|Doctor Who Companion Internet Adventure #06 - "New Traken"
by Ruth Burns
Lynalla stood back against the wall, feeling the cool metal through the fabric of her shirt. Standing a hundred yards ahead, their backs toward her, Neal and Travis were still engrossed in their self- congratulatory plans. Travis seemed to be progressing right on schedule: the Circle would be pleased. Bloody damn arrogant bastard, though.
Gods, eh? she thought scornfully. Well, we shall see. She moved carefully, silently forward, eyes wide and ears straining toward their words.
"So soon, Neal," Travis was saying, his eyes on the shimmering Crucible, "so soon all of my dreams will become realities. More... they will become Reality."
"Indeed, sir," Neal replied eagerly, "there is nothing that can possibly stand in your way..." Abruptly, Neal stopped, his face flushed. His eyes skittered nervously toward Travis and away.
Travis looked sharply at Neal, the glow of his magnificent future fading from his face. "What is it, Neal?" he asked. His voice was very quiet. Neal gulped at the veiled menace in the words, and began to stammer.
"Well, you see, sir, it's... well, it's... you see, sir..." He stopped and winced as Travis reached out and gripped his shoulder in a comradely fashion, feeling the bones grate together under steel- strong fingers.
"I'm waiting, Neal," said Travis, without changing his tone.
Neal flinched. "I... I... my lord, please!!" He gulped, a bead of sweat gathering on his forehead. "... that is to say, it's Arden, my lord!"
Travis leaned forward slightly. "And what about Arden, Neal?"
Neal's eyes jittered between Travis' face and the hand clamped to his shoulder. The sweat-bead trickled down the side of his face and into his collar. "My... my lord..." Travis shifted his grip slightly, and Neal squealed out, "He's gone rogue!! He's left the complex! We don't know where he is!!"
Lynalla shivered appreciatively as she watched, wide-eyed. The two men were completely oblivious to her, locked in their private drama. She revelled in it, drinking in Neal's fear. Obnoxious, smarmy, little git, he deserves it, she thought. And as for Travis... She eyed the tall lord speculatively, tapping one well-manicured finger against her lip.
Travis scowled dangerously down at the trembling Neal. "You filthy, lying, little bastard. Arden's run at last, and now he's with Nyssa, isn't he? Isn't he?" He twisted his hand, and Neal whimpered. "Do you think I don't realize what this means, you twittering fool?"
He tossed Neal away from him with a furious shove, and watched as the man reeled backward. Neal skidded and flailed wildly, barely catching the gantry's narrow rail in time to stop himself from sliding headlong into the Abyss. He clung to the rail, shaking, his eyes fixed on the black depths. Behind him, Travis made an impatient sound.
"Oh, get up, man. Pull yourself together."
Neal swallowed, and pulled himself upright, straightening his coat with a deliberately dignified gesture before he turned to face the outraged Travis. He waved one hand a little, tremblingly. "I take full responsibility for this fiasco, of course, my lord."
Travis shrugged impatiently. "Your responsibility, or rather, your remarkable lack thereof, is not at issue — at the moment, that is," he added ominously. "What is currently occupying my thoughts is the fact that Arden has obviously found some means of contacting Nyssa, and blurted out his version of the story to her. Now that he has done that, my friend Neal, I may have some difficulty in explaining my version — the correct version — to her. Don't you think that could happen, Neal?"
Neal tugged at his collar nervously, swallowed, and nodded. Travis came to stand beside Neal next to the rail, and leaned casually against it.
"If Nyssa should take it into her head to become, oh, difficult, shall we say, it could cause a hindrance to our plans, Neal. It could even make things quite challenging. You see, Neal," Travis turned a little so he was looking directly down into Neal's face, "I need her quite badly. She's the only one who can make her bloody Keeper machine work. And she's got this set of silly scruples, you see." He leaned closer suddenly, menacingly, and Neal cowered back against the railing, clutching it desperately. "She'll never understand what I'm trying to accomplish here if Arden fills her head full of his filthy, stinking lies, Neal!!"
He leaned back again, and spoke in a casual, almost friendly manner. "I do hope I don't end up having trouble with her because of your incompetence."
Lynalla nodded to herself decisively. A faint, grim smile touched her face for just a moment. My god! she thought. He's amazing! Such a fine appreciation of the fears of others. She started to ease softly back up the corridor, away from the men. She had seen enough.
Once she was sure she had gone far enough to get out of earshot, she hurried, her boot-heels sending out faint CLINKS on the dull metal floor. Definitely, she thought smugly, as she headed toward her quarters. He's a perfect specimen. I'll contact the Circle immediately, and get the labs prepped. We'll perform the procedure as soon as they're ready. This time, nothing will go wrong, I swear it!
* * *
Neal had gone a pasty colour. He shook his head frantically. "Y-y-yes, sir... I... I mean, no, sir! I mean, his mind has been blocked, sir! Our best people saw to it! He won't be able to tell her anything, sir, nothing! Alex will have them both within the hour!"
Travis looked down at the shivering man with contempt. He turned his back and started to walk away without another word. Neal, clutching the rail, started to breathe a silent sigh of relief. After about three steps, Travis paused, and Neal froze. Travis spoke over his shoulder.
"It is magnificent, isn't it?" he asked casually, looking up again at the humming Crucible. "I will do it. I will create my kingdom, my Reality, and it will be filled with peace and harmony. Nothing can be more important than that — not even Nyssa." He turned further, and looked back at Neal. "And not you, either, Neal. Don't ever forget that."
* * *
Ensign Marnett looked up as the Captain strode onto the bridge, and snapped instantly to attention. Captain Baluchard returned his salute absently as he hurried to the main instrument panel and subjected it to an intense scrutiny, checking status of the ship and of all personnel on board. In a few moments, the Captain looked up again, with a grim, harassed expression.
"Ensign," he snapped.
Marnett moved at once to the Captain's side. "Sir," he replied, respectfully. Marnett had just been commissioned shortly before the 'Universal Harmony' excursion. He respected Captain Baluchard; the man had an impressive record of service. Never mind what some of the crew were starting to mutter among themselves — that the Captain was losing it, starting to crack up little by little.
"Who's the leader among the colonists after Nyssa and Travis?" the Captain asked him. His voice was rough and impatient.
Marnett blinked in surprise, but answered readily, "That would be Solax, sir. She's..." Baluchard cut him off.
"I don't care what her bloody title is," he growled. "If she has any kind of authority, get her up here right now. And do it quietly! I'll be in my quarters until you locate her." He turned, without waiting for an answer, and stomped off again.
Marnett stared after him for a moment, open-mouthed. Then again, maybe they're right after all, he thought. Shaking his head, he started to reach for the loudspeaker microphone. He stopped, considered a moment, shrugged, and instead touched the switch for the ship's private directory.
* * *
Nyssa was breathing heavily as she and Arden struggled up the crest of a shallow dune and began running down the other side with long, sliding, plunging strides that kicked up bow waves of dusty sand. She was terribly thirsty, and there was a pain in her side, but she didn't dare stop for even a second until they had reached the bottom and begun struggling across level ground again. To one side and a little behind her, she could hear Arden's raspy breathing. They ran until Nyssa could bear it no more, then skidded to a halt behind a small, stunted tree. She dropped her head between her knees to breathe.
"Nyssa." She looked up, still panting, at Arden. He crouched in front of her, twisting his long fingers together. His blue eyes were full of concern for her. "Are you all right?"
She nodded firmly, climbing to her feet. "Yes. Let's go."
"Wait." Arden didn't move. "I remember... I have to tell you..." He stopped.
Nyssa peered anxiously through the warped branches in the direction they had come from. She looked back at Arden. She sighed. "What is it?" she asked.
Arden gestured desperately. He seemed to be striving unsuccessfully to capture something inside his own mind. "I remember — it's out there," he waved one hand vaguely to the west, toward the empty desert. "Underneath!"
"What is?" Nyssa looked back at the ridge again. She felt as if she were suffocating. Funny, I'd forgotten this part of all those adventures with the Doctor, she thought. How sometimes fear can grab you by the heart.
"The Circle," he whispered, as if afraid someone would hear him. Nyssa made an impatient gesture, and he caught at her. "No! No!" he hissed, clinging to her hands, "You must listen! I know I'm not well, I can't tell it very well. Listen! Five miles outside of town — only five miles! — is a doorway in the sand. Listen! It goes down and down, and down. It never stops going down, all the way to the planet's heart. And there's a great ball, you know, that hums and glows. And there are rooms down there, rooms and rooms with all kinds of vials and needles and bottles and pills and long tubes where they put you, you know, and do the things to you." Arden began to cry; racking, miserable sobs. "And soon, very soon, the Crucible will go into the Abyss, and it will all be over, all gone, all dead." Nyssa watched him, stunned into stillness, appalled.
"What have they done to you?" she whispered.
Arden stopped sobbing abruptly at her words. He looked at her face, looked down at her hands, and saw his own fist clenched around them. He loosed her with a dry, sobbing little laugh. "They gave me myself," he said, "and took it away." He shuddered for a moment. "I can't tell it — not that," he said, shaking his head. "But you have to know — it is Travis. I know you don't want to believe it, but he's the one. He thinks he wants to be God. He did it all. All this." Arden's wave took in the whole desert around them. "But it's not because of him, don't you see?"
Nyssa shook her head; her own eyes were filled with tears.
Arden took a deep breath, and tried again, struggling for lucidity. "They blocked... blocked me. I can't tell it right. But it's because of you — your experiments. The planet is awake now, in its core — the Source is reaching out to you. The Source is the power. Travis is just caught up in its whirlwind..."
A sudden, sharp sound startled a faint scream from Nyssa. She looked back at the crest of the ridge they had run over. Five dark shapes had blossomed from its crown and were running swiftly toward them. She looked back at Arden. His blue-tinged face was turning grey; there was a dark stain beginning to spread across his belly. Nyssa gasped in horror.
"Whhhooooooyyeeeaaaahhhh!!!!!!!!!" came screaming out of the air behind her. Nyssa whirled, and ducked just in time to avoid a pair of heavy boots as they whizzed past her and landed heavily on the ground, taking Arden with them. Attached to the boots was a man. He was of average height, compact, lean, with red hair in short spikes all over his head. He wore a spiked collar around his neck. His eyes gleamed as he leered at her.
"Oh, yeah," he breathed, on his feet in an instant. "You are the one, baby, you are the one."
"Arden!" Nyssa cried. She started to move forward, but stopped as the booted man stepped toward her. She started forward again, but his leer grew wider, and a huge knife suddenly appeared in his right hand.
"Oh, come on, baby," he urged her, licking his lips. "Give me a reason."
"Who are you?" Nyssa cried out, stamping her foot with outrage. "Let me help him!"
The man grinned again, then laughed loudly. In another rapid movement, the knife disappeared again. He stepped back, indicating Arden with a shrug. Nyssa ran to her friend and began examining his injuries. She looked up as the boots grated close by her side. The man squatted beside her, staring.
"I'm Alex," he said. He indicated Arden with another shrug. "He's as good as dead anyway, you know," he said conversationally.
Nyssa didn't look up. "What do you mean? Why did you attack us? Who are you?" Her hands were busy tearing away Arden's shirt and gently probing the small hole in his middle, which seemed to be spreading every moment.
Alex sat down in the dust and stretched his legs out. "Didn't he tell you?" he asked archly.
Nyssa didn't reply. Alex scowled. After a moment, he got up again. Nyssa felt a hand seize her hair, and felt the cold edge of the knife against her throat. She held very still. "He's as good as dead," said Alex's voice soft beside her ear, "because he's been infected. Same as me. Same as all of us here. Bitch." He pushed her head, and she fell forward onto Arden's bloody form. A rustling around her made her look up to see five uniformed troops gathering around them, weapons at the ready.
"Put up," Alex told them, and they relaxed. "Already nailed him. This one's no trouble."
Nyssa looked up at him furiously, but said nothing. Arden was bleeding more profusely now. He looked up at her with eyes strangely peaceful.
"Don't," he muttered, pushing her hands away. "Better now. Nyssa, never be afraid. It's all for you, remember. All.. you..." his voice died away. Nyssa bowed her head silently, wishing she could cry. Alex nudged her with the toe of his boot.
"All right, enough. Let's move."
"Nyssa looked at the knife in his hand, at the armed, silent troops around them. She stood up, and looked down at Arden.
"I want him buried," she said firmly, with all the dignity a Lady of Traken could muster.
Alex shrugged. "Yeah, good luck with that," he said indifferently. "Move."
With a last glance at Arden, Nyssa moved
To be continued...
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