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Sarah Jane was sound asleep on her makeshift bed. One hand rested on K9’s head as he hunkered beside her. Mr Smith hummed quietly – this time an ordinary computer hum and a swirling representation of the time vortex played as a screensaver. All seemed calm.

K9’s ears turned, the robot equivalent of them pricking up. He sensed something wrong. Something indefinable. But definitely wrong. He moved back slightly and looked at Sarah Jane. She wasn’t sleeping peacefully now. She was sleeping fitfully. She was having a nightmare.

“Mistress,” K9 called out loudly. “Mistress, wake up. There is danger.”

He nudged her with his head as he called, but she did not wake up.

“Mistress,” he said again. “Danger. Danger.”

She didn’t respond, even when he put out his probe and poked her hard in the side.

“K9,” murmured Mr Smith. “I am monitoring Sarah Jane’s vital signs. She is in REM sleep, the sleep where dreaming occurs. Her heart rate is faster than normal and there is increased brain activity. I am detecting high sugar levels in her blood, which indicates production of adrenaline.”

“Mistress, danger,” K9 said again. “Mistress, please wake up.”

Sarah did not wake up. She clung to the diamond, holding it in the crook of her arm and pressing it against herself. Its light softly illuminated her face, showing her stressed, pained expression. Whatever was happening in her dream was reflected on her face.

“Mistress is having a nightmare,” K9 concluded.

“Sarah Jane is fighting for her life in her nightmare,” Mr Smith said. “I believe that she is in great danger. If she loses the fight, she may lose her life.”

“I do not understand,” K9 responded. “Nightmares are merely reflected thoughts induced by the Human brain during sleep.”

“Ordinary nightmares are,” Mr Smith answered with a patient tone as if explaining to somebody less intelligent than he was. K9’s head reared as if he might object to that assumption. Most scientists would say that a robot dog taking umbrage was impossible. But most scientists had not met K9.

“It does not matter,” he conceded. “What matters is Mistress’s safety. What can we do to help her?”

“We can monitor her dreams,” Mr Smith said. “K9, you must place your nose probe against her temple. I will interface with you through your wi-fi attachment and process the brain patterns.”

K9 did so. On Mr Smith’s screen apparently random patterns resolved into recognisable pictures. It was FAR from High Definition television. It was more like one of the early test broadcasts from Alexander Palace prior to the first broadcast in 1936. But what the pictures showed was Sarah Jane. She was in some kind of cave, lit by rushlights. She was lying on the ground. No, not on the ground. On some sort of metal contraption on the ground. Something to which she was bound hand and foot.

“Mistress is in trouble,” K9 said as he looked at the pictures and processed them in his positronic brain.

Sarah Jane was in BIG trouble. She was tired and hurting and she knew she could expect no mercy from her captor.

“Where is the galaxy?” demanded Field Major Styre of the Sontaran Military Intelligence, whose specialist skill was torturing prisoners to their physical and mental breaking point. He turned a wheel and Sarah Jane felt her arm and leg muscles stretching painfully as the Sontaran Torture Rack lengthened another inch. She knew she couldn’t take very much more.

“You can’t be REAL,” she answered. “You can’t be. I was asleep. At home. Not in a cave with a psychopathic alien. This is a DREAM. A very real dream. A very…. VERY real dream. But that’s all. You can’t be real. And you CAN’T hurt me.”

“But I CAN,” he growled. “Oh, but I can.”

“No,” she responded. “No, you CAN’T be. I know you can’t. Because I saw you DIE. Ages ago. I saw you shrivel up and then explode. The Doctor defeated you. You DIED. That’s how I know this isn’t real. You’re just a nasty memory that I haven’t given the time of day to for YEARS!”

The only reason she felt brave was because she WAS sure it wasn’t real. But as Styre turned the wheel twice more and she felt a very real excruciating pain she began to wonder if something that wasn’t real couldn’t still kill her. It was like those stories you hear about people who dream they’re being beheaded, and their head falls off.

Stupid stories. But she was Sarah Jane. She HAD to believe that weird things were possible. Because weird things happened to her all the time, even when she wasn’t asleep.

“NO!” she screamed. “Stop. I can’t tell you what you want to know. Because I don’t KNOW. I don’t KNOW anything about a galaxy.”

“You LIE!” screamed Styre and behind him a panel lit up and things buzzed and a pain shot through her body. As it died away she blinked and realised they were no longer in the cave. They were in a laboratory aboard some kind of space ship. She had seen enough of THOSE in her life. The curve of the metal ceiling, the faint hum of engines. She was on a ship.

No, she reminded herself. It WAS a dream. But it was a scary dream where she was alone with a creature that delighted in torturing her.

“You LIE and you will be punished.” And just to remind her that she could be he pressed a switch that sent another agonising pain through her whole body. She screamed. She couldn’t help it.

“Has the Human female responded to questioning?” asked another voice that sent shivers of recognition through her. She turned her head as far as she dared and saw a Cyberman coming into the room. Styre stood to attention as if he was subordinate to him. And that was another clue to this being a dream. Two clues actually. First, Sontarans were subordinate to nobody but more senior Sontarans. And secondly, because this was a cyberman like the ones she had seen on Voga when she and The Doctor and Harry had landed there after their adventure on Skaro with the Daleks. The Cybermen that had invaded Earth a little while ago, the ones that had destroyed Canary Wharf, were different. Chunkier, more steel than silver, and with a brand name on their chests for reasons she had never figured out.

“I’ve seen lots of you die, too,” she said. “And I still can’t answer your question. I don’t know anything about a galaxy.”

Again the lights and the buzzers went off and the pain wracked her body, proving that she was lying.

Or did it?

Something struck her. She tried an experiment.

“My name is Hyppolate Jones,” she said. And nothing happened. “I live in a big elephant. The Galaxy is next to the Mars and the Milky Way and the Cadburys Cream Eggs.”

The lights went off and the buzzer buzzed and she got a shock through her when she said the word ‘galaxy’ even though it wasn’t in context.

It wasn’t a lie detector. It was a method of torture.

That didn’t make sense. All she had to do was not say the word galaxy.

She screamed. Apparently she couldn’t THINK the word galaxy either.

Well, ok. That was probably a good thing. NOT thinking about the…. the really big thing that had billions of stars in it. Just in case they had some kind of mind reading device.

“If she will not talk, she will be deleted with extreme prejudice,” said the cyberman in its annoying staccato voice.

“Shut up!” she shouted out. “You’re giving me a headache. Why do you sound like that anyway? You’re organic inside. I know you are. I’ve seen the insides of your sort loads of times. Why do you SOUND like robots? It’s so annoying. After all these millennia, you should have discovered natural voice synthesis by now.”

“She cannot be killed YET,” responded Styre. “She must be questioned about the galaxy. She knows where it is. But we cannot penetrate her mind. Not yet, anyway. She will be worn down with torture until she tells us.”

“You can do what you like to me!” Sarah Jane said. “I won’t give in. I won’t. My mind is stronger than you think. I’m not afraid of EITHER of you. I know you can be beaten. You look tough, but you both have weaknesses. Sontarans shrivel up into husks if they’re hit in the probe at the back of their necks and Cybermen choke on gold dust. But I… I’m Human, and you know what, we’re not as weak as you think we are. Our MINDS are strong. Our bodies let us down sometimes. But our minds are strong. That’s why we always survive. You can hurt us, torture us, but our minds survive. And we always beat you.”

She didn’t feel scared. Well, a little bit scared. Well, ok, she was a LOT scared. But she was doing her best not to let them know that. And talking, even if what she was saying was mostly nonsense, stopped her seeming scared.

“You are scared of US!” said another mechanical voice that could easily have converted to natural speech by now. She knew what it was without looking. But she looked anyway.

“Oh for heaven sake. Sontaran, Cyberman AND a bloody Dalek!”

It was her own imagination. She knew that. Sontarans, Cybermen and Daleks were the biggest bullies in the universe. She had come across ALL of them in her travels with The Doctor. Twice she had battled with him against the Sontarans. And the Daleks. And the invasion two years back meant twice for the Cybermen, two. Next to The Doctor she was the most experienced person on Earth with all three species. And that’s why they came so easily into her nightmares. They often did, for that matter. Though not all three together. And usually she woke up.

“Scared of you? Don’t make me laugh. You’re just a bunch of slimy green blobs inside a silly looking pepperpot.”

“You are an enemy of the Daleks and when you have given up the secret of the galaxy you WILL be EXTERMINATED.”

As it spoke, the Dalek’s head lights went on and off and its weapon arms, the ray gun and the sucker, wagg;ed up and down in excitement as it repeated a Dalek’s favourite word ‘Exterminate, exterminate, exterminate, exterminate.”

Styre pressed a button and she felt a lot of pain, but she wasn’t exterminated. Not yet, anyway.

“I’m not scared of you,” she said. “I know YOUR weaknesses, too.”

Actually, she wasn’t sure she did. Unlike the Cybermen and Sontarans, Daleks always seemed to learn from their mistakes and past weaknesses were compensated for. But they didn’t know that. They seemed to consider this point for a moment or two then began shouting ‘exterminate’ again.

“You’re all TALK,” she shouted back. “Look at you all, going on and on about ‘exterminate’. Why don’t you just DO it? But just remember. If you kill me, The Doctor will come after you.”

For a moment or two the Dalek looked as if it would back off. Then it spoke again.

“The Doctor is weak. He believes in compassion. He will not destroy us. He could not destroy us when he had us at his mercy many times before.”

“That’s what you think!” she answered. “He’s different now. He’s meaner. Harder. I saw him blow up a school full of Krillitanes. And… and… the big spaceship that was over London a couple of years ago. He blew that to smithereens. And the one shaped like a star. He did that one, too. And Daleks… killing Daleks… that’s his new hobby. He squashes you lot like flies.”

“Enough!” the Dalek said. “She knows nothing. The Doctor has the galaxy as we believed first. It is time to exterminate her.”

The Dalek moved forward. Sarah Jane looked at it. It meant it. it was going to kill her. It was going to hurt. And it was going to be real. She was going to die in her dreams and she would be dead in real life, lying there on the sofa with K9 right there beside her, unable to do anything.

“K9!” she cried out. “K9, help me! Help me wake up.”

K9 heard the words and shook his robot head, tail drooping even though a metal tail shouldn’t be able to droop.

“I cannot wake Mistress Sarah,” he said.

“Nor can I,” Mr Smith answered him. “Which logically means this is no ordinary sleep. She is being kept in a state of unconsciousness by the entity that is trying to reach the Galaxy through her dreams.”

“We must help,” K9 added.

“YES, we MUST,” Mr Smith said.

“K9!” Sarah Jane cried again as she heard the Dalek weapon powering up. Time must have been distorted in this horribly real dream, because she knew for a fact they didn’t usually take that long. It was as if her last moments were being stretched out just to prolong the agony. “K9! Doctor! SOMEBODY! Help me!”

To Be Continued....