|Doctor Who Companion Internet Adventure #06 - "New Traken"
"Moment of Glory"
by Jeffery Beuck
"And the winner of this year's Universal Prize for Outstanding Achievement in Biochemistry is..."
Nyssa crossed her fingers. This was it. The next few moments might be the crowning point of her life. She sat nervously, knowing that all of her friends back on Terminus and across the Universe were watching the broadcast, not to mention the scientific community at large, the billions of people who had been cured of Lazar's Disease, and the 20,000 life forms in the auditorium with her. When she had first been notified that she had been nominated for the award, she had been shocked — her accomplishments had not seemed so remarkable next to those of the other nominees, who had accomplished even more remarkable tasks such as retro-engineering the Dalek race back to its original humanoid form or creating universal foods that could be eaten safely by 96% of the known races in the Universe. Nyssa wasn't certain what she would do if her name was the next word pronounced through the voice synthesizer of the Chair of the Universal Biochemistry Prize Committee. She watched in anxious anticipation as he (it?) unlatched the small datapad that contained the winner's name.
"... Nyssa of the Terminus Foundation."
She nearly fainted.
A round of applause instantly erupted, and even some cheers could be heard from the thousands of sentient beings crowded into the auditorium. Nyssa felt for a moment as if she had been transported to a dream world. Never in her life had she experienced a moment as gratifying and relieving as this. It wasn't until Travis — rising with the others around her to give her a standing ovation — prodded her with his elbow that she came back to the real world and stood up gracefully. She walked, head held in quiet dignity, smiling, to the podium at the front of the auditorium. As nervous as she was, she almost hurried too quickly to the stage, but her years of etiquette lessons — suffered through as the daughter of one of Traken's Consul's — had been ingrained in her, and she strode down the aisle and up the steps to the podium nobly and flawlessly.
As she reached the Podium, the Biochemistry Chair smiled to her. The applause faded quickly so that the Chair could speak.
"For the past fifteen years, Nyssa has led a ceaseless battle to eliminate Lazar's Disease, the terrible infliction which has taken the lives of billions across humanoid-occupied space for the past Century, including countless rulers, popular entertainers, and even the previous Chair of the Biochemistry Prize Committee. Her tireless efforts have forever changed the face of the Universe, and made safe the lives of billions more for centuries to come. Nyssa, I am honored to present you this award, the highest in the Universe, for your contributions to the field of Biochemistry." He presented her with the award as an even louder round of applause burst forth from the public in attendance, and then shuffled aside to let Nyssa present her acceptance speech.
As Nyssa looked out over the crowd, she could not help but reflect upon the years of her life that had led up to this moment. It had been a little over fifteen years ago that she had abandoned her travels with the Doctor, the mysterious Time Lord who had taken her in and protected her when the Master had destroyed both her father and her entire world. Seeing an opportunity to finally put her many scientific skills to use, she had remained behind on the space station Terminus to perfect the cure for Lazar's Disease, the affliction with which she — as well as millions of other — had been contaminated. Her first six months on the station had been quite precarious; besides having to earn the trust of the Vanir — the employees of the former Terminus, Inc. and caretakers of the station — she had found it extremely difficult to acquire the needed equipment, chemicals, and supplies she had needed to synthesize Hydromel, the only chemical known at the time to keep in check the symptoms of the dreaded disease. Besides that, there had also been the problem of her being the lone young woman on a station run almost entirely by lonely, angry, and suffering men. There had been a few of those men who had made her life miserable in their ceaseless and sometimes violent attempts to take advantage of her.
But she had always held one factor in her favour — she had been the only one on the station who had known how to synthesize Hydromel. By threatening to withhold it from the troublemakers, she had extricated herself from dangerous situations more than once. Although she never would have been cruel enough to allow one of her fellow workers to die by withholding the drug from them, the others didn't know that and she'd soon had found that Hydromel was as potent a weapon as it was a restorative.
Those first few years had been very lonely, but she had been helped through it by her friends Valgard, Sigurd, Bor, and others who had come to the station seeking work or who, after being cured, had nowhere better to go. Unfortunately, Valgard and the others who had originally been on Terminus when she had arrived had all suffered too much from the disease and from exposure to radiation. Although she had done her best to provide them with medical care and every counter-radiation treatment she could procure, they all eventually had succumbed to either the disease or to radiation sickness, even with the proper radiation shielding that they had purchased and which the Garm had installed in the station.
Poor Valgard had hung on the longest — nearly three years. But by that time they had turned Terminus, Inc. into the Terminus Foundation, a proper hospital and treatment facility, and there had been plenty of others who, grateful for the opportunity to be cured and to live a full life, had joined the crusade against Lazar's Disease. Over time, Nyssa's situation had improved slowly but surely.
Within two years of arriving on Terminus, Nyssa had researched the radiation treatment for Lazar's Disease enough to learn the safe amounts of radiation for each body size, weight, and species, and there were few, if any, people who came to Terminus lost to the disease. But, of course, only the rich and wealthy were able to afford to travel to Terminus for treatment. There were millions, possibly billions with the disease who would never have the opportunity to be cured. That'd inspired Nyssa's next step.
During the next three years, she'd perfected a drug treatment for Lazar's disease that was safer, more efficient, less expensive, and eminently more portable than the radiation treatment. Armed with this weapon against the deadly disease, Nyssa had set off on a crusade to ensure that Lazar's Disease was stamped out across the Universe.
It had been shortly before perfecting the drug cure that Travis had joined the Terminus Foundation. Travis had been a nobleman of a rather prominent industrial planet in the Sombrero Galaxy. He had contracted Lazar's Disease in his early twenties and had practically given up on life by the time his ship had reached Terminus. After being cured, and recuperating for several days in the Foundation's rehabilitation facilities, Travis had requested a meeting with the Foundation Board, of which Nyssa had been appointed Director, and expressed his sincere gratitude to the organization for saving his life. He had been so moved by his experience that not only did he donate most of his holdings of several million credits to the Foundation, but he also gave up his former life in the aristocracy to work alongside Nyssa and the others on the Research Board.
Although it took Travis quite some time to adjust to the idea of following the orders of others, and although it took quite a bit of scientific training before he was able to help with the research directly, Travis had been one of the most committed researchers in the project. And having been a former noblewoman herself on Traken, there had been an uncommon bond between them, and they had slowly become friends. With the help of Travis' contacts and influence, and his parents' pharmaceutical company, they had begun the distribution of the Lazar's Disease cure to the masses, and in just nine years, Lazar's Disease had been eradicated across the known Universe. There had not been a case reported in the United Galaxies for over a year now.
Nyssa stepped up to the podium. "This is indeed a great honor for me, and for the entire staff of the Terminus Foundation." She smiled down at Travis and at the other members of the Foundation Board who had accompanied her to the ceremony.
"The battle against Lazar's Disease has not been an easy one. It was an extremely mutative disease that spread rapidly, and that affected each race in a different way. Setting up networks across the Galaxies to manufacture and distribute the vaccine, and ensuring that every citizen of the millions of planets in the technocracy was protected against the threat, were even longer and more difficult tasks. It has been very satisfying, though, to know that I, along with my colleagues, have helped to save countless lives, and that we have made the Universe a better place for all its races. I could not have achieved this without the help of the others at the Terminus Foundation. To thank them for their efforts, and to encourage their continued patronage of the biochemical sciences, I will be donating to them the monetary award that I am receiving tonight. Thank you again to everyone who has supported our efforts and who selected me to win this award. I am extremely honoured."
The applause burst forth once again, and Nyssa enjoyed her final moment in the spotlight.
* * *
In her guest's quarters later that night, Nyssa jumped as her door chime rang unexpectedly. She rose from her computer terminal and pressed the panel to activate the outside camera, and saw that her visitor was only Travis. She relaxed and let him in. The door slid sideways with a whooshing sound.
"Nyssa, I have some wonderful news."
"Please, come in." She stood aside to let him enter. Travis pulled a chair up to the crystalline table in the centre of the room, and set down his datapad, opening it. Nyssa closed the door and joined him.
"I think I've found the perfect planet for you."
Nyssa furrowed her brow. "Perfect planet?"
"Yes... since the Lazar's Project ended last year, you've been spending most of your time working on that Keeper machine of yours--"
"I have not been spending most of my time on it. It's only a hobby."
Travis laughed. "Now that you have nothing more productive to do, you've been spending almost all your time on this 'hobby', as you call it, in the hope of recreating this Keeper- machine that used to keep your home system in a state of perfect harmony before it was destroyed, correct?"
"The machine was just the power source. The Keeper was an actual person. Your point?"
"My point is, I know that you're sick of Terminus and have been waiting for the right opportunity to come along to move to a real planet with a real atmosphere and real flowers and real rain--"
"I am not sick of Terminus."
Travis chuckled again. "Oh yes you are. You've been spending as much time away from it in recent years as you possibly can. You're ready to move to a better place, and settle down. And I've had my contacts keeping their eyes open for any likely planets that match what you've told me of your home world. Somewhere rustic, peaceful, out-of-the-way... the exact opposite of my homeworld."
Nyssa sighed. "And?"
"And, during the ceremony, a friend and casual business acquaintance of mine left me a message describing just the place." He punched a few buttons on his datapad and the hologram of a beautiful blue and green planet swirled into view. "Allow me to introduce Sarabiss, a rural little planet in an out-of-the-way little galaxy named only 'Galaxy 178456.'"
Nyssa frowned sceptically at the display. "Well, it certainly must be out of the way... I didn't even know there were that many inhabited galaxies."
Travis put his arm on her shoulder excitedly. "The best part is, the entire planet's for sale. For 500,000 credits!"
"What?" Nyssa stared at him even more sceptically than before. She certainly wasn't interested in investing in *that* much real estate.
"Yes!" Travis replied, ignoring her doubtful look. "It has a small humanoid population of about 75,000 at a predominantly Level-Two technology; it's been ruled by a benign, planet-wide monarchy for the past 400 years, and the current rulers are bored to death of the place and are selling the planet so that they can move somewhere more exciting. Doesn't it sound lovely? And as for the 500,000 credits... well, my remaining shares of my parents' corporation still total about 250,000 credits, and with the 1,000,000-credit award you've just received as this year's greatest Biochemist, we'd have no problem--"
Nyssa held up her hands. "Stop right there. I've already decided that I'm donating the award to the Foundation to fund work on the new projects we've just undertaken, like curing Syuven's Disease and finding more effective ways to terraform uninhabitable planets. And anyway, why do you keep saying 'we' in relation to this fiasco you're describing...?"
Travis sighed exasperatedly. "Oh, come on, Nyssa. For all intents and purposes, you're the Director of Terminus in name only. You haven't really participated in any of the new projects in over a year."
"I poured my heart and soul into Terminus for 15 years, and I have no intention of abandoning it now. I still have an important role as the Foundation's chief administrator, but I think I'm entitled to some time off now and then... And besides, the new projects are all in the capable hands of others who are more expert in their fields than I am. I know next to nothing about Syuven's Disease; my specialty was Lazar's. But they still need me to keep them organized and focused."
"Exactly! You hate administrating — how many times have I heard you complain about it during the past ten years? You enjoy doing the hands-on work, and now that the big goal of your life — of both our lives — has been accomplished, neither of us will be happy until we've found the next big project that we can dig our hands into. Admit it — if it came down to a choice between pushing papers at a desk for the rest of your life, and trying to create a new Traken Union out in the real world, which would you choose? Be honest."
Nyssa sighed and looked down again at the slowly rotating hologram of Sarabiss. "I... I guess I'd rather create a new Union. But my Keeper project has hardly begun! It's all based on what little I knew of how the Keepership worked on my home planet 20 years ago and a glimpse I once had of the diagrams for the power source under the Keeper's Sanctum. I'm years away from understanding even the basics of how the Keepership worked, let alone trying to implement it with real people who've never heard of me nor the Traken Union in the first place. I don't think it's a risk I'm willing to take yet...."
Travis gently placed his arm around her, an unexpected gesture which was startling... yet long overdue, considering how their friendship had grown over the years. Nyssa looked over into his eyes.
"Nyssa, you've spoken to me so many times of the world upon which you were raised over the years that I've come to believe that you've deliberately lost yourself in your work for the last half your life to try to forget about it. Well, now you have a chance to rebuild it, to leave a legacy greater than the one you'll leave behind by sitting behind a desk at the Terminus Foundation for the rest of your life. And we're not getting any younger, you know. We're both almost 40. This may be our last opportunity to embark on a project like this, before you become entangled in the next big project of Terminus. I..."
Travis looked away for a moment, then looked into her eyes with feeling and emotion. "... I wouldn't mind spending the rest of my life by your side, helping you to fulfill your dreams. I couldn't think of a more intelligent, understanding, noble, and... kind soul to share my life with. Just think about it... we could have a kingdom all to ourselves, a place of harmony and happiness, and as time went by, it could be expanded to include a whole system of planets, maybe even a galaxy, maybe even the whole United Galaxies themselves. Sure, it might be long after we die, but at least we'll have the satisfaction of knowing that we started the planet, if not the whole Universe, on a path toward eternal peace and harmony."
He took her hand. "Just think about it. I know this is a big decision, perhaps the biggest of your life. But no matter what you choose, I will always be here for you, and you will always have my respect and friendship."
Nyssa let him hold her hand in silence for several minutes. Although she knew a change in their lifestyles had been coming, she hadn't expected Travis to suggest they leave everything they knew behind to start life over on some unknown world. This wasn't a decision she could make now, or even tomorrow. She would need some time to think about this, about how she wanted to spend the rest of her life.
* * *
1.2 Years Later
Travis held Nyssa's hand excitedly as they approached the planet Sarabiss — or as Travis had affectionately renamed it, "New Traken."
After several weeks of sleepless nights and thinking about the options for her future, Nyssa had finally come to realize that she did want nothing more than to start a new life, and to create a new Traken in memory of the one that had been destroyed by the Master so long ago. She and Travis had researched the planet as much as they were able from Terminus, even sending Arden — Terminus' expert planetologist and one of their most trusted associates — to the planet to see it first hand. He had confirmed that the planet was just as Travis' friend had described it: a docile, rustic paradise. Nyssa had decided that it was probably as good a place as any to start her new world. She donated only three- fourths of her Universal Biochemistry Award to the Foundation — still a sizable amount which the other members of the Board were quite pleased to receive — and announced that in a year she would be stepping down from her post as Director to begin a new sociological project on a distant planet.
Intrigued, the other members of the Board immediately bombarded her with questions about this new project. As word of her plans quickly spread, she gathered a following of almost 50 volunteers from the Foundation to go with her to the new planet to participate in her experiment in "Universal Harmony." These 50 were in the transport ship with her now, or in one of the other three transports that were bringing them and their belongings, supplies, and basic scientific equipment to New Traken to begin their new lives.
The last year had been less productive for her hobby of studying ways to reinstate a Keepership. Although she would probably never be able to recreate the feat of biotechnical engineering that had established the near-omnipotent Keepership in the original Traken Union so many millennia ago, she had made a very minor discovery in linking mental sensors and a small transmat device to an old chair which gave her the power to hop around one section of Terminus apparently at will. Sure, it used ridiculous quantities of power, and it wasn't useful for much other than impressing people at parties and adding to her already growing levels of laziness, but it was a start. Her research into harnessing the positive mental auras of large populations for power had been less successful, though. She wasn't certain whether that was because no one had thought to research it before, or because all the previous research in the Universe-at-large had simply failed.
Nyssa looked out the viewport with Travis at the new planet they had purchased with a lost of feeling of adventure that she hadn't felt since her time with the Doctor so many years ago. Something about the planet struck a warning bell in her mind, though.
"Travis, my dear, isn't the planet supposed to be a little more... green than that?"
"Hmm?" Travis absent-mindedly pulled his omnipresent datapad from his pocket and recalled the hologram of the planet that he had first shown to Nyssa over a year ago. "Well, it's definitely the right planet — look at the land masses. But you're right — it's as if someone falsified the hologram's colouring... or else huge sections of the planet have undergone some kind of ecological disaster during the past year. Arden didn't mention anything about any kind of ecological disaster when he came here to inspect the planet for us last year."
"Hmm." Nyssa began to worry.
* * *
The ships set down near the coordinates of the former monarch's palace, which was on the border of one of the yellow patches on the planet. By common consensus, it was decided that Nyssa and Travis, the ones who had made the trip possible, would be the first ones to disembark on their new planet. Taking a deep breath and holding Travis' hand, Nyssa pressed the pad to lower the hatch.
Miles of sand and dunes, broken only occasionally by a tuft of grass, greeted her eyes.
"Oh, dear," Nyssa murmured.
Suddenly, a loud roaring noise assaulted her ears, and several primitive, internal-combustion vehicles roared over the dunes, driven by rough-looking humanoids in leather jackets and crash helmets. They waved primitive metal implements and stone-slings at the invading ships, then began assaulting the spacecraft, yelling abuse and clamouring for the intruders to get off their planet and go back into space.
Nyssa quickly closed the hatch as the stones and shrapnel clattered against the hull.
"Welcome to New Traken," she said.
To be continued...
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