Romanadvoratrelundar had opposed Rassilon’s resurrection for many, many reasons. There were those who said her love of power had blinded her to the truth, but Romana laughed at them. Mirthlessly, of course. There was nothing particularly amusing about the situation. Even if she were not the person to lead the Time Lords to victory against the Daleks (and in her own mind she knew she was), it was obvious to Romana that Rassilon was not a good substitute. Why couldn't everyone else see that? Had they listened to the seers? Or the Matrix? Rassilon had become so evil, so corrupt in his final days that to wake him would mean their utter destruction.
She had said this loudly in front of large assemblies and her High Council. Each time she had counted how many people had applauded her: 508 out of 1000, 3 out of 5, 209 out of 400 — at any rate, it was always just greater than half. And so Romana had felt secure — or as secure as she could be with millions of Daleks swarming around her planet, which was not very.
Still, it was too much.
They had broken into her rooms whilst she had slept. Romana did not allow herself to rest often, and had she known what was going to happen this time, she would have worked through the night as usual. She kicked and screamed, bit the hand of the guard who was restraining her and called for the one supposedly standing outside her door before she realised they were the same man. Then she came quietly. How could she lead a planet if she couldn’t even command the loyalty of a man she was paying?
She was flung into small room at the top of the tallest tower like the sort of princess she and the Doctor had always been rescuing. Naturally Romana behaved with dignity. She had been flung into many towers in her time and Gallifrey’s was not the worst, except that it belonged to her. She asked for clothes, books, a loom and thread to pass the time, and her K-9 robot. They brought her only a set of white presidential robes, as though to mock her, but Romana wore them proudly. She continued to ask for books and for K-9, to disguise the plan she was working on. The loom she would do without - unlike Strella, she had never been that good at weaving. She would pass the time another way.
She was allowed the occasional visitor, of course. Gallifrey had not entirely forgotten its laws and Cardinal Braxiatel and Chancellor Flavia were quick to exploit the few rights Romana had left. They brought her news (without her biodata the council were having difficulties operating the resurrection looms) and minor pieces of technology and tat— nothing they would get into trouble for carrying, Romana made sure of it. Braxiatel brought her a long defunct communicator, Flavia the broken end of a sonic device that might once have been a toothbrush, Braxiatel a box of chocolates from Earth, each individually wrapped in colourful metal foil, and Flavia a hot eyelash curler Romana could use to solder the components together. In her cell Romana worked — not on a plan of escape, but on something much more dangerous.
She used her machine the moment it was ready. Every speaker grill on Gallifrey sprang to life, and Romana’s voice echoed through the corridors:
“This is the Lady Romanadvoratrelundar, head of the house of Heartshaven and still lawful President of Gallifrey. I have been betrayed and imprisoned by those who should have been most loyal to me, my own High Council. This was done for one reason and one reason only. Because I refused to sanction their idiotic plan to bring back our once great leader Rassilon. People of Gallifrey, I urge you not to fall into complacency. Rassilon cannot save you, except by descending to the level of the Daleks. Our civilisation may have been built on Rassilon’s genocide and deceit, but it has risen far beyond that. Rassilon will take us back to the days of barbarism, and if that is the case, why shouldn’t we let the Daleks win?” She carried on speaking as the door to her cell opened. “We are different from them. We are stronger than them, and we deserve to survive. The only logical choice is for us to save ourselves. Unite behind me—”
“Give me that,” Rassilon said, holding out his hand.
“I don’t think so,” Romana said, backing away. “I want everyone on Gallifrey to hear what happens to me-”
Rassilon laughed indulgently. “What makes you think anything will happen to you?” He stepped closer. “And what makes you think anyone would hear if it did? Flavia was intercepted last week. And I’ve known of your plan, such as it is, for a long time now, my child. Your room has been placed inside a communications barrier. Nothing gets in or out.”
“Well,” Romana said with as much dignity as she could muster, “then you won’t mind me finishing my broadcast. If nobody can even hear it-”
“That is where you are mistaken,” Rassilon told her. “I could hear you, even in my office-”
“My office,” Romana said irritably.
“I hear everything that goes on on my planet. I always have.”
“Then it must have been very difficult to sleep through so much of its history. You have my congratulations.”
“Romana,” Rassilon said, stepping closer, “you are a clever woman, one of my cleverest children, but you have never learned to be quiet. Allow me to show you now.”
“You don’t frighten me,” Romana told him defiantly. “But I, oh, I frighten you, my Lord, I can see that. You can’t stand to hear the truth that you are dooming our—”
The Doctor’s ex-wife was a force to be reckoned with on Gallifrey. Not many people knew that, but then most people had no reason to abuse the Archives of Gallifrey and, unlike some she could easily mention, Melanthe didn’t seek out trouble. If trouble came to her, however, (usually in the form of the people she could easily mention), she dealt with it quickly and without mercy. For some reason Theta thought he could waltz in whenever he liked and access whatever records he thought he might be interested in just because they had once been married. For some reason, though it had largely been a marriage of convenience, he had still looked upset the twelfth, thirteenth and fourteenth times she had called in the Chancellory Guard to have him arrested for snooping, and the only time she had accidentally broken his fingers with a data coil before calling in the Chancellery Guard to have him arrested.
How could you? he had asked piteously as he was hauled away, his hand wrapped up tightly in Melanthe’s scarf. We have children together. And the universe is at stake.
Some time after that a nice young man from President Romana had come round to clean up the Doctor’s blood and apologise on Romana’s behalf if the Doctor had caused the Archives any problems. Melanthe had made the young man a cup of tea, and sent her compliments back to the president. There had been no problem.
She had become very fond of the young president. Initially she had voted for Romana because she was Brax’s protégé (and he had asked nicely) and Theta’s whatever that had been. Family loyalty mattered in these situations, and there was little other evidence in the public domain to sway her either way. Apparently there were some scandalous things about Romana in the Archives. Melanthe only knew this because some people who had no right to the information had come round looking for it and gone away empty handed. As far as she knew, Romana was the model Time Lady Brax’s promotional material claimed she was. Her Triple First was very impressive (undoubtedly what Susan would have got if she hadn’t been spirited away before she could take her entrance exams) and she was such a pretty child, polite and well spoken.
As Romana had become less popular with the rest of Gallifrey, Melanthe had come to like her more. Romana wrote her own speeches and always meant what she was saying. Some archivists found the complex web of intrigue surrounding their politicians an interesting challenge to their chronicling, but Melanthe appreciated orderliness of mind and purpose.
She and Romana had had several amusing chats about the Doctor in the early days of her office. As the years passed they had conferences instead. Romana believed as Melanthe did that it was vital they understood what history had to teach them about defeating the Daleks.
Melanthe was upset to hear Romana had been deposed. She was more upset by the Council’s choice of successor, founder of Time Lord society or not, and even more upset that she hadn’t been consulted. She could well have given them a piece of her mind about that, but there was still work to do. The archives wouldn’t run themselves.
Rassilon descended to her kingdom reasonably early into his second reign. That he came himself was in his favour — not even Romana had done that. Melanthe was willing to humour him. He took his tea black.
“The matter is... a delicate one,” Rassilon told her, attempting to look friendly.
Melanthe laughed. “Of course it is, my Lord. You and I both know the past can be damaged as easily as the future. We handle it with kid gloves down here.”
“Indeed,” Rassilon said. “But as important as your work is, Lady Melanthe, you do agree that of those two, the past and the future, the future is the more important.”
“Yes, I do.”
“And that sometimes a well-preserved past can damage an uncertain future.”
“All the more reason to stay on its good side,” Melanthe said. “Learn from it, rather than allowing our enemies to gain the advantage. Romana and I-”
“That is exactly why am I here,” Rassilon said. “Thank you, Lady Melanthe, for bringing us so neatly to the point at hand. Would you take a look at this document for me.”
Melanthe did not usually allow people to interrupt her in her own office, but she restrained herself to a raised eyebrow as Rassilon passed her a data screen. It flickered to life at the touch of her biodata, and a line of instructions scrolled from the top. Melanthe read as far as Remove all mentions of ex-President Romana from the Archive. Remove all mentions of ex-Chancellor Flavia from the Archive. Remove all mentions of Rassilon’s meeting with the Great Vampires on- before she put the data screen back on the table.
“Impossible,” she told the founder of the Time Lords.
“I beg to differ,” Rassilon said. “A few button presses, some creative re-writing-”
“No other Archivist will do this either,” Melanthe told him. “It goes against absolutely everything we believe in. The archives are the only permanent and unbiased record of Gallifrey’s past. In changing them you literally change our history, which your own Law forbids. I know laws can be changed, my Lord, but history is fixed. The tasks you set are impossible, and we have nothing else to say to each other. Good day.”
Rassilon rose from his chair at the same time as Melanthe. “I’m sorry to hear that,” he said. “I think, however, the other Archivists might be persuaded to cooperate if I made an example of you. Disobedience is not to be tolerated.”
“Neither is interference,” Melanthe replied coolly. “And that you would even consider threatening me and carrying out this abominable act in my absence shows how much you could stand to learn from history, my Lord. It will be the beginning of the—”
The Rani had laughed when Gallifrey came for her. She had been away too long, and had forgotten how powerful it was. She had thought herself invincible. Was she not in command of an entire planet? Was she not, in fact, the Rani, the best and brightest of her former schoolmates? They could shame the Doctor and bribe the Master into helping them in their war (the concerns of those two childish buffoons had always been small), but the Rani was above such trivial inducements. She had things of her own to be getting on with.
So she laughed when the Time Lords asked her to join them— and cursed as she found her wrists suddenly bound and chained to her desk. As she had laughed, the Time Lords had frozen time around her, and caught her in mid-“ha”.
Those former schoolmates, the Doctor and the Master would certainly have refused to work having been thus caught. The Rani acquiesced and did as she was told. There was no profit in refusing. The Time Lords had shown their strength, and how easily they could hurt her while she was under their observation. The only logical thing to do was wait. She would perform at a level that was competent enough to avoid their censure, but not impressive enough to attract their attention. Then, when the time came, she would escape.
The Rani was patient, but unfortunately Rassilon was not. He wanted so many mind-control-weapons and plagues and biddable monsters that she had little time to work on her escape plan. After years of building to another’s designs and planning her escape in her sleep, she grew less cautious than she would have liked. She was desperate. She could feel the edges of her regeneration fraying, and she had no desire to die in Rassilon’s service.
She was captured before she could even set foot in her old TARDIS. Loyal children of Gallifrey re-chained her and led her away — not back to her workshops, as she had expected, or to Rassilon, but up the winding stairs of the tallest tower in the citadel.
There were already two women being kept there. The first the Rani recognised immediately as the woman the Doctor had unwisely married several centuries earlier. They had never had much contact, but she remembered attending a wedding and how the Doctor’s work had suffered as a result. The second woman was wearing the white robes of a President. The Rani had never followed politics, and she had never met Romanadvoratrelundar, but she knew her name.
Not that it did much good.
Neither Romanadvoratrelundar nor Melanthe responded to their names, nor indeed anything the Rani said to them. With nothing else to occupy her, she established the parameters of their silence — they did not respond verbally or physically to verbal stimulus, they did not respond verbally or physically to facial expressions, they did not respond verbally or physically to gestures or movement. It was clear they were not entirely empty, however. They went to sleep when it was dark and rose when it was light. They followed the Rani as she moved around her cell. Initially the Rani had believed this was a form of response, but it seemed automatic, as though they had been programmed long ago to stand next to any other living creatures. Perhaps, the Rani reasoned, Rassilon was not inclined to chase his prisoners around their cell. Assuming he needed them again, they must fly to his side.
Her silent shadows vexed the Rani terribly. She was patient and careful, but that did not mean she would tolerate being stalked by pale, silent beings. Often, out of the corner of her eye, she caught site of Romanadvoratrelundar and thought her the Watcher before sanity reasserted itself.
The Rani, who had always worked alone, became pathetically grateful for sentient company, in whatever form it presented itself. Usually her company took the form of Rassilon’s lackeys, unable to comprehend some basic procedure, but one day the Doctor’s granddaughter slipped through the tower’s security measures on a mission of mercy.
The Rani spoke to her eagerly, aware that Susan considered her plight the least of the three prisoners. She told Susan how Rassilon had silenced her grandmother and her president. She told Susan she would die before she let the same thing happen to her.
It was the Doctor’s fault this did not come to pass. The Rani was prepared for death, which was logically superior to a life of continual labour and a return to the tower of the silent women, but the Doctor would not mind his own business.
“Please,” he begged, “my Lord, please reconsider. This is the Rani’s first act of disobedience in—?” He looked at her hopefully.
“The second,” the Rani said. “I tried to escape two years, three months and fourteen days ago.”
“But before that, before that she gave exemplary service,” the Doctor argued, “for—?”
“Coerced service,” the Rani said. “Almost ten years of coerced service, Doctor, before you begin your next sentence. Enough really is enough.”
“Sorry, can I just have a moment, my Lord, to converse with my client?” The Doctor backed towards her, keeping his eyes on Rassilon. “You do understand what he’s planning to do?” he asked in a low voice. “You won’t just die. You’ll be stripped from the universe, every action, every mention of the Rani removed systematically from time. All your work— do you really want to loose all your work?”
“Naturally I understand,” the Rani told him coldly. She did not lower her voice. “I refined the Dispersal Chamber myself. When there are no echoes of me, no persistent unexplained feelings that you used to be part of a schoolyard group of ten, not nine, that will be because of my exemplary service.”
“Well, then,” the Doctor began.
“I also understand the alternative to being dispersed,” the Rani said. “Much better than you do, Doctor, or you would not be working for that,” the Doctor’s eyes widened with alarm and he began talking loudly over her as she said, “insane tyrant.” He spoke quickly, offering Rassilon his own knowledge in return for the Rani’s soul, as she continued, “You must know we are here because he ordered a transdimensional reality plague. An indiscriminate virus that would destroy all life through all dimensions: Daleks, Time Lords, even those who have no interest in the War would be wiped out as though they had never been. That is how Rassilon plans to win this war. With the total destruction of all life everywhere.”
The Doctor’s pledges had tailed off some time during her explanation. He turned from her to Rassilon, and then back again. “No,” he said. He looked lost, quite unlike the boy he had been, or the adventurer he had become, or the Lord High Chancellor he was, the right hand of Rassilon. “There must be a misunderstanding. We would never sanction something so monstrous. My Lord-”
“Of course there has been a misunderstanding,” Rassilon said. “A wilful misunderstanding. I quite clearly asked the Lady Rani to modify the plague so that it would only affect Kaled DNA.”
The Rani raised an eyebrow. The Doctor shuddered as Rassilon put a hand on his velvet-clad shoulder as he passed.
“However,” Rassilon said, “in light of the Lord Doctor’s arguments, I am willing to be lenient. Doctor, you will take over the Lady Rani’s projects in addition to your own. In return, the Lady Rani will not be Dispersed. She will merely return silently to the Tower.”
“With the rest of the Doctor’s friends and family,” the Rani said, as Rassilon approached her. She turned to the Doctor. “Assuming your eyes have been opened, look for—”
Romana regained her voice as Melanthe disappeared.
"No, never! Never, Rassilon, will you force us into betraying everything that we hold dear! You have stolen our very lives with your lust for power, and I say never."
“Silence!” Rassilon bellowed, but it was impossible to bestow the curse a second time.
"You have broken the Laws of Time,” she told Rassilon, “and the Sisters will collect. In the names of those you have destroyed, I swear to you, the sons of Gallifrey you have manipulated and the daughters you have destroyed will be your undoing."
Rassilon began to laugh. He drew the Doctor’s weeping granddaughter closer. “My dear Romana," he told her, "they will never know.”
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