They descended a staircase, the mysterious sunglassed man and Monway taking the lead, with Isabel and Matt tagging along behind. ‘I never thought this was a short cut,’ Monway told the man. The latter replied simply, ‘It is.’
Monway sighed exasperatedly, knowing that he was going to get no more information out of the man.
In the next few minutes the four people made good time, traversing at least four long staircases in under one minute. Monway made a quick map of the Supreme Court in his head, and realised that they were right at the bottom of the building now — below ground! This wasn’t a short cut!
The lawyer ground to a halt. ‘How come this is a short cut? It would have taken a few minutes to get out the normal way. This journey has lasted ten.’
The man smiled. ‘The room you are about to enter connects to a nexus of underground tunnels, running right below the city of Viros. From this network the journey from the Court to your home will take less than half the time it would usually.’
Monway had never heard of this underground network, and said so. But again, the man only replied, ‘There is one.’
At last the group halted at a pair of automatic doors. Their sunglassed guide held out an arm to Monway, inviting him in. ‘You first,’ he proclaimed.
‘Why do we have to go one at a time?’ Isabel enquired, craning her head forward to try and peer through the crack between sides of the automatic door.
‘The exit at the end of the room is very narrow and only one can pass through at a time. Also the security system gets agitated when more than one person enters,’ the man replied, cleverly. However this response made Monway decide. This man was not an official and he was leading them nowhere.
‘You might as well tell me,’ Monway said simply, without doubt. ‘Who are you?’
This time, the man didn’t even make an attempt to reply, just smiled and said, ‘Enter.’
Monway walked forward, hesitantly, and the doors slid open. As soon as he was inside the automatic doors slammed behind him, and locked.
The man in the sunglasses smiled to himself.
Monway marched forward. The first thing he noticed about the room was that the exit at the far end was wide, wide enough for at least five people to walk abreast. The man had been lying. He had another motivation for making the trio enter one by one.
The second thing Monway saw was that it was circular, and at the very centre of the circle stood a machine. It was glazed white, smooth and modern, stark against the dull grey polished walls. The device was a large sphere around two metres in diameter, with the word ‘STRAND’ printed in large bold capital letters upon its surface. The sphere was set into a circular platform or pedestal, the space between the sphere and the edge of the base being just enough for a man to stand on. A ramp was currently in position leading from the floor to the surface of the base. Four tall humming columns of white stainless steel stood around the platform.
Monway could also see shapes, moving around the machine. They were shaped like pepperpots, golden knobs protruding from their bases, cold, flashing eyes placed at the end of swinging metal stalks, rectangular lights glittering upon their arching domes. Ray guns and long sticks with uncertain purposes pointed menacingly from between plates of bronze.
Suddenly, one of these things swung round to face Monway, its eye glowing with terrible intent, its lights flicking to the rhythm of its harsh, grating words. ‘THE HUMANS ARE READY FOR CON-VER-SION!’ the creature shrieked.
Another of the things turned. Instead of gold, this one was black, and seemed to have an air of authority around it. ‘CORRECT, DALEK JASST! RETURN TO WORK. I WILL BRING THE HUMAN!’
Monway covered his ears. Something about the voices of these creatures penetrated his brain and bones and seared his flesh. There was so much... anger... within the things. Hatred. For him.
The black one glided forward on hidden wheels. It reached Monway. The lawyer steeled himself, ready for his death. Strangely, he didn’t feel any regret towards the man in sunglasses for tricking him. He just felt sad. Why? Why had he been lead down here to die in the darkness at the foundations of the Supreme Court? Just... why? With that thought he closed his eyes, put his hands in his pockets, and waited for the inevitable blast of energy.
It didn’t come.
‘YOU WILL OPEN YOUR EYES!’ the creature beside Monway commanded. Monway was extremely confused and scared now. ‘Who are you? And what do you want?’ he asked, adjusting his tie for something to distract him from the terror of helplessness.
‘WE ARE THE DALEKS!’ the creature intoned. ‘I AM DALEK SEC, LEADER OF THE CULT OF SKARO!’
A golden Dalek turned to face Monway and Sec. ‘I AM DALEK THAY!’ it boomed. ‘DALEK JASST!’ chorused another. ‘DALEK CAAN!’ cried the final Dalek.
When the creatures did not attempt to answer his second question, Monway repeated it. ‘And... what do you want?’
‘YOU WILL BE THE FUTURE OF THE DALEKS!’ Dalek Sec screamed at Monway. The lawyer felt terrified, but hid his expression under his shady hat. ‘What am I supposed to do?’ Monway asked nervously.
‘ASCEND ONTO THE PEDESTAL!’ Dalek Thay replied. The lawyer obeyed, walking onto the smooth base of the contraption.
‘PLACE YOUR HAND UPON THE STRAND MACHINE!’ Jasst intoned. Monway did, feeling the shiny surface of the sphere. Sec, Thay, Jasst and Caan fanned out around the device, placing each of their suckers on one of the four surrounding columns.
White beams slashed at Monway, and he screamed...
The hand he had placed upon the sphere sizzled and glowed around the edges. Monway was bathed in agonising radiance. He thrashed and cried out, but his words were torn from his mouth before they fully formed, and his palm seemed to be attached to the sphere now.
Sec was booming out the orders to the other three Daleks. ‘CAAN — ACTIVATE THE FUTURE EXCAVATION MODULE! JASST — FIND THE PHOTOGRAPH OF THE DALEK EMPIRE!’ The two Daleks glided off. Sec and Thay clung to the columns, the surfaces of the pillars shining under their sucker arms. Monway screamed as Caan turned something on, and power racked his brain, so much power, in and in and in, and onwards, and it was dragging things from him — thoughts and events, and just throwing them out. It was excruciating.
Above the thundering slipstreams of noise and energy Monway heard Sec screaming. ‘WE ARE THE ONLY FOUR DALEKS IN EXISTENCE. OUR RACE PERISHED IN A GREAT WAR. BUT NOW YOU WILL HELP TO REVIVE... THIS!’
Sec turned to face Jasst, who had projected an image onto the dim wall. A technicolour picture of thousands of Daleks, gliding through the void of space.
‘YOU MUST DEVOTE YOUR LIFE TO THE RECONSTRUCTION!’ Sec ordered Monway, who was clutching desperately at his skull as Caan wrenched parts of it away, draining through the machine in front of him.
Monway managed to shake his head, and shout, ‘NO!’
Sec dislodged himself from the machine, and wheeled over to Monway, who was transfixed by radiant blades, floating in a sea of searing heat. Sec pointed his ray gun, and spoke out, in loud, demanding tones. ‘YOU WILL DEVOTE YOUR LIFE! DEVOTE! DEVOTE! DEVOTE!!!’
Monway’s bones cracked in an agonising arch as Caan turned up the power. The lawyer’s throat was burning, and soon he wouldn’t have time to accept Sec’s offer. Cursing himself and praying internally for God’s forgiveness, he croaked, ‘Yes.’
His hand glowed even brighter, and the machine shone. The Daleks reversed slightly, away from the device, and watched emotionlessly as Monway’s body crackled. A thin string of light unfurled from the lawyer’s head to the centre of the machine. ‘DALEK EMPIRE CREATION STRAND — PROBABILITY FOURTY PER CENT!’ cried Dalek Thay.
‘WE MUST INCREASE!’ Dalek Jasst intoned, and glided over to Monway, his eye glittering with malice. ‘IF YOU DO NOT DEVOTE YOUR LIFE TO THE EMPIRE, THEN WE WILL TAKE YOUR DNA PRINT!’ Jasst pushed his sucker arm onto Monway’s thigh, and pulled. ‘WHENEVER YOU HAVE DOUBTS, REMEMBER. WE CAN SEND A GAMMA STRIKE THROUGH THE DNA. AND YOU WILL BE EXTERMINATED!’
All thoughts of disobeying the Daleks vanished from Monway, and, at that point in time, honestly devoted his life to them.
‘PROBABILITY OF EMPIRE CREATION STRAND — SIXTY PER CENT!’ Dalek Thay proclaimed.
‘EXCELLENT!’ Dalek Sec congratulated Jasst. ‘PROBABILITY IS OVER FIFTY PER CENT! THEN THE EMPIRE CREATION STRAND SHALL BE STORED WITHIN THE MACHINE. AND THIS ONE WILL BECOME A FUTURELING!’
Monway convulsed for one final time as energy rushed through his nerves. Then, one by one, the columns powered down, and their beams of energy vanished. As the last transfixing ray disappeared, Monway dropped from his floating position, his hand burnt yet still there.
He felt dizzy, dry and aching. But still alive. He wondered if the Daleks intended that.
Dalek Jasst glided forward, holding an object in his sucker arm. A pair of sunglasses. Normally Monway would have laughed, but there was something sinister about the glasses. Then he remembered. The man who had led him to this room had worn exactly the same type of sunglasses. Had this happened to him, as well? Was he also whatever a ‘futureling’ was?
Then the bridge of the sunglasses clamped over Monway’s nose, and he screamed. Reflected on the surface facing Monway’s eye was an image of his eyeball. Again, in normal life that would not have been anything drastic. But his eyes had changed. Before this encounter with the Daleks they had been a warm, welcoming shade of blue.
Now they were pure white, with no pupils. Only text. Spidery black writing scrolled across the surface, endless letters and numbers with no evident meaning.
Then Dalek Sec moved towards him, and Monway realised. This was it. His life had ended. He had no purpose.
The Daleks might as well have killed him.
TO BE CONTINUED...