The order to fire came from Morrison before the Dalek had time to clear the melted doorway. As the air was torn apart by bullets Stillman discharged his revolver, the kick back nearly flooring him. He didn’t see where the bullet went but he could hear the hollow pings of all their shots rebounding off the reinforced armour casing. The noise was almost deafening, and then Lopez and Wallace were simultaneously enclosed in ghostly auras of blue-fire. They fell wordlessly to the deck just as Stillman caught sight of the First Mate hurling something at the gunmetal grey body of the Dalek.
“Fire in the hole!” bellowed Morrison.
Noise, light and flame enveloped the machine-creature; Stillman was knocked unconscious by the concussion.
He awoke to the smell of cordite and dried blood, he was aware of a looming presence above him, probing his still body with an elongated appendage. The hairs on the back of his neck rose as he heard the chilling monotone of the Daleks’ voices for the first time.
“This one is still alive!” it said. He opened his eyes a crack and saw that the sucker limb of a Dalek was hovering inches from his face.
“You will get up now or we will exterminate you!” came another voice, harsher than the first, if that was possible. He raised himself with some difficulty from the deck, apart from a splitting headache and ringing ears he was uninjured. The corridor was a mess, a vast hole had been blown in the steel plating around the door and the floor was littered with the fallen bodies of his colleagues. The Dalek kept its gun arm pointed at him as he got to his feet whilst another Dalek approached from the shadows of the doorway. Stillman realised that this must have been the one that Morrison threw the grenade at, for it was blackened down one side. The right hand ear light was also blown out and its suction arm had been bent crooked by the blast. The other limb, the one capable of inflicting horrible death, motioned down the corridor.
“Move!” it barked at Stillman, its remaining red light flashing angrily in the gloom.
He was driven to the bridge where the survivors of the Dalek attack were being herded, Stillman was glad to see the Captain and Jane amongst them. He held her close when they met, all pretence about their affair now seemingly pointless.
“I guess you were right Horowitz,” he said softly. “I should have been happier with microbes.”
The half-burnt Dalek addressed them: “You have invaded Dalek Space- what is your purpose here? Have you come to spy on us? Speak now or we will exterminate you one by one!”
Captain Forrester, who was having his head bandaged by the ship’s medic rose to speak. “We are a mining scout, not a warship. We had no idea you were hiding in this asteroid field,” he said. “But you have no right to board us in this way and kill half my crew, we are not a threat to you!”
“Silence!” boomed the Dalek. Swiftly it moved up to Forrester pushing him backwards with its spastic limb. “You are in our power! You will speak only when we want you to!”
The Captain went pale with fear, his balance almost upset by this assault. “I understand,” he muttered.
“You are in command of this vessel?”
“Yes, er, Captain Forrester of the Deep Space Mining Corps, registration VZ032…”
“Irrelevant!” hissed the Dalek. “When we return to New Skaro you shall be interrogated by Dalek Intelligence.” Then it turned to one of its subordinates. “Has the other human being recovered yet?”
“Yes, he is being brought up now from their main hold,” said the other Dalek.
“He is your second in command?” the burnt Dalek asked Forrester. “The one who threw the primitive explosive device?”
“Mr. Morrison is my first mate,” said Forrester reluctantly. “But he was only acting under orders.”
“Then he too shall be of use to the Daleks,” said the creature ominously. Then it turned its attention to the others, Stillman held Jane closer to him. From what little he knew of these beings he knew that to expect mercy from them was fruitless. “The rest of you shall be processed into slave labour. We shall give you life, in return you shall serve the Daleks!”
With that it turned and left the bridge, two of its subordinates following closely behind. A fourth Dalek remained at the door, its gun stick trained on the dozen or so survivors. The air inside the ship was now bitterly cold and Stillman huddled closer to Jane under the sultry emergency lights.
“Well at least we’re alive to fight another day,” muttered Stillman, his breath forming pink clouds of mist. “That’s more than I could have hoped for.”
“But I don’t understand,” said Jane. “I thought the Daleks died out centuries ago?”
Forrester shuffled uncomfortably from one foot to the other. “It’s true that their home world was destroyed when their sun went nova.”
“Yes, I heard that as well,” said Stillman. “But there have been rumours for quite some time of pockets of them surviving in remote parts of the galaxy, hasn’t there Captain?”
“That is also true,” said Forrester carefully. “They’re have been rumours.”
“Why do I get the impression that you know more about this than you’re telling us?” asked Jane.
“Sh!” hissed the Captain. “Those things may not look very responsive but their hearing is highly sensitive. We better not talk of this now.”
“Then when will we?” asked Jane.
Forrester did not answer and at that point the main lights came back on accompanied by the noisy thrum of the engines starting.
“They’ve restored power,” said Stillman. Before he could speculate any further on this, the half-burnt Dalek returned to the bridge with Morrison in tow. There seemed to be something distinctly odd about the First Mate, his movements had a mechanical feel to them and his pale face was expressionless and blank. The burnt Dalek addressed him.
“You will navigate this ship to the co-ordinates we will give you.”
“I obey!” answered Morrison in the same chilling monotone. Without even glancing at his crewmates Morrison strode up to the helm and began programming in the navigation computer. As he went past Stillman caught sight of a strange metal box fixed to his neck.
“They’ve put a control device on him,” he whispered to Forrester.
The Captain nodded grimly. “Probably some kind of brain-wave modulator, we know the Daleks have had such technology for some time.”
“Then does that mean they’ve made him one of them?” asked Jane. “We will we all end up like that?”
“I don’t know,” sighed Forrester. “The Daleks are pretty selective about who they put under that kind of control, it’s too early to tell.”
For the next few hours Morrison steered the ship under directions from his Dalek handler. On the holo-display they could see the other Daleks accompanying the ship on their flying discs- it was evidently these that they’d heard landing on the ship’s outer hull earlier on.
Eventually they came to a massive potato shaped asteroid, some thirty-forty miles across. As they came closer they could see the flying discs disappear into a massive aperture in the side of the great rock. Their ship followed closely behind, coming to a stop in front of an immense metal wall.
“It’s like some kind of air-lock,” said Jane. Behind the ship gigantic rock walls closed up the aperture, sealing them off from space. An intense sense of gloom settled on everyone as they finally realised that there was no turning back. Slowly the metal wall began to lift up, revealing a well-lit cavern within.
“Follow the Dalek escorts to the main landing field,” barked the half-burnt Dalek to Morrison.
The Daleks had been busy it seemed, for the asteroid had been extensively hollowed out and pressurised with a breathable atmosphere. As the ship travelled through the vast inner chamber they could see many buildings and tiny ant like Daleks skimming around on their hoverbouts or supervising vast chain gangs of humanoid slaves as they dug further into the rock walls.
“I think I can guess what we’ll be doing,” said Stillman.
A massive plasma ball, trapped within a magnetic field, evidently a source of fusion power, illuminated the whole chamber. “They’ve built an artificial sun,” said Jane.
“Trans-solar patrol to New Skaro central,” rasped the burnt Dalek into the communicator. “We are bringing the intruders’ ship into land, prepare reception teams at the disembarkation point.”