Nightmare was the fourth story in the 1976 Terry Nation's Dalek Annual.
It was significantly different in tone to the other stories in the volume. It was the only one that ends on a true cliffhanger and the only one that ended in a clear defeat for humanity. It was also the only story that didn't involve Mark Seven or Reb Shavron. It was the first story, in fact, to name other ADF agents besides the three leaders.
Space Major Joel Shaw is puzzled by one of his men. ADF agent Gil Tranter has just returned from a deep space reconnaissance mission to the planet Zebus in a confused state of mind. He's muttering about the Daleks, but the Space Major can't make sense of it.
Daleks. Daleks all around us. Daleks here.
Clearly, Tranter is in possession of vital intelligence, but in his state, he just can't express it. Shaw orders the doctor on duty to administer psycroton, a hypnotic drug that will make Tranter relive whatever has affected his mind.
Within seconds, Tranter is back in the meteorite storm that crippled his ship. He's explaining how his ship was crippled by the storm, how it left the craft powerless in space.
All the crew were killed, he says, save Tranter and Tarrant. Their communications equipment was wrecked, leaving them unable to radio for help. After four days of aimless drifting, they were caught in a planet's gravity well. Fortunately, the crippled craft's landing systems were fully operational, and Tranter was able to make a controlled landing on a world he could not identify. It seemed to have high concentrations of sulphur, though, judging by the fact that they landed near an area of sulphuric pools.
He left the ADF vessel, desperate to find help for the ailing Tarrant. He noticed, though that he seemed to be followed by flying creatures. Eventually, he came to a forbidding structure, a building so spooky that it transmitted the very essence of evil to his soul. In his mind, he named the "temple of Death". His efforts to bring his mind back to rational facts failed — although he was able to will himself to enter the terrible building.
Tranter continues his tale for Shaw and the doctor. He says that deep inside structure was a man on a table, a man he recognised. He was looking into the face of Crawford, the dead navigation officer from his ship.
It wasn't just his navigation officer in the "temple of Death" — it was every single one of his fallen colleagues. As he tried to make sense of what was going on, two Daleks appeared in the room, flanked by four hooded humanoids. He hid in the shadows, trying to figure out what the Daleks were doing. He noticed that the humanoids were now performing some kind of surgery on the bodies of his colleagues.
Remarkably, Crawford soon sat up, somehow reanimated from death. At that moment, Tranter says, he went unconscious. When he woke up, he was a prisoner of the Daleks. They interrogated him, but Tranter clearly had some questions of his own. The Daleks were forthcoming, even boastful, about their plans. They were part of what they called their "reclamation unit". They found dead humans and brought them back to life.
Sensing the import of what the Dalek was telling him, Tranter got up and ran faster than he ever had in his life. The idea of helping Tarrant had to be abandoned; all that mattered was getting this information back to Earth.
Somehow, he evaded the few Daleks on the planet and made it back to his ship. He started the launch sequence and sped back into space. He blacked out due to the intense gravitational forces as he escaped the planet — and he stayed that way until he was picked up by an ADF-friendly ship.
Shaw considers the story and presses Tranter with the obvious question: did Tranter find out why the Daleks were reanimating humans? The beleaguered ADF agent answers in the affirmative. "They implant human bodies with the brain of a Dalek," he says.
They look like us. Sound like us. There's no way to tell them apart. But they are Daleks!
The full implications of Tranter's words dawn on the ADF leader. Shaw rushes to communicate Tranter's findings to headquarters, but Tranter stops his boss. He advises Shaw that it's too late to do anything about it now. The Dalek reclamation unit has been active for a decade already. The human-Daleks have already infiltrated humanity, and even now are awaiting their orders to attack and destroy...
to be added
- This story was read by Matthew Waterhouse in Dalek Attack: Blockade & Other Stories, released in 2019.