Doctor Who_ The Planet Of The Daleks Part 1

DOCTOR WHO.

AND THE PLANET OF THE DALEKS.

By TERRANCE d.i.c.kS.

1

Jo Alone

The tall white-haired man lay still as death. The girl leaning over him could find no pulse, no beat from either of his hearts. His skin was icy cold to the touch.She perched on the end of the couch and hid her face in her hands. All around her the machinery of the mysterious s.p.a.ce/Time craft called the TARDIS hummed gently and contentedly, as if unconcerned with its owner's fate. The column in the many-sided central console rose and fell. The TARDIS was in flight through the s.p.a.ce/Time Vortex.The girl, who was very small and very pretty, rubbed her eyes and stood up. She opened a locker in the base of the control console and took out a small black box. It was very much like one of the tape-recorders common on Twentieth-Century Earth, al-though its power source was eternal and its recording capacity unlimited. This was the 'log' of the TARDIS, used only in emergencies. The girl switched it on and began to speak.'My name is Jo Grant. For some time I've been the Doctor's a.s.sistant in UNIT-the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce. Recently the Doctor took me for a trip in the TARDIS. We travelled far into the future and became involved in a plot to cause a s.p.a.ce war. The Doctor discovered his old enemy the Master involved in the plot-and behind the Master were the Daleks. Although the Doctor managed to defeat the Master and prevent the war, he was seriously wounded in a Dalek ambush. I managed to get him into the TARDIS.'Jo's voice faltered as she remembered the dangers they had escaped. She steadied herself, and went on. 'The Doctor had a serious head-wound... he was barely conscious. He managed to get the TARDIS to take off, then used something he called a telepathic circuit to send a message to his own people, the Time Lords. After that he started slipping into a coma. He said he might sleep for a very long time. He asked me to record what happened in this log.'Jo switched off the log, and went to examine the Doctor again. When she'd finished she picked up the machine. 'The Doctor's breathing seems to have stopped. There is no pulse or heartbeat, and his skin is icy cold.'Jo Grant paused, and took a deep breath. She was well aware that in any human being these symptoms could have meant only one thing-death. What gave her hope was her knowledge that the Doctor was not human. She had seen him in this kind of coma before; it had been part of the mysterious process by which his Time Lord body was able to heal itself after exceptional damage and stress. Jo hoped this was happening now. The alternative, that the Doctor was dead or dying, was too terrible to contemplate.Suddenly she became aware that something was happening. The sound of the TARDIS had altered. The central column was slowing down. On the control panel, lights flickered, switches and controls moved of their own accord. She switched on the recorder. 'The TARDIS seems to be landing-the Time Lords must be operating it by remote control. I hope they've brought us somewhere we can get help for the Doctor.'She glanced at the Doctor again, then ran over to him in shock. His whole face was covered with a glistening white frost. Carefully, Jo wiped the frost from the Doctor's face with her handkerchief. For a moment she feared the Doctor really was dead. Then his eyes flicked open. They stared unseeingly at her for a moment, and closed again. Jo gasped with relief. 'Doctor... oh Doctor, you're alive!' The Doctor gave no sign that he had heard her. He seemed to have sunk back into his coma.Jo became aware of a squelching, slapping sound. It was coming from outside the TARDIS. She went to the control console and after some fumbling managed to find the scanner switch. Slowly, a dim picture appeared on the little screen.It showed a stretch of dense jungle, vines, trees, creepers and strangely shaped plants jostling each other for room. She knew at once she was not on Earth. The vegetation was alien, with a sinister fleshy quality, as though this jungle was really one enormous beast. Through a slight gap in the foliage, Jo could see part of some crumbling ruin, eroded and overgrown. Something blobbed on to the screen, accompanied by the now-familiar squelching sound.Another blob appeared, then another. Jo looked hard. Rain? No, something thicker-and more alive. Jo switched off the scanner and stood thinking. Conditions looked nasty outside. It seemed to be night-time, and it would probably be cold. She went to a clothing locker in the wall and took out a long-sleeved, hooded coat, and a pair of thick gloves. As she put them on she went back to the Doctor. 'I don't know if you can hear me, Doctor. I'm going to look for help. I'll be back as soon as I can.' With a last look at the still figure on the couch, she slipped the little recorder into her pocket, operated the door-control and went out into the jungle. The door of the TARDIS closed behind her.Stretched out on the couch, the Doctor was as cold and still as the stone effigy on a Crusader's tombstone.Outside the TARDIS, the light was murky-green and the air chill. Jo was glad of her warm coat. The TARDIS had landed in the middle of a thicket of spongy, fleshy plants, which seemed to give out a sinister hissing sound. The police box, the TARDIS's exterior form, was covered with blobs of some thick white substance. Even as she watched, one of the spongy plants swayed forward and 'spat' another blob on to the side of the TARDIS. It was as though the arrival of the police box had triggered off some defence mechanism, and the plants were blindly attacking this new enemy. Jo had often heard the Doctor say that the TARDIS was invulnerable to outside attack. Deciding it wasn't likely to be harmed by a few messy plants, she turned to go.As she moved, something struck her shoulder. One of the plants had registered her as an enemy and shot a stream of the viscous liquid at her. Shuddering, she wiped it off with her gloved hand. Hurrying out of range of the sponge-plants, Jo pushed her way through the jungle to the ruined structure she had seen on the scanner.There wasn't much to see when she got there. Crumbling stone pillars, broken walls, a slab of stone that might have been an altar... Jo guessed she was looking at the ruins of some ancient temple. Proof that there had once been intelligent life on this strange planet, though it could have died out thousands of years ago. On the other hand, reflected Jo, you could probably find just such a ruin in the jungles of Brazil-with a modern super-city only a few miles away. Cheering herself with this reflection, she moved on.To her great relief, the jungle soon became less dense, giving way to a stretch of sandy ground in which the plants grew more spa.r.s.ely. She became aware of a change in the quality of the light. The dull green murk was giving way to a yellow glare.The temperature rose dramatically, and it was dawn, just as if someone had switched on a light. A great yellow sun blazed down from the sky, and Jo found it intolerably hot in the hooded coat. She took it off, noticing with distaste that the splash of fluid from the sponge-plants had turned itself into a thick green mould, which actually seemed to be growing on the coat. She threw it to one side and carried on without it.Dotted among the other plants were taller reed-like growths, surmounted with a small round pod, fringed with leaves. In the centre of the pod was an opening, uncannily like the pupil of a human eye. As she pa.s.sed a clump of these plants, Jo was amused to see the stalks sway towards her, and the eyes of the plants open wide as if in astonishment. But her amus.e.m.e.nt soon vanished. She heard strange rustlings and weird cries from the thick jungle behind her. Jo hurried on, unable to shake off the uncanny feeling that something was following her...The Doctor's eyes flicked open. He swung his long legs to the ground, stood up and looked round. 'Jo?' he called. 'Jo, where are you?' He listened. All he heard was a continuous slap, slap, slap-as though something was splashing on to the outside of the TARDIS. The Doctor sniffed. Something else was wrong. He went to the console. The instruments showed a breathable atmosphere outside-the TARDIS should have been drawing on that for air, first filtering out any undesirable elements. But there was a faintly musty smell in the air. The TARDIS was using its automatic air-supply. For some reason, no air was reaching the TARDIS from outside.A warning light began to blink on the console. The Doctor looked. A tiny screen was flashing a message. 'AUTOMATIC OXYGEN SUPPLY EXHAUSTED.'The Doctor shook his head. He was still feeling muzzy and confused. Everything seemed to be going wrong. 'Just have to use the emergency supply,' he muttered. He touched a control and a wall-panel slid back, revealing three large oxygen cylinders, each surmounted with a gla.s.s dial. The Doctor switched on the first one. There was a brief rea.s.suring hiss of oxygen-then silence. The Doctor peered at the little dial-the needle read 'EMPTY'. He tried the second cylinder. The result was the same. The Doctor turned on the third cylinder, and this time the hiss was steady and continuous. He gave a sigh of relief and looked at the dial. The needle wasn't at the EMPTY mark, but it was hovering perilously close. 'Less than an hour's supply,' said the Doctor thoughtfully. He knew he had only himself to blame. It was bad enough letting one back-up system run low, but two...Registering a mental vow to top up all the TARDIS oxygen systems as soon as possible, the Doctor decided that, since air wasn't getting in, he would have to go out. He took a cloak from the wardrobe locker and operated the door control. Nothing happened. The Doctor frowned, re-checked the control circuits, then tried again. Still nothing. He was trapped in the TARDIS.In the silence the Doctor could hear the steady slap, slap, slap, from outside. The oxygen cylinder hissed away, the needle on its dial flickering steadily closer to the empty mark. When the oxygen was exhausted, he would die...

2.

The Invisible Menace.

Jo hurried on, making better progress now that the jungle had thinned out. She noticed something in front of her and dropped to one knee. In a patch of soft sand she saw the clear imprint of a foot. A little further ahead she could see another footprint, and then another... She slipped off her glove to feel the ground, wondering if the footprint was recent or very old. She crumbled the sand between her fingers, not noticing how close she had come to the base of one of the sponge-plants. Suddenly the plant spat milky liquid at her. Jo jumped back, but a few drops of the fluid caught the back of her hand. She fished out her handkerchief and scrubbed the stuff off, throwing away the handkerchief when she'd finished. Pulling her glove back on she followed the line of footprints.They led her through a patch of thicker jungle and into a clearing. In the centre of the clearing stood the wreck of a small s.p.a.ce-craft, its hull picked out in blue and gold.Jo moved cautiously towards it. The ship was small and stubby, vaguely cigar-shaped. Hull and fins were badly damaged, and the door hung open. Already a tracery of jungle vines was growing across the gap. Which didn't necessarily mean the wreck wasn't a recent one, thought Jo. Everything probably grew with frightening speed in a jungle like this.Jo called through the doorway. 'h.e.l.lo, anybody there?' No reply. Gathering her courage, she climbed inside.The interior was cramped and gloomy, dimly lit by the greenish light filtering in from the jungle outside. In the nose-cone of the craft, Jo could see a tiny flight-deck. A s.p.a.ce-suited figure was sitting in the pilot's seat. Jo moved towards it. The man showed no sign of being aware of her presence. Timidly she tapped him on the shoulder. The swivel chair creaked round, and the body of the s.p.a.ceship pilot slid gently to the floor, the face behind the helmet-visor stiff and dead.Jo screamed and backed away... and a hand came firmly down on her shoulder. Two men stood looking at her. Both were tall and fair-haired, dressed in simple uniforms with a sensible workmanlike look about them. They had wide webbing belts round their waists, from which hung a variety of tools and weapons, and small packs on their backs. The man holding her was very big with a long bony face, at once kindly and stern. The man behind him was smaller, thin-faced and younger, with a fierce angry look about him. In his hand was a blaster, aimed steadily at Jo.Jo looked fearfully at them. 'Who are you?''My name's Taron,' said the big man. 'This is Vaber.'Vaber holstered his gun. It was clear that he didn't consider her much of a menace. 'Where do you come from?' he demanded. 'What planet?''I come from Earth.'Jo's simple statement brought a surprising reaction. Both men stared incredulously at her. 'There's no such place as Earth,' Vaber said roughly. 'It's just a name in the old legends.''How did you get here?' asked Taron.'In the TARDIS. It's a kind of s.p.a.ceship.' To Jo's relief they accepted this without question. 'I've a friend with me,' she went on. 'He's desperately ill, he may even be dying. Please, can you help me?''Look, we've no time for-' Vaber began speaking roughly, but Taron interrupted him.'I'm qualified in s.p.a.ce Medicine. I'll do what I can for your friend. Where is this TARDIS?''Back through the jungle, close to a sort of ruined temple.'Taron nodded. 'I think I know the place.'A third man ran into the s.p.a.ceship. Like the others he was uniformed and fair-haired. He was very tall and thin, more openly frightened than his two companions. 'Patrol approaching,' he gasped. 'Three or four of them.'Taron took command. 'All right, Codal, we'll move out.' He turned to Jo. 'You stay here and hide. If we try to take you, you'll only slow us down. We'll lose them in the jungle and come back for you when we can.'Before Jo could protest all three had fled from the s.p.a.ceship, leaving her full of unanswered questions. What was this unknown 'Patrol' that caused such alarm?She went to the door and looked out, but the three men had already vanished. Jo heard a sudden rustling sound from the patch of dense green jungle at the edge of the clearing. Something was forcing its way through it, and it was coming towards her... Jo ducked back inside the ship and looked quickly round for a hiding place.She found a tall wardrobe-like wall locker which held spare uniforms and s.p.a.ce-suits. Jo slipped inside, huddling behind the rack of garments, and pulled the door closed. There was a slatted ventilation panel in the door, so she could still see outside.The ship rocked a little and the vines over the door were pushed aside. Jo peered through the panel, and saw-nothing! Yet obviously someone had entered the cabin. She could hear hoa.r.s.e breathing and stealthy, padding footsteps. A plastic beaker rose in the air of its own accord, then dropped to the floor. On the flight deck a pen, a plastic notebook, various navigational instruments rose and fell in the same eerie way. Lockers opened and closed, their contents floating through the air and falling to the ground as the invisible searcher dropped them. The activity was coming nearer. Jo held her locker door tightly closed from the inside. Sure enough, a few minutes later, she felt the unseen something on the other side of the door trying to turn the handle. She clung on desperately. After a moment the pressure stopped and the hoa.r.s.e breathing moved away.Jo peeped out. Close to the door, a plastic carton jumped, as though suddenly kicked aside. The little craft tilted, the vines over the door were brushed aside by the unseen form, the craft lurched and then resumed its former position. Jo crept from hiding and went to the door, peering through the curtain of vines. On the marshy ground before the ship a line of footprints was appearing, footprints completely alien in shape. They moved towards the edge of the clearing, the plants rustled and waved, and the invisible intruder was gone.

The Doctor checked all the door-opening circuits and found them in perfect order. Abandoning the control panel console, he tried opening the doors manually. For some time he struggled without success. The doors were held from the outside with a grip that was rubbery yet firm. It yielded, but would not give way.The hiss of the oxygen cylinder faded and died. A warning light flashed on the centre console. Wearily the Doctor staggered across to it. This time the message on the screen read, 'CABIN ATMOSPHERE SHORTLY UNABLE TO SUSTAIN LIFE.' The Doctor went back to the door and resumed his desperate struggle.Already he felt consciousness beginning to slip away.

Vaber and Codal crouched in a clump of thick jungle, blasters at the ready. They spun round at the sound of approaching movement. It was Taron. 'I think we've lost them. There were just a few scouts, and they're moving off that way, away from the ship. The girl should be all right. We'd better try to find this friend of hers.'Vaber looked incredulously at him. 'You don't mean to say you meant it? Why should we waste time on some stranger?''Because he's ill. I'm still a doctor, Vaber. Even here.' Taron led the way into the jungle, and the others followed.When they reached the ruined temple, it took them quite a time to find the TARDIS. They had been looking for some kind of conventional s.p.a.ceship, until they realised that the tall, oblong shape was the 's.p.a.ce-Craft' they were seeking. The fact that the TARDIS was coated with the rubbery fungus spat out by the sponge-plants didn't make things any easier.Taron scratched his head. 'Well, whatever it is, it's the only new thing here-so it must be what we want! 'From a belt-pouch he took a tiny square of transparent plastic, which unfolded into a complete protective suit-cape, hood and gauntlets all in one. From his pack he produced a spray which dissolved the rubbery growth covering the TARDIS. When an area was cleared, Taron started to pull the fungus away with his gloved hands. The others joined him, the sponge-spores splashing harmlessly on their protective clothing.When they'd freed the area around the door, it swung suddenly open, and the Doctor toppled out. They grabbed him and dragged his body clear. TheTARDIS door swung closed behind him, and the sponges resumed their mindless attack.The Doctor was sucking great whooping breaths into his lungs. As soon as he could speak, he gasped, 'Thank you... thank you very much indeed. How did you find me?'Taron briefly told him of meeting Jo in their wrecked s.p.a.ce-craft. The Doctor was relieved to hear that, until recently at least, Jo was still all right. Taron turned to Codal. 'Better circle the area, see if there's any more activity.' As Codal slipped away, Taron saw the Doctor staring intently at him. 'Well, what is it?' he said brusquely.The Doctor said, 'Forgive me. It's just that I seem to know you-all of you! Or rather, I know your people.''That's scarcely likely.''Oh you never know,' said the Doctor airily. 'I travel quite a bit. Where are you from?''A planet many systems from here. It's called-''Skaro!' said the Doctor triumphantly, answering his own question. 'Of course-you're Thals!'Taron stared at him. 'How could you possibly know that?''I've visited Skaro. I was there at the time of the first Dalek war.'Taron looked at the tall shape of the TARDIS, now once more obscured by the rubbery spitting of the sponge-plants. 'In our legends, there is a being from another planet, who came to Skaro at our time of greatest peril. He travelled in something called-''The TARDIS,' confirmed the Doctor. 'That's it over there.''He had three companions,' said Taron slowly. The Doctor supplied the missing names. 'Barbara, Ian and Susan.''Are you trying to tell us that you are the Doctor?' demanded Vabor.'That's right, old chap.''That's impossible. The First Dalek War was generations ago, before any of us were born. No one lives that long.''Ah, but I'm not a Thal. Besides, don't your legends tell that the TARDIS could also travel through Time?'Vaber came closer, hand steady on the blaster in his belt. 'And now you turn up here-of all the planets in the galaxy! Well, I don't believe you. You've come to spy on us. Who are you? What are you really doing here?'The Doctor looked calmly at him, trying to make allowances for the fact that Vaber was obviously frightened and exhausted, ready to lash out at any target. 'Now see here, young man,' he said mildly. 'You helped to save my life and I'm grateful, but that doesn't give you the right to interrogate me.'They were interrupted by Taron. He whipped another aerosol from a belt-pouch and sprayed the Doctor's cheek. The Doctor jumped back. 'What do you think you're doing?''There was a splash of that white fluid on your face. It contains the growth-spores of the sponge-plants. The fungus grows very quickly. Without treatment it would have spread all over your body.'The Doctor shuddered. 'It seems I must thank you for saving my life a second time.'

Jo grew bored waiting for the Thals to return, but she didn't dare venture outside the s.p.a.ceship. Hunting round the little cabin she found a plastic box of food concentrates, rubbery cubes in several different colours. She ate a couple and found them odd-tasting but satisfying. In a recess she discovered a wash-basin. After a certain amount of fiddling with taps, she managed to produce first drinking-water, and then a stream of warm soapy water in the little basin.Jo decided on a quick clean-up. It would not only make her feel better, it would help to pa.s.s time till the others returned. She pulled off her gloves and started to roll up her sleeves. Then she stopped, gazing in horror at the back of her right hand. A spreading blotch of fungus had grown all over it...

The Doctor listened as his rescuers argued between themselves. It seemed to be a question of whether they should move off at once, or wait for the return of Codal. Eventually it was decided to wait. The Doctor thought he might as well use the time in gathering some information about his new surroundings. 'What's the name of this planet?' he asked.It was Vaber who answered, speaking with the harsh bitterness that seemed habitual to him. 'Spiridon-one of the nastiest pieces of planetary garbage in this galaxy.'The Doctor raised his eyebrows. 'Indeed! Is it inhabited?''Oh yes! Vegetation with all the nastier characteristics of animal life. Animals that eat everything that moves, including each other. And a climate changing from tropical in the day to freezing at night.''Any intelligent life-forms?''Only the Spiridons. They had a civilisation once, but it's in ruins now.''I'd very much like to see one of them.'Vaber grinned sourly. 'You'll find that difficult. They happen to be invisible.'There was another important question in the Doctor's mind. He spoke cautiously, feeling his way. 'I gather you're on some kind of special mission here-that you have dangerous enemies?' The Thals looked suspiciously at him, but didn't answer. 'I'm on something of a special mission myself,' continued the Doctor. 'Perhaps we can help each other?'Taron shook his head. 'I'm sorry, we don't know enough about you to trust you like that.''Oh, why don't you tell him?' snarled Vaber. 'We're none of us going to get off Spiridon alive. This is a suicide mission.'The Doctor looked sharply at him. 'What makes you say that?''We crash-landed. Our Commander was killed on impact, so Taron here took command. The sub-s.p.a.ce radio was wrecked on landing, and the ship's so badly damaged we can never take off again.''You volunteered, Vaber,' said Taron harshly. 'No one forced you to come.'For men sharing a desperate mission, they didn't get on very well, thought the Doctor. Quietly he asked. 'How many of you are here?''We were seven,' said Taron slowly. 'The Commander was killed-and we've lost three more since then.''But you still won't accept my help?'Taron shook his head. 'We'll take you back to your friend, then you're on your own. Our mission is too important to risk on unknowns.''You may not trust me yet, Taron, but I have a feeling there's already a very strong link between us. To quote an old Earth proverb-"My enemy's enemy is my friend." 'The lanky Codal suddenly appeared from the jungle. 'Everything's quiet now.'Taron stood up. 'Let's get moving. Doctor, if you see me signal get under cover fast. And don't make a sound.''I have been in jungles before,' the Doctor said rather huffily.'Not like this one,' said Taron grimly.As they made their way through the jungle, Taron saw that the Doctor could move as silently as any of them. He seemed unaffected by the blazing heat, and showed no signs of tiring as they forced their way through the tough vegetation.They came to a broad path cutting across the jungle. It had obviously been cleared by some advanced technological means. Touching the severed ends of a vine the Doctor guessed at a wide-beam heat-ray. Taron held up his hand for silence. Something was moving towards them. Curiously enough, they could hear it but not see it. It made a strange clanking, grinding noise, suggesting some complex mechanical device on the point of complete breakdown. A blurred trail crept towards them along the charred surface of the path. It wavered and stopped, and the harsh grinding sound died away. Codal looked at Taron. 'What do you think?''Sounds like light-wave sickness. That's what the others had.''Shall we risk it then? Show our new friend what we're up against?' Vaber had swung into a mood of hysterical cheerfulness. He ran out on to the path, and up to the point where the mysterious tracks ended. He pulled a couple of sprays from his belt pouch, and tossed one to the Doctor. 'Here you are, join in the fun!'The Doctor looked at the spray. 'Is this some kind of weapon?'Vaber laughed. 'It's paint, that's all. A paint-spray from the ship's stores.'Vaber touched a nozzle on the top of the little spray, and a mist of bright blue paint shot out. He waved the spray to and fro in front of him, and after a puzzled look at Taron, the Doctor did the same. His spray produced a fine mist of gold.Slowly a shape appeared in the empty air ahead of them. The effect was rather like a 'magic' drawing book where a pencil rubbed across an apparently blank page produces a hidden picture.This picture, however, was solidly three-dimensional. Standing in the middle of the path, its shape picked out incongruously in blue and gold, was the menacing form of a Dalek.

3.

The Deadly Trap.

Vaber looked at the Doctor, wondering how he would react. If he expected fear or horror, he was disappointed. The Doctor himself had come to Spiridon in pursuit of the Daleks. Moreover, he had realised from the first that the presence of Thals confirmed that there were Daleks on the planet. Taron's 'special mission' could only be some operation against the hereditary enemies of the Thals. The Doctor started examining the Dalek with an air of brisk competence. He waved a hand in front of the eye-stalk. 'Total loss of vision, motive power nil, weaponry de-activated too-luckily for us! 'Taron was watching him curiously. 'You seem to know a good deal about Daleks.''I've had cause. But I've never come across invisible ones before. How do they do it?'Codal seemed to be the scientist of the party. 'They discovered it by studying the Spiridons. That is the reason they came to this planet. It's some kind of anti-reflecting light wave.' Recognising a fellow spirit, Codal was talking as one dedicated scientist to another. 'Their problem is that to create the energy needed they use enormous amounts of power. They can't sustain it for long. Either they revert to visibility, or they fall victim to light-wave sickness, like this one. Let's take a closer look, shall we?'Codal was all set to dismantle the Dalek on the spot, but the Doctor held him back. 'Most Daleks have an automatic distress-call. Even when the Dalek is de-activated the transmitter might still go on functioning for a while. We'd better keep moving.'Some time later Taron halted in a small clearing. 'Codal and I know this area best. We'll scout ahead. Vaber, you stay here with the Doctor.'Taron and Codal moved away. The Doctor, as always making the best of things, settled himself with his back to a curiously gnarled tree trunk, long legs stretched out before him. 'Your Taron's a cautious fellow.''Too cautious,' Vaber muttered protestingly. 'Things'd be different if Miro was still alive.'The Doctor was examining a clump of oddly shaped plants growing near his tree. 'Miro?''Miro was our Commander-he was killed when we landed. Taron is the expedition's doctor. I was Miro's Number Two, but technically Taron outranks me. He took command-and a fine mess he's made of it. He'll go on being cautious till we all get killed.'The Doctor nodded thoughtfully. Vaber's story accounted for the tensions within the small group of Thals. Taron was a doctor, unaccustomed to active command. Now that the responsibility was his, he might well be ultra-careful, fearful of making some mistake. On the other hand, his att.i.tude might be amply justified. As yet the Doctor knew too little of the situation on Spiridon to form a proper judgement. 'What do you think Taron should do?' he asked casually.Vaber was eager to tell him. 'Attack the Daleks and wipe them out. There are no more than a dozen of them on the planet, just a small scientific party studying invisibility techniques. One determined attack could destroy them all.'The Doctor nodded thoughtfully. It sounded a very attractive plan'. But could things really be that easy? With the Daleks you could never be sure. 'Tell me about the Spiridons,' he said. 'Are they always invisible?'Vaber abandoned his prowling and sat down at the edge of the clearing. 'Codal says so. According to him, this planet is so hostile they had to develop invisibility-he calls it the ultimate in survival techniques.'Although neither the Doctor nor Codal realised it, the hostility of Spiridon was being demonstrated at this very moment. In the dense jungle behind Vaber, a thick hairy tentacle, about the size of a full-grown python, was stirring. Typically enough for Spiridon, the tentacle belonged not to an animal but to a plant. At the centre of the plant was a fleshy orchid-like growth some twenty feet across. The plant, like many on Spiridon, was carnivorous, and the long tentacles growing out from the centre were designed to capture its prey.The Doctor was still intent on his clump of plants. He had discovered that if he moved his hand to and fro, an 'eye' opened on the pod, and the plant swayed to and fro as if watching him. 'Fascinating,' he murmured.Vaber saw what he was doing. 'Useful, too. The plants react whenever one of the invisible Spiridons approaches. We use them as a kind of early warning system.' Unseen, the tentacle slipped closer.'The Spiridons co-operate with the Daleks, then?' asked the Doctor.'I don't think they have any choice. The Daleks saturated the jungles with killer rays. Invisibility didn't protect the Spiridons against that kind of thing. The survivors were too terrified to do anything but surrender and co-operate.'The tentacle was close enough now. It reached out like a whiplash, winding round Vaber's waist and dragging him towards the jungle. Alerted by the screams, the Doctor sprang across the clearing and grabbed Vaber's legs, trying to haul him back. But the tentacle was appallingly strong. The only result was that both of them were hauled remorselessly into the jungle. The Doctor heard Vaber gasp. 'Knife... get knife...'A heavy jungle knife was sheathed at Vaber's belt. The Doctor grabbed it and hacked savagely at the tentacle. Thick green ichor spurted out. The tentacle unwound from Vaber, lashed about wildly and snaked back into the jungle. Vaber crumpled to the ground, and the Doctor was kneeling over him when Taron rushed in from the other side of the clearing. 'What happened?'The Doctor waved towards the jungle. 'Something rather nasty was planning on having us for breakfast.'Vaber struggled to his feet, as if unwilling to show weakness in Taron's presence. 'I'm all right now...' He winced as the effort of speaking sent a stab of pain through his bruised ribs.Taron looked anxiously at him. 'If you'd like to rest for a while...'I said I'm all right!' He looked at the Doctor and muttered, 'Thanks.'The Doctor cleaned the knife in the ground and tossed it back to Vaber. 'Let's call it a useful lesson-on the need for caution at all times! Perhaps Taron is right after all.'Taron looked puzzled. 'What about?'The Doctor was looking at Vaber. 'About not rushing headlong into an attack on the Daleks.'Vaber flared up again. 'If I'm going to die, I want it to be for a better reason than providing nourishment for some flesh-eating plant...'The quarrel was interrupted by the arrival of Codal. 'What are you all doing? Look at the eye-plants 1 'The plants were lashing about in agitation, the fringe of leaves curling closed over the central pod.'Spiridon patrol,' Taron said curtly. 'We'd better hide.'He led them into the centre of a clump of lowlying plants, rather like dwarf palm trees. There was s.p.a.ce to hide between the thick trunks, and the wide leaves gave good cover. From their vantage-point they could see the jungle all around being thrashed by the movement of unseen presence.The Doctor studied the pattern of movements.'The sweep's moving this way. They'll find us if we don't change position soon.'Vaber reached for his blaster. 'Why don't we attack first? We can ambush them.'Taron's hand closed on his arm. 'We don't know how many there are! And what do we use as a target if we can't see them?'Codal said, 'I'll lead them off. You can all get away while they're following me.' Before anyone could stop him, he had left his cover. He started to run through the jungle, making no attempt to conceal himself and generating as much noise as he could.The othes watched him crash away. Soon there was a quick ripple of movement in the thick green vegetation, a ripple that went off after Codal.'It's working,' said Taron. 'They're following. Codal's given us our chance. Let's not waste it.'Wriggling from their hiding-place, they began to run in the opposite direction.Codal came panting to a halt in the middle of a jungle trail. The Spiridon patrols were a long way behind. With any luck he'd led them far enough to give the others a chance of escape. It was time to begin circling round to re-join them. His thin chest heaving as he gasped for breath, Codal felt astonished at his own audacity. He'd been on the move before he'd realised what had come over him. Maybe he wasn't such a wash-out after all. Codal was the youngest and least experienced of the Thal party, and the question of his own courage was something that pre-occupied him constantly. But his moment of self-congratulation was brief. He saw a clump of eye-plants beside the trail, and realised with a feeling of sudden dread that they were all tightly dosed. Suddenly, invisible hands gripped him tightly. He struggled wildly, kicking and punching at his unseen captors, hearing grunts as the wild blows landed. But the struggle was hopeless. The invisible hands tightened their grip, Codal watched helplessly as a chunk of dead wood rose from the side of the trail and flew straight for his head...Jo Grant was feeling very weak by now. The blotchy fungus had spread half-way up her arm, and seemed to be draining her strength. Her temperature had rocketed, and she was sick and giddy. She felt she ought to keep her 'log' up to date, though there was little enough to say. Fumbling with her left hand, she took the recorder from her pocket and touched the control. 'My hand and arm have become infected by some plant from the jungle. The infection is spreading very rapidly. I don't think the men I met here are coming back, so I'm going to try to get through the jungle and find help.' She switched off the recorder and thrust it clumsily back in her pocket, not noticing that it was only part-way inside. She got to her feet, staggering as a wave of dizziness came over her, and made for the door.She was attempting to climb down from the s.p.a.ce-craft when she heard a thrashing movement in the jungle. The invisible creature was returning! Terrified, Jo turned and went back inside, intending to return to her hiding-place in the locker. She didn't realise that the recorder had dropped to the ground outside the ship. The effort of moving was too much for her. The cabin spun round and everything went black.The jungle rustled as the Spiridon forced its way through the vegetation. It paused at the edge of the clearing, moved across to the little s.p.a.ce-craft and climbed aboard. Jo's body was sprawled in plain sight in the centre of the cabin. The Spiridon moved curiously towards her...

Safe in a new hiding-place, Taron, Vaber and the Doctor waited as long as they dared for Codal to re-appear. Finally Taron stood up. 'We'd better make for the s.p.a.ceship. Maybe he'll rendezvous with us there.''Or maybe we're down to two, now.' Vaber spoke sourly. Taron said nothing. He led the way through the jungle, and the Doctor followed, Vaber trailing sulkily behind. It took them a long time to reach the s.p.a.ceship. Taron moved with his usual caution, insisting on a wide detour to avoid further patrols.But at last they came to the edge of the clearing. The wrecked s.p.a.ceship was still sitting in the middle of it. The Doctor pressed forward, eager to be re-united with Jo, but Taron held him back. 'Wait-there's movement on the other side of the clearing.' To the Doctor's horror, four Daleks glided out of the jungle, grouping themselves in a semi-circle around the little ship. The Doctor heard the familiar, hated voice cutting through the jungle air.'Dalek patrol calling Command Centre. Thal s.p.a.ce-craft has been located. We shall destroy according to instructions.' The Daleks widened their semi-circle. The patrol leader ordered, 'Prepare to fire.'The Doctor started to get up. Taron tried to stop him. 'There's nothing you can do.'The Doctor threw off his grip. 'Jo's inside there! I've got to stop them.'The Dalek voice ordered, 'Fire!' Before the order could be carried out, the Doctor ran forward, placing himself between the ship and the Dalek guns. 'Wait! You mustn't shoot, there's someone inside.'For a moment the Daleks froze, as if stunned by the audacity of the interruption. Then the patrol leader spoke. 'Disable prisoner. Save for interrogation.' Instantly a Dalek fired and the Doctor's feet were smashed from under him by an agonising blast of pain. As he crashed to the ground he heard the Dalek voice again. 'Proceed as ordered. Fire!'His legs numb and useless, the Doctor called, 'No, you mustn't...'Above his head the Dalek guns blazed in unison. The little s.p.a.ceship glowed cherry red and exploded in a blast of flame.

4.

In the Power of the Daleks.

Unable to bear the sight of the blazing s.p.a.ce-craft, the Doctor lowered his eyes to the ground. A few feet away he. saw a familiar black shape-the TARDIS log-recorder. Automatically he reached out for it and thrust it in his pocket. A Dalek loomed over him. 'Stand up.'The Doctor tried. Agonising pins-and-needles shot through his legs, and he stumbled and fell.'Stand up or we will exterminate you now.' Painfully the Doctor got to his feet. The Dalek herded him forward. 'Walk!'The Doctor stumbled slowly away between his captors. At the edge of the clearing he stopped to look back at the still-blazing ship. 'Move.' The Daleks ordered him forward. As the Dalek patrol and its prisoner disappeared into the jungle, Taron and Vaber came out of hiding.Vaber looked after the departing Daleks. 'We should have helped him.'Taron shook his head, gazing into the flames. 'There was nothing we could do... nothing.'Feeling gradually came back to the Doctor's legs during the long march through the jungle, but he was glad when their destination came in sight. It was nothing more than a small, squat blockhouse. The door slid open to reveal a lift, and the patrol pa.s.sed inside.The Doctor was quite unsurprised by this development. It was normal Dalek practice to install their bases underground whenever possible. Daylight and open air meant nothing to them, and they flourished best in a controlled underground environment.The lift plunged down and down, and the Doctor cupped his hands over his ears as they popped under the changing pressure. At last the lift shuddered to a halt and they all filed out. They were in a long straight corridor, apparently cut from solid rock. At intervals in either direction other corridors intersected across their one.The Doctor was taken to a heavy metal door. A Dalek touched a control, the door opened and the Doctor was thrust inside. The door closed behind him.It was no surprise to the Doctor to find himself in a bare, metal cell. What did surprise him was to see Codal crouched in one corner, his head in his hands. The young scientist looked up in astonishment. 'Doctor! ' Then his face fell. 'So it was all for nothing. They got you after all.''Not all of us. Taron and Vaber are still free.'Briefly the Doctor explained how he'd been captured. Codal told the Doctor of his own capture. 'I don't understand why they didn't kill me,' he concluded.'I'm afraid they're saving us both for interrogation,' said the Doctor. 'They'll want to know what we're doing on this planet.'Codal shuddered, terrified at the thought of Dalek questioning. The Doctor could see he needed cheering up. 'I haven't thanked you for giving us that chance to escape. It was very brave of you.'Codal laughed bitterly. 'Brave? Me? I've been in terror since we landed on this planet.'The Doctor nodded. 'That's natural enough. We're all afraid at times.''Taron and Vaber know how to deal with fear. I'm a scientist, not a soldier. I'm not used to danger.' 'I thought all your force were volunteers?''We were! ' said Codal gloomily. 'I was the only scientist young and fit enough to come on the expedition. Everyone expected me to volunteer, so I did. I didn't even have the courage to be the odd man out.'The Doctor chuckled. 'Courage isn't a matter of not feeling frightened, you know.''Then what is it?''It's being afraid, but doing what you have to do anyway. Just as you did. You're a very brave man, Codal.'Codal smiled wryly. 'I'm not convinced. But thanks anyway. Well, what do we do now?''We start trying to find a way out of here. Now let's see if we've got anything useful. Did they search you?''No, not really. Just took away my blaster and my knife.''Then turn out your pockets. You never know.' The Doctor began searching his own pockets, but the first thing he found made him pause in sorrow. It was the log-recorder Jo had taken from the TARDIS. He switched it on playback, listening to Jo's voice. 'The38Doctor appears to have fallen into a deep coma...' He played the tape through, learning of Jo's leaving the TARDIS, her meeting with the Thals. He shuddered at the description of her infection by the fungus. Perhaps her end had been a merciful one after all.Jo Grant awoke from a nightmare-haunted sleep to find herself lying on a pile of skins in a tiny cave. She could see a greenish glow of jungle light coming from the vine-covered entrance. She became aware that her temperature had gone down, and the throbbing in her arm had almost vanished. She looked at her hand and arm. They were covered with a thick yellowish paste, and beneath it the stain of the fungus had re-ceded.Jo blinked and looked round the cave. A wooden bowl was hovering in the air, and a bunch of brightly coloured berries was squeezing itself into it. One of the invisible creatures from the s.p.a.ceship was in the cave with her. Jo kept perfectly still. The bowl floated towards her. She heard the sound of hoa.r.s.e breathing, and then a whispering voice. 'Do not be afraid. I want only to help you.'Since there was no one else to talk to, Jo spoke to the wooden bowl. 'Who are you?''My name is Wester. I am a Spiridon. Drink this juice. It will help you to cast off the effect of the fungoid infection.'The bowl bobbed nearer. Jo took it and drank the juice, which seemed tart and sweet at the same time.She felt a glow through her body.'The infection is almost gone,' whispered the ghostly voice. 'This will clear it completely.'Jo drained the bowl and an unseen hand took it and put it to one side. 'What's happened?' she asked confusedly. 'Where are we?''We are in a cave near the Dalek City. I found you unconscious in a s.p.a.ce-craft and brought you here. Soon after, the Daleks destroyed the ship.''Why did you help me?' asked Jo. A wave of dizziness came over her. 'There's so much I want to ask you,' she said faintly. 'I don't know where to start.''You must rest while the juice takes its full effect,' said the Spiridon voice. 'Afterwards we shall talk...'Jo nodded, sleepily, letting herself drift away.When she awoke some time later, she was fresh and alert. To her delight, all traces of the infection were gone from her hand and arm. Wester fed her on strange-looking fruits, and as she ate he told her of the sad state to which the Daleks had reduced his planet. 'They bombarded our world with bacteria and deadly rays. Spiridon became a planet of the Daleks. Only a handful of my people survived, and they were forced to co-operate with the Daleks in their attempt to discover the secret of invisibility.''But you don't co-operate?''A few of us do what we can to resist them... it's little enough. I hoped the aliens might help us, but they are being killed one by one. Another was captured today-though he looked different from the others.'Jo's interest was aroused. 'What did he look like?''Tall with white hair. His clothes were different.''The Doctor!' said Jo excitedly. 'He must have recovered after I left the TARDIS. Trust him to get straight into trouble. I've got to help him.''That is not possible,' whispered the Spiridon sadly. 'The Daleks will interrogate him, then use him in their light-wave experiments. He would be better dead.'

The Doctor put away his sonic screwdriver with an angry frown. 'Hopeless. If there's one thing the Daleks are good at, it's making locks! 'Codal shook his head sadly. 'Well, if we can't get the door open...'The Doctor took up the thought. 'Then we must make our escape when the door is already open.''By which time there'll be at least one Dalek standing there.' Codal spoke with gloomy relish.The Doctor was not discouraged. 'Exactly. We've been looking at the problem in the wrong way. We're not trying to deal with a door-we're trying to deal with a Dalek!''How?' asked Codal simply.The Doctor rubbed his chin. 'I'm not sure yet.' He poked irritably at the pile of objects they'd unearthed from their pockets. 'There must be something useful here...' He picked up the little recorder. 'A small but very efficient electric motor-with a built-in atomic power source... now if I dismantle the circuitry, reverse the polarity and convert it to a receiver-transmitter with positive feedback...'He looked expectantly at Codal who said, 'I see! The Dalek guidance system functions by means of high frequency radio-impulses...''...And if I can jam those impulses-the Dalek should develop a nice little brain-storm.' Eagerly the Doctor set to work.

In the central control area, the Dalek Commander, military leader of the expedition to Spiridon, was listening to the report of his second-in-command. 'Scientific section request that after interrogation, prisoners should be transferred to their laboratory for light-wave experiments.' The Commander looked across at the laboratory, a sealed-off section separated from the control area by a gla.s.s wall.'Agreed. What of the rest of the Thal expedition?' 'Two Thals estimated still at liberty. Their capture is inevitable.'

In a secluded jungle clearing, Vaber and Taron were digging furiously. As he worked, Vaber thought grudgingly that for once Taron's obsessive caution had paid off. As soon as they had crash-landed, Taron had decided that the Daleks were certain to discover the s.p.a.ceship sooner or later. Almost his first action had been to order the transport of their precious explosives to this hidden cache in the jungle.Taron grunted as his fingers touched plastic wrapping. After a little more digging he lifted out a large bundle and set it on the ground.Exultantly Vaber helped him to unwrap it, and looked in satisfaction at the stubby cylindrical bombs with their attached timing and detonating devices. 'There's enough explosive here to wipe out fifty Daleks. We can rush the blockhouse, blow the lift-shaft and bury the lot of them for ever.''Suppose we don't make it to the lift-shaft? I won't take unjustified risks, Vaber. There are only two of us now, and you know what it means if we fail. We'll move when we have a plan that I think has a chance of succeeding, and not before.'Vaber looked on appalled as Taron started to re-wrap the explosives. He drew his blaster. 'Hand over those bombs.'Taron glanced up, saw the blaster and went on working. 'No.''Give them to me. I'll kill you if I have to.'Taron finished wrapping the bundle and started to bury it. 'Then you'll have to kill me.'Vaber glared helplessly at him, unnerved by Taron's calm. There was a sudden roar, a blast of heat, and something shot over their heads to vanish behind a near-by hill. Vaber looked after it. 'That was a s.p.a.ce-craft,' he said. 'Coming in to land too low and too fast. Come on! 'He ran towards the little hill. Taron, cautious as ever, finished burying the explosives then ran after him.It didn't take long to find the wrecked s.p.a.ce-craft-the plume of black smoke soaring above the jungle made an excellent guide. They were almost in sight of it when there came a dull roar, and a blast of heat that knocked them off their feet. 'It's blown up,' said Taron, as they picked themselves up.'Let's hope they got out in time.'They heard someone pushing through the jungle towards them and waited. A tall, fair-haired girl in Thal s.p.a.ce Uniform staggered out of the jungle, her face blackened with smoke.Taron recognised her at once, and ran to her. 'Rebec! What happened?'The girl looked at him dazedly. 'Our glide angle was too steep. We overheated coming through the atmosphere. The ship blew just after we landed.''Any other survivors?''Marat and Latep... just behind me.'Vaber came forward. 'Why did you come? How did you know we needed help?'The girl shook her head as if to clear it. 'When you didn't report by sub-s.p.a.ce radio, we guessed you must be in trouble. Then Communications intercepted another Dalek s.p.a.ce signal. This time they managed to crack the code. Once we'd read it, we had to warn you...''Warn us? What about?''About the Dalek force on Spiridon.''We know that already,' said Vaber impatiently. 'There are only about a dozen of them.'Rebec shook her head. 'That's what we thought when we sent you. But we were wrong. The signal we intercepted was to Dalek Supreme Command. It said the Dalek force on Spiridon was now complete. Somewhere on this planet are ten thousand Daleks! '

5.

The Escape.

Even Vaber had to admire the stolid calm with which Taron took this shattering news. He nodded and said, 'This means we must act immediately.' He turned to Rebec. 'Are you fit enough to move? The Daleks will send a patrol very soon to investigate the crash.'Rebec said, 'I'm all right-just a bit shaken.'Two more Thals came out of the jungle, one a tall muscular man with a fresh open face, the other scarcely more than a boy. Taron greeted them calmly. 'Marat, Latep, are you all right? We can talk later. Right now it's important to get out of the area.'With a cheeky grin, young Latep answered for both of them. 'We're fine. Came down with a bit of a bang, that's all. Marat always was a terrible pilot.'Marat grinned, aiming a playful mock-punch at his smaller friend. 'No one else would have got you here at all!'Taron spoke seriously. 'It's good to see you-all of you. We'd better be moving.'The small group of Thals disappeared into the jungle.Just outside the city, Jo Grant crouched in hiding, Wester beside her. Not that Wester needed to hide, she thought, since he was invisible anyway. By now Jo was quite accustomed to the unseen presence of the Spiridon, and to the ghostly whispering in her ear. She parted the leaves and peered through the gap. She could see the blockhouse, Dalek guards patrolling all round it. Figures in furs and skins were carrying great basket-loads of vegetation through the blockhouse doors. 'Who are they?' she asked.'They are Spiridons, enslaved by the Daleks.' 'But I can see them.''You see the robes they wear. The Daleks have ordered our people to wear such robes. They must be visible at all times.''What's that stuff they're taking into the city?' 'Samples of our vegetation. The Daleks are experimenting with plant-destroying bacteria.'Jo looked at the baskets. They were really enormous wire crates. It took two of the Spiridon slaves to carry one. 'If I could get into one of those baskets, I'd be carried straight past the Dalek guards.''It is too dangerous,' hissed Wester.Jo ignored him. 'Whereabouts would they be likely to take the Doctor?''Prisoners are always held on the lower levels. He is probably on level seven.''I'm going to try it,' said Jo. 'Come on, let's work our way round to that patch of jungle.'Getting into one of the baskets proved surprisingly easy. They made their way to the edge of the jungle and crept up on a party of Spiridon slaves working under the supervision of a Dalek guard. Jo edged as near to the baskets as she dared, while Wester moved noisily about in the jungle on the other side of the clearing. The Dalek guard registered the noise and moved to investigate. The slaves watched the guard, chattering excitedly together in their hissing voices. Jo slipped un.o.bserved into a nearly-full basket, burying herself under the thick vegetation. The Dalek guard, finding nothing, herded the Spiridon slaves back to work. Soon two of them picked up her basket and started carrying it towards the city.Jo lay under the vegetation, her heart pounding. She hoped that getting out of the Dalek city would prove as easy as getting in.

Taron and the other Thals stood shivering in the middle of a strange, icy landscape. They had climbed a range of low, rocky hills covered with a thick coating of icy slush. They were dotted with gaping, cavernous openings rather like giant pot-holes, and it was to the edge of one of these sinister apertures that Taron had led them. The edge of the hole was rimmed with ice and snow.Rebec crumbled a piece of the ice between her fingers. 'There's something odd about this stuff-it's well below freezing point, but it's still soft..Taron nodded. 'Codal called it an allotrope-ice in a different form from the kind we know. He says the core of this planet is a solid ma.s.s of the stuff. Every so often, the pressure builds up and the ice pours out of these holes.'Marat peered into the hole. 'Sort of a cold volcano?' 'That's right. Codal calls it an "icecano".''Very interesting, Taron,' said Marat. 'Now tell us why you brought us here-and why you sent Vaber and Latep back for the explosives?''When we first landed on this planet, I ordered a full reconnaissance of the area around the Dalek city. I formed a plan to destroy it. But things went wrong. First we lost three men in an ambush, then Codal was captured. That left myself and Vaber. My plan. wouldn't work with just two men so I abandoned it, started looking for another. Now you're here we can revert to the original idea.' Taron drew a long breath after what, for him, had been a very long speech. He went on, 'When the Daleks built their underground city, they used this icecano to provide a cooling system. Apparently they needed very low temperatures for their experiments.''I wonder why,' Rebec said thoughtfully. 'Invisibility is a problem of light-waves, temperature's got nothing to do with it.'Taron ignored the interruption. 'The Daleks drove shafts out to meet the natural fissures. If we go down one of these outlets and work our way along to the junctions, we could reach the heart of their city un-seen, plant charges at strategic spots and blow the whole place up.'Rebec looked into the dark icy hole and shivered. 'And suppose this icecano thing erupts while we're down there?'Taron said nothing. The answer was obvious enough.Maret was looking down the icy slope. 'Vaber and Latep are coming,' he called.Slipping and sliding on the icy rock, the two Thals toiled up to rejoin their friends. Vaber was carrying a plastic bundle. He unwrapped the bombs and shared them out. The Thals stowed them away in their back-packs. Vaber looked alert and eager, his normal sulkiness transformed by the prospect of action. 'I've changed the hiding-place of the rest of the explosives, as you ordered, Taron,' he said. 'I've marked the position on this map.' He showed Taron a crumpled piece of paper. 'X marks the spot! 'Taron took the paper and studied it. 'I know the place. Here, Marat, you take this-just in case.' He turned to the others. 'We'd better get started. The fact that there's an army of Daleks in that city makes its destruction a matter of top priority. Vaber, you and Latep take your bombs and find another opening, closer to the main entrance of the city. Blow up the main lift-shaft and the whole place will be buried. The rest of us will attack from this end.'Taron produced a coil of fine plastic rope from his pack and slung it over his shoulder. He touched a control in his belt. 'Switch on your heating units, all of you, it's going to be cold down there.' Poised on the edge of the hole, Taron looked round the little group, his eyes lingering on Rebec for a moment. He swung a leg over the edge, and Vaber went to help him. 'Taron,' he whispered, 'I'm sorry-about what happened.''Forget it.' Taron scrambled over the edge and slid down into the darkness. Vaber and Latep helped Rebec and Marat to follow him down. Then they turned and ran, looking for the hole that would provide their own entrance to the Dalek city.

The Doctor finished his work on the rea.s.sembled recorder, fitting the parts tidily back into the box. He looked up at Codal. 'Well, that's the best I can do. Only one thing we need now-a Dalek to try it on!'Codal said nervously, 'I think you're going to get your wish. I can hear the lift.'A few minutes later the door opened and a Dalek entered the cell. Codal and the Doctor were sitting innocently in the corner. The Doctor's hands were behind him.'Prisoners will stand,' ordered the Dalek. Slowly they got up. 'You will be taken for interrogation. Move! 'The Dalek stood waiting just inside the door. The Doctor and Codal moved forward. When they were close enough, the Doctor shouted, 'Now! 'Codal leaped on the Dalek, jamming it against the wall. His shoulder to the metal casing, he grabbed the Dalek's gun-stick, forcing it upwards. At the same time the Doctor jumped behind the Dalek and pressed the re-built recorder to its headpiece.The Dalek struggled violently in Codal's grip. It was amazingly strong and he knew he couldn't hold it for long. 'Surrender immediately, or you will be exterminated,' grated the harsh voice. Then almost immediately it changed its sound. The pitch became higher and there was a note of hysteria. 'Surrender, surrender... I am losing control, I am losing control...' Suddenly the words garbled together in an agonised electronic shriek. Wrenching free of Codal's grip, the Dalek began hurling itself about the cell, crashing and rebounding from one wall to another like a bee trapped in a bottle. Codal and the Doctor jumped desperately about in the confined s.p.a.ce, trying to avoid being crushed. The recorder was knocked from the Doctor's hand. At last the Dalek zoomed straight at the wall, crashed into it, rebounded, spun round and was still.Gasping, Codal looked at the Doctor. 'That's a very effective little machine.''Not any more,' said the Doctor sadly. He picked the crushed recorder from the floor. In the confusion it had been stepped on by the Doctor and run over by the Dalek. It tinkled when the Doctor shook it, 'Still it's served its purpose.' He glanced at the inert Dalek. 'Much as I abhor violence, I rather enjoyed that.' He went to the still-open door. 'Come on, Codal. We can get out of this cell now-but we're a long way from being free.'

The basket was put down with a thump, and Jo peered cautiously out. She was in a long, wide corridor. Fur-clad Spiridon slaves were emptying the baskets into metal bins and pushing them into what seemed to be a huge laboratory. Others were carrying the empty baskets away. Clearly, it wouldn't do for Jo to be still in her basket when it was tipped out. She slipped out of the crate, keeping the stack between her and the Spiridons, and ran off.She obviously couldn't stay in the open-Daleks or Spiridons were bound to spot her. Jo decided to look for a hiding-place while she thought out her next move, and crept cautiously through the next door in the corridor.It took her into a huge rock-walled area, packed with various kinds of Dalek scientific equipment. Jo guessed it was their control centre. Behind a gla.s.s wall dividing the area, they were moving about on various mysterious tasks. There were more Daleks in the control area but they were all some distance away with their backs to her.Jo looked round for a hiding-place. Like most of the Dalek underground city, the room seemed to have been carved from solid rock, and the walls weren't quite regular in shape. Huge gleaming instrument consoles had been lined up against the rock walls but they weren't completely flush with it. There was a gap, rather like that between a sofa and a wall, into which a very small person might squeeze. Thankful, not for the first time for her lack of size, Jo slipped behind the nearest console and worked her way along the gap until she was completely concealed.Suddenly, a dial close to her hiding-place began to give out a sharp pinging sound. Two of the Daleks moved across to it, and Jo could hear their voices on the other side of the bank of instruments. 'Sensors detect ice eruption imminent.''Prepare to close all cooling ducts. Activate closure when warning dial reaches red alert.''I obey.'One of the Daleks returned to its place on the far side of the room. But the other stayed where it was, evidently watching the warning dial. In its present position it would certainly see Jo if she tried to get away. Her hiding-place had become a trap.

The news of the ice eruption, meaningless to Jo, was a deadly threat to Taron and his party. They were working their way along the ice fissure, which by now had broadened out into a sizeable tunnel, hoping it would lead them to the Dalek city. An icy wind sprang up, accompanied by a low rumbling noise. They struggled forward against it as long as they could, until they came to a point where the tunnel branched. They stopped and the Thals looked at Taron in inquiry. The noise of the wind was too great to allow talking but Taron made a gesture that they should wait. He ran a little way down the right-hand tunnel, then stopped in horror. A wall of ice completely blocked the tunnel-and it was moving towards him.Taron turned and ran back to the fork, making signs to his little group that they should turn down the left-hand path. Rebec shook her head, pointing back the way they had come, obviously suggesting that they should give up and go back. But even as she pointed, the wall of the fissure cracked open and more ice flooded through, blocking their retreat. There was only one way they could go. As they ran down the left-hand fork the ice appeared behind them, pursuing them down the tunnel.The Doctor and Codal had almost succeeded in reaching the lift when a Dalek appeared round a corner. Luckily it was as surprised as they were. They turned and ran, disappearing round a corner as the Dalek fired. The Dalek's lights flashed agitatedly and it began screeching, 'Alert! Alert! Alert!'The message was received in the central control room where Jo crouched in hiding. Again she heard Dalek voices.'Level seven reports prisoners are at liberty.' 'Instigate condition of maximum alert. Normaloperations will cease until prisoners are recaptured.' 'I obey.'A moment's pause and then another voice, speaking over a public-address system. 'All Daleks will report to lower levels. Maximum security search to commence immediately. Locate and destroy prisoners. Locate and destroy! 'In her hiding place, Jo Grant listened excitedly to the Dalek voices. She was sure the Doctor was one of the escaped prisoners. Trust him to get away without her help. Jo desperately wanted to make her way to the lower levels to find him, but she couldn't-not while the Dalek maintained its stand. Ironically, positions had reversed. Somewhere in the Dalek city the Doctor was free-but Jo herself had become the Daleks' prisoner.

6.

Danger on Level Zero.

Codal and the Doctor pelted frantic

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