Eye of the Tempest
The dwarf sun set beyond the horizon of a secluded cove on Zetes Prime, its deep red hues dancing on the edges of the undulating waves, driven by the unrelenting wind to crest in myriad shades of pink and orange as the vast, churning ocean dashed itself upon the shore. The tide raced up the pristine white sands until the rushing waters met an incongruous blue box, pooling at its edge as it tried to navigate this hitherto unknown obstacle that had, less than an hour ago, forced its way into existence on the empty beach.
The cove was devoid of life, save for the four figures that had tentatively emerged from the box and were now enjoying the peaceful scene on offer. A tall, fair-haired man in an Edwardian cricketer’s outfit wandered along the ocean’s edge, pausing every so often to examine a shell or some other such treasure with intense interest; close by, a red-haired youth in a public school uniform and a woman with short, auburn hair were splashing each other in the shallows. Further along the beach, a young woman with long, brown curly hair sat on a rocky outcrop, looking out to sea.
Nyssa of Traken breathed deeply, the ocean air filling her lungs as the prevailing wind whipped through her long hair. She sighed and closed her eyes, feeling the cool breeze caressing her face as it carried the sound of her companions’ laughter to her.
“Penny for your thoughts?”
Nyssa opened her eyes to see the Doctor approaching her, a smile brightening his youthful face. She reciprocated, shifting on the outcrop to make room next to her; the Doctor sat down with a grunt, and Nyssa closed her eyes once more, turning her face to the setting sun.
“I’m just enjoying the scenery,” she replied. “It’s so peaceful here; it makes a nice change from some of our more recent destinations.”
The Doctor winced at the unintended reproach. Since the planet Helheim, when they had re-encountered Nyssa fifty years on from their parting at Terminus, his record of trouble-free stops hadn’t been impressive. He had nearly lost her a number of times, and despite her recent rejuvenation the stress was beginning to show, the dark shadows under her pale green eyes hinting at burdens she would never willingly share. He cleared his throat, fixing his eyes on the horizon.
“Yes, well... the sunsets here are particularly stunning. The red wavelength of the light from the dwarf star interacts with the chemical composition of the atmosphere to refract–”
“The ocean breeze is lovely,” Nyssa interrupted, gently shutting down his overly-scientific analysis. There was a time when she would have hung on his every word, but age and experience had changed her from awestruck teenager into someone who realised that beauty did not need to be deconstructed into its individual chemical components, but could just be enjoyed at face value. Her eyes remained closed as she inhaled deeply. “So cool and refreshing. When you’ve spent so much time in the conditioned air of space stations and medical facilities you forget what it’s like to feel the wind in your face.”
“Indeed,” replied the Doctor, with a gentle sigh. “We really should do this more often.” His mind returned to the places they had visited recently: the rat-infested bowels of Cadogan Castle, the sterile air of comet 8/Q Panenka, a war-ravaged 51st century Earth - and cursed again their run of bad luck. “‘If after every tempest comes such calms, may the winds blow till they have wakened death...’”
“Shakespeare...” she mused thoughtfully. “Othello?”
The Time Lord nodded, impressed. “There was a time when you wouldn’t have understood the reference.”
“‘Time travels in diverse paces with diverse persons...’ - As You Like It.” She smiled wryly. “Terminus had extensive data banks, and one can only study xenomedicine for so long.”
They lapsed back into companionable silence, broken only by the crashing waves, and the shouts and laughter from Tegan and Turlough’s antics. The flames of the deep red sun melted into the distant horizon and the ocean breeze strengthened, causing Nyssa’s long, curly hair to dance in gusts and flurries.
“The wind on Traken, like all things, was regulated by the Source,” Nyssa said softly, breaking the silence, “but it felt real, the Keeper weaving it into patterns to pollinate the crops, to cool the Fosters labouring in the gardens, or simply for the thrill of creativity - to stir the flowers or falling leaves into wonderful, intricate dances.”
“A marriage of science and art,” said the Doctor, “One of Traken’s greatest strengths.”
Nyssa smiled, nodding. “My father was often away on Consular business; he used to tell me that however far apart we were, the wind connected us; that if I laid in bed at night and listened to the breeze, it would carry his love to me, and mine to him in return, in one great swirling circular current. I’ve often been comforted by that thought; that although Traken is lost, the bond that we shared is still out there, travelling eternally on the currents of the universe.”
“Thou know’st ‘tis common; all that lives must die, Passing through nature to eternity.” The Doctor put a comforting hand on her shoulder; Nyssa opened her eyes, and turned to look at his impossibly youthful face.
“True for Hamlet,” she said, “but maybe not for all lives. I know why, of course, but it still amazes me that you haven’t changed one iota from the day I left you, half a century ago. Like the wind, it comforts me that you’ll still be here when I’m long gone.”
The Doctor frowned. “But hopefully not for a while yet, hmm?”
The Trakenite woman took a deep breath, turning once more to feel the breeze in her face, whilst simultaneously avoiding his eyes. “You live a different life to us, Doctor. You’re like the solar wind - you burst out from the light, travelling onwards into eternity, never circling back.” She took his hand from her shoulder. “But by necessity you’re heading into darkness, and that’s somewhere I can’t follow.”
“It’s not your fault, Doctor,” she said earnestly, “nor is it your choice. It’s just the way things are - the brighter the light, the deeper the shadow it casts. And from that shadow come terrible things, like moths to a flame. I used to thrive on the excitement, the thrill of danger, the wonder of discovery. It gave me purpose when I had lost everything; it gave a meaning to my life. But I’ve found a new meaning, a new purpose... and with it, too much to lose.”
Darkness began to creep into the edges of the endless sky, punctuated by the pinprick lights of stars emerging through the ether. The wind picked up once more, swirling around the lonely shore, stirring the white sands into miniature whirlwinds, dancing in an eternal spiral. Tegan and Turlough emerged from the shallows, waving to their companions as they slowly began to trudge their way up the beach towards them.
“I’m needed, Doctor - you know that. People are depending on me.”
The Doctor frowned, an almost petulant tone to his voice: “We need you too.”
Nyssa laughed gently, giving Tegan a cheery wave. “No, you don’t. You have other people depending on you, other lives to save. I can’t be part of that any more, I’m sorry. But–” She hesitated, wary of revealing too much of his future, her past. “I’ll be there for you, when you need me. We all will.”
The Doctor sighed, hanging his head in resignation. It was only a matter of days ago that they’d had a similar conversation, when he’d been forced to leave her on that dirty, disease-ridden space station at the centre of the universe. He hadn’t won the argument then, and he could see he wasn’t going to now, her adamantine resolve just as unshakeable now as it had been fifty years ago.
“Come on then,” he said, grunting as he stood up, “Let’s get back to the TARDIS, and we’ll plot a course. But you’ve got to promise me one thing.” He offered her his hand; she took it, and slowly got to her feet, taking one last, deep breath of the cool sea air.
“Anything,” she replied eventually, her voice tinged with a hint of sadness.
He put his arm around her shoulders, then pointed at her sternly: “You’re telling Tegan.”
They rejoined their friends, and before long the TARDIS was fading from reality with a wheezing/groaning sound that seemed to span multiple dimensions at once, its departure from the physical universe creating a vacuum soon filled by rushing wind that brought sand whirling in its wake, forever erasing the oblong imprint on the shore from existence.