The alarm blared loudly through the air duct warning danger. It chased after The Doctor, Maria, and Dave as they scurried this way and that through the dark passages as if they were three blind mice barely staying together.
Without warning, the Doctor, who was in the lead, came to sudden stop causing Dave to crash into the back of him. Maria, in turn, ran head long into Dave.
"What's going on," the young boy yelled over the alarm, "why did we stop?"
The Time Lord stared deep into the blackness before him. It seemed to swirl around in the air. It was almost as though he could see death before him. "I think we're lost," he replied solemnly to the lad.
The young boy squeezed himself up next to the Doctor. "We still have to keep moving," he said, "it's our only chance."
"Not necessarily," explained the traveler, "If we-"
Before he could finish his sentence an ear piercing screamed penetrated the air. As Maria leaned forward to hear what the men were saying a barrier began to slowly extend from the ceiling of the duct startling her. After she had regained her wits Maria quickly crawled underneath the obstacle.
"MARIA," Dave yelled as he fumbled around in the blackness for his companion. "Are you all right?
"What happened," The Doctor asked as he struck a match.
Maria took a deep breath to calm her nerves. "I'm fine," she reassured, "This wall started to drop from the ceiling. It just startled me."
The Doctor crawled over the youngsters to examine the barrier. "Listen," he said thoughtfully, "The alarm is almost totally muffled."
Dave wormed forward attempting to release himself from underneath the Doctor. "So what's your point," he moaned.
"This wall must be extremely thick," observed the Time Lord, " It's probably airtight."
The two youngsters breathed a sigh of relief at the news. The danger had passed. What remained now was attempting to evacuate themselves from the air shaft. This was a considerably difficult task because of all the scrambling that they had done in the dark earlier and it soon became apparent to all three of them that they were lost.
The three companions proceeded cautiously through the air duct by match light. As they crawled along they became very silent once again to avoid detection. They clamber on for what seemed like miles in utter silence turning one direction and then another stopping periodically when a match would burn out.
Around one corner the party noticed a small metal grating similar to those they had crawled though earlier but only half the size.
As the trio passed the grating they heard the small horrific hum of a Dalek. The Doctor quickly waved his hand in the air to extinguish the match. He then turned and peered into the room beyond. It was a small room with one control panel, which sat atop a pedestal that faced away from the grating. The walls of the room glowed white giving the illusion of a heavenly chamber. Inside a Dalek paced backed in forth between the control panel and the door on the right.
The two youngsters inched forward to see what the Doctor was so interested in. As they stared through the grating a wave of fear splashed over them. In that moment Maria realized that the Doctor had been telling her the truth. The guard that she had seen was murdered by one of these horrible creatures.
On the other hand, the boy wasn't totally sure what to make of the machine. It rolled back and forth from one end of the floor to the other as if it were a child's toy that had been left on to wander aimlessly. He quickly turned to the Doctor for information but was met only by a finger next to the Time Lord's lips.
Just then the doors to the room opened revealing Commander Barrows.
"Report," ordered the Dalek in a high pitched reverberating voice.
Barrows stepped into the room and stood at attention as if he were about to receive a medal. "The entire crew and the Doctor have now been eliminated," he announced.
"Excellent," the machine praised, "where is the Doctor's body?"
"Body," repeated the commander, "There is no body. He and the two remaining crew members have been ejected into space."
The Dalek rolled forward. "PROOF," it demanded, "There must be proof!"
The Commander stepped backward cautiously. "I assure you that there was no possibility of survival. They are dead."
"Do not argue with the Daleks," ranted the machine, "The Doctor has eluded us before. There must be proof."
Barrows stepped behind the control platform and proceeded to work the controls hoping to calm his nerves. "I thought know one was a match for the Daleks," he said sarcastically, "Even if there are only two of you. Besides, they were blown into space. So I tell you again, there is no proof!"
The machine of death rolled backward and extended its weapon. "Then your report is inaccurate," it blared.
The first officer lifted his hands into the air. "You don't know that," he pleaded. "If you will-"
"We can not take that chance. You have failed. The Doctor must be exterminated."
Maria and Dave stared at each other in shock. The evil machines that the Doctor had described were real and one of them had a weapon pointed at their commanding officer. Without thinking Dave reared back his foot and struck the side of the air duct. The sound reverberated stridently through the air in all directions like a gong.
Inside the room the Dalek turned looking for the source of the disturbance. Noticing the small ventilation grating it turned back to Commander Barrows. "The Doctor is alive," it shouted, "you have failed!"
Barrows took several steps backwards until he was against the wall. "Wait," he pleaded. But before he could continue a bolt flew out of the Dalek's weapon striking him in the torso. The commander slumped to his knees and then to the floor.
The Doctor wasted no time in gathering his companions and making a hasty retreat down the air duct at the same time he chastising Dave for his actions. It wasn't long before they had reached a duct of appropriate size the three mice escaped from the dark maze.
As they pulled themselves out of the duct they noticed that they were back in the conference room. They looked around cautiously for any sign of trouble. Maria pulled herself out of the shaft and brushed the dust from her uniform. At the same time she noticed the Doctor who was leaning against the table staring at a piece of paper. A wide grin sat upon his face.
"Doctor," Maria began cautiously, "what's that?"
The Time Lord looked up from the paper in his hand. "There are only two of them," he announced chuckling.
"Two of what," Dave asked circling behind to see what was on the paper.
The Doctor handed the paper to the boy. "Daleks," he said as he pushed himself off of the table.
Dave slid over and showed the paper to Maria. It was a copy of the ship's orders:
From: Lunar Shipping Co.
To: Capt. Ronald Henderson,
You are hereby requested to pickup the following cargo from station seven, Mars. Proceed then to Deep Outpost 1719 on Cassiopeia for full delivery. Return and be decommissioned.
Acting Head Lunar Shipping Co.,
Maria jumped up and sat on the table. "I don't get it," she said, "these are standard orders."
"Besides," said Dave jumping in, "if there are only two of these things why don't we destroy them and get it over with?"
The Doctor paced back and forth from the table to the wall considering what he had just seen. "First of all," he began, "two Daleks or ten doesn't make a great deal of difference, they are almost impossible to destroy. Secondly, look at that paper again and tell me what you see."
The two youngsters stared intently at the document once again looking for the clue the Doctor had pointed out. Their eyes flew over the orders like radar searching for the enemy but to no avail. At last, they lifted their eyes in defeat. "I don't see anything," Dave shrugged.
"Me either," Maria concurred unless you want to count the stop for the two boxes."
The Doctor smiled, "What if I do?"
The girl shook her head. "It may be unusual," she said, "but it does happen."
The Doctor snatched the paper from Maria and examined it a second time. "Look at these cargo numbers," he pointed out, "I wonder how crates 112579 and 112580 are listed on the cargo manifest."
Maria folded her arms in front of her and pulled her left foot onto the table. "Dave, did we ever find out about those two crates," she asked pensively.
"What crates," The boy asked shrugging his shoulders.
"Yes, what crates," the Doctor repeated in interest.
"The last time we were checking the cargo," Maria explained as she jumped off of the table, "there were two boxes that did not match anything on the manifest."
"Excellent," the Doctor said folding the paper and placing it into his hip pocket, "this almost proves my theory."
"Theory," Dave queried, "what th... what is that smell?"
The other two other persons in the room sniffed the air. A faint odor entered into their nostrils. As it proceeded further into their bodies it burned their lungs causing them to cough.
Before long all three were now convulsing in coughs. They turned around hoping to escape back into the air duct. It was not to be. A large green cloud of gas was pouring into the room.
Dave stumbled toward the door hoping for escape with his companions following close behind. When they were near enough the doors swung open. The trio lurched forward into the hall tripping over one another and falling to the deck with a loud thud.
They all gasped for air as the remaining gas cloud above them moved upward and began to dissipate. "Well, I guess the Daleks found us," Maria wheezed as she lay half in shock on her stomach.
The Time Lord, who was also lying face down, set his arms on either side of his body and pushed him self upward. "We must retreat quickly," he explained as he rose, "before..." His voice trailed off into.
All of this had gone unnoticed by the young girl for her attention was focused on the individual to the opposite side. The lad was lying face up on the deck staring at the ceiling in a trance like state. His eyes were nearly glazed over and the expression on his face was that of extreme terror. For a moment he almost seemed dead and if it were not for the slight sound of air escaping from his lungs he would have most certainly been considered so.
"Hey Dave," she asked compassionately, "are you all right?" There was no answer. The silence cast an eerie feeling around halls. It was as though time its self had ceased.
The young lady slowly lifted her eyes upward. The image before her caused her to gasp. Two Daleks towered above her as if they were hawks preparing to strike at their prey. Her heart pounded as she slowly stood up.
"At last, Doctor," gloated one of the monstrosities, "you will be exterminated.
The captive smiled wryly. "Except for one thing," he replied arrogantly, "only I know the code for Taurus 9."
"We have that information as well," retorted the machine, "you will be exterminated." With that the Dalek raised its weapon preparing to fire.
"Do you have the second code," the captive swiftly questioned.
"There is only one code," cried the robot
"Perhaps," came the answer, "but can you afford to kill us without being sure?"
"The Daleks can break any code. You are not needed."
The Time Lord clasped his hands behind his back. "Usually I would agree but this is a temporal location code."
At that moment the evil inside of the Dalek seemed to fill the corridor. "Take them to the ship's brig," it ordered, "we will interrogate them later and then, exterminate them."
"I obey," announced the second machine turning to herd the prisoners down the corridor.
As the three travelers marched down the hall under the guard of the evil machine the Doctor's mind continued to work. "Tell me," he asked slyly, "what is the first code anyway."
"Silence," ordered the machine.
With that Dave once again felt the urge to undermine authority. Although the huge beast behind him was intimidating, the Doctor's confidence some how made him feel braver. "What are you going to do if we're not," he mocked, "shoot us?"
The Dalek continued toward the brig, "Only the Doctor has the code. Only the Doctor is not expendable."
When they reached the brig the hostages were throw into a small cell. Several laser beams across the door prevented any escape. The Dalek who had escorted them rolled backward and watched the prisoners from the far wall. For his part The Doctor began to pace back and forth inside the cell with his hand on his chin. "Very interesting," he muttered to himself.
"Doctor," asked the girl still shaking slightly from the experience, "What's going on?"
"A very good question," he answered still pacing, "tell me, what was in those two boxes?"
Dave turned and started to follow his pacing partner around the cell, "I think that Maria was trying to explain that before. We don't know."
"When I was in the cargo hold I found a large crate that had a slight vibration to it. I wouldn't be surprised if those two Daleks were inside. But, what was in the other."
"Wait a second," the young girl stepped in front of the Doctor causing him to stop. "Before we get into that what's all this about Taurus 9?"
"Taurus 9," explained the Time Lord, "is the planet that holds nearly the entire Dalek population prisoner. The two on this ship are the only ones that I know of that are free."
"Then why have they any interest in us or our ship. For that matter, why do they have any interest in Cassiopeia," questioned the young boy.
"I would have thought that was obvious by now," said the Doctor tossing a look at Maria.
The girl looked back at the Time Lord with extreme curiosity. "What are you looking at me for," she asked.
Realizing that neither of his companions understood the time traveler began to spell out the details. "To answer your first question, Dave, they have no real interest in either of you except as a means to persuade me into revealing to them the code for Taurus 9. To answer your second question this ship will get them to Cassiopeia. Now, as we have already said the outpost on Cassiopeia has a communications array. Does that clear things?"
As he spoke Maria moved to the wall on the far end of the cell. Leaning her back against it she folded her arms in front of her. "I think I'm more lost now than before," she responded.
Dave chuckled lightly to himself. It was a rare treat to see his colleague wallowing in ignorance. "You mean I understand something you don't," he asked sarcastically.
"Explain it then," retorted the female sharply.
The youth stood up straight and thrust his nose in the air trying to look as much like an intelligent scholar as possible. "It means," he said as he sauntered over to his cellmate that, "that the Daleks are going to contact the prisoners on Taurus 9 from Cassiopeia and give them the codes to free themselves."
Maria pushed herself off of the wall and stood nose to nose with her cohort. "Nice try," she said, "but how can the other Daleks get the message if they are imprisoned on Taurus 9?"
"That's a rather more difficult question," responded the Doctor as he stepped between the quarrelers, "you see, in reality there is no Taurus 9. As a matter of fact the planet is only an outer shell."
"Of what," asked the girl now more puzzled than ever.
"Of a spacecraft."
Dave scratched his forehead as he looked thoughtfully at the man in front of him. It didn't seem possible to him that any spacecraft could be disguised as a planet. "How was that accomplished," he asked inquisitively.
The Time Lord smiled at the boy knowingly. "You wouldn't understand," he replied, "At present our priority is - "
"Just a minute," interrupted the young girl, "are you saying that the entire population of Daleks is stuck on of a star ship inside of a planet that's not really a planet?"
"Pretty close," answered the traveler, "now, if we-"
"And if they get the code they can release themselves," the girl quarried, once more breaking in.
"That's right," answered the man with a hint of irritation. "Now then, as I was saying, our priority is to stop this ship from getting to Cassiopeia at all costs. We'll have to get to the bridge and somehow make a course correction with out giving away our intentions..."
Once again the Doctor began to trail off leaving his two companions to think for themselves. They both leaned up against the wall and slid to the ground. "Are you as scared as I am," Dave asked in the manliest way he could think of.
"I hope not," Maria answered staring straight ahead, "I wouldn't wish that on anyone." She idiosyncratically pulled her back behind her head. It had finally fallen in front of her eyes one time too many. Lacking any sort of an instrument to hold it in place, however, she relied on tying it into a loose knot. "Hold on a second, Doctor," she ordered, "How is changing course going to help. Won't they just change it back?"
The traveler looked up from his deep thought as if he had just had a religious experience, "Just a moment changing the course won't help at all unless we can lock it down."
"Excuse me, Doctor," Dave interjected, "but I think we should solve a bigger problem than that first."
Both of the boys companions turn with strange expressions on their faces."Bigger," they questioned in unison.
"Yes, bigger," answered the lad, "how do we get out of here?"