The Doctor fanned the fingers of his right hand across his eyes, looking around in all directions until he saw their assailant.
“We have a new friend, Nyssa,” he said, quietly. “Crouched on the floor at my feet, someone in thermoptic camouflage. And, friend, I presume from what you’ve said, and your… demeanour, that we have in fact now discovered the cause of the nanobot problem.”
“Be very careful in what you do or say next. I was going to kill you and the insect doctor if there was any chance of me being discovered too soon. But as you have nothing, I may spare you and leave…and get on with… what I must do.”
“Well, don’t let us delay you,” said the Doctor, fanning his fingers across his eyes again. “Ah, Paracletus, you’re back,” he said loudly, looking over the person’s head.
The woman turned to look behind her on reflex, and realised after a split second that she had literally fallen for the oldest trick in the book. The Doctor kicked out with his right foot, connecting with the butt of the laser pistol and sending it sailing through the air – becoming visible as soon as it left her hand. Before she could react further he simply fell on her, pinning her to the ground. Nyssa went to retrieve the pistol.
Tegan and Redoc looked up from their plates, to see the Doctor seemingly writhing… about a foot off the ground. Redoc put down his plate and bent forward as if to peer, his antennae pointing to their target.
“The Doctor’s in trouble!” he said, “C’mon Tegan!”
Before they got close, a hooded figure appeared underneath the Doctor, and he sat up, his hands pinning the person’s arms to the floor at either side. Nyssa retrieved the pistol, turning it over in her hands several times, before nodding to herself, deactivating it, ejecting the power pack and throwing it as far away as she could.
“Now then,” he said, grunting as the person still pointlessly struggled. “This might not be the way we like to introduce ourselves, but at least this time one of us isn’t threatening to kill anyone. I’m the Doctor, this,” he nodded, “is Nyssa, and over there Tegan and Redoc. And you are?”
The Doctor could now see he was sitting on top of a young human female, with shoulder length black hair and green eyes. Though physically small – about the same height as Nyssa – she seemed formidably strong, and the Doctor was under no illusion that she had been well trained – and to relax his grip or let up for a second would be a very bad thing. The woman shook her head to get the hood out of her face. “I am The Woman,” she declared through clenched teeth.
Redoc stopped, nervously rubbing his forearms on the back of his head. “You!” he said, rocking slightly from side to side. “If this is about… the other night…”
They all looked at him, and The Woman stopped struggling with a resigned sigh.
“Males. No matter what the species, all the same…”
At the other side of the city, just outside a public bath house, an ursine male struggled with four ill-equipped service robots as they tried to restrain him. The holograms of four paramilitary police from his home world did nothing to calm the situation, and as onlookers become more distressed with the spectacle it was suddenly removed from sight, cloaked by a force dome. Dozens of hologramatic guides appeared, all of the visitors’ own particular species, to help divert them on to their next tourist site or pleasurable experience.
Inside the dome, the enormous humanoid bear picked another robot off his back – taking some orange fur with it – and flung it away, sending it to impact and smash to pieces against the forcefield wall. “What are you DOING?” he growled. “I just want a BATH!”
“Please, be calm, Mr. Aldo!” shouted one of the hologram police, waving a formidable particle rifle. “We need to check your… we need to… we’re concerned about your health! We need to take you to a medical facility and give you a check-up… it’s just routine… please!”
Aldo picked up another robot, tore it in half at the waist, and then used the leg half as a club to batter another one to pieces. “You know,” he roared, “never mind! Send more robots! This is FUN!”
“The Woman?” said Tegan, handing the small woman a glass of water, “that’s a very strange name.”
The Woman was sitting on one of the red couches, Nyssa on one side and Tegan now sitting down on the other.
“I have no verifiable memory of my original name,” she said, brushing her long black hair away from her face. “It’s the only way I was referred to in my data records before they did… they did what they did to me. As I cannot have any faith in any of the memories after that point, I can accept that as the only verifiable designation.”
“What was done to you?” said Nyssa.
“They have a procedure here, something that they advertise. It’s all part of the service. Some people come here and are too traumatised to take full advantage of the resort, and so they are offered a session that will remove that trauma, permanently. It is sold as a good thing; but some medical experts criticise it. Psychologists from different species both laud and loathe it. But this service isn’t related to good medical practice or is offered from the goodness of their hearts. You know how the economy of the planet works?” She took a sip of water. Nyssa nodded. “The Doctor explained something about tiny robots and joy levels?” said Tegan.
“Yes. The monitoring techniques to measure the Joy Quotient – the Charans use that to calculate your bill when you leave. So you see, if the system doesn’t work properly for some people, it means they won’t be charged enough. So the procedure clears away that psychological baggage, creating a clean slate, so that they can fully experience as much joy as they can afford, and the Charans maximise the amount of money they make. And when your holiday is over, away you go…”
“But,” said Tegan, standing up again, “that doesn’t sound like so much of a bad thing. I mean, we’ve been through a lot recently, and if we were helped to deal with it, that wouldn’t be bad, would it? Sometimes people are in therapy for years – a quick fix…”
“That’s just it, Tegan,” The Woman said. “There are no quick fixes when it comes to the mind, no matter if you’re human, ursine, arachnid or synthetic. It’s our experiences, good and bad, that make us who we are. Imagine all that, not just the bad things but the good things too, flattened out. Would you want that? Nyssa,” she said, turning to face her, “is that what you would want?”
“I don’t know…” Nyssa said, staring into the distance. “I recently lost my father… and then saw my whole planet being destroyed. These were horrible…” she shuddered, tears springing to her eyes, “but I remember Father with love, and my planet and culture too… I mourn for them, but at the same time, it makes me more determined to stop this from happening to anyone, or anything else. By chance I’m travelling with the Doctor – but is it truly by chance, or… or was there some design to it? Was this what the Keeper decided for me? I don’t know… but I have a purpose now, and can make… have made, a real difference to people’s lives. Am I a stronger person now? Yes… Yes I am!” She turned back to The Woman and took both her hands, smiling as the tears escaped and ran down her cheeks. Nyssa squeezed The Woman’s hands and she nodded in response.
“What about you, Tegan? Would you want your past to be wiped as they did to me?” she said.
Tegan folded her arms, thinking it over. There had been a lot of trauma in her life – and recently with the Doctor, she had experienced and witnessed a lot of suffering. She did miss Auntie Vanesa. Her body and mind had been possessed by an alien entity. And whilst the Doctor had saved lives, a lot of people had died as a result of his actions too… and poor Adric… But was that a fair criticism? What would have happened if he had not intervened, if chance hadn’t put him – them – into play? Adric would still be alive – but that was a fixed point in time, and if that had not taken place – if she hadn’t been there – her entire species might not have evolved. But doubt crept back in.
“Um… I don’t know… I’ve had a hard time but not as hard as others, compared to Nyssa… I still have a planet and a life to go back to, and I did go back to that life…”
“But even then you were changed, weren’t you Tegan?” said Nyssa, standing up. “You weren’t satisfied with that life any more. Even there, you were using your new courage, your brave heart as the Doctor says, to help others. And you chose to come back to the Tardis and travel with us again. And none of that would have happened without…”
“I suppose… “ Tegan said.
“You don’t need to suppose, Tegan,” The Woman said, standing up to join them, “because that is me. This is what they have made me. Not empowered. Unable to learn and grow as a result of my experiences. Unable to feel.”
“But look at you, with your super-spy gear, and putting together this plot. You still did that…”
“Yes,” The Woman replied, expressionless. “But I feel nothing, not even anger or hate for those that did this. Something drives me, yes. Is it revenge, or a desire for simple justice, or to protect others, or is it just my training and conditioning? I don’t know. But that is not a part of me. Because there no longer is a me.”
“But that’s not true!”said Nyssa. “You’ve made a connection with us.”
“Nyssa, not fifteen minutes ago I was preparing to kill all of you. And my feelings towards you have not changed, despite any connection as you put it, or the fact that you agree with the logic of my motive. Doesn’t that shock you at all? It doesn’t shock me. Intellectually, I know that it should. But I have no feelings to back up that conclusion. I can argue that my motivation is good – but I will literally do anything to reach that goal.”
“I don’t believe it,” Nyssa declared. “Whatever happens, you have friends now! And the Doctor will help you, won’t he Tegan?”
“Will he?” The Woman said. “You said you both suffered substantial trauma recently – do you think that it’s a coincidence that the Doctor picked this particular leisure planet? Why not any other, in any time or space? Why this one, now?”
On the other side of the room, Redoc was once again standing in a corner behind a larger potted plant.
“You don’t understand, Doctor,” he said, rubbing his forearms together. “On my planet, one of the worst crimes a male can commit is to dishonour or disrespect a female. Until just over a century ago, such an offence carried the death penalty. We have a strict matriarchal society, and though there are many more females now than in our distant past, they are still very special to us. We are also deeply religious, and I’ve already promised to make lengthy and costly sacrifices upon my return to the hive. This makes it worse. That she would follow me… with… with the intention of killing me because of what I did? I deserve to die!”
“Look, it’s not like that at all,” said the Doctor. “If anyone disrespected anybody, she disrespected, and let’s be frank, used you. She violated your body in order to create and disperse the antibodies that she needed to complete her plan. And believe me, she feels absolutely nothing towards you, or more sadly, towards herself. Now, please come out from that corner! We really should go back and join the others.” The Doctor looked across the room, where what had been a friendly chat was now becoming more heated – and he was desperate to get over there before…
“You go and join them Doctor. I’m not ready. Please, will you ask her to forgive me? What reparations I can possibly make?” Redoc said, still quivering.
“Come on now, Redoc. We’ve been over this. You’ve certainly no need to apologise to her and I’m sure that she will confirm that…” The Doctor looked over again. The three young women were coming towards him, Tegan in the lead, her fists clenched.
“Hey, Doc!” she yelled. “D’you mind telling us exactly what you know about this Diamond Statue of Joy?”
“…Ah…” the Doctor said, his hands going into his pockets, wishing there was a corner he could hide in.
In a bar just outside the city’s main spaceport, six humans were relaxing over a few, well-earned Aldebran ales. They had just completed an eight-month round trip delivering cargoes across the sector and had decided to spend a couple of days – and their bonuses – in the ale houses and less salubrious venues that Chara city had to offer.
The captain finished delivering the round of drinks to his crew, and was about to propose a toast in the old Centauran way, when someone – or something – shouted across the room.
“Humans? I wouldn’t feed humans to my dogs! The trash of the galaxy! And they’re everywhere. How did that happen eh? And how about that smell?”
The captain turned and his companions stood up, knocking their stools and chairs over. The voice had come from a very confused looking group of Avenoids. They were looking one to the other, accusingly, trying to figure out which one of them had just insulted the humans. But they all denied it. The human captain took this as a further insult. Behind him, a human voice he didn’t recognise piped up. “Avenoids criticising humans? Always sticking their beaks in where they’re not wanted! The only good Avenoid – roasted and stuffed!”
The bird-men now put down their drinks, their feathers bristling. Other customers started to back away, whilst some actually moved closer, excited to see what would happen next.
“Come on Captain!” said another voice, “we can’t let them get away with it. We can take them!”
“Human vermin!” said an Avenoid voice. “We should rid the galaxy of the scum, starting right here!”
Suddenly a glass seemed to appear from nowhere and go flying towards the Avenoids, who all managed to avoid it. But that was the first blow as far as they were concerned, and so literally launched themselves at the human crew. The entire bar was consumed in the melee, bystanders suddenly finding themselves being pushed into the fighting. There were no weapons, but some of the Avenoids talons could be deadly in this kind of combat. Some of the humans were gashed and scratched, but fought on, giving as good as they got. Security and medical robots didn’t arrive for several minutes, until most of the bar lay unconscious, wounded or exhausted, bloodied on the wreckage-strewn floor.
Minutes later, ‘news’ footage of the fight, shot from various angles, and set to music culturally appropriate for each audience, appeared on screens and at different venues across the city and then the planet. And whilst some visitors were horrified, others found it… exciting.
“I can’t believe it. You brought us here to do to us, what they did to… her? How could you?” said Tegan, right into the Doctor’s face, as he leaned back, his hands still in his pockets.
“I… I thought it was for the best… considering…”
“Really Doc?” said Tegan, “or was it just your – own – guilt?” punctuating the accusation by prodding him in the chest.
“Now… really….” the Doctor began to protest, trying to get his hands out of his pockets, and failing.
“Think about it. If you hadn’t taken Adric with you, he’d still be alive. Nyssa would still be on Traken with her father. And I would be…”
The Doctor stood back, now freeing his hands. “…And you would be what, Tegan Jovanka? You chose to come back and travel with us, let’s not forget. You would be what? I’ll tell you what you wouldn’t be. You wouldn’t be revered and thanked by the all the people you, and I mean you, have saved, whose lives have immeasurably improved through your courage and strength. And all the times that I have relied on you, to supply those qualities that I lack, and given me the ideas and the ability to carry on. And of course that goes for Nyssa as well. You support each other and work well as a team – though you probably wouldn’t acknowledge that even to yourself.” Tegan looked up at him dumbfounded. Nyssa blinked back tears.
Just then the chancellery guard appeared, just outside of their little circle. He was once again immaculately turned out, now in the uniform of an officer.
“Doctor, I…” it began, then made a show of looking directly at The Woman. “Who is THAT?”
The Woman pulled a palm-sized copper disc out of a pocket, pressed a button at its centre, and tossed it on the floor in the middle of the group. The Doctor watched her do this, his face turning to a mask of horror when he realised what she had done. He made a desperate grab for the disk as it fell.
He was silenced by a deafening crash, and everything went black…