CAVERN OF DEATH

Chapter 12

"This wall reminds me of something." Clara told the Doctor, "Oh yeah. It was this big red road sign I saw in America, once." To emphasize what she meant, she held out her palm with every word, each one lower than the other, "Dead. Stop. End."

"OK. You win. As walls go, I would give this one nil out of ten." The Doctor shrugged.

"Here, hang on to this for a moment, will you? And whatever you do, don't drop it." He instructed, as handed her the pen torch. "Trust me." The Doctor smiled down at her reassuringly, "The situation really is not that bad, Clara."

"HALT! HALT! STAY WHERE YOU ARE!" Ordered the Dalek as it rounded the corner on them.

"I've gotta' admit, Doctor. When you're right, you're right." Clara snorted. "It isn't that bad. It's a whole shed load worse."

"Faith, Clara. Faith. All that I have seen has taught me to always look for the things that cannot be seen."

Without another word, the Doctor flicked on the sonic screwdriver again. This time, he pointed it at the dirt under their feet. Abruptly, Clara felt the floor beneath her give way. She gave a startled yell as she dropped.

Only to fall safely into the Doctor's arms just a few meters below. That's when she realized. They'd fallen through the trap door of a small mine lift. Dirt that had covered the door trickled down into the shaft below. Clara felt some of it settle in her hair, but she didn't care. They were safe for the moment.

Or were they? She looked up as her eye caught a shadow from above.

Meanwhile, the Dalek came to an abrupt halt. It swiveled it's domed head back and forth, as if momentarily nonplussed by their sudden disappearance.

"SURRENDER DOCTOR! OR YOU WILL BE EXTERMINATED!" Demanded the enraged Dalek.

There came the sharp thrumming of the gun and flash of green, as a warning shot bounced off the metal roof. It sent a gush of fiery sparks through the hatchway and down into the lift's interior. Wincing, Clara flinched away from them.

The hum of the Dalek's propulsion motor sounded louder inside the lift. It rolled itself to the edge of the open door. It stood there for what seemed to be an eternity, looking down upon them, a silent messenger of death.

The top half of its dark silhouette was juxtaposed against the deeper darkness of the unlit tunnel. The glowing blue eye stalk dropped down to observe them.

In a blur of motion, the Doctor made a sudden leap towards the roof.

Virtually quivering with outrage, the Dalek barked out, "DO NOT MOVE! DO NOT MOŚ"

The Doctor slammed the heavy metal hatch shut, effectively muffling the Dalek's threats.

"My god, I do love a trap door!" he chortled, as he palmed his screwdriver, aiming it at a button near the lift gate. "Ground floor: perfumery, stationary and leather goods. Wigs, haberdashery, underwear and shoes. Going down!"

And down they did go. Rapidly descending the narrow shaft, they dropped far, far below. The lift falling a rate of speed Clara didn't want to know about. She did know that if they didn't stop soon, she was going to see that morning's breakfast again.

The Doctor seemed to be having the time of his life. Bracing his legs, he crossed his arms and casually leaned against the wall. A gleeful smile was plastered across his face.

"Yeeee-haaaa! He shouted for the sheer joy of it. "You know Clara, some people actually pay to go on rides like this at fun fairs?"

Clara was too preoccupied with retaining the contents of her stomach to reply. Oblivious to her condition, he laughed like a schoolboy on holiday.

Just seconds before she was sure they would crash, the Doctor once again pressed used his trusty screwdriver to bring them a bone-shaking, juddering, halt. Clara had to grab on to the sides of lift to keep from falling.

"I'd slap you, Doctor." Clara gasped, holding her stomach, "But I think I left my body back up there in the tunnel."

The Doctor gave her a startled, hurt look. "What'd I do?" Memory made him unconsciously rub the side of his face. "What is it with the companion slap these days?" He grumbled.

"OK, OK! I'm sorry, Doctor" Clara sighed, not wanting to hurt his feelings. Nudging him forward she said, "Come on, now. Quit whinging and find us a way out of here. I don't like the idea of that Dalek hot-footing it down the lift shaft after us."

"Yeah," he agreed, raising the lift gate and stepping outside, "neither do I."

In the tentative light of the pen torch they followed the tunnel the lift had opened on, until it ended in a T-junction.

"You're the designated tour guide. Which way?" Clara asked, looking back and forth at two identical passages.

"This one looks good."

The Doctor randomly choose the tunnel on the left, letting his instincts guide him.

"They both look the same, Doctor. Why that way?"

"Let's just say that I've always leaned a little to the left. Let's crack on, shall we? We don't want that pesky Dalek getting up our nose again. I do hate party crashers. Well, except when it's me doing the crashing."

After nearly a half hour of walking, Clara began to notice the torch was getting dimmer. Twice since entering this passageway, they'd encountered more cave-in's in the floor. Thankfully, none of them were as wide as the first one. Still, the idea of trying to negotiate the tunnels without a light was daunting, to say the least.

The torch flickered weakly. She hit it against her palm a few times in an attempt to get it working properly again.

"That's not going to help." The Doctor remarked.

"There's no harm trying." Clara said defensively. " Anyway, I've seen you bang on the TARDIS enough times."

"But that's not a living, organic machine like the TARDIS, Clara. That's a battery operated torch from Henrik's department store. Knocking it about won't get it working again. It's like when you keep pushing the call button for a lift. You need only press it once. But somehow, you think if you keep jabbing away, the car will come that much faster."

"Wait a sec, Doctor." Clara stopped suddenly. Squinting, she pointed forward. "Is it me, or is it getting lighter up ahead?"

As they walked forward, the tunnel gradually widened. They turned a bend only to find themselves bathed in the glow light. They were standing on what appeared to be some sort observation platform. There was a sliding metal shutter there. Without pause, the Doctor strode over and slid it open. Clara gasped.

"I believe we've found what the Daleks were hiding, Clara." The Doctor spoke softly.

Below them was a vast cavern. In various locations the room was kitted out with all sorts of technical equipment and gadgetry. But what really had taken Clara's breath away, was something else entirely.

The entire cavern was filled with hundreds of Daleks. Row upon row of them.

They seemed to be dormant, waiting to be woken up. Besides these, the walls were lined with cubicles containing the human-Dalek warriors. There was no movement below. It's as if the Dalek army were all waiting for someone to come and press their 'on' switch.

"Is this some sort of staging area?" Clara asked, her eyes wide with worry. "Do you think they're planning on an invasion or something? But, why do it here?"

"Take a good look, Clara." He said somberly, "Because we're about to go down there and find out."

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