|Doctor Who Companion Internet Adventure #06 - "New Traken"
"Past Life Experiences — Part 2"
by Tony Whitt
Nyssa — the duplicate Nyssa, as she'd already begun to think of herself — shook with anger. She had not been this angry since the last time she'd encountered the Master, had never wanted to kill someone so badly as she wanted to kill this man.
"So you see, Nyssa," he was saying, moving towards the viewport looking out over the planet's surface, "my minions are at this very moment joining with the Source, and I will soon go to join them. Then, once we have all been linked to it, the Crucible will redirect the power of the Keeper Machine and use it to transform the planet into a black hole. We will all be transformed into superbeings with the surge of power, and I will be at the head of it all. They will all be under my control, and we will spread across the universe. We will need you to throw the switch, as it were — you have already been conditioned to do nothing else to the Keeper Machine but that. This will mean your death, of course, when the planet transforms — but your last thought will be the knowledge that a new Traken Union will have been formed. That was your dream, wasn't it?"
He turned away from the sight outside the viewport and smiled. "Now, shall we go down to the planet?"
Nyssa realised that he and she were separated by the ship's control board. She glanced down at the winking lights of the nav console, and she felt a moment of grim satisfaction that she knew how to drive just about any ship in the galaxy.
"Yes," she said calmly, "why don't we?"
His smile turned to an expression of horror as he realized what she planned to do. Before he could move to stop her, Nyssa leapt forward to the controls, punched in a few commands, and engaged the engines. The ship dipped forward as it began a slow spiral down into the planet's gravity well.
* * *
Captain Baluchard watched from his hiding place as the last of the natives passed through the portal. His men had been itching to fight, but all of the long column of people had walked calmly through the portal and vanished into the light. He saw Travis and some woman standing to each side of the doorway. They had made no movement during the slow and tedious process. He could see why the men wanted action — he was a bit bored, himself. What could he do, though?
Off to one side of the portal, the Keeper Machine pulsated with lights and made a strange discordant sound, like wind flutes being played in reverse. With each new native that passed through the door, the noise increased. He wasn't much of a scientist, but even he could see that there was some connection between the Machine and the doorway. The natives were being herded into that light against their will, somehow, and whether they had attacked him or not, even they didn't deserve to be trapped in there.
"When I give the signal," Baluchard hissed, "target the Keeper Machine and fire."
"I really wouldn't, if I were you, Captain," came a whisper from behind his team.
He turned quickly and nearly discharged his gun in the direction of the speaker. Luckily, he recognized her voice just in time. Nyssa crept out from the shadows behind them, and the men parted before her like a sea as she moved to Baluchard's side. "If they're doing what I think they're doing, you might have blown up this entire chamber and us with it," she explained without remonstration.
"What are they doing?" he asked, too stunned by her appearance to take any offence.
"Becoming Keepers," she explained. "Or rather, they're attempting to become Keepers, but there's not enough power being channelled through the Machine to sustain them all. The Source provided by the planet's core isn't enough, and they're waiting for more."
They turned and watched as the last of the natives went inside the portal. Then Travis and Lynalla turned stiffly and followed them in.
"Where is this extra power going to come from?" the Captain asked in a normal tone of voice.
"The destruction of this planet, most probably," Nyssa replied levelly. "The only question is, how were they planning to do that?"
* * *
"You can't harm me!" Myson shouted as he wrestled with the now-locked navigational controls. "You CAN'T!"
"You're right," the second Nyssa replied, "I can't. But I can certainly harm the ship."
"But why?" he pleaded. "Why have you done this?"
"Because the only way your plan can proceed is if you and I go down to the planet's surface together, and while I don't want that plan to succeed, I have to follow your conditioning," Nyssa replied cheerfully. "And since I locked off the transmat controls as soon as I beamed your men to the surface, there was no other way we could go down — except the direct route." As Myson frantically worked at the useless controls, she folded her arms and tapped a thoughtful finger to her lips. "I imagine I must've done that as a result of your conditioning — with the transmat locked off, I couldn't transport you out into space, or anywhere else for that matter. Clever, really. Shame it didn't work the way you intended, of course."
Myson looked up at her in disbelief. She was calm, amused even. He realized he had miscalculated in telling her she was a duplicate. If the REAL Nyssa of Traken were here now, she would never have sent the ship into a suicide dive to prevent his plans. Or would she?
Now that he was a mere ten minutes from his death, he imagined he would never know.
"Life pods!" he shouted, jumping to his feet. "There must be a life pod somewhere! We must go find it! Quickly!" He ran from the bridge as Nyssa watched, smiling.
And she was smiling. It turned out the way to solve this problem was simple enough. Unfortunately, it meant she had to die. Pity. Still, she knew that her true self was down there on the planet in digitized form, and that this ship would crash in the southern hemisphere of the planet, far from the Trakenite settlement and her own ship.
She frowned as she realized there was one more thing to do. Hopefully Myson would take their remaining time trying to find a lifepod — a lifepod she knew this ship didn't have, since she'd taken the liberty of transmatting that to the surface, too. With any luck he'd be gone for the entire ten minutes before the heat of re-entry disintegrated the ship, and she didn't want to be interrupted.
She sat down at the communications console, composed herself with a few breaths, and hit 'RECORD'.
* * *
Nyssa examined the Keeper Machine and nodded. She recognized her own handiwork — obviously, she had indeed been duplicated and forced to hook the Machine into the Crucible to start drawing power from the planet's core. She also saw that her duplicate did the same thing she would have done.
She reached over to the side of the Machine and hit 'RESET'.
The light from the portal increased in intensity and winked out. At that same instant, Travis and Lynalla reappeared in the spots where they had previously stood and immediately collapsed.
The Captain walked up to Travis' unconscious form and jabbed at it. No response. "I... I don't understand," he said. "What did you do?"
Nyssa walked over and knelt beside the two of them. "Part of the problem with my people's original design of the Source," she replied, "was that there was no way to reset it easily if the system were ever invaded. We never thought it was possible because we were too naive. When the Master came, we should have learned. I designed this system with a reset device, so that if unauthorized users ever managed to infiltrate the system, they could be expunged and rendered unconscious until the system could be restarted. The natives are probably back where they came from."
Not natives, Nyssa, she chided herself. My people. My people are free again.
She saw the Captain and engineer both getting ready to ask her more questions, but she held up a hand. "No, please, I don't know why either. It's just a feeling I have. I'm just as confused as you are." She moved back to the Machine and shook her head. "Good thing I hadn't programmed it with any encryption codes yet. Maybe I'll just leave it this way, under armed guard or something. It wouldn't hurt to be a little paranoid."
She turned to the others and smiled. "As a good friend once taught me, 'Never build a machine without an off switch.'"
* * *
Nyssa finished her recording and sent the message. It would arrive at its destination just after the ship had crashed into the southern ice cap. But by then, she would be gone.
She sat back and tried not to think of the increasing temperature of the ship, or about where Myson could have got to. She used her last moments to think about Adric instead and how he must have felt, all those years ago, when he faced death as she was doing right now.
The poor thing, she thought. At least I'm going to die knowing my dream will be fulfilled, knowing that New Traken will still exist after I'm gone. For that matter, I know that I'LL still exist when I'm gone. What were the words of that song Tegan used to sing... 'Life goes on without me'?
And then she thought of the Doctor. How much of this would have happened, had he not come to Traken all those years ago, and had his future self not taken her away from her home, to avoid the fate of the rest of her people? Correction: Most of the rest of her people.
Doctor, she thought, you're a meddling old bastard. I will miss you.
The ship around her began to disintegrate, and then there was no more time for thought.
* * *
The long walk back to the ship was punctuated with the sounds of the natives waking up in the hills around them, confused about the loss of time they had experienced. Some of them considered attacking the party, but they stayed off in the distance and watched as Nyssa and her comrades made their way back to the ship. Lynalla and Travis had woken up halfway to the ship, but Baluchard's men made sure the security restraints on them kept them both from getting away or from talking. Nyssa still refused to tell Baluchard why he should lock them up, saying simply, "I'll explain later."
When they reached the ship, Luen and his followers were sitting on the ground in a daze, looking up at the slowly disintegrating hull of the ship. Luen sprang to his feet as Nyssa approached, but when he saw her gesture to Baluchard's men to lower their weapons, he relaxed and looked confused again.
She walked up to him with a smile on her face. It seemed like she had been smiling ever since she had found herself in the lab, and she didn't know why. "Luen, how are you feeling?"
"I... I don't know," he admitted. "The last thing I remember, we were attacking your ship in retaliation for what you did, and then we were... elsewhere. I... I suddenly don't feel like fighting anymore."
"And I never did," she said. She watched as the security detail passed by with the restrained Travis. His eyes pleaded with her, but she turned her attention back to Luen. "That decision was made for me by others. Luen... why didn't you tell me your people were from Traken?"
His eyes widened. "Well... you didn't ask."
His eyes widened even more as she surged forward and threw her arms around him.
* * *
"Sir!" called Lewis, the second-in-command, as Baluchard strode onto the bridge. "Sensors have picked up a ship crashing into the polar ice cap in the southern hemisphere."
"What ship?" Baluchard grumbled. He flopped into his command chair and dusted the grit from his uniform. He was tired, dirty, and very, very confused by just about everything.
"That's just it, sir," Lewis explained. "We didn't even know it was there until it was hurtling out of space to the ground."
"That seems pretty damned unlikely, doesn't it?" Baluchard barked, scratching himself. He was careful not to use the hand he used to communicate with Solax. I really could use a shower, he thought. "How in the hell can there be a ship in orbit around a planet without anyone noticing?"
"I don't know, sir," Lewis replied, "but there it is. We also have a recorded transmission sent directly to us from the ship before it crashed — and it's marked for the eyes of Nyssa of Traken only."
"Great," said Baluchard. "Are you getting the impression she's the only one who knows what's going on here?"
* * *
She didn't, but she was about to.
Nyssa looked at the first few seconds of the transmission, turned pale, and then asked the communications officer to patch it through to her quarters. Once there, she took several deep breaths to calm herself and then started the recording over again. For several seconds, she simply stared at the battered face of her replicant in horror and sympathy, letting the explanation of everything the Circle had been planning slide right by her. She finally had to break out of her reverie and replay the beginning again.
The woman with her face was obviously hurt, was obviously running out of time, and was obviously about to die, given the final fate of the ship. But Nyssa found herself impressed — and a bit embarrassed at being so impressed — at the woman's calm in the face of certain death and her straightforward, precise summary of everything she had learned. Tegan would have been proud, Nyssa thought. The woman told Nyssa a few things she already knew, but a great deal of it was news to her.
Finally, about six minutes into the recording, the woman looked up, and the first faint glimmer of fear appeared in her face. "Nyssa," she said to herself, "I haven't much more time, and you have almost all the information you need to set things right. There's one more thing: I think I know what Tarkhal meant by the mistake I made in the past. It must have been trusting Travis. As I've told you, apart from Myson, none of this would have happened were it not for him. You have this recording as evidence against him, and I'm sure that Lynalla and the others replicated by Myson can back me up. Do these two things, Nyssa, and I'll rest easily: Rebuild Traken and lead our people into a new Union.
"And have Travis put somewhere where you'll never have to see him ever again.
"Have a good life, Nyssa. And remember: everything is possible now. Everything.
The recording ended. Nyssa's hand hovered over the replay control for a moment. She wrapped her arms around herself instead and stayed that way for a long time.
Her reverie was broken by the sound of a TARDIS materializing in the room. Oh, no, she thought, not now! She didn't want to talk to Fergurson at this moment — even though she herself had not actually run into the mercenary to begin with. But maybe it was Tarkhal... or could it be...?
She turned and nearly screamed. A mirror image of herself was standing in the room. "I'm so sorry to have startled you," the other Nyssa said. "My chameleon circuits indicated this would be the best form to appear in, given your current emotional state."
"I... I don't..." Nyssa began, but then the woman's face burst into a portal of light, and Tarkhal stepped out, grinning broadly.
"Sorry about the theatrics," he said, "but you really have to love these later model TARDISes, don't you?"
The Nyssa behind him made a "tsch" sound and made a show of examining her nails.
Nyssa ignored her doppelganger and looked at him steadily. "Tarkhal. I was hoping you might come back."
"I'm glad I could oblige," he replied, still grinning. "I just wanted to come and make sure everything ended happily... and to find out if you'd realized your mistake."
Nyssa took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "Yes, I have," she replied. She slowly started crossing the room towards him as she spoke. "My... other self thought my mistake was trusting Travis, but it went far deeper than that. My mistake has always been letting others take control of my life — Travis, Fergurson, Myson... you. Even the Doctor."
"Um," Tarkhal said as he backed away. He bumped into Karklae, hoping she would open, but she didn't. Instead, she showed she was taking an interest in the way things were heading by grabbing his arms and holding him, making sure he couldn't get away.
Nyssa stopped right in front of him and stared up into his eyes. Despite the difference in their heights, she seemed to tower over him. "With the single exception of Terminus, my life hasn't been mine since I stepped on board that TARDIS all those years ago, and every time some charismatic figure came into my life, he or she tried to use me for their own purposes." Some suicidal impulse in Tarkhal almost made him correct her pronoun agreement, but she loudly interrupted him. "I HAVE HAD ENOUGH OF THIS. My life is mine, and mine alone. You can take your TARDIS off my planet and yourself with... erm, her..." She glanced apologetically at her mirror image. "No offence."
"None taken," Karklae replied with a smile.
"...And you can consider your promise to the Doctor fulfilled. Don't ever darken my door again. And the next time you run into Fergurson, tell her she can do her mercenary work anywhere in the Universe but here. And the next time you run into the Doctor..."
"What?" Tarkhal cried, desperately wanting to escape from the intensity of that gaze. "I'll tell him anything... but what?"
Nyssa relaxed and almost allowed herself to smile. "Tell him I miss him... but not enough," she said. "I'm sure he'll understand."
With that, she turned and walked out of the room without a backward glance.
Karklae released Tarkhal's arms, and together they watched in silence as Nyssa departed. Then Karklae sighed and said, "You know, I'm dimensionally transcendental and I contain an entire universe within me — but somehow, I suddenly don't feel big enough to fill her shoes. Let's go somewhere that I can change into something more my size." She spun the still staring Tarkhal around and grinned. "Exit, stage right?"
"Um... right," he replied, and she absorbed him back into herself and dematerialised.
* * *
Nyssa took an hour to explain everything to the Captain that it had taken her other self under 10 minutes to explain to her. She left him with a severe headache, as well as a promise that when the ship was made spaceworthy again, he would have Travis sent to the farthest penal asteroid they could find, on charges of attempted murder, kidnapping, and attempted genocide.
Then she walked down to the brig. She noted with satisfaction that Lynalla had already been released and taken back to the base by security, along with the rest of the natives. She had given Engineer Kurnitz all the instructions he needed to send them all back through the decompiler and to reconstruct them without their previous programming. They all went placidly enough — she assumed their brief communion with the Source had taken the fight out of them all. Lynalla had even volunteered the codes necessary to lock down the base remotely so that all the technicians left there would not be able to escape before security made it back. But Nyssa suspected that they, too, would be in no hurry to leave or to fight. She envied them, in a way — they had directly communed with the Source without the self-will to manipulate it to their own purposes. They had been forced for those brief moments to appreciate it.
That would make what she had in mind a lot easier.
Travis paced back and forth in his cell, but he stopped when Nyssa entered the room. He nearly shocked himself into unconsciousness when he tried to rush to her through the force field. "Nyssa!" he cried. "You've got to let me out of here! I can explain everything!"
"Can you, really?" she replied coolly. "I've had it from a very reliable source that you've been lying to me all this time. Worse, you've been using me for your own gain all these years. I must truly have been wrapped up in my research and administration duties not to have seen it all."
"Nyssa," he pleaded, "I did it all for you. Everything that the Circle would have achieved with the Source would have allowed New Traken to become a reality! I was there when you... when she turned on the Keeper Machine. I felt the power there, power that could be used for good. With you guiding that power, I know your dreams will come true. And I want to be there by your side... if you'll still have me. Please, let me out."
Nyssa hesitated for a moment. Then she touched the force field controls, and the field winked out.
Travis smiled as she moved towards him, ready to take her in his embrace. At the last minute, she said two words to him, so quietly he almost didn't hear her. He didn't recognize the first one — it was some ancient Earth word, he gathered, but the second one was "you."
He was just about to ask her what she meant when her fist broke his nose and knocked him unconscious.
* * *
The crowd gathered around the newly-repaired ship, and Nyssa looked down from the gantry over the people gathered there. Her people. In amongst them were faces belonging to the crew of the Circle base, many of them looking ashamed, many more looking afraid. To their credit, the Trakenites barely gave them a second glance, and when they did, they looked on with sympathy, not anger. Good, she thought. This might still work.
"My friends," she began, "the Circle was doing the right thing, but in the wrong way and for the wrong reason. They came here to transform a dying planet into a new power source, and many of you came to help them out of the kindness of your hearts. You had no way of knowing what their true purpose was, and once they duplicated you and programmed you, you could never have stopped them had you discovered it.
"Our goals, yours and mine, have ironically been the same — to create a New Traken. You did not know that the people you were trying to save were my people, and I could not have known that the planet I had chosen to rebuild my home-world had already been populated by its survivors.
"I propose that we set aside the past and go forward from here. You've all experienced the power of the Source in conjunction with the Crucible, and you know that such power can reshape this world and draw power from other dimensions. We do not have to destroy Sarabiss in order to recreate it, or to give its people back their strength. We can use what we have, what we always had to power the Source back on Traken: the good will of our people — or as a friend of mine once put it, our ability to be terribly nice to one another."
She smiled as the crowd laughed. It was a healing laughter, and she saw that even Alex and Luen were standing side by side and glancing at each other in easy camaraderie. She took a breath and continued, "The road ahead will not be as difficult as it seems. Once I have your help to rebalance the Keeper Machine against the Crucible and the core of the planet, we can then use the resultant energy to build a stable Source, one which will help us transform this world and its people and build a new Traken."
There was a cheer at that moment, and she heard several of the Trakenites begin a chant: "BE OUR KEEPER! BE OUR KEEPER! BE OUR KEEPER!"
She had anticipated this. She held up her hands for silence, and the crowd subsided. "This new Traken, however, will not be based around a Keeper. I do not feel myself worthy of guiding an entire planet, nor do I feel any one of us could be trusted with that much power. I've learned recently that we must all control our own destinies and that we cannot rely on someone outside ourselves to do it for us." She saw people nodding in the crowd and murmurs of appreciation. Good.
"When we create the new Source, it will link us all in harmony, in peace... and in self-reliance. But I cannot do the work ahead without the help of each and every one of you. Will you help me?"
The crowd's assent was deafening, and Nyssa felt a grateful tear slide down her cheek. As they chanted her name, she looked out along the desert horizon, the desert which would soon be green and lush again. She thought she saw four figures standing on a sand dune not far away: one, a tall fair-haired man in a cream jacket and red-striped pants; the second a young dark-haired boy in a yellow tunic with a star-shaped badge on his chest; the third a dark-haired woman in a severe purple uniform; and the fourth a gentleman in Trakenite garb with long greying hair and laughing eyes.
Then she blinked the tears from her eyes, and they were gone.
She smiled as the crowd surged forward and took her onto their shoulders. She was finally in charge of her life, and the future had never, ever, looked so bright.
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