed his eyes and pursed his lips again. Peri shut her own eyes and her whole body went rigid as she prepared herself for the worst...

...but then the glass doors slid open from the pressure of her body against them, and Peri fell through the open gap. The doors closed again, and Jobel delivered his wet kiss onto the glass.

Peri breathed a heavy sigh of relief. Saved in the nick of time, she thought.

‘Wait!’ Jobel pleaded.

Peri waved back at him through the door. ‘I hope the lying in state goes well. And thanks for showing me the way.’

‘My pleasure, pretty one,’ said Jobel as he rubbed at the sticky wet impression of his lips on the door with his sleeve. He would never live this one down if it ever got out, he thought. With one final agonised look of desire at Peri, Jobel departed.

Peri looked around the at the chamber's pleasing features. She noticed the modern-day paintings and works of art that decorated the room. They looked somewhat out of place amongst the ultra-modern sound equipment that dominated the place. The DJ was still ignorant to her presence. She leaned over and tapped him lightly on the shoulder.

The DJ leaped out of his chair in fright. He spun around and whipped off the headphones.

‘Hi,’ she said, nervously. ‘I hope you don't mind me dropping in?’

The DJ caught his breath. ‘No, no. It's nice to have visitors.’ Peri frowned. The American accent he had used on his commercial was gone. Instead, he spoke with a hint of Cockney.

‘I'm Peri,’ she said, holding out her hand.

He shook it. ‘Is that your real accent?’

‘I hope so!’ she laughed.

‘Amazing!’ was all he could say.

‘And speaking of accents,’ she said, ‘yours seems to have changed.’

The DJ shuffled his feet. ‘Ah, yes. Well, that's just my other voice, you know. I use that just for professional duties.’

‘I knew it was too good to be true,’ she said with disappointment in her voice. ‘I thought that maybe you came from the States.’

The DJ's mouth dropped open. ‘You don't mean the United States? Of America? On Earth?’

‘That's right!’

‘Amazing,’ he said, shaking his head in disbelief.

‘Have you been there?’

‘No, no. It's just that I've heard recordings, you know. My great-granddad brought them back from one of his visits. And I really love the sounds of those old American DJ's. So, I decided to base my style of presentation on them.’

‘It's very good.’

‘Thank you.’

‘It makes me almost homesick.’ She hadn't seen her home-town for some time now. She had been on her summer vacation in Lanzarote with her mother and step-father when she first met the Doctor, and was in turn plunged into the sort of adventure she could only before dream about. The Doctor had agreed to let her stay with him for the three month summer vacation before having to return to school. However the Doctor's sudden regeneration changed all that and the ‘new' Doctor had not even attempted to return her home. He seemed more interested in zooming around the universe instead.

‘I'm glad that somebody likes it,’ said the DJ. He had never had any criticism before; his regular listeners never complained about his work. Except one, that is.

‘It doesn't half aggravate the Great Healer,’ he added.

But the Great Healer was far from being aggravated at the moment. Tasambeker had returned with her report of the Doctor's capture. Davros was smiling.

‘You have pleased me.’

‘Thank you, Great Healer.’

‘Show me Jobel,’ he ordered one of his Dalek sentries.

The Chief Embalmer's features appeared on the video screen. ‘I am told that you have affection for this man?’

‘I did once.’ Tasambeker swallowed hard.

‘He is a difficult man. Arrogant, wouldn't you agree?’

She nodded.

‘I once offered him immortality,’ the Great Healer confessed. ‘He turned it down!’

‘He's a fool, then,’ she spat, ‘as well as being arrogant.’

Davros chuckled. ‘I agree. But I sense that you still have affection for him.’

‘No!’ she cried. But she realised that the only person she was fooling was herself. ‘Yes,’ she sighed, ‘though I don't know why. He's always humiliating me.’

‘So I have observed. If someone treated me the way he treated you I think I would have them killed.’

Tasambeker looked up at Jobel's image. ‘Kill him? No, I couldn't do that.’

‘No? Then watch him. Use the security cameras to observe his activities. Then tell me that your hatred does not grow!’

She couldn't take her eyes off the screen and the face of the man she loved. Could she kill him? It was too terrible to contemplate. But if the Great Healer wished it of her, then she had no other choice than to obey.

The Doctor moaned and rolled onto his side. The room was spinning. When it had stabilised, he sat up and rubbed the back of his neck. Who am I...? Where am I...? Daleks?, couldn't have been. I must be dreaming...

He tried to stand, but his efforts were impeded by the fact that his left ankle was chained to a wall.

‘Who are you?’ came a voice behind him.

He turned to see a man and a woman, both chained by their wrists. ‘Hello, I'm the Doctor. And who are you?’

Grigory hiccupped and introduced himself and Natasha, but the Doctor could sense his apprehension. After all, they were prisoners, and he was a total stranger. For all they knew he could be a spy sent to gain their confidence. The Doctor raised his eyebrows on hearing Natasha's name.

‘Stengos?’ he frowned. ‘As in Arthur Stengos?’

‘He was my father. Did you know him?’

Without trying to shock the poor girl, the Doctor explained who he was and why he had come to Necros. At first Natasha could not accept that this was the same Doctor who had visited her father all those years ago. He didn't even act, let alone look the same, but when the Doctor recounted the fig tree story, she was finally convinced.

While Natasha told him of what she and Grigory were doing here at Tranquil Repose, the Doctor set to work picking the lock on his shackle using a small piece of wire he found on the floor. After fifteen minutes work he had made little progress.

‘Not doing very well, are you,’ criticised Grigory.

The Doctor ignored him. It's moments like these I wish I still had my sonic screwdriver, he thought.

Natasha continued her story. The Doctor's ears pricked up when she mentioned the Daleks. ‘What are the Daleks doing here?’ he asked.

‘Body snatching,’ replied Natasha. ‘They've stolen my father's body and they were turning him into a Dalek.’

‘It was horrible,’ coughed Grigory, the memory of the glass Dalek still strong in his mind. ‘It was growing, just like an embryo.’

‘Growing?’ echoed the Doctor. ‘So, Davros has finally done it. Daleks that can reproduce anywhere.’

‘It's a tremendous feat of genetic engineering,’ added Grigory.

‘It's a pity,’ the Time Lord growled, ‘he didn't put it to better use.’

This startling new revelation made the Doctor think back to his previous encounters with Davros. The Doctor had been there, at the very beginning - at the birth of the Daleks. He had been sent to Skaro by the Time Lords with the task of destroying the Daleks at their genesis. The Doctor failed, and Davros was seen to have been destroyed by his own creations.

The Doctor revisited Skaro many thousands of years later only to discover that Davros was very much alive. The Daleks had also returned to Skaro. They needed their creator's knowledge to help win their battle against the Movellans. They failed and Davros was taken to Earth to stand trial for war- crimes against humanity. His sentence was indefinite suspended animation.

For ninety long years he remained in a state of semi-consciousness. In the outer regions of the galaxy the Daleks were being destroyed by the Movellan virus. The Supreme Dalek itself lead a special taskforce to attack the space station prison because once again they needed his help. Only Davros could redesign their genetic structure and cure the affliction. The Doctor (then in his fifth body) had gone to Davros's laboratory determined to execute the evil genius. But Davros pleaded for his life, promising that he would reprogram his creations with emotions, and create a new breed of Dalek. The Doctor foolishly believed him and the execution was stayed. When the space station's self destruct was activated, the Doctor was certain that Davros was killed in the explosion.

From what Natasha had told him, the Doctor surmised that the few remaining Daleks must have come here to Necros, and with the help of this Great Healer person, they were stealing bodies from the cryogenic chambers and mutating the sleepers into Dalek/human hybrids.

Tranquil Repose was now nothing more than a storage larder for a Dalek breeding colony!

Vogel and Kara were celebrating their victory-to-be over a bottle of expensive Moranian champagne.

They were interrupted by a shrill beep beep from her desk. Kara put down her glass and crossed over to the communications console, where a light was also flashing. It was a signal from Orcini.

‘They have reached the catacombs,’ she informed her secretary. ‘Wonderful! It's now only a matter of time before he finds Davros's laboratory, taps out the sequence code - and blows Davros, himself, and that disgusting little squire into a thousand tiny little pieces!’

She returned to Vogel. As they raised glasses in a toast, the door opened.

‘How dare you enter unannounced!’ Vogel scolded the new arrivals. His mouth dropped as two Daleks glided in.

‘You-will-come-with-us!’ one shrieked.

‘You-will-be-taken-to-Davros-to-answer-for-your-crimes,’ said the other.

The bodyguards sent by Davros had arrived. But Kara knew they had come for another purpose. They were her escorts to certain death. Davros had indeed suspected their treachery.

Vogel seized his chance and made a dash for the door. The first Dalek spun to face him and delivered a fatal blast. It sliced into him, and he dropped to his knees, his eyes wide with surprise. He held out a hand to his mistress, then collapsed to the floor like a puppet whose strings had suddenly been severed.

‘You-will-obey!’ grated a Dalek, its eye-stalk focussing on Kara as she knelt down beside Vogel's body. Tears welled up in her eyes.

‘How inconvenient,’ she sobbed. ‘You know how difficult it is to find good secretaries these days.’

‘You-will-come-with-us!’ The Dalek prodded her with its sucker-arm. She rose to her feet and was led away...

The President's ship was less than half an hour away from landing. If the President's ship was due to land soon, so was the other mysterious craft that was approaching Necros. Takis decided it was time that he told Lilt of what he had done to rid them of the Great Healer. Lilt was unsure at first, but Takis convinced him that it was the only solution.

Takis considered it wise to let Jobel in on the plan. They found him in the main Hall, supervising the last minute details for the upcoming instatement.

‘Don't you find that a lot of strange things have been happening around here recently?’ Takis asked the Chief Embalmer.

‘Not more bad news,’ sighed Jobel. The deaths of three of his staff today was all he could bear.

‘I was talking generally. In fact, I don't think that things have been the same since the Great Healer took over!’

‘Guard your tongue!’ warned Jobel. ‘He has eyes and ears everywhere!’ He glanced nervously at the camera on the wall behind Takis.

‘I think it was time that something was done,’ Takis whispered.

‘You do? But could you?’

‘With a little help,’ nodded Takis.

Jobel wagged his finger at Takis. ‘You're a very naughty man, Takis.’

‘So,’ Lilt spoke, ‘are you interested then, Mr Jobel?’

Jobel shrugged. ‘I never was very keen on all this Dalek business.’

Takis and Lilt looked at one another and nodded. ‘I think then that we should have a little chat...’ smiled Takis.

‘Absolutely,’ replied Jobel. ‘But can we get the Perpetual Instatement sorted out first?’

Takis nodded his agreement, and left with Lilt.

A female Attendant stepped up to Jobel and handed to him a flower. Jobel put his arm around her waist, pulled her close to him and kissed her on the cheek.

‘I love you,’ he laughed mischievously.

Tasambeker turned away from the scanner and closed her eyes. She had seen enough. The Great Healer was right; Jobel was a fool.

The Great Healer had also been watching. But his interest lay more in the plot that was unfolding against him. First Kara, then Takis and Lilt, and now Jobel. ‘This man you respect now conspires against me! His infidelity is bad enough, but his treason is unforgivable!’

Tasambeker turned pleadingly at the Great Healer. ‘Let me speak to him...’

‘It is too late for words!’

A Dalek glided forward. ‘He-should-be-exterminated!’

‘No!’ she screamed.

But Davros had heard enough. ‘It is time for you to decide to whom your loyalties belong.’

‘To you, of course.’

‘That is easy to say. But I require a positive commitment as proof.’

Tasambeker glanced at the floor. She couldn't bear look into the Great Healer's face. ‘What do you want me to do?’

Davros remained silent as he contemplated the task for her to perform. When he eventually spoke, Tasambeker felt a chill run down her spine.

‘I once offered Jobel immortality. He refused. I now make the same offer to you. Serve me with your total being, and I shall allow you to become a Dalek!’

She gulped. ‘It is an offer I cannot refuse.’

This pleased Davros. ‘It is an offer that must be fulfilled - through blood!’

She suddenly realised what the Great Healer was asking of her. She looked up Jobel's image on the screen.

‘Show me your total obedience -’ shrieked Davros, ‘ - and kill Jobel!’

Kara's maps had shown details of many forgotten tunnels and passages that ran beneath the complex. Orcini and Bostock had been able to penetrate the catacombs of Tranquil Repose with considerable ease.

On reaching the lowest level, they signaled Kara as arranged, and were now creeping down a corridor lined with doors. Orcini felt uneasy. As an assassin he had crept down many a tunnel, hidden in many a closet, and lurked behind many a grassy knoll. But this time, things just didn't seem right. It was all too easy, in fact.

As if to further his fears, a guard appeared from around a corner. Startled by the sight of two armed intruders, the guard had no time to draw his gun - giving Bostock the advantage to grab him by the throat and start choking. Bostock was about to deliver the final blow to the man's neck when Orcini stopped him. Reluctantly, Bostock let the unconscious guard slump to the floor.

‘You should have let me kill him, master.’

‘I appreciate your dedication, Bostock,’ explained Orcini. ‘But he's very unimportant.’

‘But, master...’

‘No! In fact I would have preferred him conscious.’

Bostock frowned, not understanding.

‘Questions are accumulating, and I would very much like the answers to them.’

The squire could detect a touch of anxiety in his master's voice. ‘What's wrong?’

‘I've been feeling that we haven't been told the whole truth.’

‘You mean we've been set up?’

‘You're the one with the infallible instincts, you tell me.’ Orcini was beginning to believe that Kara had in mind an even more sinister motive for sending them into the catacombs. Suddenly he felt exposed. ‘We need a diversion. A scapegoat.’

He glanced at the doors lining the corridor and noticed that each had a monitor set into the wall. He watched the screen by the door nearest to them. He could see the room inside, containing three people - two men and a woman.

‘Ah, prisoners,’ smiled Orcini. ‘Release them.’

Bostock frowned again.

‘Scapegoats!’ said Orcini.

Bostock grinned in understanding, and set to work on the door panel.

After considerable effort, the Doctor eventually picked the locks of his own bonds, and quickly set to work on releasing his new friends. He smiled with satisfaction as Natasha's manacles sprang open. She rubbed her sore wrists.

Behind them, the door to the cell slowly opened. Fearing the return of the Daleks, the Doctor dashed behind the door, ready to leap out.

Orcini cautiously entered the cell. With a Venusian Aikido yell, the Doctor jumped out of hiding and grabbed Orcini's arm. The Doctor tried to force the man to the ground but was unexpectedly met with powerful resistance.

Orcini threw the heavy Time Lord over his shoulder with very little effort, sending him crashing to the cold stone floor.

‘Who are you?’ asked Natasha, looking at the strangers with interest.

The Doctor rose to his feet, rubbing the back of his neck. He pointed to the silver medal hanging on Orcini's chest. ‘A Knight of the Grand Order of Oberon,’ he announced. ‘Only I would be stupid enough to attack such a person.’

‘Be grateful that you are still alive,’ sneered Bostock.

‘I am. I am,’ nodded the Doctor.

Orcini levelled his gun at the prisoners. ‘You are now free. But you will count slowly to twenty once we have gone. If you attempt to follow us, I will kill you. Do you understand?’

‘Ah, yes,’ gulped Grigory, then he let out a loud burp.

To his complete surprise, the Doctor was offered Orcini's gun. ‘You may need this,’ the knight said.

The Doctor hated guns. But in these circumstances he reasoned it was better not to refuse. He took the weapon. ‘May I ask what you are doing here?’

‘You may,’ replied Orcini, ‘but only a fool would expect an answer.’ With that, he and Bostock disappeared into the corridor.

Natasha gave the Doctor a ‘what do we do now' look. The Doctor shrugged.

Behind them, Grigory slowly started counting. ‘One... two... three...’

The President's ship was beginning its final approach. The landing port was getting ready to accept the space vessel.

In the main Hall, the Attendants were putting the finishing touches to the decorations. A blue carpet had been positioned across the floor from the reception doors to the dais. ‘I think we need more of these,’ Takis said, pointing to the purple flower on the body. He noticed they were starting to wilt.

Jobel sighed heavily. ‘I am told that she loved the fragrance of nature.’

Takis moved away to get more of the weed plant and passed Tasambeker, who had just entered the Hall.

‘Mr Jobel!’ she called.

‘Not now, Tasambeker. Can't you see I'm busy?’ He hoped she would go away.

‘But it's important! I have a message from the Great Healer.’ Jobel glanced at the all-seeing eye of the camera mounted on the wall above them.

‘Why didn't you say then?’ he said, forcing a smile.

‘You must leave with me!’ she pleaded.

He looked at her large plump body. ‘That's the bluntest proposal I've had all week.’ He shuddered at the thought of being alone with her.

‘If you don't come with me, you'll die!’ Tears fell from her eyes. ‘The Great Healer hates you!’

‘That's impossible. I've always been his loyal servant.’ Once more he glanced at the camera. He knew the Great Healer would be watching.

‘Not when you conspire with Takis.’

Jobel felt a sudden chill engulf him. His meeting with Takis and Lilt had been observed by the Great Healer after all. ‘That was a joke,’ he laughed. ‘A bit of fun...’

But Tasambeker was not convinced. ‘He wants you dead!’

‘Dead?’ he laughed. ‘Me? I am Jobel. This place wouldn't function without me.’

He pushed past her and walked over to his office. Tasambeker waddled behind him like a two-legged hippopotamus. Jobel lovingly studied himself in the mirror and straightened his hair-piece.

‘The Great Healer doesn't care about Tranquil Repose. Already he's turned it into a breeding ground for Daleks!’ she cried.

‘Now I know you are lying,’ said Jobel. ‘I spoke with him the other day. He has tremendous pride for this place. There certainly wasn't any talk of turning it into a Dalek-farm.’

‘He lies as freely as you pick up women,’ she burst.

Jobel nodded in understanding. ‘Oh, so that's what this is all about.’

‘Mr Jobel - I love you. I'm risking my life talking to you like this.’

Jobel took off his spectacles and polished them with his apron. ‘We've spent too many hours in this preparation room,’ he sighed. ‘Someone as impressionable as you should lavish little more time on the living instead of fantasising with the dead.’

But Tasambeker would not be dismissed so easily. ‘You've got to get away from here. I can help you!’

‘Do you now?’ He was sick and tired of her school-girl infatuation with him. ‘Do you honestly think that I could possibly be interested in you? I have the pick of the women here. I would rather run away with my own mother than a fawning little creep like you.’

‘I knew you could be cruel,’ she cried. ‘But even you have excelled yourself.’

As Jobel gazed once more at his reflection, Tasambker inhaled deeply, trying to find the biggest insult she could deliver to him. ‘To think that I almost threw away everything, for a fat, balding, egotist like you!’

Jobel was taken aback at this sudden burst of emotion. ‘Fat? Me? Fat? My figure is at the height of fashion!’ He sucked in his stomach and studied his profile in the mirror. He gave himself a nod of approval and pushed past her into the Hall.

Tasambeker stood alone in the office, crying. Her attempts had failed. The Great Healer was expecting her to do as he had ordered.

On a table she saw a silver instrument tray. A syringe, half-filled with green embalming fluid, lay invitingly exposed. She made up her mind, and seized the syringe. Holding it like a knife, she ran after her mentor.

‘The Great Healer has ordered you dead!’ she shouted.

At the foot of the dais steps Jobel stopped. ‘We shall see about that. I shall speak to him myself.’

Tasambeker overtook him and mounted the steps. She stood over him, the needle raised high above her head. ‘You just don't understand,’ she begged. ‘To earn his favour I am to kill you!’

The Hall fell silent as the Attendants watched the drama unfolding before them.

‘Get on with your work!’ Jobel ordered them. He took his eyes off the ranting Tasambeker for only a second.

She took this opportunity. ‘I hate you!’ she screamed and she plunged the needle into his heart. Crying with regret, and for fear of her own safety, Tasambeker ran from the Hall.

Jobel stood for a few minutes, staring at the needle embedded in his chest, a look of complete surprise on his face. ‘She's... killed... Jobel...’ he stammered, and collapsed to the ground. As his head cracked against the marble floor, his toupee fell off.

Jobel, the Chief Embalmer, was dead.

Tasambeker ran down the corridors with no particular destination in mind. Exhausted, she leant against a wall, and sobbed. ‘Oh why did I do it?’

Two Daleks appeared at her side. She gazed at them in fear. Had the Great Healer sent them to escort her to his laboratory? Maybe he had seen her try and warn Jobel? She stood at attention, waiting for them to speak.

‘You-are-to-be-exterminated!’ they grated.

Tasambeker realised that the Great Healer only wanted her for one purpose - to kill Jobel. He now had no further use for her. His offer of a position had been nothing more than a ruse. She tried to run from them, but her stubby legs were not fast enough. The double beams from the Daleks engulfed her, and her smouldering body crumpled to the floor.

Davros turned off his scanner. Another traitor had been disposed of. Soon the others would be dealt with. In time, he would emerge from the catacombs with his Daleks, and nothing would be able to stop him!

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