lallis_folly: (dangers untold)
[personal profile] lallis_folly
This was originally written for a 2010 [livejournal.com profile] femme_fic ficathon.

Title: While There's Life
Rating: PG
Warnings: Um, none, really....
Fandom: Doctor Who
Characters: The Fifth Doctor, Nyssa, Tegan, Adric
Prompt: She [Nyssa] was the only one who stayed in the TARDIS when she was told. One day she couldn't.
Spoilers: Only for the three-episode arc bridging the Fourth-to-Fifth-Doctor regeneration ("The Keeper of Traken," "Logopolis," and "Castrovalva" -- though mostly for the first two)
Summary: The prompt pretty much says it all. The Doctor tells Nyssa (and Tegan) to stay in the TARDIS; Nyssa cannot, and hijinks ensue.




With a last wheeze and a thump, the TARDIS engines shut down and the central column stilled. Four individuals stood around the console, watching. The Doctor, a youthful man in striped trousers, a pristine white jumper, and a long coat with a stick of celery pinned to the lapel, moved with purpose around the console, occasionally gently moving one of the other three out of his way.

"There we are." The Doctor turned to his three young companions with a cheery grin. "Ausiello Canensis and the biggest marketplace in the galaxy." He activated the monitor, revealing a colorful scene teeming with a large variety of people. The monitor's large handle-switch came off in his hand, and he laid it aside.

"But why can't you do a market run on Earth?" Tegan demanded, unimpressed. Clad in the lavender and purple uniform of an Earth airline, she had been on her way to her first day of work when she had walked into the TARDIS, thinking it to be an ordinary Earth police box. The Doctor had promised her that he would get her to work on time, and since the TARDIS moved in time as well as space, that was a promise he was in a position to keep. Unfortunately for the Doctor, Tegan's patience was minimal, and delays only sharpened her already sharp tongue.

The Doctor's smile lost some of its brightness. "Well, yes, if I were just shopping for watermelons or carrots, Tegan, I could certainly go to any market in London -- or Brisbane. But I need some specialized parts for the TARDIS, and the only place other than Gallifrey to get them is Ausiello Canensis. And so here we are."

Tegan looked mutinous. "You promised that you would take me home."

The Doctor sighed and lost his smile altogether. "And so I shall. But in order to get you there, I need to make a few adjustments to the TARDIS, which is why we are here."

"You should replace this rackety old bucket." Tegan folded her arms, visibly restraining herself from kicking the central console.

The Doctor glared at her. "Yes, well, as that's simply not possible, we'll just have to make do with repairs, won't we."

Adric, with a sly glance at Tegan, ran his hand across the console and smiled at the Doctor. "I think she's a marvelous machine, Doctor."

"Thank you, Adric." He patted the console himself. "At least someone appreciates you, old girl."

Behind the Doctor's back, Adric made a face at Tegan. Like her, Adric had wandered into the TARDIS and stayed -- though unlike Tegan, he had purposely stowed away. He had had a taste of freedom from the endless round of duties on his home planet of Alzarius, and he wanted more.

"Teacher's pet," Tegan muttered.

Petite, charming Nyssa, ever the peacemaker, stepped firmly between them. "What is it that we're looking for, Doctor?" Nyssa was the daughter of Consul Tremas of the Traken Union. He had been Keeper Designate, heir to the vast power of the Keeper of Traken, but then the renegade Time Lord who called himself the Master came to Traken. The forces unleashed by the Master had destroyed Nyssa's family and eventually the Union of Traken itself.

"Hmmm? Oh, this and that. A time-space differential spanner, a new Filibert loop, a few spare bolts and washers, and some glue for this handle that keeps coming off." He picked up the handle in question, the switch for the scanner, and stuck it in his pocket. He turned and looked at the Traken girl. "But you," he said, pointing his finger at her, "and you," now the finger moved toward Tegan, "aren't going. It's dangerous for you out there. Adric can go, but you two need to stay here in the TARDIS. There are plenty of things you can do, including going exploring. I'm sure you haven't seen a tenth of the TARDIS's rooms yet."

"You mean a tenth of what's left," Tegan muttered darkly, referring to when she had Nyssa had had to jettison mass from the TARDIS to escape a trap the Master had set for them.

The Doctor sighed. "Yes, Tegan. A tenth of what's left. Which is still quite a lot." He opened the door and pulled his hat from an inner pocket of his coat. "Come, Adric. Won't be long," he said cheerfully to the girls, sticking the hat on his head and strode out the door, followed closely by Adric.

"I'm going to smack that boy one of these days," Tegan said darkly.

"No, you won't," Nyssa replied, watching the Doctor and Adric wend their way through the displays visible on the monitor. "Adric just likes to tease you. He doesn't mean anything by it."

"And I won't mean anything by it when I strangle him," Tegan grumbled, but Nyssa knew that she wasn't serious. Tegan would never do anything to hurt Adric. She would never admit it to anyone, but Tegan was beginning to enjoy traveling in the TARDIS, and she was fiercely loyal to her friends -- which included the Doctor and Adric.

"I wonder why it's not safe for us," Nyssa said, watching the monitor intently. She could no longer see either Adric or the Doctor. "I wish this monitor had better resolution. I'd like to see some of the items out there."

"Well," Tegan said, "the men-folk got to go and the women-folk were told to stay behind."

"So it's not safe for women out there?" Nyssa asked, round-eyed.

Tegan shrugged. "What market isn't safe for women? It's always the women that do the shopping."

Nyssa's eyes grew suddenly round and she pointed at the monitor. "Tegan! Look!"

Tegan swung around and faced the monitor, staring at it intently, but she didn't see anything different in the bustling scene outside the TARDIS. "Look at what? I don't see anything."

"There are people from Traken out there!"

Now Tegan understood Nyssa's excitement. Still.... "But how can there be? I thought Traken was destroyed."

Nyssa nodded, her curls bouncing. "And so it was. But apparently, some of the people survived. Perhaps the Keeper saved them."

Tegan turned a jaundiced eye back to the screen. "Maybe," she said noncommittally, though she highly doubted it; Nyssa had told her about Consul Luvic -- who hadn't wanted to be Keeper in the first place -- dashing into the Keeper's place in order to keep the Traken Union's Source alive. He would not have had time to stabilize the Source and master its power before the entropy unleashed by the Master's interference with Logopolis claimed Traken.

"We have to go out there," Nyssa said. "I have to talk to them." She moved around the console to the TARDIS' door lever.

"No, wait," Tegan said, as she put her hand on it. "The Doctor said it was dangerous. You know him. He wouldn't say something like that if it weren't so."

Nyssa stared at Tegan for a moment, her face as serious as Tegan had ever seen it. "Don't you understand, Tegan? These are my people. I have to talk to them. I have to know if anyone else survived."

"We should wait for the Doctor," Tegan said. "He won't be long."

"If we wait, they might disappear," Nyssa replied. "What if they have a ship and they're on their way to it now? I might never know...." Her voice trailed off and she stared at the monitor for a moment. Then her expression hardened. "You don't have to come," she said. She opened the door and was through it before Tegan could protest again.

Tegan turned back to the monitor just in time to see two men pop a hood over Nyssa's head and bear her off into the crowd.

~*~*~


The hands holding Nyssa were not rough, but they were firm, and she never had a chance to fight. She was propelled away from the TARDIS and the marketplace and through quieter streets. The abduction had been so sudden, so practiced and smooth, that she had only time for a muffled squeak before she was warned to keep quiet.

A door opened and she was hustled through it into silence. Another door, and the sound of falling water.

"We found her, Master," one of her captors said, his tone respectful.

Nyssa froze, her mind numb. The Master? Here? But how had he escaped the collapse of Castrovalva? His own creations had trapped him and held him as the illusion of the tranquil city fell apart around him and disappeared into nothingness, presumably taking him with it.

Her arms were loosed and the hood taken from her head, but Nyssa could not have moved now if her own mother stood before her with hands outstretched. She blinked in the sudden light. She was in a garden spot that reminded her very much of the groves and gardens of her homeworld; the splash and play of water in a fountain could, no doubt, be very soothing, and, indeed, the sound began to work on her at once; she lost some of her rigidity, though not her fear.

"Look at me, child." The voice was smooth, deep...and completely unfamiliar. She looked up at the speaker to see a man seated on a carved chair on a small dais beneath an arbor. It was a pleasant spot, where one could sit and see the fountain.

"But you're not the Master," she blurted, without thinking. Nor was he. This was not the renegade Time Lord in her father's stolen body. This man was larger, somewhere between burly and fat, dressed sumptuously in blue velvet with silver piping. His hair was as curly as her own, and nearly as long, though his beard was neat and trimmed. He had the look of Traken about him. She glanced quickly to left and right; the two kidnappers were wearing the clothing of Traken fosters, keepers of the groves, and, when necessary, enforcers of the will of the Keeper.

At her assertion, he raised an eyebrow, but said nothing as he studied her. "You are not Alianora," he said at last, flicking a glance at Nyssa's guards. "But you are mistaken. I am the master of this place."

"Where am I? Why have you abducted me?" Nyssa demanded, standing straight and allowing a hint of arrogance to creep into her tone.

The man smiled. He waved a hand grandly. "This is a home away from home, a bit of lost Traken. And I am Aldos, its master. As for why you are here...well, my men seem to have mistaken you for my lost...ward, Alianora."

"You can see that I am not she," Nyssa declared. "Please have your men see me back to where I was."

"But you haven't told me who you are with the look of lost Traken about you."

"My name is Nyssa."

"Nyssa? Not the daughter of Consul Tremas, the Keeper-Designate?"

Nyssa started. "Do you know my father?"

Aldos sighed. "A great man. A very great man. No one is sure what happened to him." Though he sat very still in his chair, he might as well have leaned forward; his attention was solely focused on Nyssa.

She lowered her eyes. "My father...died," she said.

"A very great tragedy, indeed!" Aldos exclaimed. "Such a great man.... But you must stay with me for a bit. It has been many years since I was last on Traken, and now that it is gone...." He heaved a sigh.

"I really must get back," Nyssa said, nervously. "My friends will be missing me."

"Nonsense," Aldos said. "I'll not hear of it. Tarnic, show Lady Nyssa to the guest quarters. Jaran, take a message to her people that she'll be guesting with us for a bit.'

Both of Nyssa's guards bowed deeply. "If you'll follow me, my lady," the guard to her left said.

For a brief moment, Nyssa considered stamping her foot and refusing to move, but a glint in the guard's eye warned against such a move. Instead, she nodded graciously, as though she were the one in charge of the situation and followed him out. When they were around the corner, and well away from the garden, he spoke.

"Are you really Tremas' daughter?"

"Of course," Nyssa answered. "Why would I lie about such a thing? What's going on here? Why was I brought here?"

But that seemed to be the limit of Tarnic's helpfulness; he would answer no more of her questions, and the door he bowed her through was locked behind her. Nyssa refrained from pounding and shouting, knowing it would do no good. Instead, she turned and leaned against the door, surveying the room in which she had been imprisoned. It was elegantly furnished in the Traken style with heavy velvet and sinuous curves everywhere. Had it not been a cell, she would have been happy enough to stay here for a day or so, resting her eyes on the carved wooden wall-hanging, for instance. The TARDIS was truly a marvel, but all that stark white made her long for dim corners and rich, jewel-tones.

First things first, however. She went to the window and looked out. The view was of a maze of roofs and alleyways, which fit with her memory of being brought here. She could neither see nor hear the marketplace and concluded she must be on the opposite side of the building from it. She leaned forward to get a better view of the building itself, but some instinct warned her before any part of her actually crossed the sill, and she pulled back, eyeing it narrowly.

There was a vase filled with lovely, many-petaled blue flowers on the side table; she pulled a stem from the arrangement and carried it back to the window, extending it toward the sill very carefully. As the first petals crossed the sill, the space was filled with angry sparks. She dropped the stem; when it hit the floor, the flower head was gone.

She sighed. "Well. I suppose it keeps the birds out."

~*~*~


"Doctor? Why did you make Nyssa and Tegan stay in the TARDIS?" Adric asked curiously as he followed the Doctor from market stall to market stall.

"Hm?" The Doctor turned from the fruit he'd been examining; it seemed that despite what he'd said to Tegan, this was as much a grocery run as a quest for parts for the TARDIS. "Oh. Aussiello Canensis started life as a slave-trading planet, specializing in exotic women. The Time Lords stepped in a few centuries ago when Gallifreyan women started showing up in the marketplace and put a stop to the practice. Which is why we can find TARDIS parts here; the Time Lords allowed the Aussiellans a monopoly on Gallifreyan goods in return for their compliance."

"So?" Adric bent his head to sniff at the fruits the Doctor was loading into his arms. They smelled much better than riverfruit.

The Doctor stopped and put on his spectacles to look more closely at a bit of hanging brasswork. Since he hadn't paid for the fruits Adric was carrying, Adric was hoping that they were still in the same merchant's space.

"So? So the Aussiellans stopped the practice. Mostly."

"Mostly? You mean they still do it, even though the Time Lords told them not to?"

The Doctor shrugged. "Every so often, one of the traders will get especially greedy and the High Council will take notice and send a deputation to take care of it. They even arranged for me to be here once," he muttered. "But. At present, things are just fine. It is still not, however, safe for two females to be wandering all over the marketplace unescorted. And you know how Tegan is; she'd be off on her own before you could say "Jack Robinson."'

"Why would I want to say that?"

The Doctor looked thoughtful. "I'm not sure. But someone must have wanted to at some point, or it wouldn't have become an expression. Probably Mrs. Robinson. Come on."

At last, he led the way to the stall's proprietor and had Adric unload his arms under the merchant's carefully calculating eyes. The bargaining session that followed didn't interest Adric in the slightest, so he was looking in the right direction to see a slim figure in maroon velvet slipping around a corner not far away.

"Doctor."

"Not now, Adric."

"But, Doctor!"

"Adric! Not now!"

Adric impatiently blew his hair out of his face, debated about thirty seconds, and went off in pursuit of Nyssa.

The Doctor finished his bargaining, turned to find out what Adric had wanted and found himself alone. He closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose. "Why can't they just stay put once in a while?" He turned back to the merchant. "Would you see that this is delivered to my TARDIS, please?" He gave rapid directions to the where he had left the TARDIS, and set off after Adric.

Adric trailed Nyssa for a while, wondering what she was up to. It wasn't like her to disobey the Doctor. Now if it had been Tegan that he'd spotted, it wouldn't have surprised him in the least; she was the most headstrong and abrasive person he'd ever met, and she'd do something just because she'd been told not to. He noted the way that the girl was going, did some calculations in his head and plunged down a side alleyway. A couple of minutes later, he put a hand out and grabbed the girl's slender wrist as she passed him.

"Ha! Gotcha, Nyssa!" he exclaimed. But the girl in the maroon velvet, though she bore a superficial resemblance to Nyssa, was not his friend. He dropped her wrist immediately, as though it had burned him. "I'm terribly sorry! I mistook you for a friend of mine!"

Without a word, she turned away, to go back the way she had come just as the Doctor's hand closed on her shoulder.

~*~*~


Tegan paced. Up and down, back and forth. Every so often, she looked at the monitor, but there was never any sign of the Doctor or Adric and no more sign of Nyssa, either. Her first instinct had been to rush out the door after the men kidnapping Nyssa, but the Doctor's admonition combined with her own good sense made her realize that there was no way on a strange planet that she was going to rescue Nyssa herself. If Aussiello Canensis were some tranquil forest world like Castrovalva, or if they had even materialized the TARDIS indoors, she would have followed and seen what she could do. But in the chaos of the Aussiellan marketplace, she recognized that she needed help.

At last, the door opened.

"Where have you been?" she cried as soon as she saw the brim of the Doctor's hat. And then she saw the girl accompanying the Doctor and Adric. "You found her!" But, upon a closer look, she could see that this wasn't Nyssa. "What's going on here? Doctor, Nyssa's been kidnapped!"

"Of course she has," the Doctor replied. "Tegan, this is Alianora. Alianora, Tegan. Alianora's from Traken."

"Traken?" Tegan looked at the girl again, and saw that the clothing and hair style were definitely similar to Nyssa's, though the girl herself really didn't much resemble her kidnapped friend. "But how?"

"Simple enough," the Doctor replied. "She's been here since before the Keeper summoned us."

Tegan noticed that he carefully did not mention Traken's destruction. So did the girl, for she said, softly. "It's all right, Doctor. We've heard of the destruction of Traken here on Aussiello. Aldos was...upset."

"Aldos?" Tegan asked.

"My...." The girl thought a moment. "You would say 'master,' I suppose, but he wanted us to call him 'keeper,' like the great Keeper himself."

"Keeper?" Tegan had a nasty feeling she knew what that meant. "Like...a slave?"

"Yes."

"You don't look like a slave."

"This Aldos doesn't keep slaves in the way you're thinking of them, Tegan. He keeps...well, actors, I suppose." The look the Doctor turned on the girl was indecipherable, but she returned it without flinching.

"We are an acting troupe," she said to Tegan. "On the surface. That keeps the High Council of the Time Lords happy. But we are, of course, expected to provide other services to those who pay."

"Did you see who took Nyssa?" the Doctor asked.

Tegan shook her head. "I didn't see their faces." She pulled out her sketch book. "But I drew what I did see."

"Fosters!" Adric exclaimed.

"Tarnic and Jaran," Alianora confirmed when the Doctor turned the sketch toward her. "They are members of the troupe, but they also provide security for Aldos."

"How many members in this troupe of yours?" the Doctor asked.

"The number varies. Right now, there are seven: myself, Tarnic and Jaran, and four others. Aldos also has non-Traken servants that do the household work."

"How is the troupe engaged?"

Alianora was sharp. "That won't work, Doctor. He only rarely sends us out, and if he intends to keep this Nyssa of yours, he wouldn't send her out so soon. For one thing, she won't know any of the dramas, yet, and for another, he'd be afraid that she'd run."

"Well, if he won't send Nyssa out to us, then we'll have to go in to her," the Doctor said.

"How?" Tegan asked.

"As it turns out, Tegan," the Doctor replied, "it seems that Aldos is overdue for an inspector from the High Council." He rapidly explained to Tegan the reason he had commanded her and Nyssa to stay in the TARDIS.

Tegan smiled briefly. "Not bad. "Sometimes you're quite clever, Doc!"

"Hmm," the Doctor said. He began inputting coordinates for the short hop to Aldos' home. "Now here's what we're going to do."

~*~*~


Nyssa was deep in the electronics under the window when she heard the sound of footsteps outside the door. Reasoning that the mechanism for the window had to be nearby, she had poked and prodded and pushed at the wall until she found the hidden catch. The circuitry was a Traken design, so she had no trouble following it and had been nearly ready to disconnect the power to the window screen when she heard the footsteps. As quickly and silently as she could, she replaced the section of wall.

When the door opened, she was standing in front of the window, calmly taking in the view. She looked back over her shoulder at the sound of a cleared throat.

The two men who had abducted her from the market stood there. They presented an interesting duality. Jaran stared directly at her with a belligerent expression, while Tarnic refused to meet her eyes. Nyssa wasn't sure what it might mean, but she thought perhaps if she could talk to Tarnic again, she might be able to enlist his aid.

Such a conference, however, was not going to happen at the moment. "Come with us," Jaran ordered.

"No. Release me at once," Nyssa said, standing her ground.

Jaran didn't even bother to negotiate. The weapon he aimed at her was ugly and not of Traken design. "Bring her," he said shortly to his companion. "If you make any sound whatsoever," he added to Nyssa, who had opened her mouth to scream, "I will use this on you."

Nyssa closed her mouth and went meekly with Tarnic, while Jaran stalked behind them, the weapon trained on her.

The route they followed did not take them -- so far as Nyssa could tell -- anywhere near Aldos' garden. They went down several flights of stairs and ended at a strong, heavy door. Tarnic opened it and ushered Nyssa through. She found herself in a long corridor lined at short intervals with more doors. Nyssa recognized a dungeon when she saw one.

While Jaran stayed in the doorway, Tarnic took her about halfway down and opened one of the doors. "In you go," he said softly.

"Please help me," she whispered back.

"I cannot," Tarnic replied. "Go on, now."

Nyssa saw no choice; there was no escape past Jaran and his weapon, and there was no exit from the other end of the hallway. She was trapped. She stepped into the cell and Tarnic closed the door behind her.

~*~*~


When the time capsule materialized, it was in a shady corner and its entry port was facing a wall. Jaran frowned at the odd shape. "I thought they were supposed to blend in," he said to his partner.

Tarnic shrugged, but said nothing. He recognized the angular shape from the market; he'd seen it not far from where they had grabbed the girl Nyssa. A pattern started forming in his mind. Perhaps...perhaps....

A young man in a long coat and ridiculous striped trousers, wearing the face of a fool, stepped out from behind the time capsule. "Ah, there you are," he said. "Take me to your leader."

Jaran bowed deeply. "Of course, my lord. This way." He gestured toward the garden. The Time Lord started in the direction indicated, then turned back. "Adric!" he called tetchily. "Come along, boy! My apprentice," he said in an aside to Jaran. "A bit slow, sometimes." He smiled foolishly.

Tarnic saw the exact moment that Jaran dismissed the Time Lord, but he had seen the man's eyes. Old eyes. Cunning eyes. The Time Lord was playing a game, and Tarnic suspected he knew what the object of that game was. The question was how could he turn the Time Lord's game to his advantage?

~*~*~


Tegan waited just within the TARDIS until she heard the Doctor's voice fade away, then peeked around the time machine's wooden corner, hoping that there wasn't a guard. Supposedly, if there was a guard, the Doctor would be sending Adric back, supposedly to fetch something, but in reality to distract anyone so that Tegan and Alianora could go find Nyssa. Tegan was relieved to find that there was no one there.

"All right, come on," she whispered back over her shoulder. She stood watching the area warily until Alianora stood beside her. "Where would he be holding her -- is there a dungeon?"

Alianora nodded. "There is, but it's more likely that he has her in the upstairs holding chamber."

"Holding chamber?"

"It's a...well, it's a cell, but it's a nice one," Alianora said. "Some of Aldos's prisoners only need to stay there for a day or so and they do whatever he asks of them. But many of them are used to being kept in worse places than the upstairs holding chamber, so they're grateful to him for his kindness." She started walking and Tegan followed her.

"Some kindness," Tegan said bitterly. "Slavery."

Alianora shrugged. "One gets through life as one can. Sometimes one must get through life as a slave."

"You sound as if you approve!"

"Keep your voice down!" The Traken woman shrugged. "You mistake me. I do not approve of slavery -- and I certainly don't approve of being a slave. But I am alive, and there is always the hope that I will eventually have something better."

"There's a saying where I come from," Tegan said thoughtfully. "While there's life, there's hope."

"Yes, precisely," Alianora agreed. "And so most of us hope -- and Aldos keeps us below, in what you would call the dungeon. There are always those who are so resigned to their lot that they wouldn't run if the door lay open before them. Those, Aldos keeps in the chambers above."

"Are there guards?"

They reached the stairs. "There usually are not, but we should be careful. It's hard to say what Aldos will do with an inspector from the High Council in his hall."

They climbed in silence up three flights of stairs, but encountered no guards. Tegan breathed a sigh of relief when they reached the door that Alianora indicated was the room where she expected Nyssa to be.

"Won't it be locked?" Tegan asked, just as Alianora put her hand out and opened the door.

They looked at each other in dismay. "Yes," Alianora said. "It should be locked."

The door swung open, and they looked into the empty room.

~*~*~


The two fosters escorted the Doctor and Adric through corridors and into a gated courtyard very much like the one where Melkur had rested when they first arrived on Traken. Where Melkur's statue would have stood, there was a chair that amounted to a throne. A very large man dressed in blue awaited them there.

"Welcome to my home," he boomed as soon as they approached. "Though I must say, my lord, that you are a little early, are you not? Was our appointment not for later in the day?"

"Is it?" the Doctor said vaguely, looking around the garden with apparent interest. "Oh, dear. So sorry. I hope I am not inconveniencing you?" He smiled and took a step forward, his hand outstretched. "I'm the Doctor, by the way."

"No, of course not, my lord Doctor. No inconvenience at all. My home is always open to the High Council's inspector. I will have my people brought in directly so that you may interview them." He jerked his chin at the fosters and they quietly left the courtyard.

"Oh, no hurry, no hurry," the Doctor said, his hand dropping to his side. "This really is a lovely spot you have here. It's like...like..."

"Traken, Doctor," Adric supplied. "You visited there once, remember? About a hundred years ago, my lord," he added turning to the man on the chair.

"Ah, yes, I'm told Traken was particularly lovely a century ago," the man said. He sighed theatrically. "Poor, lost Traken. I grieve for my homeworld, Doctor."

"Indeed -- and quite proper," the Doctor said in a stuffy tone.

A sound from behind them heralded a small parade of people into the courtyard. In short order, a small table and two chairs were set down for the Doctor and Adric, tea was poured for them, and the servants disappeared again. The Doctor settled into a chair and sipped tea. "Very lovely," he said, with every appearance of contentment.

~*~*~


"Now what do we do?" Tegan asked.

Alianora shrugged. "We will have to go to the dungeon, though I don't know how we'll get in without a key, and only Jaran and Aldos have those."

"Wonderful. Well, I suppose we'll have to improvise," Tegan said. "Lead the way."

As they passed near the TARDIS again, an idea occurred to Tegan. "Maybe we should leave a note for the Doctor and Adric, in case they come back to the TARDIS before we can get Nyssa out of the dungeon."

Alianora nodded. "All right."

They slipped into the TARDIS and Tegan fetched her sketchbook. She quickly wrote a note and propped it up in the center of the console against the central column. On a whim, she grabbed her shoulder bag. There probably wasn't anything in it that would prove useful at opening a dungeon, but one never knew.

~*~*~


As dungeons went, it was actually fairly comfortable, Nyssa decided. There were no windows, of course, and only the one door -- and that, of course, was locked -- but it had a necessary cubicle with running water, a table and two chairs, a bed with a mattress and blankets, an empty chest and a set of bookshelves, also, regrettably empty. There was an air vent high in one wall, and though she could reach it, it was far too small for her to wriggle through, and she suspected, given the odd gleam she saw back in the distance behind the grillwork, that it was not unguarded.

She hefted the chair thoughtfully, then set it down. It was heavy enough to make an effective weapon against the fosters -- as long as she had the element of surprise and room to run -- but could she really smash another being over the head with a chair? What if she injured them? What if she...killed them? She thought, then, of the Master, strutting around the universe in her father's stolen body. The Doctor was certain that he had perished in the collapse of Castrovalva, but that hadn't stopped Nyssa's nightmares. Hadn't stopped her from seeing her father's gentle smile become the Master's maniacal laughter. She shuddered and sat down in the chair.

She was certain that once the Doctor and Adric returned to the TARDIS, Tegan would set them to searching for her, but could she really count on them to rescue her? She shook her head. "I suppose it's up to me, then," she said aloud, and leaned against the back of the chair.

It wasn't too long after that when she heard the key in the lock.

~*~*~


The Doctor was well aware that whatever slaves Aldos chose to parade in front of him, not only would Nyssa not be among them, but if he did ask about her, no one would have seen her. He could only hope that Tegan, with Alianora's help, would be able to find and free Nyssa and get back to the TARDIS before Aldos either penetrated his game or the "inspection" was finished. Or before the real inspector showed up, since by some strange coincidence, Aldos apparently had an appointment with an actual inspector scheduled.

So he sat and sipped his tea, and dawdled, and encouraged Aldos in his rambling reminiscences of Traken, by asking occasional leading questions. Beside him, Adric was quivering like an anxious puppy, though to his credit, he was trying to hide his nerves. He had grown a lot since leaving Alzarius, and sometimes the Doctor wasn't certain he entirely trusted the boy. Too headstrong, and far too willing to go his own course if he thought he was right and others were not.

Rather like himself, the Doctor thought, hiding a smile in his teacup.

Finally, however, the moment could be delayed no longer. The surly foster, Jaran, led in a line of folk and in order to continue the masquerade, the Doctor had to inspect them. He put down his teacup, got to his feet and pulled his spectacles from his pocket. Perching them on his nose, he approached the first person in the line.

~*~*~


Alianora led Tegan to a different staircase, one that went only down into the depths of Aldos' home. "We must be cautious here," she whispered. "If we are likely to run into fosters anywhere, it would be here. Jaran and Tarnic are not the only guards in Aldos' employ. Even if they are busy with the Doctor, we may find others here."

Tegan swallowed nervously. "Let's get it over with."

Alianora nodded, and the two women started down the staircase. When they got to the bottom, they found the door open, and stopped uncertainly. Then Tegan heard the sounds of a struggle.

"Nyssa!" Before Alianora could stop her, she ran down the corridor toward the single open door. Inside, she found Nyssa struggling with a taller man. Without thinking, she unslung her shoulder bag and swung it at the guard's head.

"Ow!" he cried, and turned to face her, while Nyssa backed away slightly, catching her breath.

"Tegan!" she cried when she recognized her rescuer.

Someone rushed past Tegan -- who realized belatedly that it was Alianora -- and threw herself at the guard.

"Tarnic! Are you all right?"

Tegan watched in surprise as the Traken girl kissed the foster soundly. "I'm fine, Alia," he murmured. "Just fine. But why did you come back here?"

"We came to get Lady Nyssa," Alianora murmured. "Her friends are above -- and Tarnic, one of them is a Time Lord."

Tarnic nodded. "Yes, I know. He's with Aldos right now."

"Tarnic, he's not the Time Lord that Aldos is expecting," Alianora said patiently.

Tarnic looked at Tegan and Nyssa, standing there staring bemusedly at him and Alianora. "Come. We must get you back to the time capsule immediately."

"This Time Lord that you're expecting," Tegan said thoughtfully. "What would he do if he found out that Aldos was breaking the rules?"

Tarnic looked at her blankly. "Well, there'd be an inquiry, of course."

"And then?"

"The Time Lords can be quite severe about people breaking their laws," Nyssa said. "But they would undoubtedly require witnesses, and you know that the Doctor won't stay."

"But what if the other slaves were willing to be witnesses?" Tegan looked at Alianora. "While there's life...."

Alianora smiled. "There's hope. Yes."

~*~*~


At last, the Doctor finished his inspection and could delay no longer. "Very well, Master Aldos, high marks all around," he said. "Thank you for your cooperation."

"Always happy to be of service," Aldos said genially. "Jaran, please show the Doctor back to his capsule."

"Oh, no need," the Doctor said. "I have an excellent sense of direction."

"Nevertheless, Doctor, I insist," Aldos said. "We must observe the proprieties."

"Of course," the Doctor said. "Come along, Adric. Time to go."

The foster led them back through the corridors toward the TARDIS.

"Do you suppose we could have a tour of this marvelous house, Doctor?" Adric asked, in a wheedling tone.

"No, Adric. We mustn't take up any more of these people's valuable time. We've made quite enough nuisance of ourselves for one day."

"But, Doctor -- "

"Not now, Adric," the Doctor said, his sharp hearing having picked up something that suggested it was definitely time to make himself and his young friends scarce.

Adric looked mulishly at the Doctor, but then he seemed to hear the sound also, for his eyes widened. "Yes, Doctor."

Finally, they reached the TARDIS, and the Doctor pushed Adric around toward the door. "Please convey our thanks to your master for his hospitality," he said to Jaran. "If you have time." He nodded toward the opposite side of the room, where there stood a column that had not been there before. When Jaran turned to look, the Doctor slipped inside his TARDIS and closed the doors.

"Ah, Nyssa, glad to have you back," he said, as he strode across the console room's floor and threw the TARDIS into motion.

"Glad to be back, Doctor," she replied.

"Why are we in such a hurry, Doc?" Tegan asked.

"Because by some strange coincidence, Aldos was actually expecting an inspector from the High Council today, and he just arrived," the Doctor said.

"Yes, we know all about that, Doctor," Tegan started.

"Where's Alianora?"

"She's not here," Nyssa answered.

"Oh, no," the Doctor said. "We'll have to go back for her."

"That's what we're trying to tell you, Doctor," Tegan said sharply. "It turns out that Alianora and that foster fellow Tarnic are married, and they managed to persuade the other slaves to speak to the High Council's Inspector against Aldos. There's a whole horde of them just waiting for the Inspector to arrive; we brought them out of the dungeon behind us."

"Did you?" The Doctor sounded both surprised and impressed. "Good for them! And for you. Well, then. Excellent. Let's be on our way, shall we? Heathrow's waiting for you, Tegan."

"If you say so, Doctor," Tegan said. "I'll believe it when I see it."

"And you, Nyssa? Are you feeling better?" the Doctor said, looking at Nyssa with rather more intensity than was his wont.

She nodded. "Yes, Doctor. It's good to know that some parts of Traken survived. And it's even better to know that we managed to help them."

The Doctor smiled...and just this once, didn't remind Nyssa that he had told her to stay behind.

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