'When this door slides back,' Johnson continued, 'I want all your torches on whatever's on the other side. Understood?'
A grumble of ascent went up. The Doctor moved forward, facing the door. Those who were holding torches drew level with him and aimed them forward similarly.
Suddenly, the door gave and vanished into the wall. The captain and his crew fell to the floor in a heap, revealing what lay in wait behind. Immediately they caught the light the group fell back. One of the objects was very close and it caught the light in sharp, horrifying contrast to the dark all around. It had no legs, and was set on a rounded base. No human features, but a lens on a flexible shaft acted as an eye and what appeared to be like arms with mechanical grips for hands.
Instantly, the Doctor threw himself to the floor. 'Get down!' he shouted, 'All of you!'
Johnson drew himself to his feet dreamily, staring at the nearest Dalek in horror. He was unsteady on his feet and wavered uncertainly. He couldn't think.
'They'll kill you!' The Doctor shouted out.
Johnson finally crumbled to the floor, shaking with fear. Everyone was strewn on the floor, eyes glazed, waiting.
The Daleks had not moved. They remained in their imposing positions covering the group with their armaments.
'Oh, Jeez...' one crew member moaned weakly. They all knew about the Daleks. None of them had been prepared to meet them. It wasn't in their contracts either.
The Doctor saw his chance. He had gathered that the Daleks needed them alive for some reason or another. They would not shoot, he guessed, or hey would all be dead by now. He quickly leapt to his feet and ran down the corridor. 'Let's get out of here, quickly!' he called.
Johnson still couldn't come to terms with this. He kept staring at the monstrous forms, all hope ebbing away in a thick, fatalist stream. 'They must have seen us,' he muttered in confusion.
The other crew members followed the Doctor back down the corridor, rushing to their feet in a haze of confusion. They crashed about aimlessly, all trying to find sanctuary that they desperately wanted.
This havoc brought Johnson back to this senses. He gazed incredulously as the frightened mass trampled over one another to escape. Resolve settled over his face in an impenetrable mass. His gun arm became stronger, his conviction almost manacle. 'Running away?' he jeered, 'Cowards!'
The Doctor had stopped and turned facing the scene. Any haste to leave had now gone in a pervading calm. He stood rooted to the spot but looking calmly over the scene. Johnson had drawn himself level with the nearest Dalek, moving with clumsy imprecision. Drawing his side arm he flicked the gun and pointed it into the nearest eye-stalk. A cold firmness had taken him over, his blood was coursing hot through his veins.
'Die, you son of a ...'
'Wait!' the Doctor called. He walked over behind Johnson. Distracted, Johnson, mouth fused shut, gawped dumbly at him. The Doctor held no trace of emotion, but stepped neatly within range of the Dalek gun. He took a hold of Johnson's gun arm and forced it down so that it was facing the ground, harmless.
'They're not going to harm us,' the Doctor mused idly, 'Look at them! Decrepit tin cans with barely the staying power to stop themselves from falling apart.'
Johnson looked towards the nearest Dalek and noticed a thin layer of dust which had settled over it. An untouched layer of dust covered the floor around the monsters.
The Doctor pointed at the Dalek instructively, 'It's quite safe, I can assure you.' He reached the object and turned so that he was facing Johnson. He smiled smugly, daring comment.
'You certainly enjoy panicking my crew.'
The Doctor let the comment pass and instead started to inspect the casing. It was scarred with slight patches of black soot.
'Who are you really?' Johnson pressed, moving in on him, 'Tell us.'
'The Daleks aren't going to harm us, because they're dead,' the Doctor muttered. He stepped away from the casing and indicated widely. 'Watch this.'
He gave the Dalek a small shove. It moved across the floor very slowly and settled in place a few metres to the left. It ceased moving and a hush settled over the room. 'Dead as a Dalek,' the Doctor cheered.
Renshaw stepped out of the shadows and looked unimpressed. She had studied the Dalek logic at University as a supplementary course. 'They could be faking it.' she said.
The shrugged his shoulders, safe in the knowledge of hard experience. 'Daleks can never resist the temptation of shooting a humanoid species. If they were alive, we'd be dead by now.'
The crew began to crowd around the doorway, looking inwards at the immobile Daleks. None dared to step inside. Those who could not get a clear view milled about behind those who could. The Doctor continued to study the Dalek he had just moved, oblivious to this. He could see no sign of external tampering, the whole machine seemed to be fine. He could not find any reason why the machines were as they were, but he knew that they were dead.
'Bring those torches in here!' Johnson ordered, trying to re-establish what he saw as the correct status quo. 'Don't dawdle, Enson, this isn't a boy scout's picnic!'
The Doctor walked over towards the consoles set into the walls around the room. They were all of typical Dalek design and their function was just as mysterious. It suddenly occurred to the Doctor that here was at last the chance to study their equipment properly, without fear of interruption or the threat of death. Here, he could find out, by trial and error, how they organised devices and how to understand the various codes used.
He arrived at the nearest which was embedded in an alcove. It was deactivated, but he guessed that it was mainly used to filter the air and create the correct levels of radiation needed by the Daleks to live. This would put him in the earlier part of their history, since by the time that they had arrived in the Milky Way self-generating radiation units had long been installed and approved in the Dalek casings.
Since the console held no interest for him, the Doctor headed over towards the main control panel which covered the entire length of the furthest wall. As he passed Johnson he nodded in the general direction of the Daleks and moved on. Johnson got the message but refused to betray the fact that he had.
'Those who can,' Johnson rapped loudly, 'count the Daleks in here.'
'And some light over here too,' the Doctor insisted. 'I want to see what I'm doing.' He began to idle with the controls, waving his arms over them as the Daleks would if they were operational. Unfortunately, there was no response and the Doctor was left to conclude that all power that might have remained was now exhausted. The Daleks had been dead longer than he thought and an idea suddenly struck him. 'If you've got one torch spare maybe we could use the power to tap into this system.'
'What for?' Johnson enquired.
'I want to know what happened here.'
Renshaw stepped over the mess on the floor and walked until she was standing next to the Doctor. She watch him as she stood perfectly still, a frozen furrowing over the Doctor's forehead, puzzling over the devices on the consoles. She wondered who this "Doctor" was and where he came from, but she knew instinctively that he would never tell her. He was too secretive, and probably sensitive to exposing his true feelings. Whatever went on inside his mind, she thought, I will never understand.
He stood in front of the crews, and the light given off by their torches left the Doctor standing in silhouetted form. A man of mystery. A man of curious reassurance. Johnson slouched up behind him.
'You certainly enjoy giving orders, Doctor,' he grumbled. 'Remember, this is my expedition, I run things here and only me, no-one else. If you want something, you can ask nicely.' He turned on his heel and greeted a member of his crew who had been waiting for him. The aide saluted stiffly and Johnson bowed his head in recognition. 'Well?'
'We've counted eight Daleks, Sir. All of them are completely dead, or at least inactive. The funny thing is none of us can figure out why. There's no sign of blast or internal power failure.'
Johnson nodded understandingly and placed his hand on the crew member's shoulder. He propelled him towards the exit firmly. 'We live in hope of saving these little mysteries,' he intoned darkly, then chuckled to himself. 'I want you to take the crew and recce this whole base. The first sign of anything suspicious let me know, alright?'
'Get Reegan and Willis to stay here and guard the Doctor. I think I'll have a look around myself.'
Renshaw took a torch off one of the soldiers and hauled it back to where the Doctor was still standing in his statuesque pose. She decided that she had seen enough of this dark mystery for the time being and wanted him to stop, for a small while at least. She slammed the torch down heavily onto the floor behind the Doctor. He turned wondering what was going on. When he saw her he turned back and continued with his observation of the consoles before him. Renshaw moved forward and stood in the Doctor's line of vision.
'He doesn't like people intruding on his work,' she said conspiratorially.
The Doctor was lost for a moment but soon realised what she was talking about. 'Captain Johnson? If he got himself organised properly it wouldn't happen.'
Renshaw smiled and heaved the torch over to the console. The Doctor stopped her halfway and carried it the rest of the way himself. He reached inside the output cell and pulled. Two contact leads snaked out of the box and were wrenched up the console. The Doctor began to connect the leads to the most likely terminals.
'There's not much power in a torch but it should work quite reasonably,' Renshaw volunteered, but the Doctor wasn't listening. He studied the controls for a moment before sudden realisation dawned on him, and he snatched the cables away.
'Oh...' he said, '...oh.'
'I appear to have energised the lifts by mistake,' he admitted uncomfortably, 'still, I suppose it will save Johnson and his crew a lot of clambering about up and down lift shafts.'
Coughing in loud apology, the Doctor reconnected the leads and waited. His face lit up when he saw the largest display screen lighten up. Renshaw turned fully to look as the Doctor carefully manipulated the controls to find some kind of starting point.
Eventually a message appeared which made him all the more delighted. He looked at Renshaw for congratulation but none was forthcoming. Spirits dampened slightly, he went back to his work and managed to produce a second, more meaningful sentence: