UNDERWORLD OF THE DALEKS by Richard Dinnick
Illustrated by Adrian Salmon
Through the ruins of the forest stumbled the shell of a man. He was as pale as a shroud and wore bulky metallic components on his neck and head. His clothing was old and dusty as if he had been stored somewhere like an object. He lurched through the uprooted trees and broken root clusters, hitting a severed tree stump. He sprawled forward to tumble down a steep bank, before coming to halt in a jarring mound of limbs at the bottom.
When his eyes opened their gaze fell on a one-storey cabin, nestled within a line of living trees. The man’s scrambled brain recognised it, superimposing memories of early times, happier times. His mouth took the form of a smile, but it was a ghastly facsimile.
He rose and with the last vestiges of his strength, marched towards the house. Behind him he could hear whistles being blown, monotone shouting and the dreaded voice; the one that haunted his nightmares. The one he had heard before they had forced him into their machine and made him what he now was.
Only the door stood between him and his goal now. He smashed through it with his fists and barely noticed the startled look on the two occupants as he crashed to the floor.
They were both sitting at the kitchen table sipping weak broth from wooden bowls. One had greying hair and looked gaunt, the other was barely out of childhood but still looked as if he had lived many more than his sixteen years.
The older man jumped up from the table, his chair clattering to the floor.
“Giopé!” He rushed forward and cradled the unexpected arrival in his arms. “Giopé.”
The younger man hung back, uncertain of what to do.
“Rydicé, it’s your brother! Come!” The older man had tears in his eyes now.
“He’s a Roboman, dad.”
“No,” their father shook his head. “No. He came home. See? Robomen don’t do that.”
The man who had once been Giopé looked up at his father. He smiled his first real smile in a long time.
“Father,” he managed, barely a whisper.
“I’m here.” He squeezed his son’s hand. “You’re home.”
Giopé closed his eyes, a peaceful expression on his face at last. “Home.”
Suddenly, through the open door came the dreaded creature: a bronzed cone with a dome at the top and hemispheres on the skirt section. A single eye on a rod and two appendages at the mid section: a weapon and a manipulator arm.
It stopped and swivelled its eyestalk to examine the room, before returning to the father kneeling on the floor, cradling his elder son. It’s dome lights flashed as it spoke.
A hideous ray shot from the creature’s gun, bathing Giopé in a blue light so intense his skeleton was illuminated for a second. He threw his head back in a silent scream and was dead.
Rydicé cowered behind the table, but his father was enraged. He jumped up and shouted in the creature’s eyepiece.
“All you do is kill, but you’ll never know the love of a family.”
The creature pushed the distraught father up against the wall with its manipulator arm, the rubber sucker at the end jammed into the man’s throat.
“Da-leks-have-no-con-cept-of-FAM-I-LY.” It almost sang the last word.
“No,” the man managed to say. The Dalek released him and he moved away, holding his bruised throat.
Two Robomen came through the smashed door and stood, flanking the Dalek. One had flat brown hair and a scar on his cheek. The other was a woman, her hair cut short in a jagged style.
Fieus looked up at the Dalek now. His eyes red with sorrow and anger.
“I was a doctor. I look after the poor souls you have working on the excavation.”
“Doc-tor,” the Dalek said. It almost sounded like the creature did not like the word or even feared it somehow.
“Please, just leave us alone.” Fieus had taken a seat at the kitchen table now. He was broken.
Seeing his father could not bring himself to reply, Rydicé stepped forward.
The Dalek rotated slowly to face the boy.
There was a silence as the meaning of this statement sunk in.
Rydicé frowned. “Me?”
Again, Fieus flew from this chair. “NO!” he shouted, pounding uselessly at the Dalek with his fists.
The Roboman with the scar moved forward and restrained Fieus. The female one took Rydicé by the arm.
“You-are-val-uab-le. You-will-not-be-pun-ished. THIS-TIME,” the Dalek said. It turned and moved towards the door. “If-you-op-pose-the-Da-leks-a-gain-you-will-be-EX-TER-MIN-AT-ED!”
“Dad!” Rydicé cried. “Help me!”
Fieus strained, but the woman was strong beyond her natural ability. She stared at him, hollow-eyed.
“Do not resist,” she said in a flat monotone.
“I’ll come for you!” Fieus shouted after his son. “I’ll find you! I will save you!”
The Dalek paused in the doorway. “You-will-not-save-him. He-will-be-rob-o-tised.”
Then the Dalek left and the Roboman forced Fieus into a chair.
“Remain here,” she said.
Then she stalked away from him. But then she stopped. Fieus wondered if she, too, was about to break her programming.
“Dispose of this body,” she said. “You should burn it.”
Then she stepped through the door, leaving the house grey and silent.
As the detention group moved away from the cabin a single anguished cry pierced the still of the evening.
* * * * * * *
Discurus was a mining colony and given the planet’s distance from the war it had not been given a military escort when the settler ship had set out from Jahoo. So when the Daleks arrived, resistance – as the evil creatures had let it be known via telebroadcast – was futile.
There had been almost six thousand men, women and children on Discurus when the Daleks attacked. The town they had built over three years had been all but destroyed and the inhabitants taken away to the mine.
The conquest was an easy one for the Daleks but a puzzling one for the colonists. Why come here? At first they thought that it was for the naturally occurring plutonium the planet harboured.
Indeed, the Daleks had set their base at the mine works in the forested hills near Fieus and his wife’s home. But the Daleks were not mining.
The more intelligent inhabitants were turned into Robomen, the Daleks’ disposable guard dogs. The less intelligent, the older, the weaker and the younger were all taken and forced to work in the excavations.
Fieus escaped the initial roundups because his simple house was built half way between the town and the mine. He was one of only three broad-spectrum doctors on the colony world and served both the community and the mine. His wife, Nyad, had been killed in the first days and to save his sons, Fieus had agreed to help look after the slave work force.
Many called him a collaborator but he did not see it that way, there was nothing he could do to fight the Daleks. They had removed all technology on pain of death the moment they had secured the planet. There was no way of communicating with Jahoo – or anyone else for that matter.
So he chose to help in the only way he could: to ease the suffering of his fellow Jahooi. He used what medicine he had to give pain relief, mend broken bones, stitch wounds and even deliver a baby once. That had been the worst day since his wife died.
The Daleks had killed the child less than an hour after the birth. The mother had been forced to return to work an hour after that. Fieus had been called to her attempted suicide later that day. She had thrown herself down a shaft but it was not deep enough and she was still alive when Fieus got there. She had lost an arm in the fall and was conscious – in agony. He only had a very limited supply of the strongest, opiate-based painkiller. But he used it all on her. She was dead in less than a minute.
The Daleks let him live on in his wooden cabin looking after his two children. They had agreed not to make them work in the excavations. But when Giopé reached his “majority”, the Daleks had come for him. Unbeknownst to Fieus, they had already tested his son. He had passed the intelligence tests. He hadn’t told his father because he thought it meant something special and wanted to surprise him.
Two years passed. Fieus went to the camps every day. He was forced to gather whatever he could from the remnants of the forest – any native plant or fungus that had a medical property was used. It was primitive, but it meant he could still help his people.
By now the workforce was much reduced. There were less than a thousand. The excavations neared completion. Sometimes he had caught a glimpse of Giopé through the mesh fence. The man who had once been his son had been issued with a whip. He used it unsparingly to motivate or punish. Every time Fieus had seen it crack on the skin of the workers was an indelible mark on his heart.
It was while he was watching his son that Fieus had first noticed Sepho. She was well fed and clothed, moving among the workers: a smile here, a whisper there. He thought she was some kind of overseer at first. But that was the Robomen’s job. Then she’d seen her taking jewellery from a woman and giving her a bread roll in return.
She was the camp’s “fixer”: a collaborator and black marketeer. She was despised by all the workers despite being almost as vital to their wellbeing as Fieus was. He’d never met her because he had never needed to. Living outside the camp gave him and Rydicé a privileged life – food and shelter were not luxuries everyone could boast.
As he sat at the kitchen table with the twilight upon him, a chill draft coming through the broken door and no lanterns lit, Fieus knew he had one chance. He had a plan and he needed Sepho’s help. He looked across at his dead son. Yes, even Giopé would have a part to play.
* * * * * * *
By early morning, Fieus was ready. He left his home for the last time and, clutching his medical bag, made his way along the bottom of the steep bank to an area of the forest now known as the “mix”. It was called this because it had several purposes. It was a warehouse zone, where all the food, fresh water, clothing, digging equipment and building materials was stored. Those who worked in the warehouses also lived there – former technicians who now looked after the Dalek inventory.
And Sepho. She lived on the far side of the mix. Fieus had to cross the complex to reach it. At this time of the morning, though, the thoroughfares between the warehouses were deserted. It was so still and quiet, Fieus could even hear a checker bird cawing in the mist. It must have found some dead animal and was celebrating its feast of carrion.
He had never been to Sepho’s before but had always imagined she lived very well from the spoils of her activities. So it came as a shock to see that her “home” amounted to little more than an old tool shed, less then half the size of the cabin that Fieus owned, squat with a single door and a lone, high window running the length of the leeward side.
This narrow opening was curtained with hessian. Fieus could see a light illuminating the room within dimly, throwing strange shadows on the drape.
As he reached the narrow door, he paused to gather himself. He could hear Sepho moving around inside. This had to work. He knocked. The moving stopped.
“Who is it?” Her voice was soft, not how he had imagined. He thought he might even recognise it. But that was foolish. It was definitely tinged with fear, though. Like so much about Discurus now.
“Fieus Orr,’ he said. He kept his voice quiet but firm. “The camp’s doctor.”
“What do you want?” Sepho’s voice came closer.
“To talk,” Fieus said. “Can you open the door?”
There was a clunk as a heavy bolt was drawn back. Then another, and a third. A key was turned and Sepho opened the door just wide enough for Fieus to see her close up for the first time.
In the flesh, Fieus could see Sepho was only a few years younger than him. She was wearing an old, cream-coloured nightdress and her long brown hair was unkempt. It was clear she’d only just woken. She might have looked vulnerable except for the nasty-looking hunting knife she was also holding.
Sepho looked him up and down and her shoulders fell, visibly relaxing.
“Wait,” she said and closed the door. The key turned once more.
Fieus did as he was told, casting nervous glances around him as the mix began to come to life. He turned, nervous, as a generator started up somewhere nearby and the bare electrical bulbs started to flicker on the buildings they festooned. The mist was lifting slowly and Fieus now saw a handful of figures moving from their dormitory buildings to the cookhouse.
The click of the lock made Fieus turn back to the door as Sepho opened it. She was dressed now in a worn coverall. He stepped gratefully inside.
He had half expected the tiny shed to be a strange collection of food and tools that Sepho might sell or trade, but there was none of it. She must have a separate building for the storing of her illicit goods.
Instead, the room was like a traditional bedroom or living room. A small bed lined one wall: crisp white sheets, nice blankets and a quilted bedspread. Beside this was a small table with a 2D photo and a hurricane lamp, an old-fashioned book and mug.
Along the other wall was a line of high cupboards beneath which ran a crude dresser. A bowl of water, a camping stove and some expensive looking desk ornaments sat incongruously together.
Fieus put down the medical case.
“What’s in the bag?”
“Medical kit,” Fieus said. He didn’t want to tell her just yet.
“So?” Speho asked. She flopped into the only chair. “What can I do for the incorruptible Doctor Orr?”
Fieus smarted. She used the word “incorruptible” as if it were a slur. But he swallowed his angry reply. He needed her on side.
“I need your help.”
She laughed humourlessly. “I worked that out. I mean specifics.”
“I need to find out where the Daleks have taken my son.”
“What’d he do? Use the wrong fork at a Dalek dinner?”
“They took him for Robotisation.”
Sepho’s face changed. She actually looked concerned. “I’m sorry,” she said. “There’s no getting him back from that.”
“Do you have a plan of the Dalek mine?”
“Mine?” Sepho laughed. “You have kept yourself in your own little world, haven’t you? It’s not a mine! It’s a HADE.”
“What’s a hade?”
“H. A. D. E. Hidden Armoured Dalek Encampment. They’re not mining. They’re hiding!”
“I don’t understand.”
“It’s some strange thinking from their high-ups. Put an army into hiding. Freeze them somehow. Wait for the enemy to pass and then attack from the rear.”
Sepho stood up and moved to the stove. She took a pan down and lit the fire with a match. “You eaten?”
“How do you know this?”
Speho took two eggs from the cupboard.
“I get around.”
She beat the eggs together and then added some powder from a pot and some water from the bowl.
Fieus frowned. He was hungry. Perhaps he should eat. “Thank you,” he said.
Sepho nodded. “I haven’t got a map.”
Fieus bowed his head. He couldn’t do this without a map.
“But I know where the process room is.” She turned to face him, a lop-sided smile on her lips. “I could show you.”
“Really? That would be…”
“For a price.”
Fieus nodded. Of course. This was Sepho after all. He was prepared.
“I’ve got some family jewellery in the bag,” he said.
“That’ll do for the eggs,” Sepho replied over her shoulder. As if on cue, the eggs sizzled in the pan. “But I’m going to need something much more valuable than baubles for my personal assistance.”
“I don’t have anything else,” he said. “What about my home? The cabin. You can have that.”
Sepho served the eggs in wooden bowls and gave one to Fieus before sitting on the bed. “Sit,” she said. “I don’t want your cabin.”
Fieus sat. “What then?”
“Your help.” She forked some egg into her mouth.
“Mine? How can I help you?”
“OK,” she said through her mouthful. “No one else knows this, but it’s almost over. We’re all gong to get killed.”
“Final part of the Dalek plan. Robotise the young, strong, intelligent ones. Kill the rest. I’m afraid our generation don’t count as young.”
Fieus almost grinned. “I could have told you that!”
Sepho smiled at him. Her grey eyes twinkled momentarily and then became dead slate once more.
“The Daleks go into hibernation. The Robomen kill the rest of the Jahooi, destroy all the buildings, and then guard the HADE from anyone who comes sniffing. Eventually – I guess pretty soon – even the Robomen die. So no clue the Daleks were ever here…”
“When is this happening?”
“That’s’ the thing,” she said. “Tonight.”
Fieus looked down at his bowl. They would have to move fast if he was going to save Rydicé.
“That’s why I need your help. I was going to see you today. But you’ve saved me the trip. The med-centre. It’s right next to the Dalek hanger.”
“You’re going to steal a ship?” Fieus laughed.
“Don’t condescend to me, medicine man. You have no idea who I am.”
Fieus scoffed. “You’re Sepho. Everyone knows that.”
“They do. But they’re wrong. My real name is Tanis.”
“Tanis? The pilot?” Fieus knew the name well. On the voyage. On the colonly ship. She had given the daily updates. That’s why he recognised her voice. “But you’re a hero!”
“Huh. Not many people think that any more. They hate me. But I’m going to get out of here. I’m gonna to take as many as I can with me. You, too, if you make it.”
“How do you propose to get into the Dalek hangar?”
“I propose to sneak about. Like I always do. How do you propose to get in the process room?”
“My bag.” Fieus smiled.
Sepho knitted her brows. “Show me,” she said.
* * * * * * *
The main entrance was a fair walk from the mix. Carts were used to get the supplies between the two. But today there didn’t seem to be any carts going to the works. Probably because – if Sepho was right – the construction work was complete. So Fieus had to make the journey on foot.
Two Robomen were standing guard and a Dalek was gliding back and forth between where the two gates had been set in concrete pillars and the inner, electrified fence. Fieus wondered if the Dalek or the Robomen knew what had happened at the cabin. Did they have a news network? A briefing update? Would they be suspicious?
Trying not to show his nerves, Fieus approached the nearer of the two Roboman and had to put his medical bag down to fish out the plastic pass from his shabby, grey jumpsuit. The Roboman took the pass and put it through a laser scanner. The machine gave the same high-pitched tone of approval it had given every day since the Daleks had built the camp. Automatically, the zombie-like man with the metal collar and head device operated the gates.
Once inside, Fieus walked up the slope towards the second fence. He tried not to go too fast. He tried not to appear furtive. Yet the Dalek still approached him. Why? The Daleks never suspected him before. It stopped in front of him. Its blue iris focussing on his left hand.
“Halt!” the Dalek growled.
Fieus did as he was asked.
“It’s my medical bag,” Fieus said. “I’m a doctor. I tend to the workers.”
“I have a particular case that requires more heavy-duty surgical instruments than I normally use,” Fieus said. He didn’t smile. “I’m sure the worker can be returned to optimal fitness. I thought you wanted the workers fit?”
The Dalek’s eyestalk rose to look Fieus in the face.
“Really? It’s just…”
Fieus put the old leather bag down and opened the clasps along the top. He prised the two edges apart.
The Dalek rotated slightly and extended the sucker into the bag, all the while, scanning it with its unblinking eye. The creature withdrew its arm again, but this time it was holding something.
“This-is-a-ser-rated-weapon. Its-use-is-pro-hib-it-ed. Ex-plain!”
“It’s a surgical saw,” Fieus said calmly. “I may have to amputate the man’s arm. It’s not a weapon.”
“Its-use-is-pro-hib-it-ed!” The Dalek swung away from Fieus. “Ro-bo-man!”
The nearest Roboman came forward.
“Dis-pose-of-this-it-em!” The Dalek then swung back to Fieus. “Take-the-con-tain-er. Move. Move!”
Fieus picked up the bag and resealed the clasps. Then without looking at the Dalek, he moved to the second gate. He passed through the inner gates and walked briskly towards the med-centre. For once he did not have his head bowed. Instead he took in all that was going on.
Sure enough, the activity was all on the surface. Huge piles of topsoil that had been piled around the site for months now were being pushed into place, covering the concrete and steel Dalek encampment. Burying it like a coffin.
As Sepho had pointed out the med-centre was adjacent to the vast Dalek hanger. A small golden saucer ship took up most of the space. But beside it were assorted vehicles: a dozen smaller, silver shuttle saucers and a squadron of patrol ships that had three legs or prongs and mimicked the Dalek shape.
Naturally, this was one of the most heavily guarded sections of the HADE. The entrance itself was as wide as the town had been. Scores of Daleks patrolled this opening, backed up by a platoon of Robomen.
Fieus tried not to think about it and instead entered the med-centre. He greeted the administrator, Nekiyé, a half-deaf old woman and passed into his “surgery” – a white-washed room with a simple desk and chairs.
Now he just had to wait for Sepho’s signal. He couldn’t think of her as the pilot, Tanis. He could scarcely believe it. The idea that this might be an elaborate trap had crossed his mind, but he had no choice but to trust her.
He didn’t have to wait long. A worker dressed in the remnants of a drab olive suit burst into the reception area. He was thin and gaunt and out of breath. He quickly told Nekiyé that there had been an accident in one of the corridors. A blast door had crushed someone’s leg and Fieus was needed immediately.
The corridor was angled oddly, with its ceiling sloping up from right to left. Fieus had to stoop as he ran so as not to smash his head on the jutting metalwork. Some distance down one of the side corridors, Sepho was waiting for him. She was leaning against the wall, picking at her fingernails, nervous.
“Ow. My foot,” she said as Fieus approached. She gave a not altogether convincing smirk and beckoned him to follow her.
“Do you definitely know where the process room is?” Fieus asked.
“I get about,” she replied.
“That’s not a ‘yes’,” he said, catching her up.
She gave him a sideways glance. “Look, I know roughly where it is.”
“Roughly?” Fieus almost squeaked. “This is spectacularly dangerous as it is. We don’t want to be wandering about aimlessly. What are we going to do if we get lost? Ask a Dalek for direction?”
“We won’t be aimless. Trust me.”
Fieus decided that arguing was pointless and the pair fell silent. He just had to hope Sepho did know where she was going. Roughly. As they walked, the corridors echoed ominously with a far-off dripping or perhaps the whirring of a machine. Fieus felt a shiver up his back.
They reached a three-way junction and Sepho stopped. She looked worried.
“What is it?”
“This is as far as I’ve been,” she admitted. “I know the process room is down one of these corridors.”
They looked first one way and then the other. Both directions looked identical: they led away from the junction in straight lines for about 50 yards and then turned a corner, one to the right, one to the left.
Sepho bit her lip. “It’s guesswork, but I reckon… down here.”
She started to move but Fieus pulled her back, clamping his hand over her mouth and flattening them both against the wall. Sepho frowned and rolled her eyes. Fieus jerked his head to the left and took his hand away.
In the dull shine of the metallic walls, a figure was approaching. It wasn’t a Dalek, so it must be a Roboman. They were in luck. It passed by them and continued to the right, disappearing around the corner.
“Time for your fancy dress,” Sepho said.
Fieus put his bag down and opened it. The medical saw had worked well as a distraction. From within he took out a couple of metal implements. One was a Roboman neck brace and the other the control crown, both gleaned from Giopé’s corpse. Fieus put both in place and Sepho checked they were secure.
“Good to go, Robo-doc,” she said.
Fieus went to move but she stopped him.
“Hold on. Here.” She scraped some dirt from her coveralls and carefully dabbed it around his eyes. “Perfect!”
Fieus nodded, adopted a vacant look and started propelling Sepho down the corridor, gripping her arm. As they moved deeper into the HADE’s depths, they began to hear a strange, rhythmic double heartbeat. Fieus hoped that it was the Robotisation process.
The two intruders had almost caught up with the other Roboman, when he made another sudden turn and vanished from sight through a side door. Fieus and Sepho approached the curved opening with caution. The heartbeat was now very loud.
Through the arch they saw a multi-levelled control room. Several bronze Daleks attended to computer panels while Robomen stood guard at the entrances. The one they had followed walked up to a Dalek and handed over a report tablet.
Unlike the others it was completely black and very shiny, the lights from the ceiling and the machinery reflecting off its dome and skirt. This must be the encampment commandant. Fieus had heard about it but never seen it. The black Dalek took the tablet with its sucker arm, which pulsed as it manipulated the touchscreen.
“REPORT!” A much deeper voice boomed.
The black Dalek turned to face the Dalek that had spoken.
Sepho and Fieus stared as a much larger Dalek glided from its position above the control room. It left the dais and hovered in mid-air before descending to the floor of the chamber. It was bulkier and coloured blue; both its appendage and gun arm much larger then those of its black and bronze counterparts.
Fieus knew this was not the right place, but fear had nailed him to the spot. These strange, new Daleks held an almost hypnotic fascination and he couldn’t take his eyes from them.
“IMP-LE-MENT-the-fin-al-phase-of-the-Dalek-plan,” the Strategist Dalek boomed.
“I-o-bey,” the black Dalek turned and moved to a console. A screen lit up above it. “Ev-ac-u-at-ion of Rob-o-men will be-gin-in-600-rels.”
The numbers on the screen began to count down. A bronze Dalek intoned each one: “5-9-9-rels, 5-9-8-rels…”
“Re-peat-to-all-Rob-o-men: once-e-vac-u-a-tion-sig-nal-is-giv-en-all cor-ri-dor de-fen-ces-will-be-act-i-vat-ed.”
“An-y-de-vi-a-tion-from-e-vac-u-a-tion-will-re-sult-in-im-med-i-ate-EX-TER-MIN-AT-ION. No-one-must-re-turn-to-the-HADE. No-one. No-one!”
“We’ve got to get out of here!” Sepho whispered urgently. She moved back the way they came and Fieus, with a final glance at the Dalek command, followed her.
Sepho began to run the moment she was round the first corner. She stopped at the three-way junction.
“I’m going for the shuttle. Give me your pass!”
“What about Rydicé?”
Sepho gesticulated at the other corridor. “It must be that way!” She went to go and then turned back. “You know what that blue Dalek said? It means that once the signal is given you can only move in one direction: out of the base. Anyone who tries to double back will be killed.”
“Why would I want to double back?”
Sepho shook her head. “No idea,” she said. “Good luck!” And she ran off down the corridor.
Fieus took the passage they had yet to explore and quickly found himself at another archway. Inside was a large room with cells along one wall with clear plastic doors. In the centre of the room was an operating table and against the other wall was a line of cylindrical chambers with large, conical headsets. Within them stood three people, their faces covered by the devices. A gentle humming filled the air.
Without thinking, Fieus ran forward. “Rydicé!” he called, desperately trying to see if one of the Jahooi going through the Robotisation process was his son.
“Dad!” The shout came behind Fieus. He turned and saw his son pressed up against one of the plastic doors. There were other people also staring through the other doors. Fieus cast about for the control that might unlock the doors and found them on the far side of the last cell.
A dozen people came streaming out, men women and teenagers. Rydicé threw himself into his father’s arms. He was weeping. “You’re here,” he kept repeating.
“I promised you,” Fieus said. “I told you I’d save you.”
The gentle humming ended abruptly and Fieus broke off the embrace. Something had changed. The others had fled into the corridor, leaving Fieus and Rydicé alone.
“What’s wrong, dad?”
Before Fieus could answer, the conical headsets in the cylinders began to rise as one, revealing a line of newly created Robomen. Rydic’s eyes widened in horror as the line stepped forward in unison.
Fieus, who was still wearing Giopé’s Roboman headpiece grabbed Rydicé and began marching him away from the exit.
The other, real, Robomen did not question this and left the room via the arch.
‘Where are we going?” Rydicé asked.
“We can’t go back that way. They’ll kill us. Why would I be taking a prisoner away from the process room? We’ve got to find another way.”
The boy nodded and followed as his father began to explore the far end of the chamber. There was no other exit, but Fieus found an access panel in the wall and quickly removed it with the scalpel he was carrying in his pocket.
Just then, one of the Robomen returned and saw the man and his son.
“You are not a Roboman,” it said flatly. “Stand up.”
“Get in,” Fieus ordered his son, pointing at the access panel.
“Halt.” The undead creature now had a whip in his hand.
Fieus sprang across the room like a man twenty years his junior. He struggled with the Roboman, the scalpel still in his hand. The Roboman threw Fieus against the processing equipment and then cracked his whip, catching the man across the arm, wrapping itself around it. Fieus used this to yank the Roboman towards him. As the creature stumbled forward, it fell on to Fieus and then froze before slumping to the floor. The medic’s scalpel was protruding from its chest.
Without a second look, Fieus followed his son though the access hatch and pulled the panel roughly back into place. It would have to do.
The access space was narrow and it was difficult to manoeuvre. It was cold in there. very cold. This must be the cooling system for whatever refrigeration system the Daleks had.
When their progress was blocked by bulkier machinery, they had to clamber down a level to continue, but Fieus was confident they were heading away from the HADE’s centre now. It was also now much colder and Fieus could see his and his son’s breath blooming in the frigid air.
Rydicé found another access hatch and, having left the scalpel embedded in the Roboman, Fieus had to improvise a screwdriver from the machinery around him.
Less than a minute later they were out of the access space. But what they had entered was far worse. Sepho had said they were hiding an army down there. And she was right.
Fieus and his son were backed up against the perimeter wall of a storage bay the size of a forest. But it wasn’t trees that populated this woodland; it was Daleks. Row upon row of bronze Daleks: all in semi-hibernation. They were shifting from side to side on the floor like seaweed caught in a gentle current. Some of them were making murmuring sounds, although their dome lights were not flashing.
“Dreaming Daleks!” whispered Fieus, trying to stop his teeth from chattering and trying to make his son feel better. “I wonder what in the world Daleks dream about!”
“Us. Dead,” replied Rydicé. “You’ve led us into a death maze! How do we get out?”
Fieus patted his son’s shoulder. “I’ve got us this far. I’m not going to give up. Look!”
He pointed at a gap in the Dalek ranks. It was just wide enough for one Dalek. The gap extended for several rows and then it turned.
“Why are there spaces between them?” Rydicé asked.
“You’re right, Rydicé, “ Fieus said with a smile. “It is like a maze! I suppose they need room to manoeuvre or for one specific Dalek to leave its rank without disturbing the others.”
“You don’t actually know,” Rydicé said.
“No. But we don’t need to know why they do it. We just need to know where it goes!” Even in the middle of a slumbering Dalek army his son was being a teenager. “Come on!”
Fieus stepped away from the wall and started tiptoeing down the aisle between the metal creatures, shaking now from the cold. Rydicé followed, an anxious expression on his face. He was so busy looking at each and every Dalek he passed that he did not notice when his father stopped to get his bearings. He walked straight into him and knocked him against the nearest Dalek.
They both held their breath as the creature jolted into its neighbour. Then, slowly, the eyestalk on the second Dalek began to rise.
“Ext,” it said, with a dim glow to its lights. “Ex-ter…”
“Move!” Fieus began to run now, dragging his son by the hand. The aisles seemed to lead in all directions, but they were not irregular or designed to confuse like a maze would. Fieus could see the way out – a large door on the far side of the chamber. That would undoubtedly lead to a corridor that would lead to the outside world.
They ran together, father and son until they reached the door. The activity had made them warmer. Where they had been a few moments ago, several Daleks were now stirring. They could hear the monsters’ muted exclamations becoming louder with each second.
Fieus waved his hand in front of the control and the door rose with a slight grating sound. A nearby Dalek’s eyestalk began to glow with its characteristic blue light. Rydicé moved through and Fieus followed, closing the door behind him.
Then the alarm started sounding. Their 600 rels was up.
Now they were sprinting down the wide corridor, and ahead they could see a rectangle of fading daylight.
They reached the end and Fieus collapsed against a wall. Behind them the corridor was filling with Robomen. They were evacuating the HADE. And their orders were to kill all the surviving Jahooi.
To their left, Sepho had secured a shuttle and was waving to them, shouting. There were dead Robomen scattered across the ground, there had been a battle here. And now Sepho was a resistance leader, rallying her troops, saving their people.
Saving their people!
There would be those not in the camp. Those not on the shuttle. They would not be saved. Fieus turned back to see the Robomen closing on them from a distance.
“You have to go on,” Fieus said. “Her name is Sepho. She’s actually Pilot Tanis. Convince the people, Rydicé. She’s a good person. She’s going to get you out of here.”
“I don’t understand.”
“I’m so, so proud of you.” He kissed Rydicé on the forehead. “I love you. Too much. Now go!” He turned Rydicé around to face down the slope towards the shuttle. The boy looked back at his father with realisation spreading across his face. Sepho knew what was happening, too, and was running across the landing pad to grab Rydicé.
Fieus gave a salute to both of them, a smile to his son and then ducked back into the corridor, running towards the Robomen like a warrior of old: teeth bared, shrieking a guttural battle cry.
The Dalek’s automatic defences identified the nonconformity and were activated immediately. Across the HADE, all the auto-lasers started shooting indiscriminately, slicing down the Robomen until they had all fallen. It took less time than a checker bird takes to give its warbling cry.
Sepho bundled Rydicé into the shuttle and quickly took the controls, bringing the ship off the landing pad in a blast of exhaust fumes. There were no windows to see out of, just computer projections of their surrounding. Rydicé never saw his father again. But he did have the privilege of sending the distress signal to their home planet of Jahoo, telling them about the Dalek invasion and the bravery of his father.
As for Fieus, his dying thoughts were of Rydicé and Giopé, his wife Nyad and the knowledge that at least he had not failed all of them.
A message from me:
If you liked this missing tale from Myths & legends, you would probably enjoy the others that did make it into the collection – including another Dalek story as well as ones concerning Cybermen and Weeping Angels, Great Vampires and Sontarans!
You can find it in hardback or kindle format at Amazon. That, too, is also illustrated by the magnificent Adrian Salmon – to whom huge thanks go for allowing me to use his awesome artwork for this missing short story.