It took just under an hour to prepare the survey pod and once it was ready, Clara, Lyon and two members of the crew clambered onboard, while Me and Captain Hisko stood in the viewing port to watch the departure.
"Now be careful, Jane," said the Captain over the intercom. "Don't take any unnecessary risks if you can help it."
"Yes sir, Captain sir," came Lyon's voice cheerfully over the speaker. "And tell Me not to worry, we'll keep her partner safe and well."
"I think it'll be more of a case of her trying to keep you safe," joked Me, prompting the Captain to roll his eyes in irritation.
A few seconds later, the pod's thrusters engaged and the large egg-shaped vessel rose up off the deck and glided through the forcefield that covered the large archway that opened out into space. Once the pod was through, it gracefully began to glide through the vacuum and down towards Epsilon-Gamma.
Inside the pod, the landing party had buckled themselves securely in their seats, with Lyon sitting at the front and expertly operating the controls that guided the ship, while Clara watched in fascination.
"Smooth ride," complimented Clara, who had expected a much bumpier start to the journey.
"I wouldn't be doing my job properly if it was anything less," answered Lyon as she sent the craft flying into the planet's atmosphere, having made sure first that the pod's forcefield was at full strength in order to protect the small craft from the violent winds that swept all over the planet. The pod jolted a little as it first hit those winds and Clara peered through the porthole to see a dazzling display of colourful clouds that skimmed past the pod's hull.
"You know, this planet is like a painting in space," mused Clara. "It really is quite stunning."
"Don't be fooled by its appearance," warned Lyon. "Those winds could easily tear you to shreds and we have to be careful with how we use the thrusters, otherwise we risk igniting some of the more flammable gases in the atmosphere."
"So it's beautiful and deadly," said Clara. "Not the best of combinations."
Back onboard PATHFINDER, Mary Clarke moved purposefully towards the main computer hub, striding down the corridor as though she was a robot, her eyes wide and vacant, her face devoid of any emotion. Upon reaching her destination, she walked stiffly into the room and promptly locked the door behind her.
"Mary? What are you doing here?" came a friendly voice from behind her. Clarke turned to face junior technician Jim Darcy, who had been busy installing some spare components into the computer bank when Clarke had entered.
"You okay?" asked Darcy, noticing the void expression on Clarke's face. "You look like you've seen a ghost."
Clarke did not reply. Instead she stepped forward until she was directly in front of Darcy, who looked at her in puzzlement and concern. Then, without warning, her hands grabbed hold of Darcy's head and sharply twisted it to the side. There was a sickening 'crack' and suddenly Jim Darcy knew no more. As his lifeless body crumpled to the floor, Clarke crossed to the nearest monitor panel, upon which the progress of the survey pod could be seen. Clarke adjusted a few controls on the panel and a second later, she could hear the audio transmissions between the pod and the main ship.
"All progressing fine so far, Cap," came Lyon's voice. "The energy source seems to be coming near the centre of the planet and we should reach it in just a few minutes."
"Take it slow, Jane," cautioned Hisko. "For all we know, there could be some form of life down there. We don't want to risk provoking a hostile reception."
"Understood," responded Lyon as the pod slowed its speed towards the heart of Epsilon-Gamma.
As Clarke listened on, she relayed all she heard to her master, via a micro-circuit newly inserted on the side of her neck. "Survey pod approaching planet's centre," she reported. "It is inevitable that they will discover main base."
Her master responded at once. "JAM ALL FURTHER TRANSMISSIONS BETWEEN THIS SHIP AND THE POD. DISABLE ALL AUTOMATIC DEFENCES. I SHALL NOW EMERGE TO TAKE CONTROL."
On the main bridge of PATHFINDER's bridge, Me and Hisko had been listening intently to the survey pod's transmissions, when all of a sudden, the audio feed cut off and the monitor screens began to show nothing but static.
"Uh, what's going on?" asked Me worriedly.
Hisko turned to Eric Pierce, who had been busy at the monitor station tracking the pod's progress. "What's the matter, Eric? Malfunction on the pod?" asked the Captain, keeping his cool despite the seriousness of the situation.
Pierce looked up from his panel with a grim look. "No, John, there's something jamming our transmissions and it seems to be originating from the computer hub."
Striding over to the panel on his command chair, Hisko angrily hit the intercom button putting him in touch with the hub. "Darcy, what the blazes is going on? You seem to be messing up our communications!"
There was no response, so Pierce activated the security camera for the hub and patched the feed through to his monitor station. To the horror of everyone on the bridge, they could see Mary Clarke sabotaging the computers, while Jim Darcy's corpse lay in a heap on the floor.
"What the hell? Has Mary gone mad?" exclaimed Pierce.
"I don't know, but you better get down there and stop her!" commanded Hisko. Pierce and his security force began to dart to the turbo lifts, while Hisko rushed for the monitor station and began to press buttons at an incredible speed.
"What are you trying to do?" asked Me.
"Trying to isolate the computer," replied Hisko. "Clarke has already wrecked external communications and some of the security systems. I need to make sure that she doesn't cause any more damage."
At that moment, the internal communication panel bleeped and Professor Andrews' voice came through the speaker, with a note of considerable alarm. "Captain, we've got a situation here in the lab. The rock we've brought onboard, it's... it's opening up!"
In the lab, Andrews looked on in disbelief as the front of the 'rock' began to detach and swing open, revealing an inner chamber inside. From it emerged a bronze metallic creature, one that the horrified Professor recognised at once from his history books.
"A Dalek!" he shrieked, before darting for the door. But his attempt at escape was doomed from the start. Before he could get out of the room, the Dalek glided forward and aimed its gun at the unfortunate scientist.
"EXTERMINATE!" barked the Dalek, before it fired a beam of intense blue light from it energy weapon, which struck Andrews at point blank range. The man screamed as his skeleton became briefly visible in the engulfing energy blast, then he collapsed to the ground, his body smouldering slightly. Ignoring the dead body, the Dalek glided out of the lab and into the main corridor.
"THIS SHIP IS NOW UNDER DALEK CONTROL," stated the Dalek as it made its way through the ship. "ALL RESISTANCE WILL BE EXTERMINATED!"