Chapter 3

Horror in the Catacombs

With a loud hiss of depressurisation, the panel of the casket holding the body of Arthur Stengos split open like metallic jaws. A cloud of icy steam billowed out into the eager faces of Natasha and Grigory. A couch-like shelf slid out. The moment of truth had come.

Grigory took a hand-scanner from his case and held it over the shrouded body. The scanner sounded a loud beep as it registered a humanoid form.

‘You're wrong - the body is here.’

‘Unwrap it!’ she ordered.

Grigory placed the scanner in his pocket, and pulled down the zip on the shroud. ‘Why do I allow myself to get involved in such lunatic schemes?’ he asked, rhetorically.

He pulled open the flaps of the shroud. Instead of the familiar face of her father, Natasha saw the crude form of a mannequin ‘staring’ back.

‘You see! They have taken him!’ she said, excitedly. She had been correct all the time. Tranquil Repose was a fraud.

The door at the end of the corridor burst open. Two guards advanced on them, weapons drawn. Behind them came two bearded men wearing Attendants uniforms.

‘Hold it!’ Takis commanded.

‘Run!’ shouted Natasha.

They dashed into an adjacent passageway.

Takis ordered the guards to fire but the targets had disappeared, and the shots ricocheted off the passage wall.

Natasha stopped running when she realised they weren't being followed. She back-tracked to the corner and looked around. The guards were moving slowly up the corridor. Taking careful aim with her gun, she fired a continuous burst at the guards, dropping both to the floor.

Takis picked up one of the fallen men's weapons, Lilt the other. Natasha ran off, with Grigory close at her heels. The corridor ended in a set of wooden doors. These were different to the ones they had encountered on the other levels. Without looking back, she flung the door open and they darted through...

Peri was tired. She was sure that this Tranquil Repose place didn't exist. But the Doctor simply told her to stop complaining and to keep up with him.

Eventually they came to the first sign of civilisation - a stone wall. The Doctor dashed forward like an excited school boy, and Peri reluctantly followed. She had hoped she could convince him to return to the TARDIS and materialise the ship inside the complex, but the Doctor simply ignored her.

They followed the wall for whole two sides - but couldn't find any sign of a door or entrance. It reminded Peri of a prison wall - with no way in or out. But the inmates at Tranquil Repose were hardly in a position to get out anyway, she realised.

‘This is ridiculous,’ said the Doctor angrily.

‘Still no door,’ cried Peri. ‘I told you we should have come by TARDIS.’

‘But there must be a door. No door - no letter-box; no letter-box - no mail.’

‘Your logic is impeccable,’ she agreed. They had walked all this way, and on finally finding the place, couldn't get in! ‘For one thing,’ she pointed out, ‘most of the people in there are dead.’

‘Resting in suspended animation,’ he corrected her. ‘Not dead. There is a difference.’

‘Maybe, but there's still no door.’

‘Oh, well,’ he sighed. ‘Only one thing left to do.’

Peri smiled. The Doctor was seeing reason after all. ‘Go back to the TARDIS!’

‘Certainly not. We go over the wall.’

‘You're joking?’ She had spent all morning wandering across a cold wet planet, and now the Doctor wanted to go climbing over walls!

‘Well, how do you think I feel? I'm a 900 year old Time Lord. There's not much dignity in scrambling over a wall like a small boy sneaking into an orchard on a scrumping spree!’

Peri could just imagine the Doctor as a youth running wild through an orchard eating fruit and being chased by an angry farmer. It might explain why he was so fat!

The Doctor stood with his back against the wall and cupped his hands to make a foot-hold. Peri realised that he was determined to get in, one way or another.

She placed her right foot into his hands and climbed up. The Doctor wobbled as he compensated for her weight.

‘I'll be lucky...’ he said through clenched teeth, ‘...if I can lift you... with the amount... you weigh...’

‘Oh, watch it, Porky!’ she snapped. He could hardly criticise, she thought. As she scrambled up onto his shoulders, her left foot slipped, striking him. With a final effort, she hauled herself onto the top of the wall.

‘Oh, no!’ came an anguished cry from the Doctor.

Peri looked down to see him massaging the place where she had hit him. Surely she hadn't kicked him that hard? Then it dawned on her what she had done.

‘I-I-I'm sorry,’ she stammered.

‘It's all right. Don't worry.’ He took off his cloak and tossed it up to her. She caught it and placed it on the wall. He hauled himself up and glared at her with his lips pouted.

‘I wouldn't have had it happen for the world,’ she said.

‘Forget it. I rarely use it.’ She handed him back his cloak, which he snatched from her hands.

‘But I know how fond of it you were.’

‘Just don't go on about it. I shall have to live without it.’ He took out his beloved pocket-watch. Opening the lid, he dumped the broken inner mechanism onto the wall, then returned the now-empty case to his hip-pocket.

‘I shall find you a new one.’

‘On Necros?’ he bellowed. That watch had been given to him by Abraham Lincoln in the April of 1865 during one of the Doctor's irregular visits to the United States. Abe told him that the play on at the Ford Theatre that evening was one not to be missed. He gave the Doctor the watch so he wouldn't be late. The Doctor graciously accepted the time piece but knew that he would be unable to attend the show. There was one particular performance that night he did not want to see...

‘It wouldn't have happened had we been able to find a door!’ Peri snapped, hoping to pass the blame onto him. The Doctor just glared at her again.

‘I'm sorry.’ She tried not to look into his eyes. She didn't want him to see that she was about to cry.

‘So am I,’ he replied. He jumped off the wall and landed safely on his feet. He strode off, leaving Peri stranded. She cursed under her breath, lowered herself over the side of the wall and dropped. As she hit the wet grass, her feet shot out from under her and she crashed to the ground, landing on her behind.

This just isn't my day, she sulked.

The passage they were in was not on her map. Natasha had no idea where they were. They had turned left at a T-junction and moved down this tunnel. It was lit with naked bulbs which implied that it was still in regular use. Although they had somehow managed to elude their pursuers, there was always the chance that someone could pass this way.

‘There's no way out of here.’ Grigory pointed at the closed wooden door at the end. ‘That way must only lead further underground.’

‘You should have studied your maps more closely,’ scolded Natasha.

‘I stayed up all night studying them,’ he shouted. ‘The lack of alternative exits depresses me no end.’ Actually, he had spent all night in a drunken stupor. The prospect of this suicide mission put the fear of death into him.

‘Well if you'd studied it with a clearer mind, then you would have noticed that there are service lifts on every level.’ But she herself was not exactly certain that they would find a way out. There was no sign of a service lift down here.

‘Are there, now?’ he said sarcastically.

‘Come on.’ They backtracked the way they had come. Back at the T-junction, Natasha glanced at the map again in the hope that she would get some idea of where they were going. It was hopeless. Under her breath she ‘eenie meenie miny moe'd’ and selected the right-hand passage.

This one was much narrower than the main corridor. Inset into the walls were small statuettes and decorated pots. Grigory studied one of the pots, and realised it was a crematorium urn containing the ashes of a long-dead colonist. They were in the old mausoleum. I don't believe in ghosts, he assured himself.

A noise came from up ahead. Had the guards found them? Gun at the ready, Natasha peered into the darkness. She could make out a squat white shape slowly moving closer. She grabbed Grigory and pulled him into a shadowy recess in the wall. As the shape glided beneath a light, Natasha recognised what it was - a Dalek.

Natasha and Grigory both held their breath. Behind the Dalek were two guards carrying a stretcher. The body on it was covered by a cloth. Natasha noticed that the cloth was stained in blood where the head was. But then she realised that there was no head.

The silent procession passed by and disappeared into the darkness. Natasha breathed a sigh of relief and emerged from their place of hiding. She waved Grigory on with a flick of her gun. They continued along the passageway in the direction that the Dalek had come from but the passage only went on for a few more feet. There was a solid wooden door.

‘We could try another level,’ suggested Grigory.

‘There's no time. I must contact the others.’ The members of their group would be excited by the news she had for them. Natasha took out a small transmitter and extended the aerial. As she leaned against the door it opened inwards.

An eerie red glow pulsed from the room beyond. The rhythmic throb of machinery could be heard. Cautiously, they entered. As they crossed the threshold, they failed to notice that they had broken an invisible beam. A camera mounted above the door activated and followed their movements...

(From his laboratory, Davros watched. ‘Inform Takis,’ he ordered. A Dalek glided out.)

Computer consoles lined the walls. Pipes and tubes criss-crossed over head. Set between four stone pillars that supported the ceiling was a large tank. It was from here that the red glow and the rhythmic pulse came.

Grigory peered into the tank. He nearly choked when he saw the contents of the tank, four brains floating in a chemical solution. ‘Reminds me of when I was at medical school.’

‘It's gruesome.’ She felt a sudden chill. ‘Are they human brains?’

‘Yes,’ he gulped. Although he was a trained surgeon, the sight of these bodiless brains made him want to be sick. One of the brains twitched, and the heartbeat-like pulse flickering in sympathy.

Natasha closed her eyes and turned away. She didn't like this place at all. She put the gun she had been clenching on top of a nearby console and turned on the transmitter. There was no response to her signal other than a burst of static. She repeated the call-sign but still there was no reply. Somehow the room was shielding the transmissions.

‘You don't think that thing will work down here, do you?’ Grigory called from the other side of the room. A group of surgical tables near the tank had caught his attention. One of the tables was soaked in blood. The body they had seen being carried had no doubt been operated on here.

‘I must make contact with the others,’ she informed. The evidence they had uncovered was enough to ensure the closure of Tranquil Repose.

‘We aren't going to get out of here alive, are we?’

‘I don't know,’ she replied. She was just as unsure.

Grigory swallowed hard. ‘I have this terrible fear that I would die begging for mercy.’

‘Pride isn't important at the moment of death,’ she said. The transmitter was still silent. Cursing, she switched it off and secured it onto her belt.

‘It is to me!’ he confessed. ‘They won't torture us, will they?’

‘You're becoming morbid.’ She wished he would stop talking about dying. They hadn't been caught yet. ‘No one even knows we're down here.’

‘Instant death doesn't worry me,’ he continued, ignoring her. ‘It's the long lingering kind that I'm worried about.’ He walked back to the tank and studied the brains. ‘You forget - I'm a doctor. When they slice me open, I'll know the name and function of each organ as it flops out.’

‘At least you won't die in ignorance then,’ she snapped. She was beginning to regret that she had brought him with her.

A white light flashed from behind a pillar. Grigory slowly stepped towards it. Behind the wide pillar was a low platform. The sight of the brains was bad enough, but he was not prepared for the sight of the thing on the platform. A shiver went up his spine and the hairs on the back of his neck stood on end.

On the dais was a Dalek. But this was like no other Dalek he had seen before. This one was completely transparent as if made from glass. But it wasn't the Dalek casing that had made Grigory shiver; it was the thing that was inside it. ‘You're right,’ he gulped. ‘This place is gruesome.’

Natasha joined him. Her mouth suddenly went dry as she looked upon the horror before them. Visible within the neck-section of the glass Dalek was a human head. Part of the right side of the face was missing, and in its place was a thin metallic membrane. The left side was whole but wires, and tubes containing coloured liquids, were imbedded in the flesh. The left eye, the only eye, was closed. The top of the skull had been removed, and the brain exposed. Further wires and tubes ran into the throbbing mass.

‘It's a complete head,’ Grigory breathed in awe. The body they had seen being carried out earlier was no doubt the remaining piece of the same person.

As they watched, the solitary eye sprang open. The blood-red pupil gazed back at them, unblinking. The lip-less mouth opened. Instead of teeth there were thin fang-like strips of metal. Natasha frowned. There was something oddly familiar about the face.

A strained voice croaked from the monstrosity. ‘Natasha?’

Grigory looked at his companion. ‘It knows you.’

Natasha's jaw dropped. ‘It's my father!’

‘Now listen guys. I don't want to alarm you, but there's something pretty weird going on down here.’ The DJ had been watching developments concerning the two intruders, and was bringing his listeners up to date.

‘As you know, we have snatchers in the complex. But it gets even creepier. The word is that the snatchers have been out-snatched! So if any of you guys remember, lock yourselves in your caskets and snap down those bolts. Other-wise you could find yourselves on the outside looking who-knows-where...’

Davros switched off the DJ's channel. ‘Suddenly everyone sees and knows too much!’ he screamed. The female intruder had said that Stengos was her father. Her discovery of his remains within the Dalek could jeopardise Davros's plans; not only had she discovered Tranquil Repose's terrible secret, she had also prematurely started part of the trap that had been set for the Doctor.

Davros reactivated the camera in the incubation room, and resumed his study of the two intruders...

Arthur Stengos was trying his best to fight the conditioning implanted into his brain. The sight of his daughter had brought only temporary relief. The new programming in his mind was much stronger and harder to resist.

Natasha and Grigory listened in horror at the terrifying story told to them by her father. ‘My mind has been conditioned to serve a new master,’ he explained.

‘So you keep saying. But who is this person?’ she pleaded. Her father had great difficulty speaking. His words were incoherent and slurred.

‘I-I-I can't remember.’

‘Why not?’ she demanded. ‘You remembered who I am!’

The voice was beginning to show strain. ‘You are my daughter, Natasha. How could I forget that?’ The single eye never blinked. It seemed to bore right into her. The eye drifted slowly and focused on Grigory.

‘Who is this with you?’

‘A friend,’ she replied. ‘Why have they done this to you?’

‘I am to become a Dalek.’

Natasha felt her heart miss a beat. A Dalek? But how? What did this mean? Was this the terrible secret behind Tranquil Repose? She needed to know more.

‘We are all to become Daleks,’ he continued. ‘We are to serve-a-new-order.’ The voice began to lose its human characteristics and the mechanical tones of a Dalek broke through. The poison within him was taking control. ‘We-are-to-become-the-supreme-beings.’

The eye blinked for the first time. Stengos was fighting for control. Once more she heard the familiar sounds of her father's voice, pleading: ‘Help me, Natasha!’

‘What can I do?’

‘We must-multiply.’ Stengos was losing again. ‘The-seeds-of-the-Daleks-must-be-supreme. We-must-conquer-and-destroy-all-those-who-resist-the-power-of-the-Daleks!’

Arthur Stengos, professor of agronomy, was dying. The Dalek programming ate into his subconscious. There was only one way out.

Kill me, child!’

‘No! I can't,’ cried Natasha.

‘It-is-your-duty-to-eradicate-all-those-who-wish-to-pollute-the-purity-of-the-Dalek-race.’ Stengos's own voice returned. ‘If you love me child, kill me!’

Natasha froze with indecision. She loved her father, and to kill him would be murder. But the thing inside the glass Dalek was no longer her father, and had to be destroyed.

‘Let me do it,’ offered Grigory.

‘NO!’ she screamed.

The Daleks had won. Stengos was dead. ‘It-is-my-destiny-that-the-Daleks-are-supreme-in-all-things.’

Natasha channelled all her fear and hatred, raised her weapon and fired. The casing cracked as the laser ripped into it. Liquid nutrients poured from the holes. The head gave a final terrifying yell as the life-blood gushed from it. The shell finally ruptured and collapsed. Electric cables and circuits shorted and there was an explosion from within. The head burst into flames and rolled away into a corner and melted.

‘I've got to get out of here!’ cried Natasha, holding her hand to her mouth to stop herself from retching. She ran to the door, and flung it open.

As they stepped outside, they found themselves surrounded. The two bearded men had found them, and had brought reinforcements.

‘Going somewhere?’ sneered Takis.

Lilt stepped forward and took Natasha's gun. He viciously punched her in the stomach. She dropped to her knees in pain.

‘Hey,’ protested Grigory, and received a similar blow from Lilt for his efforts.

Lilt grabbed Natasha's hair and pulled her to her feet. He thrust a dagger under her nose.

‘Enough!’ shouted Takis.

‘But what about those that she's killed?’ Lilt was disappointed. ‘I must mark her!’ He pushed the dagger hard against her cheek, drawing blood.

‘I said enough!’ Takis gestured to the guards. ‘Take them!’ The guards grabbed the prisoners and pulled them across the floor...

The Doctor and Peri had finally reached the main path to Tranquil Repose, much to Peri's relief. Although they were still some distance away, the giant pyramids impressed her. She had always wanted to visit Egypt, and this was probably the closest she would get to the real thing.

‘Tranquil Repose!’ announced the Doctor, with a sweep of his hand.

‘Doesn't sound very alien,’ Peri said, somewhat disappointed.

The Doctor glared at her. ‘Well, what did you expect?’

‘I don't know,’ she shrugged. ‘Something a bit more mysterious.’ She looked at the buildings that rose before them. As well as the imposing pyramids, there was a scattering of smaller buildings. The pathway they were on was lined with impressive statues and sculptures. In fact, the whole thing looked very ordinary.

‘Humpf. Tranquil Repose,’ she mumbled. ‘It's the sort of name we'd come up with in the States.’

The Doctor shook his head in disbelief. ‘America doesn't have the monopoly in bad taste, you know,’ he said, adjusting his blue and white polka-dotted tie.

‘I know that. It's just the way you talked about your friend. I didn't expect to find him in a place with such a tacky name.’

‘Yes, to be perfectly honest, neither did I.’ The Doctor stopped, deep in thought. ‘Arthur Stengos was not the type to artificially extend his life and to hang around in the vain hope that someone might come up with the cure for the organic breakdown of his body. No, it's not like him at all.’

The Doctor's mind wandered back to when he first met Arthur. The TARDIS had brought him, Jamie and Zoe to the planet Clion - one of the Pherran colonies. The colonists were on the verge of starvation. Arthur had been experimenting with extracting root fungus from dead trees as a food substitute. The Doctor had been very impressed with Arthur's success and provided some help.

One night, the Doctor and Arthur sat down to a serious game of chess, accompanied by a large bottle of voxnix. Over the course of the game, they discussed a wide variety of topics such as nuclear physics, interstellar travel, the hunting of speelsnape and the potency of various beverages. Eventually the conversation became more incomprehensible, with the breeding of Venusian shanghauls with perigosto-sticks, the delights of eating hangorn mudworms (especially when they don't stick to your teeth), and the viability of counting to one hundred while being swallowed by a voltrox being debated. When the Doctor, in all seriousness, confessed to Arthur that he was a time traveller, Arthur, who found the idea so ludicrous, laughed so much he fell off his chair! The following morning, Jamie and Zoe found Arthur, still lying where he had fallen, unconscious. As for the Doctor, there was no sign. They later found him perched in a fig tree, waving a trowel about and babbling something about being attacked by a marauding Krynoid...

When it came time for them to leave a few days later (once the Doctor had recovered!), Arthur presented the Doctor with his valuable Thesaurian chess set as a keep-sake.

For the Doctor, all that happened four regenerations ago, and he had all but forgotten about Arthur. It was soon after H. G. Wells had been safely returned to Scotland, following their adventure on the planet Karfel, that the Doctor found the chess set buried at the bottom of an old trunk that Peri had dragged out from one of the TARDIS's many empty rooms.

The Doctor suddenly decided he wanted to pay Arthur and his charming daughter Natasha a visit. Peri was somewhat annoyed because this meant the postponement (once again!) of their holiday on Andromeda Seven.

On arriving on Clion, the Doctor had been surprised to find the Stengos house empty. He was even more surprised to learn of Arthur's mysterious ailment and sudden internment at Tranquil Repose. Without as much as a word, he had dragged Peri back to the TARDIS and set course for Necros. Peri was furious because he refused to confide in her. This was the first time since they landed on this crummy planet that the Doctor had spoken at length about Arthur and his reasons for coming to Necros.

‘Why didn't you tell me before?’ asked Peri.

The Doctor snapped out of his day-dream.

‘I knew there must have been a reason why we arrived in the middle of nowhere,’ she sighed.

‘Simply being cautious. Or would you rather I'd burdened you with what might have been a piece of paranoid speculation on my part?’

‘But it wasn't.’

‘We know that now. But when I first heard the news of Stengos's death, I couldn't be certain.’

‘Shouldn't we go back to the TARDIS? I'd feel safer if we did.’

The Doctor stopped walking. ‘No! The TARDIS is bound to attract attention. I want to slip in unnoticed.’

Unfortunately the Doctor's hopes for an unannounced arrival were not going according to plan. They had been noticed - and had been kept under surveillance ever since they landed. Davros watched his scanners with glee, his body shaking with laughter. If only the Doctor knew that he was walking straight into a trap!

Ever since he came to Necros, Davros had had plans for the meddlesome Time Lord. He familiarised himself with all the members of the scientific community in the Pherra system because he wanted to know the names of those who could be potential allies to his cause - as well as learn the identities of those who could prove to be a liability.

One scientist remained neutral - Professor Arthur Stengos. His paper on fungoid extractions interested Davros, as it followed a similar principal to the protein extract that Davros himself had developed. Davros wanted to meet Stengos.

The little scientist proved a very talkative fellow. Davros listened with great attention to his story of a stranger who claimed to be a time-traveller. When Stengos confirmed that the stranger was called the Doctor, Davros knew he had the answer. Not only did Stengos's neutrality make him ideal for genetic experimentation, he was also the perfect bait to lure the Doctor.

Davros arranged for Stengos to be infected with a special bacteria (one that had been useful during the war with the Thals on Skaro), and then made the mysterious offer to pay for Arthur's internment at Tranquil Repose. News of Arthur's death would soon spread.

Davros knew how the Doctor's mind worked. Sure enough, the Time Lord had come to pay his final respects. Davros laughed. The day of reckoning was at hand...

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