7: The Hunted

As soon as Turlough materialised in the empty white chamber, he realised that he had accidentally stumbled into the time corridor. One of the four blank walls slid upwards, and he stepped cautiously out into a larger area connecting several corridors.

After finding each of the corridors deserted, he concluded that his best course of action was to try to return using the time corridor. It was then that he realised that the shutter had slid shut, cutting off his escape route.

Fighting back a rising feeling of panic, he spied a small raised dome on the wall beside the shutter. Dotted across the hemisphere were a number of recessed buttons, but the controls stubbornly refused to respond to his touch.

‘Oh no, I'm a fool!’ Turlough muttered despairingly, and reluctantly set off down a corridor in search of an alternative means of escape.

Four figures wearing face masks moved quietly and hesitantly in single file along a dimly lit narrow passageway.

Their leader reached the end of the passage, and peered warily out into the wider connecting corridor, his hand laser at the ready.

‘Where precisely are we going?’ an angry voice demanded in his ear.

Mercer flinched, and turned on Styles, who had pulled up her face mask and was wiping her perspiring brow.

‘Keep your mask down,’ Mercer hissed. ‘There could still be gas around.’

‘So what?’ Styles sneered contemptuously. ‘I'd rather die quickly than painfully of dehydration!’ She pushed past him and out into the wider passage. ‘How much longer are we going to wander around this maze?’ she demanded loudly.

Mercer didn't reply immediately. By the faint glow of the few emergency lights still functioning, Styles saw him very hesitantly unclip and raise his mask. He followed her out into the passage. ‘Look,’ he said, quietly yet forcibly. ‘As far as we know there are only the four of us still alive. We can't fight the Daleks alone.’ When Styles didn't immediately reply to this he walked a short way down the passage, trying to see further into the gloom.

‘Only minutes ago you were prepared to fight to the bitter end,’ Styles replied mockingly, as she, Zena and Doran followed him.

‘And look where it got me - a dead crew,’ retorted Mercer disgustedly.

Styles ran up to him and grabbed his forearm. ‘Then don't let it be for nothing,’ she pleaded, staring him in the face.

Mercer studied the desperation in her eyes. She appeared to be sincere. ‘What can we do?’ he inquired cautiously.

‘Have you forgotten?’ she asked. ‘This station has a self-destruct system.’

Mercer stared. Had the woman gone completely insane? ‘Operate it? That would be suicide,’ he protested, appealing to Zena and Doran for any show of support to his objection, but the terrified expressions behind their face masks told Mercer nothing.

Styles shrugged, and relaxed her grip on his arm. ‘Do you honestly think we stand any chance of getting off this station alive?’ she asked quietly.

Mercer opened his mouth to argue, and saw in that instant that she was right. What chance did they have?

Absolutely none at all.

Turlough crept with considerable trepidation along a corridor. Arriving at a door in a recessed alcove, he attempted to operate the opening mechanism, a duplicate of the one he had tried before.

Stealing a glance down the corridor, he saw to his horror a pair of Daleks approaching. Turning his attention back to the door he caught sight of a glowing blue square on the opposite side of the doorway. Pressing his hand against it, he then breathed a sigh of relief as the door slid open.

Turlough stumbled through the opening and immediately tried to halt the automatically closing door, but was forced to snatch his fingers away moments before they were crushed in the narrowing gap. Just before it slid shut, he caught a glimpse of the Daleks gliding past in the corridor outside. For a moment he stood still, but the door remained shut and Turlough turned to survey his bolt-hole.

Crumpled on the floor were the badly-scarred bodies of the two men who had succumbed to the gas in the space station airlock. Turlough gagged as a sudden wave of nausea hit him, and he grabbed for his hankerchief and pressed it to his nose and mouth to stifle the sickly sweet smell that pervaded the room.

Gingerly, he stepped over the decaying corpses, trying to avoid catching sight of their horribly disfigured features, and worked desperately at the opening mechanism of the door on the opposite side of the small chamber.

The door slid open, and Turlough staggered through as soon as the gap was wide enough to admit him. He stood on the other side coughing into his handkerchief until the horrific sight and smell was cut off.

Once the door was sealed, Turlough quickly recovered, and looked around. He was in a large chamber lined with opaque cubicles, within some of which could be seen the dark shapes of recumbent humanoid bodies.

The centre of the chamber was dominated by a padded bed with a number of controls mounted at one end. Turlough fingered some heavy straps dangling from the side of the couch, and tried to guess at the purpose of the room.

Moving away from this apparatus, he approached one wall of cubicles and put his face up close to one of the frosted panes, trying to make out the features of the figure within, but without success.

What Turlough didn't notice was a camera eye mounted high up in the opposite wall, watching his every move...

On the bridge of the Dalek battle cruiser, the Dalek Supreme observed Turlough on the scanner screen. It analysed the possible options relating to the unexplained presence of the intruder, and concluded, ‘He is a companion of the Doctor.’

‘He should be destroyed,’ the Coordinator replied.

‘He would be far better used as bait,’ replied the Supreme, recalling Spiridon once more. ‘The Doctor is sentimental and emotional. He will come after the boy. This will aid the Dalek plan.’ The Supreme opened a link with the Dalek communications net on a general broadcast level. ‘Allow the boy to roam freely,’ it commanded, transmitting a visual recognition pattern of Turlough from the scanner image. ‘He is only to be exterminated should he endanger our cause.’

‘I obey,’ came back a chorus of computerised signals from every Dalek unit.

Mercer, Styles, Doran and Zena were moving quickly and silently back towards the occupied areas of the station. Their masks were back in place, their wearers mindful of the possibility of gas still lingering closer to the battle areas.

Eventually Mercer signalled a halt near the end of yet another passage. He carefully lifted his mask and tentatively sniffed the air. After listening intently for a few seconds, he spoke. ‘We'll rest for a moment,’ he announced to the group, and then turned to Styles. ‘How much further?’ he inquired.

Styles looked around, getting her bearings in the murky half-light. In the two years the station had been her home she'd gotten to know every section, but under stress it was sometimes difficult to be sure of even the most familiar things. ‘Not far,’ she replied, and raised her mask. ‘Don't you crave for silly things?’ she gasped, mopping her brow. ‘I'd give anything for a glass of clear mountain water.’

‘Quiet!’ Mercer hissed urgently, and gestured to the group to duck beside the wall. ‘Down!’

Powerful torch beams played across the end of the darkened corridor and the clatter of heavy boots on the floor panels could be heard growing louder.

Mercer tensed, brandishing his small hand laser. He noticed that the power charge level was dangerously low, and motioned his trio of companions to ready their weapons.

A squad of five troopers appeared at the junction.

‘Fire!’ yelled Mercer.

Fortunately for Mercer and his group, the troopers were no longer expecting to find survivors and their blasters were not at the ready. All five were quickly and efficiently killed with a few short laser blasts from the station crew survivors.

Mercer made to rise and felt a cautioning hand on his shoulder. ‘Careful,’ Styles advised.

He went over and exchanged his depleted hand laser for one of the much larger and more powerful Dalek-built blasters. As he surveyed the bodies a thought occurred to him. Disguised as the enemy they might gain an advantage. ‘Uniforms!’ he ordered, and they set to the unpleasant task of stripping the corpses of their battledress.

Turlough had been hiding in the chamber with the strange opaque cubicles for so long that he had begun to lose track of time. A sudden buzzing noise startled him, and he whirled around to see that several of the wall panels were sliding back. The bodies behind them started to stir...

At that moment, Turlough lost his nerve, and ran for the exit. The door opened automatically on his approach. Once outside, he darted down the passage, and peered around the end of it to find, to his relief, that he was back in the time corridor terminal reception area. He was about to venture out into the open when he caught sight of something approaching from another direction, and flattened himself back against the wall of the corridor.

Three Daleks glided into the chamber. ‘Activate the exit to the time corridor,’ one of them instructed.

‘We obey!’ chorused its companions, and they began manipulating controls on the walls either side of the shuttered corridor entrance. The heavy shutter slid up and the malevolent trio moved inside the terminal area.

Once the shutter had slid back down, Turlough moved carefully out from hiding and saw four men in the uniforms of Twentieth Century Earth soldiers approaching along the corridor. He was about to call out to them, when he noticed their zombie-like expressions and the Dalek escorting them.

Turlough dashed across the reception area and hid in the approach of another corridor as the soldiers were shepherded in to the chamber. The shutter door opened once more, and the party trooped into the time corridor chamber. The Dalek operated the control on the wall, and the shutter came down.

The Dalek paused by the shutter for a few moments, and then the shutter raised once more to reveal not only the three returning Daleks who had departed earlier, but also, to Turlough's surprise, the bodies of the soldiers crumpled on the floor. Men in black uniforms appeared and began removing the corpses, and the Dalek who had been waiting outside the time corridor terminal now moved off in the direction of Turlough's hiding place. Frantically, Turlough ran off down the passage away from the reception area. The Dalek followed at an even distance.

After running blindly for a short distance through a maze of featureless gleaming white passages, Turlough found himself entering an area that was altogether quite different.

The chamber ahead of him was darkened, with grey walls of a radically different design and signs of a recent battle littered the floor. Two severely damaged Daleks stood motionless just inside the darkened chamber.

Turlough glanced back, unsure of whether to venture further, and saw that the Dalek that had forced him to flee the reception area was coming his way. He darted forward and crouched behind one of the two dead Daleks.

The Dalek glided close by him and through the chamber, which Turlough now noticed from printed lettering on the far wall was called ‘Airlock Three'. From this he deduced correctly that the Dalek ship had locked on to another craft at this point. It was clear that the Daleks were now in control of both vessels.

Turlough watched as a couple of troopers walked into the airlock from the Dalek ship and silently wheeled away one of the shattered Dalek casings. Realising that the pair were likely to return any moment for the second casing, behind which he was hiding, Turlough reluctantly broke cover and dashed towards a corridor entrance leading into the depths of the darkened space station.

It pained him to be moving further away from the time corridor terminal, which was of course his only link back to the Doctor and the TARDIS, but at least the cover of darkness on this other ship offered him a greater chance of survival.

Turlough edged cautiously down darkened passage, his eyes and ears straining to detect any sign of life before it detected him. A long period of relative safety made him slightly less cautious, and he moved ahead more quickly. Turning a corner, he ran straight into a trio of troopers from the Dalek ship, their guns raised.

A fourth trooper emerged behind him and put his arm around Turlough's throat, forcing his head back painfully.

‘Kill him,’ he ordered.

‘Wait!’ snapped one of the three. Turlough was surprised to hear a woman's voice when all of the Dalek troopers he previously sighted had been men. Peering closer, he noticed that one of the other figures in trooper uniform was also female.

The first woman spoke again. ‘At least question him first.’

Mercer pinned the terrified Turlough up against a wall. Styles looked on while Doran and Zena kept watch.

‘Where have the Daleks concentrated their main force?’ snapped Mercer.

‘I don't know!’ insisted Turlough, desperately trying to convince his interrogator of his innocence.

Mercer wasn't convinced. Without warning, he hit Turlough hard in the stomach with the butt of his gun, and Turlough doubled up in pain.

‘Don't do that!’ objected Styles.

‘Hide your eyes if it offends you,’ Mercer suggested callously.

‘Even a thickhead like you must realise he doesn't know anything,’ she retorted.

Mercer glanced sceptically at Turlough, who was still clutching at his abdomen. ‘He's not a member of the crew; he must be with the Daleks.’

‘I told you,’ Turlough gasped. ‘I'm from Earth.’

‘Then how did you get here?’ Mercer challenged.

‘The Daleks' time corridor,’ Turlough insisted.

Mercer turned to Styles. ‘You believe that?’ he inquired sceptically.

Styles was more open-minded. ‘Why not?’ she asked. ‘We know the Daleks are capable of time travel.’

There was a stony silence. ‘So you're letting him go?’ Mercer asked at last.

‘No,’ replied Styles, ‘but we're not going to wait here for the Daleks to find us either.’ She took Turlough's arm. ‘Let's go!’

Prologue | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | Epilogue