Seo didn't know how long she stayed in darkness.
She was dragged into and out of different cells, all containing different captured Slayers. In between, she was shoved into uncomfortable devices that seared pain through her body, or she was interrogated. Always about the same thing.
How to access the multi-dimensional gateways Drusilla had told them she could unlock.
Drusilla had died doing it, but she had given Seo an advantage over the Daleks. They couldn't break her, couldn't use their machinery or equipment to alter her mind by force — and she would never tell.
They might have been smart enough to pick her up on machines, but… even their lie detector had its limits with her mind. They could never hope to control her brain.
Seo had nearly escaped at least twice, now.
The second time… she'd run right smack into the new Dalek arrival.
It was that Dalek who came out of a space ship that Seo was about to enter and commandeer out of here. And it was blood red. The gleam in his eyestalk made a chill run through Seo, even if she didn't know why.
When it spoke, its voice was lower. More commanding. "YOU ARE THE WEAPON SEOSYRAE. YOU ARE A KEY TO THE MULTIVERSE."
She tried to run, but didn't get more than a step away before she was surrounded by Daleks with twitching gun barrels, and forced back.
She soon learned that this new Dalek was known as the Dalek Inventor Prime.
This was the Dalek who built and created and designed new and more deadly weapons. The same Dalek who'd become interested in Seo because of her knowledge about the Great Vampires, the Fountain of Kulkmattoll, and… her abilities as the Key.
Things became a lot worse, after that Dalek showed up.
Because this Dalek knew something about forced coercion. And wasn't afraid to use that knowledge against Seo.
Seo had to watch two groups of Slayer prisoners get massacred before her eyes.
The first massacre began with one of the Slayers who'd been experimented upon. The girl had been ill, violently ill, had been shaking and screaming and in pain.
Then the Daleks had shot her.
And left the body there.
Hours later, the body moved. The once-Slayer's eyes now yellow. Her teeth now fangs.
Seo had recognized what was happening. She'd sprung into action. Managed to stake the newly formed vampire before it harmed anyone else.
Then the Daleks came in.
That red Dalek right at the front. Its eyestalk glaring through the darkness.
And Seo had turned, teeth gritted, anger searing through her.
"You did this on purpose," she charged. Pointing at the others around her. "Putting all these lives at risk, and for what?! Another one of your barbaric experiments!" She stepped forwards. "But I saved them. What do you think about that?"
"EXTERMINATE!" shouted the Daleks.
In only seconds, every single one of the Slayers was dead.
The Dalek Inventor Prime slid forwards. "YOU SAVE NOTHING," it told her.
And they left.
Seo standing in complete darkness, surrounded by the bodies of the people she couldn't save.
Then came the second massacre.
The next cell Seo had been thrown into… was more illuminated than the others. The Slayers more chatty and accepting.
Seo had been getting close to one of the Slayers in that cell. A very young girl, no older than maybe 14, named Jasmine. She'd been scared, and Seo had decided to try to help. Extend some friendship.
They'd gotten to talking. About childhood. About dreams and ambitions. About anything, really.
"I was so scared, when I first went out into battle," Jasmine admitted. "But I knew… I'd been Chosen. That meant I had to protect the universe from the Daleks." She paused.
"But just seeing them… wipe out so many people… so ruthlessly…" She looked into Seo's eyes. Hands shaking. "I ran. Thought I'd never stop running. Just ran far, far away, until I couldn't hear them anymore. Until…" She looked away. "They caught me, though."
"And took you here?" Seo asked.
Something passed across Jasmine's face. Some flicker of… confusion. Or… was it something else?
"No," Jasmine said, frowning. Hand against her head. "No, they… killed me. I'd forgotten about that."
And then she'd morphed.
An eyestalk shooting out of her forehead, a Dalek gun emerging from her outstretched hand. Eyes suddenly growing lifeless and dull, as she opened fire.
On everyone in the cell.
Seo managed to tackle her to the ground, but not before she'd managed to kill more than half the people in that prison with them. They struggled…
And Seo only stopped when she discovered that gun barrel pointed right at her.
"You have proved resistant to the nanocloud," Jasmine said. It still sounded like her. But there was something empty in her voice, too. Something grating and evil. "Unlike the others."
And Seo watched, in horror, as all the other Slayers around her — even the dead ones — began to morph in exactly the same way. Eyestalks in their foreheads. Gun barrels in their hands. Advancing on Seo with no emotion in their eyes.
Seo backed against the wall.
Scarcely daring to breathe.
"Why?" Seo squeaked. "Why are you doing this?!"
"Because the Daleks make their own bio-weapons," Jasmine replied. "They do not need you. You cannot best them. You cannot fight them. The only reason you're alive… is because they want the Key."
"You're not special," Jasmine repeated. "You're nothing."
"An implanted personality to cover up a weapon," said one of the ex-Slayers behind her. "It's easy. The Daleks have been doing it for millennia."
"You will unlock the multiverse," Jasmine commanded. "Or the Daleks will force you."
"They can't," Seo said. Summoning up her courage. "If they were able to control my brain, they'd have done it by now! And if they kill me — if you kill me — you lose the Key forever."
None of them shot at her.
But all of them kept their guns leveled straight at her head.
"So you tell the Inventor Prime," Seo hissed, "to do his worst!" She folded her arms. "Because there's no way I'll ever help him."
In the control center of the Main Dalek Experiment Ship, the Inventor Prime watched the surveillance video. Seo challenging the Slayers-turned-Daleks.
The Inventor Prime switched it off.
"THE NANOCLOUD HAS FAILED TO INFECT HER," one of the Daleks reported. "SHE IS IMMUNE TO MENTAL CYBERNETIC ALTERATION."
The Inventor Prime was quiet for a long moment.
Pondering the conundrum.
Then, in his low, metallic, scratchy voice, belted out, "ONLY IN HER PRESENT FORM."
It was a brilliant, if somewhat ambitious plan. But the Inventor Prime knew it could be done. He'd seen the device built on Draconia, and it had operated using a psychic matrix. Something Seo was still susceptible to.
"A DEVICE WILL BE BUILT," said the Inventor Prime, "TO EXCHANGE SEOSYRAE'S CONSCIOUSNESS WITH A DALEK COMPUTER. WE WILL USE OUR DOWNLOADED VERSION OF HER MIND TO EXTRACT THE INFORMATION ABOUT THE KEY. HER BODY AND ITS POWERS WILL BE UNDER OUR CONTROL."
It was a good plan.
But it was only half a plan.
The energy in her body would still be unstable. To do this properly, the Daleks had to find the other Key.
Two hours later… they did.
"ALERT!" shouted one of the Daleks monitoring the displays. "ALERT! UNSTABLE DIMENSIONAL ENERGY SOURCE DETECTED!"
Another Dalek slid over, and sunk its plunger onto a disk. "READINGS SUGGEST IT IS CONNECTED TO THE WEAPON SEOSYRAE."
The Inventor Prime understood what this must be, immediately. "THERE ARE TWO KEYS REQUIRED TO ACCESS THE MULTIVERSE," it reminded them. Recalling the information they'd gained, earlier. "THIS IS THE SECOND ONE. THE WEAPON SEOSYRAE KEPT HER IDENTITY AS 'THE KEY' SECRET TO PROTECT THE OTHER."
"SENSORS INDICATE THE ENERGY SOURCE IS NEARBY," the Dalek informed its superior. "ON AN IPSA SHIP. PROBABILITY SHOWS THE OTHER HUMANOID KEY WILL COME HERE, TO RESCUE THE WEAPON SEOSYRAE."
"THEN WE WILL CAPTURE AND USE THE OTHER HUMANOID," said the Inventor Prime. "WE WILL CONSTRUCT A DIMENSIONAL PLATFORM. WE WILL LURE THE IPSA SHIP TO A WEAK POINT IN SPACE AND TIME, AND THEN WE WILL USE A DELTA WAVE TRANSFER TO ACTIVATE AND CONTROL THE KEY!"
"WE OBEY!" the other Daleks shouted.
And went to work, immediately.