AND THE GENESIS OF THE DALEKS.
By Terrance d.i.c.ks.
1 SECRET MISSION
It was a battlefield. It was a battlefield.The ground was churned, scarred, ravaged. Nothing grew there, nothing lived. The twisted, rusting wrecks of innumerable war machines littered the landscape. There were strands of ragged, tangled wire, collapsed dugouts, caved-in trenches. The perpetual twilight was made darker by fog. Thick, dank and evil, it swirled close to the muddy ground, hiding some of the horrors from view.Something stirred in the mud. A goggled, helmeted head peered over a ridge, surveyed the shattered landscape. A hand beckoned, and more shapes rose and shambled forward. There were about a dozen of them, battle-weary men in ragged uniforms, their weapons a strange mixture of old and new, their faces hidden by gas masks. A star sh.e.l.l burst over their heads, bathing them for a moment in its sickly green light before it sputtered into darkness. The thump thump of artillery came from somewhere in the distance, with the hysterical chatter of automatic weapons. But the firing was some distance away. Too tired even to react, the patrol shambled on its way. of artillery came from somewhere in the distance, with the hysterical chatter of automatic weapons. But the firing was some distance away. Too tired even to react, the patrol shambled on its way.A man materialized out of the fog and stood looking in bewilderment after the soldiers. He was a very tall man, dressed in comfortable, old tweed trousers and a loosely hanging jacket. An amazingly long scarf was wound round his neck, a battered, broad-rimmed hat was jammed onto a tangle of curly brown hair. Hands deep in his pockets, he pivoted slowly on his heels, turning in a complete circle to survey the desolate landscape.He shook his head, the bright blue eyes clouded with puzzlement. This was all wrong, he thought. It was all terribly wrong. The transmat beam should have taken him back to the s.p.a.ce station. Instead he was here, in this terrible place. How could it possibly have happened?'Greetings, Doctor.'The Doctor spun around at the sound of the voice behind him. A tall, distinguished figure in flowing robes stood looking at him quizzically. A Time Lord! The Doctor knew all about Time Lords-he was one himself. He had left his own people untold years ago to roam through s.p.a.ce and Time in his 'borrowed' TARDIS. He'd rebelled against the Time Lords, beencaptured and exiled by them, and had at last made his peace with them. He had served themoften, sometimes willingly, sometimes not. These days their hold on him was tenuous. But itwas still a hold, a limitation of his freedom, and the Doctor never failed to resent it.He glared at the elegant figure before him. 'So! I've been hijacked!' he said indignantly.'Don't you realize how dangerous it is to interfere with a transmat beam?''Oh come, Doctor! Not with our techniques. We transcended such simple mechanical deviceswhen the Universe was young.' The languid voice held all the effortless superiority that the Doctor always found so infuriating.He controlled himself with a mighty effort. 'Whatever I may have done, whatever crimes I committed in your eyes, I have made ample rest.i.tution. I have done you great services, and I was given my freedom as a reward. I will not tolerate this continual interference in my lives!'The Time Lord looked thoughtfully at him and began to stroll across the battlefield, with theair of someone taking a turn on the lawn at a garden party. The dull rumble of gunfire came from somewhere in the distance. ' Continual Continual interference, Doctor? We pride ourselves we seldom intervene in the affairs of others.' interference, Doctor? We pride ourselves we seldom intervene in the affairs of others.''Except mine,' the Doctor said bitterly. He hurried after the Time Lord.'Ah, but you are an exception, Doctor&mdah ;a special case. You enjoy the freedom we allow you. Occasionally, not not continually, we ask you to do something for us.' continually, we ask you to do something for us.'The Doctor came to a halt, his arms folded. 'I won't do it,' he said obstinately. 'Whatever you want-I won't do it'The Time Lord spoke one word. 'Daleks.'The Doctor spun around. 'Daleks? Well, what about them?'The Time Lord paused, as if collecting his arguments, then said, ' Our latest temporal projections foresee a Time-stream in which the Daleks will have destroyed all other life forms.They could become the dominant creatures in the Universe.''That has always been their aim,' agreed the Doctor grimly. 'Go on.''We'd like you to return to Skaro at a point in time just before before the Daleks evolved.' the Daleks evolved.'Immediately the Doctor guessed the Time Lord's plan. 'And prevent their creation?''That, or alter their genetic development, so they evolve into less aggressive creatures. At the very least, you might discover some weakness which could serve as a weapon against them.'The Doctor tried to look as if he was thinking it over. But it was no more than a pretence . He couldn't resist the idea of a chance to defeat his oldest enemies once and for all. 'Oh all right. All right. I suppose I'll have to help you-just one more time. Return me to the TARDIS.''No need for that, Doctor. This is Skaro.' The Time Lord gestured at the desolate scene around them. 'Skaro-after a thousand years of war between Kaleds and Thals. We thought it would save time if we a.s.sumed your agreement.' He tossed something to the Doctor, who caught it instinctively. He found himself holding a heavy, ornately designed bangle in a metal that looked something like copper. It wasn't copper, of course, any more than the object was the simple ornament it appeared to be. 'A Time ring, Doctor. It will return you to the TARDIS when your mission is finished. Don't lose it, will you? It's your life line. Good luck.' The Time Lord vanished as suddenly and silently as he had appeared.'Just a minute,' yelled the Doctor. 'What about my two human companions?'As if in answer a voice called from the fog. 'Doctor? Where are you?''Sarah?' The Doctor began running toward the sound. Almost immediately he lost his balance and skidded down a long muddy slope. Sarah Jane Smith and Harry Sullivan were waiting for him at the edge of a big sh.e.l.l crater.Sarah was a slim, pretty girl in fashionable clothes. On Earth she was a journalist, though that life seemed very far away now. Harry was a square-jawed, blue-eyed, curly haired young man. He had the rather dated good looks of the hero of an old-fashioned adventure story. Harry was a Naval man, a doctor. He was attached to UNIT, the Security Organization to which the Doctor was Scientific Adviser. Harry had made the mistake of doubting the power of the TARDIS. This amazing device, in appearance an old-fashioned police call box, was in fact the machine in which the Doctor traveled through Time and s.p.a.ce. Harry had rashly accepted the Doctor's challenge to "come for a little trip." Now, after a number of terrifying adventures, he often wondered if he would ever see Earth again.The Doctor's two companions looked at him indignantly. 'I say, that was a pretty rough landing,' protested Harry.Sarah had known the Doctor for longer than Harry; her travels had accustomed her to rough landings and unexpected destinations.'All right, Doctor, where are we? This isn't the beacon.' They were supposed to be returning by transmat beam to the s.p.a.ce station, where the TARDIS was waiting to carry them home.The Doctor looked at her apologetically. 'I'm afraid there's been a slight change of plans...'There was a sudden whistling sound. The Doctor wrapped his arms around his two friends and threw himself into the crater, dragging them with him. They raised their heads to protest-then lowered them hurriedly as heavy-artillery sh.e.l.ls roared overhead. One thudded into the rim of the crater, showering them with mud.The barrage went on for an appallingly long time, but at last it died away. The Doctor lifted his head and looked cautiously out of the crater. 'Not what you'd call a very friendly welcome.'He turned at a m.u.f.fled scream from Sarah. She pointed shakily. They were not alone in the crater. A raggedly uniformed soldier crouched on the other side, his rifle aimed straight at them. n.o.body moved. Then the Doctor walked cautiously toward the soldier. The man didn't react. The Doctor touched him on the shoulder and the soldier pitched forward, landing facedown in the mud.The Doctor knelt beside him. 'It's all right, Sarah, the poor fellow's dead.' The Doctor examined the body, noticing the strangely shaped gas mask, the holstered hand blaster, the ancient projectile rifle. He pointed out the last two items to Harry. 'You see? These two weapons are separated by centuries of technology.'Sarah joined them. She pointed to a small dial sewn into the ragged combat jacket. 'What's this thing, Doctor?''A radiation detector.''Worn with a gas mask straight out of the First World War?' asked Harry incredulously.Sarah examined the uniform more closely. 'That combat jacket's some synthetic fiber-and the rest of the uniform seems to be made of animal skins!'The Doctor nodded. 'It's like finding the remains of a stone-age man with a transistor radio.'Harry chuckled. 'Playing rock music eh?' Even in the most macabre circ.u.mstances, Harry could not resist a joke. He looked at the others, hurt at their lack of reaction. ' Rock Rock music-cave man-get it?' music-cave man-get it?'Sarah threw him an impatient look and said, 'What does it all mean, Doctor?''A thousand-year war,' the Doctor said sadly. 'A once highly developed civilization on the point of total collapse. Come along, you two.'He jumped out of the crater. Sarah scrambled after him. 'Where are we going?''Forward, of course.'The Doctor set off at a great pace, Sarah and Harry following. They were picking their way through a very nasty clump of barbed wire when the Doctor stopped. His keen eyes had seen a sinister shape, half-buried in the mud.'What is it?' asked Sarah.Apologetically the Doctor said, 'I'm afraid we seem to be in the middle of a mine field. Keep close behind, and follow in my footsteps.''You sound just like good King Wenceslas.'The nightmare journey continued. Fog swirled around them, gunfire rumbled in the distance, and their feet squelched through clammy, clinging mud. In between studying the ground beneath his feet, the Doctor swept occasional glances about the desolate landscape.'What is it, Doctor? Have you seen something?' asked Harry.'I'm not sure. I keep getting the feeling we're being watched.''Me too,' said Sarah. 'Ever since we set off...''Rubbish,' said Harry vigorously. 'There's nothing out there except mud and fog.''Then let's hope it's just my over-active imagination.' Still looking around him, the Doctor took another step forward. Suddenly he stopped. Beneath the mud his foot was jammed against something round and metallic. Silently the Doctor pointed downward. Harry and Sarah looked.All three held their breath. Slowly the Doctor started to withdraw his foot, then stopped at once as he felt the movement of the mine. He spoke in a quiet, conversational voice. 'Harry, this mine seems to be resting on something solid. If I move my foot it will tilt-and that could be enough to detonate it.'Harry edged cautiously forward and dropped to his knees beside the half-buried mine. He began clearing mud and gravel away from the mine's surface. The Doctor stood motionless, like someone caught in a game of Statues.'Seems to be a rock underneath,' said Harry slowly.Sarah spoke in a whisper, as though the very sound of her voice might be enough to explode the mine. 'Can't you wedge it, Harry? Jam something underneath to make it firm?'Without looking up, Harry said, 'That's what I'm trying to do, old girl.' He groped around the surrounding area and picked up a suitably sized lump of rock. Very slowly he slipped it between the mine and the rock on which it rested, holding the mine steady with his free hand. 'All right, Doctor, give it a try. Sarah, you back away-and keep to our footsteps.' Sarah obeyed-it was no time to argue.'You get back as well, Harry,' said the Doctor.Still crouching at the Doctor's feet, Harry shook his head. 'No. You'll have a better chance if I hold the mine steady while you move.''Don't be stupid, Harry.''Don't waste time arguing, Doctor. just move that foot-gently.'The Doctor moved it. Nothing happened. He watched as Harry Sullivan took first one hand and then the other from the mine. It didn't shift. The Doctor let out a long sigh of relief. 'Thank you, Harry.''My pleasure, Doctor,' said Harry Sullivan, a little shakily.As they moved clear of the minefield, a huge twisted figure in a shapeless fur hood slipped after them through the fog. The Doctor's and Sarah's instincts had been right. Something was was following them across the battlefield... following them across the battlefield...The Doctor trudged to the top of a long steep rise. He stopped and pointed. 'Look!'Harry and Sarah joined him. There in the distance they saw-what? A giant, semi-transparent dome, fog swirling around its base, odd shapes just discernible beneath it.'A protective dome,' said the Doctor softly. 'Large enough to cover an entire city.'Harry gazed at it in wonder. 'If these people can build something like that, why are they fighting a war with barbed wire and land mines?''Why indeed?' replied the Doctor.Sarah looked at him curiously. 'Doctor, isn't it time we had a few explanations?'The Doctor sighed. 'Yes, of course it is. I must begin with an apology...' Briefly the Doctor told them how the Time Lords had intervened to prevent their safe return to the TARDIS, and of the vital mission that had been imposed on him. 'I'm only sorry you two were caught up in their high-handed action.'He seemed so genuinely distressed that Sarah said, 'It's all right, Doctor. Not your fault, is it ,Harry ?''Of course not. If these Daleks are as bad as you say, it'll be a pleasure to help scuttle 'em.'The Doctor grinned, spirits restored by Harry's cheerful confidence.'So where do we begin?' asked Sarah, sounding a good deal braver than she actually felt.The Doctor pointed toward the dome. 'There!' he said. And they started moving toward the distant city.But getting getting to the city wasn't so easy. It was guarded by an elaborate system of interconnecting trenches, similar to those that had covered Europe during the First World War. Fortunately the trench network appeared to be completely deserted. The Doctor and his companions were going through a kind of maze, moving, they hoped, ever nearer to the mysterious city. to the city wasn't so easy. It was guarded by an elaborate system of interconnecting trenches, similar to those that had covered Europe during the First World War. Fortunately the trench network appeared to be completely deserted. The Doctor and his companions were going through a kind of maze, moving, they hoped, ever nearer to the mysterious city.'Maybe all the troops have been withdrawn,' suggested Harry.'Or killed,' said the Doctor. 'See here.'They followed him around a corner and found themselves in a large trench, floored with wooden planks and barricaded with sandbags. It was lined with men, propped up along its edge as if awaiting attack. 'Even the dead have a part to play in this war,' said the Doctor.'They've been stood here to make the trench look fully manned.'They moved along the row of silent figures. Harry examined one more closely. 'Same sc.r.a.ppy uniform as that chap in the crater. Seems to be different insignia though.''Different side, Harry,' the Doctor said. 'He was one of the attackers. These are defending the city.'Sarah shivered as she glanced at the line of dead men, their sightless eyes staring out into the fog. She wandered further along the trench. Set deep into the rear wall was a heavy metal door. 'Look at this' she called out.Harry and the Doctor joined her. 'We must be getting near the city,' said the Doctor. 'That's probably the entrance to some kind of service tunnel.'Harry heaved on the door, but it wouldn't budge. 'Seems to be locked solid,' he grunted.Suddenly there was a whistling sound, followed by a thud from over the rim of the trench. Cautiously the Doctor looked out. A metal projectile lay half-buried in the mud. Evil-looking green smoke was welling out of it, and creeping slowly toward the trench.The Doctor jumped back. 'Look out,' he yelled. 'Poison gas, and it's coming this way!'
2 PRISONERS OF WAR.
The Doctor was already reaching for one of the propped-up bodies. 'Get gas masks, quickly!' he shouted. Sarah and Harry ran to obey.It wasn't particularly pleasant grappling with the stiff, cold corpses, but things were too desperate for any fastidiousness. All three pulled tight the straps of their gas masks, just as green smoke began creeping into the trench.There was a sudden burst of rifle fire. Bullets sprayed the edge of the trench, thudding into the sandbags and whining over their heads.The Doctor peered cautiously out. A small group of ragged soldiers was pelting toward them, yelling and firing as they came. He turned to shout a warning to Sarah and Harry, but it was already too late. Troops leapt over the sandbags and dropped into the trench. Seeing the gas masked forms of the Doctor and his companions, they hurled themselves upon them.They had no chance to explain their neutrality. within minutes they were engaged in savage hand-to-hand fighting. Luckily the trench was so packed with struggling bodies that the attackers had no chance to use their weapons, not daring to shoot for fear of hitting each other. The Doctor and Harry closed ranks to defend Sarah. They put up a splendid fight. Harry had boxed for the Navy in his time and he dealt out straight rights, lefts and uppercuts in the best traditions of the boxing ring. The Doctor fought in a whirl of long arms and legs, using the techniques of Venusian Aikido, to drop one opponent after another. But so heavily were the two outnumbered that the sheer weight of bodies soon bore them down.Crouched in one corner of the trench, Sarah heard a grinding noise. Peering through the struggling ma.s.s of bodies, she saw the heavy metal door slide open. A fresh contingent of soldiers appeared. They were better uniformed than the first attackers, and better armed too. There was a sudden fierce chattering of automatic weapons. Sarah jumped up to warn the Doctor, but a wild swing from a rifle b.u.t.t caught her on the temple. She collapsed face downward.The Doctor heard the chatter of machine guns and realized that the character of the battle had changed. These new arrivals had no hesitation in shooting. 'Down, Harry!' he yelled, and flung himself to the ground. As the two dropped down, heavy shapes began falling on top of them-the now bulletridden corpses of their first attackers.Shielded by the bodies of their former opponents, the Doctor and Harry laid low.The rattle of machine-gun fire ended at last. The leader of the victorious soldiers saw that the green gas had drifted away. He pulled the gas mask from his face and took in great gulps of the foggy air. He was very young. As the others pulled off their gas masks it could be seen that they too were little more than boys.Pushing aside the dead body which held him down, Harry began struggling to his feet. Instantly the nearest soldier raised his gun. The Doctor struggled up, shouting, 'No...'Then came the sound of more shooting from outside the trench, the yelling of a fresh wave of attackers. The leader indicated the Doctor and Harry. 'Into the tunnel with them-quick!' Harry and the Doctor were clubbed down and dragged unconscious through the metal door. The leader followed his men, and the door clanged shut behind them.Outside the trench the sounds of yelling and shooting faded as the attack moved on to another section of the line. Hidden beneath a pile of bodies, Sarah lay unconscious, a trickle of blood running from her temple.Harry and the Doctor were carried along a dark tunnel into a small, concrete-walled room at its far end. The place was primitively furnished with wooden tables, benches and a couple of bunks. One of the tables held some kind of field communications equipment. On the far side of the room was an arched opening in which stood a small pa.s.senger trolley. The trolley was on rails which disappeared into the blackness of the tunnel. It looked like the terminus of a miniature underground railway.As the patrol crowded into the room, Harry and the Doctor were dumped casually on the ground. The soldiers began struggling out of their equipment.Looking at his two prisoners with a satisfied air, the young patrol leader wrenched the gas masks from their faces. His expression changed to one of puzzlement. 'They don't look look like Thals...' He thought for a moment. 'Stick them in the transporter, I'll take them to Command Headquarters.' A couple of soldiers grabbed the two prisoners and threw them into the trolley. The patrol leader climbed in after them and operated controls. The trolley rumbled away into the darkness. like Thals...' He thought for a moment. 'Stick them in the transporter, I'll take them to Command Headquarters.' A couple of soldiers grabbed the two prisoners and threw them into the trolley. The patrol leader climbed in after them and operated controls. The trolley rumbled away into the darkness.Harry and the Doctor recovered to find themselves rattling through pitch darkness at terrifying speed. The trolley shot into a big, well-lighted area and jolted to a halt. Armed guards swarmed around and dragged them along more concrete corridors and into a large room.By now the Doctor had recovered enough to take an interest in his surroundings. They were in some kind of central command post. Maps covered the walls, there was more communications equipment, and in the center of the room was a huge maptable holding a relief map, a kind of model landscape. It seemed to depict two dome-covered cities, with the trench-riddled battlefield between them. A fitting image for the present state of Skaro, thought the Doctor. He noticed that the guards were smartly uniformed here, their weapons modern and well cared for. Strange how all wars were the same, thought the Doctor. The staff back at H.Q. always had better conditions than the men actually out fighting...A tall, very young officer, elegant in his gold-braided uniform, was shifting symbols on the relief map. He straightened up and looked coldly at the patrol leader. 'Well?''Two prisoners, General Ravon. Captured in section one-zero-one. For interrogation.'The officer smiled. 'Excellent I enjoy interrogations.'The Doctor looked at him. The young face was hard and cold. 'Yes,' he said cheerfully, 'I must say, you look the type.'A blow from the rifle b.u.t.t of one of the guards sent the Doctor staggering. 'Insolent muto,' said Ravon. He turned to the patrol leader who stood rigidly toattention, obviously waiting to speak. 'Well, what is it?''My section totally destroyed the Thal attackers, sir, except for these two prisoners. But-well ,the men are exhausted, and ammunition is running low.''Your men will fight until they are relieved. As for ammunition, conserve it. Use the spears and knives you were issued with whenever possible. Return to your patrol.''Sir.' The patrol leader saluted wearily and marched out, taking the guards with him. The Doctor glanced quickly round the room. Except for the soldier manning the communications unit, they were now alone with the General...As if guessing the Doctor's thoughts, Ravon drew his blaster and covered the two prisoners.'So- the Thals have degenerated to recruiting mutos, have they? Turn out your pockets!'The Doctor shrugged. 'Why not? I always try to turn them out every year or so!' He began piling up an incredible a.s.sortment of junk on the edge of the map table-a yo-yo, a bag of jelly beans, several lengths of string and a miscellaneous collection of scientific instruments. As hedid so, he took the opportunity to study the relief map.Ravon noticed the Doctor's interest.'Take a good look,' he sneered. 'In a few weeks we're going to change the shape of that map for ever. We shall sweep the Thals from the face of Skaro!' A note of hysteria was in his voice.The Doctor studied him thoughtfully. Basic insecurity there-or why would he bother to boast to a couple of prisoners. In tones of deliberate provocation the Doctor said, 'Oh yes? And how are you going to do that-with worn-out soldiers, no ammunition and boy generals?'Ravon reacted with hysterical rage. 'You've been warned about your insolence-'Harry Sullivan, who had been watching all this with keen if baffled interest, felt a pressure from the Doctor's foot on his own. He tensed, ready for the next move.The Doctor gave Ravon one of his sudden, brilliant smiles. 'I'm sorry, General . But you do seem to be having problems with this final campaign.'Ravon felt he had to convince this infuriating prisoner. 'When victory is ours, we shall wipe every trace of the Thals and their city from this planet. We will avenge the deaths of all the Kaleds who have fallen. Our battle cry will be, "Total extermination of the Thals."' Ravon's voice had risen to a ritual chant. He was repeating a lesson drummed into him since childhood. Deliberately the Doctor made his own voice low and soothing.'That's very impressive, General . You mean you're going to sweep sweep across these trenches...' The Doctor suited his actions to his words, flinging one arm out in a sweeping gesture. At the end of it, the edge of his hand hit Ravon's wrist in a precisely timed blow. Ravons hand opened, the blaster flew through the air. Harry Sullivan caught it with the skill of a born cricketer. The Doctor turned to Ravon, who was rubbing his hand. 'Did I hurt your fingers, old chap?' across these trenches...' The Doctor suited his actions to his words, flinging one arm out in a sweeping gesture. At the end of it, the edge of his hand hit Ravon's wrist in a precisely timed blow. Ravons hand opened, the blaster flew through the air. Harry Sullivan caught it with the skill of a born cricketer. The Doctor turned to Ravon, who was rubbing his hand. 'Did I hurt your fingers, old chap?'The soldier at the communications set turned around to find Harry covering him with the blaster.'You won't get out of here alive,' Ravon bl.u.s.tered feebly. The Doctor ignored him. He crossed to the communications set, took the blaster from the startled soldier and put the set out of action with a few well-aimed blows. Outraged, the soldier jumped him-and the Doctor silenced him with a swift tap from the blaster. He lowered him gently to the floor with genuine regret.The Doctor's expression hardened as he swung back to Ravon. 'Now then, Alexander the Great, you're going to take us out of here.'Ravon struck a heroic att.i.tude. 'Never!'Harry jammed the blaster under his chin. 'You won't get any medals for being stupid, General. In fact you won't get any more medals for anything-ever.'Ravon looked from the Doctor to Harry. These two were obviously desperate men. Surely his own life was too valuable to risk? It wasn't as if they stood any real chance of escaping...'All right. Where do you want me to take you?''Back to where we were captured,' said the Doctor. 'We left a friend behind.''In the Wastelands?' said Ravon. 'Yes, I suppose that's home to you mutos, isn't it? Well ,come on. I can promise you won't get far.'The Doctor and Harry fell into step beside Ravon, the stolen blasters concealed in theirpockets. Ravon led them out of the room and along the corridor. Pa.s.sing guards glancedcuriously at them, but no one dared question the actions of the General.They followed him along one corridor after another, twisting and turning until Harry at least had lost all sense of direction. He gave Ravon a jab. 'Where are you taking us? This isn't theway we came.''There's a platform elevator at the end of this tunnel. You know what an elevator is, don't you, muto?''Yes, but I don't know what a muto is,' said Harry. 'You're making a mistake, General.''If you come from the Wastelands, you're mutos!' Clearly that settled the matter for Ravon, and Harry didn't bother to argue. The elevator appeared at the end of the corridor. Ravon touched a control beside it, and they all stood waiting.Harry gave the Doctor a worried look. 'I hope Sara's still there.'Ravon couldn't resist the opportunity to sneer. 'If you're not not mutos, then you won't last long up there.' mutos, then you won't last long up there.'There came the sound of jackbooted feet on the concrete floor. Someone was walking along the corridor toward them. Harry gave Ravon a warning jab with the hidden blaster in his pocket. 'Just remember we'reyour friends, won't you?'The newcomer was a slightly built, thin-faced man. His black uniform was plain except for silver insignia, and seemed somehow different from Ravon's. Not a soldier, thought the Doctor, but some kind of policeman. Ravon's greeting confirmed the Doctor's theory.'Greetings, Security Commander Nyder.'Nyder's reply was equally formal. 'Greetings, General Ravon. I was just on my way to see you.' He stared curiously at the oddly a.s.sorted trio. The Doctor beamed, and Harry managed a curt nod. Nasty-looking customer, he thought.Ravon coughed nervously. 'Perhaps you would be kind enough to go to my office and wait. I shall only be a few minutes longer.'Nyder nodded, but made no attempt to move on. He looked more closely at the Doctor and Harry. 'You're civilians?'The Doctor nodded. 'Just here on a brief visit to our old friend General Ravon. Don't let us detain you.''You won't.' As if satisfied with this riposte, Nyder started to walk away. Then suddenly he jumped back, drawing a pistol. 'Ravon-get down!' he shouted.Ravon flung himself to the ground as Nyder fired at the Doctor. The bullet sang past his head, chipping concrete fragments from the wall. The Doctor yelled, 'Run for it, Harry,' and the two fugitives disappeared around the corner.Nyder produced a pocket communicator. 'Alert all guards. Two Thal intruders in command complex. Sound the alarm.'A few seconds later, a highpitched siren began to blare through the corridors. Nyder looked at Ravon, who was shamefacedly picking himself up. 'You're a fool, General Ravon,' he said dispa.s.sionately.Ravon tried to justify himself. 'They took me by surprise.''What kind of soldier allows two unarmed prisoners to overpower him in his own headquarters?'Stung by Nyder's scorn, Ravon said, 'Those weren't ordinary prisoners. there's something different about them. They're not mutos and they're not Thals.'Nyder looked at him sceptically. 'No? Well, if they are are different-we'll find out when they're recaptured.' There was total confidence in his voice. different-we'll find out when they're recaptured.' There was total confidence in his voice.The Doctor and Harry sprinted along a corridor with no idea where they were going. Their one thought was to escape the pursuing guards. Unfortunately more guards appeared ahead, and only a providential side corridor saved them from capture. Shots ringing all around them, they turned left, then right, ran down an even smaller corridor and found themselves in a dead end. The corridor ended in a pair of elevator doors like the ones where they'd left Ravon and Nyder. They turned to go back, but heard guards running toward them. Instinctively the Doctor pressed the elevator controls. The running feet came nearer. As guards appeared in the corridor the elevator doors opened and Harry and the Doctor dived inside. The soldiers raised their guns, the Doctor stabbed frantically at the controls, and the doors closed-just in time to save Harry and the Doctor from a hail of bullets.Nyder arrived to see what had happened. He s.n.a.t.c.hed out his communicator. 'Alert surface patrols to watch for intruders in area seven!'The high-speed elevator whisked Harry and the Doctor to the surface in a matter of seconds. The doors opened on a featureless stretch of open country-Wastelands as Ravon had called it. As yet no soldiers were in sight. Harry stared out into the drifting fog. 'Where to, Doctor?'Figures loomed out of the fog, then came the sound of shouted orders. 'Just keep running,' called the Doctor, and shot off across the battlefield like an ostrich, Harry close behind. The Kaled patrol lumbered after them.The Doctor and Harry tore across the churned-up landscape leaping over pill boxes, dodging barbed wire, stumbling in and out of sh.e.l.l holes. In their frantic burst of speed they left the patrol far behind. It began to look as if they had succeeded in making their escape. But the battlefield held more dangers than pursuing soldiers. Stumbling down a muddy slope the Doctor's foot caught some kind of buried trip wire. He gave Harry a tremendous shove, yelling 'Mine!' and threw himself in the mud beside him. There was a m.u.f.fledcrump , and a fountain of mud shot up in the air as the long-buried mine was detonated. Harry and the Doctor escaped the flying shrapnel but they were close enough to be deafened and half-stunned by the blast. , and a fountain of mud shot up in the air as the long-buried mine was detonated. Harry and the Doctor escaped the flying shrapnel but they were close enough to be deafened and half-stunned by the blast.Dizzily they stumbled to their feet, shaking their heads to clear the ringing in their ears. The Doctor rubbed the mud from his eyes and glanced round. They were completely surrounded by the Kaled patrol, covered by a ring of rifles. The Doctor looked round at the circle of hostile faces. Slowly he raised his hands. Now what was it they said on Earth, back in the Kaiser's day?The Doctor smiled round at the soldiers. 'Kamerade?' he said hopefully. No one smiled back. The soldiers began to close in.
3 THE SECRET WEAPON.
The Doctor and Harry were marched across the Wastelands, into the elevator, through the corridors of the Command Center and back into the room they had just left. Security Commander Nyder and General Ravon were waiting for them. Nyder was turning over the odds and ends taken from the Doctor's pockets. He held up a small, complex instrument surmounted with a dial. 'What is the function of this object?'The Doctor leaned forward and examined it. 'Very interesting little gadget, that,' he said chattily. 'Actually it's an etheric beam locator-but you can can use it for detecting ion-charged emissions.' use it for detecting ion-charged emissions.'Clearly Nyder was none the wiser. 'It is not of Thal manufacture.''Well, of course not. My friend and I don't come from your planet.'Nyder turned the instrument over in his hands. 'I have heard Davros say there is no intelligent life on other planets. And Davros is never wrong-about anything.''Then he must be an exceptional man. Even I am occasionally wrong about some some things. Who is Davros?' things. Who is Davros?'Nyder looked at the Doctor keenly, then, realized that the question was genuine. 'Davros is our greatest scientist. He is in charge of all scientific research in the Bunker.'Ravon, who had been standing by in the background, made an attempt to a.s.sert himself . 'They could be mutos, Commander Nyder. Mutos who've managed to develop some kind of technology...'Nyder gave him a look of silent contempt, but said nothing. Harry, equally silent up to now, burst out, 'Look here, I wish you wouldn't keep calling us mutos. We don't even know what they are.' Nyder looked wonderingly at him. 'Mutos are scarred and twisted monsters created by the chemical and radiation weapons used in the early part of this war. They were banished to the Wastelands, where they scavenge like the animals they have become.''In other words, you just abandon your genetic wounded?' There was horror in the Doctor's voice.'The Kaled race must must be kept pure. The imperfect are rejected, sent into the Wastelands. Some of them survive.' be kept pure. The imperfect are rejected, sent into the Wastelands. Some of them survive.''That's a very harsh policy.'Nyder shifted uncomfortably. 'Your views are unimportant,' he said dismissively. 'General Ravon-I am taking these two prisoners for interrogation by the Special Unit.''But they are prisoners of the Army...''You will release them to me. The Special Unit will get more out of them than your crude methods.'Ravon crumpled before the cold authority in Nyder's voice. 'If you insist...''I do insist.' Nyder produced a sheaf of papers from inside his tunic. 'I have a list of supply requirements here. All these items are to be delivered to the Bunker immediately.'Ravon scanned the list with growing resentment. 'I simply cannot spare this amount of equipment. Your spare parts requisition alone would take over half my available supply.'Nyder smiled coldly. 'General Ravon, you will notice that the requisitions are counter-signed by Davros himself. Perhaps you would prefer to discuss the matter with him?'Ravon shuddered, and shook his head. 'I'll have the supplies at the Bunker by dawn.''By midnight , General. The orders specify midnight .''Very well. Midnight .'Nyder turned to the guards. 'Bring the prisoners.'As they were marched away after him, the Doctor thought that it had been a very interesting demonstration. It was clear that the real power among the Kaleds lay not with the army, but with Davros, and those who served him.
Sarah had one of the most horrifying awakenings of her life. Buried beneath a pile of rapidly stiffening corpses, she could feel her face wet with blood. At first she felt confusedly that she must be dead too, or at least badly wounded. But as she struggled groggily to her feet she realized that the blood came from a shallow cut on her forehead. Miraculously, she was more or less unharmed.She looked around. Along the line of the trench lay more bodies, sprawled in the grotesque and ungainly att.i.tudes of sudden death. The metal door was closed. There was no sign of the Doctor or Harry. Sarah began to move along the trench calling softly, 'Doctor? Doctor, are you there? Harry?' There was no answer. She paused, thinking. It would do her no good to stay here. She started to climb out of the trench.Sarah wandered across the Wastelands for what seemed a very long time, with no clear idea of where she was going or why. The gray half-light, combined with the drifting fog, made visibility very low. She stumbled in and out of sh.e.l.l holes, and disentangled herself from clumps of rusting barbed wire. Occasionally she heard distant gunfire, but saw no soldiers. Clearly the battle had moved away from this section of the line. All the time she had a feeling of something following her, of unseen forms creeping toward her. It was this, as much as any real hope of finding the Doctor, that kept her staggering wearily on her way.As the darkness deepened, the following shapes moved closer. Sarah told herself it was all imagination, but she knew very well it was not. At last she paused exhausted, and a hideous shapeless something loomed out of the darkness, reaching for her. Sarah screamed and ran. The shapeless thing pursued her and soon others joined in the chase. She was hunted across the Wastelands, soft footsteps thudding behind her. Fear gave her fresh energy and she ran blindly at full speed, taking no care where she was going. Suddenly the ground vanished beneath her feet... She felt herself falling. It wasn't a long fall, something like five or six feet, and luckily she landed on soft ground. But it was enough to knock the breath out of her. She lay gasping, pressed close to the ground, and to her relief heard the sounds of pursuit pa.s.s by.Scrambling to her feet, Sarah began to take a look at her surroundings. Close by she could just distinguish the outline of a broken wall. She moved toward it and felt her way along. It seemed she had fallen into the bas.e.m.e.nt of a ruined house. She decided she might as well stay. At least the ruins offered a chance of rest and safety. She made her way out of the bas.e.m.e.nt, climbing some broken steps. As she reached the top, Sarah suddenly drew back. She was in a ruined entrance hall. She could see the sky through the broken roof. Light was streaming from a room on the other side of the hall. Sarah crept up cautiously, feeling that she was more likely to meet enemies than friends on this dreadful planet.Flattening herself against the wall, she peeped into the room. It was a large room, and might once have been some kind of conference chamber. A s.p.a.ce had been cleared in the center of the rubble littered floor, and a portable field lamp made a central pool of light. On the far edge of the cleared area, a man was setting up a target, a life-sized, wooden cutout in the shape of a soldier. The man wore the white coat of a scientist. He was tall and thin, and his features had the dark, thin-faced intense look, so typical of most Kaleds.There was another man in the room, but Sarah was unable to see him clearly. He was on the near side of the pool of light, his back to her, and was almost hidden by shadows. All Sarah could see was the back of an elaborate wheelchair. A withered right hand hovered constantly over the controls built into the chair arm.The man finished setting up the target. 'I am ready, Davros.' He walked over to stand beside the man in the chair, his back to Sarah.'Observe the test closely, Gharman, my friend. This will be a moment to live in history.' The voice was almost inhuman, filtered through some mechanical reproduction system. It had a harsh, grating quality that Sarah found familiar. She saw the claw-like hand touch a switch. There was a whirring sound from the outer darkness and something moved into the pool of light. It was a gleaming metal creature with a rounded base. The body was constructed of heavily studded metal panels, the top was a dome from which projected a lens on a metal stalk. Sarah recognized the creature at once. It was a Dalek.True, it wasn't a fully-evolved Dalek, the kind she had seen in ruthless action on the planet of the Exxilons. The movements were jerky and the arm with the curious sucker-like tip was missing. But the gun was there, and the eye-stalk... This must be an early model, a kind of prototype. Sarah realized that the calculations of the Time Lords had been accurate. The Doctor and his friends had been brought to Skaro as the Daleks were about to be born.Davros was putting the Dalek through its paces. 'Left, left, forward... now right. Stop.' The Dalek obeyed its movements faltering and uncertain. Sarah realized now why the voice of Davros sounded so familiar. It was just like that of the Dalek he had created!At last Davros had the Dalek position to his satisfaction. It stood in front of his chair, opposite the target on the other side of the room. 'Now,' grated Davros. ' Exterminate Exterminate !' !'The Dalek's gun roared, and the target exploded in flames.'Excellent,' said Davros. 'Locomotion is still faulty, and we must improve the sense organs. But the weaponry is perfect. We can begin!'As Davros's chair swiveled around Sarah jumped back into hiding. Crouched low she saw the shape in the chair glide past her, followed by the Dalek. Gharman came last, carrying the field lamp. Sarah watched the bobbing light move away across the Wastelands.She leant against the wall, thinking hard. Obviously she had stumbled on some kind of secret test, and she ought to get the information to the Doctor. But where to look for him? Presumably in the city. Sarah decided to follow Davros. As she started to get up, a huge, misshapen hand reached out of the darkness and touched her lightly on the shoulder. Sarah turned to see the black bulk of a hooded creature looming over her. The shock was too much, and she fainted dead away.
To their surprise, the Doctor and Harry were marched out of the domed city and across several miles of the Wasteland. Soon they saw lights ahead, and the shape of a small, lowlying building, a kind of blockhouse. Nyder halted the party by a ma.s.sive metal door. A voice spoke from a metal grille. 'You will announce your name, rank, serial number, purpose of visit and authorization reference.'Nyder glared irritably into what the Doctor guessed must be a hidden camera. 'All right, Tane, use your eyes. This is Security Commander Nyder with prisoners and escort.''Yes, sir,' squawked the voice in evident alarm. Nyder was obviously a character to be feared. The heavy door slid open and they marched through.They found themselves in a largish anteroom. One wall was filled with complex scientific equipment, and another metal door faced them. Two black-clad officers stood waiting stiffly to attention, one beside the door, the other at a kind of control console. More black guards lined the walls.Nyder nodded to the first officer. 'Captain Tane, I want these two screened and pa.s.sed to Ronson. Full interrogation. Here are their belongings.' Handing over a sealed plastic envelope, Nyder turned. The second officer hurriedly touched a control. The inner door opened, revealing a tunnel stretching downward. Nyder disappeared along it, and the door closed after him. The Doctor gave Harry a rea.s.suring grin. Any situation that started with Nyder leaving couldn't be all bad! He nodded affably to Tane.' that's a relief. Any chance of a cup of tea?'' Tane glared at him speechlessly. 'Any light refreshment would do,' the Doctor added helpfully. 'We've been through some very trying experiences, haven't we, Harry?''Very trying, Doctor.' Harry's agreement was heartfelt.Tane pointed to a sort of upright coffin surrounded with complex instruments. 'Step into the security scan.'The Doctor glanced at Harry. 'No tea,' he said sadly.Tane's voice was coldly angry. 'Let me point out to you that you have no rights here. I have full authority to execute any prisoner who does not obey orders.'Two soldiers seized Harry and shoved him into the scanning device. As soon as he was inside a powerful light shone from above, seeming to pin him down. Harry went rigid, white lights flashed and instruments buzzed all around him.The lights went out, and Harry staggered out of the machine on the point of collapse. A soldier grabbed him, propped him against the nearest wall, then pushed the Doctor into the machine. Once again the light flashed and the instruments buzzed. But this time there was a new noise; a highpitched, warning shriek . Tane glanced at the instrument panel. 'Scan detects power-source on prisoner's left wrist.' The scan was concluded, the machine switched off and the Doctor stepped out. At a nod from Tane two guards grabbed him. 'Remove object on the left wrist of the prisoner.' One of the guards started to wrench away the bangle. The Doctor struggled wildly. 'You can't have that. It isn't a weapon, and it's of no possible interest to you...'A brutal blow from the rifle b.u.t.t of one of the guards choked off the protest. Tane took the bracelet, then dropped it into the plastic envelope with the Doctor's other odds and ends. The officer in charge of the scanner gave Tane a sheaf of cards, and he put them in the envelope without looking at them.As he caught hold of the collapsing Doctor, Harry hissed in his ear. 'Stop making a fuss, Doctor.''That Time bracelet is our only hope of getting back to the TARDIS. We've got got to get it back.' to get it back.''I know that,' whispered Harry. 'But we don't want them to know, do we?' The Doctor subsided.Tane turned to the nearest guard. 'The prisoners are to be given over to the custody of Senior Researcher Ronson. Take this with you.' He handed over the plastic envelope.The two prisoners were taken through the inner door and down the long tunnel. They were led along endless b.u.t.tressed corridors and into an enormous underground room. Looking around in interest, the Doctor guessed he was in an advanced research laboratory. Or rather a collection of laboratories. The place was sectioned off, and in different cubicles and enclosed areas white-coated scientists were hard at work. They were taken across the room to a corner desk, where a haggard, gray-haired man sat wearily studying some figures. The guards handed over the envelope and the prisoners, then marched away.Harry and the Doctor stood waiting before the desk. The gray-haired man tipped out the contents of the envelope and examined them. The Doctor's eyes gleamed at the sight of the Time bracelet and he took a pace forward, but Harry nudged him, looking around significantly. The huge room had many doors, but armed guards stood at every one.The man behind the desk looked up. 'My name is Ronson,' he said. 'Do sit down.' Harry and the Doctor, taken aback by the first kind words they'd heard on Skaro, pulled over a couple of metal chairs and sank into them gratefully.'Thank you. I take it you're not with the military?' the Doctor asked hopefully.'I am a member of the Special Scientific Division.''Excellent. Perhaps we can have a conversation that isn't punctuated by rifle b.u.t.ts.' The Doctor rubbed his aching back. A little shamefacedly Ronson said, 'That depends. if you don't answer my questions satisfactorily, I must hand you back to the Security Guards.'As if glad to leave a distasteful subject, he turned to the objects on his desk. 'Where did you get these things?'The Doctor smiled. 'Oh, here and there. Different places, different Times.''If I didn't know better,' said Ronson slowly, 'I would swear they were produced on some other planet. But it's an established scientific fact that Skaro, is the only planet capable of supporting life.''Suppose there are more planets than you're aware of?' suggested the Doctor gently.Ronson picked up the batch of coded cards. 'When you went through the scanner the instruments checked your physical make-up-encephalographical patterns, physiological composition and so on. So if you are from another world...' His voice faded away as he studied the cards.'You were saying?' asked the Doctor politely.Ronson looked up with awe in his eyes. ' His His makeup,' he nodded toward Harry, 'is comparable to ours, with a few minor differences. But yours... nothing conforms to any known life form on this planet. Nothing-except the external appearance.' makeup,' he nodded toward Harry, 'is comparable to ours, with a few minor differences. But yours... nothing conforms to any known life form on this planet. Nothing-except the external appearance.''Just goes to show-you should never judge by appearances.'Ronson leaned forward. 'Who are you? Where do you come from? Tell me.' The Doctor recognized pure scientific curiosity in Ronson's voice.'It's a very long story. Do you have any knowledge of the Theory of s.p.a.ce Dimension Correlated to Relative Time?'The Doctor was interrupted by a low gonging sound. Every single scientist, Ronson included, reacted with eager attention. The sound stopped and a voice said 'Davros will address the Elite Scientific Corps in the main laboratory a.s.sembly.' Almost at once more white-coated scientists began to enter the room, workers from adjoining laboratories.'Our session will have to wait,' Ronson said. 'Davros is coming.' His voice was hushed with reverence.'I gather Davros is your Chief Scientist?''Our Chief Scientist and our supreme commander. He must have something of importance to tell us.''I shall be interested to meet him,' said the Doctor politely. But even he was not prepared for the strange apparition that glided into the room. The Doctor was seeing, at close range and in clear lighting, the strange being Sarah had only glimpsed during the secret test in the ruined building.Davros was no more than the shattered, ruined remnant of what had once been a man. He glided along in an advanced form of wheelchair that moved under its own power. The withered husk of a body was swathed in a high-collared, green plastic overall, and surrounded by a variety of life-support systems. The Doctor guessed that both heart and lungs were mechanically operated and maintained. Only the right hand was visible, a withered claw hovering constantly over the controls built into one arm of the chair. But the most horrifying thing about Davros was his face. Parchment-thin skin clung to the outlines of the shriveled skull. The eye sockets were blank and sunken, the mouth a lipless slit. A helmet-like arrangement of wires and plastic tubes surmounted the head, supporting a single lens that rested in the center of the forehead. Speech, sight and hearing must be mechanically aided too, thought the Doctor.Harry Sullivan looked at Davros in horror. 'What happened to the poor devil?''An atomic sh.e.l.l struck his laboratory during a Thal bombardment,' whispered Ronson. 'His body was shattered, but he refused refused to die. He clung to life, and himself designed the mobile life-support system in which you see him.' to die. He clung to life, and himself designed the mobile life-support system in which you see him.'Harry said nothing. To himself he thought that death would surely be preferable to the kind of existence Davros must be leading now.Davros had taken up his position in the center of the far wall, flanked by the black-clad figure of Security Commander Nyder. Davros spoke. 'If I may have your attention...' There was utter and complete silence. Helpless in his chair, Davros should have been pitiful. Instead, he was terrifying. The Doctor could almost feel the burning intelligence, the powerful, inflexible will that radiated from the crippled form. 'For some time,' Davros continued, I have been busy on a top secret project. There is still much to be done. However, I am anxious that you should see the remarkable progress made so far, and to that end I have arranged this demonstration.' Davros wheeled his chair to face the door by which be had entered. His withered hand dropped to touch a control, and seconds later a metallic shape glided into the room. Like Sarah before him, the Doctor had no difficulty in recognizing a Dalek. Armless, weaponless, but still unmistakably a Dalek.As the machine glided up to Davros, his metallic voice commanded, 'Halt.' The Dalek stopped.'He's perfected voice control,' breathed Ronson. 'That's magnificent.''Move left. Halt. Move forward. Halt. Circle. Halt.' Obedient to Davros's commands the Dalek moved jerkily about the room.'Nyder!' The Security Commander stepped forward. He took a sucker arm and a gun, and fitted them onto the Dalek. 'As you see,' grated Davros, 'our machine is now fitted with a tactile organ and a means of self-defense. I shall turn the machine over to total self-control. It will then be independent of all outside influence. A living, thinking, self-supporting creature.'Davros touched a switch. For a moment the Dalek did nothing. Then, slowly and uncertainly, it began to move around the room. Davros followed in his wheelchair. Somehow the two were curiously alike. Suddenly the Dalek seemed to see the Doctor. It moved slowly toward his corner, halting just in front of him. The Doctor stood quite still.'Alien,' croaked the Dalek suddenly. 'Exterminate... exterminate... exterminate!' Slowly the gun stick raised until it was pointing straight at the Doctor.
4 ROCKET OF DOOM.
n.o.body moved. It was clear to everyone in the room that the Dalek intended to kill the Doctor. Suddenly Ronson darted forward and fficked one of the switches on Davros's console. Immediately the Dalek 'switched off,' gun arm and eye-stalk drooping.Davros was furious. 'You dare to interferel You have the audacity to interrupt my experiment!'Ronson was clearly terrified but he made himself speak out. 'It was going to destroy him.''And you consider his worthless life more important than the progress we have made? My creature showed a natural instinct to destroy everything alien-and you interceded.''Davros... I'm sorry,' pleaded Ronson. 'But this is no ordinary prisoner. I believe he has invaluable information. Let me interrogate him first-then your creature can do what it likes with him.'Davros considered. 'Very well. You will be punished later for your insubordination. Meanwhile you may interrogate your prisoner until the end of this work period. After that, I shall resume my experiment.'Davros wheeled and glided away. Ronson heaved a sigh of relief. The Doctor took a deep breath. 'Thank you,' he said simply.Ronson seemed hardly able to believe his own temerity. 'I was simply doing my duty. Now you must cooperate with me. If you don't provide knowledge to justify what I have done, Davros will resume his experiment as threatened.'Nyder crossed over to them. 'Take the prisoners to the cells. You can finish the questioning there. Davros wants them kept safely.'As the guards bustled them away, the Doctor glanced longingly behind him. The Time ring still lay among the odds and ends on Ronsons desk...
Sarah's faint lasted only a few minutes. She awoke furious with herself-she'd always believed she was the sort of girl who never fainted. As consciousness returned, she heard low whispering voices. She decided to fake unconsciousness a little longer. Two cloaked and hooded figures were crouched beside her, one huge and ma.s.sive, one thin and spindly. The big one touched her cheek with a misshapen hand. Sarah lay perfectly still. When the figure spoke, its voice was deep and gentle. 'She is beautiful... no deformities or imperfections.'The smaller figure had a shrill whining voice. 'She is a norm, Sevrin. All norms are our enemies. Kill her.''Why?' asked the deep voice sadly. 'Why must we always destroy beauty, kill another creature because it is different?''Kill her,' the other voice insisted. 'It is the law. All norms must die. If you will not kill her, I will.' The creature produced a knife from under its cloak and long, incredibly thin arms snaked out toward Sarah.Sevrin moved protectively in front of her, grabbing the knife wrist. For a moment the two creatures struggled. They broke apart as they heard footsteps and m.u.f.fled voices. 'A patrol,' muttered Sevrin. 'They're sure to check the building.'The smaller creature squeaked in panic. 'We must get away.''No,' said the deep voice authoritatively. 'Keep still. If you move they'll see you.'But the slighter figure was already on the move, scuttling spider-like along the wall. From the darkness a voice yelled. 'Halt!'The glare of a spotlight pinned the shuffling figure. 'Don't move,' ordered the voice, and the sound of booted feet came closer. Suddenly the spindly creature made a run for it. A single shot rang out and it dropped to the ground. Two fairhaired Thal soldiers came forward, one carrying a hand-beam, the other an old fashioned single-shot rifle. The first shone his light on their kill. 'Only a muto. You wasted your ammunition.'The soldier with the rifle began to reload. His companion swept the torch-beam along the wall. 'Here, there's a couple more of 'em.'The torch-beam lit up Sevrin crouching over Sarah's body. The soldier with the rifle took aim ,but the other stopped him. 'Hold it. Remember orders. They need expendable labour for the rocket loading.' He shone the torch on Sevrin, pulling the mutant to his feet. 'This one's not so bad. Got all it needs to walk and carry.' Sevrin stood meekly, making no attempt to resist. The soldier shone the lamp down on Sarah. 'No reason this one can't work. Looks almost a norm.' He poked her in the ribs with his foot. 'Come on you, up you get.'Sarah got slowly to her feet. So much had happened since she'd come to that she was still confused. She staggered a little as she stood up. The soldier with the rifle called, 'No good, this one's too weak and slow. Better let me finish it off.' He raised his rifle.Sevrin stepped in front of Sarah, shielding her. 'She'll be all right, I promise. I'll help her.'The soldier hesitated, then nodded. 'All right. Then move.' He gestured with the rifle. Sarah stumbled into the darkness, Sevrin supporting her.She felt better once she was moving, and was soon able to walk unaided. The soldiers herded them across the Wastelands for what seemed a very long way, until at last they came to within sight of a huge dome-covered city. It was very like the one Sarah had seen earlier with the Doctor and Harry, though the design was slightly different. She nudged Sevrin. 'Where's that?'He looked at her in surprise. 'It is the city of the Thals.'They were taken through a guarded access tunnel, along endless concrete corridors, and herded into a huge, bare cell. Small groups of prisoners like themselves were scattered all over the room. Most were cloaked and hooded like Sevrin-mutos, as the soldiers had called them. But there was also a sprinkling of raggedly uniformed, dark-haired Kaled soldiers. Sarah supposed they must be prisoners of war.Sarah and Sevrin joined the rest of the prisoners, slumping down on the floor, backs against the wall. Sarah looked around and shivered. I wonder why they've brought us here? ''I heard the soldiers say they needed workers for their rocket project. I don't mind working. They may even feed us.' A nearby prisoner leaned across to them. He was a Kaled soldier, very young with a bleak, bitter face. Although neither of them realized it, he and Sarah had met before. The Kaled had been leader of the patrol which had emerged from the Kaled dome to capture Harry and the Doctor. Later he had been captured himself by a Thal raiding party. He gave Sevrin and Sarah a pitying look. 'You'll work all right, muto. On the kind of job that kills you just as sure as a bullet will.''What work?' asked Sarah.The young Kaled seemed to take a gloomy pleasure in breaking the bad news. 'The Thals have built a rocket. Used up the last of their manpower and resources in one final gamble. If they manage to launch it they'll wipe out the Kaled city and most of the Kaled race in one blow.'Sarah gave him a puzzled look. 'So what are we needed for?''They're packing the nose cone of the rocket with distronic explosives. To reduce weight, they're using no protective shielding. Every load we carry exposes us to distronic radiation. After two or three shifts you feel weaker. Eventually you die!'Sarah looked at him in horror. Before she could speak a siren blared out and the prisoners shuffled wearily to their feet. She turned to the Kaled. 'What's that?''Rest periods over-time to start loading again.'A Thal guard came over and prodded them to their feet with his rifle. 'All right,' snapped Sarah. 'No need to push!' She joined the long line of prisoners shuffling out of the door. Already her mind was busy with thoughts of escape.The prisoners were marched through corridors and tunnels and finally into a huge concrete enclosure. Sarah caught her breath. Towering far above them was the deadly silver shape of the Thal rocket. The base of the rocket was supported by a framework of scaffolding, its nose-cone touched the roof far above their heads. Sarah guessed that a section of the dome would slide back at the moment of firing. Meanwhile the rocket was securely hidden inside the Thal city dome.Sarah noticed that the guards in here wore all-over radiation suits, gauntlets and masks. She saw too that there was a dial inset in one wall, and that the final third of it was shaded red-presumably for the danger zone.A steel door slid back and a small lifting-truck emerged, driven by a radiation-suited guard. The truck was loaded with ingots of some dull, silvery metal, and as soon as it entered the rocket silo, the needle on the radiation dial began climbing slowly toward the danger area.By now the prisoners had been formed into a line, with Sarah and Sevrin somewhere near the end. One by one the prisoners lifted an ingot from the truck and, hugging it to their bodies, staggered over to the doors in the base of the rocket. When it came to Sevrins turn, he lifted the ingot with ease and set off with it. Sarah was next. She hesitated, reluctant to touch the ingot, but the guard threatened with his rifle, and she was forced to pick it up. It was astonishingly heavy for its size and she had to hug it to her body to carry it. The ingot in her arms, Sarah stumbled toward the rocket doors.
In a tiny windowless cell in the Kaled bunker, Harry Sullivan sat on a bunk and waited. It seemed ages since they had taken the Doctor away. The longer Harry waited, the more worried he became. At last he heard the thump of booted feet in the corridor outside. The cell door clanged open and the Doctor was shoved in by a guard, who promptly shut and locked the door behind hin. The Doctor threw himself on the bunk with a groan of relief. Harry perched on the metal stool beside him. 'How did you get on, Doctor? Are you all right?'The Doctor gave him a weary nod.'Did you tell them anything?'The Doctor managed to grin. 'I told them everything everything , every bit of scientific gobbledygook I could think of. They took , every bit of scientific gobbledygook I could think of. They took reams reams of notes. Their scientific experts will be confused for of notes. Their scientific experts will be confused for weeks weeks !' The Doctor chuckled. I learned more from them than they did from me!' !' The Doctor chuckled. I learned more from them than they did from me!''What about this Bunker, Doctor? Where are we? What's it all for?''Most of the pla
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