|Doctor Who Companion Internet Adventure #06 - "New Traken"
by Matt Marshall
The planet known as Sarabiss lazily rotated against a field of stars. Its dusty yellow hue shone brilliantly in the light of the nearby sun as the habitable continent turned slowly away from it. The light began to fade over the dunes, casting long, grey shadows over the shrubland. Cattle brayed as a slight sandstorm began, the wind — a musty, choking blanket — whipping around their feet, stinging. The cold, crisp evening air flowed over the ground, encapsulating everything in its grasp.
Across the plains, the inhabitants all took measures to keep out the onslaught of night. In the ghettos, families huddled together, the warmth of their bodies meagre against the biting night. In the ship, the captain reluctantly ordered the bulkheads to be secured — Nyssa would have to wait.
But even as those mighty metal beasts ground themselves into place, providing a sudden refreshing silence against the unrelenting wind, there was another, warmer, securer place that currently housed people. In the earth. Down below.
Lynalla Kartey slouched lazily against a cold wall, slowly sipping from a glass. As she savoured the liquid, she closed her eyes and listened. For there was silence.
There had been silence since she had been posted here. From the first minute onwards, save for the wholly unnatural chatter of her fellow workers and their machines, nothing natural had made a sound. The earth yielded no secrets.
She sometimes missed those noises. As a young girl growing up on her family's farm, she had played in the fields every day, comforted by the birdsong and the gentle whistling as the breeze caressed the crops. But those days were long gone in a blaze of fire and pain.
All that was left was the silence.
Idly crumpling her plastic cup and discarding it, Lynalla made her way to the gantry. Here there was noise--the harsh clatter of her shoes against the wrought metal plates echoed, jostling with the banter of the technicians as they worked their magics on the planet's body. She stopped in the middle of the walkway, as she did every day, and stared into the abyss that stretched far below her.
And the abyss stared into her.
"You okay Lyn?"
Lynalla physically jolted out of her thoughts. The silence had been broken, shattered forever. The pit was no longer a mysterious entity; it bustled with energy, working... it seemed almost smaller.
"I said, are you okay? You look a bit sad."
"I'm fine." Neal often did this. He followed her around, trying to worm his way into her affections, making idle conversation. Git.
"Impressive, isn't it?"
"That's putting it mildly." The blackness below them stretched into infinity. They were specks of dust in the bowels of the earth. Lynalla knew that this was literally true; the shaft was arrogantly thrust into the planet, cutting its way to the very core, into its belly.
Stupendously complex equipment held the molten mass at bay — they wouldn't let the planet spew out its rage. Until the day that they dropped the device. But that didn't bear thinking about.
"Doing anything later?"
"That an offer?"
Lynalla sighed; as usual, Neal was beginning to annoy. She tried a different track. "Shouldn't you be meeting someone?"
"Ah." This was more like it. Neal was beginning to get flustered, tugging at the collar of his shirt as he usually did. "There's been a delay, a... technical hitch. But he's coming."
* * *
"What do you mean he's gone?" Captain Baluchard almost choked on his sandwich. A piece of chicken fell from the corner of his mouth, leaving a messy trail.
"He... he said he was going to find Nyssa, sir," the young technical stammered nervously as he fidgeted from side to side. Eyes darted about the room, desperate to focus on any object save his angered superior.
"To find Nyssa?" Baluchard repeated incredulously. "The utter fool. There's a freaking storm raging outside. It was hard enough securing the ship; how the hell's Travis going to find her in this?"
"He ordered to b-b-be let out sir," the technician stammered, now viewing the invitingly open door as increasingly welcoming.
"Then you should have overruled him!" Baluchard thundered, round face reddening. He slumped onto his desk, slamming his sandwich onto his crumb-strewn plate. "Just get out of my sight!"
The technician didn't need to be told twice.
* * *
Nyssa slept soundly that night, wrapped up in the blanket that Theon had lent her. She slept on the hard gravel floor of his abode to the melody of the rain that thundered outside, inches from her head. She slept with only a thin wall of wood separating herself from the elements.
The day had been tough. The man that called himself Arden had told her things she didn't want to hear. He had been sent here to oversee a project, headed by... no, Arden must have been lying. Hell, it wasn't even him, just... a clone. But why?
No matter, she'd sort it out in the morning. Everything would be fine then.
* * *
With a crash of gears, Lynalla watched the lift descend from ground level. The massive frame shakily thumped its way down to her, metal girders enclosing a harsh metal box. Neal swaggered up beside her, smugly adjusting a hastily-added tie.
'You don't seem too excited."
"He's not my client."
Neal gaped back incredulously. "He's everyone's. This is what we've been working towards this past year. Don't you understand?"
"All I understand is that he's not gong to be ecstatic when you tell him Arden's gone rogue."
The colour drained away from Neal's face. 'Oh no! No! Oh gawd!"
"Rather you than me." With that, Lynalla turned with a twirl and a flash of teeth and strode away to her quarters. Neal's pleas echoed around her ears, but she paid no heed.
"Don't leave me."
With a thump, the lift grounded itself in front of Neal. The powerful doors hissed open with a screech of hydraulics and a figure emerged.
"Hello, and welcome to our complex, sir," Neal began with his carefully rehearsed speech. "Progress is ahead of all expectations and the Crucible should be ready for descent..."
He was waved into silence by the figure, who simply passed him his coat.
It sure is hot down here," muttered Travis.
* * *
Nyssa was the first to wake, followed closely by Theon. He found her outside, sullen in the light of the new dawn that swept across the barren surface of the world. She kept her hands tightly together against her lap, sat in an old wooden chair. Arden was leaning against the wall, eyes aimed to the ground, away from the light. Whispering.
"I wish I could tell you everything, Nyssa, but I can't. I said before, they tried to... do things to me, to make me forget." A shake of the head. "But there's one thing I do know... he's behind it all. I know it."
"You can't just get me to accept that on blind faith Arden," Nyssa began to plead. "Travis is a friend... a lover. I can't believe he'd do something like this."
"Absolute power corrupts absolutely, my dear. He's not the man you think he is."
"And are you?"
Theon turned back to go indoors, leaving the two in an icy confrontation. He didn't want to disturb them.
* * *
"Good sleep, sir?"
Travis stifled a yawn as Neal approached him in his crumpled suit. He casually flicked a speck of dust from his own immaculate offering.
"Beautiful, Neal. Now I'm refreshed, how about the full tour?"
They walked together through the corridors of the complex that was buried deep within the earth, Neal effortlessly reeling off a load of facts and figures. But Travis already knew everything Neal said. He wasn't listening. These facts were ingrained in his mind, from the very start of the project two years ago when the seed had been planted in his mind by that report of the strange planet Arden had discovered.
It was like none other.
Finally, they reached the interesting part. A thin metal gantry suspended above a thunderously massive gouge in the planet, a wound that spread its way to the core. Or what would normally be described as a core.
"Incredible, no? It always takes my breath away, no matter how many times I come here." Neal spread his arms out wide. "You will go down in history as the man who remade the universe!"
"The universe, yes," Travis breathed. "But is it worth it? To betray my dearest friends in the pursuit of power?
'Undoubtedly. Friends are nice, but only when you need them." Travis smirked. "Of course, I don't know what came over me. Now, the Crucible?"
"In the roof.' Neal pointed to the heavens. Attached to the metal sky by a series of metal cables resided a demigod of the underworld. A massive, smooth sphere, only slightly smaller than the abyss above which it was suspended, a Damoclean fist above their heads. Shining blue strips twinkled down its side, channelling immense energies.
Yes, it was a god.
"Pure power," breathed Travis. "The tech division have truly worked wonders."
"Indeed, but this is only the catalyst. Once we plunge it into the planet's heart, you shall have as much power as you need. All that is left is the simple matter of plugging in the device."
'And that's where my darling Nyssa comes in...'
* * *
"Hello, is that you?" Lynalla squinted through the fuzz on the screen on her desk. The image cleared slightly, but still jumped as the signal attempted to punch its way through the rock.
"How's it going down there?"
"Fine Theon, you old dog. What do you want?"
"Listen, I can't talk for long. Nyssa's here, and she's with Arden." "Arden? Why didn't you tell us earlier?"
"I didn't have time. Look, they're going off to the plains. Arden's convinced he can make Nyssa believe him."
"Our therapy didn't work fully then?"
"The blocks you placed on his mind are beginning to break down."
Lynalla squinted suspiciously at the figure on the screen. "Theon, if you're playing us off against each other, I'll put out your eyes myself."
She abruptly switched off the screen and dialled another number. A face in uniform appeared.
"Alex, Nyssa is on the plains. Take your men and bring her to me. I don't care how you do it. Kill Arden, but don't hurt the woman... much."
Lynalla gave a small smile and closed the screen.
* * *
"What exactly are we looking for? I can't see anything."
"I'm not... sure." Arden looked around him, at the vast wasteland that spread out around the two. A tract of dust, constantly in flux, changing. Just one year ago it had been a lush, verdant field, bristling with life and birdsong. What would this place be next season? A quagmire? Maybe even completely submerged.
Nyssa smoothed down the ruffles that had built up in her dress from the gentle breeze. "So why are we here?"
"There's something here, Nyssa... something... I can't remember..."
"Just give me one reason, Arden. One good reason why I shouldn't just walk off now."
Arden stopped walking, letting the wind gently whistle around his ears, letting the serenity of nature envelop him. Trying to let his throbbing mind speak, but to no avail. Then he turned to Nyssa.
He gave a sheepish shrug. "Because you'd rather go with me than with that band of heavily armoured soldiers?"
Nyssa looked behind her. Across the plains half a dozen black-clad figures were slowly approaching.
* * *
"And how's Nyssa?"
Neal gave a smirk. "I've just had word from Alex. He's on her trail."
"Ah. If any half-deranged psychopathic mercenary can bring her in, Alex is our man," Travis chuckled to himself. "Anyhow, I'm sure once Nyssa finds out what I'm doing here, she'll be more than happy to help."
"But why do we need Nyssa anyway?" Neal queried, an idle hand scratching at his shirt.
"She was on the right track with her experiments. I don't think even she knew how close she was. But her main problem was finding a suitable power source. I have."
Neal laughed spreading his arms out wide. "Ah, I see... you're going to need her to patch the thing through to work off the Crucible. Hadn't thought of that."
"Indeed not, which is why I'm in control here. All I've got to do now is pop back to the ship..."
"Fetch her Keeper device..."
"Plug in the juice..."
Travis laughed out loud, a laugh that echoed through the walls of the hollowed-out structure, "...and gentlemen, it's time to meet your god!"
"Indeed, sir," Neal simpered. "I doubt anyone in history can surpass your moment of triumph."
"Indeed, Neal," considered Travis. "The final act..."
To be continued...
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