|Doctor Who Companion Internet Adventure #06 - "New Traken"
"Perception of Fear"
by Mary Hyde
"Not quite the welcoming committee I was expecting," Travis sputtered, leaning against the bulkhead.
"Nor I." Nyssa frowned at the continued pounding against the ship's hull.
Sarabiss had not turned out to be the idyllic retreat she had hoped for. She hadn't even gotten to step onto its surface, yet it was beginning to feel like Traken had under the Melkur's influence.
Her innate Trakenite sensitivity to Evil, though dulled by the long years apart from the Union, still left her with a general unease about the planet. Or perhaps something on it.
With a growing hum, the floor under their feet began to quiver. Nyssa and Travis exchanged a stunned look. "Captain Baluchard is starting the engines!" Travis cried.
"There are people out there!" Nyssa pushed past, rushing toward the Control Centre. "We have to stop him!"
They wove around the other passengers milling about in confusion in the corridors and finally neared the flight deck.
The Captain was standing behind his chair, hands twisting nervously behind his back. "Contact the other ships and have them liftoff. We'll provide cover for as long as we..."
Baluchard jumped as Nyssa burst breathlessly into the room. He turned to face the slight woman. "Not to worry, Ma'am. I've got everything well in ha..."
Travis joined her. "We are not leaving New Traken!"
"Of course not," Baluchard soothed. "Just a strategic retreat until we can regroup. We'll be back..."
The propulsion system chose this instant to finish its initiation sequence, shuddering the ship as the inertial force deviation kicked in. While not sufficient to lift the space vessel, the system generated an auxiliary wave strong enough to heave aside one of the crude transports unlucky enough to be in its path.
Its occupants fell clear as the motorized cart tumbled over the sand. Nyssa watched in horror on the rear viewer as the vehicle's fuel ignited, showering the nearby desert with shrapnel and chunks of flying debris.
Bits and pieces pattered down on the ship's shell like hail. A sharp jolt mixed with the sound of wrenching metal shook the vessel, and an alarm began to blare overhead.
"We've taken a hit to the tertiary gyro system, Captain!" the Engineering officer, Kurnitz shouted over the tortured roar of the propulsion system.
"Well, shut it down!"
The roar faded to a whine, then a gurgle. And finally stopped.
"How bad is it?" Captain Baluchard's voice was barely a whisper.
Shrugging, Kurnitz started toward the door. "Can't tell from these readings. I'll need to do a visual before..." The Engineer's voice faded as he hurried from the room.
Travis noticed that Captain Baluchard had again begun to fidget, hands clenching and unclenching in agitation. "The Engineer could probably use some help. Perhaps Nyssa and I could..." he reasoned, glancing at the woman.
She was staring at the display screen. A billowing coil of smoke rose into the air from the burning wreckage of the vehicle. Beyond it, their three companion ships were just lifting off.
"I'm going out there," she announced suddenly.
Travis grabbed her arm as she turned away. "No, Nyssa. You're not...not thinking clearly."
"People are hurt," she insisted firmly.
Travis shook his head. "Surely someone else..."
"You know me better than that," Nyssa said softly.
"I suppose I do", he admitted, lowering his eyes. "But I, um...we need you here, Nyssa."
She regarded him for a long moment, then patted his hand. "You go ahead, my dear. Let me speak with Captain Baluchard about arranging care for the injured."
Travis reluctantly released her and turned to leave. He paused at the entryway, meeting her eyes briefly, then headed toward the Propulsion Bay.
"Captain Baluchard." The man turned toward her. "We must send a medical team out there to help those people," Nyssa insisted.
"I don't think so, Ma'am. In case you hadn't noticed, the natives aren't exactly friendly." He returned his attention to the Engineering station.
Nyssa rested a hand lightly against his arm. "Captain, whether intentional or not, we are directly responsible for their injuries."
He shrugged her away. "I am in charge of this ship and I said..."
"We aren't in space anymore." Nyssa's words, while quiet, even gentle, conveyed the full force of her aristocratic upbringing and stalwart nature. "Your jurisdiction ended when we landed on this planet. Now, please arrange for the medical detail. And if you think it best, Captain, you may send an armed guard with us."
Baluchard waited for a moment, watching as the woman left the Control Centre. Then shaking his head, he punched the intercom for the medical section.
* * *
Nyssa slipped into the Medical Section, scooping up a kit from the pile meant for the medical detail and heading toward the access tube for the landing gear. Travis was probably correct, she thought, it was too dangerous. For anyone else to go.
Checking that no one was around to see her, she slid inside, pushing the medkit in front of her.
She dug a surgical laser from the bag. Setting the beam to full, Nyssa cut into the bulkhead and quickly rewired the security system. Then it was only a matter of slithering down the retraction mechanism onto the access lift.
A moment later, she stepped off the platform into the shadows under the ship.
* * *
Travis and Engineer Kurnitz huddled in the enclosed space of the third Propulsion Bay, frowning at the wreckage. Travis stepped gingerly onto the wobbly turntable, scooping together the worst of the rubbish.
The third Propulsion Bay housed Gyro C, a huge horizontal turntable with two paired sets of circular micro-gyros fitted perpendicular and equidistant around its circumference. A small piece of flying debris from the exploding vehicle had penetrated the ship and managed to knock one of the circular pairs into misalignment.
Kurnitz wasn't too worried about the Gyro. They could make repairs and rebalance the micro-gyros from inside the Bay. No, the damaged pair was almost trivial. His eyes fixed on the real problem as he tried (once again) to explain it to the Captain via the intercom.
A huge portion of the exterior shielding had buckled inward under the impact, intruding into the space normally occupied by the central turntable. With this mess in the way, the Gyro couldn't rotate at all. It was a simple principle — no spin, no thrust.
Now, if they had still been in Space, they could have gotten along with only Gyros B and D. But on a planet with this much gravity...
Kurnitz sighed. Someone would have to go outside to cut away and replace the damaged hull. And he had a bad feeling about who that someone would be.
* * *
"The medical detail you ordered is at the rear hatchway, Captain." The Security guard glanced at the apprehensive throng of people behind him as he spoke into the intercom.
A moment later, Baluchard's voice sounded through the ship-wide speakers as he paged Nyssa to the hatchway.
* * *
Travis looked up as Nyssa's name came over the intercom. He hurriedly punched the button for the Control Centre. "Baluchard!" he demanded. "You mustn't let Nyssa leave this ship!"
"*You* try telling her she can't do something," the Captain snorted. "That woman has the most headstrong personality I've ever seen. Wouldn't expect it from such a little thing like her."
* * *
From the gloom, Nyssa watched as the platform rose back up into the ship, locking into place with a quiet hiss. Hefting the heavy medkit, she started toward the rear of the spacecraft.
The fire engulfing the vehicle had died down to a smoky guttering. With the diminished flame came an easing of the intense heat and Nyssa could see people edging closer toward the passengers flung across the sand.
Several would-be rescuers crouched around one of the injured. The man cried out in pain as they hoisted him up by his arms and knees.
"No!" Nyssa shouted, stepping out of the shadows. "Don't move him!" As quickly as she could with the unwieldy kit, she ran across the wasteland.
A heavy weight knocked her face-first into the fine grit and a hand entwined into her hair, yanking her head back. "Please," Nyssa sputtered, spitting sand. "I've come to help."
"Have you really?" a woman's cold voice barked. The weight lifted from Nyssa's back, dragging her by the hair up to her knees. "You should have taken our advice and gotten off Sarabiss when you could!"
"But that man is hurt," Nyssa pleaded, twisting around toward her captor. "At least, let me look at him."
Loosing her grip on Nyssa's hair, the woman, hair and eyes as black as obsidian, stared at where the injured man lay.
"That man is my husband." A hint of hysterical panic tinged the woman's words. "And he's as good as dead."
"Then I couldn't do any more harm, could I?" Nyssa coaxed.
The woman's dark eyes shifted to hers. "Maybe not." She nudged the medkit with her foot. "Come on."
Nyssa grabbed up the bag and scurried after her.
"Luen!" A red-haired man looked up as the woman called his name. "Someone from the ship has come out to help us."
Nyssa extended her hand. "My name is Nyssa. Please Luen, allow me to look at your injured."
The man stared coldly at her outstretched hand. "Have you lost your mind, Gabrel?" he asked the woman.
"He's dying, Luen!" Gabrel insisted. "I just want her to l..."
"I'm second-in-command," he reminded her. "With Matam this near death, I decide."
Dropping to her knees at his feet, the woman bowed her head in grief. "I know."
Luen smoothed her hair fondly. "However, he would have done everything he could for me..." He turned toward Nyssa. "You think you're so anxious to help? Well, you can see what you can do for him. But if our leader doesn't recover, you die."
* * *
At the rear hatchway, the medical detail and their pair of guards were murmuring restlessly. Some of the medical personnel had slumped to the floor as they waited. And waited.
The security guard glanced at his chronograph. "It's been fifteen minutes," he told his partner. "I'll give her five more, then I'm calling the Captain to find out if we're going anywhere or not."
* * *
Luen had another of the oily-smelling vehicles driven next to Matam and a rough tent of stained blankets and ragged tarps erected over him.
A fierce wind swirled periodically across the sand, leaving a haze of dust and grit floating in the stagnant air it left behind. Something about the sight made Nyssa shudder and she hurried to the tent.
She crawled inside the stifling murkiness of the structure to find Gabrel fluttering uselessly around her husband's still form. The Sarabiss woman looked up sharply. "You said you'd help him."
"I'll try," Nyssa told her gently. She eased the man's battered leather vest away from his skin, probing with a practiced touch at a purplish bruise running almost from underarm to waist. "Three, possible four broken ribs," she began reciting the list of injuries out loud. "There is also some likely bruising to the heart. Second degree burns over most of the neck and upper chest, and third degree on the hands and right forearm."
Gabrel listened to the tally with numb detachment. "But Matam will live!" she persisted.
Nyssa turned gentle, sad eyes to the woman. "I really don't know, Gabrel. I'll do everything I can for him."
* * *
"Nyssa of New Traken!" Travis glanced up at Baluchard's voice. "Please meet the medical detachment that you requested by the rear hatchway! Repeat... Nyssa, please meet..."
"Did you hear that?" Travis asked suspiciously. He shifted slightly as he held a replacement component in place against the slender axle.
Kurnitz flipped off the welder he was using to connect the new micro-gyro and tilted his head to one side. Eventually, he shrugged. "What am I listening for?"
"Baluchard has summoned Nyssa twice." Travis scowled as Kurnitz shrugged again. "It isn't like her not to at least respond. Something's wrong."
* * *
Nyssa had moved back outside into the sunlight, setting up the medkit's equipment in an attempt to synthesize a medication for the injured leader.
Her eyes drifting again to the barren horizon, Nyssa swayed slightly as a renewed trace of malfeasance pushed at her senses. Drawing on the calming techniques she had learned as a child, she relaxed her mind and body, allowing the simple peace of Duty to ease the momentary anxiety she felt.
Had the Keeper still been alive, she mused, the source of this Evil could have been found and contained.
Source. The word tugged at her mind, stirring her thoughts further. The Keeper and the Source Manipulator had been the bio-technical power at the heart of Traken. The Source's incredible energy had allowed the Keeper direct organizational control over the planet's physical, mental and even spiritual aspects.
Nyssa sighed. Her father, Tremas, along with Adric and the Doctor, had studied the blueprints for the Source. Now her father was gone, killed by the Master for his body. Adric too was dead. The Doctor had seemed to truly understand the Source's secrets, but even if he was still alive, she had no way to reach him.
A smile pulled at Nyssa's lips. If she were Keeper, she could locate and summon the Time Lord easily. But that would require access to the Source...
She clamped down on the circular reasoning, forcing her attention back to her pharmaceutical preparations.
* * *
"But could she have gotten off the ship?" Travis had begun pacing back and forth frenetically in the small space of the Propulsion Bay and Engineer Kurnitz realized he was going to get no further help from the man.
"If she went through one of the hatchways, it would register in the Control Centre," Kurnitz told him.
"So, she has to be on board?" Travis seemed almost to be pleading for an affirmative answer.
"Uh, probably," Kurnitz allowed hesitantly. He looked up into Travis' worried eyes. "Although, there are several access tunnel running parallel to the exhaust systems, the landing gear, the..."
"Access tunnels." Travis began pacing again.
"Right. But she'd set off the alarms if she tried to use any of those without the correct computer authorization key."
Travis stopped abruptly. "Computer key," he sighed. "She most likely overrode the access parameters."
The Engineer laughed. "She'd have to be a wiz with computers."
"Yes, she would." Travis ran a hand up into his hair. "Can we check it?"
Nodding, Kurnitz held up his datapad. "Already doing...my, my, what have we here?" He tapped the screen. "I reset the key system-wide, but the tunnel leading to LG 6 doesn't respond."
"She is outside." Travis strode across the space and smacked the intercom button. "Captain Baluchard, I want a security squad readied immediately!" he ordered.
The Captain's voice sputtered over the line, but Travis cut him off. "Oh, I'd keep the medical detail on stand by, if I were you."
* * *
Matam wheezed horribly, his breathing growing more and more laboured.
"What is that?" Gabrel demanded, holding tight to her husband's hand.
Nyssa knelt down next to the man, taking a field syringe from the kit and filling it from the vial in her hand. "It contains an anaesthetic for the pain, some oxygenation factors that should help calm his breathing and a compound to reinforce the muscles of his heart."
"Once he's stabilised," Nyssa explained further, "I'll see what I can do about the more serious burns and his broken ribs." She set the servo-needle over a vein in the man's neck and depressed the plunger.
A sudden seizure shook Matam's body and Gabrel cried out as she was flung away from him. With a rattling gasp, he fell back into the sand.
Nyssa pressed her fingers to the man's throat, then to his chest, but there was no pulse. A loud click sounded just behind her ear.
A crude percussion weapon, she thought distractedly, staring up into the rough, metal cylinder. Short range. Dreadfully inaccurate. Not as destructive as a laser, but at this distance, more than fatal enough.
To be continued...
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